Friday 17 May 2024

The spirit world, and what to do about it?

There is the physical or material world inhabited by incarnated mortal Beings (i.e. the only world acknowledged as real by the modern mainstream ideology). This contains a mixture of good and evil, some Beings on the side of God and divine creation; other Beings opposed to this - and all mortal Beings are some mixture of these motivations. The material world is subject to entropy - subject to change, decay, disease, degeneration, and death - the irrevocable dissolution of physical forms. 

Then there is the Divine World - "inhabited" by God, the ascended Jesus Christ/ The Holy Ghost. And also - since the work of Jesus Christ, the divine world is inhabited by the denizens of Heaven - resurrected Men (and, presumably, other Beings). It is a realm entirely of Good, that is to say that all is motivated by love. It is also an eternal realm, without entropy. 

But there is another realm: the underworld/ dream-world realm of spirit Beings

The spirit world

For ancients, this was the realm of dreams, the place where souls went after death (perhaps being reincarnated from there). 

A wide range of Beings have been supposed to inhabit this "psychic" realm: gods, angels, demons, nature spirits, chthonic monsters, ghosts, non-human sentient spirits of many kinds and degrees.

Like the physical realm the "underworld" is mixed; with Beings that contain both good and evil motives - and including Beings affiliated to the agenda of evil. 

However; this realm, like the physical realm, will also be "visited" by the wholly-good denizens of the Divine Realm.  

The spirit realm is like the physical world in being also subject to entropy - in that, although spirits do not "die" in the way that physical Beings die; they are subject to destructive change - to degeneration, disease, loss of self... 

The spirit world is a fact of life. It is "all around" us, always, and wherever we happen to be; and has influences. 

This means the spirit world is (like the physical world) differentiated, heterogeneous, varied by time and place.

Thus the spirit world (whether we are aware of it or not) will affect us - somewhat like geography, climate, seasons and weather affect us. At some times and/or some situations the spirit world will be benign and helpful, maybe enjoyable. 

But in other circumstances, the spirit world will be net hostile, fear- or misery-inducing perhaps, or having evil influences - therefore hostile in specific ways.  

The striking fact of modern life for Men - including most, not all, Christians - is that we have all-but lost any spontaneous consciousness of the spirit realm. We live "in" it, but unaware, typically denying its reality. 

It is as if we wandered from the Arctic to the Sahara, while unaware of the differences, and taking no account of them in our lives. 

This is part of our alienation: modern Man is cut-off from a multitude of relationships with the world. These relationships are potentially bad and good both, as with the physical world: but most importantly they are real and unavoidable. 

The consequence is that we "miss" the spiritual realm - and (even if unconsciously) we know that our experience and knowledge of reality is incomplete. We are, to that extent, maimed. 

Further: this situation is made worse by many Christians, who regard the spirit realm as nothing but a threat, a spiritual danger, the domain of demonic temptation - that must be avoided. They regard the underworld as at best inessential, at worst a constant threat. 

More moderately, but with the same result; Christians regard the spirit world as an "optional extra" for life; something that we do not need, and is therefore best avoided because of its spiritual hazards. 

This is one way in which mainstream, orthodox, traditional Christianity has not just failed to meet the challenge of modernity; but has indeed worsened the situation. 

But suppose that we do - as a matter of fact - both need the spirit world, just as we need the physical world; and anyway cannot avoid it - even when we want to? 

We may fence ourselves in - but we cannot fence the spirit world out. We can only make ourselves unaware of it, and explain away its effects. 

What then?

Well, in my judgment there are no really good models from the past, that work for this present among Western people, no good models concerning how we ought to regard and relate-to the spirit world.  

There are, of course, plenty of people who - even nowadays - are aware of the spirit world in some way - "clairvoyants" or "psychics" of many kinds. Maybe they have visions of spirits, converse with spirits; and seek-out such contacts. 

The problem is that these are mostly Not wise or knowledgeable people. They are often silly, or motivated badly. By my evaluations; their knowledge (apparently derived from contacts with spirits) is unreliable, and often incoherent nonsense, or rather blatant self-gratifying fantasy. 

They often seem to be seeking spirits to help them gain worldly gratifications (health, sex, power status - the usual stuff). 

Or, on the other side, they seem to be seeking to surrender to the world of spirits, to be overpowered and controlled by the spirits they encounter. Self-annihilation... Not good.  

At any rate, the "fruits" are often bad - in that a majority of those who are (or claim to be) in contact with the spirit world are (to me) unimpressive, and usually have taken the side of evil in the spiritual wars. But then again, so have most self-identified "Christians", and those of other religions! 

(There is no "safe" path to salvation and theosis that can be objectively described or externally imposed - and the greatest danger is for those who believe there is.)   

To me, "the Spiritual" are mostly unimpressive... and yet not always! 

While - like all mortal Men - mixed-Beings who are prone to errors and being misled; there have been some people (and in the "modern" era) such as William Blake, Rudolf Steiner, Dion Fortune, and Gareth Knight - who seem in important ways to have benefitted from their contact with the spirit realms. These I like, respect and admire. 

Nonetheless, we cannot assume that any of these people are themselves a model for other people differently constituted, and belonging to later generations, whose consciousness is different. Nor (whatever they may have claimed) can we assume that such past-exemplars were able to describe a general model by which other people can (or should) attain a positive relation with the spirit world. 

In particular; I am increasingly convinced that past attempts (and maybe successes) in positively affecting human society (e.g. nations, or relations between nations) are not possible here-and-now - due to the change in human consciousness. 

Those same changes that have made spontaneous spirit awareness so rare, have also enhanced the potential human spiritual autonomy and individual agency. Past human consciousness was social, pooled, in ways that is no longer the case. 

Our situation is different. What was effective and good then, is often feeble and harmful now.  

As so often nowadays, external influences are overwhelmingly likely to be bad; so we need to (and should) rely on our personal judgment and take spiritual responsibility for our choices. 

My own notions are as follows:

We should be aware that there is a spirit world of Beings, that it is real and important. 

And, on general principles in this era, we should strive to become aware of whatever is real; so, in some fashion, it is good to become conscious of the spirit world as it is affecting us "here-and-now"; and where possible be prepared to act on the implications of that effect. 

(Maybe avoiding situations in which the spirit world is exerting a malign influence - or continuing a life-path that seems to be sustained by that which is good in the spirit world.)  

What about developing personal relationships with specific spirit Beings? 

Well; many spirit Beings are benign; and some of these are likely to have a positive and personal interest in ourselves. 

For instance, there may be deceased and resurrected relatives or close friends whom we loved, or willing "spiritual mentors".  And such Beings may be in spiritual-proximity ("near") to us in the spirit world, and maybe be actively-desirous of aiding us in particular ways. 

My best guess is that such potential relationships with spirit Beings, are good and perhaps necessary. 

How to develop such relationships, while avoiding deceptions and temptations, and shallow or wishful thinking; is, in principle, a problem not different from the same question about our social relations among human beings in the physical realm. 

We cannot plan a good human-social life in the physical world - and rules or blueprints for good relationships are a misguided or malign attempt to subordinate the personal soul to inhuman materialistic-bureaucratic thought processes. Same for the spirit world. 

What is needed is realistic assumptions about the nature and purpose of life, then a secure rooting in personal intuition and responsibility - with a willingness to recognize and repent our errors.

Since, as Christians; we know that we inhabit a divine creation within-which we have a personal destiny; and that we are God's children capable of valid judgment, and that the guidance of the Holy Ghost is always available when required...

Knowing all this, and if our attitudes can also be grounded in such knowledge; there is every reason to suppose that we will be able to navigate the spirit realm in such a way as will benefit us spiritually - now and in the context of eternity.  


Laeth said...

"We cannot plan a good human-social life in the physical world - and rules or blueprints for good relationships are a misguided or malign attempt to subordinate the personal soul to inhuman materialistic-bureaucratic thought processes. Same for the spirit world."

as I read this I thought: this used to be, precisely, the business of religion. And it worked. How to relate to your wife, your lord, your priest, your bishop, your king, and all the other relationships. And then, obviously, to all the spirits - your ancestors, the faeries, the gods and devils, the nature spirits, the saints, and all the way up to the highest God.

Yet, it is so clear that you are right about the NOW: it cannot be planned, no rule is fool proof, no technique is safe or works all the time (or sometimes at all), no prayer delivers automatically, both for social and physical relations and for spiritual relations.

No wonder the traditionalists are so lost and fail to see obvious things so often, and instead of recognizing that these rules and techniques cannot be approached in the same way, they double down as far as I can see - becoming more 'technicist', almost paranoid about 'praying in the right way' or being 'the patriarchal leader of their household' and having 'a submissive wife' and so forth. And the two parts (social and spiritual) go hand in hand, it seems. It is all very strange.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Laeth - Yes, it's just as "Ahrimanic" (on a different theme) as the spiritually-dead and soul-destroying secular bureaucracies - and evil in the same way.

In the past (and more so the further back) all "system" was embedded in a spontaneous and natural "participation" - a pooling/ permeability of consciousness and an automatic awareness of the spiritual world.

Not so now, and that makes all the difference.

Jay said...

Another very interesting post I'll be saving to reread in the future. Lots of good things to think about here.