Science vs Spirit


If it – learning to live – remains to be done, it can only happen between life and death.

Neither in life nor in death alone.  What happens between two, and between all the ‘two’s’

one likes, such as between life and death, can only maintain itself with some ghost, can

only talk with or about some ghost [s’entretenir de quelque fantome].

Derrida, 1994, xvii, (emphasis in original).


What is it about ghosts and spiritual apparitions?  Why, particularly in the West, are we fascinated with either trying to prove or disprove their existence?   Why does the eternal battle between science and spirit continue, with social scientists, social anthropologists, physical researchers, parapsychologists, mainstream scientists and sceptics continue to play out in research publications and journals, conferences and on social media platforms?   Why do so  many of those who have the lived experience of other worldly phenomena feel they have, or that they want to, prove that such a phenomenon exists?  What is it about the afterlife, and the visible deceased, that is so difficult for so many to come to terms with?

I have hundreds of articles and books written by researchers and ‘lay’ folk about ghosts and the afterlife.  I’ve spoken about the afterlife at conferences.  My PhD explores the afterlife by way of bereavement and after death contact.   For me, there is nothing to prove, there is no argument to be had, there is just a reality to be shared. The afterlife exists, as do its denizens who continually herald its presence in diverse ways, and if there is one thing that life has taught me it is that we are not born just to die.  Death is the putting off of the physical body.  It is an event which allows us to live as spiritual beings in the spiritual universe.  Death does not diminish or extinguish our existence, it only changes it.

One of the things that the existence of ghosts appears to suggest, is that for various reasons they can linger close by, either to still embodied loved ones or to particular locations, and that they form a collective of sorts by way of being a body of spiritual beings who can make their presence known in various ways.  Edgar Allan Poe captures this engagement in writing stating that the boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague … who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?   I wonder if perhaps this is because the boundaries overlap?

There is a purpose in our being born, as there is in our dying, which is the greatest transition of all.  Our existence continues after our death.  In our newly disembodied state we are not bound by the constraints of linear time and space and accordingly, we experience life differently.  This is the great adventure, and it is here that the best is yet to be.  As Derrida observes, “In this mourning work in process, in this interminable task, the ghost remains that which gives one the most to think about – and to do” (1994, p. 98).

My question is this, why do we continue to seek approval and validation for the afterlife and its heralds from mainstream science?  Why does the existence of the afterlife need approval from mainstream science in order to be ‘true’, in order to be ‘real’?  Life is the greatest university of all, and when one has had the lived experience of the infinitesimal, in whatever its manifestations, there is nothing to prove, there is nothing to be debated.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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