Our Ghosts Have Been With Us Since The Beginning
Humankind has been haunted from the start—or at least for as long as we’ve been able to think, and to imagine. Tens of thousands of years ago, among our first thoughts not related our own physical needs were our speculations concerning what became of us once we were no longer alive. In stone-age cultures across the world, people concluded that the essence of a person survived beyond death. Ghosts—mostly but not always invisible to the living—became an important component of our humanity.
A ghost is an (usually) intangible remnant or reflection of a person’s individuality or consciousness that dwells on after that person has ceased to exist in the physical sense. The difference between a ghost and a “soul” is that, while a soul is usually thought of as a traveler to an otherworldly realm such as paradise or Hades, a ghost is earthbound, continuing to move among those it left behind.
Ghosts often have reasons for lingering rather than becoming souls and journeying onward. Reasons include a desire to watch over or “protect” loved ones, a desire for vengeance against someone still alive, a desire to meet a physical or emotional need that was not satisfied in life, a strong attachment to a house or other physical object, envy of—and malice toward—all living people, and a search for a valuable item or a lost love.
People who claim to have had contact with ghosts have described them in various ways: nearly transparent, vaporous, luminescent, as solid and well-defined as a living being, invisible, invisible but able to touch the living with (usually very cold) hands. Although some people have reported ghosts who spoke to them, most reports are of wraiths who remain completely silent.
When visible, ghosts are generally said to resemble the body and/or face of the person from whom they were freed by death. But ghosts have also been known to take the form of vague lights or a haunted object. It is interesting to note that when ghosts have been seen, they have almost always been wearing clothes in spite of the fact that, as ethereal beings, they are almost certainly unaffected by weather or earthly temperatures.
In the contemporary world, some people fear ghosts, while others have made it their life’s goal to meet one. Then there are those of us who never think about ghosts at all. . . .