Pic of the day: Putting the "man" back in Necromancy. (Screenshot from Dark Age of Camelot.) But who ever asks the dead what they think about necromancy, spiritism, ancestor worship etc?
Haunting the dead
First off, to be a bit personal, as a Christian I don't really believe in ghosts and the whole afterlife stuff in its popular form. Jesus said about his friend Lazarus that Lazarus was sleeping. The disciples said this was good, then he would be on the mend, so Jesus had to clarify that Lazarus was actually dead. But evidently these states of existence (or lack thereof) were so similar that Jesus thought it was OK to use that euphemism.
If the dead sleep, then do perchance they dream? I cannot argue strongly from Scripture here, but the Ecclesiastes say that the dead know nothing, and that their love and hate are over and they have forever no part in what happens under the sun. If the dead were drifting around looking at this world, then they would presumably feel the corresponding emotion and feel as part of this world. So from a Christian point of view, it seems more likely that ghosts and hauntings are other phenomena.
But the peculiar thing is that while some think about ghosts haunting the living, nobody asks whether the living can haunt the dead.
Skeptics, of course, will find both events equally implausible, not to say impossible. The dead are dead, they don't exist, so they can neither disturb nor be disturbed. Biblical purists such as Jehovah's Witnesses hold a similar view, except they believe in a resurrection of the dead, at which time they will wake up with no memory of the time that has passed in between.
But a lot of people believe in spiritism. The Bible forbids this practice, which indicates that it must have been seen as having some effect. Whether the spirits of the dead were actually raised, or simply demonic spirits (as some say), that is more unclear. There is only one event described in the Old Testament, in which king Saul hired a medium to contact the prophet Samuel. A shape that resembled the prophet did indeed arrive, complain about being disturbed, and foretell the immediate doom of King Saul and his sons. This also came to pass. It is worth noticing however that the medium seemed as shocked as anybody else that it was actually Samuel who appeared. She even accused Saul of trickery. This leaves wide open the question what usually happened during her sťances.
Let us, to avoid making this entry too short and boring, assume that spiritism actually works. This is not actually my personal view, or not exactly, but let that sleeping dog lie for now. If it is possible to call up the dead ... does this not constitute the living haunting the dead? Presumably the dead have other interests than sitting around waiting for their relatives to call. If they are sleeping, then they are probably tired and grumpy. If they are in Paradise, then they should not be pulled back to some dark and confined room.
I have the good fortune to never have been haunted by the dead. But it seems to me that it would be rather creepy to suddenly have them contact me, just to hear how I was doing. We get used to living without them. Having them suddenly show up and then disappear would just open old wounds, would it not? If we don't want them to do that unto us, then we should certainly not do it unto them.
It gets worse if the dead are more sensitive. If they for instance can hear us saying their names, as believed in some cultures. If they can sense when we show up at their graves, or when we cry over them. In some Asian countries, it is common to pray to the ancestors and offer them small sacrifices. But isn't this rather intrusive? We have our lives to live, and they have their deaths to ... whatever. If we don't want them to haunt us, then it behooves us to let them rest as well.
Besides, it is probably the best for ourselves. To accept the departure and go on with out lives. And I speak not entirely from theory here, you know. We will soon enough come to the last shore and make the voyage from which we do not return. Perhaps we shall see them again after that. But before ... no, thanks.
Visit the Diary Farm for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.