As an esotericist, I end up inevitably contemplating or discussing gods, demons, and spirits. This creates another inevitability – the question “are they real” which is a great way to spend an evening, end relationships, or both at the same time!
On this subject, I eventually came to a conclusion I’d like to discuss.
I don’t question if gods, demons and spirits are real because of the aforementioned lost evenings and lost relationship. I’ve decided question is better phrased “are the concepts of gods, demons, and spirits useful.” I’m sure other people have come to the same conclusion, but I figured I’d give my take since it might spawn useful discussions.
The idea of gods, spirits, and demons is that there are great living Powers in the world or Powers that we might as well treat as lifelike. By recognizing them we may understand them and interact with them more effectively and safely – be it in ritual magic or just navigating through life.
For instance, I realized Facebook is a god (or perhaps a demon) even in the most materialist sense.. It grows and changes, adapts and adjusts, it’s in our minds and influencing our behavior. It’s very much like a living thing, though one I’m keeping a wary eye on. We just happened to make it, though perhaps some of us may wonder if it’s a mask on something else.
Seeing a corporation as a god or spirit, a living being, helps me think about and interact with such organizations. These are not simple organizational flowcharts and bank accounts – they are living (or lifelike) things that very much affect us. It’s also a reminder to be careful making or calling forth these organizational egregores and golems made of money.
I can also look at our planet – where I stray reluctantly into the Gaia hypothesis, albeit the less convoluted take. Our planet is as complicated as a living being. We might not treat it as a conscious being (though as we thinking beings are part of it . . .) but it is complex and organic. Realizing you’re in a big natural system – a god or spirit – is a way to survive and prosper, though I have to admit I’ll take survive these days.
Yes, I feel sort of naive and plastic-packaged-New-Agey saying this, but referring to Earth as a godlike being is a reminder that life here is a complex situation. A bit more “this-is-a-big-system-we-can-see-as-alive” and less “well that summer was surprisingly rainy” would be good for us.
I can also slide into psychology and talk about archetypes, those great patterns and emotions and interpretations hardwired into our minds.. Our myths could be seen as dressing up those deep elements and experiences to better understand them. The thing is they have very real effects.
Language is a real vital force in our life – and we have stories of language-gods like Thoth and Seshat. Love is part of our lives and we have stories of Freya and Venus. The archetype view reminds us stories aside, there are forces in all of us, driving us. In short, gods, spirits, and demons – hardwired into us by evolution.
Finally, I can get supernatural Many of us reading have had Those Experiences where things get wider and strange, where Someone Reached Back or Out. Some of us have been there, and the hardest belief or most scalpel-like skepticism doesn’t change that.
I’ve had such experiences. Somehow it never makes you feel special, does it? But it does make you think “yes, there IS something to the idea of gods, spirits, and demons,” sometimes while you’re lying in bed trying to process whatever the hell just happened.
I walked through several “explanations” for gods, spirits, and demons to show that the concepts are useful for each. Do I think any above are The Explanation? I just used this to illustrate my thoughts. – and I haven’t touched on Neoplatonism, hauntings, etc. In fact I think all of the above are true to an extent and then some.
No matter one or many explanations, we are in a world of great Powers. The idea of gods, spirits, and demons give us tools to recognize this, deal with it, be part of it, or defend ourselves when necessary. If nothing else we need to recognize something very big may fuck with us and kill us. I take a more benevolent view, but I also want these terms just to keep an eye out if you know what I mean.
Perhaps terms like god, demon, or spirit are archaic and I would agree!. These words are terms of old, heavy with baggage and carrying the additional burden of multiple interpretations people fight over. I’d love some new, friendly, usable words. But until we have better ones – and perhaps we do and just don’t use them – they’re what we have now.
Might as well use the tools we’ve got in this wild, mysterious, complex world we’re in.