Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Realm of Shades

Many years ago already, long before the Internet dawned, I’d reached a kind of tentative conclusion. It was that the soul-realm nearest to ours is a subtle world, to be sure, but primitive or of a lower order. I based this solely on trying to understand why it is that the majority of mediums and psychics report nothing of interest from “over there.” When such psychics occasionally write book-length expositions, these books are thick with mounds of pious clichés. Mind you, I had also reached the conclusion that mediums do communicate with the beyond; some may be, but the majority are not frauds. But if I accept that they do—communicate—and with another realm—a good explanation for that might be that these psychics are mostly interacting with a lower realm—not with the peaks of the soul-order. Back in those days I also became acquainted with near-death experience (NDE) reports. The vast majority of those concern a distinctly superior realm; not all of them, mind you; but so-called “negative NDEs” tend to be kept out of books because reports like that would certainly dampen the sales of this new genre of spiritual literature. But I’m interested in reality, not in obtaining feelings of consolation. The very presence of negative NDEs also supports my view that lower realms exist—and probably closer to ours than the heavenly.

In the new age of the Internet, evidence for this conclusion has become much more readily available. Not only have populations become literate, but the web provides people an opportunity to share experience that (say in the eighteenth century) would never have reached print. Hundreds if not thousands of people with psychic gifts at various levels have web pages now; these are often linked to many others so that one has access to a huge deposit of raw data. The sites are extremely mixed in character, of course, but with the right background and a well-developed feel for such material, one can discover multiple sites where their authors are actually reporting experiences—and often skillfully enough to be enlightening.

Content of this kind tends to repel those culturally advanced—the very people who ought to take an interest. Few of the authors are educated in the round or deeply or have absorbed the western philosophical, literary, or scientific culture well enough to stand firm. By and large they’re off the reservation where the academically-trained are comfortable. Not that that surprises me. What proportion of the population is?—thus qualified, I mean. Moreover, many of these people have been coping with unusual abilities that society these days routinely and automatically classifies, minimally, as mental disorder. Therefore, on these sites, the authors keep saying, over and over again, that they are sane, well-adapted to ordinary life, employed, not crazy, not delusional, believe me, take my word for it, and other emphatic phrases no doubt occasioned by the social consensus which holds out a stiff arm in attempts to marginalize these people.

At the same time, and by way of contrast, to someone deeply steeped in the lore of the borderzone going as far back as we are able, in every culture around the globe, what these people have to say has a familiar ring. The very fact many of these people themselves are almost never familiar with ancient human traditions that say the same thing (although the labeling may be different) tells me that I’m reading about actual experience if couched in modern structures of reference. To point at one particular phenomenon, we might take the fact that humanity has always reported on demons and evil spirits, but in the modern setting these entities are rendered as alien abductors who perform unpleasant physical examinations aboard space ships. Ancient people—who’d never heard of aliens or space ships (space in our sense was not a concept for them)—used other language to report “encounters,” often negative, while they were in certain states.

I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that the realms tradition labels as hell and heaven both have their basis in the actual experience of living people who, for some reason, are more open to the invisible dimension than the majority. NDEs and similar psychic experiences have painted the higher levels while ordinarily occurring psychic abilities have produced what humanity has called the underworld, Hades, hell, or the realm of shades. Are the shades that remain behind, as it were, the pool from which souls incarnate again? Is this a very populous realm? Does it take special energy—call it grace—for a soul to reach more paradisaical vistas? Is that famous tunnel we encounter in near-death reports a transit through a lower zone of shades? I wonder. But I’m not surprised that notions of a heavenly and of a darker world are universally found in human societies. There seems to be empirical evidence for them, even if not reported by a majority.

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