Are Ghosts Good or Bad?

Q. Are Ghosts or Spirits Good or Bad?

A. Both. There are good” ghosts” (spirits) sent to us by God. These spirits appear for our benefit, as  the appearances of Angels as we see in Scripture or even the souls of the departed as reported by Saints.Then there are the appearances of the  Immacualte Conception-Our Lady of Lourdes or Fatima. Then there are also bad “ghosts” which are really demonic spirits sent to lead us astray, doubt Our Lord and His power, or cause other sorts of mischief.

We are warned against attempting to contact spirits for the simple reason that Satan and his demons are only too happy to comply with this request. So, we are not contacting benign entities but rather demons.

“Ghost” is simply another word for “spirit” (geist means “spirit” in German). Spirit is of three kinds:

  1. The human soul/spirit which combined with the body make up a human being until death
  2. The Spiritual being that has no body, such as angels and Demons (fallen angels)
  3. The infinite Spirit, or God, of Whom the Third Person is the Holy Ghost.

When someone asks whether ghosts exist, he usually is thinking of the human spirit of someone who has died. Fr. John Hardon defines “ghost” as

“a disembodied spirit. Christianity believes that God may, and sometimes does, permit a departed soul to appear in some visible form to people on earth. Allowing for legend and illusion, there is enough authentic evidence, for example in the lives of the saints, to indicate that such apparitions occur. Their purpose may be to teach or warn, or request some favor of the living” (Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, Modern Catholic Dictionary (Garden City, New York: John A. Hardon, ©1980) published by Doubleday and Co., p. 229).

The last sentence of Fr. Hardon’s definition implicitly gives the Church’s teaching on ghosts. Appearances of the departed souls of human beings are understood with regard to our salvation and by the purpose and power of God. Ghosts can come to us for good, but we must not attempt to conjure or control spirits.

The Church teaches that “spiritism,” seeking recourse or power from ghosts, is contrary to the virtue of religion (i.e., the Commandment “You shall have no other gods before Me”). And because you will probably snag a demon rather than some vaguely benign spirit.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

2117 “All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others — even if this were for the sake of restoring their health — are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity” .

Thus, while the Church recognizes the existence of  spirits / “ghosts”, we are not to intentionally seek them out — for good or for ill. Because this is condemned as a form of divination.

Leviticus 20:6 ” ‘I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.

Deuteronomy 18:9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in [a] the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft,  or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD,

So, “ghosts” can be good or evil.

1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The Catholic Church has documents and priests trained to help us test the spirits. Obviously any spirit that blatantly contradicts our Faith is from evil. So, also is any spirit that inspires in our hearts disbelief in God, Jesus, the Catholic Faith and Church, or even doubt.

Anyone who, without seeking spirit contact sees them anyway should find a good and holy spiritual confessor/director.