Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Helping Ghosts- A Book Review

Frankly, Helping Ghosts by Louis Charles is not a book I would have picked up had the author not been a Facebook friend.  While I am fascinated by Near Death Experiences (NDEs), I am not at all interested in becoming a Ghost Buster.  I was raised in a tradition where you stay as far away from disembodied people as possible and I stick with that.  So, I really don't have any interest in going out to find a ghost to help or having a ghost help me.  The title could be read two ways.  Is that Helping Ghosts where helping is a verb and you're giving the ghost a hand?  Or is helping an adjective, and the book is about Casper-like spirits that lend us a hand?  The subtitle answers the question- "A Guide to Understanding Lost Spirits".  That hand on the cover, is it a ghost reaching out to grab you, a ghost reaching to lend a hand or a ghost reaching out for help? Louis is a friend, so I got the book.  I very much enjoyed his book "Jesus Religion", so I picked up the book for my Kindle and gave it a read.

The basic premise of the book is that ghosts do exist. You really have to start from there because the book does not try to convince you of their existence.    Ghosts are simply the spirits of people who have died and have not crossed over yet.  For reasons of unfinished business or attachment to this physical plane or being lost, they have not made their way to where they should be and instead are clinging to this earthly plane.  Ghosts are not demons.  That is something that needs to be said for us fundamentalist and former fundamentalist types.  Ghosts are not evil.  Ghosts are not necessarily here to scare us or make trouble.  Their reasons for being here are varied, but one thing many of them have in common is they are in need of help to make the transition.

If you don't believe in ghosts, this is not the book for you.  As Louis says, there are plenty of other books out there that claim to give the evidence that ghosts are here. This book is more about why ghosts are here and what we should do about it.  If ghosts are actually lost souls who have not successfully made the transition from our world to the next, they are in a confused sort of limbo state and maybe even in the "hell" that Christians have taught about.  If that is the case and we can help them, wouldn't we want to?

As someone who is very interested in Near Death Experiences, I found Louis' description of what we might experience after death to be of great interest.  As someone who shares a history of a Christian  background, he ties much of his musings about the after-life in with scripture.  He also addresses the common Christian notion that disembodied spirits are actually "demons".  Several  things are common in Near Death Experiences including being met by loved ones and/or a spirit guide like Jesus, a light that is usually perceived as friendly and soothing, full of love and a life review.  Here are some passages that relate to each of those things:

I once heard someone say, "We are born into this world alone, and we must leave this world the same way," but I disagree.  All of us come into this world from within the womb of a mother, hopefully being greeted by her and others. Our first earthly experience is not something we should share alone. Good parents comfort and protect their newly-born child, helping the infant adjust to the unfamiliar environment. Likewise, death is not something we will experience alone. If we are not alone at the birth of our body, why would we expect to be alone when the time has come for the body to expire?
It is important that we learn from near death experiences that the light itself is a cleansing force. Within its soothing presence, souls can immediately begin to experience healing from unhappiness, emotional distress, self-condemnation, unworthiness, and many other types of painful suffering. The need for an inner cleansing and healing can also be associated with the third and final major event described within NDEs, the life review. After the disembodied soul meets loved ones and is quickly ushered into the light, these events naturally transition the spirit toward reflection. A life-review of the soul is a personal viewing of one's recent history while on earth. It is like watching an autobiographical movie that retells our past earthly experiences. Usually, the life-review is said to take place in an instant. There is an old adage that best describes this experience. “My entire life passed before my eyes.”

Another thing that struck me as I was reading the book was the fact that many ghosts seem to be confused about where they are or even whether or not they are dead.  This state of confusion and/or denial lines up with some things I've read about people who have been in a near death state and either seen people like this or experienced it themselves.  It reminded me of reading about the Tibetan Book of the Dead and how it's important to be prepared for death so that we have some idea of what to expect and how to navigate our way through.

Ghosts often seem to be suffering from a lack of belief, from fear and are suffering self-induced punishment.  They are experiencing suffering (hell) and judgment found in the Bible.  But, that judgment is self-imposed. And the separation and loss is from  refusing to go on to the next place either due to fear of judgment, guilt or clinging to their past lives. 

The book starts out talking about ghosts, why they are ghosts and what our experience is like with them.  Louis then gives several examples of ghost investigations he has been on.  And lastly, he answers the question "How can we help?"  As someone who is neither a believer or disbeliever, I was able to read the book with the assumption that ghosts do exist.  If they do, how do I avoid being one (lost and confused)?  And, if I were to run across a ghost, how could I help? As I said earlier, I'm not signing up to become a Ghost Buster.  But, Helping Ghosts is a worthwhile read if you have any interest in ghosts at all and want to dig a little deeper into why they are with us.

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Don said...

OK...I had little interest in his book until I read this. I, too, have an interest in NDEs. My closest friend is a chaplain, who has witnessed many a death and tells similar experiences as mentioned here. So, this is going to be put on my reading list.

Stephen said...

Hey Brian, I am really glad that I found your blog. You have lots of great ideas and thoughts that I have thought about myself. I am going to check out "Helping Ghost" and I would also recommend "Mojo" by Kris Sedersten for you. It is a fast-paced mystery thriller that reminds us that prayer is a powerful tool that can help anyone with demons to fight, whether they are metaphoric or literal in nature!

kc bob said...

Reminds me a little bit of the TV show "Dead Like Me". I guess death will always be a mystery prone to speculative stories about it.

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