Monday, 12 April 2010

What are ghosts? My answer to the question..

I do so enjoy it when people start talking about ghosts. With all the discoveries and technological advances the last century has brought I like it that there are still mysteries which instigate such passionate discussion. Between believers and non-believers there are hoards of people who just don’t know what to think. They are the most interesting, for whilst many will say they believe in ‘something’ they won’t commit to defining what that ‘something’ may be. I have even heard one interview in which the person detailed an experience while working in a supposedly haunted building. They had seen the apparition and found it to be like many other sighting at the premises. A traditional ‘ghost sighting’ you may say. Yet when asked if they believed in ghosts they said they didn’t. They said they believed that what they had seen was real, but were adamant they didn’t believe in ghosts, which made me wonder what their definition of a ghost was if it didn’t fit that criteria!

Some of the answers you get back when you ask that question are great. The enchanting thing is that none are wrong, as we have no certain answers. Some are more logical than others. Some based on religious beliefs. Some based on cultural upbringing. Some based on personal experience. Whether you believe or not it’s a debate anyone can join in.

I am a believer. I have ‘believed’ in a few different explanations over the years. For anyone who is interested in the subject for any length of time you will undoubtedly find your opinions changing as you learn more and experience different things. When I was very young I thought that ghosts were just invisible people that had died. As I got older I started wanting a more in depth explanation. It wasn’t enough for me to just call them ‘souls’ of dearly departed – I wanted to know what that actually was. What was a soul and how did it escape the human body? When that couldn’t be explained to me I started thinking about a scientific explanation. What if ghosts weren’t things at all. What if they were just made up hallucinations of overactive minds? I never really liked that explanation. There were too many things it didn’t explain. Why would lots of different people hallucinate the same thing in the same place over many years? Why would some hallucinations be about people who actually did live once upon a time and how would a hallucination be able to provide some of the historical data that some have done? For a long time I felt that the so called ‘stone-tape’ theory provided the more reasonable explanation. That the very fabric of a building could, when the conditions were right, record events and play them back at a later date. I quite liked that as an idea. Like any of these notions it did have its flaws. For instance, in some ghost sightings the apparition appears to react to or interact with the person having the sighing. If these apparitions were merely recordings they would not know there were anyone there to react to. It also didn’t explain things such as crisis ghosts - where an apparition appears at the very moment its living body is expiring elsewhere.

When it came to the investigation of ghosts I was always thoroughly on the side of science if we were ever going to find that elusive ‘proof’. Whilst I believe there to be people out there with genuine abilities over and above the usual set of senses, I also believe that they will never be able to prove what they experience. Their testimony, however compelling, would only ever be evidence to those people who trusted them wholeheartedly. For every true medium there is a handful of showmen and frauds to cast doubt over the profession. Whilst there are a few mediums I have met personally and am satisfied as to their integrity, I still felt that it was technology that would be able to prove the existence of this phenomena. With all the gadgets that the modern parapsychologist carries about it would sure be he who would find the thing that would convince believers and non believers alike.
Now I am not so sure.
My recent thoughts on the subject have rather turned all that about. It was while reading a book about Robert Monroe that a friend of mine had written. I hadn’t had much experience of ‘out of body’ phenomena and I had never read any of Monroe’s books of the subject. But a passage struck a chord and got me thinking. In very simplified terms it described how in his out of body state his consciousness could move around at will. We have all heard of the experiments where people in supposed OBE states are tested by being asked what objects have been placed on out of sight shelves etc. In this situation Monroe was able to move around, move through objects and be unhindered by a physical form, whilst all the time being ‘tethered’ to his body. To explain it fully would take too long here, but if you care to learn more I suggest you look up the Monroe Institute.

The reason I bring up this subject in the middle of an article on ghosts is this. Monroe claimed that when he died his consciousness would go on. Remain intact, but no longer tethered to is human body. What if this were true? What if a persons mind, their consciousness, were able to exist independently without the physical body? Could this in fact be what we call ghosts? Could it be that instead of us seeing a ghost in the conventional way, i.e. through one's eyeballs, we were actually seeing them the 'the mind's eye' so to speak. Our minds are connecting with another's and the brain simply presenting the image to us in a way we could understand - a visual image. There are a number of questions that would have to be satisfactorily answered, but many follow the same lines as the other current theories. The mind has to be in a suitable state at the point of death for this to happen – otherwise we would all become ghosts – and equally the people seeing the ghosts also have to be in an altered state of consciousness to see them – again, otherwise we would all be able to see them all the time. It may be, like mediums and sensitives, that certain people can control their ability to enter the higher states required to interact with these ‘ghosts’, while the rest of us may get there by chance. Monroe said that with practice anyone could achieve a state of higher consciousness, but its fair to say that most people won’t have read his books and won’t know what is happening to them when they have these ghost sightings. It is also fair to say that most will think that OBE states are something to be achieved when laying down, eyes closed and focused on that goal. If people are indeed connecting one consciousness with another it would have to be in a waking and unintentional way; they can’t control going into a higher state of consciousness and can’t control coming out of one - thereby explaining the sometimes random and unpredictable nature of the sightings. What their brains don’t understand about a situation gets filled in with what they would expect to see. Separating the facts of an experience from the 'bits' our own minds have filled in to enable us to process the information is, I imagine, almost impossible.

We have all have those extremely vivid dreams where we seem to be able to hear the words, smell the scents and see ourselves in the third person. It all seems so real. In the dream we believe it IS real; when we wake up we know we imagined it. What if connecting to the consciousness of someone whose body has left them is just seeing inside their head? Instead of seeing our dreams, we are instead seeing their memories or continuing thoughts of an independent consciousness? Of course this theory doesn't answer all the questions. There are a number of 'sightings' I would give perfectly ordinary explanations to, but whoever said all ghosts and haunting were the same thing? Grey Ladies, Poltergeists and Folklore often get lumped together in books on 'hauntings' but there is no reason to think they are all the same thing. I have never been particularly interesting in poltergeist activity. There is usually too much reliance on taking someone's word for it and that is of little interest to me. Ironically, with my current thoughts on the subject I am struggling to think of how the scientific gadgetry will now help find that proof. Unusual temperature changes and EMF readings may just be coinscidence. It looks as though the mediums may save the day afterall! More likely though is that it will always remain something that every individual has to look at and decide upon for themselves.

I hope this has provided some food for thought. I would emphasize that I am nothing to do with the Monrow Institute or any other organization. These are simply my own thoughts on an interesting subject. You may find it an interesting notion, you may be convinced I'm talking out of my trousers. Either way I hope you have enjoyed this scribble. There are so many variations on ghost stories it may be this theory is better suited to explaining some more than others. If you want to share any stories with me I'd be interested to see how far this theory goes to explaining them! Please visit my facebook group Our Haunted Isle and share your tales.

As far as I'm concerned ghosts do exist. Just not in the way I expected

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