How is it possible for souls or spirits to manifest in a recognisable form, a form in which you knew them on earth? For how long can they remain recognisable? Not only are the answers to these two questions fascinating but the process of attempting to answer them involves other questions which are most intriguing. For example, it is known that souls have no gender. So how is it that they manifest in male or female forms? To make that point stronger and clearer, I’ve invariably seen my father materialise in the male form he had when alive and my mother always materialises in her female form and the same holds true for other friends and relatives who have passed over to the other world. In their materialisations, their gender has remained unchanged.

Apart from this, just a glance at a list of various types of ghosts makes it apparent that recognisable gender differentiation amongst ghosts has existed since ancient times. Actually, as a general rule, when souls who have passed over to the other world recently materialise on the earthly plane, they do so in the form and appearance of the gender to which they belonged in their immediate prior birth. However it is also an established fact that souls or ghosts who have become “institutionalised” on earth, i.e. been on earth for a very long time, acquire the energy and ability to take the shape or whatever form they prefer—female, male, an animal, even a tree, etc. They are generally known s shape-shifters. Higher order ghosts or souls with high spiritual levels also possess the ability to assume whatever form they wish to be seen in.

The Spiritual Science Research Foundation (SSRF)  which professes to bridge the known and unknown worlds, clarifies that ghosts are made up of the absolute Air Principle but they materialise only when acting in conjunction with the Absolute Earth Principle or Pruthvitattva and/or any of the other Cosmic Principles. The SSRF notes that “in all cases, in order to materialise, both the Absolute Earth Principle and its associated Tama subtle-component have to be present.” What is the Tama component?  “At a spiritual level the Universe is made up of even more subtle particles and they are known as the 3 subtle basic components or trigunas, namely sattva, raja and tama.”

The SSRF avers that these three subtle basic components are the very fabric of creation. “They permeate through all living and non-living, tangible and intangible things…We call the components subtle because they are intangible, not physical in nature and they cannot be seen with any instruments such as the latest electronic microscopes. Technically advanced physical instrumentation in the future too will not be able to measure them. These three subtle basic components can only be perceived by the subtle sense organs or our sixth sense or ESP…The subtle basic tama component is the basest of the three….”

It goes on to elucidate that when ghosts materialise while acting only through the Absolute Earth Principle their density increases and they are better perceived by the plain eye or the photographic lens. The photographs of apparitions which appear as a black shadowy presence are typical of materialisation acting through the Absolute Earth Principle. If they materialise by acting through the Absolute Water Principle or Āpatattva along with the Absolute Earth Principle they become visible in a flowing form. An example of this type of materialisation is ectoplasm, a vortex or an apparition which is whitish in colour. If they materialise by acting through the Absolute Fire Principle or Tējtattva along with the Absolute Earth Principle they appear as glowing objects, e.g. like orbs. If they materialise by acting through the Absolute Air Principle along with the Absolute Earth Principle they appear in a very flowing form. If they materialise into the Absolute Ether Principle or Ākāshtattva along with the Absolute Earth Principle they appear as fog or mist.

For how long can ghosts remain in a recognisable form? The answer is linked to the “life span” and it’ll surprise you. Since, unlike humans, souls/ghosts don’t have a physical body with a more or less fixed life span for humans— generally 100 years—their life span varies but is virtually limitless and can extend to thousands of years. However, the period for which they can remain recognisable depends on their “soul force”. Souls with higher spiritual quotients cam remain recognisable for much longer than lower level souls or ghosts.

According to the SSRF, “the lifespan of ghosts is varied. In the case of inferior order ghosts, existing in the Nether Region or Bhuvarlok, it could be anywhere around 50-400 years. Ghosts that have been relegated to the deeper rungs of Hell Pātāl …can remain as ghosts for thousands of years…. the life span of ghosts may run into hundreds of  years as they get stuck for centuries due to their desires, ego, evil deeds and lack of spiritual practice. In the case of higher order ghosts in the various regions of Hell, their lifespan is anywhere from hundreds of thousands of years or until the end of the Universe.”

When souls/ ghosts materialise on earth, they are believed to do so by collecting ectoplasm—a white wooly substance around themselves. Wikipedia describes ectoplasm as “a term used in spiritualism to denote a substance or spiritual energy ‘exteriorised’ by physical mediums… Although the term is widespread in popular culture, the physical existence of ectoplasm is not accepted by science…” With interest in the other world increasing steadily over the years, especially after social media became a staple for people, all kinds of theories and pictures—old, new, rehashed bit always interesting— about ghost materilisations have been doing the rounds in recent years. For instance, someone wrote: Could it be that the ghosts need someone to believe them to be real to be able to materialise? “I recall a Chinese story of an old man who ghosts came to haunt, but the ghosts got quickly fed up because the old man wasn’t scared. Perhaps this would be the reason ghosts aren’t interested in sceptics because sceptics have a conscious aim and much more effort to find alternate explanations like it’s all in my mind, I’m tired, etc…” Another writer noted, “Whatever you intensely believe or want becomes your reality”. Perhaps that applies equally to humans and souls/ghosts who want to materialise and for a ghostly materialisation to take place.