Are spirits real?

As a person who works with spirits despite accepting them as real I get lots of people, especially believers in spirits, challenging my beliefs. Those who have known me for a long time know that I started out as a believer myself, since those around me believed in what they experienced. After being introduced to the idea I felt I was frequented by visiting spirits, some friendly, many less so.

I’m a person who wants to understand and control her surroundings. There had to be a universal pattern between how spirits acted and what they truly were. I started with simply making friends with a few, not pushing them away but letting them come to me for me to learn more about them. I learned not to fear any spirit, however harmful it claimed – or was claimed – itself to be. What I learnt during that time still defines me today.

It appeared to me spirits were stronger than others. A handful had strong personalities and a clear presence when you interacted with them. My curiosity was directed towards the ones that didn’t. Why did many spirits feel like you could simply blow in their direction and they would go away? I figured out that my imagination was so used to seeing spirits everywhere I was projecting them into places there wasn’t anyone to interact with. Therefore I worked out a few basic cognitive tools to work out a difference between real and imagined entities:

1. If you tell yourself the spirit isn’t there, does the presence disappear? If yes, it’s not there.

2. When the spirit talks to you, does it express opinions contrary to your own? If yes, it might be there.

3. Does anyone else notice the spirit without you pointing it out to them? If no, it’s not there.

4. Does the spirit know something no one else does (about a historical event, for example)? If yes, it might be there.

As any sceptical reader will notice, none of these clauses straight out prove any spirits are real. In my long life I’ve had one single experience that passes number 4 and then I was alone and wasn’t able to get an assessment on number 3. Over time I learnt many things about the psychology behind spirit sightings, especially how being in a group affects your perception.

So, the question I’m asked is this: With all the experience I have, especially with some with apparent evidence of real spirits, why do I not accept the idea that they are real? For me the answer lies in intellectual honesty. I do not have any objective proof to show anyone that my or anyone else’s experiences are truly, truly real. I cherish every moment of what I’ve felt and seen, whether good or bad, but it would be dishonest of me to claim I know what’s really out there. Nothing our current scientific research shows supports the idea of spiritual entities. That doesn’t bother me. To the contrary, my research has led me to where I wanted to be. I believe I have a fairly good idea of how and why we experience spirits, from a purely psychological viewpoint. I have, for experimental purposes, created and controlled meetings with “spirits” for others.

Are spirits real? No. Are they a valuable tool in understanding ourselves? Yes, I think so. Spirits are powers and ideas that have taken their own life in the collective mind of humanity. Their true power lies in their connection with the psyche. It’s said that every man has his own demons. I believe that’s true.