Many people have experienced things which cannot be explained. They may feel the cause is ghosts....perhaps it is. What is a ghost? No one really knows. All we do know is that things happen without a plausible explanation.

I work from a neutral or "agnostic" standpoint with no prejudices in terms of belief or disbelief in these reported events and when I do investigate, it is from a strictly "nuts-and-bolts" view to what's been experienced and why.

This blog is a portal for those who want to share, talk or learn about their experiences with the unknown. Your anonymity is sacred and no judgment will be passed on you. By talking about your experiences you may find it helps. Educating yourself is a great way to lessen your fear....or pursue your interest.

If you have an experience you would like to report click on the Ghosts and Hauntings Reporting form found on the top right of the sidebar.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Cultural Memory, Belief and Logic, OH MY!

Ask any Tom, Dick or Harry, (or Jane, Sarah or Harriet) what they think a ghost is and you can bet that the slam dunk winner of the popularity contest will be…”they’re dead people”….or something to that effect. First I want to make clear here that I’m not saying they’re not dead people. My cynical nature tends to lead people to believe that whatever topic I start talking about is one that I’m getting ready to poo poo….o.k., there will be a little poo pooing going on but not of the theory.

For myself, when growing up, it was common knowledge that if ghosts were real then they were the spirits of the deceased. And that was it, you either believed this or you didn’t believe in ghosts at all….end of story, no other options. No one bothered much to question this long seated tradition excepting a few open minded individuals who thought, “wouldn’t it be nice to have a new option? This one’s getting rather old and shabby.” So, yeah, there’s other theories encompassing a wide spectrum including psychic memory, mass hallucinations, alien influence, you name it. I don’t want to delve into those alternatives here. I want to explore why it is that our culture has clung on to this explanation for ghosts like a barnacle to a ship.

Growing up we are raised, trained and molded by our parents. Many of us go on to be the products of our upbringing, mirroring the beliefs and ideals of our parents, (much to our dismay). Sure we don’t want to grow up exactly like them but often, one day when your 30, you look in a mirror at yourself and suddenly realize how much like them you’ve become….you then shudder involuntarily for a moment, and get on with brushing your teeth.

Now, if we accept that we are at least somewhat molded in our upbringing by our parents, then what else mold’s us as we grow up? Culture…..which stems off all over the place in the form of media particularly. Television, movies, books, radio…we are constantly bombarded by those forces, and they constitute a very large part of who we will become. Think of how many ideas we derive from media, the moods it makes us feel, the things it makes us buy….a very powerful influence to be sure.

When we superimpose the topic of ghosts into that media matrix what we get is an almost unified theory that they are the spirits of dead people. So, as we are influenced heavily by our parent’s belief so too are we influenced by our cultural beliefs. Once imbued with this ghostly information from the media it makes for a very hard belief to shake.

Yet, to explore the world of ghosts and hauntings we must detach ourselves from preconceived notions so we may view the topic as a whole with neutrality. Ask yourself…..how do I actually know that a ghost is a dead person? Well, scientifically speaking no one does. Certainly there are those who firmly believe this is the case without need of scientific proof, and that’s just human nature maybe. Faith, at least by my definition, is the concept of believing something without solid proof. Religion works this way….which is primarily why religion and science usually don’t get on well at parties.

So, getting back to the whole mass belief of what ghosts are…we should eventually end up questioning ourselves why it is that ghosts = dead people was ever adopted as the favoured explanation in the first place? If we look at the alternatives we may get a clearer picture. Take the hypothesis that ghosts are a product of our own mind (for more info about this theory read my article, Emotional Graffiti on this blog). Sounds intriguing enough but I’ve found a few people who, frankly, find the thought of that a bit disturbing….it makes them feel crazy I guess to think that all that weirdness is coming from their own head. I put it down to fear of the unknown. The brain is not well known and therefore when it gets up to things without our conscious knowledge we tend to get a bit twitchy.

Of course the other end of the spectrum, the anti hypothesis if you will, is that ghosts are not real. They are either a figment of your imagination brought on by too many brandy soaked plums or they are to be explained away by normal causations, (creaking floorboards, mice in the walls etc.). Certainly this hypothesis, or belief for some, has always been a popular one but if you belong to the camp which believes in ghosts, it isn’t an alternative….and lets face it, it can’t hold a candle to the excitement factor of  the dead coming back to haunt you!

Our collective cultural memory is virtually soaked in stories about ghosts, and no story is worth it’s weight in pickled herring that isn’t exciting. Can you imagine if the movie the Exorcist concluded after it was found the whole family had been ingesting moldy rye bread!? The film would have never made it out of the studio! Ghosts = dead people = exciting….and I have to agree it is a very intriguing idea that the dead should come back to visit. Ghosts are one of the original meme’s…being shaped and molded over the centuries by poets, playwrights, authors, movie producers and television personalities. Like the brandy soaked plums our minds are soaked in this lore.

Today it is at it’s height, and is still climbing. Since the creation of the internet information has been flying unchallenged from any person who can slap together a little html. It’s easy to get your word out there these days, and because they play to the cultural memory they have a much easier time of convincing the masses of their beliefs. Fact is most people who are willing to believe that ghosts are real only need a little push to accept an unfounded idea…after all, the cultural seed is already planted. This belief negates the need for scientific proof….it’s almost as if we go around in a hypnotic stupor, not challenging. But if we stop for a second, and shake our heads, our logic circuits kick in and we wonder why the hell we believe them anyway?!

Paranormal television shows work much in the same way…..actually exactly the same way. It gives them a tool to get their word out there, and because of people’s collective fascination with the dead they’re halfway to the finish line. Scientific facts not required, conclusion jumping mandatory. (there’s the poo pooing I was talking about).

Once again I want to state that I’m not denouncing this theory. Maybe ghosts are the spirits of dead people. But we don’t really know that, no science has found conclusive evidence to back it up and, therefore, we shouldn’t anchor ourselves down with one explanation.

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