Evil spirits, ghosts, demons

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

I know Halloween has come and gone, and this discussion may be a bit late, but I feel this is linked to the discussion of faith and science. Has there been any serious scientific studies which confirm the existence of the supernatural realm, the likes of which we find in the scriptures?

I believe in such beings not just because of what I read in scripture, but also because of the stories I have heard from family members. Whilst on holiday, two family members in the same house had the same dream of a wicked old woman luring them to evil, I do wonder if it could be a being akin to the Pachad Laylah in psalm 91. I also notice there are many stories of unlikely individuals having spiritual experiences, a good example being the Apostle Paul. Even though I am not currently a believer in Christ, there is something more than natural about these experiences.

What do you think?

(Randy) #2

@Reggie_O_Donoghue, I wonder what the belief in demons has to do with Christianity more than any other religious group? George Macdonald wrote a book about Lilith (apparently from the Pachad Laylah myth as an allegory, not as a belief).

At any rate, C S Lewis’ quote about demons and the spirit world seemed at one time to me to be a moderate observation–but I am not sure we need to blame spirits for anything that goes bad. I tend to be naturalistic and think I do a good enough job about creating evil myself!

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

(RiderOnTheClouds) #3

I don’t at all blame evil spirits for every bad thing, but based on the experiences which people have had throughout the years, it is very hard for me to be a naturalist.

(Randy) #4

sorry, I get it.

Well, I remember talking about whether spirits/God can be detected anywhere with my dad after talking with an agnostic/skeptic prof. My dad said no, really we can’t prove anything; it’s just not the way things happen. I think that’s a pretty good axiom. I’m very skeptical.

There are others on this forum who have different opinions–and that’s OK :slight_smile: It’s a safe place to discuss things.

Best wishes in this discussion.

(Christy Hemphill) #5

Isn’t the supernatural realm, by definition, beyond the investigation of science, given methodological naturalism? There cannot be scientific studies of the supernatural, because science only studies the natural world and intentionally excludes supernatural explanations.

Is there something more than natural? Yes. That’s why they are called “spiritual” experiences, because “spiritual” is the word we use to signal we are not talking about the physical dimension of reality.

(Mark D.) #6

I agree with the sentiment that there is no reason to expect scientific validation for something as ill defined as the supernatural. But if we ask instead if there is any scientific studies which can validate the existence of spiritual entities arising in the consciousness of human beings, that at least might be possible research to do. Consciousness isn’t defined as well as we might like, but we all know it exists first hand even if there is much we don’t understand about how it works. We know that consciousness somehow gives rise to our abiding sense of identity and we also perceive that there is something constant about the identity of others. If there are any spiritual entities such as God, angels or demons we always only learn about them through the reports of people. So it could be that there is an entire realm of possibilities existing as though in another dimension in what we call the supernatural -or- it could be that the very same consciousness which gives rise to what we take to be our individual identities and that which we perceive in others also gives rise to autonomous entities which we perceive as having identities too.

Nothing I’ve read indicates that there is any science supporting my hypothesis either, but it certainly seems a less extravagant hypothesis as well as one more hopeful of making progress toward than the supernatural.

I guess from a Christian point of view, so long as one insists that God must be supernatural then you’re already committed to keeping that concept around knowing full well that science will never make any progress in that direction. Oh well, not the first time I’ve brought it up but it sure seems to me that it fits here.

(Mitchell W McKain) #7

I certainly believe in a spiritual reality. And while I strongly associate this with a subjective aspect of reality this doesn’t mean what it might mean to some people, that these are intangible things which are only to be found in our head. On the contrary, I insist that the spiritual is more real and substantial than the physical. The difference is that spiritual things simply are not part of the mathematical space-time relationships which make up the physical universe. And this means that we cannot expect interactions with the spiritual reality to follow well-defined predictable patterns because if they did then they WOULD be a part of those mathematical space-time relationships which science is so good at revealing. Thus there is plenty of room in my metaphysical outlook for spiritual entities such as God, angels, ghosts and demons.

However there is a rather big difficulty in that the window through which the spiritual can act on the physical is extremely limited, such that it can all be dismissed as coincidence and happenstance. While this may be more than enough for God to interact with the world, for more limited beings like ghosts of the deceased this doesn’t allow much of anything. Furthermore, a great diversity in how different people experience these things is another defining characteristic. This will likely rule out a majority of portrayals in stories and movies, as well as most claims by mediums. To be sure, scientific investigations of any of these things will find nothing at all, because science is all about ruling out everything but the consistent verifiable patterns.

Also, personally I have no experience with any of these things (except God), at least none that I haven’t simply dismissed as nothing of significance. So I have no real reason to believe in such things, except as a commitment to the principle that the limits of my personal experience doesn’t define the limits of reality itself. So in a sense, I classify experiences of ghosts, UFOs, and fairies as spiritual in a semi-dismissive way. That is, I do not deny the possibility of the reality the experiences of others but know the inherent diversity of such experiences mean they will likely never be real to me in my life. I have no reason for dismissal or condescension for those with such experiences, but also no reason to accept that they have anything to do with me.

Furthermore, I would warn against attributing too much causality to the nastier examples because the more responsibility you grant them the more power you give them. You really don’t want these things to be very real to you, after all. I have little doubt that the all of these experience can also be attributed to psychological causes, but for me that really is no more than looking at them from a different angle.

(system) #8

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