The Presence of the Spirits

Dancing-with-the-riverIt’s Sunday. As I write a thunderstorm is approaching. It looks like the heart of the storm will pass to the south.

We are just past Mid-summer here in Vermont. The  summer has been cool, with brief spells of heat. If we were less connected to the world we would assume normalcy. Yet we are connected, and aware the Earth has experienced record warmth.

We humans seem hard-wired to trust our senses and generalize our experience to the world at large. Our world consists of that we can experience through our senses, and that we can imagine. We tend to favor the world we experience directly.

The world of the spirits is close by. Some folks perceive that world directly, some perceive it through the imaginal. Of course, one might use both ways of perceiving at different time, or even simultaneously. What seems crucial, if we are to be awake, is experiencing the ancestors and other spirits as present in the moment.

The spirits, including the ancestors, often have agendas. If they suffered while in body, they may wish aid in healing. More problematically, they may desire revenge. When the spirit being is an ancestor, we may find ourselves taking on their hunger for vengeance and this can become  all-consuming.

Spirit beings may attach themselves to us. Sometimes a spirit will join a family and be present for generations. Often such beings are hungry and feed off the emotions and experiences of family members.  Some appear to influence entire societies (as Jung saw in the years prior to WWII). Spirit beings may also attach to individuals; very rarely, they may possess a person. While spirits some cause harm, other spirits are benevolent and helpful.

It is not always easy to sort out what belongs to us, what is influenced by the ancestors, and what is created by a spirit. We strive to “know ourselves”, and recognize that self is a complex beingness. We are infinitely connected to All-That-Is, even though we may feel isolated and alone. There is something paradoxical about the self, about the experience of apartness, and the need to maintain the sense of self as unique, even as we crave merger. We hunger for the knowledge that we are That, even as we hold tight to individuation. From one point of view, attachments and possessions are simple reflections of the totality of who we are; yet, from the perspective of self, they can be highly problematic. When a spirit is feeding on us, we are likely to experience the spirit being as a parasite or infection.

We are each an aspect of the Whole, yet wellness demands we maintain the integrity of the self. Thus, our relationships with the spirits take on moral and ethical dimensions. This notion is fundamental to the Indigenous world view, in which the ancestors and spirits are ever-present. In the Western canon, Jesus demanded the spirits respect the dignity and integrity of the self. Jung also addressed this, arguing for responsible awareness and action in relationship with the spirits. Truly, living with the spirits requires us to be thoughtful, responsive, and aware.

We are now in the midst of the storm. I’m typing in the dark! The occasional rumble of thunder drowns the music playing in the room. It is raining heavily, nourishing our thirsty gardens. The plants are drawing the storm into themselves through their roots. Later, through transpiration, they will return the water to the air, and eventually the storm. Although each plant is an individual, they and the storm are truly one. Surely, this is a good and balanced relationship.

3 thoughts on “The Presence of the Spirits

  1. We have been having the same sort of summer down here in Virginia. It’s been somewhat cooler than it was last year, but we have had more thunderstorms than usual (which is fine with me, because I absolutely love the deep voice of thunder).

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