Answering children's questions about ghosts

Most children will understand that what we see and hear and feel may come from within as well as from external phenomena. They need this understanding to cope with their own experiences.

At some time, there will be an encounter with a child who reports having just seen a tiger at the end of the road, or somesuch. There are three possibilities:

(1) there really was a tiger in the neighbourhood, unlikely in the neighbourhoods of most on this list, but not totally impossible.

(2) the experience was the combination of some real event, not a tiger, and an overwrought imagination.

(3) they were lying.

This seems to me a good basis for talking about ghosts. Is (1), for these apparitions, a possibility?

Not just external phenomena, but what is inside of us, is mysterious. If anything, our inner world is the more mysterious place. It is capable of the most remarkable creations - the source both of artistic and scientific creativity and of delusion, hallucination and madness. What is even more remarkable are well-documented experiences of mass hallucination. We need to understand this, and our children (who I think know it when they are young) should not be allowed to forget this fact.

There may come a time in our experience when understanding such matters is crucial to our survival as functioning humans. The film "A Brilliant Mind" is etched in my memory. Nash found the resources to function, in spite of his delusionary experiences, because he finally found a way to identify the creatures who appeared in those experiences as actors who were the creation of his own internal mental processing. For one thing, they did not age as was the case with normal humans. Part of the brilliance of the film is that it carries its audience some part of the way with Nash in the early stages of his delusionary experience. There is, here, the basis for some pretty interesting discussion with the younger members of our communities.

John Maindonald Canberra, Australia.

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