Ghost Hunting & Spiritism

By Tony Capobianco

Edward Kelly, A Magician In The Act Of Invoking The Spirit Of A Deceased Person.  Engraved by Ames of Bristol (according to Fincham,  Artists and engravers of British and American book plates , 1897), original drawing by Sibly. {{PD}}    {{PD-US}}

Edward Kelly, A Magician In The Act Of Invoking The Spirit Of A Deceased Person. Engraved by Ames of Bristol (according to Fincham, Artists and engravers of British and American book plates, 1897), original drawing by Sibly. {{PD}} {{PD-US}}

Autumn has arrived. The crisp autumn air and the beautiful color change of the foliage mean that Halloween and All Saints Day are on the horizon. This is also the season in which interest in the occult and spiritism peak. Curiosity leads not a few into dangerous territory as they seek to have an encounter with the preternatural as though to do so was a form of entertainment. The Halloween season is a time in which people are more likely to satisfy a spiritual craving that resides deep within them as for the majority of the year they tend to bury this desire in material pleasures and distractions. Since man is a body and spirit composite, it is not surprising that an interest in the latter arises.

Capitalizing on this, the TV networks offer an all you can eat buffet of paranormal shows. This Fall TV season, the grandfather of all paranormal “reality” shows is returning after being off the air for several years. Ghost Hunters is the paranormal show that launched renewed interest in ghosts and inspired many people to investigate the afterlife themselves. Armed with electronic gadgets such as evp recorders, emf detectors, rem pods, K2 meters, and infrared cameras, the paranormal investigators on Ghost Hunters created the perception that these investigations were scientifically sound and therefore the evidence gathered revealed legitimate insights into the spirit world. So what’s the big deal? What’s the harm in using technology to communicate with disembodied spirits?

Whether the electronic devices used by paranormal researchers are a legitimate means of studying alleged instances of paranormal activity is not the focus of this article. Nor will this article focus on the credibility of purported evidence gathered through the use of such electronic gadgets. Instead, this article will focus on the apparent relation between ghost hunting/ paranormal investigations and spiritism. The paranormal investigators on TV shows such as Ghost Hunters do not simply leave a recording device on in a neutral manner in an allegedly haunted location so that any strange occurrences might be captured. No, on the contrary these investigators attempt to initiate a dialogue with whatever unseen spirit might be near. Willfully attempting to converse with spirits in an attempt to gain knowledge which is beyond man’s natural reach is to engage in spiritism.

What is Spiritism? The Catholic Encyclopedia explains it as follows:

Spiritism is the name properly given to the belief that the living can and do communicate with the spirits of the departed, and to the various practices by which such communication is attempted. It should be carefully distinguished from Spiritualism, the philosophical doctrine which holds, in general, that there is a spiritual order of beings no less real than the material and, in particular, that the soul of man is a spiritual substance. Spiritism, moreover, has taken on a religious character. It claims to prove the preamble of all religions, i.e., the existence of a spiritual world, and to establish a world-wide religion in which the adherents of the various traditional faiths, setting their dogmas aside, can unite. If it has formulated no definite creed, and if its representatives differ in their attitudes toward the beliefs of Christianity, this is simply because Spiritism is expected to supply a new and fuller revelation which will either substantiate on a rational basis the essential Christian dogmas or show that they are utterly unfounded. The knowledge thus acquired will naturally affect conduct, the more so because it is hoped that the discarnate spirits, in making known their condition, will also indicate the means of attaining to salvation or rather of progressing, by a continuous evolution in the other world, to a higher plane of existence and happiness.
— (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)

Has the Church issued any decrees on spiritism? The Congregation of the Inquisition, on June 25th 1840, decreed: 

Where all error, sorcery, and invocation of the demon, implicit or explicit, is excluded, the mere use of physical means which are otherwise lawful, is not morally forbidden, provided it does not aim at unlawful or evil results. But the application of purely physical principles and means to things or effects that are really supernatural, in order to explain these on physical grounds, is nothing else than unlawful and heretical deception.
— (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)

The Catechism of Pope Pius X teaches;

700. (17) Is it lawful to put questions to speaking or writing tables or in any way to consult the souls of the dead by means of spiritism?

A. All the practices of spiritism are unlawful, because they are superstitious; and often they are not free from diabolical intervention; and hence they are rightly condemned by the Church.
— (Catechism of Pius X)

The following Radio Replies by Fr. Rumble and Fr. Carty are very helpful and enlightening:

1318. How does the Roman Catholic Church view Spiritualism?

On April 24th, 1917, the Holy See issued the following decree: ‘It is not lawful to assist at any spiritualistic meetings, conversations with spirits, or manifestations of spirits. It matters not whether a medium be present or not, nor whether the meeting seems to be above board and apparently conducted from motives of piety. A Catholic may not be present at such meetings even as an onlooker, let alone asking questions of departed spirits and listening to their supposed replies.’
— (Radio Replies, Fr. Rumble & Fr. Carty)

Fathers Rumble and Carty continue:

The Church does not believe in spiritualism as a semi-religious cult. She does believe in the existence of a spirit-world. God Himself is a pure spirit. Angels are spirits. So, too, are departed souls, and likewise devils. But the Church does not rely on spiritualism to provide her with the truth she must teach to mankind. She has received that truth from Jesus Christ who commanded her to teach mankind all that He had taught her. In the natural order the Church encourages men to discover all that science can teach them. In the supernatural order, she remains strictly faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. And she condemns spiritualism as a movement with all its works. If men want supernatural progress, let them seek to unite themselves with God by prayer and by the Sacraments of Christ, not with spirits by superstitious incantations in dark corners, moved rather by a morbid curiosity than by any desire to serve God and sanctify their souls.
— (Radio Replies, Fr. Rumble & Fr. Carty)

Finally, Fr. Rumble and Fr. Carty cite Sacred Scripture to nail shut their case against spiritism and necromancy:

The evidence produced by spiritualists has nothing like the value of the evidence of Sacred Scripture. I do not deny that, at times, spirit-beings may be responsible for some of the manifestations at spiritualistic seances. But, if they are, they are not good, but evil spirits. God has given His complete revelation through Christ. Also, since good spirits are in perfect accordance with the will of God, they could not be sent by Him to reveal the contradictory and often blasphemous doctrines claimed by spiritualists to come from the spirit-world. Moreover, if Scripture has any authority, we must obey its precepts. What are they? ‘Let there not be found among you anyone that seeketh the truth from the dead.’ Deut. XVIII., 10. In Lev. XX., God absolutely condemns the man or woman who claims to have a ‘divining spirit’—not a very comforting reflection for the modern medium. The Prophet Isaiah (VIII., 19) says, ‘When they shall say to you: Seek of people with a prophesying spirit and of diviners who mutter in their enchantments, should not the people seek of their God instead of seeking comfort for the living from the dead?’
— (Radio Replies, Fr. Rumble & Fr. Carty)

The above quotations clearly explain what spiritism is as well as the fact that the Holy Catholic Church has condemned its practice. When paranormal investigators use digital recording devices to capture the voices of discarnate spirits, is it not essentially nothing more than a ouija board with a modern veneer? When someone puts forth an invitation to communicate with spirits, they have no control over what might respond. After having engaged the unseen realm of spirits, some unfortunate people have found that while it is easy to open a door to the demonic, it is much more difficult to close the open door.

Exorcists have frequently and unanimously agreed that the use of ouija boards is a potential doorway to extraordinary diabolic influence. Exorcists insist that ouija boards can lead to diabolical oppression, obsession, and even possession. To use a ouija board to communicate with the dead is a form of necromancy and therefore it is grave matter. Sending out such invitations for spirits, whether seeking to contact deceased loved ones, good spirits, or demons, is sinful and offensive to God. How is using modern electronic technology with the same intention used to operate a ouija board any less dangerous? How is it any less sinful? Is not an invitation to begin a relationship with a spirit given in both cases?

It has been shown that both Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium have decidedly condemned the practice of necromancy and spiritism. Yet what of the claim that the Church is being hypocritical in Her condemnation of spiritism as She encourages Her children to pray to the saints? Frs. Rumble and Carty aptly refute this ignorant objection,

We do not believe in any communication with the souls of departed human beings in any spiritualistic way. Those souls are not in a condition of life adapted to such communication with us in this world. If God wishes, He can by a miracle permit such communications, but that very rarely happens and is quite abnormal. The Communion of Saints means simply that we who belong to the same Christ as fellow members of Him can benefit by the merits of the Saints and by their intercession. Communication with them is by prayer on our part. We are certain that they enjoy the very Vision of God, in which Vision they are aware of our prayers to them. But souls which have not attained to the Vision of God have no normal medium by which they can be aware of our doings in this world.
— (Radio Replies, Fr. Rumble & Fr. Carty)

In what ways do paranormal investigators/ghost hunters appear to subscribe to the tenets of spiritism? They often have their own theories and pseudo doctrines. It is common for ghost hunters to use and define terms such as: residual hauntings, evp’s (electronic voice phenomena), elemental spirits, positive spirits, negative spirits, poltergeists, fairies, shadow people, disembodied spirits, etc. One prevalent theory or pseudo doctrine of ghost hunters is that spirits need energy to manifest or act within the material world and that cold spots are thus created as a result of the spirit drawing upon such energy. Relying upon their own personal experiences with the paranormal along with traditions passed down by previous spiritists and paranormal investigators, ghost hunters often throw away infallible truths such as the existence of sin, Satan, demons, angels, the particular judgement immediately after death, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Ghost hunters frequently believe that ghosts are often in need of help to find peace, to resolve unsettled business from when they lived, to cross over. Is it surprising that people who errantly look to spirits to find answers would then proceed to believe and promote further serious theological errors? Error begets error. If a person puts their trust in spirits instead of God and those spirits happen to be demons, is it any wonder that lies and evil are the rotten fruit of such an evil relationship?

Speaking with the dead is dangerous and sinful. When this sinful behavior is committed it is common for further errors to follow. Many times, people who attempt to communicate with spirits seek to satisfy their curiosity concerning the life to come. This curiosity and desire to find hidden answers which are impossible for man to know outside of Divine Revelation may lead to the deadly sin of pride. It is prideful to dismiss and reject Divine Revelation as revealed by Christ and His Church in favor of one’s own experiences, philosophy, and pseudo religious doctrines. Asserting that one’s own belief or claim of possessing the truth on some matter is superior to the Sacred Deposit of Faith is to succumb to the Ancient Serpent’s temptation for mankind to make themselves as gods. Spiritism leads man to believe that through his efforts, he may either improve upon or entirely replace Divine Revelation as it is found in the Sacred Deposit of Faith. Spiritism has much in common with freemasonry which seeks to create a brotherhood of man without the Fatherhood of God. Paranormal investigators have not infrequently fell victim to the lies told by fallen angels masquerading as disembodied human spirits. Blinded by curiosity, pride, and trust in supposed science based investigation techniques, paranormal investigators are often manipulated by demons and unwittingly or not become instruments of their demonic will.

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