What is a ghost, cont'd
From birth, life is an evolution, through gradual, successive stages of development, that differ in detail from each human being to the next. Materialists and realists -- yes, skeptics included -- like to attribute all of these changes and their effects to environmental factors, such as parental heritage, economical status and the like, alone. However, this does not explain all aspects of ourselves, such as our personalities. For example it has been said that a child raised in a violent home will in turn be violently oriented as an adult. Yet we have seen many cases where this is not true at all, and the child grows up as a wonderful understanding kind human being.
Sadly, we have also seen the opposite.
Your likes and dislikes, your loves and fears, temperament and thought patterns are unique to you. No one else has them nor will they ever come close to possessing them. They are in simple terms your essence, your being. But they are not physical in nature, nor can they be located, dissected or probed. If the pure-Materialistic view is correct, these things should not be there. They should be mere by products of raising and environmental aspects and that would bring you as a person down to nothing more than a walking sack of meat and blood.
Which is another point of contention. If life is so materialistic, if it means truly nothing, and we are just pieces of walking meat with no sense of self or essence, why do we put such value on life's experiences? Marriage? Children? If these things mean nothing, why do we engage in them? Why do we punish murderers so heavily if life means nothing to us as meat bags to put it in the vernacular.
The answer is simple.
Man is essentially a dual creature, both of body and mind, or as some would say, spirit, soul or essence. Many scientists are uncomfortable with the idea of a non-physical mind because they refuse to see a distinction between mind and brain, which are very separate. Your brain is an organ of flesh and blood, whilst your mind is something else entirely.
Some believe it's a magical energy, while others hold that it is a self sustaining electro-magnetic field.
Others say the mind is merely an odd aspect of the flesh and that we should pay it no mind, pardon the pun.
The mind is an example of the non-physical, invisible, controlling the purely physical and visible. The fields of psychology and psychiatry would not exist if they did not acknowledge the existence of a separate mind. Now, whether this mind is the same as the concept of a soul is difficult to prove.
Some maintain that from the instant of conception we are full people with a soul. Others do not, hence why abortion is such a debated topic amongst philanthropic circles. Others maintain that when we reach a certain stage in the fetal development, we get a "soul" that combines with the body. Others maintain we don't have either. It is fairly difficult to prove either way which is truth but it is clear to me that as adults, we each have a non-physical component, variously called the soul, spirit, psi, or personality.
So what is death then? We now have some better understanding of life. What of its counterpart, death?
Death is the ceasing of bodily functions due to illness or malfunction of a vital organ that simply reverses what happened at birth. Now since the mind is not biological in nature, it cannot die, nor can it be born but must always exist. This raises a whole new set of questions. Why does the mind exist? Is it part of a larger energy? Is it part of another dimension or plan of existence? Is it simple an electro-chemical manifestation of the brain? We will never know the answer to that conclusively but what seems to happen at death is this.
The non-physical part of man, the mind/personality/etc. seems to separate from the body at death and go in different directions. The body, deprived of its operating force, becomes nothing more than a shell, and will rapidly submit to the laws of nature, decomposing and returning to the soil and water. The mind, however, goes somewhere else entirely yet sometimes does not seem to leave this realm of existence. According to Dr. Joseph Rhine of Duke University, it enters what he called "the world of the mind" and continued its existence there.
To those that flat out reject the notion of a soul, the decomposing body is all that remains of a person after death, and hence springs forth the fear of death, its finality, and breeds nihilistic attitudes towards life whilst one lives it, a system in which the cemetery is feared and death is the end.
Death takes on many forms in various cultures, from a vengeful god like power who takes away loved ones when they are still needed here on earth, to functioning as a punishment for the sinful and the wicked, after which is the reckoning, or in rare cases, a benign beginning to the next chapter in life.
While most orthodox scientific views poo poo the idea of survival after death, there is hardly a religion on earth that does not have some conception of survival in one form or another.
Most Christian interpretations of Biblical passage seem to forbid "trafficking" in the world of the paranormal, the search for answers and such pursuits. However the vast majority of world religions discourage no such thing and if we take the route to assume that a unique spirit exists within each human being, then it is clear that one step begets another, for we must ask ourselves where does this soul go upon death?
Religion is the only place to turn to get the answer to that, however, I do have problems with that as an alternative. Religion is embroidered with human fashioned elements of man kinds "justice" and to me possessed very little factuality.
Now that we have examined life and death and the basic nature of humanity's attitudes towards the survival of the soul or mind, I think we should examine the reports of ghosts themselves to determine their basic nature.
Next page: What is a ghost, cont'd; Scientific evidence