The Word Foundation



Vol. 20 DECEMBER, 1914. No. 3

Copyright, 1914, by H. W. PERCIVAL.


Thought Ghosts of Dead Men.

WHAT was said of thought ghosts of living men (“The Word,” Vol. 18, Nos. 3 and 4) concerning their creation, process of building up, and the matter of which they are composed, matter of the mental world, in which they are is true of the thought ghosts of dead men. Almost all thought ghosts are thought ghosts created by men while the men are alive in their physical bodies; but in rare cases a mind, having departed from its physical body, may under exceptional conditions create a new thought ghost.

There are three great distinctions between desire ghosts of dead men and thought ghosts of dead men. First, the desire ghosts of dead men are created after death, whereas the thought ghosts of dead men were created during life, and continue to exist in the mental world long after the death of the physical body of the person who created the thought ghost. Second, the desire ghost of a dead man wants and affects the body of a living man, and is fed through the desires of the living man, which are strong, passionate, and often unnatural; whereas, the thought ghost of a dead man affects not the body, but the mind of one person, and often the minds of many living persons. Third, a desire ghost of a dead man is a veritable devil, is without conscience and without morality, and is a persistently active mass of selfishness, rapaciousness, cruelty, and lust; whereas, a thought ghost of a dead man is the same thought ghost it was when the man was alive, but the man furnishes no vitality for the continuance of the ghost. Thought ghosts of dead men are harmless by comparison with the desire ghosts of dead men.

The thought ghosts left by the dead are those mentioned above (”The Word,” Vol. 18, Nos. 3 and 4) as the formless thought ghosts and as the more or less defined thought ghosts; further, thought ghosts such as the poverty ghost, grief ghost, self-pity ghost, gloom ghost, fear ghost, health ghost, disease ghost, vanity ghost; further, the ghosts produced unconsciously, and such as are produced with intent to accomplish a certain purpose (Vol. 18, p. 22). Then there are the family thought ghosts, of honor, pride, gloom, death, and financial success of the family. Then the racial or national thought ghosts, of culture, war, sea power, colonization, patriotism, territorial expansion, commerce, legal precedents, religious dogmas, and lastly, the thought ghosts of a whole age.

It is to be clearly understood that a thought is not a thought ghost. The thought ghost of a dead man is not a thought. The thought ghost of a dead man is like a shell, empty of the original thought of him or of those who created it. There is a difference between the thought ghost of a living man and the thought ghost of a dead man, which is similar to that between the physical ghost of a living man and the physical ghost of the man after death.

During the life of the man, the thought ghost is alive; after the death of the man, the thought ghost is like an empty shell; it acts automatically, unless the thought of another acts according to the impressions he gets from the ghost. Then he prolongs the existence of the ghost. A man can no more fit himself into the thought ghost of a dead man or fit the thought ghost of a dead man into himself than he can do this with the physical ghost of a dead man; but a living man can act in accordance with the impressions he receives from the thought ghost of the dead.

A thought ghost is attached to and haunts the mind of the living, as the physical ghost may be attached to and haunt a living body, when that body comes within range of its influence. In the case of a physical ghost, the range of the magnetic influence does not exceed a few hundred feet. Distance does not count in the case of a thought ghost. The range of its influence depends on the nature and subject of the thought. A thought ghost will not come within the mental range of a man whose thoughts are not of a similar nature or concerned with a similar subject.

Generally speaking, it is true that men’s minds are agitated by the presence of thought ghosts. Men do not think, their minds are agitated. They believe they think, the while their minds are only agitated.

A mind approaches the process of thinking when it is direct and held to a subject of thought. How rarely this is done is evident if the operations of one’s own mind or of the minds of others are examined.

Thought ghosts of the dead are obstacles to independent thinking; they remain in the mental atmosphere of the world and, after the vitality which was in them has departed, are inert weights. Such thought ghosts are preferably companions to those who lack independence of thought. The people of the world are ridden by thought ghosts of the dead. These thought ghosts affect people through certain words and phrases. These ghosts are conjured up by the use of these words, when the meaning of these words as originally used is not there. “The True, the Beautiful, and the Good”, refers to certain Greek terms used by Plato to embody great thoughts. They were terms of art and power. They had a technical meaning of their own, and which was applicable to that age. These three terms were understood and used by men of that age who were on that line of thought. In later days, when people no longer comprehended the thought that Plato had given to the terms, the words remained as shells. When translated and used in modern tongues by people who do not understand the thought conveyed by the original spiritual Greek terms, these words carry merely thought ghosts. There is, of course, still a semblance of power in these English words, but the original meaning is no longer there. The true, the beautiful, and the good, in the modern meaning, are not able to put the hearer directly in touch with Plato’s thought. The same is true of the terms “Platonic Love”, “The Son of Man”, “The Lamb of God”, “The Only Begotten Son”, “Light of the World”.

In modern times the phrases “Struggle for Existence”, “Survival of the Fittest”, “Self-preservation Is the First Law of Nature”, “Latter Day Saints”, “The Book of Mormon”, are becoming or have become vehicles for thought ghosts. No longer is conveyed by these popularized terms what the originator expressed, but they are empty phrases clothing devitalized, unsystematic mental impressions.

A thought ghost is an impediment to thought. A thought ghost is an obstacle to mental growth and progress. If a thought ghost is in the mind of people it twists their thought to its own dead and contracted form.

Every nation is beset by thought ghosts of the thoughts of its own dead men, and by thought ghosts of the thoughts of men of other nations. When a thought ghost—not a thought—is received from another nation it cannot but work harm to those who receive it, and to the people of the nation; for the needs of a nation are expressed by their thoughts for their own time and that particular people; but when that is taken by another nation which has other needs or is of a different age, the other people who take it do not understand the law which governs the needs and the time, and therefore cannot use the thought ghost, as it is out of time and place.

Thought ghosts of dead men are obstacles to progress and are especially powerful in their hold on minds in the schools of science, on men working in the courts of law, and on those engaged in maintaining a religious system.

The facts ascertained by scientific research have certain values, and should be aids to establish other facts. All facts as ascertained phenomena are true, on their own plane. The theories relating to facts and what causes the phenomena and what is concomitant of them, are not always true and may become thought ghosts, which beset other minds in the line of research and impede them from establishing other facts or even seeing other facts. This may be due to the thought ghosts of living men, but is usually caused by the thought ghosts of the dead. The vague theory of heredity is a thought ghost which has prevented men from seeing clearly certain facts, what these facts come from, and from accounting for other things not connected with the first set of facts.

Heredity may be true as to physical formations and features of a person, but it is less true as to the psychic nature, and it is not true as to the mental nature. Physical shapes and qualities are often transmitted by parents to children; but the rules of transmission are so little known, that several children of a single couple are not looked upon with surprise even if they are totally dissimilar in body, not to speak of their moral and mental conditions. The thought ghost of a scientific theory of heredity is so wedged into the physicist’s thoughts, that these thoughts have to conform to the ghost, and so such cases as of Rembrandt, Newton, Byron, Mozart, Beethoven, Carlyle, Emerson and other striking instances, are left out of sight, when the unthinking multitude accepts the “Law of Heredity”. That “law of heredity” is a thought ghost of dead men, which limits the research and thought of the living.

Thought of heredity is not the thought ghost of heredity. It is good that peoples’ minds be concerned with thought of heredity; the thought is free and not limited by the theories of the ghost; the few facts known about the derivation of physical forms should be kept in view and thought about; thought should circulate around these facts and act freely and under the impulse of inquiry. Then there is vitality in thought; new avenues of research will open and other facts be established. When natural thought, in consequence of inquiry, is active, it should not be permitted to rest, and become fixed by the statement of the “law of heredity”.

When a man’s mind is suffered to be focussed by a thought ghost, the man cannot see any fact, nor get any thought except that for which the thought ghost stands. While this is generally true, it is nowhere as patent as in the case of the law courts and the church. Thought ghosts of the dead are the supports of the authority doctrines of the churches and the precedent doctrine of the law and its archaic antagonism to modern conditions.

Thought ghosts of the dead prevent the vitality of independent thought from nourishing the spiritual life of religion, and doing justice in the courts of law. Only such religious thought is permitted as is patterned after the thought ghosts of the dead. The technical and formal procedure and usages in courts today, and such antiquated institutions as governed the transactions and the conduct of the people under the common law, are fostered and perpetuated under the influence of the thought ghosts of dead lawyers. There are continuous changes in the realms of religion and law, because men are struggling to rid themselves of the ghosts. But these two, religion and law, are strongholds of thought ghosts, and under their influence any change in the order of things there is resisted.

It is well to act under the influence of a thought ghost if there is nothing better to pattern after, and if one has no thoughts of his own. But persons or a people, under new conditions, with new impulses and thoughts of their own, should refuse to be ridden by thought ghosts of the dead. They should put an end to the ghosts ,explode them.

A thought ghost is exploded by sincere inquiry; not by doubting, but by challenging the authority of what the ghost stands for, as scientific, religious, and legal slogans, canons, standards, and usages. Continued inquiry with the effort to trace, explain, improve, will explode the form and dissipate the influence of the ghost. Inquiry will reveal the origin, history, reasons for growth, and the real value of that of which the ghost is a remnant. The doctrines of vicarious atonement, forgiveness of sins, immaculate conceptions, apostolicism of the Catholic Church, the persistent doctrines of extreme formality by the judges in jurisdiction—will be exploded together with the thought ghosts of the dead.