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Metaphysical Energies: The Last Taboo?
Is It Time to Speak About the Things We Cannot See?
I was talking to my new friend Ora Nadrich, the gifted author of books about mindfulness and spirituality. We were mulling over the disturbing state of the world. Given that she is at home in the more mystical realms, I let down my guard.
“I feel,” I blurted out, “as if in the last few years the physical world has almost melted away, and that the institutions we thought were permanent have visibly collapsed; and now what has emerged into obvious, palpable form are primarily positive and negative energies.”
I try never to share these kinds of observations with anyone but close friends, and only with those who I know are open to such discussions.
I thought she would look at me as if I had two heads.
But Ora said something like, “Exactly.”
We delved into how we both sensed that the world itself — not just history, not just human behavior — but the planet; the dimension in which we found ourselves; time and space themselves, and our relationship to them — felt to us as if they had somehow changed in the last three years or so; leaving us — us humans — uprooted; trying to make a home again, in a place that was now unfamiliar and new; a place that was shifting; one that was hard to navigate or to understand.
Ora Nadrich embraces the change, and is ready for a new world. Many people in the spirituality community feel that the previous world (pre-2020) was deeply corrupt anyway — the corruption was just better disguised and better dressed — and that it is bracing to see at last the unmediated nakedness of all that was wrong, so that change can come about quickly in the old world passing away and the building of the new.
I wish I had her courage.
But I am uneasy. I feel as if my whole life I have lived on dry land and now I have somehow stepped onto a lurching boat, and I do not yet know our destination.
Here is calm Ora:
“There are many paths on this journey of awakening, and each day if we allow ourselves to “receive” — Kabbalah means “reception"; the Kabbalist is a “receiver” of mysticism, of “things we cannot see” - each path will take us closer to better understanding the mystery of life.
For those who look deeply into the mystery, I feel we shouldn't be concerned with those whose perception does not contain the “invisible” -- that which they cannot see. As it is now, we have come to know that there are those who “see” what is going on, and those who don’t.
As I said in my book, Time to Awaken, we are living in a parallel universe, so perhaps there are the “seers of the invisible” and those who cannot see what is not visible to them because they can only live in the visible realm, and even in that realm, there is so much they still do not see.”
When I read in Ora’s book Time to Awaken that she believed we as humans on the planet were living in parallel realities, this had the shock of verisimilitude for me, though it was a pretty startling notion.
How else could some millions or billions of people see so clearly the abyss of lies, coercion and tyranny of the past three years, and other millions or billions saw nothing but the snooze-worthy status quo?
How is it that we keep speaking directly past one another? We do seem to be in different realities.
Her “sliding doors” proposition actually resonated.
Or if not two dimensions, what if humanity is now divided into two modes of perception, which is — even trippier — essentially the same as our inhabiting two worlds?
And even beyond that alarmingly intriguing hypothetical, there is the possibility of a major metaphysical shift overall, of some still-to-be-understood kind.
I think it is actually really possible that the world has indeed changed and shifted in some mysterious way, such that we are blinking into new awareness in a time in which more than ever before, “[…] we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”. [Ephesians 6:12; KJV]
I think we need to break the taboo, in our educated, Western discourse, against talking about metaphysical energies, both positive and malevolent.
I believe the world has indeed changed — recently — in such as way that the taboo against such discussions is disempowering to us.
The idea of the world in which humans find themselves, changes energetically - -that there are palpably different “ages” that bring with them different qualities — is familiar to all great civilizations except our own, post-Enlightenment, mechanistic, Newtonian culture.
The Vedic world believes that time brought humans, about 5000 years ago, into Kali Yuga; that we are in the middle of “the era of the demon” — of vice and darkness, of conflict and hypocrisy. [https://popularvedicscience.com/history/yugas/when-does-kali-yuga-end/#:~:text=We%20are%20currently%20in%20the,the%20end%20of%20Dwapara%20Yuga.&text=LEARN%20MORE%3A%20The%20Puranas%20provide,our%20guide%20to%20Vedic%20Cosmology.] Astrologers, whose art derives from Mesopotamia, India and China, believe that we entered the Age of Pisces about 2000 years ago, and that in the next few hundred years (there is debate about just when) we are due to enter a golden age, the Age of Aquarius. [https://www.almanac.com/what-age-aquarius]. The Aztecs, for their part, believed that there were four Ages of Creation, each lit by a different sun [http://www.mesolore.org/tutorials/learn/18/Counting-Tomorrow-The-Day-After-Tomorrow/48/Ages-of-Creation#:~:text=According%20to%20Aztec%20beliefs%2C%20four,had%20existed%20before%20the%20present.&text=One%20sixteenth%2Dcentury%20source%20reports,364%20years%2C%20and%20312%20years.&text=Each%20of%20these%20previous%20Ages,lit%20by%20a%20different%20sun].
We could go on and on. The bottom line is that other civilizations have seen this planet and its environs and humans themselves in relation to their planet and era, as being always in a state of existential flux. It is only our post-Copernican world view here in the West that, anomalously among cultures, insists that we inhabit a stable, measurable planet.
But might physical reality itself be subject, as most other cultures have always believed, to era-level change?
Our Western modern culture insists that only phenomena that we can see and explain are real, and that human perception must be contiguous and must universally be the same.
But what if that is not true?
I’ve always been intrigued — as have many scholars of the Greek — with Homer’s description in the Odyssey of a “wine-dark sea.” (Homer, Odyssey, 1:178: “And now have I put in here, as thou seest, with ship and crew, while sailing over the wine-dark sea to men of strange speech […]”. https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0136%3Abook%3D1%3Acard%3D178) Scholars have wondered if the ancient Greeks actually did not perceive color the way we do.
Could people have actually seen differently than we do, in former times?
Christopher Hall, in Language and Visual Perception, points out: “One of the first people to seriously study Homer’s use of color was the 19th-century classics scholar and British Prime Minister William Gladstone. In 1858, Gladstone published a seminal 1,700-page study of Homer’s epic poetry, which included a 30-page statistical analysis of Homer’s use of color. Gladstone notes that, compared to modern writers, Homer rarely mentions color, and what is mentioned is mostly limited to shades of black and white, with red, yellow, and green making only occasional appearances. Black is mentioned almost 200 times, white about 100. Red is mentioned fewer than 15 times, and yellow and green fewer than 10. Moreover, Homer’s descriptions of color can be, at times, completely bizarre: skies the color of bronze, stars are an iron or copper hue, sheep wool and ox skin appear purple, horses and lions are red, and honey glows green. Most conspicuous, however, Gladstone noted the complete absence of the color blue. Nothing is ever described as “blue.”’ [https://burnaway.org/magazine/blue-language-visual-perception/].
Cognitive scientists are confirming that this different color palette could be a real thing, and caused by differences in language practices: they are finding that if a culture does not have language to describe a thing, the brain does not perceive it as clearly, or sometimes not at all: In “Effects of Language on Visual Perception”, Gary Lupyan, Rasha Rahman, Lera Boroditsky, and Andy Clark find that: “Effects of language on perception can be observed both in higher-level processes such as recognition and in lower-level processes such as discrimination and detection. A consistent finding is that language causes us to perceive in a more categorical way. [Italics mine] Rather than being fringe or exotic, as they are sometimes portrayed, we discuss how effects of language on perception naturally arise from the interactive and predictive nature of perception.”
So - could humans have gained over time different ways of seeing, through the development of new languages involving new layers of distinction? The cognitive sciences conclude that this is certainly possible.
(Cognitive scientists, and now also quantum physicists, are confirming what mystics from many traditions have long understood: that there is more to reality than flat material being-ness. Kabbala, for instance, one mystical tradition, sees sparks of the Divine as being hidden within all earthly matter. Even though Hollywood has appropriated a weird distortion of it, and the name, it is, if properly understood, in its traditional form, an established part of the Jewish people's faith history; not “occult,” but rather a rich discourse of practical mysticism. The Zohar, the foundation of Kabbalism, is a set of medieval commentaries on the Torah. Kabbalists believe that YHWH is on a continuum closely involved with humans and earth and that the Divine (as well as its oppositional force) can be exposed within humans and within material reality. The Zohar sees evil as separation from the Divine: and, “[a]ccording to the Zohar, evil is like the bark of a tree of emanation: it is a husk or shell in which lower dimensions of existing things are encased. [”https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/mystical-explanations-for-the-existence-of-evil/]
These insights about good and evil inhabiting our material world, are shared in similar terms by other mystical traditions, including Christianity’s and Islam’s. https://reformjudaism.org/beliefs-practices/spirituality/what-kabbalah. Here, for instance, is St Theresa of Avila, who also was able physically to perceive both Divine and hostile forces: “I used unexpectedly to experience a consciousness of the presence of God, of such a kind that I could not doubt that he was within, or that I was wholly engulfed in him.” https://thevalueofsparrows.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/mystical-women-saint-teresa-of-avila-the-ironic-doctor/)
On a related note, could modern, secularly-trained humans have lost certain abilities to perceive the world, and the divine or malevolent powers manifested within it, as certain ways of describing reality, including certain words and concepts, have been abandoned, or have atrophied?
What if we have lost our abilities to discern energetic changes and to adapt to them? What if we have lost sophistication in sensing and reacting to — many things that were palpable to our forebears in many nations?
What if we have, through disuse and the abandonment of language for it, lost our ability to see — the spirits of animals and trees and water, which ability is universal in preindustrial societies? What if we lost our ability to see and to hear the voice of God — which ability also was commonplace in earlier times, and around the world? What if we have lost our ability to detect and react to what can only be called, beneficent and malevolent energies and entities?
Just as every other culture except ours believes in cycles of time with different attributes, every other culture but ours has a highly developed discourse of positive and negative energies and entities here with us on the planet. We, though, in the modern West, are not supposed to name, and therefore are not supposed to perceive, any of this.
These positive entities, found in all other cultures, can be called angels, guides, archangels, or divine beings. The positive energies from higher positive realms, are called blessings, or states of holiness; the positive energies can be found in a location — like a shrine — or maintained in a talisman or amulet, like a mezuzah or a Hand of Fatima, or conveyed to a person, as in a baptism, or with relics or holy water.
Negative entities and negative energies, in every other culture but ours, are described with just as complex a discourse and have just as elaborate an iconography; devils, or Djinns, rebellious spirits, in Islam; Doppelgangers in Germany or banshees in Ireland or “hungry ghosts” in Japan. Places can be possessed by negative entities. People can be possessed. In India, today, negative vibrations are taken for granted as being so real that there are advice columns about them in daily newspapers. [https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/de-stress/5-powerful-tips-to-get-rid-of-the-negative-energy-attached-to-you/photostory/75082932.cms?picid=75083021].
We, though, in the modern West, were taught that the coming of monotheism wiped out all notion of negative entities from our Western civilization, or made them tame and manageable.
But the Hebrew Bible actually shows that this process was a dynamic battle.
The Old Testament, as I am learning by reading the Geneva Bible and Chabad.org’s Hebrew, does not describe the pagan “gods”, the “graven images” that YHWH assailed, as being useless or lifeless or inert, though that was how they were mis-described to me in the versions of these stories that I was mis-taught in Hebrew school.
No, the Hebrew text (and the Geneva Bible) describe them rather as transmitting real powers of their own, but also as transmitting powers that are bad and dangerous.
In Abraham’s, and up to Moses’ time, the text reveals that people took it for granted that magicians could work magic (though magic not as powerful as YHWH’s magic);
"But then Pharaoh called the wise men and sorcerers—the magicians of Egypt, and they also did the same thing by their occult practices. Each one threw down his staff, and it became a serpent. But Aaron’s staff swallowed their staffs." (Ex 7:11-12 HCSB).
The Hebrew Bible’s text makes stunningly clear (though later mistranslations into English do not so simply) the premise that right action aligns people with a moral universe, and that engaging in acts of righteousness is a kind of technology that elicits blessings and abundance from Heaven; and that crime, violence, sexual immorality and hatred put humans at cross purposes with divine laws, and that it is this — and not the pettiness of a punitive, irrational God — that inevitably draws crisis, chaos, and annihilation — the effects of a curse — onto these individuals and communities.
Why this preamble? Because I think it is time to break the taboo against talking about energies, positive and negative, in this world. Why? Because I think that these forces’ emergence into the light of day — the battle between existential, cosmic good and evil, the dueling between forces that extend beyond the mechanistic, beyond the material, beyond the political — is the battle of our time.
We had better learn to re-see these energies; to re-name them; if we are to survive.
This metaphysical battle is now the defining weltanshauung — world-spirit - of our time. “Weltanshauung”, a term made famous by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, is literally “world-intuition” or “Being-in-the-world”, according to the Cambridge Heidegger Lexicon. “Heidegger understands worldview existentially – that is, as a modality of BEING-IN-THE-WORLD, in which a particular stance (Haltung) or way of having a hold on the world predominates.” Heidegger too, shamanistically, warned that human perception affects “reality,” and coined the term “welten” or “worlding”: the making of a world.
But “weltanshauung” too was mistranslated into modern English, mechanistically and reductively — as so much formerly potent language related to metaphysics has been — as “world view.”
The world-spirit now is overtaken by the struggle between good and evil. Nothing stands in between.
You can’t stand in between any more.
Everything else now on the planet is secondary to this battle; everything else is a symptom, a byproduct and manifestation, of this metaphysical world-conflict.
Most people I know have had experiences about which they never speak in public; these involve either majestic and beautiful and inexplicable — or scary and negative and inexplicable — forces or energies, that our Western mechanistic world-view does not accept as being real.
As a result, most people are scared to discuss these experiences, lest they be dismissed as flaky or fanatical or mentally ill.
I’ve been afraid to discuss these matters.
But I have to face this last taboo.
In the next few essays, I will explore this question of “energies” on this planet, both positive and negative; explore questions about how to recognize both good and evil forces; and I will investigate how we can become alert to and aware of these flavors and gradations of unseen reality once again, so as keep ourselves spiritually safe and strong and on the right path, in a time of grave spiritual danger.
I am, as I often insist, a devoted rationalist. I believe in the scientific method. I believe in facts and I cherish the verifiable.
I know that there are real dangers in opening the door to discussion of that which cannot be proven by two objective witnesses; dangers of fanaticism, of hysteria, of group hallucinations. All you have to do is look at history, from the Inquisition to the Salem Witch Trials, to see how assertions about the unseen, about good or evil forces and the metaphysical, have been perverted into savagery or collective lunacy.
That said, I do believe that the world in which we could manage quite well enough by never talking about metaphysical energies — blessings or curses, angelic or demonic forces — has died away.
I feel it gone, in all of its dumb, familiar, reassuring solidity. I miss its stolid, lumpen thickness, its cozy materiality, its prosaic predictability.
In this old world being destroyed and this new world being born, I believe we will need to start telling the truth about the energies we feel and that we encounter.
I believe we need our prophets and our shamans back; our guides; our Josephs, our dreamers; our poets and our interpreters.
We need our spiritual practices, and thus our spiritual discernment, back.
We need to remember what it means to see and name the invisible color “blue” — all the levels of meaning and being that we have been told are not really there — if we are safely to forge this tossing, mighty sea.
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