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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 01 Jan 2003

Ghosts-Lost Souls or Demonic? (7 kinds of Ghosts) QUESTION from Logan Polley December 28, 2000 Are Ghosts, such as mischeivious spirits found in old homes and places where there were violent acts committed, truly just lost souls wandering,or are they demons masquerading as people that once lived? Also, if they are demons, how come some remain even when a house is blessed? Thank you-Logan
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on January 28, 2001 Dear Miss Polley:
It is possible.
Gleaning from Thomas Aquinas, clinical evidence and field experience, and other writers and thinkers in the Church, we may be able to identify seven kinds of Ghosts. Peter Kreeft in his book Angels and Demons outlines about 3 or 4 kinds.
Scripture does give us some clues about apparitions of spirts/ghosts in incidents such as Moses and Elijah with Jesus at the Tranfiguration. Another clue is that the Jewish people at that time apparently though it was possible for ghosts (human spirits) to appear, as well as demons, and the story of, plus the story of King Saul, etc.
We have clues in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man in hell wants to warn his loved ones about hell. But he is not allowed to do it An interesting note by someone is that he was not allowed to do it, it does not say that it can not be done.
Let's take a look at what Peter Kreeft says about this. He wrote at least two books that mention this subject, Angels (and demons): What Do we Know About Them? and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven.
Kreeft makes mention that many very reputable people, such as C.S. Lewis, have reported seeing a ghost of their wives. There are many instances from reputatable sources of experiences that do not have ANY flavor of the demonic.
Based upon these anecdotal accounts Kreeft and others talk about identifying three kinds of ghosts. I would add a fourth and a fifth category (from Kreeft's material that he talks about but doesn't categorized) and a sixth from my own thoughts and observations adn a Seventh suggested from scripture.
Scripture does not have much to say about this and certainly God has made it clear that this is an area we are not to seek out, but let is look at some Biblical references to ghostly phenomena:
*Lev. 19:31 tells us to not turn to mediums or to seek out spiritists
*Lev. 20:6, 27 equates the seeking out of mediums with prostitution (doing so is an act of infidelity to God that is not just adultery, but involves a prurient interest in the occult things equating it with prostitution -- a medium also is hired which is also an image of prostitution).
*Deut. 18:10-11 Gives a whole list of prohibitions involving the occult and spirit world.
Whatever Ghosts are or are not. It is clear that we are not to seek them out in any way.
*What are ghosts composed of? Well, we have a little hint of that in Luke 24:39 where the Resurrected Jesus is mistaken for a ghost. Jesus says: a ghost does not have flesh and bones.
Thus we can know that whatever ghosts are, they are spiritual beings without flesh and bones.
*Is there an example of a ghostly visitation during sleep? Job 4:15 A spirit glided by my face and the hair on my body stood on end
This spirit was most probably an angel, but it does give us a clue of the human experience of meeting a spiritual entity and that such entities can and do come to us in that vulnerable time of twilight and dreams. This account is very close to the common experience many have of which can be described in technical jargon as a cataleptic somnambulism with a sensed or visual phantasmic perception.
Also in 2 Maccabees 15:12-16 This passage is about a dream (vision) of the Jewish leader Maccabeus. In this dream the ghosts of the high priest Onias and the great prophet Jeremiah appeared to him and encouraged him concerning the battle to come. Maccabeus told this dream to his men which encourage his men greatly. Maccabeus and his men afterwards defeated blasphemous Nicanor and his men who thought to destroy the Jewish people.
*Can a human being's spirit be transported? We know from accounts of Padre Pio that bi-location is possible, but those are yet unverified -- But what about in Scripture. Well, there are a couple of verses that indicate this. One is in Rev. 21:10 (17:3) where John was carried away in the spirit. But the most direct notion of this is in 2 Corinthians 12:2: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know -- God knows.
From this we know it is possible for man's spirit to be apart from even his living body at God's discretion. In the occult world this is called Astral Projection.
*Can a person's body be transported spiritually? Acts 8:39, after Philip was miraculously running up along the chariot of the Ethiopian, and after Philip baptized him, Philip then disappeared. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again...
This episode appears to be a bodily transport in the spirit, but I suppose it could also be a corporeal bi-location too. Who knows?
Other examples of ghostly visitations:
*1 Samuel 28: The Witch of Endor. In this story Saul goes to a medium asking her to contact the dead Samuel. She apparently succeeds and Saul talks with Samuel and Samuel prophecies. The Scripture specifically states that Samuel said. There is no indication at all that this was a demonic imposter.
*Sirach 46:20. Again Samuel prophecies from the grave.
*The Transfiguration: Matt 17:2 Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus to Peter, James, and John
*The Rich Man and Lazarus: Luke 16:19-31 In verse 25 Abraham says that there is a great chasm between him and the Rich Man that cannot be crossed. This is not talking about a chasm between the earth and hell; it is a chasm between Abraham's bosom (which, in principle can be likened to heaven), and that of hell. Those in hell cannot come to the place of the saved, and the saved cannot reach down with compassion to those who are lost.
It is in the next request from the Rich Man that we have a possible clue. The Rich Man wants Lazarus to go to his brothers to warn them of hell. Abraham says that there is no point in doing so. v.31 If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.
This passage implies the possibility of at least Lazarus being able to go to the living (it implies the Rich Man in hell cannot), but Abraham refuses the request not because it is impossible to do so, but because there is no point in doing so.
*So what do we have?
1) We know that ghost do not have flesh and bones. (Luke 24:39)
2) We know that the dead can communicate with the living. (1 Sam 28; Sirach 46:20)
3) We know that at least in some context allowed by God, the dead can be conjured in some fashion. (1 Sam 28)
4) We know that it is possible for the dead to appear on the earth (Matt 7:2; 1 Sam 28)
5) We know that is may be possible for the dead to not only appear on the earth, but appear to people and talk with them (Luke 16:27-31; 1 Sam 28)
6) We know that it is possible for the living to bi-locate (Rev. 17:3; 21:10; 2 Cor 12:2)
7) We know that it is possible for spirits to communicate in dreams and the person to have a bodily reaction to the visitation (Job 4:15)
From these clues, and added to it the anecdotal testimony from credible and reliable people, the analysis given by Peter Kreeft and some additions from myself appear to be a likely possibility.
So what the seven kinds of Ghosts?
GHOSTS OF THE FIRST KIND: The first kind Kreeft calls the sad ones or wispy ones. These Ghosts seem to be working out some unfinished business of some sort, or suffering some purgatorial purification.
He says that these Ghosts would seem to be the ones who just barely made it into Purgatory, who feel little or no joy yet and who need to learn many painful lessons about their past lives on earth. God, in his compassion, may realize that to allow the person to get through Purgatory that it may be useful for them to learn some lessons on this earth.
GHOSTS OF THE SECOND KIND: A Second kind may be some of these purgatorial ghosts who might have been so material minded in their earthly life that they can't detach themselves from these Material places or possessions. God may allow them to remain attached as they work out their need to let go.
GHOSTS OF THE THIRD KIND: A third type might be those who don't yet realize their dead. Again, in God's compassion, I can see why He would allow a spirit to linger for a short while so that they may realize their fate before leaving this world completely. In both the second kind and third kind God could, of course, force the person to let go of the material place or to come on through the gate and not linger. But a compassionate Father can also allow for a little tolerance to help the person to adjust.
GHOSTS OF A FOURTH KIND: A Fourth type are the malicious and deceptive spirits. These are the one who probably appear at seances and the like and are most likely from hell. And most likely are demons disguised as dead loved ones and not the human persons themselves.
GHOSTS OF A FIFTH KIND: A Fifth type are the bright, happy spirits of dead friends and family who appear unbidden at God's will, not ours, with messages of hope and love. They seem to come from heaven. These type may come to a loved one to say goodbye or to comfort after a funeral for example. Or these type may come to a relative or friend in great need.
There are very trustworthy empirical and psychological evidence for these phenomena.
GHOSTS OF A SIXTH KIND: A sixth type might be a form of time/space instant replay. We know from Einstein's work and other scientists that it may indeed be possible to events of the past to be in the present in a sort of time/space warp. This gets into some very complicated stuff, but the idea is that some ghosts are not ghosts at all but are an instant replay of a past event.
In such cases what one sees is the ghost performing a certain scene repetively. For example, a ghost of this type may go from the top of the stairs to the bottom and then disappear. This may happen over and over again. It never changes. The Ghost never interacts with anyone, and we cannot interact with it. It never changes facial expression nor does it ever acknowledge anything around it. Thus phenomenon is exactly like an instant reply on T.V.
GHOSTS OF THE SEVENTH KIND: From this Scriptural evidence (Rev. 17:3; 21:10; and 2 Cor 12:2) one more classification of ghostly visitations appears appropriate. Some apparent ghostly apparitions or effects may be the bi-location of the living or may be the Astral projections of living people.
Now with all this said, what should our demeanor be toward any ghostly event?
........skepticism, caution, and testing.
Because Satan can so easily fool our senses, we should look upon all ghostly events with great skepticism as to the idea of whether they come from God.
First, we must recognize the GREAT possibility that we are imagining things. The human mind has great imagination capacity and we can psyche ourselves into seeing things that are not there or to misinterpret optical illusions.
Second, we must always presume that we may be tricked by Satan and what we see is a demon in disguise or Satan taking advantage of our overactive imaginations or taking advantage of optical illusions.
Third, we must be aware that it is possible for the event to be ordained by God.
How can we tell the difference?
1) a Godly apparition will NEVER contradict ANY Public Revelation. (so we need to be well versed in Public Revelation)
2) a Godly apparition will NEVER lead you to disobey your elders, superiors, or the Church. (so we need to be aware of Church teaching and the like)
3) Although meeting a Spirit is scary, a Godly apparition will lead you to peace.
4) A Godly spirit will ALWAYS and without hesitation affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Thus we need to test the spirit with the formula of 1 John 4:1-3
WOW, I think this answer was a record breaker in length. :)
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