What are Spirits?
Author: Bob Makransky
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.
If you are serious about becoming a magician, then this is where you should start. It’s actually quite easy to learn to channel (easiest during lunar planetary hours). The chief function of spirit guides is to act like cornermen in a boxing match.
When you’re completely exhausted and life has really knocked you for a loop, they’re there to say: “You can do it! You’re doing great! Just get back in there and go another round!”
How spirit guides teach depends on the person they are teaching. Sometimes they hand out information for free, particularly when they spot an opportunity that must be grasped at once. Because they see things with such clarity, guides can give detailed explanations of everything you might want to know about your life and relationships.
Generally spirit guides are there to encourage people to figure things out and take responsibility for themselves. In my own case my guides use a lot of trickery, encouraging me to make an ass of myself, since this seems to be the only way I really learn anything (lose expectations).
Different spirits communicate in different ways. For example, my own spirit guides talk to me via automatic writing, in words in my head. It’s just like having a conversation with another person, except that it’s written rather than spoken. I can only hear my spirit guides talking to me directly when they’re yelling at me for having screwed up somehow.
My wife, who is much more psychic than I am, is able to hear them talking to her directly when she channels them. Another friend of mine, who is even more psychic than my wife, is able to hear them conversing amongst themselves.
I am a priest of the nine Mayan gods. When they have a message for me, they normally communicate with me in words in my mind, as my spirit guides do. But sometimes not; sometimes I just “know” what I’m to do; other times I just feel their mood (especially when they’re happy).
However, when the message is for someone else – for me to give to another person, or for me about another person – then they usually show it to me indirectly, by means of omens.
Omens are odd, unusual occurrences that have a symbolic meaning. My benefactress, the person who gave me the Mayan priesthood, has dreams in which the nine Mayan gods appear. She has told me that they appear to her as longhaired hippies. The only time one of the Mayan gods ever came to me in a dream he was wearing a three-piece suit.
However, Mescalito, the spirit of the peyote cactus, interacts with me on a much deeper level than my spirit guides or the Mayan gods do. I just know what Mescalito is communicating to me, even though there’s nothing verbal about it. Somehow or other it comes from what I take to be a very, very deep level.
The one time the Virgin Mary appeared to me I only felt her presence. I didn’t get a visual, nor did she speak. I had been looking for land to buy in a remote Mayan village, and as I walked around the village I was getting a lot of suspicion and bad vibes from the locals.
My spirit guides suggested that I go to the marketplace and buy a candle, and light it in the village church before the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I was to ask her to make a place for myself amongst these people.
When I did so I suddenly felt myself transported into the presence of a young woman – perhaps 20 years old at the most. This being was totally loving and compassionate, and she filled me with a sense of complete acceptance, nurturance, and joy.
Ever since that day I’ve prayed to her every morning to help me open my heart, even though I’m nominally Jewish. I was taught to reject Jesus, that that would be the ultimate betrayal of my roots, but nothing was ever said about the Virgin Mary.
On various occasions religious statues in churches and temples have come to life momentarily before my eyes. Indeed, that is precisely what religious images are designed to do. If you are interested in communicating with spirits, praying to statues or images representative of the spirits of your religion can be a fruitful place to begin.
There are also nature spirits, such as mountain spirits, cave spirits, water spirits, tree spirits, and so forth. These spirits can be the most helpful of all to budding magicians. Where spirit guides guide, nature spirits can actually transform us. This is the crux of the spiritual path, the difference between momentary inspiration and real, permanent change.
It has been said – for example by Buddhists and by Castaneda’s teacher Don Juan – that real transformation, true spiritual growth, is impossible without the help of a living, enlightened guru. This is true, but it’s not true.
Near-death experiences can do this for us in sudden fashion; and nature spirits can also do it for us in a slower, more relaxed manner. Nature spirits can actually get in there and work on us on our deepest, light fiber level, gently dissolving our lower selves and liberating our true feelings.
Nature spirits, particularly cave and mountain spirits, often have powerful personalities. They should be approached with the greatest respect. Although every cave and mountain has a spirit, not all of these spirits are useful to humans. Sometimes such nature spirits are indifferent. At other times they are inimical to humans.
For example, the San Pedro volcano on Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan has happy, loving vibes. The town of San Pedro just beneath it is a light, happy place. But the next volcano over, Atitlan, is cold and hard and forbidding. The town of Santiago, which lies beneath it, is kind of an uptight place – famous for its black magicians and sorcery, and the scene of several massacres during and after the recent guerrilla war.
In order to make use of water spirits, it is first necessary to find them. This is not that hard to do. In an arid or semi-arid area, any water hole or spring will house a water spirit. Ponds, lakes, and oceans in their entirety can be considered to house one large spirit.
Along rivers and streams you frequently find water spirits residing at spots where there are deep pools, waterfalls, rapids, or at bends in the river where there is a change in the vegetation or rock formations.
Water spirits also reside at spots that are particularly lovely, different, attention-getting in some way or other. You find them by feel. Water spirits are used for washing off our self-importance: bad moods, self-pity, and negative vibes that other people lay on us.
Rock spirits are found in a similar way: by the feel of the way they look. The vortices around Sedona, AZ are a good example. Rock spirits can stabilize you and give you strength. This is good for athletes training for a contest or soldiers going to battle. Rock spirits also give fortitude – good for women who are weak in pregnancy. They also buttress your discipline, staying power, tenacity, and self-confidence. It’s good to go to rock spirits when you need to be bolstered somehow; whereas water spirits are most useful when there’s something you need to wash off.
You should feel an attraction to the place where a nature spirit resides. If you don’t feel an attraction for the place, don’t use it, no matter how extraordinary it may look. It’s not that going to the wrong spirit will hurt you, although there are evil spirits out there. It’s just that if you don’t have an affinity with the spirit – feel a definite attraction or good feeling about the place – then it wouldn’t be able to help you much. A doctor may be an excellent practitioner, but if he doesn’t have an affinity with the patient then there’s not much he can do for him. The same is true of spirits.
The physical appearance of the spot where a nature spirit abides is a useful check, but it shouldn’t be allowed to be the only criteria. Just because a place looks gloomy or frightens us a little doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it. Powerful spirits are always a bit frightening. They command respect, and will righteously punish disrespect. They can actually knock us around if we approach them in a casual or offhand way.
A good friend of mine, a magician, was once climbing a spirit mountain with his baby daughter in his arms. Evidently the mountain spirit felt that his mood was disrespectful, since near the top there was a sudden clap of thunder out of a blue sky.
My friend understood at once that he had blown it. He lost his footing and tumbled down. Since he was trying to protect the baby he couldn’t protect himself, and he broke his collarbone in three places. Since then he hasn’t been able to windsurf; and formerly he was the windsurfing champion of Central America.
The point isn’t that we must be in dour, super-serious moods to visit power places and nature spirits. Rather, we must approach them with respect. That’s all.
When you have found a likely nature spirit, i.e. when you feel that you’re in the right place, approach the spirit by making an obeisance. Approach it as you would a wise old person whom you are asking to help you. You can take it a little present, such as flowers or some object meaningful to you.
Try to feel the personality of that spirit, sense its energy. Is it an active, dominating male presence or a receptive, soothing female presence? Does it seem to be young and vigorous or old and placid?
Some of the feeling is usually reflected in the physical appearance of the place. The spirit will tell you what to do there. Whatever it is that you feel you should do, go for it.
Pay close attention to all your thoughts and feelings when you are in the presence of a spirit. In the beginning it’s difficult to tell which are our thoughts and feelings, and which are the spirit talking to us.
After a bit of practice it’s not hard to tell which is which. If you are in a relaxed, open state of mind in the presence of a nature spirit, then probably any thoughts or feelings you have are communications from the spirit. You would probably have regarded them as your own thoughts and feelings unless this fact was to be pointed out to you at the moment.
However, it doesn’t really matter if you can consciously channel the spirit talking to you or not. This is actually a sidetrack, since the real healing work that nature spirits do has nothing to do with thoughts or feelings. They deal with us on a much deeper level than thoughts or feelings.
So if you go to a nature spirit in good faith, with an open heart, the spirit’s power will heal you with every visit.
(Excerpted from Magical Almanac Ezine,