My approach to wrapping my head around the totality of spirituality and religion, is pretty uniform – in that I start from a place where I readily admit I know nothing, and by definition, I ought to be open to anything…and then I can begin to limit the scope of what I believe, based upon personal research, experience, etc.
So, whenever the topic of ghosts/spirits comes up, and whether I believe in them, whether I have had any paranormal experiences, or any number of other questions that tie into various theories on the supernatural, I admit that I may have theories, but ultimately do not know much of anything, and I approach the gaining of knowledge on the topic, in a similar way as I do things within the realm of spirituality.
Anecdotally, I have experienced things I can not explain – but my lack of ability to explain something does not, alone, make it beyond ‘normal’. If that were the case, I would deem most of modern medicine to be some sort of supernatural phenomenon.
So, with all those disclaimers in place – here’s what I think: On the subject of ghosts/spirits – the very existence of such, I believe, requires an acknowledgement of ‘the soul’ – an intangible manifestation of what makes us who we are, and, for the most part, souls inhabit these bodies of ours, while we are alive.
I believe it traditionally also requires the belief that upon dying, sometimes these souls become untethered from the physical body, but remain somewhat linked to a person/place/thing, and will kinda hang about, and very occasionally will take up a tangible form, or interact with the world in some sort of perceivable way.
This all seems theoretically possible to me, but improbable, as I don’t have any first-hand evidence that would make me feel comfortable in stating I am certain (or even somewhat certain) of ghosts/spirits existing, withing the confines of the definitions I mentioned.
What have I experienced, you might ask? Before I get into that, I must also mention that while I am very skeptical and cynical (all of those Ghost Hunter/Ghost Adventure type tv shows? I have absolute zero belief that anything they convey they have experienced is ‘real’) – I also have an incredibly active imagination, and think it would be quite interesting to have a definitive supernatural experience… so I admit that it’s possible that I am biased in my interpretation of sights and sounds, when I am actively trying to perceive something unusual.
So – what have I experienced… Nothing as definitive as an ephemeral human-looking spirit. Nothing harmful or even very scary…
I have been at various supposedly haunted places, and have heard very strange things, that are not consistent with the place or the known individuals that were present. There were sounds of distant whispers and singing, sounds of what absolutely seemed like footsteps, when there was no one else about. I’ve seen odd shadows moving, with no explanation or changes in light source, wind, etc…
One night I was taking pictures in a dark forest, taking flash photography in any direction I heard strange noises (granted, outdoor natural environments provide WAY more opportunities for visual and audio weirdness, that can be tracked back to animals, insects, the wind, etc…) and in one of my photos, there certainly seemed to be the shape of a human-like hand reaching out from one of the bushes on the treeline… BUT that could also be Pareidolic leanings (where the brain translates stimuli…images…sound… into a pattern (something recognizable) – but the reality is that it’s ONLY a pattern, in one’s brain – not in actuality. One of the most famous examples of this is tied to the various images that people have seen on the moon – human bodies, faces, etc – which are in reality just an accumulation of shadows and rock formations, that the brain translates into something more familiar.
I like the idea of supernatural phenomena, it’s fun and intriguing – and I certainly think there is room for my personal beliefs to evolve and change, if presented with different evidence…but as of this moment, I have no direct reason to believe that ghosts/spirits exist – at least not in the most traditional sense(s).
If a trusted friend told me a story of their own personal spirit encounters, I am not sure how I would respond. I would try to be open, but I don’t know if that would translate into anything that would fundamentally change my viewpoint, without first hand experience. Again, depending on the person and/or the story, that might change – but as of this moment, I can’t say.
I am the sensical turtle, and I am intrigued, but skeptical.