What Are Spirits?
Most people rely upon the dictates of their society to know what to do – what they’ve been taught by their parents, teachers, pastors, bosses, advertisers, and the media. Magicians, by contrast, rely upon the counsel of spirits, at least until they’ve got their own intuition and intent operating.
In truth, I don’t know what spirits are; and this is said after twenty years of intimate acquaintance with them. The problem is that we humans tend to impose features of the known upon the unknown. We want to make the unknown familiar and comfortable to deal with. Therefore, we naturally tend to regard spirits in terms that are already familiar to us.
We can’t be wholly objective about them. What I will describe here is my own view of what spirits are, based upon my own interactions with them.
Materialistic science says that spirits don’t exist; but this doesn’t mean that spirits don’t exist. My materialist friends, who reject the existence of spirits, do usually credit my integrity. They don’t question my belief that spirits are communicating with me, but they think that I’m mistaken in my interpretation that the spirits are outside of me rather than parts of my own psyche. However, I do make a distinction between my own thought forms such as inner child, lower self, anima and animus on the one hand; and spirits on the other.
I really don’t know what spirits are, or whether they are inside or outside of us. I do know that every religion and culture in the world except materialistic science is based upon spirit communication.
Christians, for example, often forget that their religion is spiritualistic. Jesus is a spirit; the Virgin Mary is a spirit; and of course the Holy Spirit, needless to say, is a spirit.
When Christians say: “Jesus talks to me and guides me, ” that’s what magicians call channeling. Christians and magicians use different spirits, but the technical basis – communication between spirits and people – is the same in all religions.
Have you ever noticed how rituals in many different religions have basically the same accoutrements? They all tend to take place in darkened rooms with candles and incense smoke, with monotonous chanting or litanies repeated over and over. The reason for this is because spirits themselves like such things: darkness, smoke, repetitive incantations.
Originally, and still today in traditional religions, the purpose of religious ritual was to make contact with the spirit world. Participants enter a light trance state to make them more accessible to spirit messages. Religious rituals originally were magical acts. In the Roman Catholic mass, for example, bread and wine are magically transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.
Recent converts to any religion often experience a high, a state of grace, which usually doesn’t last very long. These epiphanies are gifts of spirits who have the capacity to temporarily lower people’s sense of self-importance and self-pity, which in turn opens their hearts.
This often happens when people are at the end of their rope with nowhere to turn. It’s often at such times of complete desperation that they open to the Spirit and allow grace to descend upon them. This state of grace is channeled through spirit intermediaries such as Jesus, Krishna, or Buddha. This grace is usually temporary because the people still have inner work to do in order to embody the state of grace permanently in their everyday lives.
Spirits can temporarily bestow grace to people who are open to it – usually because they’ve exhausted their own resources. But it’s not the spirits’ job to carry emotional cripples on their backs forever.
Spirits can reveal a temporary glimpse of open-heartedness to animate people to seek such spiritual goals on their own. Having been given a model of what to strive for, it becomes the responsibility of the individual to continue the work begun by the spirits.
Everyone is receiving messages from spirits, both angelic and demonic ones, all the time. However in our society “hearing voices in my head which tell me what to do” means that you’re crazy. Therefore nobody takes a close look at where his or her thoughts are really coming from.
Even people who aren’t consciously aware of receiving messages from spirits nonetheless know that they experience hunches, inspirations, or dream messages that guide them in making decisions. Spirits are the source of these communications.
Moreover, lots of people are possessed by spirits – both angelic and demonic ones, but in our society mostly the latter – whether they know it or not. Spirit possession is not a bad thing when the spirits involved are benevolent, like Jesus, Krishna, or Buddha.
This possession occurs when people invite a spirit to take possession of them. When Christians “make the decision for Jesus” or “invite Jesus to come live inside” them, or Buddhists “take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha”, they are inviting spirits to take possession of their souls. Possession by a good spirit fortifies people’s faith and dedication to the spiritual path. It gives people backbone, something to rely upon in times of doubt.
However in our society demon possession is much more common than is possession by a benevolent spirit. It’s easiest to see that someone is demon-possessed when they get old, since by that time the demons have eaten up most of the people’s souls and left uptight, angry or depressed, self-pitying, burned-out hulks in their stead.
Life is a bitch, no question about it.
However it tends to mellow out people who are not demon-possessed. Demon-possessed people, on the other hand, tend to get worse and worse the older they get. When people are still young, there’s usually enough of the original person left there so that you can’t see the demons as readily. As the people get older, however, the demons eat up more and more of their souls and their joy.
If, as people age, they get lighter and more joyous, then they’re not demon-possessed. On the other hand if they get more uptight, nastier, depressed, or more self-pitying as they age, then they probably are demon-possessed. This is why it’s so hard to deal with those old people – you’re not dealing with the person anymore, just with a demon.
People call demons in to possess them when they feel especially vulnerable and in need of drastic protection. For example, a baby may call in demons at birth to protect against abusive parents. Demons can be called in at any stage in life, usually unconsciously, to alleviate pain or sorrow by providing a protective shell of hardheartedness or self-pity. Luckily, it’s not that hard to cast out demons. The hard part for demon-possessed people is wanting to cast them out in the first place. We’ll discuss this subject in depth in a later article.
When we channel spirits we usually receive the information as thoughts or feelings. This is because thoughts and feelings are all we know. We don’t know how to process information in any other fashion. Therefore, we interpret the communications we receive from spirits in terms of thoughts or feelings.
However, that is not how the spirits themselves view this communication. Spirits see it as a mingling or bending of light fibers – an interaction within the aura, or shell of luminosity, which surrounds every being. In other words, spirits’ cognition is very different from humans’ normal, socially-conditioned mode of cognition. For example, spirits see time in terms of potentialities rather than concrete events.
Moreover it is undoubtedly anthropomorphic to believe that spirits have sex (male or female) and personalities (jolly, somber, laid-back, strict, etc.). However, that is how they appear to most people.
My own spirit guides are rather indulgent and soft, probably because I am indulgent and soft and get riled unless I am indulged and treated softly. On the other hand Mescalito, the spirit of the psychedelic peyote cactus, is cold, hard, and detached. I find him terrifying, in fact, although I still go to him on occasion. Mescalito doesn’t indulge anybody.
In other words, spirits have different personalities, just as people do. They are not amorphous energies or something of the sort. Possibly it is a feature of human cognition that we humans apprehend spirits as having sex and personality, rather than that sex and personality are properties innate to the spirits themselves.
This is similar to Carlos Castaneda’s conundrum about psychic apprehension, what he termed seeing, being so visual, when it had nothing to do with vision whatsoever – whether his eyes were open or closed. But to him it seemed visual. His teacher Don Juan’s explanation of this was that we humans come to magic as adults, with our perceptual biases already formed.
Therefore when we learn a new form of cognition we tend to try to fit it into a familiar mold. Similarly, we tend to experience spirits’ communications as thoughts or feelings, since these are our usual forms of communication. We relate to spirits’ personalities because we are accustomed to relating to others through their personalities.
In actuality spirits are not as individuated / separated as we humans fancy ourselves to be. For example, my efforts to get Mayan priests to explain exactly who’s who in the Mayan pantheon have always failed because it’s not that simple – the various deities overlap or join together: they’re not separate entities per se.
On several occasions during ceremonies I have felt the presence of the Mayan earth divinity Tzul Taka, Mountain-Valley, as a male being. The priests have told me that this is my interpretation because I am a male, that Tzul Taka is neither male nor female, nor is even a single entity but is a union of entities, or a link between the Heart of the Earth and Heart of the Heaven. In other words, to the Mayans the divinities are ineffable, or at least can’t be pinned down or defined by mental constructs.
The easiest spirits to communicate with are your own spirit guides – what some people term “angels”. More detailed information on what spirit guides are and how you can contact them is given in the Channeling Spirit Guides article which can be downloaded for free from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MagicalAlmanac/files.
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