Conquering Fear


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I came across a message on another site, which talked about "sensing spirits" and "banishing" them. I somehow found the whole concept a little misguided - I cannot help but feel that the entire language of spirituality is based on metaphors, but that for some people those metaphors became literal, because to accept metaphor is to face an unacceptable level of uncertainty.

This especially comes with the notion of "Fear".

Fear comes from within and only from within. There is nothing spiritual that can harm us. We can be injured physically through physical causes; we can be injured emotionally through emotional causes - but I just utterly lack the conscious experience of ever facing a spiritual threat through spiritua causes.

Certainly I've faced fear - but always it was of the unknown. Once I came to accept the unknown in an active manner, the fear abated.

Yet for those who see things to fear on any level of spiritual experience, and conjure images of "spirits", "demons", and "devils"...the idea that their personal fear must have some objective reality that we should all fear completely escapes me.

It makes me think of an analogy - if a person is in a forest, and it is dark, that person may the dark and so make a fire. They hear noises from the forest so they hold burning sticks out to keep things from harming them.

The truth is that such a person is being scared by nothing more than the noises of insects and small rodents. Lacking experience to recognise these for what they are, and unable to preceive these forms directly, a mind in fear could creates large threatening images to satisfy that fear - to justify it.

Resorting to rituals in such situations can only serve as psychological tools for handling the mysteries of reality. Here, to stop the person's fear creating those threatening images, to come to understanding that they are created from harmless sources.

Fear is the most detrimental aspect of spiritual development, but is also quite understandable. Spiritual growth is about accepting the limitations of being, and accepting that everyhting you thought you knew possibly isn't true at all. This is where uncertainty comes in, and as biological constructs that translates easily into fear - fear of the unknown

But the fear has no reality excepting within the self. Conquering fear is an essential element of spiritual growth.

Fear is living with eyes closed. When you open your eyes there is no darkness. There is never anything to fear. Not on a spiritual level.
I don't particularly agree or disagree with your comments. But I thought I should at least mention the fact that there is a school of thought that; somewhat paranoid as they may be; do disagree with you. When you said that "nothing spirtual can harm us", there are people who disagree. It is a very frowned upon topic, but spiritual attacks have allegedley being taking place for years. In modern media, the most predominant example of this would have to be the Haitian polytheist religion of Voodoo. The spiritual attack by voodoo priests, if real, could constitute such a spirtual danger.

I once watched a documentary on Sky about an black londoner who returned from a holiday in the states having met a voodoo priestess. The man and the priestess had a small quarell, and he went on his way. When he returned to London, he found his wife had been subjected to numerous "pyschic rapes". His wife was immediatley brought to a renound psychiatrist for evaluation, the psychiatrist declared that the woman was "as sane as he was" and that he "believed the attacks to be real". I realise that this is a very questionable topic, but there are accounts of spiritual acts bringing harm. Anyone who has every had a lengthy discussion about Ouija boards with a spirtualist or medium, will know how much emphasis they place on protecting oneself against spiritual attacks.

Do not fear change. Do not fear explanations, or even ultimately, lack of knowledge. Do not close your mind off to new possibilities. But be aware that there may be dangers in attempting mind altering experiences, we just simply do not know. Always be aware of the fact that you will probably never find answers to the cosmic questions, but like Brian says, "When you open your eyes there is no darkness". Perhaps fear of attacks such as those voodoo ones, are simply fear of the unknown, but never dismiss the possibility that such acts and practices may be at least partially real.

Ultimately it comes back to the question - Is the soul real? If the answer is no, then we have nothing to fear spiritually, because the spirit is simply a metaphor for our individuality. If on the other hand, the spirit is some form of sybiotic astral body working in harmony with a skin-and-bones shell, then surely the notion of pyschic attack is at least plausible.
The notion of voodoo seems to have more in common with an abusive relationship, where the victim allows the "practitioner" to dominate their own sense of reality. And such practices can play on some very real and powerful inner fears - only in such instances, the practitioner involved is able to shape the victims fears into a shape of their own making, and give it an active element - very much, I imagine, like hypnotic and psychological suggestion.

You ever seen any stuff by that psychological magician - had a show recently on Friday nights on Channel 4 - at all? Only seen clips, but believe me, he's in the same ranks as the best Voodoo practitioners in terms of abilities.

As for myself - I fear no evil. But then again, I am just a Fool. ;)
Yes, that's the lad - clever stuff. And nothing remotely supernatural - just manipulation of receptive minds.

I'm sure Paul Daniel's has done a clever thing or two in his life as well. ;)
i agree with the main points made here, but will add this: spirituality is the energy of life (and death), and energy can be positive and/or negative. it can help and/ or harm; depending on its application and context.
Energy simply is. Whether it harms us or not is irrelevant to the actual nature of the energy itself. In other words fire can warm our homes or burn us. That doesn't make fire negative or positive, just our experience of it.
We should never fear needlesly. Unfortunately there is so much in man that we need fear.
A popular expression within the Wiccan community holds that “where there is fear, there is power.” By facing one’s fears, learning their roots, and working with the issues that planted them, we become stronger. Most magical/Pagan systems I am familiar with begin with deep and searching self-examination, development, and healing, specifically to help us learn who and what we are, how we work, and how we can best overcome our own limitations.

In my experience, Foundationist, there are metaphorical spiritual concepts—such as fear—and there are actual . . . let’s call them “beings” in order to avoid semantic confusion with the all-purpose word “spirits.” They range from the mindless to the superhuman, most have little truck with humans, many are helpful [spirit guides, guardians, totems, what-have-you], and some are inimical. However, it appears that we ourselves determine what we’re going to meet out there. With elementary precautions, even a neophyte isn’t going to get pounced on and eaten by some horrid denizen of a medieval grimoire. [Note the term “elementary precautions.” I knew personally a young man who tried to invoke the god Thor WITHOUT bothering to cast a protective circle. I do not believe he actually got Thor; the results, however, were spectacular, physically manifest, and unfortunate.]

I have personally participated in cleansings (i.e. "banishings") of areas that seemed possessed, if you will, by feelings of depression, suicide, hatred, and other emotions. I've also dealt with entities within myself and in others that appear to be generated by various issues and emotions. Our tradition calls these "wraiths," or--alternate spelling courtesy the author Starhawk, "raiths."

One can argue that all such beings are in fact reflections or aspects of ourselves raised in or by our subconscious. This may be true. However, one of the basic laws of magic—the “Law of Personification”--states that any phenomenon may be thought of as alive and possessing a personality, that whether it comes from within or without is, in fact, unimportant. If we think of it objectively we can deal with it objectively. Crowely wrote “It is more convenient to assume the objective existence of an ‘Angel’ who gives us new knowledge than to allege that our invocation has awakened supernormal power in ourselves.”

So . . . are there noncorporeal things out there (or in there) that can hurt us? Yup. Can we "banish" them? That depends; with common sense there's usually no need. Is fear one of them? No, fear is our own (and a necessary) response to a threatening situation. Should fear be banished as that other site suggests? No, fear should be faced and overcome, strengthening us in the process.
Forgive me for interjecting a bit of Christianspeak into a Wiccan-oriented thread, but, uh:

"Perfect love casteth out fear." ??


I assume, WH, that our Mutual Friend has seen this. :)
Welcome to, WHKeith. :)

It's late here for making specific points about your interesting post.

Perhaps it would be better to take up where Polycarp interjected?
Aren't we in the realm of personal fears only? I'd hate to sound like the rationalist skeptic (of which I am nothing of the sort) but I thought the whole 'spirits' business was left at the door of animism, which personified natural forces and metaphor in the first place. Maybe I haven't studied enough, but I don't think we see actual malicious spiritual entities being described until organised religion takes hold in Sumer & co.
So the whole message of the metaphor became lost from its origins and given new life through independent existence as an abstract lifeforce with its own will instead of the embodiment of something natural and mundane.
So the personal fears that should have been targeted at the normal cycles of nature (death, darkness, big clawing things etc.) all assumed independent existence. Our fears of the dark became personified in 1001 names developed through organised belief systems that we call early religion.
So all that remains are our personal fears. Our belief in spirits that can harm us is like the cycle gone full circle of moving out from animism into organised belief, picking up some bad habits along the way and then returning back to animism again and injecting those bad habits back into belief. Sort of like meeting yourself coming the other way without realising it's nothing more than yourself.
Absolutely, brian. I rambled on WAY too long. Sorry! A failing of mine.

Hi, Polycarp! I don't know. Is she lurking here?

I agree with what you say, Elizabeth, but must add that uncounted people--witches, magicians, occultists, New Age channelers, mediums, and the Goddess knows who else all have experiential exchanges with what we can only call “spirits,” including gods and goddesses, elementals, the dear departed, guides, guardians, what-have-you. In many cases, said exchanges include verifiable data that was unknown to the person in question. An example would be the medium who receives information from the spirit of a relative of a sitter, but who has that information refuted or denied by the sitter . . . only to have the information verified later as something the sitter didn’t know.

Now, possibly this information comes not from spirits external to us, but from our own subconscious by way of some kind of collective unconscious—the fabled “akashic records” would be a possibility. But a basic principle of magic says: if you can think of a phenomenon as an objective and external entity, do so. It saves wear and tear on the mind, and ultimately it doesn’t much matter whether you’re talking to a ghost or a fragment of your own subconscious with magical or telepathic access to information you didn’t know you had. It’s “real” in every relevant sense of the word.

I once had a kitchen spatula thrown at me by the (deceased) husband of my teacher in the Craft at the precise moment that I demanded some objective proof of his existence. Or . . . did I unconsciously throw the spatula at myself telekinetically in a subconscious bid to open my narrow mind? Occam’s Razor suggests the former. The latter gets WAY too tangled for me! I’ll accept the idea of spirits as a working model . . . which, in fact, is all any of us can do!
Rambling is only rambling if there's no point to it. :)

I especially liked a couple of points you made here:

[quote author=WHKeith link=board=6;threadid=68;start=msg813#msg813 date=1055950951]
Now, possibly this information comes not from spirits external to us, but from our own subconscious by way of some kind of collective unconscious—the fabled “akashic records” would be a possibility. But a basic principle of magic says: if you can think of a phenomenon as an objective and external entity, do so. It saves wear and tear on the mind, and ultimately it doesn’t much matter whether you’re talking to a ghost or a fragment of your own subconscious with magical or telepathic access to information you didn’t know you had. It’s “real” in every relevant sense of the word.

Certainly there's room for the explanation of tapping into the "collective unconscious" (I figure I'm safer with Jungian terminology than Theosophist!).

It's intriguing, though, to wonder at how much of our understanding is exactly nothing more than metaphor. It's too easy to comment that a certain perception of the Divine may be anthropomorphic - yet the alternatives may in themselves be nothing more than different kinds of metaphor - all true as metaphors are in their own way at different levels of perception.

You're especially quite right about the notion of belief being a series of psychological devices - this is something I've (probably erroneously) try to use before those who practise magick, to try and explain that the device itself is not a means to an end.

Sometimes it seems too many people are focus far too much on the device than the meaning of it - for example, in terms of placing excessive focus on rituals and tools (actually, as a pan-faith issue). However, I guess at some point there's always the danger that suggesting so is nothing more than trying to argue an exchange of metaphors, which in itself would perhaps be quite a meaningless argument.
Agreed, brian.

I have a particular interest in linking modern physics with what I practice as a witch. [Okay, I'm an author in my day job, and I'm working on a book on science in witchcraft for Citadel Press, right now.] Some aspects of modern quantum physics are SO bizarre, and have such bizarre sequelae, that we have to assume that EVERYTHING we experience, from a feeling of sadness to the reality of this computer desk in front of me, is metaphor--in essence our own minds creating what we think of as reality just so we can function! According to quantum physics, this desk is mostly empty nothingness, and my very act of looking at it determines its actual form. We all create reality, and the world around us is a shared, consensual belief in what is real. That's physics, not religion!

Much of what I believe when I--say--do some spellworking are what I think of as "handles" to let me work with whatever it is I'm working with. For instance, in my tradition, North; the element Earth; the colors green, brown, and black; rocks and crystals; cornucopias; the archangel Uriel; forests, caves, and mountains; midnight; winter; deep and hidden magic; the New Moon; practical, day-to-day matters; money . . . these and many other things are all related in my mind. We think of them as congruent, or as correspondences. If I want to do a spell to increase my finances, I might craft something honoring the North, using green candles, asking Uriel's help, and beginning at midnight on a New Moon. None of these aspects mean a damn thing outside of my own mind. INSIDE my mind, however, they all are symbols that speak to my subconscious self--a literal-minded critter that doesn't think in terms of language, but which is VERY good at symbols. Those correspondences become "handles" for me to symbolically work with the idea of moving things around in the universe to send more money my way. Every bit of it is metaphor, but that doesn't mean it's all not very real, very potent, and very useful!

After all, what's a meta phor?
A very nice explanation as well. :)

Fascinating, too, as I'm currently trying to enter the publishing markets as an author. In essence a big part of it all is combining the languages of science and spirituality into a working theoretical model. This isn't something I devised myself - it's very much a part of something given.

I guess my ultimate fear is failing. Which in simpler terms means missing a great opportunity to do something meaningful for the world.

There are many obstacles and challenges - these are an ordinary function of life. The only real adversity I can face is myself - but giving up has never been an option. Hence I understand my fear and let it drive me.

After all, what's a meta phor?

That put a simile on my face. :)