In an age when so many feel disconnected from their own spirit, allies in the unseen realms are unthinkable. The very existence of the unseen is still under dispute by many. It is not something you can measure and define with your rulers and microscopes. But mainstream thought is starting to understand the spirit, at least in psychological terms. For instance, mainstream medicine is now acknowledging the mind and body connection, and, I hope, the mind, body, and spirit link.
Popular psychologists have rediscovered the mystery traditions, interconnections of the universe are explored with renewed interest in the works of Carl Jung and the concept of synchronicity, and the ancient alchemists' teachings of transformation are being studied. The population at large is more likely to accept the terminology and explanations of psychology, now a respected discipline, over unfamiliar mystical teachings. Because of the way individual divinity is expressed in modern culture, the idea of talking to your own inner divine aspect, your internal guide, becomes more appealing to some than the belief in spirits. You are talking to the gods within, the wiser part of you. This is but one model of spirit allies. Many more exist, and these models can all exist side by side. The seeker finds truth in many paradigms; one does not invalidate the other. Many things are occurring in spirit work. If you desire to understand the process, you will find a paradigm, or paradigms, to fit your worldview. For now, explore the concept of the divine within.
Aspects of Yourself
Your own inner voice, your intuition, is your best guide. Many people never work with spirits but follow their own inner knowing, their consciousness. Through your imagination and powers of creativity, the message comes. The spirits you encounter can be part of your own consciousness, aspects of your personality.
The Anima and Animus
From the work of Carl Jung, we have the concepts of anima and animus. The anima is the feminine portion of consciousness in a physical male, and the animus is the masculine part of consciousness in a physical female. Everyone contains energy of the two genders in differing amounts. The combination makes us unique. Every woman has masculine energy and every man has a feminine side. Generally, masculine is considered active and electric, yet it is often gentle and nurturing, like Jesus or Buddha. Feminine energy is receptive and magnetic, but it can be strong and fierce, like a warrior goddess. A lot of social customs deny this, but most ancient cultures knew it to be true.
Because of our social training, working with these aspects of consciousness is a part of maintaining a healthy balance. They give us a different view to any situation, usually a view we think we lack but that is inside us all along.
The animus and anima take on physical characteristics and personality in our minds. We communicate with them like spirits, because they have their own measure of independent consciousness. This does not mean you are developing multiple personality disorder. You are using the aspects within your own being. Some call them subpersonalities. We all have these parts of ourselves that remain hidden. One school of thought feels the animus and anima are mutually exclusive. Men have only an anima and women have only an animus. Other experiences show a personification for each gender. One person can meet both internal aspects. They symbolize the ideal man and woman for each of us.
When working with spirit allies, you can meet both a male and female guide together. With my first experience, I did. I assumed them to be my anima and animus. Later on, as my belief systems changed, I discovered something different about them. They allowed me to see more when I was ready. Or they changed as I changed. Perhaps all spirit allies are a form of our own consciousness, or the animus and anima may be something else entirely. As you can see already, the potential viewpoints are growing. In the end the descriptions never matter; they are all labels. When they cease to be useful, no longer use them. Either way, I appreciate all the help they have given me.
The Inner Child
For a while everyone was talking about healing the inner child. In the most roundabout ways they meant taking care of part of their consciousness, their childlike innocence and happiness. Because of many family problems, people have strong resentments and hurts from their childhood. Working with the inner child is a way to heal those pains by becoming your own parent and now giving yourself the love you needed and did not get. Give your inner child the encouragement to follow your dream if you never got it. The inner child aspect of our being is a great guide to healing and releasing past trauma. The child can lead us to issues we need to confront or it can bring us to a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, most people talk about their inner child in the abstract. The idea of visualizing and meeting this part of themselves seems silly, but they will buy expensive cars, entertainment systems, and wild trips all in the name of the inner child. Spoiling yourself when you are feeling deprived can be good therapy, but the real gift is in meeting and loving another part of you.
The Medicine Wheel
I learned the inner child aspect as part of the medicine wheel ceremony. This version is probably a very New Age, anglicized version of it, but the ideas behind it are very powerful. In the medicine wheel, each of the four directions is connected to the four elements. Each element represents a different aspect of consciousness. Through ceremony you can meet and converse with these aspects of your own personality. Ceremonies to the four directions are common across the world.
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In the medicine wheel
- South is the element of earth. Earth is the inner nurturer, the caretaker or inner parent. Earth is stable, being the foundation of material care and comfort. In magic, Earth deals with the body, resources, and the Earth goddess, the provider of all.
- The nurturer takes care of the inner child, who is in the West, with the element of water. Water is the element of healing, deeper consciousness, intuition, and emotion. The child leads to healing and a rebirth of innocence.
- In the North is the warrior. This inner guardian is the protector and defender of the being. It can be tough and aggressive, with weapon in hand, ready to use tooth and claw to protect. The warrior works with the element of air, the power of consciousness and thought, and is associated with blades and swords.
- And in the East is the inner spirit, the light and fire of consciousness. Fire is connected with the rising Sun. This is identity, life, and willpower.
All these aspects are a part of us. We each have a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual side. We each are the sum of our parts, but the power of these beings within comes from our own consciousness. They are aids, like all spirit allies.
In various combinations, these internal spirit allies make up our inner witness, the one who can look back on our life with compassion and no judgment. The witness is the part of our consciousness that can observe our rational mind, our ego, and ask it to take a break while we exist in a state of pure consciousness. The inner witness is developed in meditation disciplines, particularly from the East, like yoga. Through acknowledgment of this witness, we quiet the internal dialogue. We cease to identify solely with the body or mind and realize we are the being with the body and mind. We transcend them. We are the consciousness, or spirit, beyond them. We are the witness. Because of this transcendence, we are our own greatest ally in the spirit world.
The Collective Consciousness
Your unconscious is the deep well of knowing and understanding. We usually are barred conscious access and control of its vast power, hence the name unconscious. We are not fully aware of it. The subconscious lies on its surface, like the clearer waters sitting on top of a deep, murky ocean. As we intuitively collect messages from our unconscious, the subconscious dresses these communications in symbols that are floating on its surface. Through the symbols we can understand the messages we get, particularly through dreams.
Each of our personal oceans is connected to the vast sea of minds, not only of human life, but of all life. This is the collective unconscious. Some refer to it as the astral plane, and some feel the collective unconsciousness is but one doorway to the astral. Again, it is really a question of labels. Like the physical dimension, this is a co-created reality where we can interact together. The rules governing the astral are more flexible than the laws of physics. Here we can interface with all forms of life, physical and nonphysical. Think of it as a common playground.
In the collective unconscious we encounter images from dreams and nightmares, from mythology and imagination. Humanity has constantly encountered repeated themes throughout its history. Now in the age of information, we have access to the mythos of the world. Many cultures have their father god, mother goddess, and underworld powers guarded by strange monsters and heavenly beings in cities of glass and light. These images appear in our visions and dreams, even though the cultural context is different.
We all have dreams of falling uncontrollably, flying, or being someplace important in only our underwear. These repeated images are called archetypes, a term coined by Jung. Archetypes exist in the realm of the collective unconscious, to which we all have access. Only so many themes exist, but in countless variations and combinations. The only question is, did we collectively create them or were they always there? Maybe they had a hand in our creation. Modern shamans feel we are vessels for the archetypes.
Archetypes are not resigned to the realms of the esoteric. They originate there, but their images creep into our everyday world. Archetypes exist in everything we touch, and it is human nature to include these primal images in our daily life. Some of our spirit allies even originate as archetypes.
A popular system of archetypes is the tarot cards, containing not only the images, but also a sequence of transformation. Tarot is the journey of life and death, spiritual awakening, rebirth, and return to the cosmos. Many meditate with the card archetypes for advice on particular areas in their lives. For instance the King of Swords is a great archetype for learning the art of protection, while the Priestess brings lessons of magic.
The sacrificed king is a popular pagan theme, an archetype of the ruler dying to save his people. Dionysus was the sacrificed and resurrected king of the ancient Greeks. He is the god of love and compassion and of wild abandonment and frenzy. In modern mythology Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified to save all. In the ancient Americas, Quetzalcoatl is a similar figure. Certain sects see him as Jesus after his resurrection, working with another culture.
Jim Morrison, the lead singer of a band called the Doors, was a man of great abandon and excess, a Dionysian figure. To his fans, he was demigod-like and opened the doorways of perception. He later killed himself, and speculations abound regarding a faked death and mysterious sightings. His magic still lives, and I have no doubt he embodied the sacrificed king archetype as, like many others, his story changes and mutates over time.
The Higher Self
If you think of your unconscious as your lower self, your deep intuitive natural wisdom, then there is naturally a counter, or balance -- a higher self. The higher self is a fully conscious and aware aspect of our being. The concept is described best through analogy. As our shadows are to our physical being, so we are to our higher selves. Our shadow is unaware of our existence. The shadow lives in a world of black, white, and gray. It cannot smell or taste. Its existence is two-dimensional. Everything we do affects the shadow, where it goes and what it does.
The higher self lives in a higher plane and we shadow it. It looks to us with love and grace from a multidimensional aspect. We have difficulty understanding the higher self, just as a shadow would have difficulty understanding us. As you awaken to your spiritual heritage, you become more aware of this higher aspect, seeking its guidance and ultimately living it. This concept can be frightening if you think there is something lording over us, but it is not that way. Now that you have this information, life does not change, only your perception changes. You are more aware, but you still need to live and breathe and do things as you normally do. Decision is not taken away. The shadow is just an analogy. We are not shadows. We only lack the words to describe the higher self.
The higher self is a great ally because it has a better viewpoint.
Sometimes our unconscious intuitions and feelings are promptings from this higher self. The different aspects of personality, the anima/animus, and the inner child are ways the higher self communicates with you. The inner witness is another form of the higher self manifesting, bridging our mundane and transcendental qualities. A few practitioners experience the higher self as a complete persona unto itself, like working with any other spirit.
The information the higher self gives is very direct and simple, not mired in the subconscious symbolism of our lives. No decoder ring is necessary when working with it.
I have had students who experienced great difficulty connecting to a spirit guide or totem animal, but when they connected to their higher self, the experience was a breeze. The higher self turned out to be the tiny, quiet, yet familiar voice they have always known.
We all have other bodies, besides the physical. We have etheric, emotional, and mental aspects. The highest, purest of these bodies, the divine or spiritual body, is identified with the higher self. The higher self can be called the true soul, our true essence and identity.
This article was excerpted from the book:
About the Author
Christopher Penczak was ordained in 2000 as a minister by the Universal Brotherhood Movement, Inc. He is also a part time faculty member at the North Eastern Institute of Whole Health and a founding member of the Gifts of Grace Foundation, a non-profit organization in New Hampshire made up of individuals from diverse spiritual backgrounds dedicated to joyful service to the local communities. He is the author of City Magick. Christopher lives in Salem, New Hampshire. Visit his website at www.ChristopherPenczak.com