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Do ghosts and spirits exist?

 | August 27, 2012

Is there any truth in the Chinese folklore that during the Zhong Yuan festival the gates of hell are opened allowing all wandering and suffering spirits to enter the earthy realm?


Do ghosts or earth-bound spirits exist? If so, why do they exist? Is there any truth to the belief that after death, humans are reincarnated into the spirit world? Is their existence a part of the human spiritual evolutionary process in the cycle of life and death?

The curious mind can go on generating a list of perplexing questions on the mysterious and puzzling existence of invisible beings that continue to influence and shape religious-cultural practices since the dawn of human civilization.

Perhaps, the answers are within our human psyche and not externally out there.

Millions of people with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds across the globe have some sort of personal life and death experience which shapes their views and beliefs on the existence of invisible beings and the spirit world.

A student on spiritualism will swear that suicides and other victims of sudden death (that is, accidents and murders), including executed criminals, having been cut off in the full flush of physical life, are likely to be earth-bound in the hope of satisfying their deeply rooted desires or thirst for life.

Some scholars of occultism also claim that passionate sorrow and desires of friends on earth tend to draw departed spirits down to the earth-sphere again, thus, often causing acute suffering to the deceased as well as interfering with the normal course of their evolution.

Furthermore, the uninitiated ordinary folk are unable to distinguish the major difference between an astral body and an earth-bound reincarnated spirit (that is, ghost) during paranormal encounters.

Perhaps, there are clues to this perplexing question. This is provided by author and student of theosophical studies, Lieut Colonel Arthur E Powell, in his publication titled, “The Astral Body.”

Some define the “astral body” as a duplicate of the physical body, though this may not necessarily be true as it is composed of “subtle” or ethereal substances which are much less grosser than physical matter.

An astral body leaves the physical body upon death of a person and often, encounters with an astral body apparition with swirling colours are mistaken for ghosts.

“Astral matter exists in seven grades or orders of fineness, corresponding to the seven grades of physical matter which is solid, liquid, gaseous, etheric, super etheric, sub-atomic and atomic.

“Being much finer, the astral body’s matter interpenetrates physical matter. Every physical atom therefore floats in a sea of astral matter which surrounds it and fills every interstice in the physical matter.

“Thus a being living in the astral world might be occupying the same space as a human being living in the physical world. Each entirely unconscious of the other and in no way impeding the freedom of movement of the other,” according to the theosophical interpretation.

‘Many kinds of heavens and hells’

In short, the astral body of man is a vehicle and every living man possesses and is capable of using an astral body. Most humans are able to use their five physical faculties of sense, taste, touch, hearing and sight but lack the knowledge in developing their astral senses which can reap the special powers of clairvoyance and astral travelling.

Hence to the uninitiated they lack the ability to distinguish the difference when they see an “astral body” and often mistake it for a “ghost” which is completely another different entity, another form of spiritual reincarnation.

In actuality, an astral shell of a deceased person is not immortal unlike the life span of a “ghost”.

An auric astral shell will eventually disintegrate and dissolve into its original elements just as the physical body decomposes into different earthy elements upon death – corresponding to the five elements, namely earth, fire, water, air and metal as stipulated in the Taoist text on metaphysics.

Are there more interpretations on “ghosts” in other religions? According to Buddhist scriptures and texts, there are different types of ghosts while in Taoist metaphysical studies, the principle of “ying” and “yang” gives a clearer picture of human life after death.

“Hence, the many kinds of heavens, hells and purgatorial existences believed by followers of innumerable religions, all fall naturally into place and become intelligible as we understand the nature of the astral body and of the astral worlds,” wrote Powell in his famous publication depicting in detail the characteristics and nature of the human astral body.

In a nutshell, there is a growing realisation and awareness of Man’s true spiritual nature and the complexities in the human evolutionary process after life on earth, with interludes in other and subtler worlds.

With the dawn of the 21st century, there is little doubt the human species is steadily evolving and becoming more and more aware of their spiritual knowledge and needs.

“Physical science, with its ions and electrons, is on the threshold of the astral world, while the researches of Einstein and others are rapidly making acceptable the conception of the fourth dimension, which so long has been familiar to… students particularly of the astral and spiritual worlds.

“In the realm of psychology, modern analytical methods are giving a promising future of being able to reveal this true nature of human spiritual journey… the lower fraction of man’s psychic mechanism, confirming incidentally some of the statements and teachings put forward by ancient Eastern books and by Theosophists and occultists of today.”

Modern sciences and the enormous vogue of spiritualism, physical science and the realm of psychology are beginning to unfold the true psyche of the human species being not just a physical body endowed with merely physical senses.

Modern clinical sciences are beginning to understand the existence of other “bodies” encasing the human physical forms – the etheric astral and casual bodies including all the other complex interplaying different levels of human consciousness.

‘We are indeed spiritual beings’

We are indeed spiritual beings on a human path, drifting on the broad current of the evolutionary stream on an eternal life voyage. Is it not logical to accept the principal truth that our life and death cycles involved an unbroken consciousness during rebirth, alternating between the physical and invisible astral planes or even other “lower or higher” spirit-bound dimensional worlds?

It is therefore fascinating when prominent psychiatrist Dr Brian Weiss through his scientific clinical studies on his patients opened an unexpected door into the astonishing realm of past-life regression.

His professional findings proved that life after death is not mere superstition or a myth of ancient wisdom.

Whatever profound yet simple truth on human evolutionary existence unveiled by Brian is nothing new. But the fascinating fact is, the truth of his clinical findings has finally pointed scientifically to the evidence of reincarnation.

Reincarnation can take place in many invisible dimensions of existence as some religions have described and narrated in their scriptures.

The existence of “etheric beings”, ghosts or aggrieved spirits cannot be proven by chemistry. Spirits of the ghostly types or spiritual beings do exist in different levels at varying higher to lower hierarchies in the cycle of rebirths. It is sheer ignorance or arrogance even to ponder that human beings are the only spiritual, visible and living creatures on Earth.

In his publication, “Messages from the Masters,” Brian wrote, “Humans always think of themselves as the only beings. This is not true. There are many worlds and many dimensions… many, many more souls….”

Brian is convinced of life after death despite his initial scepticism of “unscientific” fields in parapsychology and he confessed he knew nothing about the concept of past lives or reincarnation, nor did he initially desire to during the early years of his profession.

His scepticism changed 20 years ago when one of his patients inexplicably began recalling what seemed to be her past-life memories. Since then Brian regressed more than 2,000 patients to perinatal, in-utero or past life memories.

Do these evidential documented cases shed any light about the cycle of life and death involving the passage of time – past, present and future? Do they provide a scientific logical explanation on the existence of other beings, namely, ghosts, spirits, souls, angels, demons, vampires, elves, bogeymen, unicorns, phoenixes, energies of karma, chi, holy-spirit and guardian angels, to mention some examples of supernatural beings amid our human existence?

Anything unknown is generally fascinating, even to the sceptics.

The ‘hungry’ ghosts

Some argue the non-existence of ghosts and spirits because they have never seen one. Others debunk the “theory” of life after death unless proven by scientific evidence.

The principle of logic in this case is that we should ask ourselves whether ghosts and spirits exist purely based on one’s beliefs. The lack of evidence due to ignorance of facts or related information cannot be accepted as an assumption that such invisible beings do not exist.

It does not make sense that reincarnation and the existence of ghosts and spirits are not true in the face of thousands of documented experiences and encounters from people, even among sceptics, since the beginning of recorded history.

The burning truth is that ghosts, wandering earthly spirits and a host of invisible supernatural beings are living side by side in the human world.

It is said that truth is not belief and belief is not the truth.

Truth must stand on its own merits which means it must be true irrespective of any beliefs, measurements, standards or reference frames.

Is there any truth in the Chinese folklore that during the Zhong Yuan festival (which falls on the 14th day of the seventh lunar month) the gates of hell are opened allowing all wandering and suffering spirits to enter the earthy realm?

The dictionary on Chinese symbols about Chinese life and thoughts defines “ghosts” (gui) as demons “of whom we have every reason to feel scared of”.

Generally deceased members of a family are not referred to as hungry ghosts unless the deceased in spirit form has been neglected or insulted. Then the term “gui” (ghost) is applied.

For those who died in remote areas, far from their families and who had not received any ritual sacrifices, they were regarded as “hungry spirits”.

Are there different types of hungry ghosts as believed? Do angry ghosts seek vengeance on their untimely and violent deaths such as in murder cases?

Perhaps, we should explore these related issues in my second part.


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