We all may have experienced a bit of a mist, a whiff of perfume, hushed voices, echoing footfalls or the full visual presentation of an apparition at one time or another. We wonder, What exactly was that? In simplest terms, when one or more of our senses are aroused by stimuli from an unexplained source, it can lead us to believe we were visited by ghosts. But just what exactly is a ghost?
The Cambridge Dictionary of 2014 defines a ghost as “the spirit of a dead person.” For thousands of years, spiritual leaders have explained that a person’s soul can transcend to a higher place upon physical death. We typically use the term “ghost” to refer to a soul that’s still visiting upon the Earth.
According to a CBS News poll, three out of four Americans believe in the afterlife, 37% of Americans believe in haunted houses, says a Gallup poll, and 18% say they’ve seen or been in the presence of a ghost, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center survey. I grew up in an actively haunted house that was once a Civil War hospital, and have been a paranormal investigator for a decade and a half, driven by my burning desire to understand ghostly phenomena. Daily, I straddle the line between the magical-appearing afterlife and the real world of scientific explanation in order to make logical sense of the exceptional. This constant battle is also played out between religious believers and scientific skeptics.
Is There Proof that Ghosts Exist?
The spiritual and scientific communities have long debated the existence of ghosts. As an investigator, I am brought into locations that are reportedly haunted, and it’s up to my team and me to assess, experiment and experience the location in order to come to a conclusion. We cannot prove that it’s haunted purely by spiritual means or scientific means; we can only conclude that the events that occurred were not explained by any means we tested, and by the nature of their unexplained origins, we relegate them to the realm of ghosts.
Today, however, studies are being undertaken to understand near-death experiences, and the field of quantum physics is working diligently to explain inconsistencies in the physical world. We might converge at some point to prove that by natural scientific means, a person dies and an intelligent energy, i.e., a soul, is then released into the universe and remains as energy does, according to the laws of science, in existence.
Why Science Is Studying the Afterlife
Those who have had near-death experiences describe very similar recall of another realm they visited when they were without heartbeat, breath or pulse. Their experiences support the spiritual belief that we possess souls that have a destination after the scientifically designated death of the body. Because of the near-death status of patients, science has been stepping in to study these experiences once deemed as purely spiritual. The U.K.’s University of Southampton and Stony Brook University in New York are among several institutions that have ongoing research on this phenomenon, opening a doorway for potential validation of the afterlife by scientific means.
A Scientific Explanation for Ghosts
Physics’ law of conservation of energy may help us better understand ghosts. This law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another within a closed system. With this in mind, the process of physical death would not end the soul energy within a living being, but allow it to be released into the spiritual realm. The law of conservation of energy explains a potential pathway to the afterlife via transference of energy.
For a soul to inhabit the afterlife, some kind of energy transference occurs where the physical form is shed at death and yet the energy form continues on. Quantum physics is coming closer to explaining this process so that what was once considered spiritual can be regarded as reality. Extensively researched in the 1930s by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger and by Northern Irish physicist John Stewart Bell in the 1960s, quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon where two entangled particles can be separated by great distance, and what occurs to one of them still occurs to the other. Albert Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance,” and he wasn’t exaggerating. Theoretically, ghosts in the afterlife could haunt a location they visited when alive because they have a quantum entanglement with that site.
Should We Be Scared of Ghosts?
Near-death experiences have taught us that perspective can be shifted temporarily into the ether for a ride around in the next realm. Upon resuscitation of vital signs, perception is brought back again to the body and this physical realm. Perhaps the best definition of a ghost is the continuation of life beyond the physical realm—an energy transference into soul form, joining the greater collective we refer to as the afterlife. And when we encounter a ghost on this earthly plane, instead of being afraid, consider it the process of one soul recognizing another.
Have you experienced a great loss? Read 5 Ways to Process Grief During Collective Tragedies and Getting Through Grief with a Spiritual Pilgrimage.