In recent threads, I’ve been ‘thinking out loud’ about consciousness, humanoid encounters and odd claims that, for some of us, are hard to
dismiss; for others they are hard to accept.
It’s been like riffing on the chords of ambiguity and seeing whose feet are tapping.
We’ve had multiple witnesses shooting at objects
, strange phenomena
hospitalising a peasant family
and three young guys finding themselves lost
. The last couple of threads went further than physical experience and
waded into the murkier shallows of consciousness
life after death
Taken broadly, it could be suggested that our riotous rush through history has dragged behind it a phantasmagoria of colourful stories and
experiences. We know ‘ghosts’ are cross-cultural and we know that UFOs have been seen by folk from all walks of life. Anthropologists have
recorded the beliefs of tribal cultures who also describe odd lights (they don’t assume ‘aliens’) and visitations from ‘spirits of the
dead.’ So much for cultural contamination? Well, I’m not too sure; we’re cultural creatures and can no more remain above culture than live
A big question is; do such phenomena have an existence independent of our perceived culture?
In this thread, it’s time to look at the apparitions
- those who’ve followed behind us through history like so much shadow in the
sunlight. They’ve been around for 1000s of years and it wouldn’t be surprising if early man, or Neanderthals, found goosebumps when the person
was behind them wasn’t really there at all…
Let's get the fire stoked with a creepy, seasonal example from 1887.
The following are slightly less cinematic and more in keeping with the nature of apparition reports…
In this small selection (Podmore
), I tried to
include interesting ones involving more than one witness and/or with some corroboration and support for their character. Of course, this doesn’t
rule out the possibility of deliberate deception or attention-seeking (can it ever?), but it’s a way of avoiding the obvious clangers.
The Society for Psychical Research
surveyed some 17 000 people to investigate beliefs, experiences and maybe
identify some pattern that would enlighten us. Like ufology, the number of claims had no bearing on finding a consistent signal and, like the
, seem to be frequently meaningless and absurd
. Podmore isolated 95 reported incidents involving more than one
simultaneous witness and living people were more likely to be ‘apparitional’ than the dead…
The cases so far are mostly from the 19th Century and none of the authors are making the case that apparitions are simply dead folk. The above table
helps to discourage the idea that apparitions must
be the dead come back to haunt us. They instead argue for the existence of an
unexplained residue where the more probable explanations (psychological, misidentifications etc) have accounted for the rest. In the case of Podmore
and Gurney et al, they discuss the idea that ‘telepathy
’ is the agent by which these apparitions
are projected by our consciousness. In this way, they say ‘telepathy’ can also explain how more than one witness can see, or hear, an apparition.
As they figured it, the apparitions would not be *there* in any real way and would be presented across the screens of our perception by whatever force
they thought was behind telepathy.
‘Telepathy’ was their term and we use different terms in the 21st Century. To some it’s a euphemism for BS and pseudo-science, others might
understand it as shared consciousness or that esoteric ‘wil-o-the-wisp’ folk call ‘
.’ I can think of a few guys who’d also think about ‘tulpas
Consciousness, in some way or another, seems to me a likely factor in these reports and where my thoughts are drifting…
Of course, at the time none of these cases or explanations went by without being studied and challenged by skeptics and nor should they!
and dreams explained the awakening apparitions (it happens);
‘sickness, exhaustion and excitement (EJB Tylor
account for some others (true) and should we forget that some people are liars and fantasists?
The believer/ skeptic debates and mud-fights have been with us for as long as humans and animals have reacted to things they didn’t understand. I
believe it’s as much a part of our culture and genetics as marking territory or wearing clothes that identify us with whatever groups. In between,
and amongst, these supposed groups are the guys who feel urges to make stuff up; they post fake UFO sightings, tell BS ghost stories or willfully
misidentify known phenomena as mysterious.
But I digress; let’s get back to the apparitions and some interesting accounts and studies. Just as Podmore and Gurney tried to make the case that
apparitions were a human product of telepathy, others hold to the belief that they are ‘ghosts’ and ‘spirits of the dead.’ Haraldsson (
Survey of Claimed Encounters with the Dead
) wonders if they are some kind of evidence
for the existence of consciousness after death?
Being Icelandic, he sampled Icelandic populations to see what their beliefs about death were and whether they’d experienced apparitions. The final
sample was only 100 individuals and the results were intriguing. Apparitions of male figures outnumbered female figures by almost 3:1 and the
circumstances (like Podmore and Gurney) tended to be whilst awake and in bright conditions (30 respondents were working at the time). This seems
counter-intuitive to reason when it should be expected that they’d occur in darkness or during moments of quiet. As for the high rate of male
figures? Don’t ask me!