Happy Halloween Eve Ghosts are back

2014-10-31 「 6722 words / 13 minute 」
Happy Halloween Eve Ghosts are back.jpg
IN 1628, a young woman in the town of Dole, in what is now eastern France, believed she was visited by a ghost. The young woman was ill in bed. At first she saw an ordinary woman who had tidied up and taken care of her. She began to think that her nurse might be a spirit after the kind woman appeared at her side without opening the locked door. The spirit, she believed, was the ghost of her aunt, who came to help her out as a form of penance to lessen the aunt’s time in purgatory.
We think of ghosts as wispy and translucent — a vaporous woman, perhaps, who floats down the stairs, her dress trailing in the languid air behind her. But in early modern Europe, ghosts were often perceived as solid persons. The viewer discovered that they weren’t when they did something that ordinary humans could not, like bypassing a locked door to enter a room.
到了19世纪,人们开始大体认为鬼魂是抽象的——偶尔出现、虚无缥缈、来去匆匆。在狄更斯1843年出版的《圣诞颂歌》(A Christmas Carol)中,马利(Marley)的鬼魂来到斯克鲁奇(Scrooge)面前,而斯克鲁奇能够“看穿”那个透明的躯体。这说明鬼魂显灵的方式——如何被看到与记忆——发生了转变。
By the 19th century, people had begun to think of ghosts predominantly as spectral forms — ephemeral, elusive, evanescent. When the ghost of Marley appeared to Scrooge in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” (1843), and Scrooge looked his transparent body “through and through,” he illustrated a shift in the ways ghosts became real to people, how ghosts were seen and remembered.
在《自我的幽灵》(Spectres of the Self)一书中,文化史学者沙恩·麦克里斯廷(Shane McCorristine)指出这种演变有两个原因。首先是由科学的新进步带来的对超自然现象的质疑。“幻觉”的概念越来越多地被用来解释看到幽灵之类的经历。伴随着见到鬼魂成为一种心理现象,它也开始成为一种病理现象。1848年,持怀疑态度的英国作家查尔斯·奥利尔(Charles Ollier)道出了许多人的心声。他写道,“任何觉得自己见过鬼魂的人,都可以将这种幻象当成他的身体健康失常的表征。”因此,麦克里斯廷写道,鬼魂“从外在、客观且由神学构造的世界”逐渐迁移到“个人体验的内在、主观且与心理密切相关的世界”。
In “Spectres of the Self,” the cultural historian Shane McCorristine points to two reasons for this transmutation. The first was skepticism about the supernatural, generated by the new developments in science. The concept of hallucination emerged to explain experiences like seeing an apparition. As the seeing of ghosts became a psychological phenomenon, it also became a pathological one. In 1848, the British skeptic Charles Ollier spoke for many when he wrote that “anyone who thinks he has seen a ghost, may take the vision as a symptom that his bodily health is deranged.” As a result, Dr. McCorristine writes, the ghost was gradually relocated “from the external, objective and theological structured world to the internal, subjective and psychological haunted world of personal experience.”
The other reason was the development of new technologies, including photography in the early decades of the 19th century. Those who wanted to hang on to their belief in the supernatural despite the apparent threat posed by science found in the idea of the hallucination a kind of scientific evidence that the dead came back to life. By the 1860s “spirit photography” presented astonishing images of people alongside dead relatives, using double exposure and other manipulations to portray a gauzy form alongside living flesh. It was the transparency that marked the dead as dead — and of course, it was technology that allowed some photographers to fake the ghost.
By the late 19th century, séances had become wildly popular. Historians have argued that spiritualism and psychical research became a kind of surrogate religion that demonstrated the truth of an otherworldly reality as faith in ordinary Christianity declined. Then, through the 20th century, their appeal receded.
今天的流行文化中充斥着吸血鬼和僵尸这样的活死人:《哈利·波特》(Harry Potter)丛书、《暮光之城》(Twilight)系列,以及电视剧《童话镇》(Grimm)。2004年以来,Syfy电视台制作了16个超自然真人秀。2013年的哈里斯民调(Harris Poll)显示,42%的美国人相信鬼魂存在——但这个数字在68岁及更年长的调查对象中仅为24%。
Pop culture is richly peopled with vampires, zombies, the living dead: the Harry Potter books, the “Twilight” series, the television show “Grimm.” The Syfy network has produced 16 paranormal reality shows since 2004. A 2013 Harris Poll found that 42 percent of Americans believed in ghosts — but only 24 percent of respondents 68 and older.
学者们有时会将这种超自然现象的流行概括为世界的某种“重新魔幻化”——正如德国社会学家马克斯·韦伯(Max Weber)等众多学者曾经认为的,人们越来越多地意识到当代世界并非没有了魔幻色彩,而是在一定程度上比以往更为痴迷于我们周遭的物质现实之外还有更多东西的概念。我想,部分原因在于,质疑反而让超自然现象变得安全,甚至有趣了。事实表明,尽管许多美国人或许认为存在鬼魂,但他们往往并不相信会被它们伤害。
Scholars sometimes talk about this supernaturalization as a kind of “re-enchantment” of the world — as a growing awareness that the modern world is not stripped of the magical, as the German sociologist Max Weber and so many others once thought, but is in some ways more fascinated than ever with the idea that there is more than material reality around us. In part, I think, this is because skepticism has made the supernatural safe, even fun. It turns out that while many Americans may think that there are ghosts, they often don’t believe that ghosts can harm them.
There is, however, a deeper reason. Just as spiritualism became a means to hold on to the supernatural claims of religion in the face of science in the 19th century, the supernaturalism of our own time may enable something similar. The God that has emerged in the post-1960s “renewalist” Christianity practiced by nearly a quarter of all Americans is vividly supernatural — a Jesus who walks by your side just as Jesus walked with his disciples. This assertion that the supernatural is natural helps to make the case for God in a secular age, because it promises people that they will know by experience that God is real.
Perhaps technology plays a role as well. Our world is animated in ways that can seem almost uncanny — lights that snap on as you approach, cars that fire into life without keys, websites that know what you like to read and suggest more books like those. The Internet is not material in the ordinary way. It feels somehow different. Maybe this, too, stokes our imagination.
This suggests there may be even more supernaturalism in years to come.
Happy Halloween.