Monday, April 09, 2018

Fortean A to Z: Ghosts or Spirits?

What is a ghost?

Sometimes called an apparition, haunt, phantom, poltergeist, shade, specter, spectre, spirit, spook, or wraith, ghosts have generally been considered to be the spirit of a dead person in modern times. But are they?

Looking at the origins of the word ghost, one can trace it all the way back to the Latin spiritus--a word meaning "breath" and which referred to a non-corporeal being. Spiritus is distinguished from the Latin anima which meant soul

Turning to one of our oldest books on the subject, the Bible, we learn that ghosts and spirits abound in ancient times, and were accepted as real. But they were not the souls of the departed. In fact, the Bible is quite adamant that the dead do not return:

As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his house, Nor shall his place know him anymore.
--Job 7:9-10

For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.
--Ecclesiastes 9:5-6

When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
--Psalm 146:4

While these verses tell us that spirits are not our former loved ones, other passages warn us that the immaterial are indeed very real:

And when they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter.’ Should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? 
--Isaiah 8:19

Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
--Leviticus 19:31

And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.
For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.
Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.
And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
--Mark 5:1-13

Yes, spirits were very much real in the old world. What were these spirits reported around the world, for all of recorded human history? Again, the Bible offers us an explanation:

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 
--Revelation 12:9

But what of the many reports of ghosts--the dearly departed--communicating with the living?

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
--2 Corinthians 11:14-15

In our modern day and age, many believe in "ghosts" but not necessarily in evil spirits. Is it because they are clinging to the hope of an afterlife? If so, why not believe the Bible and the afterlife it promises, not here, but somewhere better?


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