Any time you make a definitive statement about spiritual matters, someone will challenge you. Sometimes these are skeptics or trolls who don’t like what you have to say but who don’t have the knowledge or the skills to make an intelligent rebuttal. Those are easy to ignore (or to delete, if they’re sarcastic and abusive).
Other times, people you know and respect make intelligent observations that force you to reconsider your way of thinking. This happened with last week’s post The Re-emergence of the Fair Folk in the Ordinary World. DverWinter of the A Forest Door blog (which, sadly, just went on hiatus) suggested that what I and others are experiencing are changes in our own awareness, not changes in the activities of the Fair Folk or in the boundaries between the worlds.
Could it be that instead of pointing towards any recent external shift in the spiritual energies of the world, your experiences are indicative of a change in consciousness within those who are also sharing those experiences – in other words, you and those you know are becoming more mystically-inclined, and therefore tapping into things that were always there?
Kim Kirner, an anthropology professor and a fellow OBOD Druid, left a longer comment that went into more detail, suggesting I’m speaking universally about what may be limited to contemporary Western culture.
Many other cultures have never lost their connection to what might be loosely called the fae, and they have different ways of understanding that relationship, as well as our own alienation from the earth, each other, and the spirit world.
People have revived older worldviews and epistemologies, and they are shifting the acceptability of public discourse to include greater supernatural experience and explanation … We are “waking up” but not because of some woo-woo spiritual era, but rather because we are reviving and reconstructing worldviews that seek to re-enchant our world and to re-connect us to nature.
I like to say “practice deeply but hold loosely” – explore your unprovable beliefs passionately and diligently, rather than saying “I can’t know for sure so I’m not going to bother.” But always remain open to new experiences and new ways of thinking. Our internal models of how the world works should be under constant revision.
And right now I think I need to revise mine… at least a little.
The Fair Folk Never Really Went Away
In 1926, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem titled “Very Many People.” It begins
On the Downs, in the Weald, on the Marshes,
I heard the Old Gods say:
“Here come Very Many People:
We must go away.”
The idea that Very Many People have driven the Gods and fae underhill is ancient. Human migration has displaced countless natural beings – it’s not much of a stretch to think we’ve displaced supernatural beings as well.
Yet when you read the available literature, it’s clear that people still experienced the fae and interacted with them continuously from ancient times right up through today. And there have always been people especially skilled in seeing, hearing, and feeling Otherworldly beings. On our trip to Ireland in 2014, I enjoyed listening to our very Catholic bus driver talk about how a road had to be re-routed around an old tree because the Fair Folk kept damaging construction equipment that was being used to knock it down.
Whether the fae have been less present in our world or whether we simply stopped noticing them is a question that’s impossible to answer. But they never completely went away.
I Am Not Unbiased
Some people believe humanity is in the early stages of a mass “consciousness raising” where we will suddenly “evolve” (an idea that’s a misuse of the theory of evolution) and become more “spiritual” – which is generally assumed to mean passive, peaceful, and politically liberal. I think that’s wishful thinking at best. I see zero evidence our species as a whole is at the beginning of some great shift in consciousness – quite the contrary.
So when someone suggests that the reason more people are seeing high strangeness is that people are becoming more aware, I’m inclined to dismiss them. To be clear, neither Dver nor Kim made such an argument – this is not a rebuttal to them. Rather, it’s a personal bias I’m disclosing to you as a way of reminding myself of its existence.
Now, I have become more aware of spirits and Otherworldly activity. I had a few mild encounters as a small child that I can barely remember – like so many, I rationalized them away. It took decades for me to be able to see them again. I know I’ve changed, so it stands to reason others have changed too.
So, is it possible the big changes I’m seeing and hearing about are people changing their worldview in greater numbers, as opposed to a big shift in external reality? Absolutely. Is it the main reason? I don’t think so.
Why I Think Reality Has Shifted
If it was just me, or just people like me who once were “cement heads” who now have first hand experiences of God and spirits and see things that don’t belong in our world, I’d be inclined to believe that we’re just lucky (or unlucky, depending on what we’re seeing – it’s not all bright and glorious). But it’s not.
I’m hearing these same stories from people who’ve dealt with fae and spirits all their lives. People who didn’t rationalize away their childhood experiences but who accepted them and explored them into adulthood. People whose skills in these matters are as far above mine as mine are above where I was fifteen years ago. They’re telling me the Veil is shredded too (or at least some of them are).
I’m also hearing these same stories from ordinary people living ordinary lives (i.e. – not Pagan, not magical) who’ve never experienced the first bit of “woo”… until now.
But none of this proves anything.
The Problem of Limited Scope and Cultural Bias
The criticism that bothers me most is Kim Kirner’s comment that my post “imposes a Western view on a purportedly global phenomenon.” That certainly wasn’t my intent, but she’s not wrong.
We frequently speak of “the world” when what we mean is “our world” and our ideas about the way the world works. We ignore – and sometimes actively deny – the fact that other people in other places see and experience the world very differently. Sometimes one view is right and the other is wrong, but most times they’re simply different.
What would someone in another part of the world say about the increasing high strangeness? I’d like to find people like me in places like China, India, Brazil, and Nigeria and ask them. What are they seeing and feeling? Is it the same as always? Or are they experiencing shifts in reality just as I am?
Even if they came back and said “nope, business as usual” all that would prove (to the extent anything metaphysical can be proved) is that reality hasn’t shifted in their parts of the world. It’s entirely possible the intersection of the ordinary world and the Otherworld has shifted in the West but has remained the same elsewhere.
I don’t have contacts with people in those regions, and such a project is beyond the scope of my religious duties. But I would certainly be interested in hearing from them.
Good News For Those Who Want To See
The one thing that’s most encouraging in these criticisms is the idea that more people are noticing fae, spirits, and general weirdness because they’re doing the kind of things that build such skills. Kim says “We’re shifting our cultural models, which changes our perceptual capacity and our ways of making meaning of our life’s experience.”
While not quite the same thing, this isn’t that far from the suggestions I made last year for beginning a devotional practice. If you do the right things in the right way, the results will follow. Change your worldview – your foundational assumptions about the way the world works and what is and isn’t possible – and a whole new world will open up to you.
Toward a New Consensus Reality
I’ll leave the question of whether or not there is an objective reality to the philosophers. What we commonly call reality is actually consensus reality – the metaphysical assumptions and cultural norms the wider society informally agrees are real… and that mystics and heretics challenge on an on-going basis.
That’s how I came to the conclusion that the veil between the worlds is shredded. I experienced an increase in Otherworldly activity. I talked about it with some of my witchy and Pagan friends, who were experiencing the same thing. It seemed to match what many of us have experienced at Beltane and especially at Samhain, when the veil is said to be at its thinnest. We came to the consensus that the veil is now permanently thin, or in some places, simply gone.
There’s no way to prove – or to disprove – if this is objectively true. Proof isn’t the goal… which is a good thing, since such matters are beyond proof. Instead, the goal is to build a mental model of the way the world works. Such a model helps us understand the world and our place in it, but it is always a tentative model, subject to revision when new evidence and new ways of thinking emerge.
I’m still convinced the Otherworld is becoming more present in the ordinary world, however you care to imagine that might work in practice. This model matches my experiences and the experiences of those I know and trust. I believe the world – or at least, the part of it I live in – is changing.
But I now have to expand my model to include the experiences of those who see changing worldviews and a rejection of consumer culture enabling ordinary people to see, hear, and feel extraordinary things. This trend is a good thing for the ordinary world, whatever it does or doesn’t mean for the Otherworld.
So what’s changing: the world or us? I’ve been arguing it’s the world, but I now think it’s a combination of the two.
Is my revised model of the world “right”? No, but it’s a little less wrong.
And that’s all we can expect.
Morgan Daimler – who knows far more about the fae and Otherworldly experiences than I do – is running a survey on Otherworldly Activity Experiences. Morgan says:
My plan at this point is to gather the anecdotal data – which is being collected anonymously – and to share the results without interpretation to allow anyone who is interested to draw their own conclusions.
What will be presented when the survey is closed, basically, is the geographic range of the replies, the religious/spiritual paths, cultural frameworks, and the overall impressions of people as to activity levels of Otherworldly beings in our world, the nature of those interactions, and perceptions of decrease, stasis, or increases in activity as well as perceptions relating to a time frame if applicable.
This is not a peer-reviewed survey but an attempt to collect anecdotal data to get an idea of larger patterns, if any exist, of Otherworldly activity intersecting with our own world.