Do animals have souls? Can a deceased pet visit an owner’s dream?

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Framed photo pet parakeet

Do animals have souls?  This is not a scientific question, as science denies human beings have souls.  Yet for those who believe mankind have souls, many pet owners may wonder if their pets can exist outside of physical death.  With so many animals in the wild that live, reproduce and perish quickly, can they possess individuality let along anything like an immortal soul?

Pet owners may recognize what they think of as individuality and even a soul in their pets.  Science calls this anthropomorphism:  attributing human characteristics to non-humans.  However I’ve seen information that shows animals are not the dumb, mindless brutes science has assumed.  Especially in the more intelligent animals we’ve seen signs of intelligence and emotion not recognized before.  Animals may not have exactly human emotions, but it appears they do have emotions and perhaps even self-awareness.  Ask any pet owner and they knew that all along.

There was a PBS Nature documentary “A Murder of Crows”  about how crows can recognize human faces and recall if those faces were a threat.  For humans that have crossed crows, they would communicate to their flock that these faces were dangerous.  Later when crows spotted one of these “bad men” they would squawk to warn others of their dangerousness.  We are now realizing the humble crow is among the smartest of animals.

Pet owner with parakeet

My father had a pet parakeet that he owned for 7 years.  He would take care of this little bird, play with it, and set up places where it could roam out of its cage.  He’d often bring it to the dinner table and it would pace around checking out what was on our dinner plates and then take a bite of our meals.

As the bird got old, it fell ill.  It could barely hang on to its perch in the cage.  My dad took the bird from the cage and held it in his hands.  He said the bird looked up at him, and then died in his hand.  This struck him.  My father is a hard-bitten, unsentimental type, but when he recalled this story for me he started to cry.  That was the only time in my life I’ve seen my dad cry.  My dad has a framed photo of the bird in his living room (shown above) along with his photos of other family members alive and gone.

Years later after his bird had died, as we talked about various things, dad mentioned a dream he had.

“Dave, guess what?  I dreamed about my parakeet Budgie a few nights ago.  Of all the crazy things.  Budgie was flying.  Remember when he got too fat to fly so I set up ladders so he could walk around to the couch and table on his own.  Well, in my dream Budgie was flying just like when we first got him.  He flew up on my shoulder and talked in my ear.  He was just chattering away.  It was like he visited me from animal heaven.”

My dad’s vivid dream of his pet revealed his pet at the bird’s healthiest.  That got me to thinking.  There are instances when it appears our deceased loved ones visit us in our dreams, and they are seen at their very best as well.  These dreams often are so real, so uncanny they are unlike normal dreams and it is easy to believe the dead are visiting us in our slumber.  Was it possible the spirit, the soul, of his pet bird visited him in his dream as well?

Do animals have souls?  There is some evidence this is the case.  In near-death experiences people who entered the “tunnel of light” recount how they met their dead relatives and cherished friends at the other side.  There are also stories of being greeted by their dead pets as well.  A beloved dead pet dog may emerge along with his loved ones at the end of the tunnel.  This suggests animals have a soul.

What does religion have to say about this?  Let us consider a couple of verses from the New Testament concerning sparrows.

Luke 12:6,  “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.”

Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”

These verses suggest that the Creator of the universe will not forget a single sparrow.  If the memory of the Creator is eternal, then so is the essence of his memory.  What is the nature of an animal’s soul?  Do they have an animal heaven?  We don’t know.  But I think we can take comfort in believing that even the most humble pet, like a parakeet, endures beyond this physical world.

Strange Knocks and Raps: The Knocker Spirit

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Recently as I prepared for the night, and I lay down in bed, I heard a loud “SNAP”.   What the heck was that?  It sounded like some electrical circuit had exploded.  I don’t believe a surge suppressor makes a snapping sound as far as I know, but maybe so.  Therefore I was attentive, listening for another snap.

Nothing.  Except a minute later I heard a knock on the bookcase by my bed.  Ok…what was that?  I continued to listen intently and soon I heard a rap elsewhere in the room.  In the next 10 minutes I heard about a dozen strange sounds, knocks and raps.  If this were a house, I’d say the creaks were the home settling down.  Or the heating ducts could be banging or rattling.

However I live in a high-rise building and if the building itself were “settling” we have a serious structural problem.  There are always sounds outside my unit, but these sounds were from inside my room.  This was not a maintenance man banging on pipes. The “snap” was following by a number of knocks.

Normally nobody pays attention to odd sounds.  But I paid attention.  I have a term for these strange knocks.  I call it the Knockergeist.  A Knockergeist is an unexplained knock.  Most likely there is a natural explanation for this.  Or perhaps an unnatural explanation.  Until such strange knocks are understood, they are simply the Knockergeist.

I created the term Knockergeist as a combination of the knocker spirit of folklore and the poltergeist.  The Knocker was part of the miner folklore.  They’d hear knocks in the mines and thought spirits were creating the sounds either as an omen of doom, or as a warning to flee.  The rational explanation was that when a mine was about to collapse, there were creaking sounds preceding the disaster.  Yet belief in the knocker spirit was widely held in the past.

A poltergeist is said to move things.  The knocker spirit, or Knockergeist, only raps on furniture or walls.  Nothing is moved.  Assuming such an unnatural thing actually exists, what is it trying to do?  It is trying sending a message like the mine warnings of old?  When we hear these knocks, is it an omen of doom or a warning to pay attention to something ahead?

I honestly don’t know what to make of this incident.  I’ve not heard knocks since then.  It is easy enough to dismiss this as an odd anomaly and nothing worth pondering.  Perhaps the Knockergeist visits many homes but nobody simply notices.  However I will continue to listen.

Faces Of Spirits In The Darkness

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faces of spirits in the darkness

Recently I had a strange experience.  I’ve been ill recently.   As I lay in bed with my eyes closed, but still awake, I saw the partial faces of people.  They were dark, and for example one face showed only the bridge of his forehead, eyes and nose.  It watched me and then passed away to be followed by another different face.

I assume in my illness I was hallucinating.  Yet, perhaps in illness we are capable of recognizing the face of spirits in darkness.  Consider it like the experience of shaman who makes contact with the spirit thru altered states of consciousness thru trails and tribulations.

My illustration above resembles in an incomplete way what I saw.  The actual faces were realer in a very bizarre way.  Were they friendly or sinister?  What was their purpose?  Perhaps they always hover in the darkness, in the background invisible, and we never recognize them until we do…and then they notice us!

Testing the Spirits: A True Story

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A member of a Pentecostal church told me this true story about one of their members, Margaret.  It concerns testing spirits.  Margaret is an elderly lady who had a terrible tragedy befall her in the past.  Her adult son was shot to death in what was assumed to be a gang related act.  Most say Margaret’s son was not involved in gangs and was only a bystander, perhaps the victim of mistaken identity.  Nobody can say what happened as the shooter was never found and the crime was never solved.

There is no grief that is felt as deeply or profoundly as when a parent has to bury their child.  We all experience the pain of seeing our parents pass away, but we accept it as the natural order of life.  But for a parent to outlive their child is very difficult indeed.  A parent is often never the same afterwards and the grief may never truly leave even with the passing of time.

Margaret felt this terrible grieving.  Then not long afterwards something peculiar began to happen.  She began getting visits from her dead son.  She would lie in her bed when her son would appear at the side of her bed.  Her son simply looked at her but never spoke a word.  Or Margaret would be sitting in her chair reading when her son would appear.  He would remain for a few minutes and then leave, again always silent.  Margaret did not feel disturbed or frightened by these visitations, but was comforted.

This was not a nightly occurrence but happened a couple times a week.  Margaret eventually told a few members of her congregation about this.  They thought, out of grief, she was imagining things.  Yet, they suggested she test this spirit visiting her to see if it was from God or something pretending to be her son.  They quoted 1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”  They believed one tests a spirit by having it acknowledge Jesus as God.

Margaret was hesitant at first to do this since it might put at risk these visitations that comforted her.  However she finally did this test.  When her son appeared to her, she asked him to acknowledge Jesus.  Her son remained silent as he always had.  Thereafter the spirit of her son never visited her again, not once.  It appeared whatever had visited her was banished.  The spirit test worked.

What to make of this story?

The most rational explanation was Margaret’s “visitations” were all psychological and in her grief she was visualizing her son.  By biblically testing her visualization she was able to move beyond her grief and finally put her son to rest in her mind.

Then again perhaps a genuine spirit was visiting Margaret.  It might have been a trickster spirit pretending to be her son, impersonating him.  A dark spirit may have sought to take advantage of her at the time of her vulnerability.  By testing the trickster spirit she effectively exorcised it, banishing it to whence it came.  This seems to be the biblical rational behind “testing spirits”.

There is a third intriguing possibility.  Her son’s actual ghost may have visited Margaret.  To my ears this sounds like a haunting.  Her son died a sudden violent death and his murder was never solved.  Those who suffer tragic deaths may become stuck, unable to leave this world behind.  They may not realize they are dead, wandering in a somnambulate state unable to free themselves.  Or a ghost may have an unresolved purpose preventing it from leaving the physical world.  Perhaps her son was so attached to his mother that he refused to leave her.  Then again the son’s restlessness may have been motivated by the unsolved nature of his death and he sought resolution.

If this were the situation, the effect of the spirit testing would be to open the eyes of the dead.  In stories of near-death experiences it is told that a tunnel of light hovers above but is not immediately visible.  The first stage of death is the out-of-body experience where the soul remains in contact with the physical world.  Then the tunnel of light beckons them and they are brought into contact with the world beyond.  All a trapped soul needs to do look and enter this tunnel of light to be freed.  By “testing their spirit” we awaken a ghost from their slumber so they can be aware of the light and move on.

Margaret was said to miss seeing her son after he stopped visiting her.  But this was for the best.  Her son really needed to move on.  In time she will pass away herself (as we all will one day) and her son will be waiting for her in the tunnel of light.

Why fireworks scare evil spirits


I love fireworks.  A fireworks display brings me joy, what a wondrous thing to watch.  It reminds me of a man-made thunderstorm, and I love lightning storms too.  They are tools for celebration, from America’s 4th of July holiday to the Chinese New Year. 

Yet, fireworks had a different purpose with their origin in China.  One traditional use for fireworks was to scare away evil spirits.  That is one of the symbolic meanings of the firecracker, to chase away evil at the New Year.  I can understand the concept. Firecrackers would certainly scare animals away.  Throw a pack of firecrackers at a menacing carnivore, and it will run.  It seems logical firecrackers would also terrify evil spirits.

The problem is the idea assumes evil spirits are like stupid animals.  Why would incorporeal spirits be afraid of loud noises and flashes of light?  It would be imposing our concept of how the natural world reacts on the spirit world.  A reverse from what we normally assume as the divine influencing the material, here we have the physical moving the spiritual.  “As below, so it is above”?  Would a ghost be afraid of pyrotechnics, or would they enjoy watching the display along with the living?

Black Cat Firecrackers

Black Cat Firecrackers

In occult thought, there is actually merit with the idea many spirits are similar to animals.  Shaman had their animal totems, and what is a familiar spirit but a spirit in animal form.  Demons are portrayed as part animal, part human, with claws and wings…as a chimera.  In the old grimoires exist hierarches of infernal spirits, with their kings and dukes ruling over trillions of lesser spirits.  Yes…trillions, if we add up the math in the grimoires. The grimoires seemed to believe the spiritual world mirrored the material world.

Maybe there are many types of astral flora and fauna.  If the natural world has so many forms of life, why not the astral world?  The danger with these astral forms is if a human contacts them. And assumes astral wildlife are equal with humanity.  Imagine channeling a lesser, animalistic astral entity.  A good reason to avoiding channeling with just anything out there. With this idea we can see why firecrackers just might scare away lowly negative spirits. 

Notice the artwork on a pack of Black Cat Firecrackers.  The black cat is a symbol of the classic witch’s spirit familiar.  And the black cat is symbolic of bad luck.  The use of this imagery seems to be quite a coincidence.  Since the firecracker is imagined as the traditional tool to scare away evil, is the symbolism intentional by the makers of the Black Cat product?  From their website they understand their mythology, and they say in China a black cat symbolizes good luck instead. Black Cat Fireworks History

Fireworks would not have any effect on spirits at the human level.  If anything, pyrotechnics would attract the attention of the spirits of humanity and higher.  If we enjoy fireworks, so would entitles that are at our level of consciousness.  There is a Chinese tradition that firecrackers scare away evil, but do not scare good spirits.

A final thought.  We assume the spirit world is always superior to lowly humanity.  We underestimate ourselves.  All humanity, we are truly powerful spiritual beings, created in the image of God.  We are barely below the angels.  We just don’t realize it.  We are so far above the “evil spirits”; we don’t need firecrackers to scare them away.  We MAKE the firecrackers!

Below is a video I took of the fireworks grand finale in Chicago a few years ago.   Have a great 4th of July everyone!