Are Ghosts Hallucinations?
In the spirit of our Halloween "holiday", I'm sharing Tantrika insights
about ghosts and luminous bodies, disembodied souls we sometimes see that
are mistakenly referred to as ghosts. Tantrika practice immensely
optimizes intuitional capabilities, symptoms of spiritual, of transpersonal
progress on the evolutionary scale. In this spirit I share these insights
with you from a discourse given in 1982.
Tantra Psychology <http://tantrapsychology.net/>
Mysticism is a never-ending endeavour to conjugate the intersection of the
finite with the Infinite.
Are Ghosts Hallucinations?
Are ghosts always hallucinations? What is an hallucination? In the case
of hallucinations, there is no defect in optics, the defect is in ocularity
-- that is, the ocular vision is influenced by different thought-waves.
These hallucinations may be of two types, positive and negative. In a
positive hallucination, there is no physical defect in the ocular vision.
Rather, one's vision is affected by the thought-waves which want to see
And what is a negative hallucination? Here also there is no defect in the
ocular vision, but due to excessive pressure of the thought-waves -- we say
"auto-suggestion" -- the ocular vision becomes negative; that is, the
thought-waves do not want to see something which is actually present in the
Many scholars are of the opinion that so-called ghosts are positive
hallucinations, and sometimes people are also misguided by negative
hallucinations. They say that in this case the ocular vision -- the optic
nerves -- is deceiving them, but actually the main role here is played by
the thought-waves, not by any physical organ, or psychic cells, or
psycho-physical cells (ectoplasm).
It is said, Abhibha'van'a't citta'n'usrs't'apretadarshanam ["The sight of
ghosts is created by the citta'n'u (mind-stuff) in concentrated thought"].
Abhibha'van'a means "cellular suggestion" -- that which affects not only
the mind but also the nerve cells, so that due to the defective functioning
of the nerve cells one sees something which is not present, or does not see
something which is actually physically present. Cellular suggestion is of
two types: auto-suggestion and outer-suggestion. Auto-suggestion takes
place within the jurisdiction of one's own mind, in the individual mind,
whereas outer-suggestion is the transmission of suggestion from another's
mind, from another, stronger, mind. When a weaker mind is greatly
influenced by a stronger mind, as a result something is not seen or nothing
You know, philosophically, whatever we see in this universe is, we may say,
a positive hallucination created by the Supreme Consciousness (Parama
Purus'a*). Whatever He thinks is seen by the nerve cells of the individual
mind. The difference between this practical world and ghosts is that in
the case of ghosts the suggestion comes from the individual mind; one's own
thought is projected outside.
But when people see so-called ghosts and apparitions, are they always
positive hallucinations? No, they are not. Whatever we observe in this
physical world is made of the five fundamental factors (solid, liquid,
luminous, aerial and ethereal), created in such a way that it automatically
functions. Its inherent capacity for action is derived from this physical
world under the inspiration of the Supreme Consciousness.
There may be some entities that do not require food and drink. Any entity
composed of solid and liquid factors will certainly require food and drink,
because food is mainly composed of the solid factor, and drink is mainly
composed of the liquid factor. But if any entity is composed only of the
other three factors -- luminous, aerial, and ethereal -- without any solid
or liquid, then that entity is called a "luminous body".
By means of nerve cells, the mind operates the physical body: by creating
vibrations such as smell, form, touch, taste, etc., the nerve cells either
receive tanma'tras (inferential essences) or projects them externally. But
luminous bodies have no nerves, because nerve cells and nerve fibres are
all physical; thus they cannot function properly. Only, as in
auto-suggestion, they may create a vibration within, and experience some
type of feeling.
These luminous bodies are not ghosts or apparitions; they have nothing to
do with them. Neither are they related to auto-suggestion or
outer-suggestion. Under some circumstances, if someone happens to see this
kind of luminous body, one may think one is seeing a ghost. But actually
there is no ghost at all -- it is only a luminous body. It is not possible
to see luminous bodies in broad daylight; it may be possible during the
darkness of night, but then not everywhere.
It is said that there are seven kinds of luminous bodies: yaks'a, siddha,
gandharva, kinnara, vidya'dhara, prakrtiliina and videhaliina. They are
categorized according to their respective psychologies.
Suppose there is a very elevated person who often ideates on the Supreme
Consciousness, but who has some greed for wealth. He or she does not,
however, express it openly to the Supreme, nor does he or she even think of
it directly. He or she thinks indirectly, "Oh, since I am a devotee of the
Supreme Consciousness, He will certainly give me enormous wealth and make
me immensely rich." Those who harbour this sort of covert desire are reborn
as yaks'as. Thus sometimes we refer to "the wealth of the yaks'as".
The second is vidya'dhara. Those who have vanity of knowledge, although
they do not expressly beseech this from the Supreme, but rather think
inwardly that the Supreme should bestow an enormous wealth of knowledge
upon them -- this type of person is reborn as vidya'dhara. Vidya'dhara is
also a luminous body.
The next is gandharva. Those who have a great talent for higher music
(people should cultivate music to the maximum to give pleasure to the
Supreme Consciousness) and mentally think, "Oh, Parama Purus'a, I want
knowledge of the science of music, not You" -- they are reborn as
gandharvas. (In Sanskrit the science of music is called ga'ndharva
vidya'.) They are also luminous bodies; they are not ghosts at all. They
are also not visible in daylight, just as other luminous bodies are
The next is kinnara. Those who are vain about their physical beauty, or
those who pray to the Supreme to give them more and more physical charm,
are reborn as kinnaras. They are also luminous bodies.
Then siddha. Those human beings who are doing sa'dhana'**, who have great
love for Parama Purus'a, but in their heart of hearts are proud of their
occult powers or pray to Parama Purus'a to grant them still more occult
powers -- these people after death are reborn as siddhas. Of all the
categories of luminous bodies, the siddhas are the most elevated. They
often help sa'dhakas in their sa'dhana'.
All these luminous bodies are collectively called devayoni. Besides the
above, there are videhaliina and prakrtiliina. Those who wrongly worship
Parama Purus'a in the form of clay, iron or other material substances, are
ultimately transformed into prakrtiliina.
The next is videhaliina: those who run after occult powers and think, "I
will attain such great occult power that with it, I will move from place to
place." These are all luminous bodies; they are not ghosts, nor are they
positive or negative hallucinations.
Thus ghosts are not positive hallucinations, or negative hallucinations, or
siddhas or devayonis. Then is there any such things as ghosts? Not
exactly ghosts, but there is something like that.
After death, when the mind dissociates from the body, the accumulation of
unfulfilled sam'ska'ras*** or reactive momenta remains, although the body
with the five fundamental factors no longer exists. Thus, the mind cannot
function, but it remains in potential form. Now, in some circumstances, if
the ectoplasm of a living person is associated with that disembodied
potential mind, then that disembodied mind gets a mental body temporarily,
for a very short time. Then that mental body can start functioning with
the help of the nerve cells and nerve fibres of that living person, but
only for a few minutes.
What is this called? It is neither a positive hallucination or a negative
hallucination, nor is it a luminous body (devayoni). Then what is it? A
living person's ectoplasmic cells become the mental body of a dead person
for a few minutes until -- after a few minutes -- that mental body again
dies. This mental body I will call pres'itama'nas -- "re-created mind."
Some people may do good works or get good works done with the help of these
pres'itama'nas, but only those who have perfect control over their minds
and over the nerve cells and nerve fibres of their bodies can do this.
Those who are bad people can do evil deeds with the help of these
pres'itama'nas. They can hurl stones into others' houses, throw bones, or
overturn tables and cots -- all these things can be done for only a few
So we see that what we call a "ghost" is not always a positive or a
negative hallucination, nor is it always a siddha or a pres'itama'nas. In
fact, we cannot prove the existence of a pres'itama'nas or siddha, and
insofar as positive hallucination is concerned, it does not have any actual
existence at all. If you see a positive hallucination, it is a mental
If anything of this sort (pres'itama'nas or luminous body) comes before
you, there is only one remedy to remove it: that is, do kiirtana or
devotional chanting. Do kiirtana for one minute or repeat your guru
mantra, and that "ghost" will instantly vanish into thin air. So under no
circumstances should you be afraid.
Parama Purus'a* Universal Mind, Supreme Consciousness, the psyche and
substance within which all things exist, with an emphasis towards subtlest
realms of being, a threshold attainable by humans through sa'dhana'
sa'dhana'** Intuitional science carrying the practitioner progressively
into subtler realms through appropriately designed processes positively
affecting every realm of life and mind, and leading toward merger [yoga]
back into Universal Consciousness.
sam'ska'ra*** The reactive momentum resulting from one's thoughts, words
or deeds -- too often misnamed "karma", which is the proactive engagement
in the manifest universe with ideation upon the whole of the universe and
the centricity from which it generates, operates and into which each and
every being returns from its individuation. The term "karma" is all too
often misappropriatedly used when sam'ska'ra is the proper term. "Karma",
properly used, means action performed with the ideation of the Supreme
Consciousness at all times throughout an action. "Kriya", properly used,
means performing action without cosmic ideation, and consequently racks up
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