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GHOSTS, DEMONS, AND SPIRITS

Demons Carry A Damned Soul In Hell. 13th Century Fresco From The Basilica St. Julien in Brioude. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen

Demons Carry A Damned Soul In Hell. 13th Century Fresco From The Basilica Of St. Julien in Brioude. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen

What’s The Difference Between Ghosts, Demons, And Spirits?

Are ghosts and demons the same? Is every spirit a ghost? If not, what are the differences? And what about angels?

First off, a spirit is any supernatural, usually incorporeal (bodiless, massless) being. Ghosts, demons, and angels all are types of spirits. Clearly, then, not all spirits are ghosts. In fact, in the set of ancient belief systems known collectively as animism, everyone and everything has a spirit, including animals, birds, trees, and rocks.

Nor are demons and ghosts the same. While both are spirits, there is one important distinction.

Basically, a ghost is the spirit of a person who was once alive, whereas a demon is a spirit that was never alive, and always existed in the supernatural realm. In fact, the quality that makes ghosts at once so appealing and so sad to many of us is their lingering and hopeless humanity. Not only are ghosts very much like us, but we know—or fear—that one day we could become like them.

As for angels, as far as we can tell nowhere in the bible does it say that people turn into angels after they die. Like demons, then, angels also are supernatural beings that never walked the earth in human form. The difference between angels and demons is that angels are “good,” at least by human standards, whereas demons, or fallen angels, would strike most of us as “evil.”

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