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 Ghostly Encounters: Spirits, Memory, and the Holy Ghost M AY R A R I V E R A I pray . . . to be haunted by her slight ghost. gayatri chakravorty spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason And indeed He is the strangest of the Three Persons, the most estranged. For the Holy Ghost is nakedly a ghost. Father and Son may be masks compassionately adapted to our capacities, but Person is not persona and The Ghost is a ghost, no fiction. donald davie, ‘‘The Comforter’’ I confess that my interest in haunting has not always been theological. The trope, if not the sense, of being haunted has for me the distinct traces of writers such as Juan Rulfo, Gabriel Garcı́a Márquez, and Isabel Allende, to name just a few. Their ghostly narratives exemplify modes of witness in which the past is both ungraspable and unavoidable, haunting the imaginations of subjects who do not neutralize this ambiguity.1 I think, for instance, of Allende’s Of Love and Shadows—a story set during the days following the coup against Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973, which bears witness to the defeat of democratic accomplishments in Chile, to the systematic PAGE 118 ................. 17764$ $CH7 10-28-10 12:07:18 PS s p ir i t s, m e mo r y , a n d th e h ol y g hos t 兩 1 1 9 assassinations and disappearance of citizens. In the story, the protagonist, like the author, is haunted by the events narrated: by vanished hopes as well as vanished bodies.2 The memory of these images has something to do with the fact that now, many years later, I’m inspired by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s engagement with ghostly narratives and drawn back to the spirits—intrigued not so much by this or that particular ghost, as by the very structure of haunting and its theological reverberations. Haunted by the twentieth-century legacy of massive unjust deaths, contemporary culture is crowded with narratives of ghostly encounters. Vanished hopes and vanished bodies are invoked in literary pages and memorial stones, in fictional accounts and historical archives, as we try to envision a different, and seemingly impossible, future. As part of this effort to respond to the past, postcolonial studies—whose ‘‘post’’ marks not a simple departure from the colonial past but the space of questioning— explores the intervals in and between history and narration. This cultural practice entails not merely a different reading or appropriation of history but an investigation of the very dynamics of remembrance: the possibilities and limits of a relation to the past and the responsibilities bestowed by an encounter with its ghosts. One would expect Christian theology to be well equipped to encounter ghosts. Not only does Christianity proclaim the presence of a Galilean Jew, executed millennia ago, but it even names the agent of Christian traditioning the ‘‘Holy Ghost.’’3 However, spectrality is not what a Christian theologian consciously conjures up when speaking of the Holy Ghost. We cannot claim that mainline Christian theology has been particularly hospitable to the ungraspable and uncontrollable character of haunting. To the contrary, one is likely to be advised against the use of the term Holy Ghost, in order to avoid such spooky associations.4 Especially since the Reformation, theology has tried to exorcise the presumed lower spirits. In accord with the Reformation ’s ‘‘general devaluation of the numinous’’ and its banishing of intermediate beings expressed in the attack on and official rejection of the doctrine of purgatory, theology has eloquently claimed that its Holy Ghost is completely unlike other ghosts, of a different substance entirely.5 The Holy Ghost is now seen simply as the third person of a wholly divine trinity. In its most common depictions, where it appears as a coherent, timeless presence, the Holy Ghost seems to share nothing in common with those other spirits that haunt the writers I just mentioned. For those spirits, historical time matters, even as they represent the very disturbance of linear PAGE 119 ................. 17764$ $CH7 10-28-10 12:07:19 PS 120 兩 m a yr a r iv e r a progression. Although the Holy Ghost is depicted in respected theological sources as a figure of relationality6 —and thus could also be an image of temporal relationships—the power of memory has not figured prominently in theological descriptions of the spirit. This essay reimagines the Holy Ghost in its relation to memories of suppressed pasts as well...


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