What percentage of people have seen a ghost? what is ghost, why we believe to see ghosts, how many people believe to see ghost?
Thanks to our self-talk skills. Despite the lack of scientific evidence, 20% of the americans believe in ghosts. “Our societies generate a lot of uncertainty. And since science only explains part of reality and religion crumbles, it opens the door to paranormal beliefs, ”says sociologist Daniel Boy. "Faced with this type of conviction, the facts no longer count", he adds. Even if the people concerned are otherwise rational. Because a phenomenon called "confirmation bias" takes place. Numerous experiments demonstrate this. In their perception of information, subjects who are convinced of a fact tend to take into account only the arguments reinforcing this conviction, and to dismiss or question all the others. It is therefore in good faith that they continue to believe in what is important to them.
When neurons get confused
Neuroscience is also shedding light on this question. Several recent studies show that the mechanisms of visual and auditory perception and that of the imagination follow the same neural circuits. In other words, whether a person is in front of me, in the flesh, or in my head, it makes no difference to my brain! This is perhaps why neurons can sometimes get a little confused. "There is no center in the brain that determines whether we are confronted with reality or with the imaginary," underlines Jacques Jonas, neurologist at the CHU de Nancy, researcher at the CNRS and the University of Lorraine. Crossing a ghost, riding a dragon, getting angry with a witch: are these experiences really imaginary? And if it was the opposite…
Do you believe in ghosts? The question is constantly asked, from the frightening stories people tell each other during summer camp vigils to media accounts of paranormal events that mobilize crowds. It serves to divide the world into two categories: there would be the gullible on the one hand and the skeptics on the other; those who believe it and those who do not.
However, when we question the witnesses of these events, things always seem more complicated: those who believe in them constantly evoke their doubts while the unbelievers sometimes let themselves be taken ... In short, the question of belief seems very far away to exhaust the subject - especially since the people involved rarely speak of believing or not in ghosts, but much more often evoking the fact of "feeling" their presence, or even "being afraid" of them.
What if, rather than asking who believes it and how, we try to find out what is going on? This is the gamble launched by issue 69 of the anthropology journal Terrain: the various contributors to the issue looked at the modalities of encounters with ghosts, in various societies and at various times. They described, as accurately as possible, the ways in which the dead return, and how these manifestations affect the living who attend. If ghosts are things that happen, what can we learn from these appearances?
"There are dead people in the houses just as there are trays with fruit"
The appearance of ghosts is always an event - including when it does not cause any surprise, like the Icelandic interlocutors of the anthropologist Christophe Pons who explain to him that "there are deaths in the houses as there are. trays with fruit ”. Even when the existence of ghosts is obvious, perfectly accepted, their appearance constitutes a rupture. It is an event in the sense that the ordinary categories of perception and intelligibility do not quite allow these situations to be accounted for; we cannot immediately make sense of them.
Wherever they appear, ghosts do not leave the living the leisure to believe in them or not: they create a disturbance, an upheaval with which it is now necessary to do. It is no coincidence that many of our current communications technologies were preceded or followed by attempts to communicate with the afterlife - from Thomas Edison to the ghost hunters on YouTube. The gap between the usual sensitive experience and that involved in the spectral manifestations characterizes these events.
Lead the investigation
The first effect of these appearances is then to trigger a process of inquiry, in order to understand what is happening and, above all, to find a solution. When in February 1938 inhuman cries escaped from a house in the Bethnal Green district of London, locked doors opened for no reason and furniture overturned, everyone wondered about the meaning of these inexplicable phenomena: the inhabitants of the house but also the journalist of the Evening Standard commissioned to cover this news item, or the increasingly large crowd which gathers every evening to try to see something.
The investigation also mobilizes Doctor Nandor Fodor, famous member of the International Institute for Psychical Research, who will leave many reports on this subject - ghosts in fact gave rise at the turn of the 20th century in Europe to multiple technological devices and learned societies. whose goal was to “scientifically” study the existence of these supernatural beings.
But the appearance of a ghost is first of all an event because it forces action, something to do. She forces the living who witness the return of the dead to recompose their daily lives and their relationships: in Bethnal Green, one of the inhabitants of the house, Mrs. Harrison, was finally forced to leave. She had been identified as the root cause of the disturbances - without investigators fully deciding the nature of her responsibility. Had she fabricated the paranormal phenomena out of thin air, or was she the object of the postmortem resentment of the old cripple she had cared for? For the protagonists of this story, the question ultimately matters little: Mrs. Harrison left the house, and the phenomena immediately ceased.
This example shows that the appearance of ghosts constitutes a test: there is a before and an after the meeting, for the living to whom they manifest themselves.
What the ghosts make appear
Studying the varied modalities of these apparitions is of great anthropological interest. In fact, ghosts are not content to appear: through their modes of presence, as well as through the solutions that the living implement to resolve these problematic situations, ghosts provide us with information on the political, social and religious contexts in which they are take place.
They thus reveal a certain number of issues which are sometimes difficult to formulate otherwise - because they are linked to conflicting or violent events which cause a traumatic past to emerge in the present.
But ghosts are not only "ghosts": by their very presence, they also open up possibilities for the future. Thus, in his work on the Vietnamese village of Cam Re, which was at the center of the Vietnam wars (1945-1975), Heonik Kwon evokes, in his contribution to the issue, these “invisible neighbors” who are the dead.
Villagers live alongside the ghosts of a French officer, timid and starving American soldiers, and those of young Vietnamese who have come from all over the country to die far from home. These orphan dead, left without burial and whose memory nobody cultivates, tend to wander in the village and "hang out in the streets". Faced with these unjust deaths, the villagers began to extend gestures of hospitality to their "invisible neighbors", offering them food and drink. These ritual offerings are imbued with the hope of reciprocity: that someone will do the same to their own displaced dead.
Taking ghost appearances and the accounts of these encounters seriously - because ghosts lend themselves particularly to storytelling - is therefore, above all, a way of taking seriously the various ways in which the living are affected by their dead.
Life after death: when believing in the afterlife helps to live
NDE - experience of imminent death, medium, guardian angel, ghost of a missing relative ... Many people believe in the hereafter and its manifestations. Often a way to live more serenely, free from the fear of death and the pain of mourning.
“When my father passed away, I placed things in his coffin. I didn't tell anyone about it. Then I interviewed psychics who say they communicate with the dead. Will they find out what objects it is? ? " Thus begins The test (ed. Albin Michel), by Stéphane Allix, investigative journalist, director of Inrees (Institute for Research on Extraordinary Experiences) and author of numerous books on the afterlife and the possibility of A life after the death.
If the most skeptical will not necessarily be convinced by Stéphane Allix's demonstration, it is undeniable that some of his interviews with mediums for this "test" are at the very least disturbing. The work is also a considerable public success, proving if it was necessary the current appetite of the public for esotericism, mediumship and research on a possible persistence of consciousness after death.
If these questions have always fascinated crowds, their current approach has the singularity of being based on an approach claiming to be scientific. This is the case for Stéphane Allix, who never ceases to recall during interviews his quality as an investigative journalist, but also for Jean-Jacques Charbonier, anesthetist whom we also interviewed. Above all, whether it is these media personalities but also our other witnesses, this conviction that we do not come down to an earthly body seems above all to help us to live. Testimonials.
"There is no proof that there is nothing after death"
For Stéphane Allix, it all started, he tells us, with the sudden death of his brother, in a car accident in Afghanistan. "He died in my arms. From there, I needed to understand. Before that, the subjects qualified as" supernatural "were not for me serious. Then I discovered disturbing testimonies, books , and especially the work of researchers on near-death experiences (NDE), in particular. While investigating, I began to realize one thing: what we take for a scientific certainty - there is nothing after death ', is not based on any evidence. "
For ten years, Stéphane Allix has now worked full-time at what he wishes to define as a journalistic enterprise, collecting the comments of former comatose patients, people who have experienced NDEs, meeting mediums, talking with specialists in brain. Do not dare to speak to him about faith or belief: "Faith has nothing to do with it. It can sometimes be intuitions, feelings that are difficult to put into words, as when I I have repeatedly 'felt' my father's presence during my interviews with mediums for The Test, but I don't 'believe' in the afterlife: I have acquired knowledge, based on facts. "
He continues: “During my investigation, some psychics gave me information about my father, how he died, some members of my family, giving me specific details that they could not guess. explain otherwise than by the fact that they were really in communication with these missing relatives? "
"When he died I perceived a living and joyful presence coming out of his body"
An approach that converges with that of Jean-Jacques Charbonier, who also devotes a large part of his activity to trying to understand what happens when the body dies. Again, this quest was born out of a confrontation with death. "I was finishing my medical studies and I was doing an internship with the Samu before taking on a patient to become a general practitioner, says the doctor. I found myself at the scene of a car accident which had caused many victims. J must have entered a vehicle where a very young man was stuck. He had to be infused, quickly, so that his heart did not stop. Alas, my inexperience and the difficulty of the situation did not allow me to do so. keep alive. When he passed away, I then sensed a living and joyful presence coming out of his body. It was of a power and strength impossible to describe. As a result of this experience, I decided to become an anesthesiologist, which meant going back to school for three years and dropping my office project. A radical change, but I had to study the coma, try to understand. Because I was in it now. certain: we are not only a body as I am had hammered in medicine, but a spirit in a body. And when this body goes out, what I call intuitive consciousness, it doesn't die. "
The persistence of a consciousness even when an individual is in clinical death or, to quote Jean-Jacques Charbonier, "in temporary death", such is the theory on which many researchers are currently based. "About 20% of patients who have been declared clinically dead and then woke up are able to relate what was going on around them, sometimes even from miles away. Their testimonies overlap most of the time. And this even then. that their brain was no longer active ", assures Stéphane Allix. And to add, together with Jean-Jacques Charbonnier: "There is no tangible proof that there is nothing after death. On the other hand, there is a bundle of information which suggests the opposite. "
Feel a presence
It is not Adeline, a young teacher, quite "rational" moreover according to her own words, who will contradict these two apostles of a post-mortem existence. At the age of ten, Adeline fell violently down a staircase and broke her skull. "I saw my life go by, I heard voices calling me and saw this great light. And then suddenly I felt that I had come back." Doctors at the hospital do not hide from his parents that his survival is a miracle. Since then, Adeline is certain that she has guardian angels. A conviction reinforced at the age of 21, when she was hit by a car: "Not a scratch. For me it's obvious, I was protected."
Claire as for her, after having watched for several days her father plunged into a coma following a heart attack, "felt" one morning when entering her room that he had left his carnal envelope. "He was not yet dead, but for me he was no longer there. There was only his body. My sister laughed at me when I told her about it. That night my husband and I slept in my father's house and he was there, close to us. I could perceive his presence so clearly it was scary. All night long the radiators made a hell of a noise while we were there. in the middle of summer and they were off. My husband heard them too. A few days later my father passed away. "
During the following years, Claire has terrible nightmares and wakes up, convinced that a man is there, in her room. "I wasn't the only one who was convinced of this, my husband is sure he saw it too when I woke up screaming." Then one night she opens her eyes and "sees" him distinctly: "Sitting on the floor next to my bed. He smiles and hisses, happy. There is like light emanating from his body. He is younger than he is. when he's dead. I stare at him, he stare at me and I tell him 'please don't come back, you scare me too much'. he never came back and I never did the nightmare.
A belief that influences the way he sees life
Stories like these abound. To believe it or not to believe it is up to everyone's free will. But all our witnesses, Stéphane Allix and Jean-Jacques Charbonnier included, agree on one point: to accept these signs, to be open to this idea of a life after death and of an autonomy of the soul with respect to its earthly body has an influence on the way of looking at life.
"Most people who testify after a near-death experience report a feeling of benevolent self-judgment. With this recurring question: 'what have you done for others during your life?'", Underlines Jean-Jacques Coal. "It is for this reason that I wrote my book Death explained to children (ed. Trédaniel). Because the latter often have unanswered questions and it is possible to present them with a vision of death that is not terrifying. And teach them that what matters most, once our life on earth is over, is not the salary we have earned or to have been first in this or that, but the way in which we loved the kindness of which we were capable. "
“Since I started my research and as I discovered, my way of life has changed enormously,” says Stéphane Allix. "It's a bit like Pascal's bet. I have no certainty, but when in doubt I try to live in the direction of what I want to be, not to let myself go to procrastinate until tomorrow. what I can do today, to be clear with myself, in my marriage or as a father. All this while having this sweet feeling of not being alone. "
"It's very sweet and reassuring to believe in the presence of our missing"
Sometimes also, betting on this beyond helps to stop being afraid to live. Ever since she "saw" her father, Claire "listens to his signs and his instincts". "I decided to go for it by creating objects that I am starting to sell, I found a job when I no longer believed in it. I feel stronger." "It is a kind of very pleasant cocoon, it is very soft and reassuring to believe in the presence of our disappeared, confides for her part Beatrice, 45 years old. Little, my grandmother died while she was looking after me. . I was alone with her for a long time, until my mother picked me up. Later, a colleague had a stroke in front of me while we were talking. I think I touched death so closely. 'led me to take an interest in what was going on afterwards, she says. I devoured the works of Stéphane Allix, I sometimes go to see mediums. I don't feel enlightened, I don't do any proselytizing and I do not attach it to any religious dogma, but I have my guardian angels, I am certain of their presence around me, I sometimes hear that they are addressed to me. It is very furtive, very subtle and that makes my life lighter. So why deprive me of it? "