That’s overdramatic, but I couldn’t think of a better title. The question it relates to is – if ghosts have no solid form, can they hurt us?
There are several answers. The easy way out is ‘Ghosts don’t exist’, but that’s no better than sticking your fingers in your ears and singing some tuneless babble. I’ve said often that science can’t prove the non-existence of anything. Unfortunately, there are many things, seen and experienced by many people, that science still can’t explain or even prove the existence of. You have to have been there, at the right time, with the right recording equipment, and we don’t even know what that equipment is yet. So much for the easy answer.
What follows is, as is the case with almost all discussion of the paranormal, based on 10% experience and 90% opinion. I can’t produce proof, and nor can anyone else. Much of what I say below is my own theory of how the spirit world works. There is, at the moment, only one way to know for sure, and I’m not ready to take such a drastic step.
Whether you believe ghosts are dead people or some other form of spirit, incorporeal demon, whatever you want to call them, the key aspect of any definition is that they have no solid form. They can walk through solid objects, including the human body. So they can’t slap you across the face, kick you up the backside or beat you to death with a wet fish. They can do no direct harm.
This does not mean they are harmless. Poltergeist-induced fires are often reported, although it is rare for anyone to die, or even be seriously injured as a result. Thrown objects are very common. Knives can fly about, but I find no record of anyone being hit by such an object. So, although ghosts sometimes have the means to move things, including sharp things, and at speed, they are unable to attack anyone using those objects.
Why? Well, perhaps there are rules. Perhaps not. Perhaps these malicious phantoms really do mean to stick that knife into someone, but can’t. The reason, I suspect, is that we have a spirit within each of us. At an unconscious level (for most) we interact with the shadowy spirits, and can deflect their attacks without conscious action. Such a defence takes energy, as does the attack. Within a body, a spirit can draw on the energy of that body – and the body’s energy can be topped up with something as simple as a chocolate bar. Where the spirit draws its energy from, nobody knows for sure, but without the ready availability of a solid body, full of energy, the discorporate are always less powerful than the corporeal. By, I think, a very wide margin indeed.
So they can’t hurt us. Not directly. There’s no need to worry about phantom axemen. We all know this, and so do they.
Where the direct attack fails, the malicious ghost has to resort to subterfuge. He can’t hit you with a knife so he’ll try to get you to hurt yourself.
Now, those of us who have even an ounce of self-confidence will chorus ‘Ridiculous. I’m not going to hurt myself just because some ghost whispers in my ear’. Of course not. Nobody would. Well, almost nobody. There are some highly suggestible people out there. Besides, it rarely works like that.
If a ghost moves against or through your body, you won’t feel much more than a cold sensation. Unless the ghost has learned how to interfere with your nervous system. A twitch, a sudden contraction of muscle, and you feel as though someone’s hit you, pushed you, pinched you. If the spasm is expertly done, you might even stumble. It’s not likely to be strong enough to knock you over, but a stumble on stairs can be unpleasant.
If you feel a pinch, your mind and body can react by raising a welt or bruise on the affected area. The ghost didn’t do that. You did. It’s psychosomatic. People are perfectly capable of producing physical symptoms without any real cause. That part is certain. The trigger, in this case the muscle-spasm induced by a talented spirit, is theory.
If your skin itched, would you scratch it? Who can resist? If the itch persists, you scratch harder. What if it happened in the dark? A suggestion, a whisper too low to consciously hear, says ‘maggots’. You can‘t see anything, but that itching is increasing. So is your heart rate. You run your hand over the affected area, and feel little bumps. Of course you feel bumps. You’ve been scratching. Still you can’t see, it’s too dark. What does your imagination do with all those little bumps and the subconsciously-heard word ‘maggots’? How hard are you scratching now? Drawn blood yet?
You don’t have to be physical to terrify people. You don’t need a body to make someone feel pain. Ghosts can’t physically hurt us, but they are not harmless. Especially in the dark.
Tricks like this fail when you know how they work. If you’ve ever seen Penn and Teller’s early shows, they revealed the secrets of some amazing magic tricks. Once you know how it’s done, you shrug it off. The same idea holds in politics: learn how the manipulators pull your strings, and they become easy to cut.
So it is with the tricks of the malicious spirit. They can’t do any physical harm, but they will try to trick you into hurting yourself. Recognise the tricks, and the illusion is broken.
Cynicism is good for you.