Ghosts: a decaying remanent of a real person:

Do ghosts actually exist? Yes, Theosophy teaches that ghosts certainly do exist. However, they are not the real person as a whole – even if they claim to be! They are rather a relic or remanent of the real person’s emotional and ‘astral’ energies decaying slowly in the Astral Light. The Astral Light is a normally invisible plane or world very close to the physical plane/world. Under some circumstances ordinary people can see into the astral light and there can be communication with the beings resident there..

Ghosts are always the remains of people who have died under circumstances of great stress and emotion. No one who has died happily leaves a ‘sinister’ ghost – although there are ‘apparitions’ which are the natural result of the disintegration process of a life ended under normal processes. The strength and persistence of a ghost seems to be proportional to the intensity of emotion at death.

A full explanation of Theosophical teachings on the various stages of the after-death journey is available on our website at: After Death –What? at:

The natural decomposition process after physical death:

Normally following physical death, there is a slow dissolving of the astral body (linga-sarira) in the astral light. This is just part of the natural disintegration process and nothing to do with emotion. The resultant ghostly ‘apparition’ may sometimes be seen hovering over the grave.

Most societies recognize this and believe that ghosts remain in the vicinity of their bodies, especially if they have been improperly buried. It is therefore much better to cremate a body to free the life atoms to pursue their post-death journeys rather than waiting months or years for the body to slowly decay in the ground. Cremation is universally practiced wherever possible by Hindus.

OK, but what about the common experience of seeing visions of dead people at the moment of death or shortly after – the Doppelganger.

Visions of the dead: the Doppelganger and other harmless ghostly apparitions:

It is a common experience that just prior to departing completely from their earthly frame, a dying person may appear to loved ones to say farewell.

This is the Astral Double (‘Mayavi-Rupa’) of the dying person impressed with the thought to say farewell being so strong that it is attracted to their loved one. This species of phantom is commonly referred to by using the German word – Doppelganger.

Other Apparitions rather than sinister Ghosts:

  • The astral remanents of those who have died in close proximity to the person who sees them.
  • The ghosts of people who have died far away being a mixture of real ‘astral double’ and memories in the personal aura of the person viewing the ghost.
  • Fictitious ghosts: reflections of genuine ‘ shadows’ of the deceased person in the imagination of the perceiver.

OK, but what about genuine ghosts?

Genuine ghosts:

In theosophical terms a genuine ghost is a ‘kama-rupic shade’ which has a strong attachment to the physical plane. The strong physically-based desires, impulses, and appetites of these shades keep them bound to physical spheres which are congenial to them.

They pose a real danger to the psychological health of the living because they are ‘soulless’ as the higher soul qualities of the departed person have moved on to more spiritual inner realms of being. Also, they are in-filled with energies of a depraved and ignoble type. They comprise embodied emotions whose energies are heavy and dense.

Their bonds of attraction to the physical world slow down the dissipation process of the ‘kama-rupa’ in the lower reaches of the astral world. There are numerous examples of ghosts showing up in photographs as they are dense enough to record on film in the proper light whereas we cannot see them when the picture is taken.

Features of genuine ghosts:

Ghosts are attached to particular places associated with their deeds in life. Tragedy, love, or intense materiality binds them to the lower planes. Some move around soundlessly oblivious to the presence of frightened onlookers such as depicted in the film ‘The Others’. There are other types of ghosts that delight in frightening people sitting on the bed, producing ghostly lights, pungent odours, or various kinds of noises.

Poltergeists describes a species of ghosts responsible for loud noises and physical disturbances such as throwing things around a room. People who have seen genuine ghosts describe a Sudden Chill in the air. Whether seeing or merely feeling the presence of ghosts there is most often reported a sudden chill in the surroundings caused perhaps by a drain on the vitality of the living and perhaps an actual drop in temperature in the immediate vicinity of the ghost as shown in the film ‘The Sixth Sense’.

Haunting ghosts:

An intense desire at the moment of death keeps the ghost in a certain location. It has only one idea or purpose – such as justice for a murder, the desire to acquaint the world with the circumstances attending the tragedy, or strong attachment to material possessions – utterly ignoring everything else. It endlessly repeats the tragedy until someone has the courage to demand to know what it wants to tell us. When this is done, the information will be given and then the phantom will fade away.

This type of ghost will disappear with the destruction of the building, or change to the surroundings of the environment they have been haunting. Fire is supposed to be the best cleanser in such circumstances. Exorcism won’t work – only the playing out of the objective of the ghosts existence is effective.

Animal ghosts:

There are many stories of animal ghosts. Examples from the UK include: strange black frogs in the Scottish Highlands, the bizarre spirit of a witch appears in the form of a hare in Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire, and a spectre of a bear was said to cause the death by fright of a soldier guarding the crown-jewels in the Tower of London in 1815.

According to HP Blavatsky these spirits do not remain true to their animal nature and are more likely elemental spirits manifesting the traits of depraved human nature as spectre animals. ‘Elementals’ is a generalized term in Theosophy for all beings below the minerals of the scale of evolution.

‘Ghosts’ inhabiting animals: the curious case of the Tsavo Man-Eaters:

Theosophy teaches that there is a certain class of evil black magicians that regress in their evolution so that they can no longer inhabit the human form. They exist self-consciously in the astral light when out of incarnation in the physical world. They desperately seek incarnation in the physical world in animal or even plant forms. They inevitably sink into the spiritual hierarchy below the one in which we are incarnated as they are no longer fit to stay in our world. This world is known as the dreaded ‘Planet of Death’ in Theosophy. In animal or whatever form they are potentially very harmful to humanity.

Perhaps the Tsavo Man-Eaters are examples of this type of ‘animal ghost’. They were a pair of notorious ‘man-eating’ lions that terrorised the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway in 1898. They killed 135 railway-workers until eventually shot by Col. John Henry Patterson in December 1898. According to local people, their hunting techniques and behaviour when being hunted themselves, was entirely unlike normal lions. They were reputed by some local people to be the returned spirits of evil ‘nganga’ or witch-doctors.

There are many such other legends in Europe of ‘Were-Wolves’ and Haunted Forests which may be the same phenomena and the subject of numerous Hollywood movies.

Business-as-usual ghosts and animated thought-forms:

Thought-Forms are animated ‘elementals’ (energies below the mineral kingdom on the scale of spiritual evolution), and the survival of a thought-form is determined by the intensity of the mental/emotional energy originally infused into it. One type of ghost could be the result of such thought-forms or memories, established over time and left behind by the person who built them. Another theosophical explanation is that they may be the ‘kama-rupas’ of deceased persons adhering to the places they habitually visited in life.

This type of ghost is sometimes seen as a ghostly presence just going about its ‘business as usual’. These ghosts are frequently encountered by family members in houses or places of business frequented by their deceased relatives. An example is a long-deceased chambermaid who stills tends to guests in an English inn. The owners described that she appears at the foot of startled guests beds, dressed in Victorian era clothes and carrying a bundle of keys. She smiles at the astonished guests and departs. She worked at these premises most of her life and apparently died in the room where she is so often seen.

Sometimes no ghost is seen but people feel impelled to do things which were previously foreign to them, eg. develop a love of art or music. Here again thoughts (embodied elemental energies), the so-called ‘Memories-in-the-Walls’, have left their impressions.

The case of the Chinnery photo, 1959:

When visiting her mother’s grave in 1959, Mrs. Mabel Chinnery decided to finish off the roll of film by taking a picture of her husband seated in the car. When the roll was developed, a female figure appeared, sitting in the back seat. Mrs. Chinnery and several family members insist that the female figure is that of her mother, who appears to have taken her customary place in the back seat and is patiently waiting to be driven home. A photographic expert examined the print and declared it to be neither a reflection nor a double exposure. In the photo “mom” appears to be a pretty solid ghost, with no hint of transparency or light from the rear windows shining through her. Even her glasses appear to reflect light!

Enchained Elemental Spirits:

The ancient Egyptians were renowned magicians – both ‘white’ and ‘black’. They knew the art of enchaining elemental spirits to objects in tombs to forever protect them by releasing harm on tomb robbers – perhaps the reason behind the famous Pharoah’s Curse.

Following the opening of Pharoah Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, 11 people connected with the discovery of the tomb, notably Lord Carnavon, died by 1929. This included Carter’s personal secretary and his father. In 1926, Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb, said he saw jackals like Anubis, the guardian of the dead, in the desert for the only time in his 35 years in the desert.

In 1699, Louis Penicher wrote an account in which he recorded how a Polish traveller bought two mummies in Alexandria and embarked on a sea journey with the mummies in the cargo hold. The traveller was alarmed by recurring visions of two spectres, and the stormy seas that did not abate until the mummies were thrown overboard.

The ‘Unlucky Mummy’, exhibit number 225423 in the British Museum, which came from the sarcophagus of a high-priestess of Amun-Ra was implicated in many tragedies for the owners and visions/disturbances in the museum.

Famous Egyptologist, Zahi Hawass, recalled that as a young archaeologist excavating at Kom Abu-Bellou he had to transport a number of artifacts from the Greco-Roman site. His cousin died on that day, on its anniversary, his uncle died, and on the third anniversary his aunt died. Years later, when he excavated the tombs of the builders of the pyramids at Giza, he encountered the curse: “All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it may the crocodile be against them in water, and snakes against them on land. May the hippopotamus be against them in water, the scorpion against them on land.“

Though not superstitious, he decided not to disturb the mummies. However, he later was involved in the removal of two child mummies from Bahariya Oasis to a museum and reported he was haunted by the children in his dreams. The phenomena did not stop until the mummy of the father was re-united with the children in the museum. He came to the conclusion that mummies should not be displayed, though it was a lesser evil than allowing the general public into the tombs. Hawass also recorded an incident of a sick young boy who loved Ancient Egypt and was subject to a “miracle” cure in the Egyptian Museum when he looked into the eyes of the mummy of King Ahmose I. Thereafter, the boy read everything he could find on Ancient Egypt, especially the Hyksos period.

Ghosts appearing at séances: Astral Shells:

How about the ghosts that appear at Seances? Theosophy says that, regardless of what spiritualists believe, this is not genuine communication with the spirit of the departed as claimed by mediums but rather the ‘astral shell’ or decaying astral remanent of a departed person energized by the living astral body of the medium making the ‘materialized spirits’ so often seen in the séance room.

These energized astral shells can move objects, give reports from deceased relatives (pictures in the astral light or from the memories of those present). In many cases the medium is providing the means for the ‘shades’ of suicides and executed criminals to communicate with the physical world as they long to do. In ancient times till now, such evoking of astral shells has been condemned as the black magic of ‘Necromancy’ and definitely not something to be dabbled with from a theosophical perspective.

Dark energies living in the Astral Light:

According the Theosophy there are many other types of dark energies living in the Astral Light which are not strictly ghosts. They can detrimentally affect the living, if they are given a pathway back into the physical world.

Two of such astral entities are:

  • ‘The Dweller on the Threshold’.
  • ‘Elementaries’ as opposed to ‘Elemental Spirits’.

The Dweller on the Threshold:

This is the embodied result of past evil deeds and tendencies which can attach themselves to a person with such intensity that they don’t dissipate after death and remain intact to haunt the person in their next life. This can especially be so for advancing aspirants to the spiritual life who may become aware of the existence of such a ‘Dweller’ either by seeing or sensing it.

G de Purucker says of them: ‘They are verily ghosts of the dead men that the present man formally was, now arising to dog his footsteps, and hence are very truly called ‘Dwellers on the Threshold’. In a specific sense they may truly be called the ‘Kama-Rupas’ of the man’s past incarnations arising out of the records in the astral light left there by the ‘old’ man of the ‘new’ man who now is.’

If an aspirant tries to counter such evil tendencies arising from the ‘Dweller’, it will redouble its efforts to instil evil behaviour as its ‘life’ depends on its host feeding it. This is intensely magnified in the case of a candidate for spiritual initiation determined to progress on the spiritual Path. He/She must face the Dweller, as only the author of such evils can dissipate the resultant ‘kama-rupa’. The Dweller must be triumphed over and literally ‘left behind’ in the lower astral light to dissipate. This is done by the exercise of the Spiritual Will as the Dweller was created by Will and must be destroyed/left behind by the Will of the aspirant to focus his/her attention on higher spiritual truth/realities.


These are the earth-bound disembodied human souls of people who were evil or depraved when alive – eg. executed criminals, sorcerers, and black magicians. Such people have refused all spiritual light when alive and remained immersed in materialism deliberately separating themselves from their Higher Nature. Such people would first be known as Psychopaths, and then later, when more spiritually-aware, as Black Magicians.

Also, the spirits of people trapped in the kama-loka until the natural time comes for their release, principally, people who have committed suicide. They exist as conscious entities in the astral, especially close to people and places of great materialism and low vibration, eg. bars, hotels and places of ill-repute. They may exist in such a state for centuries before dissolving away. During this time they can exert a strong influence on the living with tendencies similar to their own.

The Dark Lord Lord Valdemort, the evil master magician of The Harry Potter stories and films is a fictionalized example of such an Elementary. He is an accurate representation of a certain class of ‘Elementaries’, ie black magicians living self-consciously in the Astral Light, who long for power, influence, and embodiment in the physical world, and who influence others in the world of the living who fall under their power.

Self-defence from ghosts and other evil influences in the Astral Light:

The following methods of psychic self-defence are suggested based on theosophical teachings:

  • Any person of a spiritual character repels these astral entities automatically due to the higher nature of their vibrations of love.
  • Therefore, do anything which is likely to engender these higher vibrations in terms of lifestyle, meditation, use of mantrams like the Gayatri and the Lord’s Prayer, which will raise your vibrations and put you out of their reach.
  • Use of the Spiritual Will to dismiss such entities impinging on your personal spiritual space.
  • Exorcism by the spiritually aware may work in some instances.
  • Keep away from the places and habits where such low vibrationary influences are present.
  • Physical mechanisms such as burning candles and incense.
  • Demolition and cleansing by fire of haunted buildings is said to be effective.

Further reading:

Pelletier, Rogelle: ‘Ghosts and apparitions’ published in Fohat, Summer 2006. Available online at:

G. de Purucker: Fountain Source of Occultism Available online at:

G. de Purucker: Occult Glossary Available online at:


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