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Ghosts Are Universal, But What You See is Influenced By What You Already Believe
Psychology professor Frank T. McAndrew writes that the type of ghost you see depends on the religion you have faith in.
The mythologist Joseph Campbell once wrote that Buddhists don’t dream of Christ. His point is simple: if your identity is bound up in a certain set of beliefs, you’re likely not going to be unconsciously invaded by a different figure from another set, especially if you’ve never had contact with that system.
Campbell jotted down this idea this well before the Internet, when people of various religions had much less access to different religious systems. Buddhists were much more likely to envision a Bo tree over a crucifix any night.
But do Buddhists see Christian ghosts? The concept of ghosts is universal. In Buddhism, there are even categories of ghosts. Hungry ghosts are beings driven by intense emotional desires, while ghosts as we generally know them in America—apparitions of the deceased—also exist. Taoist hungry ghosts emerge from the ether if their meat casing of a human body died violently or unhappily. In Christianity, the holy spirit is a ghost, but ancestors are ghostly too.
Though ghosts are a global phenomenon—there is evidence humans are hardwired to “see” them—Knox College psychology professor Frank T. McAndrew writes that whatever god you worship influences the type of ghost you see. Like Campbell, he recognizes prior belief influences what your eyes behold.
First McAndrew surveys basic assumptions about the spirit world. Protestants, Catholics, and Muslims, he writes, share a belief in resurrection and judgment, which eventually ends up in a heavenly realm or a hellish domain; Catholics throw in purgatory for good measure. Buddhist and Hindus, while varying slightly depending on region, put stock in reincarnation, which requires a certain waiting period in which the soul might just happen to haunt the living—their own private purgatory.
This, McAndrew speculates, allows each believer to think they’re asserting control over the destiny of their individual ether in the context of the belief system they’ve been raised in. But it turns out that this anxiety-reducing mechanism of an ever-after might actually induce a different kind of paranoia:
Religion’s talent for easing our anxiety about death may have had the perverse effect of increasing the likelihood that we’ll be on edge about ghosts, spirits and other supernatural beings.
Religious believers are twice as likely to believe in ghosts than nonbelievers—and 18 percent of Americans have claimed to have seen one surfing the air. If the believer is Muslim, he’ll likely think he’d spied a Jinn, since the concept of souls becoming ghosts isn’t prominent in Islam, whereas Protestants give credence to the paranormal. Catholics also champion these type of spirits, even as they condemn followers from contacting them through the Ouija board they purchased on Amazon.
One of the most complex assertions on the waiting period between death and rebirth is expressed in the Bardo Thodol, a Tibetan text popularly known as the “book of the dead.” While the validity of this “transitional state” is questionable, the rites associated with it are fascinating—so much so Carl Jung added commentary to W.Y. Evans-Wentz’s translation.
Jung is skeptical regarding the text’s more grandiose claims, comparing them to “the half-baked literature of European and American spiritualism.” As an interior map of archetypes and psychology, however, he is enthralled. He writes,
It is a primordial, universal idea that the dead simply continue their earthly existence and do not know that they are disembodied spirits—an archetypal idea which enters into immediate, visible manifestation whenever anyone sees a ghost. It is significant, too, that ghosts all over the world have certain features in common.
The features, which include a sort of hallucinogenic vision of a hazy figure and often relies on a “feeling” of presence rather than visual proof, are indeed experienced around the planet. As McAndrew points out, prior beliefs influence how you see ghosts and what to make of them. Their function, history, and friendliness (or foreboding nature) are all dependent upon what you previously thought about ghosts.
Which is why the concept continues to fascinate as a psychological construct. The human brain is capable of creating things that do not exist and actually seeing them in front of their own eyes. There’s a saying that life is what you make it. Turns out that death might just be as well.
Derek is the author of Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health. Based in Los Angeles, he is working on a new book about spiritual consumerism. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.