By Tina R. McSwain
What is a Ghost?
The above question has many answers. Those answers will depend on your personal perspective of life and death, religious beliefs and practices, cultural influences, and even your nationality.
From Webster’s Dictionary, the word “ghost” is defined as “the apparition of a dead person, a specter, a disembodied spirit, semblance or shadow”. It can be viewed as the immortal part of man that remains once the body dies. The soul that has stayed on earth rather than journeying on to the next plane of existence. I believe it is possible to answer that question with one word…Energy. This view can be explained by science using The Law of Conservation of Mass which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be rearranged or converted into a different form (i.e. water changing form from a solid (ice) to liquid or gas (water vapor). The human body is basically a battery. We are made up primarily of water. Our brain sends electrical impulses, fires neurons, in order to make our body operate. The food we eat is metabolized to create the energy required within our bodies to live. We undergo chemical processes such as digestion and respiration. Does the energy of our bodies carry on after death in some new and different form to become the spiritual energy of the soul?
Some may try to use other terms in answer to the question of what constitutes a ghost. Even Webster’s has listed various synonyms as definitions of a ghost. Often these terms are used erroneously. Take the word Demon for example. This is not a ghost. A demon, from a religious point of view, is a minion of Satan. Just as an Angel would be a messenger of God. These entities are far beyond the scope of a ghost. One may say a ghost is a Banshee (but only if it is a wailing woman spirit from Ireland) or a Poltergeist (German for “noisy ghost” which may not be a ghost at all). Someone in a predominately Islamic country may call it a Jinn (a fiery spirit created by Allah that dwells in unclean places and plots the ruin of man) or a Ghoul (a sand dwelling evil spirit who robs graves and consumes the flesh of the dead). Followers of the various nature religions may deem it an Elemental (an entity composed of one of the four elements of earth, wind, fire or water). Certain Native Americans may call it a Chindi (an avenging spirit, released at death, to attack those who offended the deceased). More accurately, the following words could be used to describe a ghost: apparition, bogey, entity, haint (an antiquated term), haunt, phantasm, phantom, presence, revenant, shadow or shade, soul, specter, spectre, spirit, spook, or wraith.
The nature of a ghost is truly an age-old question. The Ancient Egyptians made a distinction between the soul and the spirit. They believed that, at the moment of death, the consciousness split into two different forms. The Ba represented the soul that continued on through reincarnation. The Ka represented the life force created at birth and released at death, and was considered the psychic residue of the previous human spirit. The Ka was left behind on earth.
Now, after all is said and done, my answer to this query is energy, or more aptly, spiritual energy. What is yours?