Hallucinations, Dead Relatives, and AssumptionsMy father died last year, so I had quite a few conversations with folks who worked with him, in a hospice program. Nice people, by the way, all of them.
My father reported seeing folks from his family: people he'd grown up with. He reported seeing members of my household, too, when we came to visit. The difference is that the folks from my household who visited are still alive. The folks he grew up with: most of them have been dead for a while.
Folks from hospice discussed this sort of thing with me, and I noticed two approaches to the data.
One was to call what my father reported "hallucinations," and explain to me that this sort of thing is fairly common among people who have lived a long life, and are now in the process of dying. I'm sure the intent was to inform and reassure me: and I was touched by the effort.
The other was to call what my father reported as - visits. From people he knew. Along with an explanation that folks who are dying often report visits like that.
Both people were discussing the same sort of phenomenon with me. Each had her own set of assumptions about how the data - my father's reports - should be interpreted.
Do I believe in ghosts? If by that you mean, am I a 19th-century spiritualist? No. I don't pay mediums to connect me to one of my pet cats, either.
But, do I believe that I can't die, and that I've never met a "mortal" human being: because there isn't any such thing? Yes. I could be wrong about this, but I really don't think so.
Why Did I Not Confront The Unbeliever With The Error Of Her Ways?I suppose I could have tried to "convict" the hospice worker who regarded my father's reports as hallucinations. But I didn't.
For what I hope are good reasons.
I've been preached at by some well-meaning (I trust) folks. I don't react well to slogans hurled at me - no matter how impassioned the delivery. I am not likely to embrace assertions that reject almost everything I've been taught: certainly not if aggressively raised in a conversation about something else.
My guess is that quite a few people in America have similar reactions to 'Bible thumpers.'
I did, as I recall, drop a suggestion that nearly-universal experiences may have many possible explanations. And left it at that. There was no clear opportunity for 'witness,' beyond what I did. Besides, the hospice worker has at least as much data as I do about end-of-life experiences: and I think that facts, in the long run, often speak for themselves.
Do I Believe in Ghosts?Like I said, I'm not a 19th century Spiritualist.
On the other hand, I've lived too long and experienced too much to assume that being "rational" in a good old-fashioned Victorian-Materialist sort of way is particularly sensible. I'm dubious - putting it mildly - about people who excitedly talk about how some fellow who died a long time ago and comes to see them regularly.
But I accept the idea that people have a soul (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1703) - and that the very common reports by people who will soon die, of seeing 'dead people' they knew might be something other than "hallucinations."
Finally, the Point of This PostA couple days ago, PatriceEgging and I were discussing something on Twitter. The subject of posting about personal 'spiritual' experiences was raise, and she said something like 'I will, if you will.'
So, I wrote "Really Spiritual Experiences: Those are Okay" and posted it Thursday.
Now, she's posted "Why I believe in Heaven," Patrice Egging: Music and Ministry (April 24, 2010).
And that's what this post is about: linking to that post.
- "Really Spiritual Experiences: Those are Okay"
(April 22, 2010)
- "The Catholic Church: Universal. Really"
(April 19, 2010)
- "Accommodating Indigenous Cultures: Including Ours"
(January 10, 2010)
- "'If you must see ghosts ...' Materialism, Being Spiritual, and Uncle Deadly"
(December 18, 2009)