Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Afraid of ghosts

I know a teenage girl who believes in ghosts.

That isn't uncommon these days, I'm afraid. Movies and TV shows are full of them, and the real existence of ghosts has come to be taken for granted. And unfortunately, teenage girls have always been attracted to this sort of superstition. But this teenager, whom I'll call Nadia, is Orthodox. She and her mother were chrismated into the Church over a year ago.

So where does one start? Or do you start at all? Is it just something to leave alone, hoping that it goes away?

When the subject came up, I found myself wishing that the Orthodox Church would combat such potentially dangerous superstitions. I tried to research the subject online, and came up blank. There weren't any pages on any Orthodox Web-sites, apparently, that would deign to discuss it.

I understand the inclination. There is something old-fashioned and almost silly about spiritualism, and perhaps making a serious refutation of it is a lot like Kurt Vonnegut's take on literary critics -- people getting all dressed up like a knight in armor to go attack a hot fudge sundae.

The problem is that by keeping silent or circumspect on the subject of what really does happen to us after we die, the Church has allowed this superstition to abound. Not that most people are checking with the Ancient Church these days, sad to say. Apparently, it's much more exciting to hold the ridiculous belief that some people after they die are doomed to haunt the earth and repeat scenes from their life and/or death over and over for the benefit (I suppose) of bored people. But I'm amazed that a young woman who came through catechism never got a clearer perspective on the spiritual world than that. For what possible reason would the loving and intelligent God that made and redeemed us allow these random acts of tragedy to be reinacted over and over again to the confusion and fright of those still living? If some credible humans have said that they've seen such things, isn't it worth remembering that there are unclean spirits in this world whose entire job it is to confuse and horrify us, to put us off of the narrow path and onto any way at all that leads away from it? And that, that being the case, we would do well not to consider such encounters as merely harmless fun?

Nadia who believes in ghosts isn't afraid of them. She watches horror movies with impunity -- increasingly realistic depictions of violent, murderous attacks by all manner of life-hating creatures is just entertainment, and the more gruesome and merciless they are the better. I suppose some people would think that was progress. I find it disturbing, because it smacks of an empty courage built on naivete and falsity. However flimsy the evidence of ghosts, there is nothing false about the reality of unclean spirits. If you don't recognize the face of evil when it's presented as fiction, how will you know it when you see it in your life?

5 Comments:

Blogger Karl Thienes said...

Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote quite a bit on the topic of ghosts, UFO's, "alien abductions" and the like in his book "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future"....it is fast becoming one of the most popular books in Russia that defends the Church's teaching on the subject ... sadly, because Fr. Seraphim doesn't isn't well received by many OCA priets (for obvious reasons) *all* of his writings get ignored....

Nice blog! (I'll respond to your email later today, Lord willing....)

August 20, 2004 at 6:22 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Ahhh! But his writings are not ignored by the OCA. At least, not in California. Out here he he is huge. If you visit Arcangel Bookstore (at 9th and Irving) in San Francisco you can find all of his titles. Christ the Eternal Tao is in the book cases of every Orthodox home I have visted.

August 24, 2004 at 1:01 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Ahhh! But his writings are not ignored by the OCA. At least, not in California. Out here he he is huge. If you visit Arcangel Bookstore (at 9th and Irving) in San Francisco you can find all of his titles. Christ the Eternal Tao is in the book cases of every Orthodox home I have visted. And and they are all OCA.

August 24, 2004 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

I *love* that book! Well, that sounds inappropriately gushy, given the subject, but I think "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future" is one of the most eye-opening things I've ever read. I have been secretly trying to keep an eye out for a group that are intelligently considering the implications of what Fr. Rose posits in the book. It seems to me like the kind of thing that makes you reassess all the paranormal stories that we've all come to dismiss as hallucinations, hoaxes or nonsense.

The fear of demonic influence is, of course, exactly what I'm saying that *I'm* afraid of in the case of my friend Nadia. She may be one of the lucky ones who never has any personal "experience", but I doubt if I could get her to read Fr. Rose's book.

August 28, 2004 at 9:31 PM  
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