Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Spiritual: A Conversation between The Phoneix and I (Part 4)

Continuing from previous post(s):

In regards to our "protection" from spiritual evil, we are protected from spiritual evil by the blood of Christ, but that protection does not suddenly sever us from the spiritual world. We can still be witnesses to demonic activity (Jesus and His disciples certainly were), though through Christ we (1) are shielded from it and (2) have authority over it.

Your mentioning of "the judgment" after death (as King Jimmy calls it) was going to be my "further thoughts" about ghosts, viz., the nature of the afterlife. How you view the afterlife directly affects your view of ghosts; and as you pointed out, orthodox Christianity believes that once death occurs, the soul does not linger here. It goes on to "meet its Maker".

Of course, that just makes the ghost question more complicated. If they are not lingering souls nor demonic activity, then what are they?

I propose some pseudo-heterodox speculation on the subject. It should be fun, if for no other reason then it would provide an excellent plot line for some story in the future. 8^D

I shall begin, then you can respond to mine and then offer a pseudo-heterodoxical speculation of your own.


There is a concept within the Old Testament (and one that lingers in the New) that death is actually just "sleep," i.e., that the soul remains dormant in the body until God calls it to judgment. This could be what is behind those phrases in Pauline epistles where he talks about those who "sleep in Jesus," and how when Christ returns "the dead in Christ shall rise," seeming to suggest that their souls have not yet left their bodies (I Thess. 4:14, 16; actually, the entire passage of I Thess. 4:13-18 has several mentions of "those who sleep").

If we take it that in death the soul merely "sleeps" until it is called to judgment, then we can then perhaps explain why some people say a place is haunted because some poor soul "cannot find rest". The default idea behind hauntings is that something terrible and/or unjust occurred to someone and now they can have no rest until it is rectified. Perhaps this can be connected to the whole "soul-sleep" theory, viz., at death, a soul normally sleeps until the call to judgment, but in instances of wrong (an upsurge of horrendous spiritual evil) the soul is incapable of resting until justice is met, whether in this life (by some avenger) or the next (at the throne of God).

The Fall could definitely explain how this is possible: the introduction of Sin into the world has disrupted the whole of Creation (including the spiritual side), causing all that ought to happen to be thwarted. If "soul-sleep" is the proper and natural result of death (i.e., what ought to be), then it is completely possible that Sin can (or has) disrupt it as well.

Thus, perhaps the old story (i.e., they cannot find rest) is actually the true story: Ghosts are souls that cannot sleep because of the terrible evil that happened to them, and thus are left to linger until justice is served somehow.

Thus is my first speculation. I await your response.

-Jon Vowell

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Spiritual: A Conversation between The Phoneix and I (Part 3)

Continuing from previous post(s):

My thoughts on ghosts are interesting precisely because I am unsure about them.

Having been raised in a fundamentalist background, I was taught (and thus believed by default) to treat all paranormal activity as purely demonic, a mere method of deception to turn people from God and towards Satan.

Lately I am unsure, however, and that for two reasons.

If I've read C.S. Lewis correctly, one of the devil's favorite tactics is secrecy, not only in regards to himself but in regards to the spiritual world as a whole. He would much rather you be ignorant of a spiritual world (and subsequently spiritual beings) because such knowledge can lead to all sorts of nasty questions about the afterlife, your soul (its existence and nature), and even God and Satan. The presence of ghosts seems detrimental to such ends. If there are ghosts, then two things must necessarily be true: (1) we have a soul, and (2) that soul will live beyond the life of the body. Such acknowledgments are dangerous for the purposes of the demonic, for although they can lead one astray, they can also lead one straight into the arms of religion, specifically God's religion. So, in sum, my first reason is that the presence of ghosts seems detrimental to Satan's purposes since they give acknowledgment to the spiritual side of things and thus can lead people to start taking spiritual questions seriously.

My other reason for being unsure about a "purely demonic" understanding of the paranormal is that if it is an operation of Satan, then it is an incredibly slip-shod operation. Watch any of those "ghost shows" and you'll see what I mean: the activities of the demons (if they are demons) seem highly confused and unorganized, spending most of their time slowly opening doors, dropping things, making it suddenly cold, or muttering useless comments that vaguely identify themselves with whoever or whomever last occupied their haunting grounds. Honestly now: If I was a malevolent spiritual entity bent on deceiving humanity through paranormal activity, why would I waste my time and energy having my minions doing such asinine activities as making noises and muttering nonsensicals? Would it not make more sense to have them do something more obviously "pro-Satanic," like saying "Satan is awesome" or writing it on a wall somewhere in bright burning letters? In sum, I guess that my second reason is that I like to give my opponent (i.e., Satan) the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is indeed colossally foul but also colossally brilliant, and that his true activities are far more dreadful and effective.

I have further thoughts about ghosts, my dear Phoenix, but I shall break for now so neither you nor I grow weary with my words. Send me your thoughts and whether or not you want me to continue or if I should just shut up and go read a book or something.

-Jon Vowell

Thoughts on the Spiritual: A Conversation between The Phoneix and I (Part 2)

Continuing from previous post:

I believe in angels and demons, i.e., I believe that the spiritual side of things contains spiritual beings, with one sect being wholly bent towards evil and thus wholly bent towards causing destruction and damnation either directly or indirectly, and the other sect being wholly bent towards good and thus wholly bent towards causing restoration and redemption either directly or indirectly. I believe them to be personal intelligences and not impersonal forces (or even impersonal intelligences, i.e., they are not mere machines).

I believe that human beings (since we are intimately connected with their world as much as they are to ours), in aligning themselves with either the good or the evil, can be aided by one and consequently assaulted by the other, since they are at war with each other because their very essences and purposes are antithetical (destruction vs. restoration, etc.).

Thus (in regards to this warfare), I believe in "magic," but not in the naive since of mere "power". I see magic as a form of communion, communion with one or the other of those "personal intelligences," whether they be good or evil. The "magic" of the good consist of prayer, the reading and quoting of scripture, worship, and various subjective experiences where we come in contact with and thereby commune with the good (who I obviously recognize as God). The "magic" of the evil consist of different things, whether they be the more spectacular stunts common to (or at least claimed by) plain witchcraft in all its forms, or the more subtle nature of a mere "influence," so to speak (e.g., Hitler's ability to mesmerize audiences; I am convinced that it was demonic magic). In either case, "magic" is the natural result of communion with the personalities of the spiritual world (whether they be good or evil), and I believe that this "magic" (as I have defined it) is the weaponry of this warfare. As humans (belonging to the spiritual just as much as the physical), we are capable of utilizing both (although, to be orthodox about it, we are incapable of using [or fully using] the good until salvation by grace).

By the way, as an addendum to my two points in the previous post, I also believe that the spiritual good is more powerful than the spiritual evil, and thus the evil can never ultimately win. My reasons for that are another issue, however. Let's move on to a final issue: ghosts.

-Jon Vowell

Thoughts on the Spiritual: A Conversation between The Phoneix and I (Part 1)

A facebook correspondence on the nature of the spiritual:

Allow me to be flatly obvious and then become perhaps more interesting.

As a Christian, I believe fully in a spiritual world.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's get to the specifics.

I believe that the relationship between the physical and the spiritual is hierarchical, i.e., they stand in relation to each other as the "lesser" and the "greater," with the physical being the lesser and the spiritual the greater. This is not a kind of Gnosticism (i.e., I do not think that the physical is bad). I simply hold that the spiritual side of things is the important side of things if for no other reason than that is were all the "action" is. To put it in a simpler way: though the physical obviously has its consequences, I believe that the spiritual side of things is of greater consequence to our lives than the physical (e.g., "the body they may kill, / God's truth abideth still")

I believe that the relationship between the physical and the spiritual is intimate, i.e., they are completely connected. The physical is not "right here" while the spiritual is "over there" or "out there," nor is the spiritual "compartmentalized" apart from the physical. They are both bonded together. We live in a completely spiritual world just as much as a completely physical one, and actions in one directly influence the other. A somewhat simple example would be the effects of food upon the soul: if it's good and warm and satisfying, it creates a sense of joy and peace and refreshment.

Alright: having established those two points, lets move on to "spiritual warfare" as well as "demons and ghosts and stuff."

-Jon Vowell