Levels of Being...

Okay, I've done a few posts about "Monsters" and/or Metaphysical beings, and of course the subject of Ghosts comes up more than enough all over the place. So I've been wanting to do a post that features the different levels of being and how each affect the world around us...

All forms of Magickal theory speak of various realms or levels of being, all of which interconnect and affect one another. And all are present at every moment in our lives, even if we don't recognize it. Now, I'm not talking about some alternate universe from a bad SciFi flick, but instead other aspects of the world we live in. Generally, our culture focuses purely on the physical realm and tends to completely ignore the other more subtle realities which surround us, but that doesn't mean they aren't there. Each of these levels are present at every moment of every day of everyone's life. These levels are a part of the totality of each individual human being and it's this habit of material-mindedness which keeps us from perceiving the many-leveled complexity of ourselves and our own reality.

There are many different ways which I have heard of for classifying these different realms/levels. And just to make a note, I don't see any reason why these levels need to necessarily be limited to one "realm" in each category, but to simplicity sake, I'm not getting in to all that... It's also worth noting that while I am going to speak of "higher" and "lower" levels/realms, it's purely metaphor in an effort to help with understanding. Think of the "higher" and "lower" simply as closer to and further from "purity" but as I noted earlier, these are constantly interacting with and present within each other...

There are five main "categories" of levels, and I'm stating it that way purely to allow for beliefs which may include multiple realms on within some of these levels...

The Physical

The densest and "lowest" of the levels, identical to our physical matter as we perceive it with our five every day senses. For us humans, this level corresponds to the body itself, what we see as normal every day...

The Ethereal
This level is second rung on the "ladder"and is the level of life force. Closely linked with the breath and living matter, it's also the framework of subtle energies on which all physical matter is arranged. For human beings this level corresponds to the aura, also called the etheric body, which is the subtle body of vital energy.

The Astral
This level, which is the third "rung," is the level or concrete consciousness. This is the realm of dreams, imagination and mental activity.  In human beings this level corresponds to the astral body, the subtle body of imagination and the personality that is the vehicle for most out-of-body experiences.

The Mental
Forth on the ladder from the bottom, we have the level of abstract consciousness. This is the realm of timeless and spaceless meaning, the laws of mathematics, and the fundamental patterns of the cosmos... In human terms, we're talking about the mental body, the essential and immortal pattern of the self.

The Spiritual
The "highest" level, this is the level of primal unity from which all other levels emanate and to which they all return. This is, for humans, the level with corresponds to the spiritual body, the transcendent core of the self.

Now, the physical level is of course relatively familiar to us today. We understand how and why it works the way it works and few have arguments with the findings of modern day science about this subject. Although there is a general understanding that, from a magickal perspective, the scientific view tends to be rather incomplete. In addition the Spiritual level tends to be at least a concept that the majority of us understand simply because it's the primary focus of today's major religions. However, these intermediate levels -- Ethereal, Astral & Mental -- that remain largely unexplored and misunderstood. These also happen to be the levels which we need to have at least a basic understanding of when we are talking about other "beings," astral travel, divination, and any number of other subjects...  So, lets explore them a little bit...

For subjects like "beings" and ghosts, the etheric level is in many ways the most important. It has a number of characteristics that need to be kept in mind. First of all, this level is very close to ordinary matter. In exists in space and time, just like matter, and can affect the physical level directly. It's these "etheric forces" (known as chi or ki) which are concentrated and controlled in various forms of Asian martial arts in order to accomplish their more spectacular feats... 

The energies of the etheric level serve as a vehicle for different kinds of consciousness and can be shaped and reshaped by our conscious imagination & will. They can also be concentrated or defused by various methods. When concentrated, they take on a certain degree of apparent solidity and can be felt directly by the nerve endings in humans. They can also exert pressure on physical objects and appear to have physical weight and inertia. In this state they are even sometimes mistaken for solid or semi-solid matter. When defused, on the other hand, etheric energy becomes intangible and almost impossible to detect, unless the necessary disciplines of awareness have been mastered.

The astral level, which is the level of concrete consciousness, is nearly as important as the etheric when trying to understand magick, magickal creatures and even our own existence.  This level is the level of dreams, and because of that it's a level that even though most of us don't understand, it's a level which we each experience on just about a nightly basis.

Whats more it's central to magickal understandings that the Astral shapes the Etheric, just as the Etheric shapes the Physical. A pattern formulated with enough intensity on the astral level will reshape the subtle substance on the etheric level, which then, in turn will tend to reshape the material substance of the physical level. THIS is the basic formula for magick!

In turn, any event which takes place on the physical level echoes patterns already established on the etheric and astral levels, and can be perceived in advance of the physical event by those more in tune with the higher levels. THIS is the basic formula for divination!

Often we divide the astral level into "lower" and "upper" sub-levels for practical purposes. (Again, as before these "upper" & "lower" are metaphoric and not physical) The "lower" aspects to the astral level has more in common with the etheric and physical levels, while the "upper" has more in common with the mental and spiritual levels.

You may think the mental level is one which we are all rather familiar with, however this is only half true. This is the level where natural laws exist as concrete realities. Spaceless and timeless, it provides the fundamental patterns on which all manifestations on the lower levels is based. The patterns are combined and interwoven by the processes of the astral level, which is neither quite in time and space nor quite outside of them (again, think dreams) and then reflected in various complex forms into the etheric level, which is known entirely in space and time as we know them...

While this information may all have just gotten completely lost inside your growing headache, understanding these levels of being is imperative for understanding basic Metaphysical studies, including Magickal and Paranormal studies as well as our simple every day life on deeper levels. What I have covered here is of course only the most basic information, to cover each level in detail would take books and books, and is simply more than I could cover here. What is important is to understand how these levels exist in our own world and how they interact with one another rather than what level contains what beings and how they interact with us at this point... Although to completely understand studies of Magickal beings, Paranormal beings and Magick in general further study is always a good thing. If however, you are happy to take some things on faith, you can save yourself a lifetime of study.

**For more in depth information on these levels, what they contain and how they interact refer to the book Monsters: An Investigator's Guide to Magical Beings

Does Exorcism have a place in the Pagan Community?

According to the Catholic Church, there are not enough Priests who have the ability to preform exorcisms. Because of this the nation's Bishops are holding a two day conference on how to conduct them. Starting Saturday more than 50 Bishops and 60 Priests gathered together to learn both the liturgy and traditions associated with the rite. This news has brought up quite a few questions in the "newly Pagan" and non-Pagan community about exorcism, the practice, the need and it's use both in and out of the Christian belief system.

While I am no expert on the subject, especially from a Christian perspective, I do understand the basics and have even been present for a very basic rite. Exorcism is generally the removal of energy or beings from either a space or person. Now, most of us have the picture of Linda Blair spitting green in our minds the moment the word is used, but this is really nothing but a very "Hollywood-ized" version of a worst case scenario.

In most cases, exorcism is in fact used to remove negative energy or entities, but the reality is only on the rarest occasion anywhere nearly as violent or dramatic as popular media would like you to believe. As with the majority of spiritual realities Hollywood & popular media do their best to find the most out of this world case, stretch & twist the truth so that it's barely recognizable and then they say "based on a true story" and call it entertainment...  Is it fun to watch? Oh, yeah! But is it worth developing realistic beliefs around? Never! The problem is with subjects of this nature, the ONLY exposure most people get is through these very unrealistic sources... This tends to lead to more than a few mislead persons!

So, is exorcism even recognized in the Pagan community? Well, yes and no. Exorcism has been used throughout just about every belief system history has held... However, because of those same misconceptions I touched on earlier, many Pagans equate Exorcism with Catholicism and a belief in the Devil, neither of which are of course a part of their beliefs. So when the subject or thought does come up, it's usually dismissed just as easily as the idea of Baptism. That does not however override the very obvious fact that Exorcism does have it's place in the majority of Pagan communities.

It is worth noting that, yes, most exorcisms are used to rid either persons or places of negativity. And it's fairly easy to see why... Obviously people are more ready to rid themselves of negativity than they are of peaceful or even positive energies. However, technically the removal of ANY energy or spirit-being from either a place or a person through the use of religious rite or ritual is in fact exorcism.

While I won't be getting in to all the "how-to" information here, I feel there are some important facts that do need to be touched on. First of all, like ANY religious or spiritual rites or rituals it's important to have all the proper information and facts PRIOR to attempting to do one yourself. If you don't have access to someone who has done one in the past, at least contact someone who can walk you through it, and if you feel the situation could be dangerous - usually because of extremely negative energies - look for other options FIRST.  Secondly, exorcism is NOT usually needed! In fact they are only really needed for extreme cases, usually just a general area cleansing or simple grounding is enough to create the changes desired.

There are in fact documented cases throughout the vast majority of early civilizations... Today, many "native" or tribal religions still have the practice, as do some better known world religions including Hinduism, and of course Christianity. The practice has fallen off in most present day faiths, but in the rare occasion that it's needed, it is still used. For today's Pagans the idea seems odd, but again, that's because the vast majority have bought in to popular propaganda.

So when is exorcism actually needed? Well, the simplest answer is when all other attempts to rid yourself of a strong negative (or positive) energy source have failed. I would fair to guess the majority of these are needed because inexperienced persons open themselves up for spirit possession without the proper knowledge or understanding of how to handle the situation or what they are actually opening themselves up for. However, there are of course those cases where persons were simply unaware of the possibility of possession and of so were both ill-prepared and unable to deal with the situation once it took place. Of course most possessions are in fact not dangerous, but any time we open ourselves up to outside energies or beings we take that risk... This is the number one reason I tend to simply advise against doing advanced occult rituals or playing possessive games without the understanding and experience needed.

Many Pagans don't buy in to the idea or belief of "Demons," labeling it a "Christian Notion." However, again, there is just as much documentation of such beings outside the Christian belief system as there is within it. While I will go in to greater detail about Demons in further posts, it's safe to say that whatever you call them, even most Pagans will agree that there are spirit beings out there who feed off of our energies and who will and occasionally can cause harm to persons. Should this happen, the first step should be a cleansing and grounding. IF that yields no benefits, exorcism may be worth looking in to.

Through the use of Spiritual or Religious Rites and Rituals an experienced Priest or Priestess (or for that matter anyone with the strength and experience) can force the negative energies out by forcing positive energies IN. It takes strength, endurance and above all experience... But it DOES in fact have a place in the Pagan community!

This Big Blue Planet: Reading Labels

Recently I read an article about how many "Green" products really aren't. And it reminded me of a story, which I felt I needed to share here. When I first started trying to switch over to a greener more eco-friendly lifestyle I found it to be not quite as easy as I first thought. One of the first thing I switched was our dish detergent, because it made sense to be a good place to start - I mean, why put all those extra chemicals on the dishes we were going to put out food on? So, that's where I decided to start.

I was super excited to see that there were a number of name brand companies making products labeled "Green," "Natural" or "Eco-Friendly." So, the next time I was at the store I picked one up and put it in the buggy... I didn't ever think to read the label. Why would I? I saw words like "All Natural" and "Eco-Friendly" right on the label, why would I have cause to think it wasn't really so green?

So, anyways, I got home, put away  the groceries and started to load the dishwasher. I unscrewed the lid and pulled back the foil so I could fill the machine. When I did I splashed some of the product on my hand and shirt, which of course, was brand new & black (figures right?).  At the time I didn't think anything of it. I figured I would finish loading the dishes, and then go clean up my hands and shirt, no big deal... Well, I was wrong! I finished up the dishes and went to clean up...

Now, I am HIGHLY allergic to Chlorine, but this was supposed to be a natural and green product, why would I worry about Chlorine? Well, I should have! Not only was my shirt (you know the brand new black one) ruined, but my hand had broken out in an allergic rash. At that point, I went to read the label.  Let me just say, this was FAR from Green or Eco-Friendly!

It was at that point that I started to do some more homework about what it means to be a green or eco-friendly product. As I learned there is really no guidelines or rules which are required to be met in order to label something as green, all natural or eco-friendly. These terms are literally free for companies to use, regardless of how truthful the statement is. What I found was many companies replace one or two chemicals with a more natural option and then call the entire product green, while not actually creating a product which is eco-friendly...

What I found to be even more disturbing is that a growing number of companies are sprouting up claiming to have Green products, while masking their ingredients behind "code words" in an effort to trick customers in to purchasing their products - usually at a higher price than they could purchase similar products somewhere else.

It's for this reason that it's very important to read the labels to everything prior to purchasing. If you are looking to purchase a product online, request an ingredients list or copy of the label before ordering. IF a company refuses to provide you with these things, my advice is to look elsewhere for products which are more honest and open, a truly green company, has no reason to hide their ingredients.

It's also very important that you actually know what you're looking for. While it's obvious that ingredients like Chlorine, Ammonia or Benzine are toxic you may not know about others. A good rule of thumb is if you can't pronounce it, don't use it! If you have questions about an ingredient in something, take 30 seconds to run an internet search on it, you'll easily get an answer. However, it's these "code words" which are in my opinion more dangerous than the unpronounceable chemical names, because many people look them over without really questioning what they need. Words such as "Fragrance," "Preservative," "Cleaning or Brightening Agent" or "Stabilizers" should be looked at as higher questionable. These terms usually replace the names of chemicals (you know, those unpronounceable ones) that are far from Eco-Friendly and can in fact be very dangerous.

You'll find that the vast majority of things labeled as green, really aren't. For me, I've gotten to the point where purchasing "green" products means cleaning with Vinegar and Baking Soda, and using products like Crisco and Corn Starch on my children... I'm still mastering making things like soap, shampoo and dishwasher detergent, so for these I do my best to buy what I call "greener" products. By greener I mean, not completely eco-friendly, but greener than your average option. Once I master making my own, I'll stop using these options all together. In some future posts I will post some "how too" information for making your own stuff... A good rule of thumb when making your own products is if you can't eat it don't use it... Please notice (it's sad I have to say this) I said CAN'T not, WON'T, simply because something CAN be eaten, doesn't mean it should be...

Check out what else I'm writing!