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It's October, my favorite month. Because October is the only month that culminates in Halloween. And Halloween is the only holiday that celebrates the spooky, the scary, and the mysterious!
In keeping with the spirit of the season, with each blog entry this month we'll dig up a little cemetery soil to expose something buried in the shallow grave of rationality.
What better place to start digging, than beneath the headstone marked 'ghosts?'
Ghost stories are told within nearly all human cultures, and have been told throughout all the history we've been able to cobble together. Some ghosts are vengeful, some are sad, some are able to see the future, or dabble in the affairs of the living.
According to the stories, that is. Science has yet to recognize anything even remotely resembling proof that dead people go on as bodiless spirits.
But, for the purpose of discussion, let's say ghosts exist. It's October. Take the plunge. Ghosts are real. Fine.
What the heck are they?
You'll get a lot of replies to this question. Ghosts are spirits, of course. Beings composed of pure energy. Ghosts are the embodiment of our immortal souls. Ghosts are ectoplasmic remnants of our consciousness.
Today I'd like to suggest a different, lesser known theory for the actual mechanism behind most so-called 'hauntings.'
What if the ghosts are, in fact, us?
More specifically, what if ghosts are the actualized, mobile results of our own imaginations?
I speaking about tulpas. A tulpa is said to be an entity created by the act of willful concentration and meditation of one or more people. If the people are determined and devoted to the process, believers (and this is an ancient belief) claim a tulpa can do all the things we attribute to ghosts, and more.
Case in point: the so-called Philip Experiments, conducted by a group of Canadian psychical researchers in the 1970s.
You can read about the sessions here or here. Or I'll summarize things for you. A group of researchers decided they would create a ghost. They named him Philip and gave him a detailed but entirely fictional history. They drew sketches of his likeness.
They got together and talked about Philip and thought about Philip and generally focused on Philip, even though everyone in the group was quite well aware there was not, nor had there ever been, any such person.
That's important. Because they weren't trying to contact the spirit of a deceased person.
Instead, the experiment was designed to test a theory that stated the expectation of psychic phenomena -- in this case, ghostly appearances -- was enough to actually trigger the phenomena.
Once Philip was well-known to the group, they began to engage in the methods employed by spiritualists and mediums of the last century. They sat in darkened rooms and urged 'Philip' to come forth.
If you believe the group and witnesses to the occurrences, Philip soon began to appear, even though he was imaginary.
The group reported knocks and movements and all the usual phenomena associated with seance-style apparitions.
There's even a video of a Philip session, captured by a Canadian TV show. The video shows table-tipping -- but you can see it for yourself, I've pasted it below. LATE NOTE: The video is replay-restricted, which means you'll get a message saying WATCH THIS VIDEO ON YOUTUBE. Click on that. It will take you straight to YouTube. Watch the video, then come back here! Sorry for the inconvenience.
The video is either proof of the power of simple imagination, or a run-of-the-mill table tipping hoax.
Look, making a table tip via trickery is easy. Making it float isn't much more difficult. We've all seen stage magicians do far more impressive feats, and no one is suggesting anything paranormal was involved.
But what if 'Philip' was the actual agency behind the movement in that video?
Well, that means the physical world is subject to the influence of directed mental effort.
It might also mean that many of what we call 'ghosts' and 'hauntings' are nothing more than mental residue, set free to wander.
Is that really so far-fetched? Take any location with a reputation for being haunted. People talk about what they've seen and heard. They speculate. They spend a lot of time wondering if they are alone. They jump at shadows and they tell their friends and pretty soon the whole place is awash in the very same kind of spooky energy used to raise up Philip, the imaginary ghost.
Which would make Philip a tulpa. And if my assertion is true, it would mean we are surrounded by tulpas, who make stairs creak and pop out of doorways and push glasses off of counters because that's just what we expect them to do.
Do I believe this?
Yes. No. Maybe. But it's fun to think about.
There is a downside to this school of thought, though. Let's say you are afraid of monsters in your closet, or under the bed.
If that's true, every time you think about them, they get a little closer to solidifying. A tiny step nearer to the door that opens into our reality.
But I'm sure that's all nonsense.
Sleep tight, my fiends.
What was that noise?