Monday, December 18, 2006

Do ghosts die?

Something on Southern Writer’s blog, a while ago, set me thinking.

It’s all conjecture, but then everything is conjecture when dealing with the paranormal. I’ve said before that the only way to know for certain what happens after death is to die. For the moment, then, conjecture will do.

The original comment concerned the nature of communication from the dead, and why some come through clearer than others. Now, it seems to me that it must take energy for an incorporeal spirit to manifest as a full, visible apparition. Possibly a great deal of energy. It probably takes far less energy to place a voice on a recording device, whether digital or analogue. Similarly, it would take considerably less effort to affect a small piece of photographic film than to manifest as a full-sized, three-dimensional apparition.

Nonetheless, any effort expended by a ghost must require an input of energy, unless the spirit world is exempt from the laws of physics. Since I believe the ‘spirit world’ to be overlaid on this one, I assume it’s subject to the same physical laws as we are. However, they are obviously not subject to the same biological imperatives: they neither consume food nor reproduce. I have heard of ghost babies, but never of baby ghosts—ghosts are dead people, they are never (to my knowledge) produced by some spiritual union. But I’m straying from the point.

The point is, where do ghosts get the energy they require to perform the feats they do?

It’s very common for a manifestation to be accompanied by a reduction in the local temperature. Sometimes just as a cold spot, sometimes as a chilling of the whole room.

So it seems, at least until someone comes up with a better theory, that a spirit can absorb heat energy and transform it into light (apparition) or sound (EVP) or sometimes even movement of objects (apports and asports). I have never heard of a spirit capable of performing all three at once, or even two of the three simultaneously, so we can assume that it’s not easy to do any of these things.

Now, when we die, are we immediately granted this ability to transform one type of energy into another? Probably. Can we use it to its fullest extent from the moment of death? Probably not.

After all, we are born with vocal chords but take years to learn to speak properly. We are born with legs but cannot walk immediately. These things take practice.

It is reasonable then to suppose that it takes practice to make use of the abilities of our new, unfamiliar spirit bodies when we die.

So why isn’t the world populated with well-practiced spirits grinning at us from every street corner? Why doesn’t every tape recorder pick up a background babble of ghostly conversation?

One possibility is that the religious have it right. Perhaps there is a Heaven and a Hell, and most spirits ‘move on’ rather than hanging around here. Perhaps in those places there is plentiful energy and others to teach the means of its use.

But what of those who stay? They have nobody to teach them how to ‘walk’, so to speak. With practice, many will acquire the skills they need to communicate with the living, but do they all?

What of ghostly sightings that fade into obscurity? Places that were once described as haunted but now are ignored by investigators as silent? Did those spirits finally move on?

Or did they die?

Suppose a newly-released spirit fails to work out how to make use of the surrounding energy? Some, of course, latch on to the easily-available energy around living people and cause all sorts of problems for those people. A few, I suspect, don’t.

If we don’t eat, we become thinner and weaker. If ghosts don’t absorb energy, they too become weaker. Personally, I don’t think a spirit can die, but it is possible they might become so weak that they can no longer act for themselves. Delirium and madness is the lot of the excessively starved among the living. Would it be different for the dead?

Naturally, no matter how deranged these starved spirits become, they can do us no harm. They cannot manifest, they cannot make their voices heard on tapes, they cannot move objects. With no means to make use of the energy around them, they can do nothing. Perhaps they are the howls in the wind, the whispers in the grass, those wordless sounds that surround us.

Perhaps that is, indeed, Hell. Not the abundance of heat-energy described by the Christian version, but rather an absence of energy within the spirit. Then again, the world might feel unbearably hot if your own level of energy is extremely low.

The stated intent of almost every religion is to prepare its followers for the afterlife. Was that, I wonder, the original purpose of what is now, in many cases, a political mechanism for population control? Before anyone shouts, I am aware there are exceptions.

Atheists steadfastly refuse to consider the possibility of an existence after death. All religions pronounce it as fact. I have seen enough evidence to believe there is a continuation of spirit beyond death, although I have not seen evidence to suggest there is any being in overall control. This argument is not about the existence of God, so I will leave that for another time.

However, consider this: Suppose you were conscious before your birth, and refused absolutely to believe that legs were for some abstract concept called ‘walking’. In the womb, legs have no function so you could convince yourself that their purpose is to poke the walls of your little world, and nothing more.

When you’re born, would you easily let go of such a firmly-entrenched belief? If not, it might take you a lot longer to learn to walk than someone who had, say, somehow experienced a meeting with a person ‘outside’ who could walk.

So those who deny any form of afterlife are likely to take longer to accept that they have to derive energy in a new way, and therefore longer to figure out how to do it. Some might never work it out.

I doubt ghosts can die, but they might be able to fade to a non-recoverable level. On that basis alone, assuming the total-denial stance of the atheist is too much of a risk for my liking.


Southern Writer said...

Yay! Thank you for this post. I like your others, too, but you know these are my favorites.

It’s very common for a manifestation to be accompanied by a reduction in the local temperature. Sometimes just as a cold spot, sometimes as a chilling of the whole room.

I'm thinking there must be more than one kind of ghost, because I don't always find this to be the case (and was glad to see you said, "it's very common," which does not mean it's an absolute, right?) I have experienced the cold effects - the house I lived in as a kid was always cold, but I guess I just attributed it to being a big old drafty house. I was 9, 10, 11, 12 years old then, what the hell did I know? But in recent years, this hasn't been the case for me. Of course, I haven't actually seen a ghost appear recently, other than the I-don't-know-what-that-was incident I told you about last month, but I am often aware when a particular one is nearby, and I get none of the "usual symptoms." So isn't it likely that some are earthbound, and some are able to return here from some other place? Both intrigue me, and I wish I understood it more. Have any thoughts on that idea?

If we don’t eat, we become thinner and weaker. If ghosts don’t absorb energy, they too become weaker.

How do we know this? I'm not challenging you to provide proof, but you must have discovered some evidence or understand laws of physics that I don't (admittedly not my strong suit), in order to say this. What type energy would they feed on? Fear? Living human presence? Art? Music? What? Let's say for instance, you're out hunting and find a ghost in an old empty house, and it's dressed in something from a hundred years ago. What has that ghost been existing on?

Which reminds me of something else I've been meaning to ask you: why are ghosts always dressed? Do you think they still have the same code of decency and shame that the living have? And are they dressed in their burial clothes, or something they particularly liked when they were living?

Here's another thing that worries me. Ghosts seem to remain the same age they were when they died. So if I had any plans to get jiggy with an old boyfriend who died when he was 24, and I don't die until I'm 60 or 80, I'll pretty much be s.o.l., won't I?

I'm not sure I fully accept that ghosts must live by the same laws of physics that we do, because you said yourself, they don't eat (or perform any of the other bodily functions that we do) or reproduce (can you imagine life with orgasm? That would suck). They have the ability to walk through walls and yet, wasn't it interesting in that video of the little girl at the top of the stairs walked through a doorway, like the rest of us (which was the most convincing ghost footage I've ever seen, but why are all his other ones so obviously bad imitations?). Anyway, I'm not sure they have to adhere to the laws of gravity, magnetism, centrifugal force, etc. like we do.

Shoot. I have to get up and go to the store now. Bummer. See ya later. I'm looking forward to next time.

Anonymous said...

Great post. The part about the ghosts being cold because they lose energy and then, in relation to them, the rest of creation feeling like a fiery furnace is excellent.

Lost of good points by Southern Writer as well. Plenty to ponder. Maybe I'll start hanging about, haunting this site. I would have come earlier if I'd known it was so interesting.

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