» History of Ghosts & Spirits

 by Heidi Keller - December 5, 2003

ghostsAt First, There Were The Good Ghosts…

It seems that the Paranormal has always been present in human life. The oldest religions and the oldest writings of humanity, already show fights with demons, the lives, and battles of the gods and human contact with those gods and the souls of dead people.

One of the first texts of the Western world that describes one of these meetings is Homer's Iliad, in which the soul of the warrior Patroclos appears to his friend Achilles and asks him to have his body properly cremated, and then tells him that he's going to die during the final battle against Troy.

Then there's Herodotus' tale (5th century BC) of how the tyrant of Corinth, Periander, received the visit of the soul of his dead wife, who helped him to find a missed object.

Centuries later, Cicero, an important Roman writer and statesman, told in the 2nd century BC the story of Simonides, who had buried the body of a stranger. This stranger's soul, later on, appeared to him and advised him not to board a ship. He heeded that advice and the ship sunk in the sea.

Some said that the ghost of the infamous Roman emperor Caligula used to haunt the Lamian Gardens, where his ashes were buried, until he had a proper funeral. Other stories tell that his ghost also haunted the theater in which he was murdered, until that theater was destroyed by fire.

Then The Predictable Changes Came…

But not only the ancient Pagan writings have mentions to ghosts. As you probably know, Christianity also has its share of ghost stories. All saint apparitions are ghost sightings. They may come as good spirits, to work some miracle, to advise and guide those who believe in them, or they may come as angry spirits, demanding something to be done.

The imagery of the apparitions changed from the Ancient times to the Middle Ages. When in Pagan days, ghosts appeared to ask for their bodies to be properly buried or to help some beloved person, etc, this time, the ghosts appeared bearing the marks of their suffering in the Purgatory and begged for pardon for their sins.

Although, in the first centuries of Catholicism, the Church accepted that the intervention of ghosts existed, slowly the opinions of the people inside this religion changed. And in the 16th century, with the second great division of the Church - between a Catholic and a Protestant one - happened, the Protestants adapted many of the Catholic rules and started to preach that although the souls of the dead could inhabit the Purgatory, Heaven and Hell, the spirits that would appear to the faithful were mere illusions or demons in the shape of their beloved ones.

Another change in the opinion of the Protestants would happened during the rule of King James I of Britain (1566-1625), who demanded that the Bible was re-written and the reviewers had to make all kinds of adaptations to it, to fit the opinion of their master.

This Bible is the one that has been used through all this time by all the Protestant religions throughout the world. As King James was a fanatic who saw all kinds of demonic acts anywhere he looked, he established that all ghost apparitions and all spiritual intervention that wouldn't come from the Church were the works of Satan.

When the 18th century came, the European world was passing through crucial changes in philosophy and all spiritual manifestations started to be regarded with skepticism, including those involving the Christian belief.

ghostsThen in the 19th century the wheels turned again, when Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivali (a.k.a. Allan Kardec) developed the philosophy of Spiritism in Paris, in a time when other esoteric philosophies were being developed by Emannuel Swedenborg and Madame Blavatsky, among others.

Because Kardec used to teach several different sciences in his home, like Chemistry and Anatomy, and he had been a student of Medicine, he always explained his beliefs in a scientific way.

In 1857, he published "The Book of The Spirits" in which he established the basis of the Spiritism, without using a language filled with jargons and exotic words, he tried to explain his beliefs, which were considered subversive by the Catholic Church right away.

The reasons for this? Based on Kardec's philosophy, Christ wouldn't be the Son of God, but a more developed spirit; the redemption, which in the Catholicism is a unique and universal event, in the Spiritism it's given to the souls little by little, at each stage of that soul's evolution. The spiritists also believe faithfully in reincarnation as a reality of the evolution of humanity.

But in spite of this different approach, the Spiritism is totally based on the Christianity and most of the apprentices of this religion, consider themselves Christians too.

While the beliefs of the Western peoples changed through the centuries, due to the control that the Catholic Church had over the knowledge of the times, in the Eastern world the beliefs continued much the same. Several of the Eastern religions accept that the souls of the dead can appear to the living and that reincarnation is possible.

Those Who Believe X Those Who Think It's Possible X Those Who Deny It's Possible

As you know, this is one of the most complex subjects of human knowledge, because there's much myth and all kinds of lies involved in it and each person, according to their own beliefs and creeds, regards it in a different way.

Those who claim to be spiritual mediums themselves, those who have reasons to believe they have contact with the souls of the dead and those who believe they have seen angels, saints, gods, enlightened spirits, demons, etc, they obviously see no reason in doubting the power of the spiritual realm.

But beware the lies! The problem in believing in it, especially if you never had an experience with it, is that there are all kinds of charlatans in the "business" greedy for money, influence or fame…or all of them at the same time…

more ghostsThe people who study this matter, advise that if you think you're having paranormal phenomena happening in your house, for example, that you should record the happenings, either writing them down, photographing or taping it and then take these records to some kind of "ghost-hunter". The problem with it is, who are you going to believe?

Those who think it's possible, but wouldn't affirm it, are probably the greatest part of the human race, and maybe those who are closer to the truth, whatever it may be. I think so, because if one chooses one of the extremes, one may tend to believe even in Santa Klaus and the Easter Rabbit or one may believe that nothing matters, anything we think or do is a result of chemical reactions in our brains or hereditary behavior, or even caused by some malfunction in parts of our brains.

Those who don't believe in it (nor anything of the likes of it, and who are represented in the US by the Skeptical Society, say that the apparitions don't exist in anyway, they are either misunderstandings of common happenings - like the creaks of a wooden house - or they are an inherited behavior.

They explain that humans have a tendency to be irrational and to ignore information that goes against what we believe. When conventional explanation fails, instead of accepting the chaos or trying to find some other plausible reason for the happening, we tend to embrace the unknown and the magical, either for personal or religious beliefs.

Like the woman who prays to a saint to help her buy a house and when, after years of hard work and keeping money, she manages to buy the house, she prefer to claim that the saint helped her, instead of admitting that it was her own effort that gave her the house.

Whatever your choice of belief, beware humans and the use they may make of your faith, your life and your money. Humans are the true danger, not the spiritual world, if only it exists…

This is it. I wish you much fun in the parties that are coming, and that 2004 will be a magical year for you, in which all kinds of good things will happen.

Next month, another article awaits you here.

If you want more information:



History Of Ghosts



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