Marvin Repinski: The Bible and Halloween are full of ghost stories

Published 4:58 pm Friday, October 8, 2021

From the Bible: “When the disciples saw him (Jesus) walking on the lake, they were terrified. II’s a ghost, they said, and cried out in fear.” (Matthew 14:26) “Look at my feet. It is I myself; touch me and see. A ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” (Luke 24.39)

The early verses in the book of Genesis state that God made the heavens and Earth. After the creation stories, there are also verses that say, “God said that it was good,” saying that what originally came from the Creator was to be lived in as positive. This I affirm as Christian.

We live with many varied or different views or interpretations of the Bible as there are churches in the Austin Daily Herald’s listing of churches. I’m reminded of what my dentist, a conservative Christian, said to me: “One size does not fit all!” I agree.

Depending on your views, where do your thoughts go? In what obituary or sphere of the “real” do you place ghosts? There are references to this “reality” in various parts of the Bible. These days I’ve been searching out the dramas of William Shakespeare and have found that his plays are dotted with ghosts. The play “Hamlet” even portrays a conversation between God and one of the play’s “characters,” a ghost. I was so interested that I’ve now read about half of the 322 page book “Hamlet in Purgatory.” The author, Stephen Greenblatt, has written with notable evidence about the teachings on purgatory, which has been a strong former Catholic belief. Contemporary Catholics certainly disown some of the distortions.

As a Protestant and usual friend to many beliefs and dogmas within the Catholic Church, I am presently not disowning the scholarship on the reasons given for this interpretation of life after death. Hamlet, who travels through the drama, colors his pain and personality with a very damaging revenge. Is the revenge for his father’s death creating a bleak view of the future, purgatory?

Words that we were taught in High School: “Get thee to a nunnery,” spoken to Ophelia. Is this a suffering man? Hamlet says, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Is this the inner chaos of the life of Hamlet?

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than the dreams of your philosophy.” Does this have a relationship to Hamlet’s thoughts of suicide?

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.” Is Hamlet considering a Divine presence that controls our lives?

My research led me the Swedish mystic Swedenburg who once said, “I am well aware that many will say that no one can possibly speak with spirits and angels so long as he is living in the body; many say it is all fancy; others that I recount, say such things to win credence, while others make different kinds of objections. But I have heard, I have felt.”

With that thought, I place myself as one still searching. That there are various processes of belief, response, interpretation, our social conditioning world sees views of a given age.

And now you may ask, “What about the ghosts? And how does the Bible fit into your thinking?”

Poets have reflected on almost every kind of experience. For instance, a poem by Rose Fyleman writes about “other realities.”

“Gray for the goblins, blue for the elves,

Brown for the little gnomes that live by themselves,

White for the pixies that dance on the green.

But who shall make a royal gown to deck the Fairy Queen?”

Now I ask you as a reader to grant me permission to advance the title of this article. Our present days may be about ghosts, goblins, witches, wizards, demons, pumpkins and more. The public interest and love to be entertained by the ghosts never seems to cease. Added to that interest is the ever-longing appreciation of everything about angels and other so-called supernatural, folk tales, or magical scenes. The Bible gives us a full course on our study of these concepts. What I would call the unknown may yet be known!

Sometimes the term numinous may be employed. Writing this essay created a question: Why does the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, formed in the Third century A.D., use the name Holy Ghost as a third person? And what does the dogma mean by person?

Northrop Frye, a professor of English literature at the University of Toronto, has written a number of books that probe the creativity of authors. I have in my library one of his books, “Myth and Metaphor.” I have put my thoughts in print for the purpose of dialogue. I urge you to widen your thinking about matters about which I have given in brief.

The Scriptures, as the drama of “Hamlet” informs, hopefully piques our curiosity about a very wide world. Are there many realities? Some profess to be encaged, informed, by forms of beings, spirits, the supernatural, and the unknown. In all of this I affirm the quest to be attentive to voices I hear. One can never tell; a heavenly light may brighten our steps.