Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Universal Belief in Ghosts as Proof of a Future Life by JB Gross 1882

The Belief in Ghosts or Apparitions being Universal, seems to warrant the Inference of a Future Life by JB Gross 1882

See also Is There Life After Death? - 175 Books on DVDrom (Eschatology - Immortality) and The Mysteries of Death - 250 Books on DVDrom - For a list of all of my disks, with links click here

The belief in ghosts or apparitions, clearly implies the belief in the immortality of the soul, and that the soul, being thus indestructible, or continuing to exist as a hypostasis, can make itself visible as well as otherwise perceptible to the living. The ghost is called a spook, if it habitually frequents certain places, which—in ghost-nomenclature, are then said to be haunted. A marked peculiarity in ghost-character, is the circumstance that apparitions take place only in the night, or in the deep gloom unvisited and unwarmed by the solar rays. Whether this striking fact is owing to the extreme transparency of the substance or idola, in which they are clothed, or to a shyness too sensitive to face the light, I am—of course, unable to state. This point may however be laid down as quite certain, that the communication which the spirits of the departed keep up with this world, has a reserved, even a clandestine air, and scrupulously shuns publicity: the ways and doings of a ghost are, therefore, decidedly mysterious, and it will be long before a Lange or a Henry, for example, will have discovered a canon in exegesis, that will fully unravel and satisfactorily explain all the strange idiosyncrasies of these subtile, aerial denizens!

The localities especially sacred or best adapted to the haunts of the ghosts, are dilapidated old buildings; lonely woods—the habitats of owls, screeching or hooting in dismal notes; profound abysses—dimly visible, or ominously re-echoing; the forbidding sights of capital punishment; the dread scenes where murder has been committed; the spot where stolen treasures are hidden, and the guilty ghost must hover till restitution has been made; and—in an eminent degree, the sacred realm consecrated to the repose of the dead: the grave-yard. This is the choice haunt of all the earth where ghosts dwell most numerously, or display their presence most frequently. It is here, among the moss-grown tomb-stones, or, screened amid the rank, obtrusive weeds and bushes, that they delight to roam, now passing like a flash through space, then slowly and in measured step, seemingly scanning the faded epitaphs inscribed to the memories of the dead: always clad in white shroud-like drapery, the sight of which fills the credulous beholder with a shudder, and warns him not to venture too near the charmed and mystic ground.

Ghosts have other and less ominous missions, which claim a concise notice in this place: they give tokens, for instance, by their presence and manner, to the living—particularly to their relatives, acquaintances, &c., intended to apprise them of the time, appointed for their dissolution, or to warn them of some impending calamity. Thus the grief-stricken survivors often see their departed dear ones, looking pleasantly—if they are happy, sadly, of course, if they are unhappy. The mother—dressed neatly: as was her wont in the flesh, her gray hair still visible, and betokening age, comes at mid-night, stands for a moment at the bed-side of her child, points upwards, and vanishes; the baby too, sweet and pretty as ever, once in awhile returns, and the bereft mother knows that her darling still lives! Sometimes also, an unfeeling daughter or a brutal son: with awakening conscience, sees the upbraiding countenance of a neglected or ill-treated father, sadly, sternly, scowling rebuke. Tiding is likewise brought, implying how delightful a place heaven is, and the idea is, consequently, intended to be excited, intently to long and diligently to strive after it, &c.

After mature deliberation on the subject in question, it seems that the belief in ghosts, as objects of human vision; as visitors among mortals; as messengers of good or ill to their surviving friends, &c., is nothing but a delusion, and an outgrowth of a vulgar or a diseased mind. Philosophers—unless their minds should happen to be morbidly affected, are decided unbelievers in the visible presence or actions of ghosts. On the other hand, ghosts are the natural and necessary offspring of vulgar minds, which are notoriously always prone to superstition, and, therefore, the facile victims of idle fancies, and sickly hallucinations. Besides, it is not easy to perceive or realize why the souls of the dead should thus be allowed or constrained to roam over the earth, and, at best, accomplish so little good, while they often fill the minds of the living only with serious alarm, or distract them with fell dismay. It cannot be, I conceive, that the soul, destined to survive the dissolution of its mortal tenement, should be continued to exist in a state at once so trivial, base, and insignificant. The great being, bearing the august name God, cannot—because it would be in flat contradiction to his known wisdom and goodness, ordain so dire and seemingly unreasonable a fate for the future state of the soul!

However visionary and absurd the ghost-faith is, its wide and general prevalence among mankind, irrespective of race or creed, is proof that the thinking substance in us—the soul, is believed to be immortal; for a dead soul cannot haunt; cannot give presentiments; or assume the human form and manifest consciousness. Whoever, therefore, is certain that he sees or has seen a ghost, is also so far certain that the soul lives after death, and that—of course, he too is immortal. Thus a false belief—not false as far—we hope, as the immortality of the soul is postulated, but false as far as it is based on presumed ghost-phenomena, has proved a welcome and seasonable means of consolation to the sick; the troubled; the dying, &c. Because the soul, according to this dogma, appearing under the guise and in the manner of a ghost, it cannot fail to elicit faith in our existence hereafter, which, again, can result only in a serene and happy state of mind.

In his "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft," &c., Sir Walter Scott writes: "The general, or, it may be termed, the universal belief of the inhabitants of the earth, in the existence of spirits separated from the encumbrance and incapacities of the body, is grounded on the consciousness of the divinity that speaks in our bosom, and demonstrates to all men, except the few who are hardened to the celestial voice, that there is within us a portion of the divine substance, which is not subject to the law of death and dissolution, but which, when the body is no longer fit for its abode, shall seek its own place, as a sentinel dismissed from his post.—The conviction that such an indestructible essence exists, the belief expressed by the poet in a different sense, Non omnis moriar, must infer the existence of many millions of spirits, who have not been annihilated, though they have become invisible to mortals, who still see, hear, and perceive only by means of the imperfect organs of humanity.—The abstract idea of a spirit certainly implies, that it has neither substance, form, shape, voice, or anything which can render its presence visible or sensible to human faculties. But the sceptic doubts of philosophers on the possibility of the appearance of such separated spirits, do not arise till a certain degree of information has dawned upon a country, and even then only reach a very small proportion of reflecting and better-informed members of society. To the multitude, the indubitable fact, that so many millions of spirits exist around and even among us, seems sufficient to support the belief that they are, in certain instances at least, by some means or other, able to communicate with the world of humanity. The more numerous part of mankind cannot form in their mind the idea of the spirit of the deceased existing, without possessing or having the power to assume the appearance, which their acquaintance bore during his life, and do not push their researches beyond this point," &c.

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