Oates Institute

Spirituality and Fiction: The Spirituality of the Ghost Story


This seminar explores the idea of life after death, and how it has been imagined.

What are ghosts? What power do we give them?  What are their spiritual and psycho-social implications? To which aspects of our psyche do ghosts speak? What do they say about the specific culture and historic time out of which the individual story arose?

What about post mortem retribution, karma in ghost stories? Justice, or “just desserts” in ghost stories? Voudoun and magical thinking, what’s that about?

Course objectives:
In this course, we will explore the spiritual implications of ghost stories and paranormal literature.

Clearly, these tales reflect cultural and psycho-social ideas; but they also pose many serious spiritual and psychological questions for the thoughtful reader about life after death, redemption, justice, magical thinking, and other things.

Syllabus includes:
M R James, “Casting the Runes”
M R James, “Count Magnus”
E F Benson, “Caterpillars”
E.F. Benson, “Mrs. Amworth”
Jan Olandese, “The Lawn Jockey”
Jan Olandese, “Death Be Not Loud”
Jan Olandese, “Cafe Merde”

Facilitator Bio:  Jan (Waples) Olandese is a retired Episcopal priest, Board Certified Chaplain (ret), and author of Death Be Not Loud:  Ghosts, Haunts & Tall Tales for Restless Nights, a collection of tongue-in-cheek ghost stories. She just published her second collection, Rest in Fleece: Ghosts, Tall Tales, & Horror Stories. She writes for the art blog at jamesstanfordart.com and has written prefaces and introductions for art books. She also writes for her own blog and will share that with participants.

Jan has also coauthored book chapters and journal essays about spirituality and contemporary fiction (with William Kupersmith).  She holds a 5th Precept Certification in the Kwan Um School of Zen.

Jan obtained her M.Div. from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific at Berkeley and the University of Oxford/Ripon College-Cuddesdon, UK. She has an MA in History from UNLV. Jan is married and lives in Fernandina Beach, Florida.


You may participate in this seminar from wherever you are. All you need is your tablet or computer and access to the Internet. You may also participate according to your schedule. By spreading the discussion out over several weeks using a discussion forum, you may read others posts and submit your own to the conversation at times that are convenient to you.

This seminar will use the Oates Institute’s Connected Learning approach, which invites participants to reflect on their experience in light of the assigned readings and share the insights of that reflection with the group. This allows us to more fully engage with what the author and seminar facilitator share and we discover new insights about ourselves in light of our experience. Often we discover that we know more than we thought we did. Sharing our insights helps us go deeper and to also learn from one another’s experience. One of the exciting aspects of online seminars is that the participants are from so many other places providing us with the opportunities for learn from other regions and cultures.

Continuing Education Requirements:

As a participant in this online seminar you may earn 12 contact hours of continuing education credit by reading the resource and other presentations and participating in the discussion. Those seeking continuing education credits must contribute at least two posts per week to the discussion — one reflecting on the presentations or case studies in light of personal experience and context and a second responding to someone else’s reflection or inquiry. The evaluation form submitted at the end of the seminar serves as the CEU application. Following your submission of this form you will receive your CEU certificate.


As with all Oates Seminars, registration for this seminar is simple. Members may register for free by simply sending a quick email (from your desired email address) to registration@oates.org.  Non-members may participate with the payment of the non-member fee of $95. Be certain to include your seminar choice in “other instructions.” (Or you can send an email to registration@oates.org as well.)

You may also choose to BECOME A MEMBER! We welcome that choice as well.

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