A couple of days ago, not long after breakfast, my oldest daughter, who is 8, was coming upstairs to ask me a question when I heard her give a little shriek of surprise. In my house, kids are shrieking and screaming and laughing all the time, so I didn’t think twice about it. But then she came up, all a-twitter, and told me she’d seen an apparition behind her on the stairs.
She’d had the feeling someone was behind her, following her — we all know that feeling — and she’d turned suddenly to look. It was about the same height as her, but utterly black, and just a step behind her. It had no face, she said; just a round black featureless head. It immediately disappeared.
It couldn’t have been a physical shadow. At that point on the stairs, light is coming up from the window in the front door. She was looking down towards the light source. Whatever she saw, it wasn’t “real”.
A few years ago, I would have dismissed this as another product of my daughter’s active imagination. It might have been that. But in light of what I’ve learned about fairies, spirits, and so forth, I have to wonder.
- It was a ghost, demon, or other malevolent spirit. This is what first popped into my head. But I never heard of a malevolent spirit following people around in the middle of a bright sunny morning. There’s just too much positive energy around… Besides, my daughter was suprised but not afraid.
- It could be a benevolent spirit of some sort. But why, then, was it completely black and featureless?
- My wife suggested it might have been my daughter’s astral body — not what is usually called the “astral body” these days, i.e. your spirit form if you detach yourself from your physical body and go astrally travelling, but what Rudolf Steiner calls the “astral body”. This is one of several “bodies” which together comprise your complete self. The astral body, according to Steiner, begins to integrate fully with the self at around eight or nine years of age. A reasonably good overview of Steiner’s ideas can be found here; the gist is that the astral body is in charge of passions and desires. (While naturally small children have passions and desires as well, it is not until the age of eight or nine that these passions begin to really integrate with the rest of the personality, thus giving a person some measure of control over them.) If there is any truth to this, then perhaps my daughter saw her own astral body next to her own. Of course, Steiner describes the astral body as a “delicate cloud of light”, which doesn’t match my daughter’s description.
- Yesterday I did a meditation on this topic, and spoke with my anima about it. She said it was my daughter’s Shadow, in Jungian terminology. This would be the part of my daughter’s psyche that is repressed, or unacknowledged.
It is certainly the case that in the past few months, my daughter has begun to exercise a lot more conscious control over her passions. She has gone so far as to deliberately delay gratification, refuse certain treats on the grounds that it wasn’t good for her, direct her own attention away from tempting activities towards those she knows she should be doing, etc. These facts square with both the “astral body” interpretation and the “shadow” interpretation.
Maybe my anima’s right, I don’t know. It’s dashed mysterious. It’s not a problem of any sort — unless it starts turning up frequently. But I’m curious. Does anyone out there have any other ideas?