Ghost Stories

Recycling is the thing to do nowadays, and seeing as how I started this blog in October, I am going to recycle a post from my previous blog. So here it is:

Halloween approaches quickly, so why not a little editorializing about ghost stories? I, for one, enjoy a good ghost story, and I also think that ghost hunts and allegations of haunted houses are intriguing. Many people do, actually. There is a certain effect a ghost tale has to deliver small thrills and to capture the imagination. As a Christian, however, I don’t believe in ghosts (as such), so why should I find any kind of simple pleasure in fables about the returning or lingering spirits of the dead? It is in C. S. Lewis that I not only found my answer, but learned why it is, perhaps, that human beings are captivated or unnerved by ghost stories as a whole.

In his outstanding book Miracles, Lewis makes the following observations, acute if you ask me, that:

Almost the whole of Christian theology could perhaps be deduced from the two facts (a) That men make course jokes, and (b) That they feel the dead to be uncanny. The course joke proclaims that we have here an animal which finds its own animality either objectionable or funny. Unless there had been a quarrel between the spirit and the organism I do not see how this could be: it is the very mark of the two not being ‘at home’ together. But it is very difficult to imagine such a state of affairs as original—to suppose a creature which from the very first was half shocked and half tickled to death at the mere fact of being the creature it is. I do not perceive that dogs see anything funny about being dogs: I suspect that angels see nothing funny about being angels. Our feeling about the dead is equally odd. It is idle to say that we dislike corpses because we are afraid of ghosts. You might say with equal truth that we fear ghosts because we dislike corpses—for the ghost owes much of its horror to the associated ideas of pallor, decay, coffins, shrouds, and worms. In reality we hate the division which makes possible the conception of either corpse or ghost. Because the thing ought not to be divided, each of the halves into which it falls by division is detestable. The explanations which Naturalism gives both of bodily shame and of our feeling about the dead are not satisfactory. It refers us to primitive taboos and superstitions—as if these themselves were not obviously results of the thing to be explained. But once accept the Christian doctrine that man was originally a unity and that the present division is unnatural, and all the phenomena fall into place. (Emphasis added)

The above, I think, sheds much light on the subject indeed. But as a Christian I know that ghosts as such do not exist. And in fact, I must say that any real haunts, should they spring up, are demonic in nature and intended to deceive. And indeed I do say this. Does it therefore follow that I should not find enjoyment in a ghost story told around the campfire? I don’t think that is a necessary implication at all. Lewis goes on to say the following, which I find helpful:

You may hold both [course jokes and ghost stories] are bad. You may hold that both, though they result (like clothes) from the Fall, are (like clothes) the proper way to deal with the Fall once it has occurred: that while perfected and recreated Man will no longer experience that kind of laughter or that kind of shudder, yet here and now not to feel the horror and not to see the joke is to be less than human.


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