Tonight, my special guest is Dr. Caron Goode who has written a book to help parents deal with children that see spirits. Get the book.
The existence of ghosts is a huge controversy in today’s society. Some believe that there
is no way that a spirit can make itself appear in front of a person, and some believe that spirits show up on a regular basis in people’s lives. There is a lot of evidence that has been gathered over the years, mostly personal accounts, that continues to prove the existence of ghosts. Some kinds of evidence that prove ghosts exist are photographs, personal experiences, and new scientific evidence.
A spiritual experience or encounter can be an intense and impactful moment in a child’s life, often shaping their beliefs long into adulthood. They may manifest as an occasional yet pivotal event or as a more regular occurrence embedded in the routine of daily life. Examples include an intense dream believed to bring a divine communication; a sighting of a deceased loved one; a meeting with a divine being; a constant companion unseen by others usually known as an ‘imaginary friend’; a guardian angel who sits beside a child’s bed each night to protect them whilst they sleep; or, for a small minority, a near-death experience (Adams 2010; see also Rankin 2008 for a more extensive list oriented towards adults’ experiences).
All of the aforementioned children’s experiences are represented in various, sometimes disparate, literatures including the academic (e.g. Coles 1990; Robinson 1996; Hoffman 1992; Hart 2003; Scott 2004; Hay and Nye 2006; Adams, Hyde, and Woolley 2008; Potgieter, van der Walt, and Wolhuter 2009; Pettersen 2015; Lovelock and Adams 2017) and the commercial/Mind Body Spirit genres (e.g. Newcomb 2008). Some experiences take the form of systematic studies whilst others appear as illustrative narratives in wider discourses on children’s spirituality; some are focussed on one type of experience such as dreams (e.g. Potgieter, van der Walt, and Wolhuter 2009); others are adult recollections (e.g. Hoffman 1992; Scott 2004); whilst some studies engage directly with children about a range of experiences (e.g. Coles 1990). However, despite their different approaches, collectively they offer significant insights into children’s experiences and in so doing, provide a doorway into exploring how tradition(s) and culture(s) shape and influence both the encounter itself and adults and children’s interpretation of it.
This paper presents an original contribution to the field by exploring the relationship between children’s spiritual experiences and traditions through the lens of space – the spiritual spaces which the children and traditions occupy and the fluidity of those spaces. Using the metaphors of trees enveloped in different shades of light, the paper argues that a child can inhabit various spaces along a continuum, from vivid spaces which afford certainty and confidence through to an invisible space, undetectable to others, which may effectively erase the experience from existence.
The children’s journeys through these spaces are explored through the influences of three key elements which can serve as navigation tools to understand their positioning within a space:
The nature of the children’s spiritual experience and the relationship with traditions;
The influence of multidisciplinary approaches on understanding experiences and shaping spaces;
The children’s perceptions of their experiences.
As the paper works through these elements to illustrate the nature of the different spaces and their complexities, conflicts and tensions, each is exemplified by empirical evidence from various studies. This process of exemplification affords children their spiritual voice(s) – voices which often go unheard. The metaphors for these spaces are interwoven throughout these sections to illustrate how children may move in-between them. This is undertaken with the overarching aim of offering an original and accessible framework within which to better understand how children might find themselves positioned in the world of spiritual experiences. This framework may be useful for a range of academics and practitioners in the field, including those in education, social work, chaplaincy, arts and psychology. Read more
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