Ghosts and neighbouring phenomena – a toe in the ocean

It is always something of a miracle to me, to see that something that I am working on was announced by me years before. What was announced in this post – the interdisciplinary discussions, and the cross-cultural hermeneutics, is taking shape right now, in a new book project with the working title ‘Animals, humans, spirits – A philosophy of spirit ontologies’. Take note: I shifted from ‘ghosts’ to ‘spirits’ – not in an attempt to deny what haunts, but in an effort to understand what animates whatever appears. The life force, so to speak. The agency in the spiritual. To be continued when new questions arise during the writing process!


A new colleague doing research into spirituality asked me about my research on ghosts. The book that was its outcome is about how modern Western thinkers (from the seventeenth century up till now) have taken position on ghosts, apparitions, spirits and related phenomena. Trying to give her the shortest description of the results of that research, I said: ‘it feels like I just stuck my toe into the ocean.’ We have no adequate framework to describe, categorize, or understand what’s going on here. Concepts stem from widely divergent discourses, and there is no common opinion yet what disciplines, if any, have the instruments to study the field.

Terms we have, a lot. Demons, angels, forebodings, synchronistic experiences, spirits. And related terms: magic, witchcraft, spirituality, voodoo, supernatural, shamanism, psi, haunting, even hauntology. They come from everywhere: from spiritual traditions all over the world, from cultural anthropology, pre-modern theology, modern psychology…

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