A few years ago I wrote for what was then known as Associated Content – which became the Yahoo Contributor Network, which was dissolved in mid 2014. One of my articles there garnered a few thousand page views, though its concept has now been written elsewhere. I called it Electric Ghosts: Where Science and the Paranormal Meet.
When a human being dies, what happens next? It’s been discussed, dissected, argued and more for centuries, with each faction claiming a rightness that, when it comes down to it, absolutely no one can prove.
Pure science says that when you’re dead, you’re dead, kaput, end of the road. Whatever essence of personality and sentience dies with the body. It’s logical and cuts through any superstition and straight to the facts. Unfortunately for science, it’s a theory with no way to test it. There are documented near-death experiences which recite a very specific progression of occurrences. Scientists as a rule dismiss the reports as hallucinations prompted by oxygen starvation to the brain. If that’s true, it still doesn’t prove the ultimate resolution of self after death. As any reputable scientist will admit, the absence of results can just as easily mean you’re not asking the right questions.
Religions generally accept one of two viewpoints, though both argue that a physical death of the body doesn’t signal an end to the soul – arguably the intangible something that makes us alive in the first place. Judeo-Christian beliefs typically posit that the soul and spirit (yes, for some there is a difference) is sorted and sent to either Heaven or Hell, depending on whether you were a good or bad person in life and/or whether you lived by their specific tenets. Those tenets generally include accepting the Godhead in some form or another and worshiping him (always the male deity for this trope), while those who don’t accept the Godhead in this specific name and form are sinners and not worthy of an afterlife reward.
Having lived through a Penticostal upbringing – aka Holy Rollers, militant Protestantism – I can tell you, it’s a tough way to live. Women aren’t worth much, if anything, and if you have problems – you sinned. If you don’t have problems, you must be in league with the Devil.
There are variations on the theme, but in general the Judeo-Christian-Islamic foundation is built on guilt and exclusivity.
There’s another view, of course, one I addressed in my previous essay. Outside the Judeo-Christian enclave, the most common belief is reincarnation, the ultimate explanation for deja vu. In general, reincarnation teaches that we have truly all been here before, and will be back again. And again, in case you’re asking. The term Nirvana means that the cycle of reincarnation is completed and the soul merges with the Universal Being. In reincarnation, individuality isn’t necessarily suppressed, but neither is it celebrated. Paganism, the belief that Earth is the mother of all things and should be revered as such, is matriarchal in nature. Hinduism, Buddhism and other eastern religions are in practice patriarchal. Some of these religions are polytheist, honoring multiple gods/goddesses.
Obviously none of this is new information. Eastern and Pagan religions preceded the Judeo-Christian explosion, but all of these beliefs have existed at least for thousands of years.
Then there’s a gray area. Nobody can quite explain it and it doesn’t fit any of the religious rules, but plenty of religious people believe in the phenomenon. Even a few atheists believe in it.
I’m talking about ghosts.
Humanity has been talking about ghosts for thousands of years. In the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, a witch called up Samuel’s ghost. (I Samuel chapter 28 describes what’s tantamount to a séance.) Of course modern Christianity argues that it wasn’t really the ghost of Samuel at all, but a demonic doppleganger. (Bet you never thought you’d see that phrase written anywhere, did you?) It just so happens the demon aspect disagrees with the Biblical account for a number of reasons. I won’t bother going into a debate over the passage, though I had to point it out.
It was hardly the only ghostly encounter reported over the millennia, but it’s one of the earlier reports. The subject of ghosts is one that’s an ongoing debate. In the early 21st century, in the age of technology as the answer to everything, modern day ghost hunters use electronic tools to help them change the classification of ghosts from purely spiritual things to physical phenomenon. In the SciFy television series aptly titled Ghost Hunters, the paranormal team dubbed TAPS (for The Atlantic Paranormal Society) pursues the idea that ghosts can be quantified with the right equipment.
So the sixty-four-thousand dollar question is, do ghosts exist? And if so, what the heck are they?
My personal view is that it’s ludicrous to dismiss thousands of years of personal testimony. (Same goes for the UFO phenomenon.) The whole idea of science and experimentation is to observe and document, which is kind of covered by all those reports. Granted, the terminology might not match, but the concept dead-on, pardon the pun.
The concept of electronic phenomenon has its place in science, too. The first law of thermodynamics says energy is neither created nor destroyed, but can only be transformed. We already know that tiny electrical impulses drive the human neurological system. Without that internal wiring, we wouldn’t be able to think or move. We wouldn’t be alive. When we die, the physical circuit board stops functioning. It’s a given that the energy powering it cannot just go away.
The scientific community says that the electrical impulses simply dissipate into the surroundings, scattering to the ends of the earth and shredding the persona with it. Ghost hunters believe that the web of thought remains a cohesive persona that survives intact after the body ends its run, a spirit formed of pure energy. Religious interpretations tend to ignore the measurable network, believing that the soul/spirit are purely spirit apart from anything that can be measured. No matter what your belief – including the scientific approach, it’s at best conjecture.