What does the Bible say about “ghosts?”

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT “GHOSTS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

With the Halloween season upon us, the topic of ghosts has re-entered the public arena as it does every year. Just so we are clear—to make sure we are following the same line of thought—we must open with the definition of “ghost” as found in The Oxford English Dictionary: “an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.” The word originated from the Old English gast (in the sense ‘spirit, soul’).

Bearing the above definition in mind, are “ghosts” real? Do dead people actually return in some bizarre form and show themselves to us the living? Or, is there some other explanation, such as a natural one? What Bible verses can help us? In this, our special-edition 550th Bible Q&A article, we ask, “For what saith the Scriptures?”

I. A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

Through the centuries, witnesses have reported the following phenomena associated with “ghosts:”

  • Mediums/psychics, Ouija Boards, and the like may be used to “contact” them.
  • Deceased individuals supposedly return to the land of the living to protect their family or friends in times of danger.
  • The “ghost” often haunts (frequents) a “special place”—house, field, bridge, hospital, school, roadway, cemetery, or another area or structure. Some such locales have violent histories (namely, battles and murders).
  • “Fogs,” “mists,” “hazes,” and cold air may accompany “ghostly” visits.
  • Some “ghosts” closely, or wholly, resemble their living counterparts. Other times, they are hideous presences.
  • “Spirits” appear to relay comforting messages such as, “I am now in a better place, so do not worry about me. My suffering is over and now I am happy. I forgive you and I love you. I am going to watch over you. Farewell.”
  • In certain instances, “ghosts” are malevolent (evil)—playfully mischievous or annoying to downright vengeful and terrifying.
  • Allegedly, objects float and/or fly around the room. They may disappear only to inexplicably reappear somewhere else altogether.
  • Luminous orbs or flashes of light may be observed.
  • Strange noises are heard, especially at night—chains rattling, footsteps, whisperings, laughter, dragging, creaking, screaming, banging, wailing, and disembodied voices. Crimes may be reenacted in a “spirit theatre.”
  • Certain people have claimed to levitate (float) during the ordeal.
  • These “ghosts” mysteriously come and go, without warning, some appearing for days, months, or years.

II. A LENGTHY CORRECTION

The Bible declares, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Lost people die and go to Hell. They do not return to visit us on Earth! When Christians leave this physical body, they “are present with the Lord” in Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8). They do not leave Heaven to come visit us on Earth! This is the standard today in this “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2). More will be said about dispensational changes later. 

When dealing with “ghostly” tales, what we can never do is argue with what people heard or did not hear, see or did not see, tasted or did not taste, smell or did not smell, and felt or did not feel. It is impossible to access their senses and experience the world using their faculties. Unless we were present during the “ghostly” meeting, we can neither confirm nor deny it from a firsthand perspective. However, the one thing we can say—regardless of what was seen, felt, heard, smelled, or tasted—is that the Bible is right. The deceased do not visit the living, as those departed souls are either in Heaven (Christians) or Hell (everyone else). Then, what was the “ghost?” Obviously, not every “ghost story” can be dismissed as complete fabrication.

The following six issues should be considered when addressing the subject of “ghosts:” (A) Imaginations, (B) Superstitions/Religions, (C) Emotions, (D) Memory, (E) Dreams, and (F) Science and the Natural World. We will treat each issue, not exhaustively, but summarily.

A. IMAGINATIONS

“And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done” (Genesis 8:21).

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:21).

Ephesians chapter 2: “[1] And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; [2] Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: [3] Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

Man’s imagination—his creative genius—is naturally perverted because of sin. Satan operates an evil world system that feeds that imagination (see 1 John 2:15-16, Galatians 1:4, Luke 4:5-8, et cetera). Point B, superstitions and religions (which we will discuss later), is one segment of that system. Superstitions, and all religions save Judaism, are manmade. As will be noted in point B, ancient peoples used their artistic powers to describe the origin of the natural world and life itself, as well as the existence of assorted “deities” (gods, good and bad) in the spirit world interacting with us. Modern creative people recycle and re-recycle those ideas—adapting them into books, films, and so on. Finally, audiences absorb that information, eventually giving it a new “spin” by combining it with their own life experiences or worldviews.

Friends, while living in reality, fiction can still creep in via our imagination. For example, have you ever “seen” something move in the shadows—when nothing was really there? It is not uncommon to find someone exposed to horror shows as a child who, as an adult, is still fearful of the dark and waiting for “monster” to attack him or her. Do you ever find yourself nervous or easily startled after reading scary literature or viewing frightening images? You are all “hyped up!” See, our imaginations can run wild with us… and superstitions and religions further influence us. Remember, superstitions and religions originated in the minds of imaginative people centuries and millennia ago. This will lead us to point B.

B. SUPERSTITIONS/RELIGIONS

For thousands of years, religion and folklore have attempted to explain things unknown—including “ghostly” visitors. Since these accounts can be ridiculous, there is an appeal to “objective science” and rationale for a “final,” “logical” resolution. (We will get to that in point F. Thank you for your patience.)

According to Genesis chapter 3, religion is man’s oldest “crutch.” If he believed the greatest spiritual lie in the Garden of Eden (that he can sin against God and then “do good” to make up for it—be his own god and formulate his own set of rules), then he is liable to receive every other spiritual falsehood, too! These various and sundry spiritual beliefs permeate every culture. World religions are immensely diverse, having their assorted elucidations of why the world exists and how it works or should work. See Romans 1:18-32, Acts 14:15-17, and Acts 17:22-31. These truths are connected to the Tower of Babel—where the nations willfully abandoned the one true God, the Creator, and worshipped idols (evil spirits or devils) instead (Genesis chapter 11). We need not wonder why the world is so dark and wicked.

Today’s writers and filmmakers draw on the above ancient sources for inspiration, incorporating them into their works of art. Such ideas are then introduced into and perpetuated in the modern world through “science fiction,” “horror,” and/or “fantasy” media—television shows, internet websites, films, books, and so on. The audience’s emotions now have something to latch onto, which leads us to point C.

C. EMOTIONS

Let us be honest. No one likes an dull, miserable life. By God’s design, we all desire peace, joy, love, and excitement. This is where our imaginations (remember point A?) can get the best of us, though, so we must exercise great caution. To what lengths (however extreme) will we go to obtain peace, joy, love, and excitement? Jeremiah 17:9 was quite express in its declaration: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” There are two unflattering truths here. The human heart is (1) “deceitful above all things” and (2) “desperately wicked.” Not just “deceitful” but “deceitful above all things!” Not just “wicked” but desperately wicked!” Can you sense the gravity of such realities?

Emotions, already misleading (and having no mind of their own), make us vulnerable—especially in times of difficulty. Now we see why bereaved parents get “ghostly visitations” from their departed children, and grieving spouses experience “spirit appearances” after the death of their significant others. Seeking comfort and peace, their troubled minds resort to points A and B, information that is available to them and is useful in coping with the loss. “Perhaps they can come back to us like in the folktales, the movies, the novels,….” That personal touch makes them feel so good inside. Occasionally, we all want a good thrill, something to really shock us, to awe us. It can be a good or bad surprise. “Ghosts” can do just that—provide a good scare—but they do come at the price of falling for delusions!!

If emotionally-driven people surround us, they can, obviously, influence our emotions. Think of the “power of suggestion,” for instance. Emotional people alert us when entering the “haunted house.” Our experience in the “haunted house” is based on how receptive we are to that warning (believe or doubt). Or, those individuals mourning the deaths of loved ones have already seen and heard media (movies, stories, et cetera) in which deceased people return to visit and comfort the living. They are conditioned, more likely to “see” such an event themselves. Again, just how far will we “follow our hearts” to achieve our perverted goal? Keep reading!

D. MEMORY

Dear friends, the human brain—which we still do not fully understand and will never fully appreciate—has an impressive ability known as memory. We can recall information we acquired (read or heard) just seconds earlier… or even several decades ago. Our past experiences and the people we met in life, for example, can we not still see and hear them in our mind as if we were reliving those moments in real-time? It is as if they are sitting right beside us, speaking to us—although they expired several years ago!

As we would insert and play a CD or DVD in a machine, our brain can “play” audio and video clips from our library of life’s memories. Try this experiment. Close your eyes. Can you not vividly picture a loved one who died 10 years back? Try to remember that person’s voice now. Do you hear it playing in your mind? Perhaps it even sounds like something audible, as if others around you could almost hear it as well? Your brain, in some mysterious way, stored that data and has retrieved it for you! Some memories are more difficult to recover than others, but they are all still there—in the deepest parts of the brain tissue. Every last image and word you have ever seen and heard, they are indeed stored away in your brain! This brings us to point E.

E. DREAMS

Friends, have you ever had a dream that seemed so realistic, and yet it was also nonsensical? How confusing! Maybe you woke and sat up in a panic after a nightmare, drenched in sweat and wondering if what you just experienced was reality. (Also, some life experiences are so traumatic they almost seem like bad dreams.) It can be sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction here, as the transition from wakefulness to sleep is gradual. Disorientation is common in such situations. It takes a while to “fully awaken” or “fully fall sleep.”

Sleep occurs in stages, deepening and then lessening. Non-rapid eye movement (nREM) sleep is followed by rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. That second phase, REM, is where our “life-like” dreams occur. It becomes increasingly challenging to discern where reality stops and dreaming starts. On an average night, we dream for approximately two hours (a quarter of our sleeping time). Potentially, over our lifetime, we can dream for 50,000 hours (six years)! That is a lot of time for our brain to process and mull over assorted thoughts.

As best as we understand it, dreams are simply our brain organizing information that we have acquired in the past (especially the recent past). Think of sorting related documents, putting them into separate folders, and finally arranging them all in a filing cabinet. If we were exposed to superstitions recently (books, movies, stories, et cetera), those will be filed away as well. This loops back to points A, B, C, and D. Our mind takes concepts just learned, finds related notions already stored, and places them in conjunction. A “web” is built, with paths to each point/file, connecting them all together. This system is useful to us when we list associated ideas on a sheet of paper.

When we think of death, for example, we will then think of—loved ones who have died, news articles we have read about death, movies and books that we watched that focused on death, scenes in those movies and books that stressed “supernatural encounters and visitations,” religious ideas we have heard about death, and (of course) our imaginations and emotions assemble that into one “jumbled soup.” We can access this gigantic pool of information and extract what is needed to provide us with entertainment, joy, comfort, and acceptance. Depending on what we seek, the “ghosts” thrill us, relieve us, make us happy, make us feel safe, and so on. In short, our dreams draw on our situation at any moment, and while the dreams feel real, they are not.

F. SCIENCE AND THE NATURAL WORLD

(Before proceeding any further, it should be known that this author is a trained scientist with many, many years of formal scientific training at the university level. He is not to be dismissed as some “scientifically-illiterate, Bible buffoon!”)

Skeptics of “ghosts” and cynics of all spirit beings resort to science to disprove all “supernatural” experiences (their ultimate goal is to disprove God’s existence, freeing themselves from the responsibility of personal sins and their responsibility of believing the Bible!). They are correct in appealing to their five senses for something more reliable than, say, old fables passed on by rumor, in unclear texts, and so on. “Ghosts” may also, in fact, have a natural explanation (not just those discussed in Part II, but forces in the natural world apart from the human body). As Bible believers, we would tend to believe supernatural events as true and of God. However, not all supernatural phenomena are good (they can be lies of Satan, who also works in the invisible realm). Not all supernatural events are of God. Since the Bible—the complete Bible—leads us to a certain conclusion about “ghosts,” it is appropriate for us to dismiss them as something other than visitors from the grave. Where the Bible is silent, science can allow us windows into such phenomena—especially with regards to natural forces.

In addition to the components of imagination, superstition/religion, emotions, memory, and dreams, there may be a natural-world explanation for “ghosts”—the wind blowing, squeaky hinges on doors, a structure sagging under its own weight due to gravity, some natural light phenomenon, a building settling on its foundation, minor earthquakes, subsidence (sinking of land), and so on. These noises could produce auditory data that the brain then “reads something into” (go back to points A, B, C, D, and E). Think of supposed “familiar shapes” in cloud formations. Our brain tries to make sense of the random orientation of water vapor droplets, but, of course, we are “connecting the dots” (inserting visual data that is not explicitly there). We attempt to find comprehension in sounds as well—listening for phonemes (distinct speech sounds) when there are none to be heard (as in a whistling breeze, rumbling, sneezing, coughing, et cetera).

This last point was mentioned with one overall goal in mind. We need not fear scientists who boast that they have “disproven the Bible” or “all things supernatural and spiritual are figments of imagination” simply because they have found no credible evidence of true ghosts (namely, life after death, those who have experienced death and returned to provide details). They can brag that our existence ceases after physical death, since they have never meet genuine spirits of any deceased souls. It makes no difference whatsoever to us; no more difference that one who crows the color purple does not exist because he cannot hear it! God’s Word to us, the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon, make it clear that the dead (while physically separated from us) are very much alive in the spirit world (believers in Christ are in Heaven and all else are in Hell). We do not have to see them, just like we do not have to see God Himself to know He exists. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We believe the Bible, and that is that!

This author can hear the objections, “Brother Shawn, but were not people raised from the dead in the Bible?” “Do you not believe in miracles?” “Were there not angelic appearances in Bible days?” “Did not the apostles assume they saw a ghost on the Sea of Galilee?” “Was it not King Saul who desired dead Samuel to commune with him at the witch’s séance?” He would be quite happy to reply!

III. BUT WHAT ABOUT THESE VERSES?!

What about when King Saul visited the witch of Endor and conjured up dead Samuel’s soul from the spirit world? First Samuel 28:7-15: “[7] Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. [8] And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. [9] And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? [10] And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. [11] Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. [12] And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. [13] And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. [14] And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. [15] And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.”

In time past, when the battle was focused on the Earth, and (visible) supernatural experiences were common, various spirits did materialize. These were either good angels (God’s servants) or devils (evil angels). Evil spirits could be summoned, especially with witchcraft (Saul consulting the witch of Endor). (Although it is highly important to note that God was very displeased with Saul, as evidenced by Deuteronomy 18:9-14. He seems to have lost his life because of it, shortly after, in battle.) There were various gods ascending, evil spirits, the witch said in 1 Samuel 28:13. The spirit world was set up differently back then than it is today. We do not read about anything like this occurring in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. There is no such visible spirit activity in this the Dispensation of Grace, although there is certainly an invisible spiritual battle today in the invisible heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:16). Since God changed His dealings with man, Satan changed his dealings as well. Satan works through evil doctrine, false teaching, an invisible realm today (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

When the disciples saw the Lord Jesus walking on water, they thought He was a spirit. After all, no ordinary man could do what He was doing! Matthew 14:26: “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Mark 6:49). Whatever the disciples were looking for (the Greek word is phantasma, or phantasm—a ghost), they were certainly not looking for Christ! It is not important that they supposed Him to be a ghost. The point is that He was not a ghost at all, but rather a flesh-and-blood person like us! If it really were a ghost here, that would be a whole different matter entirely. We are not interested in assumptions but rather facts. The fact is that He was not a ghost.

Could “ghosts” be angels?, someone may ask. Well, let us try Acts 12:15, “And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.” Peter was released after an angel visited him. When Peter now stands at the door of some believers, they assume him to really be “his angel.” Guardian angels would appear to people in Bible days (just as one had appeared to Peter in prison earlier in the chapter). Yet, again, like Matthew 14:26 above, Peter as an “angel” here is a wrong assumption. It was a flesh-and-blood man. (We will say a little more about angels shortly.)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Dispensational Bible study is the key to answering “but what about” verses. The spirit world operated differently in Bible days than how it functions today. Almighty God was working in physical manifestations—angelic appearances, dreams, miracle healings, raisings from the dead, and so on. Since God did them in time past, He must be doing them today, right? No! They did not have a complete revelation from God. We, however, do (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 1:23-27). We have a complete Bible, whereas they did not. Whenever someone says “God never changes dealings with man,” that is a flat-out lie. There was a time when there was no Bible at all for man, and now we have a whole Bible. Such two facts cannot be confused unless we wanted to confuse them! Furthermore, hese miracles were in connection with Israel, as “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22). Such signs are not for us because we are not Jews!

God deals with us differently in this the Dispensation of Grace, so we should not be looking for extra-biblical (outside of the Bible) communications from any spirit creatures. Hence, (and pay close attention here!!!) we read in Colossians 2:18: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,….” Angels are not appearing to us today. (Modern versions and their underlying Greek text remove the word “not,” whereas our King James Bible has it. There is certainly a difference between “yes” and “no!!”) Whatever people are witnessing today as “supernatural visitations” (angels, ghosts, “Jesus,” “God,” whatever) the Bible says they are not realistic. It is something in the mind, a hallucination, an emotional upheaval, and the like. We are not really seeing them in the material world. It would certainly not be the God of the Bible either. Sinful man (operating under Satan’s evil world system) is the author of such activities.

IV. CAN CHRISTIANS EXPERIENCE “GHOSTLY” PHENOMENA?

Yes, they could, actually. A Christian woman (this author knows her testimony—she is saved) once told him personally how, while there was nothing visual, she heard behind her the voice of a relative who had died many months earlier. The voice called out her name. How vivid and crisp that voice was, but she turned around to see no one there. This author would not doubt that she “heard” something, but was it really that loved one speaking? Was it an audible voice? Based on what this author knows from the Bible about the condition of the dead (in Heaven or Hell), he would say no. The deceased person was not speaking. So then, what was it, you ask?

Remember, as we discussed in Part II, our memory is a powerful faculty. It is quite easy to hear in our minds the voices of people we knew throughout our life. We can picture them in our minds as though they were still living. Believe it or not, your brain has recorded your entire life. This author says this based on the statements of a neurosurgeon (brain surgeon). As mentioned earlier, we have embedded in our memory every image we have ever seen, every book we have ever read, and every conversation we have ever heard! These memories are difficult to access, but they can be recovered. The Christian lady, without being aware, summoned that thought of her deceased relative and she “heard” a “mental recording” of what the relative said while alive. That person’s death was still fresh on her mind, and her mind (sinful) tricked her. As per God’s design, the human brain is a very powerful organ, but sin has corrupted it. This author doubts we will ever be able to fully comprehend the mental capabilities God furnished us with!

Many, many years back, this author had a supernatural experience. A hideous face appeared on a mirror in his parents’ bedroom. Exactly how it formed there he could not determine. It was not drawn with a marker or etched with a blade, but was like a faint residue of some type. He and his mother both saw it, but his father said he did not. They wiped it away with a cloth and never saw it again. What could be a logical explanation for this? In reality, he and his parents had watched a horror movie earlier that week! He and his mother had been conditioned to such “supernatural” events with the film, whereas his father (although he watched the film) had not become engrossed in it as they had. They were all saved (members of the Body of Christ) at the time but they did not have any sound Bible doctrine. They were still stuck in denominationalism and superstition. It seems likely that this author and his mother were trying to “make sense” of something imprinted on the mirror. Perhaps they had a greater imagination than his father?

When this author was a small boy, he visited a local “haunted” antebellum (pre-Civil War—150-plus years old) plantation house. Despite its violent history, he did not recall seeing or hearing anything abnormal. Over a year ago, he toured another “haunted” Louisiana plantation mansion. While some visitors and staff have experienced strange sights and sounds over the years, nothing bizarre occurred while he was there. He simply was not open to that influence. His mind and heart did not entertain such notions. And, of course, he had matured in sound Bible doctrine to guard himself against Satan’s distractions anyway.

A Christian lady contacted this author long ago about constantly seeing an “evil spirit” at her bedside. There may have been mental illness on her part, although he cannot say for sure. However, it is interesting that she claimed the spirit was at her bedside of all places. In other words, she may have been dreaming, or in some dream-like state, and just did not realize it. As he listened to her, she showed herself to be so denominationally minded, tossed to and fro with all sorts of wild ideas. Her preacher had even given her a prescribed prayer to utter to make the spirit go away. This author gave her some Bible passages to read and believe, and never heard from her about it since! Whatever the outcome, he does not know.

V. CONCLUSION

We do not have all the answers, but we can say some things with absolute certainty or reasonable certainty. A “ghost” is generally defined as “an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.” Each “ghostly” experience is different, so to reduce all as the result of a single cause is short of the truth.

On the authority of the Holy Bible, though, we know that ghosts are not the dead returning to visit the living. When we “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we do not read about angels appearing to us, or any deceased loved ones visiting us or speaking to us. Verses can be twisted and confused, but the rightly divided Bible simply cannot be used to support the idea of “walking by sight” today. Contrariwise, God says we walk by faith and not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)! Whatever can be said about “ghosts,” the God of the Bible is not involved.

What happened in time past, when the battle was focused on the Earth, and supernatural experiences were common, various spirits did materialize. We are not under those conditions today. These were good angels and evil angels (devils). Evil spirits could be summoned, especially in the case of witchcraft. Think of King Saul visiting the witch at Endor to conduct a séance—various gods ascending, evil spirits coming out of the center of the Earth. The Apostles saw exorcisms during Christ’s earthly ministry. Evil spirits would literally flee from the bodies of the afflicted. Good angels appeared to people in Bible days. These angelic visitors certainly had the semblance of people—namely, men and not women (see Mark 16:5, Acts 1:10, Revelation 21:17, et cetera)!

“Ghosts” can result from a number of factors. Such a situation seems to originate from one factor, or any combination of the following factors with respect to the human body—(A) Imaginations, (B) Superstitions/Religions, (C) Emotions, (D) Memory, and (E) Dreams. Sin has corrupted our imagination—both individually (one human) and corporately (humanity). Satan operates an evil world system that feeds that imagination. These imaginations fabricate various superstitions and religions, as well as books and films on the “supernatural.” Since we are emotional creatures, and emotions are deceitful, they can cause our hearts to be “receptive” to practically any notion—no matter how far-fetched it is. People seeking comfort, thrills, joy, and love will imagine their departed family and friends returning to them for one last goodbye. They want to feel safe and at peace, so they will imagine deceased loved ones promising to protect them. Films, religion, superstition, books, all play into this experience of seeing “the supernatural.” Memories from real-life—people’s voices and faces—can be played in the mind, especially as a way to console and cope with their loss. Our mind will use all of this information to present a quite realistic “movie.”

What we consider “ghosts” today may be physical phenomena, explainable or unexplainable at present. The wind can whistle, old houses can creak and settle. Culture influences our imaginations to attribute these sounds and behaviors to “ghosts.” Horror movies and terrifying books have conditioned us to associate those noises with ghostly activities. Superstitions and religions are the foundation of a region’s folklore, remember. We must also face the reality that some people are outright faking “hauntings,” staging scenes and rigging props simply to gain attention, generate revenue with tours and interviews, write and sell books, et cetera. There is a possibility of mental illness. However, not everyone is faking or lying, and not everyone is mental ill!! It may be an overactive imagination, an emotional weakness, and so on. Even hallucinations—as with prescription or illegal drug use—seem quite real.

In one quick paragraph, we summarize: Without a doubt, there is an emotional aspect to “ghosts.” People want comfort, thrills, attention, joy, et cetera. There is the mental aspect. We have precious life memories that can be accessed at any time. Dreams access those memories, and make them more vivid. Popular culture—science fiction, along with fantasy and horror media—has conditioned us to look for spirits visiting us from beyond the grave (whether in dreams or real-life). The religious aspect—human nature is religious—and the imagination aspect—human nature is creative—all blend together to form our perception of experiences. If we are too engrossed in culture, and too shallow in Bible understanding, there is no limit to how far we will go to achieve our desires.

Also see:
» Does the Bible teach that mental illness is really devil possession?
» Do people become angels when they die?
» How can a loving God send people to hell forever?

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