Paranormal phenomena have been experienced all over the world and throughout time. People claim to see spirits manifested in photos, dreams, and some even make direct contact with these apparitions. As proponents of religious freedom, ULC provides applicants the opportunity to become an ordained interfaith minister, and promotes peaceful pursuance of faith for all individuals. So, whether you see these “ghosts” as demonic spirits, jinn or Preta, you can get ordained without question regarding your faith. This Halloween season provides the perfect opportunity to look into the perspectives of three major faiths concerning the existence of ghosts, or lack thereof.
In the Judeo-Christian religion, most teachings refer to ghosts as wandering spirits, no longer tied to the earthly vessel that was their body. In some denominations they are caught in Purgatory here on Earth before they can move on to Heaven or Hell, and in others they are sent by God to warn the living to repent. While there are harmless entities, some ghosts can also be evil spirits who, under Satan’s command, seek to intrigue people and lure them into the occult. In Judaism these spirits are called dybbuk; an evil spirit that possesses a human body in order to accomplish its goal.
Conversely, members of Islam believe that ghosts simply do not exist. Instead, they believe in jinn, or genies, who are spirits that live among people but are invisible to the human eye. In fact the name jinn literally means “hidden from sight”. Jinn, like people, have free will , though some abuse it. Unlike humans, however, jinn are capable of taking other physical forms– like that of a person. These jinn cause people to have contact with what they believe to be the souls of the departed. Their aim, like the demons in Judeo-Christianity, is to manipulate people into shirk, the sin of idolatry.
The Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Jain texts describe Preta, or suffering spirits that wander the earth, usually the souls of people who died before their time and were unable to fulfill all of the desires of that life. Since they passed before their time, these spirits’ senses remained intact, but without a body through which to satisfy their needs. They are to be pitied rather than feared, as is the reason many Buddhist monks make offerings to them before meals.
In religions all over the world there is an explanation for the supernatural events we experience. They can be good or evil, and possess a free will similar to ours. Across all of the traditions discussed there appears to be two recurring themes, one of tempting evil and one of unfinished business. As an interfaith minister, these metaphors for completion only confirm that we all share a common experience in this world, the quest to be whole. Once you get ordained as an interfaith minister through ULC, you can aid people in many faiths on their spiritual journeys, helping them to avoid the hopeless afterlife that awaits those with unfinished business.