Soul Searching: Do deceased relatives or friends visit the living?

In order to comment on this subject I thought I would establish some basic beliefs that are assumed by making the claim that the deceased visit us.  In any argument there are things both sides have to assume in order to continue.  In philosophy they call it “properly basic beliefs” such as “I exist” and that “the world is not an illusion” or that “time is real.”  In this scenario, seeing a deceased relative or friend has some presuppositions attached to it.  I just want to lay those out so that when you come to the conclusion of this article, that it doesn’t end up dying the death of a thousand questions.  If I can construct an argument and build upon it, the conclusion will be easier to contemplate.  Hopefully it’ll make sense.

When someone makes the claim that a deceased relative has returned to visit them, we’re assuming that it’s the soul and not the body we’ve seen since the person we’re seeing has, of course, passed on.  So as to whether a person can survive death and carry on in some type of afterlife, for the person seeing the deceased relative, that question has already been answered and the conclusion established.  The person making the claim that they’ve seen a deceased relative or friend, therefore believes in dualism (the body and soul are separate and belong to the same person) and they believe that the soul can exist outside the body, as well as existing after death.

I say “outside the body as well as after death” because those are two separate claims. Someone can dream and project themselves outside the body and exist on this earth but they haven’t died and therefore still have a body.  Whereas after death, that connection of the soul with the physical body has been severed.  Here we are talking about seeing someone who has severed the connection of the soul from the body. Their consciousness and awareness stay intact.

It would be very difficult to convince an entire demographic of people that have made claims of seeing deceased relatives that they were all hallucinating.  So I think we can safely make the claim that apparitions, ghosts, spirits, etcetera, appear before us either as our deceased loved ones or ghosts.

ghostly visitations

If you Google “what percentage of people claim to have seen a ghost?”, you’ll find an array of surveys or polls conducted, especially around Halloween.  They range from 15% in 2015 to 60% in 2018.  My concern with these polls is that sometimes the people asking the questions have no personal experience with this phenomenon at all and their bias toward skepticism shows.  They treat it as a joke or simply an amusing story to tell along with the Bigfoot sightings.  You’ll always seem to find these articles amongst tabloid news or alien abduction stories.  Few take it as serious as they should.

If the skeptic were to stop for even a moment and contemplate the seriousness of the subject, they might not treat it so flippantly.  Here we have a consciousness, without any physicality, that is fully aware of your presence and has a motivation and goal of their own and clearly possesses some degree of intelligence.  They are either here to help, or harm you.  They have their sights on you. This isn’t just mindless smoke or something that goes away without consequence.  It’s a being.  Either way, that’s serious and very thought provoking.

Let me move on to establish the next basic belief to help with our conclusion.  Good and evil.  There are both when it comes to spiritual encounters.  There are some that would say evil is an illusion and that you have to overcome it within yourself.  This sounds great, even sort of “spiritual” but misses the mark of what most closely aligns with reality.  I assure you evil is real.  It may seem ridiculous to some of us that this is even a question, but to others, they question the reality of evil itself.  They believe they can overcome it by overcoming their own belief of it. It’s ludicrous.

I need to establish that good and evil exist, and that they are real.  Ask any Holocaust survivor. Ask anyone who has escaped human trafficking or lived with the unresolved kidnapping of a child or has had a front row seat in any war. Evil is real.  To say that good cannot exist because there is so much evil is a self-defeating statement.  You cannot speak of evil existing unless you assume there is such a thing as good.  Again, I need to establish that good and evil co-exist and are objective.  If we leave moral laws or good and evil up to popular vote, it becomes subjective and then subject to the culture in which it emanates from which leads to moral relativism. Now anyone’s opinion of what’s good or bad is correct so now nothing is evil or good.

One of the best, most concise explanations I’ve heard on this is by Ravi Zacharias.  He put it like this:

“Anyone who raises the question or the problem of evil, it’s either raised by a person, or about a person.  Which means the problem of evil, when it is posited, assumes the intrinsic worth of personhood.  If there’s no intrinsic worth of personhood the question self-destructs so personhood is necessary for the question to be valid.  That’s why we can only justify it if the person is a creation of an individual of distinct worth which is God himself.  That’s why we move to a moral law giver.  The question self-destructs if personhood is not valuable.  Your life and my life assume intrinsic worth for the problem of evil as a question to be valid, and that intrinsic worth can only come if we are the creation of God himself, not the random product of time, plus matter, plus chance.”

Ravi explains further:

“When you assume there is evil you assume there is such a thing as good.  When you assume there is good you assume there is a moral law to differentiate between good and evil.  To assume there is a moral law you must assume there is a moral law giver but that’s who you’re trying to disprove and not prove.  If there’s no moral law giver, there is no moral law, if there is no moral law there is no good, if there is no good, there is no evil so what is your question?”

My point is, we can assume that good and evil exist and are real.  We can assume that there is an objective moral law with a source outside of time and space, otherwise it becomes relative to the culture or individual and therefore anyone can claim anything is good or evil and no one can determine who is correct.  So in saying this, we can assign good or evil to spirits, ghosts, apparitions, fallen angels or whatever beings you encounter outside of our physical realm.  These beings are objectively good or objectively evil by definition.

evil whispering in your ear

So we’ve established that these visions are real, not hallucinations and that since good and evil exist, these beings can therefore be good or evil with consciousness, intelligence and motivations directing their actions, all while targeting a person who is physically alive.

If we can take those as basic beliefs in these sightings or encounters, we can now speculate and try to determine as to which type of being we’ve encountered (good or evil) and what their motivations are in contacting us.  No matter what type of being it is, they are unwavering in accomplishing their goal. They are not deterred by your fear of them. Nor would they work harder for you if you were attracted to their presence. They just accomplish their goal.

So now if we can assume this for now, the next question might be to what extent will these beings go to reach their goal? Since they don’t sleep or have a job, don’t get pre-occupied or distracted, they can focus all their energy on you and finish what they came to do.  This is intimidating all by itself.

Your worldview will determine how you approach and dismantle this mystery. Since you’re dealing with metaphysical beings you’ll have to rely on metaphysical means to assess this.  If you consider yourself spiritual but not religious you’re going to struggle with this.  This article doesn’t allow for any in-depth discussion as to why I choose to reference the Christian faith over other religions but without making that an issue, I will work from that perspective; looking through the Christian worldview.

Spiritual warfare is believed to be an ongoing fight for your soul. There are good and bad angels who are focused on you. There are guardian angels looking out for you and demons trying to work around them.   Their full time jobs are you.  They stay “on the job” until the day you die and are there to greet you either wonderfully or tragically. If you think you’re afraid when you see a ghost here, wait until you see one on the other side.  It’s important to take this seriously. They do.

So I believe that there are only a few options as to who or what we are seeing when a deceased person visits us.  I think it depends heavily on the state of consciousness that the viewer or “visited person” is in. If a person were on their death bed and had visions of relatives or loved ones in the room or (a case I have personal experience with) angels descending to take them home, I would think this would be true representations of who they were seeing and a glorious homecoming.

Transitioning to the afterlife

For someone in this state of mind or, at this point where they are ready to transition from life to the afterlife, these visions are true to form because they are now seeing with eyes of the afterlife. Just as when we dream we see within the dream state, I believe that the evidence points to that when the soul is transitioning, we take on new vision and now we can see in the “second state” or in the afterlife.

However, if you’re in the kitchen doing dishes or alone in your home reading and you see a deceased person, I believe it could very well be a deception.  Demons aren’t lacking in knowledge of your past, your vises and your family history. In fact, they know more about the past and what makes you tick than you do.  They know what buttons to push and which ones to ignore.  They know what makes you angry and what you’re open to believing.  If they can masquerade as someone you trusted or loved, and then, through a variety of deceptions, lead you to their door and away from the ones protecting you either physically or spiritually, they’ll do it.  What better way to get you to move toward them than to masquerade as someone you trusted?  They want your soul.  I know that sounds like a Hollywood movie but I don’t mean it in the same way as what’s depicted in a movie.  They want you to become evil or at the very least, ignore the pure, the good.

These beings have been around a very long time. They consider you harmless and ignorant of the afterlife.  For many people the devil is a fantasy and something to draw pictures of with a pitchfork and some comical look on his face. It’s a joke to them.  In 1856 Pastor William Ramsey wrote;

“One of the most striking proofs of the personal existence of Satan, which our times afford us, is found in the fact that he has so influenced the minds of the multitudes in reference to his existence and doings, as to make them believe that he does not exist; and that the hosts of Demons or Evil Spirits, over whom Satan presides as Prince, are only the fantasies of the brain, some hallucinations of the mind.”

To put it simply;

“The greatest accomplishment of the devil is that he has been able to convince the majority that he doesn’t exist.”

It’s impossible to defend yourself against an enemy you don’t believe is real. If you don’t believe that demons exist or, you believe that ghosts are harmless, then they’ve done their job.  If they can’t make you evil or get you to work for them, they’ll be content with you missing the bus home to the afterlife you were meant for.

People don’t believe in Satan yet, they believe in luck and chance.  However, there are no such things.  Try and find either. What power does luck have? Where do you get some luck?  How about chance? How does chance apply any force or action to anything? When something “happened by chance” define what that means, “by chance”. Maybe “by force” or “by gravity” or “by working” but there is no such thing as “by chance”. Yet with all the people that believe in luck and chance, Satan, who is very real, has managed to avoid belief by many.  How’s that for luck?

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