Friday, November 6, 2009

Ghosts: A Question of Definition

Lately, i've been watching a lot of shows on television such as "Ghost Hunters," "Destination Truth," "Ghost Adventures," "Most Haunted," and the like, and that--along with personal experience--has prompted me to write out my own take on the theme of ghosts and spirits.

Let me say first and foremost that i do not believe in ghosts in the sense that they are spirits of the deceased. My faith holds that, once people die, their souls reside in the Afterlife--Heaven or Hell, in other words--and they do not appear in this realm, in any fashion. There is, however, enough empirical evidence that there is SOMETHING going on in places that are reputedly "haunted." Even if 90% of the evidence is false, forged, or anomalous, the remaining 10% still deserves consideration. What follows are several categories that i believe that reports of ghosts could be attributed to, not including hysteria or common natural phenomena.

1) Demons: One of the fundamental truths in Christian belief is that there is an ongoing spiritual warfare that surrounds us--as Christians, we are participants in this warfare, through the agencies of prayer and the direction and authority of the Holy Spirit that resides within us. Demons are spiritual entities that are inimical to all humans. They seek, among other things, to deceive mortals, to cause fear and empty superstition, and to lead people into fallacious belief-systems. I believe that, when people see or communicate with what they suppose are the spirits of deceased loved ones or relatives, they're actually communicating with demons who are disguising themselves as "ghosts of the departed." The Biblical prohibitions against mediums or sorcery are not just there as part of a system of rules, but as protection, a way of setting boundaries. People who attempt to communicate with these spirits are in danger, not just from deceptive messages, but in literal physical and spiritual danger. Those who do not have the protection of the Holy Spirit, that seal that says "Hands Off!" to demons, could easily open themselves up to possession or spiritual poisoning, especially in cases where the person attempts to "channel" the spirit. As to Christians who might be uncertain in the faith, or unsure what to believe about ghosts, my advice is to avoid it altogether. Some "manifestations" might be attributed to the other causes i've listed below, but it would be unwise to assume that.

2) Elementals: my personal belief is similar to that of C.S. Lewis', that there are spiritual creatures who are, in intelligence and behavior, essentially animals. They would exist in the spiritual realm that coincides with our own earthly realm. Like wild animals, they would tend to avoid human contact. Also like wild animals, they are not to be trifled with, as they can be dangerous. Legend associates such creatures with certain geographic locations or natural forces (rivers, streams, caves, oceans, storms, and the like). A person who attempted to "channel" one of these would be, essentially, similar to a child who attempted to play with a wolverine, or a man trying to charge a battery by holding the battery in one hand and grabbing the third rail of a subway in the other. As to whether or not these creatures can manifest visually (the way demons do in order to deceive), i'm uncertain. I remember a near-drowning experience in the New River when i was 19, when i was underwater, a strong sense that there was something there, some intelligence, regarding me . . . it did not seem hostile, but more aloof from my struggles, the way a human might regard the struggles of a fly in a spider's web. I don't know whether or not that perception was merely my imagination being acted upon by a high-stress situation, or an actual "encounter" with an elemental . . . but i DO know that it's not something i'd be anxious to repeat. There is a regularly recurring event in a place called Brown Mountain, NC, where lights seem to rise from the mountain into the sky . . . this might be something explained by elementals of some type.

3) Psychic Remnants: I believe that events or situations that involve extremely strong emotions, especially negative emotions, can leave traces on a location, the way a human can leave fingerprints on something, or the way a person's sweat or blood has DNA in it that can identify that human. Houses or buildings where fearful or traumatic things--especially in places where these things would be repeated, like prisons or sanitariums--might retain some of these emotional traces, and some people could be more sensitive or receptive to these than others. The visual, audial, or olfactory sensations that such people experience in those places are probably attempts of the mind to "translate" the information. Because places steeped in that kind of negativity could easily have been the result of demonic activity, again, it's dangerous to attempt to "communicate." On one level, it's foolish to try to communicate with these "remnants," as they don't have any intelligence of their own . . . essentially, it would be like trying to talk to a photograph. On the other hand, "opening up" to try to gain more information is likely to draw demonic attention, and any information gained would then be tainted or false. If you see or experience something uncanny in a certain location, and later discover that the experience seems to relate to something that happened there before, it could easily be just a "remnant," a psychic "fingerprint" left on a place by an event that occurred before. And, again, it's safer not to delve too deeply into such an experience, or place too much importance to it.

4) Temporal Anomalies: Those who study quantum mechanics have postulated the existence of particles called "tachyons," which are essentially already moving faster than the speed of light (Einstein's theory would allow the existence of such things, provided that they weren't simply sub-light-speed particles that somehow accelerated). I'm no physicist, but i understand that in certain theories, a high presence of these tachyons could cause a sort of "fault" in time-space. Things like this would certainly explain "disappearances" such as the type associated with the Bermuda Triangle; a temporary "rip" or "weakening" of time-space could also explain certain ghostly manifestations or other unexplained phenomena, effectively offering a glimpse into the past. Because i believe manifestations of this type would be extremely rare (if they happen at all), they probably wouldn't be explained by any of the causal factors i listed earlier, and would be--in effect--"freaks of nature," encountering them probably wouldn't have any true spiritual context, other than the possibility that some weak-minded people who saw them might foolishly assume that this was an evidence of their "psychic ability," or something trying to communicate with them.

These are just a few of the possible explanations of such things, and i've simplified my theories in the interest of brevity. In some later post, i'll probably discuss teratology and cryptozoology (which are areas that would more explain such things as the Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster). The long and short of it is this: there is both an visible and invisible world, and God was and is as attentive to both, as He created them both, and understands the intricate ways in which they interact. There are more wonders on this planet, and in the part of the universe that we can perceive, that simply cannot be easily explained by man. I believe that some of these mysteries were created by God to inspire us with awe for Him, the Divine Creator who keeps the wheels of the Universe in motion. I believe that many of them will never be completely unravelled by the mind of man . . . and that is fortunate. Long before anybody ever thought of baseboard heating or toasters, electricity was used to put people to death in Sing Sing. Einstein's Theory of Relativity explained more about the material universe than we'd ever understood before, and Einstein himself said that there were probably only about 6 physicists in the world who completely understood it's implications . . . but mankind's first use for this knowledge was a bomb, and Einstein also said if he'd forseen the use his theory was going to be put to, he'd have become a watchmaker instead. Perhaps the mantle of mystery that many of God's creations wear are there to keep us from knowing something that, ultimately, we'd only use to bring about more destruction.

Keep in mind, as well, that everything i've written about this subject in this blog is based on my personal knowledge and experience (both limited). It is enough for me to know that i have seen things and experienced things that have only caused me to feel more awe and respect for the Creator, and to understand that the world i walk in is no less wonderful--and dangerous--than Narnia, Middle Earth, or any other "wonderland" described by those who have the gift of transcribing dreams.

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