Spirit Lore

the secret teachings of Burl Hazel Dada

by James Grossmann

I was trying to write a "Hell Book," like the ones described in certain horror novels, but a tome of forbidden obscenities just wasn't in me. So, I came up with an alter-ego, Burl Hazel Dada, whose spiritual thinking starts at the fringe and eventually goes off the deep end. Burl lives in a world filled with spirits that shape our minds for good or ill. Have I ever believed in what Burl says? Sometimes at night.

FIRST GATE

SECOND GATE

THIRD GATE

WELCOME

ENTER

TRUTH

BEYOND

GOODBYE FOR NOW


FIRST GATE

1....DEITY DEFINED: What made divinity divine, back when we really believed? What was faith before gods had become little more than means to characterize oneself; before they were mere supramundane pegs to hang one's ethics on, or causes to fill us with obstinacy and self-righteousness in a world that lacks the certainty that ordinarily provides such feelings of power?

Was it invisibility that made the deity? His control over the powers of nature? His omniscience? Or his embodiment of some incomprehensible synthesis of humanity's sense of self and the otherness of nature? Was it his fearful wrath? All these qualities may have sufficed to define the deity for the vast majority of human souls, for whom belief and fear were but passive and active versions of the same sentiment. But for those who found calm and strength in the act of worship, it was neither the omnipotence, nor jealousy and vengefulness that made the deity what he was. Neither was it God's intellectually interesting necessity of being, or fascinatingly problematic Scriptures. Surely no one would wander through a desert for forty years, or allow herself to burned at the stake, merely to attain the pleasant stupor that results from contemplating the cornucopia of intellectual conundrums that religion has unfailingly provided. It was, rather, the deity's all-encompassing relevance that made him what he was.

Back when we really believed, the most important thing that one could know anything at all was its relationship to the deity. Fundamentally, a deity is that to which nothing is irrelevant. Subjects as disparate as the study of insects, lust, home ownership, new neighbors, and visions can all be discussed in terms of a deity.

Consider the insect, whose structure reveals the mind of God, and whose behavior makes it a participant in a grand and hidden scheme whose scope extends throughout the cosmos. Consider lust, which is judged by an all-seeing deity, even when it shows itself only in the privacy of one's own mind. Consider the decision to buy a home: much too important to make without prayers for guidance from the deity. Consider new neighbors: do they follow the way of the deity, or do they unwittingly deviate from his plan, and serve his enemies? The question seems foolishly fearful in this day and age, but if there REALLY IS a deity, then what could be more important to know about new neighbors than their relationship to him? Suppose you have a vision of a huge, four-winged being. If there REALLY IS a deity, then what could be more important to know about this vision than its spiritual import, diabolical or divine?

Omnipotence and omnipresence, regardless of whether such virtues have ever existed, are excellent metaphors for every believer's ability to use God's will as a means to evaluate and characterize every facet of existence.

2....A DEITY ABANDONED: It is not possible to sustain an existentially fundamental belief in that to which nothing is irrelevant. In the life of any individual who believes in a deity, there will be doubt. And in the life of any community that began as something centered around the belief in a god, there will be an eventual decline in that belief, and a relegation of one's faith to the fulfillment of specialized psychological and cultural functions, such as the assertion of one's identity and the avoidance of total submission to the state. For truly, not even the most fervent believers behave as if any spirit is relevant to all things. The believers pray for divine help against the forces that trouble them, but there is so much time when they are not praying for anything, so much time when they are not performing the services and rituals with which they commune with their deity. The very distinction that they make between the sacred and the profane indicates a tacit recognition of a separation between aspects of reality to which the deity is relevant, and other aspects of reality to which he is not.

And if, at any time, the believer behaves as if his deity is finite, he acknowledges the possibility of events and forces with which the spirit is not involved. To what end would one pray, or bless objects and people, if the deity addressed in these rituals were truly all-knowing and omnipotent? Prayers and blessings make sense when they are addressed to some powerful but finite ally, who must hear our cries for help before seeing our plight and acting on our behalf. But where is the logic of attempting to inform the omniscient or influence the all-powerful?

Consider also that the relevance of a supernatural deity cannot be all-encompassing if that deity fails to exhibit its purported powers time and time again. It is sheer idiocy to insist that, for the mature mind, the frequency of unanswered prayers has no bearing on the intensity of faith. People expect things of a deity, and to the extent that these expectations are met without divine aid, faith wanes, and the deity becomes less relevant. Belief fails when medicine cures millions while miracles cure hundreds, when people are capable of atrocities more horrible than any traditional description of the torments of hell, when new psychotropic drugs transform the prospect of perpetual bliss into a pathetic sterility, when stories of resurrection gave way to decisions to end artificially sustained lives, and when the means to end of all life, and bring about a true apocalypse, are placed firmly and undeniably into the hands of a finite humanity. If talk of God's role in our world has been reduced to so many untestable, subjective, and marginally relevant sophistries, it is not merely because the powers once thought to be reserved to him have become our own. It is also because the signs of humanity's power over the world reflect all of the virtues, vices, uncertainty, and carelessness that define our species. Belief in a supernatural god fails, not because humanity's power has made us god-like, but because god-like power has turned out to be something merely human.

For believers, explicating the total relevance of their supernatural god in terms of something greater than personal and cultural identity, or the need to keep the congregation ethical and involved, remains a challenge. For others, the vitiation of the belief in a supernatural deity represents the advent of a new spiritual freedom, for the sincere worship of a deity is a stifling monomania to them, and they rejoice as the world of the One Being has becomes the world of many beings, all imminent and therefore accessible.

Their rejoicing is premature. True, the belief in a supernatural god is not what it used to be. But God is not the only possible deity. Those who believe in an omni-relevant principle are clever rascals: when one deity dies, they replace it with another. Sure enough, there is a new deity in town, and its name is Reason.

3....THE LATEST DEITY: Yes, Reason is the god of modern times. The most important thing we can know about ANY thing, ANY person, ANY choice, ANY belief, and ANY action is its relationship to some tacitly accepted standard of Reason. Consider the study of insects. Its value is now assumed to lie in the advancement of our collective knowledge. Consider lust. In this day and age, the discussion of this passion centers on the advantages and pitfalls of the behavior it prompts. Sexual fulfillment on one side, and unwanted pregnancy and disease on the other: this calculus of lust has become so widespread, it is treated daily on national television. Consider home ownership. It is now unthinkable to buy a home whose construction was not supervised and approved by experts. Consider new neighbors moving in. Reason dictates that they are just as nice as most people, unless they can be reasonably proven otherwise. Consider visions of great four-winged beings. Obviously, the idea that such beings exist is not reasonable, so the correct response to the vision is consultation with a psychologist, or someone else who has been trained to deal with visions in a reasonable way. Yes, we moderns believe that Reason is relevant to every conceivable thing. This is mainly because of the power that Reason has given us.

Unlike supernatural deities, Reason DELIVERS when it comes to material needs. Most Americans don't have to pray for food: science, the child of Reason, gives it to us. Reason gives us science, science gives us technology, and technology gives many of us a standard of living that our ancestors could not even dream about. Most of us are fed, sheltered, washed, clothed, entertained, and kept healthy by dozens of monuments to the advancement of Reason. Wined, dined, and cared for by the products of science, we have better justification for worshipping Reason than a laboratory rat has for worshipping the press-bar that delivers its food pellet.

But the deification of Reason is more than a result of its practical benefits. Like all deities, Reason creates time. To the extent that all things are relevant to a deity, a deity creates a mutual relevance between all events. God created time by making everything relevant to His will, and thus endowing the universe with a beginning (Creation), a middle (History), and an end (Apocalypse). Reason created time by explicating causality, and hence endowing everything with a history. Deities also create the world. God created Heaven above and Earth below. Reason created the universe; the context in which all causal chains occur. It seems odd that creatures such as we, so small in comparison to our stellar surroundings, should dare to have any cosmological thoughts. But where there is deity, there is intellectual gall.

All submit to Reason's deity. Those who eschew sophistication deny irrationality in themselves. Those who embrace sophistication recognize irrationality in themselves, but solely out of a desire to avoid the irrational denial of the psychological evidence. Even then, the sophisticate deals with the irrational as a defect in the inherently imperfect human brain, whose opinions do not reflect the policies of the orderly cosmos as a whole. The proverbial down-to-earth person and the sophisticate alike speak as if convinced that all events in our lives can, or at least should, be connected within a rational framework. No hardier or more unquestioned dogma exists today than the idea that making sense of life and investing it with significance are one and the same.

4....ANOTHER DEITY ABANDONED: It is not possible to sustain an existentially fundamental belief in the universal relevance of reason. In the life of any individual who believes in this deity, there will not only be irrational impulses from within, but occurrences in the external world that do not make sense. [Ironically, such events are often explained in terms of "psychic energies." While the belief in these energies is not scientifically justified, such belief nonetheless constitutes an attempt at rational explanation.] In the life of any community that began as something centered around the belief in the sovereignty of reason, there will be an eventual decline in that belief, and a relegation of the faith to the fulfillment of specialized psychological and cultural functions, such as counseling and the maintenance of scientific research and its products. Faith in deified Reason cannot be maintained, for no one could, without absurdity, behave as if reason were relevant to all things. In our heart of hearts, we know that reason is often powerless.

God may have been infirm when it came to delivering us from want, but he was very good at telling us what to do. Theology has given us a veritable cosmos of laws, commandments, and pretexts for guilt. Unaided reason, on the other hand, does little to provide us with values. Self-proclaimed humanists would disagree, and claim that values can be derived from reason. They would point to the decline in atrocities associated with superstition as evidence of reason's moral power. Witch-burning, drowning deformed children as demons, and many similar injustices have indeed declined with reason's ascendancy. However, the humanists ignore the fact that scientifically designed weapons have gassed, crushed, eviscerated, blown up, burned, tortured and vaporized more people than were ever killed by ancient superstition. Humanists also ignore unaided reason's inability to provide grounds for reconciliation between parties in mortal conflict. If A. believes that B. should not exist, but B. believes that B. should exist, the logical Law of Contradiction guarantees that A. and B.'s respective positions are irreconcilable. Many humanists do not understand that unaided reason does not dictate a belief in the sanctity of life in the same sense that it dictates the belief in atoms. It is true that GIVEN a sentiment of the sanctity of human life, reason can give us the code of conduct that best conforms to this sentiment. But the sentiment itself is not, in any clear sense, a conclusion. For reason to be ethically useful, it must give up its claim to universal relevance: it must cease to be a deity. If you need a REASON for trustworthiness to become the norm, a REASON for no one to steal from you, a REASON for no one to murder you or your loved ones, then you are one pathetic specimen; your deification of reason has made you a victim of its limitations.

5....OVERRATIONALITY: The strengths of reason allow us to avoid the consequences of irrational behavior: think of the unhappy consequences of making no rational plans. Still, the deification of reason has made us vulnerable to the consequences of our overrational behavior. The author had to coin this word; our reason-worshipping culture has not seen fit to invent a legitimate term. Overrationality is the application of reason to contexts in which its relevance is marginal or non-existent. For example, deciding which jelly bean to eat only after consulting the works of professional taste-testers would be an overrational act. If you think that this example is incredible, consider people who only buy art after consulting with professional art critics. Whatever happened to buying what you like? Also consider the people who feel genuinely stuck for an answer when faced with questions such as "Why are you reading THAT?" "Why do you want to live somewhere else?" and "Why do you want THAT color?" These same overrational people also wrack their brains for rational responses to demands such as "Give me one good reason why you should go out with Fred," "Tell me WHY you don't like California," and "Just WHY do you like that part of town anyway?" The people who ask such questions and make such demands are also overrational, for they too assume that all feelings, thoughts, and actions must, at least in principle, be accountable to reason. As for the less assertively overrational people, they are in the hellish position of constantly having to justify thoughts, feelings, and choices that harm no one.

Overrationality would be a small problem if it were merely the twentieth century sophisticate's preferred mode of badgering. But some overrational ideas are more profound, and have great prestige. Yes, there are still respected philosophers who ask questions like "What is the rational justification for not killing yourself?" "Why can't dead rats and roses be regarded as equally beautiful?" and "What world view should be sovereign?"

If, by now, the first two questions do not seem overrational to you, stop reading now, and go do something else. But the last question is more difficult to dismiss in our overrational world. After all, the "unification" of knowledge, whatever that may mean, has been one of the abiding quests of our civilization. In spite of the duration of this quest, there is no compelling rational justification for a world in which all humans share the same rational world view. Ironically, there are rational grounds for abhorring such a circumstance. The gains we would make in our ability to communicate with each other would be drastically offset by the loss of the ideas that we would inevitably overlook in the absence of the stimulation provided by alternative world views.

However, the search for a sovereign world view becomes intelligible when viewed as a measure to preserve the deity of Reason. Now, Reason is infirm when it comes to telling us what to do and think, but THEN, when the sovereign world view is at last obtained, we will know what to do, why everyone does what they do, and what people should be allowed to say about the way things are. A sovereign world view produced by reason would PROVE Reason's universal relevance, establishing its deity for all time.

This proof will not arrive soon. Almost all of our information about the so-called "universe" comes solely from whatever light obligingly radiates itself upon our world. According to some current theories, that leaves ninety percent of the mass in the universe undetected. Science continually affirms that our knowledge is dwarfed by our ignorance. Is this what we call being in a position to search for a sovereign world view? Our most advanced form of knowledge, physics, presents us with a picture of the universe quite compatible with the absence of subjective consciousness in anyone, except physicists. One of the most productive rational ways of understanding human beings, behaviorism, claims that subjective states are products of behavior and physiology, but provides no data to justify the idea that subjective states exist at all, and therefore fails to account for them. Is this being in a position to search for a sovereign world view? Hardly! The search for a sovereign world view may not be irrational: after all, the attempt to ascertain where one is after finding oneself in a strange place (like reality) is understandable on an emotional level. But the quest for a single world-view is surely overrational, for the application of our reason is surely no more relevant to all reality than our gestures are to the movement of the stars.

Science does not demand submission to a single cosmology: in the face of ignorance it generates as many competing accounts of the material world as reason permits. Is there anything in our lives that does demand a sovereign world-view?

6....OVERRATIONALITY ABANDONED: Is there anything in our lives that demands that we take our world view seriously at all times? No. Is there anything about existing that dictates that our world view remain constant twenty four hours a day? Absolutely not. Certainly we must be rational in order to enjoy the practical benefits of rationality, but must one believe in atomic theory at every moment, even while waking, or going to sleep? The idea that we must have a rational world view at all times is a dogma of the deification of reason. The idea that one must put the word "only" before the word "dream," and that one must put "merely" before the phrase "state of mind," are corollaries of this dogma.

But if we deny that one must be rational at all times, how do we know when to be rational or when not to be? That knowledge comes from remembering that the rational and the non-rational both create TIME, and if neither is deified, each creates a separate time: separate sequences of events to which they are relevant. It is easy to figure out whether an event is causally related to other events in one's rational time, or whether it is intuitively and symbolically related to events in one's non-rational time. If your car breaks down, it is no great feat to realize that this event is tied to other events causally and rationally, and that fixing the car requires a rational approach. On the other hand, if a stone greets you through spiritual means, it is no great feat to realize that this event is not related causally to events in rational time.

Our overrationality has made it difficult for us to connect events outside rational time in an intuitive way, and perceive non-rational time as a cohesive whole. We find it difficult to respond to being greeted by a stone without worrying about our sanity, instead of simply returning the stone's greeting and thus completing a cohesive sequence of extrarational events. When it comes to responding to extrarational reality, we are easily outperformed by most so-called primitive cultures.

7....DEIFIED MAGIC ABANDONED: Overrationality alone cannot be blamed for our inability to connect extrarational events in our minds and lives to form a cohesive whole. In some circles, the extrarational has been deified, resulting in the application of spiritual intuition in situations where reason is called for. This has resulted in a host of evils, from delusions of psychic power, to attempts at "spiritual" cures for illnesses, to futile efforts to bring about world peace merely by visualizing it.

The beliefs of primitive societies, such as in animism and magic, do not exemplify this dilemma. Those who perpetuate the traditions of humanity's first small towns accept their ghosts and gods just as we, the children of high technology, accept our geography and physics. Such bland yet fundamental acceptance cannot be compared to the morbidly childlike deification of magic found in some segments of our own society. Primitive shamans face facts, as they understand them. But the modern magician, who attempts to heal with a touch and effect world peace through force of will, is engaged in a dishonest refusal to acknowledge the demands of rational time.

It is some of US who deify the extrarational, in an extreme reaction to the burdens of overrationality: a longing for a new era in which these burdens can be cast aside. Understandable as such longing may be, the deification of the extrarational is no more sustainable than the deification of reason. Where reason DOES have power, magic fails, or succeeds only in promoting self-delusion. Like two children, reason and extrarationality make their separate demands of us, and each must be dealt with on its own terms.

8....SPIRIT LORE: To make reason relevant to its proper sphere, more than the ability to reason is necessary. One must have a set of beliefs about the areas of life to which reason applies. We have such beliefs: their names are common sense and scientific methodology. These beliefs allow us to respond to causally related events, and link them together with appropriate words and actions.

To make spiritual intuition relevant to its proper sphere, more than the susceptibility to the extrarational is necessary. In order to bind extrarational events into a cohesive whole, and create non-rational time, one must have a set of beliefs about the areas of life to which reason does not apply. Such beliefs may include religion, but to the extent that religion involves the deification of some spirit, it creates the difficulties mentioned above. I will call spiritual beliefs that do not involve such difficulties spirit lore. The term is apt: spirit lore is information about spirits.


SECOND GATE

1....SPIRITS ARE FINITE: Some say that there are no atheists in foxholes. That may be true, but there are also very few people in foxholes who behave as if seeking the aid of a truly infinite and omnipotent creator. It would hardly make sense for the proverbial believer in the foxhole to expect help from the being that ordained his terrible circumstances. How can the all-loving infinite creator permit so much evil in the world? The majority of believers simply ignore this question, or with polite laughter dismiss it as adolescent. Believers with less sluggish intellectual lives make vague references to the mysterious ways in which God moves, and to the fact that it is not our place to judge the deity. Never mind that esteeming the deity as good is a judgment, which believers back up with straightforward evidence about the supposed beneficence of the natural world. It is truly odd, how some people justify their deity's actions as a child might justify the actions of a brutal alcoholic parent. When the deity is sober, and stops a few droughts, his children judge him freely, with cries of "Hallelujah!" When the deity has had a few, and permits some genocide here and there, suddenly, the kids can't judge him anymore. His ways are mysterious--we don't know what he's been through. If we cannot judge the deity, then it is not our place to say that he is good. If we can, then what about the evil he permits?

The most current theodicy is the free will argument, which goes like this: Most of the evil in the world comes from mankind, and God must permit this evil, since a humanity incapable of choosing evil would be devoid of free will, and therefore incapable of loving God or behaving morally in any true sense, whatever that may mean, if anything. Never mind that no one ever chose to share the world with smallpox. Never mind that when someone exercises the free choice to strangle a helpless baby, the baby's capacity for free choice is not enhanced. Never mind the question of whether the ability to choose to love God is precious enough to justify a world in which innocents are slaughtered by this freedom.

Let us just remember that during the war, the torture, the beating, the cancer, and the danger to your child--during the terror--the problem of evil isn't an intellectual exercise anymore. At the moment that our man in the foxhole has a large chunk of himself blown off, at the moment when the pain is too great for him to notice either his own screams or the chunks of his own flesh spattering onto his face--at this moment the argument that our loving god permits evil in order to endow us with some airy-fairy spiritual property of free will just doesn't cut it.

Let us also remember how profoundly cynical and absurd it is to believe that a truly omnipotent god could not create free beings unless he included humanity's worst atrocities among the choices that they might exercise. Even believers admit that our free will is often limited by circumstance, and yes, by our very constitutions. But the believers never ask themselves why beings with inherent limitations upon their capacity for evil would be less free than humanity, with its manifestly inherent limitations on its selflessness.

The free-will argument is a truly wretched solution to the problem of evil. How many violent criminals, as a result of having been raised on this nonsense, smugly justify their murders and rapes as reflecting a greater inner freedom than found in the hearts of more benign individuals? But let us return to our men in foxholes. Some do commune with the omnipotent creator. These are the ones who scream "God WHY? How could you do this to me! To my friends, and my family! This power that created me is sadistic and sick!"

Once safely away from the foxhole, or away from whatever terror afflicts him, our man might abandon this sentiment, even if a piece of him did get blown off, because the comforts of his faith are familiar. But most men in foxholes utter no curses to an omnipotent creator. In the face of terror, most men in foxholes pray "God, if you're there, you've got to get us out of this! I'll do anything! I'll start a home for juvenile delinquents in your honor! But please get us out of this alive!"

Such prayers do not contain a hint of blame. So it seems incredible to assume that the man is praying to the all-powerful author of his terrifying circumstances. There may be few atheists in foxholes, but there are also few theists. In the face of terror, most pray as if to a friend who may be powerful, but not all-powerful. Most pray as if to a finite spirit

Terror isn't the only reason for praying to finite spirits. Finite spirits are more accessible than infinite ones. Even among people who believe in an infinite and omnipotent godhead, it is common to pray to finite spirits. Hinduism may have one infinite and impersonal godhead, but it has lots of not-so-infinite little gods that people can relate to more personally. Christianity deserves a medal for the originality of making its god walk around in our finite shoes for a little while, but for some denominations, even that doesn't make God accessible enough. Hence prayers to Mary and the Saints. And let's not forget all those people who pretend that they have never been serious about Lady Luck or Mother Nature.

The infinite godhead does do one thing a finite spirit could never do. It embodies the fulfillment of humanity's desire for more, more, always more. It is this spiritual greed which motivates our futile attempts at true faith in an infinite spirit. Even so, communion with the infinite remains incomprehensible. As long as that is true, it is the finite spirits to whom we will reach out in our heart of hearts.

2....THE OCCULT: Occult literature generally contains more insights about finite spirits than religious literature does. This state of affairs is chiefly due to almost two thousand years of Christian hegemony. Communing with spirits is certainly frowned on in the Scriptures. While the witch-hunts are over, religious writings on communing with finite spirits are still scarce. So, one has to read occult literature to get traditional information on finite spirits. However, if you consult such work, you will find much of it uninteresting. This is especially true when the literature is magical, psychologized, pseudoscientific, or morbidly concerned with unexplained events.

Magical literature is often passed off as an alternative to ordinary rationality, but in fact it represents the literature of outmoded rational conceptions of the world.

In the first societies, sympathetic magic and related ideas were perfectly rational: the scientific and statistical knowledge that might have debunked them did not exist. The rational magic of the first societies was used to achieve rational ends, such as acquiring food, achieving fertility, preserving safety, and the like. Magic has always been an effort to understand the world and apply this understanding to practical ends. When history put magic under the yoke of common sense, and replaced its arcane symbols with instruments, magic became science. Communion with the spirits is not to be achieved through what is essentially outmoded science.

Some occult literature avoids obsolete descriptions of the world, only to fall into the trap of psychologizing the supernatural; in other words, replacing occult terms with psychological ones. In such literature, reading tarot cards is not divination, but "getting in touch with the subconscious." Magic is not an attempt to affect the world, but "creating your own reality" or "unlocking the potential within you." Let's get some things straight. First, you can't get in touch with your subconscious. While some of your subconscious motivations might become conscious if you see a good shrink, getting in touch with your subconscious is a contradiction in terms. Subconscious MEANS that you are not aware of it. Second, you don't need to create your own reality because you already have one. And since the term "reality" encompasses absolutely everything, you cannot have another. Third, it is much less useful to unlock your potential than it is to turn your potential into something actual. Finally, and in general, it is cowardly to defend occultism in an age of skepticism by implying that the spirits are merely aspects of the self.

Equal cowardice abounds in the pseudoscientific occult literature, which attempts to justify spirit lore with bad science, or poorly used scientific language. In such literature, telepathy is explained in terms of electromagnetic waves, psychokinesis is defended with allusions to laboratory experiments "behind the Iron Curtain," and the human aura is explained, not in terms of anything as unbelievable as spirits, but in terms of some form of biological energy. Modern pseudoscientific occultists assiduously avoid the supernatural vocabulary: they use words like "energy" and "vibrations" frequently, but rarely talk about spirits! Since the public has come to trust the findings of science, the use of technical terms to describe the supernatural is a good public-relations ploy. But the science is specious, and no amount of scientific vocabulary can make real occultism into science.

Additionally, no amount of parapsychological jargon can throw light on the unexplained events with which much of the occult literature is so morbidly preoccupied. There are many unexplained events. I am quite certain, for example, that people have had unexplained knowledge of other people's thoughts, and of events far away from them in space and time. The anecdotes are innumerable. I am also certain that flying objects have been seen which have not been identified. And I am absolutely positive that sober observers have seen lights and heard noises that have not been accounted for. I will go further and allow that unexplained events happen in the presence of some people more often than in the presence of others. But much of the occult literature implies that when events such as these cannot be explained physically, they must be explained spiritually. That is nonsense.

"Unexplained" means just that. Even those who believe in spirits, as I do, must still realize that physical events generally have physical causes, and that physical hypotheses concerning unexplained events remain the most compelling. If the investigation of such hypotheses comes to nothing, then in spite of all of the scholarly volumes that have been written by the parapsychologists, the most intelligent response is still a shrug.

There is much chaff in the occult literature to sift through before finding information of value concerning the finite spirits. If you want to use such information in learning to commune with spirits, it is important to separate the valid intuitions from self-serving ideas about what spirits should be.

3....OUR EXPECTATIONS: People have strange expectations of spirits. There are still people who believe that the spirits are here to heal our bodies, and help us plan our lives. There are still people who believe that spirits are divided into good and evil camps. Yes, the world is full of dunderheads who need to be enlightened.

In the first place, nothing qualifies spirits as healers. They are not doctors. They don't even have bodies. For the reader who is starved for even the most elementary forms of enlightenment, it must be pointed out that life as a disembodied being is not conducive to the development of medical insight. Spirits can affect the mind of the sufferer, but beyond this they are of no help. They don't even have the hands required to give someone an aspirin. Also, there is no reason to assume that spirits must be responsible for unexplained recoveries from an illness or injury. One might just as well assume that when a forest fire is mysteriously extinguished, a nearby stone must have caused it. Just as stones have no special properties that would enable them to put out fires, spirits have no physical properties that would enable them to affect our physical bodies. Why attribute mysterious cures to them? Spirits have better things to do than to be used as bogus explanations for events that we have too little information to explain. In general, illness presents itself as a set of physical problems, linked by causal chains to other events in rational time.

Oddly enough, even people who would treat illness rationally sometimes think it appropriate to seek spirits' aid for life problems, such as money management, romantic choices, and anxiety about the future. One has to wonder: Why should anyone seek financial advice from of entities that neither require nor handle money? Why would anyone want to be counseled about romance by entities that aren't even human? And why, exactly, would the spirits know more about the future than we do?

If you go to a foreign city, do you expect all the people there to be more enlightened, more aware of what's going on, and more cognizant of the future than you are? Of course not. Since there are innumerable people in a city, you expect all kinds of people, each representing a different combination of strengths and weaknesses, and all subject to the limitations that arise from humanity's finite nature. Opening yourself to the spirits is like going to a strange city. It's crazy to expect the innumerable spirits to be conversant in the ways of your mundane, human world.

If you commune with the spirits for the purposes of achieving some worldly gain, you may find yourself with an inarticulate feeling that some presence either does not care about your concerns, or wishes to invoke YOU to solve one of ITS problems. Such a needy spirit would be difficult to classify as "good" or "evil," but then, spirits do not care how we classify them. It is as moronic divide the spirit world into good and evil halves as it is to divide the world into good and evil people. As with human beings, some spirits are unusually benign, and others are hostile beyond belief. But there are still others that are psychically incompetent: out of stupidity, insanity, or even wishful thinking and false beliefs. Still others are not hostile, but somewhat untrustworthy and maybe a little sleazy. Still others are provincial, snobbish, secretive, testy, lethargic, timid, apathetic, or habitually reluctant to communicate. The majority of spirits comprise indifferent masses going about their business.

I have drawn an analogy between the innumerable spirits and the innumerable people in our world, in order to disabuse the reader of some common misconceptions. But the analogy is far from perfect. Being a spirit is not at all like being a person. Also, the description of spirits you have just read is misleadingly anthropomorphic: it is problematic whether spirits have "minds" in the same sense that we do.

Also, the description of spirits as finite beings may mislead those of you who believe that "finite," when said of spirits, means "powerless." We are so accustomed to omnipotent deities that anything less than infinite power in a spirit sounds insignificant to us. The reader must be cautioned that finite does not mean powerless, that spirits cannot be physically harmed, and that some spirits are figuratively much bigger than you, and literally a lot meaner. The wrong spirit can make you insane. That's life in the big city.

4....POWER OBJECTS: Some people, who are insecure in the big city of the spirit-world, believe that certain physical objects are endowed with spiritual power, and enhance one's ability to deal with spirits. Such people are very picky about their power objects, and insist that they be rare. Some occultists insure the rarity of their power objects by selecting those that most people would be too squeamish to obtain. Hence such power objects as monkey's paws, sacrificial animals, and more obscenely, parts of human corpses. Less sociopathic occultists select objects which are rare by virtue of their alleged historical authenticity: they want a wand that Crowley used, the tomes of the Golden Dawn, or some object that was owned by a descendent of some big-name magician. Still others insure the rarity of their power objects by selecting those made of rare materials, such as precious materials like gold or silver, or hard-to-find materials like rare herbs and extracts.

Insisting on rare power objects is misguided. In the first place, desecrating corpses and harming people or animals for magical purposes are wrong by any sane standard of conduct. In the second place, a lot of the big-name magicians did not know a thing about spirits. In the third place, the immaterial spirits have no reason to be impressed by precious or rare material.

Beyond this, physical objects are not imbued with spiritual power. They have their physical properties, and that's it. Even so, objects can still be helpful in communing with the spirits. Spirit paraphernalia are to spiritual power what mnemonic paraphernalia, such as strings on the finger, are to memory. Most of us know that the mnemonic string is not filled with a rare memory-enhancing hormone that you absorb through the skin. Most of us know that one need not climb the Himalayas to obtain some special String of Remembrance which alone contains the mysterious power to remind you to pick up the laundry. Any old string will do, and you wear it not for its inherent power, but merely as a conventional way of focusing YOURS.

As it is with memory, so it is with spiritual awareness: any old object can help. If you are old-fashioned and like wands, tarot cards, crystal balls, and similarly traditional devices, just go to your nearest occult book store, and buy the prettiest or the cheapest versions of those items. If you want to improvise new equipment, get what you need at the local variety or hardware store, and don't be fussy what the items are made of. Contrary to what some magicians might tell you, the form of an object that is used to prompt spiritual responses is much more significant than its composition.

5....WHY SPIRITS? I'm not psychic, but I know what some of you are thinking: If communing with the spirits isn't about foretelling the future, seeing through walls, winning people's love, turning enemies into toads, making flowers grow bigger, healing people with the aid rusty knives, controlling the weather, resurrecting the dead, talking to people who are still dead, talking to plants, zapping stress with crystal vibrations, planning finances the astrological way, finding water with magic sticks, reading auras, reading minds, reading spells, reading mantras, reading palms, and having orgies while muttering and prancing diabolically around a pentagram, THEN WHAT THE HELL IS IT GOOD FOR?

The answer to this question is quite simple: spirit lore is good for dealing with spirits. They are out there. They are not merely invisible; they are literally inconceivable. But they are affecting your mind. As causal chains affect the way things look, sound, and feel, the spirits affect the way things SEEM. Spirits can fascinate you, help you, ignore you, beg favors from you, or hurt you. It is most important to remember that the spirits are not here to help you deal with life; they are simply another part of life for you to deal with. When you know the spirits, the extrarational events in your life still won't make sense, but they won't have to, because you will be able to choose appropriate responses to these events when they come, and thus complete the day's irrational business.


THIRD GATE

1....PREPARE YOUR MIND: To commune with spirits, you need to be able to look at and think about your surroundings without constantly relating the resulting impressions to everyday material concerns. A widespread myth has it that achieving such a state necessarily involves immersing oneself in intense and surreal experiences. This myth is reinforced by some religious practices, which heighten spirituality by inducing altered states of consciousness. Sacrificial rites and trances in Voodoo and related faiths, prolonged fasting in some Western monotheisms, and the mind-altering drugs taken by everyone from shamans to freethinkers, have all been used to increase receptivity to spiritual influences. Such practices are helpful for this purpose only to the extent that a sledgehammer is helpful in fine engraving. Intense mind-altering experiences will help to turn your consciousness from its everyday way of thinking, but this can be accomplished through far less drastic means.

This is not to say that achieving the right state of mind is easy: it isn't. But all that is difficult is not intense or harrowing. In fact, the techniques for achieving a spiritually receptive state of mind are quite simple. When it comes to a discipline, simplicity does not imply ease. Ask any body builder. Here are nine techniques that prepare the mind for perceiving spirits.

2....RELAX YOUR TONGUE: Let's start with the simplest: relaxing your tongue. Everyday rational reality is a world of constant chatter, much of which is mirrored in the motions of your tongue. This motion also coincides with talking to yourself: even if you don't do it aloud, you are constantly doing it in your mind. Just as your lips curl when you are happy, and your fist clenches when you are angry, your tongue is constantly moving about as your thoughts coalesce into silent words. If you want to turn your mind away from such concerns, stop moving your tongue. Do not stop your tongue with your fingers or some device: that is distracting and uncomfortable. Stop your tongue volitionally. Imagine the tension draining out every part of your head from the nose down. Let your jaw hang a little, and avoid placing your tongue anywhere: let it rest inside your mouth. Relaxing your tongue is easy to do for a few seconds. Making it relax for as long as you want is difficult. The moment you think to yourself "Oh, I m going to keep on relaxing my tongue," or "Gee, is my tongue still relaxed?" your tongue will move, or at least stiffen. You must learn to think of your task in terms of memories of mouth sensations, and not in terms of instructions or words. If you learn to keep your tongue relaxed, you will be surprised at the way it makes you more aware of but less concerned with your material surroundings. By the way, you can learn to relax your tongue with your mouth closed.

2....SEE OBJECTIVELY: If you are a painter, you can use your artistic training in preparing your mind for spirits. All you have to do is teach yourself to see everything around you the way you see a subject. Practice this while sitting quietly and NOT painting.

3....EXHAUSTING THE IMAGINATION: Receptivity to spirits can be promoted by a technique called exhausting the imagination. There are a number of variations. The simplest version involves looking at a checkerboard and seeing the red squares as the background, then the black, then the red, until you experience mental fatigue. Another version involves using sheets of marble: real marble or fake plastic marble will do equally well. Look at one area of the marble, say four square feet or so, and try to imagine as many images of things in the same area of the marble as you can. It's the same as imagining things in clouds. Keep imagining more and more images in the same swirls of marble until your imagination is exhausted, and you see only the objective forms of the swirls. You don't have to go out and buy sheet marble to do this: if your shower has fake marble walls you can do it in there. You don't even have to use swirls in marble. TV screens that show the static of a channel on which nothing is being broadcast will also do the trick. So will the rough, spray-plastered ceilings of most lower-middle class apartments. If you are a traditional type, you could use a crystal ball for this exercise. But you should not be satisfied with seeing visions in the crystal, for it is your goal to achieve and maintain the state that comes when the visions stop.

4....NEGATIVE PRACTICE: Negative practice means over-practicing a response until you become less and less likely to do it. The subjective correlate of negative practice is getting sick and tired of practicing. Your usual verbal responses to quotidian activities and surroundings can be negatively practiced, and temporarily extinguished for the purposes of dealing with spirits.

Pick a natural phenomenon within eyeshot of you. Let's say you pick some clouds on an overcast day. Start thinking TO the clouds, aloud if you like, in the same way that you think most of the time. For example, you might think or say the following: "Is there one of you, or more than one? How much do you cost? You mean you provide rain for nothing? Well, I'm not saying you're suckers, but don't you think you provide a service worth paying for? You must have some kind of catch. There has to be a payoff for you somewhere. Isn't there any way that you could improve your image? Shouldn't you be more orderly? Look at you: you're a mess. Why can't you be rows of neat gray cubes in the sky? Hey, you're raining on me. How can you say you don't mean anything by it? Any reasonable person would interpret that as an insult, so don't tell me it's all in my head. By the way, couldn't you have gotten here more quickly if you had come through downtown, instead of over the horizon? How do you see yourself as cloud cover? Would you say that you are assertive, or unassuming? Isn't there a deadline by which you have to rain? How much rain do you have to put out before getting in trouble with your boss? Is there a hidden literary meaning in what you do? When are you going to get a house and a car? Wouldn't you look better in purple?"

Keep on talking to the cloud this way, in your mind or aloud, without pause or letup, until you are sick to death of the absurdity of the task and cannot think of a single additional word to say. At the moment of exhaustion, stop abruptly and relax your tongue. After this cessation, it is most important to avoid responding to the surprise you feel at the change in the way you hear, see, and think. It is equally important that your avoidance of this surprise not result in rote performance of the task as you practice it over time. Vary the things you use as objects for the task, but make sure that you do not use artifacts of any kind: the things in question must be natural. It is important to look at the things you are talking to, so do not use things that are dangerous to look at such as the sun. As far as your thinking/talking goes, if you must use the text in quotes above, try to wean yourself of it quickly as possible, and learn to emit your own tediously everyday patter.

5....PERSONIFICATION: Spirits are not human, and if you wish to commune with them, you must learn to deal with what is non-human in a receptive way. Animal trainers and people who must live for extended period in the wild already know how to do this. But if you do not move in these circles, there is a simple technique which, when practiced over long periods, makes you more receptive to the non-human. This technique is the habitual personification of non-human things like animals, plants, and objects.

As for animals, personifying dogs and cats is easy: we can hardly help doing it. But these animals are unsuited for this task, because contrary to what some sociologists might tell you, dogs and cats are part of human society.

It is better to use zoo animals, or non-mammals such as lizards, fish, tarantulas, and birds. Plants are good to personify when you care for more than one of them. Artificial as well as natural objects may be personified: for example, you may treat the dishes you wash as little beings in your care. Personifying machines is a wonderful exercise. Do not be ashamed of getting mad at a recalcitrant vending machine: stay angry! Tell your car to go faster up that hill, and use sweet words or scolding depending on which you think will work best. Thank your refrigerator for reliably performing its unglamorous task. And if your dishwasher breaks down, be soothing in your reassurance that a repairman is on the way.

Don't name the things you personify--that makes a public joke of the personification. Keep the joke private to sustain it over time. Don't personify too many things at once. That can be disorienting.

6....BACK TO NATURE: One of the reasons that we moderns are so unaware of spiritual (non-human) influences is our tendency to surround ourselves with verbal and non-verbal messages originating exclusively from other human beings. In fact, we are so exposed to various media that some media mask the influence of others, which in turn may mask the influence of others, and so forth. The constant inundation of words from our radios and television sets may mask the influence of the sound textures, music, and images used--or visa versa. Both of these influences are overwhelming enough to leave us unaware of the fact that virtually every artificial object in our environment, including the television set itself, is manufactured in conformity to some esthetic or other, and therefore communicates a message that other humans have authored about the nature of the good life. If placing ourselves in a natural environment makes us feel more spiritual, it is not because we become one with the animals and plants and landscapes. It is precisely because we fail to do so, that is, because nature does not talk to us like another one of our media, and we must therefore confront its non-human nature on its own terms.

So getting out into the boonies and away from the media does indeed promote the state of mind necessary for becoming more aware of spirits.

7....JARRING: However, not all of us love nature, and some of us do not have the time or the courage to escape our media. If this is the case, one can do the next best thing, and cause one's mind to reject the media. One technique for doing this is called "jarring" or "escape from perversity." This technique consists simply of exposing oneself to media whose messages are emotionally incompatible. Here are some jarring techniques:

a) Watching a long and serious documentary on the Holocaust, with the volume turned up, while continuously reading greeting card messages aloud.

b) Watching a gruesome horror movie with the sound off while continuously playing a child's music box.

c) Eating ice cream confections while listening to two tape recorders, one of which continuously plays a commercial for ice cream confections, and the second of which plays the words and music of a funeral service.

d) Writing down the most grotesque images that you can think of while contemplating pictures of pretty flowers or cute puppies.

Such techniques will either have you wallowing in perversity, or allow you to escape perversity by objectifying the media to which you are exposing yourself. The latter would represent a break with your normal state of consciousness, in which media are perceived as extensions of your own awareness. You'll know you're objectifying the media when you can describe them more accurately even though your interest in them has diminished. When the influence of our incestuous relationship with communication from other humans is broken, OTHER influences move in. You will meet spirits. One should exercise some caution with jarring, since both the technique itself and the abrupt spirit contact it can facilitate can be disorienting.

8....THE VANISHING SHRINE: The vanishing shrine technique requires some creativity. In its first phase, it involves the construction of a small but elaborate shrine. The shrine should be dedicated to an unknown spirit. Naming the spirit is optional. Do not worship the spirit. The absurdities and dangers of this are very analogous to those involved in worshipping a person. So instead, think of what you are doing as consultation without words. The shrine should be constructed out of found, rather than bought, objects. Invent a ritual for each object from which the shrine is constructed, using words and gestures. Practice the rituals until doing so fills you with the same pleasant religiosity that is sometimes attained by visiting a church that is not of your own denomination. Upon the attainment of this feeling, subtract one object from the shrine and omit its corresponding ritual from your ritual repertoire. Once a week, or once a month, omit still another object, and still another ritual. Continue this process until the entire shrine and the entire ritual are gone, and there remains only the place where the shrine once was, and the time in front of the place feeling the something-ness of it, as vividly as one appreciates the empty space of a cupboard, or a cup.

9....FINDING THE ART: There is a simple technique called "finding the art." It consists of finding an object--it may be anything from a tin can to a book of matches--and examining it in various positions. Find the position in which the object most resembles a work of art, and stare at it. You may eventually wish to make this object into a piece of spiritual paraphernalia.

10....CAVEAT: This list of techniques is far from exhaustive, and by no means representative of the most advanced methods of their kind. In fact, you will not have crossed this gate until you have invented techniques of your own.


WELCOME

1....DISCLAIMERS: This work is not scripture. It is not a message from some king of the spirit world, funnelled into your consciousness through the mediumship of the author. You are not reading the feverish product of man possessed by fiery souls from another dimension. I am an ordinary person, and this is merely an account of some of my beliefs. As I see it, those who do not share my beliefs are as befuddled as an illiterate lost in the public library. Before you think this judgment arrogant, compare it to doctrine of damnation for all who fail to subscribe to a respectable mainstream religion. In my world, you are not damned; you are merely clueless.

So I come to you as a street-wise friend, ready to bring you home to his poor neighborhood for the first time. I come to you as a seasoned guide, ready to point the way through wild and mysterious forests. I come to you as the child who grew up in a gargantuan maze, ready to give you directions. Welcome.

2....HOW SPIRITS PRESENT THEMSELVES: What we call "ambiance" or "atmosphere" is to spirits as appearance is to people and things. The specifics of the way that things look, sound, feel, smell, and taste reveal the world of people and objects. Our senses reveal the end results of causal chains, best analyzed rationally. But aside from sensory specifics, there is the way that things seem, our overall impression of things. Sometimes, we feel that the world is cold, that the scene feels wrong, that the place feels right, that the moment seems significant, that the desert seems forbidding, that the house is cozy, and so on. With strangely innocent egocentrism, we regard these feelings as products of our own minds. We are wrong. For as sights and sounds indicate the presence of things, so these states of "ambiance," indicate the presence of spirits.

Spirits are not visible; you can't see the coziness of a house. Spirits are not audible; you can't hear the significance of a moment. Spirits cannot be objectively observed with scientific instruments; there are no devices that detect the something that feels wrong about this place. Even so, you are as constantly awash in the presence of spirits as you are in the world of the senses. Is it so hard to believe that the "atmospheres" of places and things signify something outside yourself, just as your sensations do? Break out of your solipsistic shell, and realize that you have been in constant contact with spirits ever since you can remember.

When someone is walking home at night, or walking through the woods near dusk, he may feel that he is being watched. This feeling may grow more and more intense, until he runs in fear of something chasing him. Later, he realizes that there was no reason to believe that any living creature was in pursuit. He concludes that his feeling of being watched was all in his head, but he is wrong: there was something after him, but it wasn't material. It was a spirit, possibly hostile, possibly jealous of its privacy, possibly interested in warning the person away from a material hazard.

When someone feels peace in a certain place, and returns there to experience that peace, he concludes that the place is special merely because of the solitude it provides. This is a particularly poignant self-delusion. Can any honest person really believe that he is not alone most of the time? Solitude characterizes our lives, even when we are sitting on a crowded bus. The so-called feeling of solitude is not experienced alone; it signifies the invisible company of an immaterial spirit, probably one with an easy-going temperament.

Spirits do not confine themselves to visiting solitary people. They roam abroad in the vast crowds of the cities. How many times have we felt overwrought, or filled with excitement, just walking down the city streets? This feeling is with us even when the city presents no threats or opportunities, and nothing but sidewalks and other human bodies. We do not realize that the hustle and bustle of the city are collective names for the numerous spirits who are attracted to this complex environment.

Places are not the only homes for spirits; individual objects may be haunted by them too. Many artists unknowingly benefit from the spirits who choose to live in their work. These spirits fill audience with indefinable sensations. Works of art are not the only objects that attract spirits. Almost every child is able to identify a bit of junk as interesting enough to pick up and treasure. Sometimes, it is because the object is straightforwardly suitable as a toy, but at other times, the child feels something about the object that makes it fascinating. That something is a spirit, which is attracted to that object.

3....OUR IGNORANCE: We do not recognize sensations of the presence of spirits for what they are. The sensations are dismissed with the names that we use to refer to them. We call them "feelings," though neither the sense of touch nor the basic emotions need be involved in them. We call them "ambiance" or "atmosphere," as mentioned above. We even call them "je ne sais quoi" (I don't know what).

Here, the perception of a spirit's presence will be called a "shyghn" (pronounced exactly like “shine”) and the act of perceiving a spirit will be called "shyghning." The spelling came from “shy” as in the word “shy,” silent “gh,” and “n” with its usual pronunciation.

Historically, the awareness of shyghns was lost because of superstition; spirit metaphors were confused with fact. A spirit metaphor is a attempt to think about spirits by using concrete images to symbolize them. Spirits do not have much in common with material things, and human languages lack clear terms for shyghns. Consequently, attempts to think and talk about them result in wild allegory, filled with flying women, weird night creatures, strange potions, base metals transformed into gold, immortal trolls, and subtle bodies. In the age before science, reliable record-keeping, and historical research, many people took these metaphors too literally. Hence the confusions that gave birth to the truly imaginative side of superstition and folklore. This folklore, along with religion, obscured the significance of shyghns for most of our recorded history.

Another reason why we persist in ignoring shyghns has to do with their perceptual simplicity. They cannot be analyzed into various elements, as sights can be analyzed into various shapes and colors, or sounds can be broken down into dimensions of pitch, loudness, and quality. Shyghns are more like smells, or a field of vision filled with only one color. Since they defy analysis, and remain irrelevant to physics, the deification of reason that permeates our culture forbids us to ascribe any significance to them.

There is yet another reason why shyghns are ignored: the constant din of communication with our fellow human beings. We are too swamped with messages from members of our own species to maintain any awareness of non-human influences. This is particularly true in the modern age of mass communication.

However useful the reader finds these three insights, he should have no illusion they are sufficient to allow him to perceive the spirit world correctly. A lifetime of denial dulls our ability to recognize spirits, even when we finally admit to the significance of their shyghns. We conclude that similar shyghns must belong to the same spirit, just as we confuse foreigners, who look and sound alike to us. We conclude that there are no spirits present, when in fact we overlook those whose shyghns are not intense. We conclude that we are going insane, or experiencing union with the infinite, or the devil, when in fact we are merely perceiving the very intense shyghns of spirits who are strong, but whose spheres of influence are far from cosmic in scale.

To hone the ability to perceive and distinguish shyghns, continued practice in the ways of the Third Gate is necessary. It is not enough to be able to detect the presence of a spirit, or discriminate one from the other. One must be able to apprehend the nature of spirits from their shyghns, just as one must understand people and objects from their appearances. We grow up being able to tell that the tall black something is a building, but in our benighted culture, interpreting the shyghns requires a great deal of practice. Fortunately, others like myself have gone before you, and have shyghned quite a bit. Yes, there are people who know what spirits are.

4....SPIRITS DESCRIBED: Being immaterial, spirits are without form and do not take up space. They have approximate locations, but not exact locations such as material objects have. For instance, it is meaningless to ask whether a spirit is with or in an object. A spirit may be in a room, but it makes no sense to say that it is five feet from the bedpost. It is easier and more accurate to think of a spirit's location as an approximate sphere of influence.

Spirits vary in their mobility. Some spirits remain always in one place. Others stay with one object, and go where it goes. Many spirits move freely from place to place. Occasionally, a spirit doggedly trails an animal, a human being, or even a whole family.

Counting spirits can be problematic. It is like counting clouds, which may occur as discrete bodies, or coalesce into an overcast sky, the enumeration of whose clouds is a meaningless exercise. So it is with spirits, whose separateness may resemble that of two people, or that of two colors in a rainbow, depending on circumstance.

The shyghns of spirits vary in inexpressible ways. For instance, different houses might have shyghns that we perceive as different kinds of coziness. Beyond this, spirits have different temperaments, and we respond to their shyghns with different emotions. As mentioned in the Second Gate, some spirits are benevolent, some are hostile, and the majority are indifferent or at most curious. As with people, spirits with given temperaments have various feelings, and can express themselves in ways that are not typical for them.

Spirits vary in their intensity or strength. Whatever its temperament, a spirit may be figuratively small, that is, more difficult to perceive than other spirits, or figuratively big, that is, more difficult to ignore than other spirits.

5....WHAT SPIRITS KNOW: Spirits do not experience time as we do. The difference between a spirit's perception of time and our own is like the difference between sounds and smells. Both have duration, but the sound changes continually and precisely from moment to moment, whereas the more perceptually simple smell continues without change after it appears and before it fades away. We perceive events as if they were sounds, and the spirits perceive them as if they were smells. This is one reason why it is not possible to converse with spirits. We are never in synch with them.

Spirits do not experience reality as we do. They have no bodily senses such as we have, but are directly aware of form and configuration. When a spirit perceives an object, it knows what we would know about it if we could see it from all sides at once, as well as through it. Spirits can perceive information stored in objects, even if it is coded in some way. For instance, they do not have to hear a musical recording to enjoy it; they must simply be near the disk or tape. So it is with their perception of books. All the words in a book appear to a spirit simultaneously. However, spirits are not superhuman readers. A slow-reading spirit may perceive a whole book at once, but it may take weeks for the gestalt to coalesce or "fade into" its mind. Also, spirits do not always understand what they read. Though they might "read" a book about money, they would not understand it; money is alien to them.

Spirits can perceive our thoughts and feelings, but it is simplistic to say that they read our minds. It is more accurate to say that a spirit knows our thoughts and feelings as we know the thoughts and feelings of a character in a movie with a top-notch director. Our thoughts and feelings can attract or repel spirits, who in turn influence our minds. Spirits do not hear our words, but since they perceive our thoughts and feelings, they do not need to.

Spirits can directly perceive the presence or absence of living things: anything from germs to moss to elephants--size and visibility do not matter. But this is the only manner in which they can be said to be aware of what something is made of.

Spirits are blind to the composition of matter. They can sense form, color, density, and whether something is solid, liquid, or gaseous. But they have nothing equivalent to our sense of smell. Furthermore, our knowledge of substances, whether everyday knowledge that enables us to tell wood from metal, or scientific knowledge of chemistry, is meaningless to them. For instance, they do not care whether a substance is real or counterfeit.

6....THE MOTIVES OF SPIRITS: Spirits are very interested in the appearances and arrangements of physical objects. Certain of these attract certain kinds of spirits. A meadow in summer will attract easy-going spirits. The same meadow in winter will attract spirits of sublime beauty and indifference. The carnage at the scene of a bad car accident will attract hostile spirits. The more taciturn and sessile cousins of such vicious beings congregate in morgues. A cathedral will attract the spirits that make its workmanship bloom with the shyghn of its preciousness. Clerics may disappointed by the fact that similar spirits hang out in shops where furniture and musical instruments are made by hand. The austere cousins of these spirits are attracted by fine electronics and modern architecture. Then, there are the spirits of benign crassness, equally at home in fast food joints, and dime stores where cheap radios are sold. These spirits are not hostile, but their shyghns in shopping malls oppress even the spiritually insensitive, despite our best efforts to make malls attractive.

The mention of artificial environments in connection with spirits illustrates and extremely important point: people can construct environments with the object of attracting certain kinds of spirits. Religious people have unconsciously done this for years. The churches and icons that they create attract many spirits, whose shyghns affect whole congregations. Shrines are very attractive to certain spirits. Though shrines are small, they are significant to spirits because they constitute rare signs that humans are noticing them. That surprises them, because they know that they cannot be seen. Yes, we affect the spirits.

Spirits are also interested in our thoughts and feelings; different thoughts and feelings attract different spirits. Benign spirits are attracted to our joy, and sometimes to our sadness. Hostile spirits are attracted to our despair, anger, and sadism. The shyghns of some typical spirits make details interesting, even when these details are irrelevant to our reason. The shyghns of other average spirits make things boring. Stupid spirits are attracted to our carelessness, and sometimes our to apathy. Crazy spirits are attracted to our neuroses.

It is most important to remember that spirits affect the minds that they are attracted to. Spirits are the invisible audiences that teenagers are so conscious of, and that adults only pretend to ignore. Benign spirits wordlessly cheer our accomplishments and loves, while the hostile ones, with equal silence, cheer us on as we contemplate suffering, whether our own or someone else's. Yes, the spirits affect us.

Despite the mutual influences between spirits and people, their most fundamental motives are quite different. Many of the things that people do have extrinsic motivations; we do something to get something else. We toil to get food, build to get shelter, buy to get comfort, and talk to get other people to do what we want. Generally, we exist in a quid pro quo relationship with the material universe. This is true of all material beings that can't think and act. We must affect other material bodies, even if we do so only with our hands, to get whatever we need. Not so with spirits. Although no one knows whether spirits are immortal, they are undoubtedly self-sufficient, having no material needs. The primary motivation for all spirits is self-expression, and this they can accomplish with their mere presence. Some spirits need no audience, and therefore seek environments to complement their being. Such spirits do not worry about human beings, and affect us only if we enter their chosen environments. Other spirits prefer to express themselves in the presence of an audience, human or immaterial. These are the spirits that follow us, and influence us most often.


ENTER

1....PRACTICAL CONCERNS: Since spirits can affect our minds, their existence and our ability to perceive them have many practical consequences. Whether we are alone or with others, the invisible audience can manipulate us in many more ways than I can record here. Sometimes, spiritual interference is trivial. At other times, it is not. Regardless, one must be aware of all forms of spiritual interference. Below are descriptions of some of the types of spirits who affect us. You will become familiar with many more types if you pay habitual attention to what you are shyghning.

2....SPIRITS MET BY CHANCE: It can happen anywhere. In the forest, you see a large log lying on its side just off the trail. Although there are many fallen logs in the forest, and although there is no reason to examine the log, you feel bothered until you see the spot behind the log. In the city, you walk by a building, and see that it has a stairway near its side that leads down. Although you know that there is probably nothing down there but a basement door, still you feel compelled to look down the staircase, to see what lies at the bottom. There is no mystery here if you are a naturally inquisitive person, who cannot walk a straight line through either the wilderness or the city. But if the urge to look at an out-of-the-way place comes upon you suddenly, you may have encountered a spirit.

If you do not want to believe that a spirit is responsible for your urge, fine. The rational response to the urge to look into nooks is to wonder why you would want to engage in such a pointless activity, and explain your behavior with morbid theories about your tendency toward self-isolation. It is better to recognize the spirit's influence. If you are at liberty investigate the spot where the spirit is, go there. Saying "hello" and admiring the environment that the spirit has chosen, as you would a painting or a work of art, should be sufficient to complete the experience, and allow you to move on in peace. If, on the other hand, you do not want to go where the spirit is drawing you, a simple "no" directed at the spirit should finish the interchange. If you are dealing with a spirit with a very strong shyghn, whose influence compels abject fascination with some spot, a more dramatic gesture may be necessary. Raise your hand, palm forward toward the spot, and say "I m going now, no matter what you do," or words to that effect. Then keep your promise, even if the shyghn of fascination intensifies.

The ability to complete an encounter with a spirit can be very important. It is one thing to meet a spirit who attracts you to a certain spot; this represents no great inconvenience. However, problems arise when people are attracted to very mobile spirits. If you are shopping or sight-seeing in the city, your failure to recognize the attraction of a mobile spirit for what it is can leave you exhausted after wandering for hours. As you sit down to rest, you might believe that you have missed out on half a dozen forgotten destinations, when in reality you have been following the shyghn of a spirit who expresses itself by constantly changing the location towards which draws you.

In the case of a very mobile and very strong spirit, you might find yourself afflicted with a very expensive wanderlust as the spirit draws you from airport to airport, and country to country. Most importantly, the immateriality of spirits renders many of them unconscious of material dangers. The unrecognized attraction of a spirit can leave you fascinated with a hazardous place. Some have driven off the sides of mountain roads because of the strong shyghn of a mobile spirit. True, it is sometimes best to go where a spirit leads you, when you are on vacation in a strange tourist town, for example. But recognize the lure of a spirit for what it is, and be free to dismiss a spirit whose lure might interfere with your own wishes.

3....SPIRITS WHO KNOW YOU: Spirits are not always strangers. Some of them have always shared your habitual haunts. There is a spirit for your home, and every room in it. There are also spirits in the places where you work and play. Certain places attract ambient spirits who are stronger than the rest. In bedrooms, there are blissful spirits who attract you to the bed. In kitchens there are spirits whose shyghns reveal the threshold between the riotous and amorphous world of organic necessity, and the myth of an artificial world of perfect rectangles and unfailingly rational human beings. The geometries of the work place attract unyielding and impersonal spirits. When we resist the influence of their shyghns, we our happy in the unconscious pride in our individuality. When we yield to the influence of the work place spirits, we are oppressed, and feel as colorless and without feeling as the surrounding environment. No, there is nothing inherently dehumanizing about a rectangular wall or beige latex. But the spirits attracted to such forms and colors do affect us. So do spirits who are attracted to us personally. Let's call them familiars: these are the spirits who are always with you, and affect both your own desires, and the way in which others perceive you.

4....PRECIOUS SPIRITS: These incite us to treat certain objects and places as if they were special. Very strong precious spirits inspire reverential awe toward certain objects and places; they make things sacred. Precious spirits of average strength inhabit our keepsakes and heirlooms. Weak precious spirits draw our attention to bits of junk, which we might pick up and add to a collection of such objects. Precious spirits are attracted to rarefied environments. They congregate in deserts and wilderness areas. They cling to bits of bone and pretty rocks on empty beaches. They haunt sparsely furnished hardwood rooms, and rest in peace in cemeteries. Precious spirits are often the familiars of artists, and of people who are happy even though they are poor. It is sad that all the poor are expected to be happy, for only a very few are sought out by precious spirits. For the rare person whose precious familiar is very strong, almost every visible thing is like a work of art, and every sound like music.

5....BOSSY SPIRITS: These spirits cause a lot of trouble, because they are so often deified. Bossy spirits are attracted by our frustration, uncertainty, and stupidity. If these spirits had the forms of human beings, we would see them as elderly neighbors, sitting on their porches and croaking out endless admonitions to the young. As it is, these spirits are invisible, so they are worshipped as omnipotent gods and devils. I do not know how often I have heard people say that their decisions are guided by God, merely because they experience misgivings that are inspired by something external to themselves. I, for one, am not moved to worship by accounts of men who are prevented by strange feelings from driving down icy roads in blizzards. Such strange feelings may be the shyghns of bossy spirits who are relatively weak, and whose spheres of influence are quite local.

It is particularly ironic that deities are said to give their instructions in words. Spirits have no language, and their shyghns are infinitely simpler than words. In truth, when we shyghn a bossy spirit, we are nagged as if by a fire alarm or a winking light. So it is that the presence of a bossy spirit demands interpretation, and one's own mind unconsciously composes the words that meet this demand. So it is that our great deities speak in all languages.

Bossy spirits can be very beneficial when we are being stupid. Their still small shyghns have prompted many locked doors, extinguished cigarettes, and fully paid debts. But very strong bossy spirits can be dangerous; the guilt that they incite can be so overpowering that the human victim may feel as if his every word and gesture has some hideous double meaning, so that he can only redeem himself by hiding from his fellows.

Equally dangerous is the conviction that these spirits can inspire. A very strong bossy spirit, so easily mistaken for God, can incite attempts to force one's fellows into conformity to any lofty-sounding ideal. Do not believe that bossy spirits are always human-hearted or moral. They can inspire any sort of behavior, from saintly compassion, to compulsive homemaking, to mass murder.

6....EROTIC SPIRITS: Some spirits are erotic. Though spirits are not sexual beings, they can express themselves by inciting humans to sex. To this end, they allow their shyghns to suggest masculinity, femininity, or androgyny. If someone is plain-looking by the standards of the day, and yet has problems with too many lovers, that person probably attracts erotic spirits. Such spirits can make life very enjoyable. They can facilitate the inspiration and opportunity for love-making. They can make people comfortable with their bodies. Erotic spirits also heighten one's ability to get friends and jobs, just as good looks do.

However, erotic spirits can create problems. Strong erotic spirits can incite obsessions with sex, which can lead to every conceivable problem from infidelity to confusion about one's own sexual orientation. Stupid erotic spirits can incite promiscuity, and the resulting disease transmissions and unwanted pregnancy.

If you have an erotic familiar, it may never leave you. People may continue to insist that you are sexy even when you are old and weak. It is important to remember that erotic familiars are not a prerequisite for having a sex life; people have sexual powers of their own, especially good-looking people who have learned to be charming. It is also important to remember that most erotic spirits are familiar. There is no question of attracting them; you either have one or you don't.

A word of caution here: Don't let vanity convince you that your familiar must be erotic. If you try to quiet your "erotic" spirit, you may inflame your true familiar.

7....MILITANTLY NON-HUMAN SPIRITS: While all spirits are non-human, some are militantly so. These militants usually become familiars; they want to make the world less human by inciting their human companions to ignore or suppress their human urges. Most science fiction portrayals of alien humanoids are unconsciously inspired by perfectly human beings with militantly non-human familiars. In the real world, such familiars are companions for a number of types of people. Some creative people have these familiars; these spirits make steadfast companions for people who can create exotic objects, environments, and ideas for them. Alienated people sometimes have militantly non-human familiars. Separated from the satisfaction of their human needs since childhood, having few friends and little familial love, alienated people are sometimes made comfortable by spirits whose shyghns add savor and even pride to their bitterness. These spirits are in turn made comfortable by the strange demeanor of alienated people.

Militantly non-human familiars are a hindrance to sex. Even when a person with such a familiar is good-looking, he or she is seen as esthetic, like a painting, rather than attractive. In fact, these familiars are a hindrance to dressing properly. People with militantly non-human familiars tend to dress in one of three styles: slovenly (sub-human), over-dressed (super-human), or bizarre (alien). Yes, the college man who looks like a bum, the woman who wears the evening dress and the very red lipstick, and the bald artist dressed in black from head to toe, may all have militant non-human familiars.

These familiars can be very destructive. They can stunt the emotional lives of their companions, and incite callous and irresponsible behavior. Most of the scientists who whistle while they work on potent new biological and chemical weapons have militantly non-human familiars. When such familiars are stupid, their human companions may be stupidly anti-social, and commit pointless crimes, such as shoplifting. When such familiars are strong, their human companions may waste to death for failure to satisfy their most basic needs.

However, militantly non-human familiars can also be beneficial. It is these spirits who cheer us on when we resolve to control innate urges, from sex to aggression, for the good of our fellows, our loyalties, or our future. It is these spirits who make pure thought as satisfying as food for some intellectuals. It is these spirits who provide company for those who work alone for long periods. It is these spirits who keep us resolute and focused when other people would distract us. It is these spirits who comfort us when the crowd is wrong and we are right.

If you have a militantly non-human familiar, it may never leave you. People may continue to insist that you are strange, even if you never do anything unconventional.

Remember that such familiars are not prerequisites for creativity. Some powerfully creative minds are also very human, and their work becomes enduringly popular.

8....LOVING SPIRITS: Some spirits are loving, and filled with delight. The love of a spirit is not as complete as the love of another human being. A person can do things for you; a spirit can only express itself. But the companionship of loving spirits can make a person very happy. It is these spirits who remind us that the day is beautiful. It is these spirits who make houses into homes. It is these spirits whose shyghns grow strong when tiny children smile.

Loving spirits are not always beneficial. The people with whom they congregate may ignore bad news. Such people tend not to think about unpleasant issues, even if they are pressing. Also, some people love their loving familiars at the expense of the people in their lives. The spouse and children of someone with a loving familiar may become irritated, and ask what the hell the familiar's companion is so happy about.

Still, few would count someone unfortunate if he always seemed to be happy about something, and that is how people with loving familiars behave. Most of the time, it is best to let loving spirits do as they please.

9....HOSTILE SPIRITS AND SPIRIT ATTACK: There are several kinds of relationships with hostile spirits. A hostile spirit can be a visitor, a familiar and lover, or an attacker. The shyghn of a hostile spirit is easy enough to recognize. It makes the whole world claustrophobic. Each room becomes a lair for your anger. Each path becomes a darkened tunnel with a victim at the end. Even open spaces seem reduced to a theater swarming with people whose kinship to rats you alone perceive.

Ambient hostile spirits are attracted by hatred, especially when it is sudden and intense. But there are other lures for such spirits. Drug abuse is one; when all the feelings that brim with poignant significance and purpose in the sober mind become mere parades of interesting sensations, when even hatred becomes like a painting, to be lovingly inspected for the sake of it, then the mind invites hostile spirits, just as the casual intimacy of the family home invites long-lost relatives. Art, and entertainment that is given the power of art by its viewers, lures hostile spirits when it contemplates hostility and celebrates the dark side of human nature. Morbid curiosity can prompt a visit from a hostile spirit. It is difficult to maintain a fascination with carnage without feeling the company of the spirits who look upon it with you, out of joy. Whatever lures them, hostile spirits can be dangerous.

This is especially true when they become familiars, and their human companions fall in love with them. Since most people are too spiritually unaware to know whether they have a familiar, the love for a hostile familiar is usually unconscious. But the love that stays hidden from one's thoughts shows up in one's actions. Some people who put on menacing airs are pleasing their invisible lovers. Eventually, a strong hostile familiar can inspire violence against family and friends. The culmination of the love affair involves senseless brutality toward innocent victims.

Hostile spirits need not express themselves exclusively through human agents. They can attack people without help. The victim of a spirit attack feels a gnawing contempt for himself, or for anyone or anything else he contemplates. In rare cases, an attack by a very strong spirit can prompt insanity or suicide. More commonly, the victim feels emotionally paralyzed, and unable to meet the demands of his job or his relationships. A spirit attack may be accompanied by an inarticulate feeling of illness, or a sensation of fever that provides the material body with a metaphor for the immaterial reality of disembodied hate.

If you are being attacked by a hostile spirit, CHANGE THE ENVIRONMENT. If the window is closed, open it. If it is open, close it. If the radio and TV are off, turn them on. If they are on, turn them off. If you have some place to go that isn't a bar, go there. If you can't go anywhere, start rearranging the furniture. This will keep the hostile spirit off balance for a short time. That is the time to address the spirit, and direct your own anger against it. Don't bother to give the spirit a name: spirits have no bodies, no organs of speech, and no speakable names. It is best to address a hostile spirit as "you." If you can get away with it, screaming at the spirit is helpful--try the words "I don't need you." or "You won t get me." If you can't scream without offending the neighbors, there are other methods: keep repeating the angry words under your breath. Alternatively, imagine a force emanating from your hands that you can aim at the spirit with destructive effect. There is no force, of course, but if your performance is good enough, the state of mind that you will achieve will tend to repel the spirit.

Such counterattacks are effective for a short time, but the spirits will come back unless you take more permanent steps. Lighter colors on the walls of your home, and pictures of happy babies, make good talismans against hostile spirits. So will the amelioration of some of your problems; these do not depart when hostile spirits do. Your problems inhere within your life as the end results of causal chains, and are best dealt with by reason. Remember, sometimes YOU are the hostile being who is wrecking your life. Consult your phone book for professional help.

The three relationships that one may have with a hostile spirit (host, lover, and victim) may be experienced by one person. The spirit may visit until it becomes a familiar, and then attack. Nonetheless, hostile spirits can benefit some people. For those who tend to deny their anger, and shrink from revealing it even when they should, hostile spirits can be excellent friends.

10....THE THINGS THAT SPIRITS LIKE: As mentioned previously, we can influence spirits by changing the appearance of our environment. This makes interior decorating a much more important discipline than most of us suspect. I am not an interior decorator, but have some advice on the subject: keep changing the appearance of your environment until you are comfortable with the shyghns there. Forget fixed rules about what goes with what. If all of your interior decorating is done out of a catalog or by professionals, you are drowning out the influence of possibly beneficial spirits by encasing yourself in a message from a human interior decorator; you are suffocating in a world that has been painted over; a world in which you cannot breathe. So surround yourself with objects that attract spirits whose shyghns are pleasing.

As for the ambient spirits whom you cannot avoid, the ones at the work place and the mall, their deadening influence can be warded off by carrying a small object that is pleasing enough to serve as the home of a benign spirit. A stuffed mouse is a good choice.

Small objects are excellent means of attracting desirable spirits. Each discrete object can complement the self-expression of, and therefore attract, a spirit. Collections of small objects make it possible to attract large numbers of spirits to a small area. Pleasant objects, such as stuffed animals, attract comforting spirits. Foreign-looking objects attract spirits who make us restless, and remind us to do more than sit around watching T.V. Menacing objects, such as weapons and facsimiles of grotesque beings, attract ugly spirits. These can magnify our hostility, but on the positive side, they ward off boredom and repel petty hostile spirits who cheer us on when we become jaded and depressed by the fact of our insignificance. Small objects representing beings with eyes can serve as striking reminders of our invisible company. Consider a cheap sculpt of an owl that seems to look at us. It does not, of course; a spirit makes it seem to do so.

By now, you have guessed that the things said here about collections of objects apply to shrines as well. There are no fixed rules about the construction of shrines. These are made in the same way that an artist or a child draws a picture. By the same token, it is possible to make some good judgments about how both pictures and shrines affect their intended audiences. A shrine with flowers and beautifully arranged stones will attract benign spirits. A shrine with a piece of black leather nailed into a rough block, and covered in blood will attract spirits who are not so benign. A shrine of elegantly arranged dried plants, and pictures of natural splendor, will attract spirits whose shyghns can shield us from the crassness of the world at large. A shrine made of hubcaps and old pizza boxes will attract spirits whose shyghns can inspire us be at home in this crassness. Reason should not guide the selection of the kind of spirits you want to attract, and it should not guide the construction of the shrine.

Also, reason should not govern the performance of rituals at a shrine. Rituals need not be fixed or repeated. Proscribed rituals can attract steadfast and stalwart spirits, but they can also attract boring ones. Our benighted religious traditions notwithstanding, rituals can and should be improvised; the selection and repositioning of objects, the words, the syllables, or inarticulate sounds, can flow directly from your responses to the spirits. A ritual is performed correctly if the reason for each action does not feel arbitrary, but remains inarticulate; this means you are responding to shyghns as well as your own thoughts.

Spirits can respond to many things; you can bring them your hate, your hope, your longing for an absent adviser, your desire to escape, and even your idle fantasies. It is important to remember that spirits cannot respond to you in the way that humans can. You are human, they are not, and ultimately they cannot understand you. No spirit can match a human being's empathy. But because the life of a spirit has little to do with human concerns, no human can match a spirit's objectivity. Even a hostile spirit, in its indifference to human desires, is more honest than its human counterpart. Spirits can never be as emotionally satisfying as human beings, but human beings can never be as honest as spirits.

11....SO NOW YOU KNOW: Don't believe for an instant that this work is in any way comprehensive, even in outline. This work is to the spirit world as directions to a motel are to a city of millions of people. This work is nothing unless you pay attention to what you're shyghning, and respond with appropriate acts, rituals, and things. Now you have a rough idea of how things are with spirits. Use this knowledge, and you will eventually encounter bizarre truths. What follows are the truths I've discovered, which are only a tiny fraction of the possible truths about spirits.


TRUTH

1....WHY I KNOW IT: Although there is no such thing as an actual conversation with a spirit, it is still possible to obtain specific information by communing with one. A spirit's shyghn reveals its responses to your thoughts and actions; by its strength and quality, it can tell you whether you are figuratively warm or cold when it comes to the truth. As an experienced shyghner, I have built relationships with many spirits. Some are deceitful, stupid, or just plain misinformed, but others are quite trustworthy. That is why I know so many spiritual truths. I will deal with the trivial information first.

2....TRIVIAL CONCERNS: Does life have any significance or meaning? Of course not. Human history should have made this clear by now, but for some reason, people keep waiting for a spiritual judgment on this issue. Wait no longer: all of the judgmental spirits I know have assured me that life is indeed pointless. But the meaninglessness of life doesn't mean anything to me. Every account of life's significance that I have heard has occurred within the context of some creed, and creeds come and go. Regardless of religious and ideological fashion, regardless of which account of humanity's illusory significance happens to be in vogue, people still follow the same natural inclinations. They strive to communicate, love, work, play, and learn, and are likely to persist in these strivings until our species dies out. And what is the grand purpose of these human activities? It makes as much sense to ask about the grand purpose for which slugs ooze around and eat lettuce.

Is there life after death? This question is difficult for me to answer, since neither I nor any of the spirits I have contacted have died yet, and I have heard no commentary on this question from the dead. Most of us would like the assurance of an afterlife: this is an inevitable consequence of having both human foresight and an instinct to survive. The longing is based on nothing more than that, and this fact is easy to illuminate. How few of us long for a life before, extending infinitely back into the past! Some people, it is true, study their supposed past lives as a hobby, but these people are both fewer in number and decidedly weaker in their enthusiasm than those who hope to reach paradise after their bodies die. Furthermore, I know of no one who believes in previous lives while rejecting the possibility of a hereafter. Yet from a purely rational point of view, the life before is just as compelling an idea as the life to come. To the extent that these two ideas fail to receive equal time in our thinking, we reveal the subordination of this thinking to the demands of wish-fulfillment.

Yes, in my heart, I would like to be conscious for longer than a mere lifetime. But in my mind, I know that there was a long time before I existed, and that it is just as natural that there should be a long time after.

2....IMPORTANT CONCERNS: Enough trivia! Now it is time to deal with the important truths. There are two classes of spirits: local spirits who are wholly of this world, and spirits having connections with other realms. A realm is what most people would call a "reality," a context in which all of our experiences can be interpreted in terms of many things that transcend them, including everything from atoms to countries that we have not visited personally. In this work, the term "reality" will encompass absolutely everything, including all the realms.

There are countless realms, made of countless substances. There are realms made of ethereal substances too insubstantial to seem real to us. There are realms whose substances contain no empty space, and whose people could not regard our matter with all its empty space as real. People have asked how many substances there are in all reality. Is there one, matter alone, or are there two, matter and mind? Or is matter an illusion, and mind the only substance? What chowder-headed and myopic questions! There is a virtual infinity of substances between the many realms: matter and mind are crude labels for two substances among countless trillions.

There are people in the other realms, many of whom keep the company of spirits, just as we do. Some of these people are like us, and others possess natures infinitely less comprehensible than the most esoteric descriptions of our transcendent deities. Across realms, people have little in common. Only their possession of values defines them as a single class. Does this mean that spirits are people too? This is the important truth:

Many beings appear as people in one realm and as spirits in another, and visa versa. Whether one being is living as a person or as a spirit depends on the realm one is examining. In our realm, people live unaware of their lives as spirits, and spirits too may be unaware of their lives as people. Yes, you may also be a spirit, and the spirits with which you are acquainted may also be people. Furthermore, the deeds you perform as a person and those you perform as a spirit are always analogous in their effects. If you do something good as a person, your spirit's self-expression has also been helpful to people in other realms. This is why some human beings feel called to abandon their worldly lives and spend all their days helping the poor. It is because people in other realms have successfully invoked them as spirits.

Similarly, the spirits whose aid we invoke may be people in other realms, whose fellows look with astonishment at their abrupt and peculiar callings. Be warned. People in other realms may not always call on you for benign purposes. The effects of being called to do harm by your devotees in other realms can be similar to evils of falling in love with a hostile spirit.

It is possible to commune with spirits who are people in other realms. I have gained insight into over fifty of these spirits. In the context of improvised ritual, their shyghns became alive with many truths, including the facts of their lives and appearances as people in other realms.

Why is such information important? What does one do with it? One might just as well ask what one does with a sunset, once it has been seen. One might just as well ask the newly dead what they intend to do with the lives that they have finished. Whether spirits can meet our needs is unimportant. Spirits are important because they are real, they are out there, and they are affecting YOU. Meeting spirits is the ultimate purpose of ritual.


BEYOND

1....NAMES: Spirits don't speak; their names are changes in the shyghns. With the help of the spirits, I made an alphabet to write their names. (See the end of this work.) The characters included are those that provoked the strongest shyghns. The alphabet itself has no name. The letters do not have, and can never have, names. Each letter stands for a different kind of silence. This is not the only spirit alphabet: many have been devised by others like myself.

There is a legend that every spirit alphabet has been invented once before, and that everyone who remembers anything about the original inventors has been struck dumb and insensate to all but the wind. Another legend concerns those who have tried to render the silences of spirit letters into sound. Countless hundreds have tried and failed, but it is said that a few have succeeded. These few are gone--erased from time as if they never were.

2....FACES: One way to commune with a spirit who exists as a person in another realm is to visualize its personal appearance. This can be done by drawing crude figures, until the shyghn of the spirit you are trying to commune with grows strong, and thus indicates the correct figure.

A crude human figure need never be used by us humans, for it is impossible to contact a spirit who is, or was, a person in our realm. However, with help from spirits, I have drawn over fifty other figures, shown at the end of this work, which are good for communing with the corresponding number of spirits.

Think about the imagination required to bridge the gap between the crude figure above, and the detailed image of an actual human being. If you look at any of the fifty figures, and bring this level of imagination to bear until you see the detailed image of the person whom it represents, you will grow very close to the spirits of other realms.

3....SPIRIT METAPHORS: The spirits I have mentioned cannot be concretely described, but their natures can be hinted at with metaphors, especially metaphors culled from dreams. For people of other realms, a metaphor for a human spirit might be a flock of a thousand birds, each bird a different species, each with distinct plumage and a unique call. This metaphor hints at our many thoughts and feelings, our inherently social nature, our alienation from one another, and much more. Other metaphors similarly hint at the nature of other kinds of spirits.

1...... A woman in gray wanders incessantly over a landscape of massive stones, until she is exhausted, and lays down to sleep as a huge crustacean. She has no rest as a woman and no life as a sea creature.

2....Something like eels, something like squid, they live in a limitless sea of their own kind, each constantly moving in endless promiscuous caresses, and each having a stone in its head, which fluoresces.

3....The inventor of a cube which contains all wisdom and gratification was last seen staring into it, and doing nothing else, until he starved. Now more people are gazing into more cubes. Fulfillment threatens annihilation.

4....A million marble spheres move as a colony across the plane. None need food, water, or sustenance of any kind. As the nomadic colony continues its ceaseless journey, each sphere passes the time by selling another sphere to one of its fellows. In a short time, all the spheres have been in turn seller, buyer, and commodity. Slavery is freedom.

5....There is no family. People are hatched from eggs, communally deposited in the valley, to be gathered up by the village caretakers. Some predators look like eggs, until they rear up to feed. In times past, these monsters made meals of many who wanted children. But the caretakers found out where the predators had their young. After that, all of the horrible young were placed in a circle around the true eggs, there to grow to maturity. Now the caretakers feed the false eggs scraps of meat, and live serene in the knowledge that the children are well-guarded.

6....Bejeweled in freezing rain, the water pipes grow like roots, spreading out across a continent, each valve and juncture becoming an atom of thought, until the whole is aware of itself, and puzzles over whether to make fountains.

7....Like all her kind, she treads water in a world without land, knowing that her limbs will eventually tire, and that one day she must drown and sink into the darkness. Still she treads calmly, and admires the beauty of the waves.

8....Its reptile leather is no affectation, but its skin, and costly objects shrink to grains of sand in its grasp. It trades and sells each precious grain to parties unseen, and thrives in in poisoned air, and must keep dealing, or die.

9....Tiny and weak, yet no hazard can deter its steady crawl. Without burning, it swims through lava as the land explodes around it. Too tough for predators to chew, it is spat onto the ground, where, holding no grudge, it continues its journey. Squashed flat beneath unearthly engines that would dwarf the largest trains, it shrugs off the slight discomfort as the engine roars away, and moves forward unperturbed. It means to join its friends, who march to slow but certain victory.

10....The fire grows dim as the young campers watch, until the embers sheltered under burnt logs become a scene of alien nativity. Here is my world, dying and eternal.

11....As a spider, its bite brings confusion and weakness to the minds of those who mean to do harm. As a bat, its flight leads the lost to home and opportunity. As the Great Worm, it heals the soil and all life with it. It does not care how it looks.

12....The boy wears animal skins, and spends most of his time in a dimly-lit cave. He sits surrounded by shelves jammed with bottles of various shapes, containing many potions. Every evening, he samples a drop from one of the bottles. Each night, he experiences something new: a strange compulsion, a new kind of fever, or even a transient change in shape. These experiences are each letters in a kind of spelling: the boy's solitary fugues and tremblings are interpreted as messages by parties unknowable. This boy, and others like him, are kept by these parties, who cannot communicate without slaves.

13....Two scientists were debating whether the dinosaurs were related to modern birds. They were interrupted by a young man whose clothes were stained with the dust of a very long road. The young man said that he knew that the dinosaurs and birds were of the same family, because he had heard them both sing.

14....In the universe of perpendicular lines on white, the feathers, bones, and bits of brass search for a home. Some are alone, some wander in random schools, and others move in orderly concentric troops. There is no home to find.

15....It meditates, and becomes a llama. The llama meditates, and becomes a cabbage. The cabbage meditates, and become a punctuation mark. In this place of study, where all is made of canvas, wood, and stone, punctuation of whatever kind is sacred and treated with the strictest reverence.

16....Rotting fruit and cardboard grime, discarded carcasses and refuse--here they grow like an infinite ocean of shrubs, and the language of rodents is spoken here.

17....This fish mouth palpating and sucking at every bit of dead flesh aspires to be the sun devouring asteroids.

18....He rises in ecstasy in a swarm of vicious crows. Each wound they make in his skin begets a happy blood baby, no bigger than a tear. Once free from the man, the babies run to the water and joyously dissolve.

19....Leather hands grind the sacred grain with stone, near the ashes of a fire pit in the ancient stone dwelling. The grain keeper as lived here for a thousand years. Long ago, it replaced its millenial parent, who was father and mother in one being. This parent committed suicide when the planets were correctly aligned, and its child had grown.

20....Avian monks, insectile workers, all dressed in dark and hooded robes, carefully arrange and store plain boxes, each one containing a whisper. Through millions of years, they have performed this task, and each one of the millions of boxes is made from the wood of a different tree not known to Humanity.

21....Endless curtains stretch from the floor to the sky. I part the curtains, but see only more. I hear my companion and run toward her, but there are only more curtains. Wearily, I look down, and see no one. She and I are mere presences encoded into the movements of endless waves of silk. We are of this world, but not in it.

22....At home, exactly ninety-two black puppies deliver silver rings through a maze. At work, a snow white figure with a thousand arms erases the memory of spoken words by thrusting at them with a golden needle. At rest, the baby nephew of the moon sits on the living room carpet. All these are one.

23....Lavender crystal petals gather to marvel at their own saliva, which has a thousand and one uses. Spread it thinly, and it keeps things clean. Roll it, press it, shape it, pound it, and it becomes any implement or furniture you need: wondrous household wealth all made of spit.

24....It lights a candle, and so produces sound. It looks in the mirror, and sees only a dark hall filled with other mirrors. It writes by burning paper, and delicately touching the ashes with its fingertips. Its voice is heard as an incessant pounding on steel doors stained with many kinds and many colors of blood.

25....This seemingly lunar terrain, and the sun and air above it, are a seething boron red. So is the rhinoceros whose flesh is molten metal. Its charge is as swift as a rifle bullet. It's coming this way. Impact in three seconds.

26....Her flesh is made of leaves, her blood is fresh water, and her eyes are polished spheres of precious sapphire. All crowded places, from cities to forests, give her life, and only open space can harm her. She lives in search of broken beings and artifacts, so she can heal them with a word.

27....Every footprint, and every fingerprint, is a mask for beings who flow behind the surfaces of solid objects, just as fish flow beneath the surface of the water. You are being watched.

28....Tin boxes of grain, each wrapped in flannel scarves, dance on freshly laid straw in a stable under a strong light. Thus, they decide the important issues of the day.

29....Roses are wings folded up. Five children wait for the roses to unfold and take off.

30....Under a golden sun, beings half human and half plum congregate in a meadow that stretches to the horizon. In plump little fingers, each being holds a wand, which it uses to draw mutually perpendicular lines--two, three, four--some have drawn more than a hundred. This is their attempt to depict the taste of the sunlight.

31....The craftsmen look like jack-in-the-pulpits. People of their order create objects each equally suited for three purposes. It is the child's confirmation day. She has created a champagne glass which is also a pen and a mirror.

32....Clairvoyance is accomplished with the hands. A precocious newborn clasps its umbilical cord and cries "I can see the past." Lovers clasp each other and say "I can read your thoughts." A victim clasps the nail protruding from his heart and says "I can see the future."

33....It tastes like milk, and feels like silk, and sounds like a harp. When they put it in their bodies, they can fly as fast as they wish through a sky of many colors, or through the waters of an ocean teeming with life not known to Humanity.

34....If you look closely at the coelenterate men-of-war, you can see little riders on them, as transparent as their mounts. Both are adorned with trailing tentacles, which are their weapons. The cavalry is coming by sea.

35....Few people know that Awareness comes in liquid form. When you drink it, you can hear and converse with the souls of inanimate objects. Drink, and you will hear the working class complaints of tables, the snarls and threats of guns, a watch's monotonous lectures on the value of precision, and the weariness of a shovel just used to dig a grave.

36....Desert canyon, whose caves bear the only life here. In the evening, the residents emerge. Their bodies are covered with shifting photographic images of lush vegetation-- each being looks like a portal to a tropical paradise. They live in the hope that, someday, someone will find the world they can see on their skin.

37....There is a valley of exploding trees. Each of these has four limbs, and stands no bigger than a human being. In life, the trees stand completely still. But when they finally die, the decay of the many chambers in their wood causes their ethereal fluids to mix, and so produce explosions of lightning and fire. If you look into the valley, you can see the dead trees zooming around like rockets. With some imagination, you can see how they resemble dolphins at play.

38....The old couple had met and married many years ago. When they moved in together, each had a cabinet with many doors of all different sizes and shapes. In the time they share together, when they aren't making love, each opens up one door at a time, and lets the other see what's behind it. Each cabinet contains a world. Each time opened, each door has a different object, scene, or being behind it.

39....Evil geniuses destroyed their eyes, ears, and noses, and turned their skin to a leathery numbness. Over the years, their bodies became slithering appendages which trailed their tongues, huge and python-muscular. Most of the head was absorbed into protective tongue flesh. Now the tongue, guided by the brain, pushes forward, knowing everything and everyone by taste--every life, every thought, every syllable, and every fact translated into licking--all life one big lick.

40....Their bodies are bundles of huge, thick digits. Occasionally, one of the digits will lengthen, and grow a new joint. This is a joyous occasion. Here in the stainless steel chambers where they live, the digit-people treasure and admire their own joints as if they were precious jewels.

41....My claws meet your skin, and so we conceive my children, each gash in your flesh, and each scream in your heart. In my fecundity, I am ecstatic, and unswervingly loyal to my young.

42....The surface of our world is like an old attic filled with dusty trunks. There is no difference between our bodies, faces, and hands. With fingerpaint, we create abstract mushrooms that become tiny ocelots when they get upset.

43....There is no place to go that is not a greenhouse, filled with botanicals not known to Humanity. The plants are admired by spheres made of clearest quartz. The spheres see with their whole bodies. For them, seeing is being.

44....The lowly worker ant decides to break out of its rut, and find a new and liberated way to live. Unfortunately, when it gives up its instincts, it has no purpose left. It lies on its back wriggling its legs until it dies.

45....Film is reality and reality is film! Wherever I go, there is constant music. All of the special effects are real. I mention a past event or a possibility and I am there. Reality ripples like waves when I bodily enter or leave a memory or a dream. The editing makes life exciting, but things move so very fast here. I do not know when all reality will end, or who the audience is.

46....It vaguely resembles a powerful man, but its flesh feels as hard as packed earth, and its markings are black, green, and amber. It comes out only at night, and moves through the trees and buildings as easily as the wind. It hunts for victims, and kills by spitting poisonous forks that solidify in its mouth.

47....The room would be less crowded if all of the people here were all the same size. In any case, everyone in the room has a strong relationship to dinosaurs. In my world, all this makes perfect sense.

48....This cathedral is built by tireless beetles, of a species not known to Humanity. They are multi-colored and translucent. Lines of invisible energy eliminate the need for muscles, nerves, and other organs. One can see right through these insects. When the beetles finish building the cathedral, they nestle into the holes in the walls, and become the stained-glass windows.

49....Wires extend throughout space, except in the deserts, and the areas around the many miniature suns. The wires have different textures in different neighborhoods; in the best communities, the wires are steel. The heads of the residents are the same as their middles, and their four limbs are interchangeable, so that the bodies of these beings look like crosses. They move swiftly on wires that they grasp with their limbs, producing sound as they do so. The wires are so exquisitely tuned that the residents cannot move without making music.

50....Two warriors fight with swords. Both warriors are made of wax. Each is is crowned with a burning wick. As they fight, they are progressively more disabled, as teardrops of their own substance cover their bodies.

51....Its flesh feels like butter, and changes shape, so that it is sometimes a man, and sometimes a woman. Wherever it touches you, that touch feels delicious. No matter who you are, you would welcome it all over you, and inside you too.

52....The biggest of these suckles a one pup, who suckles one of its own, and so on down to infinitesimal size. They all live in a goldfish bowl. When the biggest dies, all the rest will die at the same moment.

53....In one suburb, the parents use modern science to ensure that their children were normal, as defined by statistical averages. Thanks to genetic engineering, all of the children grow at the same rate and to the same size. To insure normal families, each household contains one point four children. The point fourth children exist only as animated feet and hands whose coordinated motions suggest attachment to a mathematically defined body. The people of this suburb are unaware of anything odd about their kids. No one is happy here, but no one dares to admit it.

54....She barks like a dog, pierces her flesh with rusty nails, and washes and mashes herself in her own filth. Her humiliation and suffering are a form of worship. She knows that the spirit to whom she bows down is a hostile idiot, but insists that her devotion is worthwhile in itself.

55....Part cat, part ferret, part dog, and about half as big as a grown man, it needs no nourishment but the love of its master, and is especially fond of children. People assume that it likes to be caressed for the pleasure of it. In reality, this pet, like the lemmings in the old legend, harbors a compulsion for death. Given the right combination of caresses in exactly the right places and sequences, the pet will fall into dozens of furry, lifeless pieces, so it is always begging to be caressed. However, it would not tell its master its true motives, even if it could. It really does like people.

56....Brick by brick, the wall grows larger, and the mortar solidifies like old grudges in a small town. Periodically, one of the bricks will scream.

57....The alligator opens its mouth, and reveals a theater in its jaws. The players, like tiny apes made of ivory, are tired of dividing their time between performing and searching for parasites to eat. Now, their prey is part of the play. When the gator's jaws close, the players sleep.


GOODBYE FOR NOW.

1....THE LACK OF LIMITS: I cannot emphasize enough that the spirit lore in this work is NOT in any way comprehensive. More about relationships with spirits can be learned by critical evaluation of occult and religious practices, and by the reader's own home-cooked spirituality, which may result in useful doctrines not found herein. When it comes to spirits, you cannot follow my teachings any more than you can see with my eyes, feel with my hands, or live my life. With the meager awareness that this work can facilitate in the receptive mind, you alone must decide how to respond to the spirits in your life. There is an infinity of ways to live as comfortably with spirits as one does with people. The directions that lead to the attainment of this goal are limitless in number. But on this journey, you have been left to your own devices. Good luck.

2....THE NEED FOR LIMITS: The road to a better understanding of the spirits is littered with casualties, most commonly those who have deified the spirit world. People can drive themselves crazy by making spirituality the be-all and end-all of their lives. No single aspect of life is worthy of this status. If you find yourself performing rituals at the expense of work, time with the kids, eating, taking showers, and everything else, then you have deified the spirits and invited spirit attack. To be consumed with spirituality is as ridiculous and dangerous as being consumed with a passion for money. Forget the Great Distinction between the Heavenly and the Profane, and treat each separate sphere of your life as having a distinct kind of intrinsic importance that needs no divinity to make it sacred. Remember that spirits are not here to help us and will not teach us how to live. Remember that no spiritual doctrine, however old or sophisticated, can accomplish the good of even a single benevolent heart. Spirituality is for dealing with spirits, and nothing else. Limit your spiritual activities; you have other work to do.


copyright 1999


Index