You are here

What’s the difference between a spirit, a ghost and an angel?

by Bob Olson,, &

A “spirit” is just another way of saying a “person who is in spiritual form” versus physical form. Said another way, a spirit is a person who is a spiritual being as opposed to a human being. You and I are spiritual beings having a physical (human) experience, that is, spirits inhabiting a physical (human) body. We are spirits by nature, so our spiritual essence is eternal while our physical, human bodies are temporary. When our spirit leaves our body, our bodies cease to survive, but our consciousness continues.

When we refer to spirits in reference to a psychic medium reading (spirit communication), we are generally referring to the spirit of a deceased loved one. So when a psychic medium says that your mother’s spirit is present, he means that the consciousness and eternal essence of your mother is near. In this case, the psychic medium can hear, see or feel the spirit of your mother (possibly all three). For all practical purposes, the psychic medium is communicating with your mother, except that your mother is without a physical body—she’s in spirit.

The word “ghost” is used in so many different ways by different people that there is a lot of confusion about its meaning. Let’s clear some of this misunderstanding up.

Some people use the word ghost synonymously with the word spirit; that is, they use both words interchangeably. This was true in the television show Ghost Whisperer, which was a program about a psychic medium who communicated with spirits. So the show’s title merely referred to spirits as ghosts.

James Van Praagh, a famous psychic medium who was co-executive producer of Ghost Whisperer, wrote a wonderful book titled Ghosts Among Us. In this book, Van Praagh also referred to spirits as ghosts, which I assume he did to be in agreement with the TV show or because of the recent public interest in ghosts.

I can only speculate that the TV show producers and book publishing executives in the above cases used the word “ghost” instead of “spirit” in their titles for marketing reasons. There had been a lot of success with television shows and books around that time that used the word ghost, so it probably seemed like a savvy marketing choice. But there’s no question in my mind that these terms “spirit” and “ghost” confuse many people.

As a result of my own afterlife investigation, I’m in agreement with James Van Praagh. While I don’t personally use the word ghost in place of the word spirit, I see no difference between the two. It is my contention that people who are seeing ghosts are merely seeing spirits and getting scared by them because of their beliefs and expectations that ghosts are scary and possibly evil. Of course, it isn’t true, which I’ll discuss more in my answer to the next question.

There are other people, however, who consider ghosts and spirits as somewhat different entities. These people believe ghosts are earthbound spirits. So, in this way, a ghost would be a spirit who hasn’t gone into the light (the light of the spirit world). Hence, people of this belief think that ghosts are earthbound spirits because they are not yet in the spirit world. And if you believe in haunted houses in the traditional sense, it would be earthbound ghosts who are haunting them.

The word “angel” is as commonly misused as the word “ghost.” Once again, many people use the word synonymously with the word “spirit.” In fact, more searches are done on Internet search engines for angels than spirits and ghosts together, but I believe that many of these searches are seeking information on spirits—they’re just using the word angel. There are even people who call themselves angel messengers or angel communicators who are actually working as psychic mediums. So it’s no wonder that so many people are confused as to the true meaning of angels.

Historically, angels are a common spiritual figure of various religions that generally serve as a messenger or servant of God. From this point of view, most religions contend that angels are spiritually superior to spirits and, due to their status, never experience a physical life. Furthermore, in their service to God, angels assist human beings by guiding and even intervening with miracles when necessary. I have read in my research that they also assist spirits when needed, most commonly while a person in spirit is transitioning from their human life back to spirit life. While I’ve seen no evidence of it, who is to say whether it’s true or not. We’ll find out when we’re in the afterlife.

© Copyright 2011 Bob Olson,, All Rights Reserved

A former skeptic & private investigator, and the author of ANSWERS ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE: A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR'S 15-YEAR RESEARCH UNLOCKS THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE AFTER DEATH, Bob Olson has been an Afterlife Investigator & Psychic Medium Researcher since 1999. In his search for evidence of life after death, Bob has tested hundreds of psychics, mediums & other afterlife-related practitioners. Bob is the host of AFTERLIFE TV, founder of BEST PSYCHIC DIRECTORY and BEST PSYCHIC MEDIUMS, and offers his PSYCHIC MEDIUM WORKSHOP to help psychics and mediums improve their abilities and business. Visit Bob on AFTERLIFE TV's FACEBOOK page & on TWITTER.