How do you capture an elemental spirit?
Mainstream thought seems to be biased towards a materialist perspective. In other words, many of us are used to thinking that for something to be real, it has to be measurable. But so many things can’t be measured! Functions of consciousness, especially spiritual experiences, are hard to capture. Nevertheless, they do happen. It is possible, for example, to induce spiritual experiences through hypnotic trance — this is something that Fr. Bulatao, a Filipino Jesuit psychologist, observed while doing psychic research into transpersonal healing. Bulatao suggested that hypnosis could be a useful tool to explore the varieties of spiritual and paranormal experiences. Recently too, I’ve been reading a lot about “postmaterialist psychology”. Paranormal experiences, which is hard to explain through a materialist lens, suggests that consciousness doesn’t come from the brain. Consciousness is a shared signal, and the brain receives different modes of it. So, we all watch different channels. Telepathic experiences can happen if we tune into the channel that another person is watching. This transpersonal perspective goes beyond the individual experience. It’s also projected onto the world.
We can think of the material world as a conduit for consciousness and the tangible manifestation of psychic projections. As Filipinos, we see nature as filled with spirits. When crossing a grassy area, we should say “Tabi tabi po”, or “Please step aside”, so that we don’t step on a duwende. We shouldn’t point at a large tree because it’s rude to point at a spirit’s house. We should always ask for permission from the engkanto if we want to bathe in the river. This spiritual respect for nature is interesting. We have respect for a world that we share with invisible beings and forces. Regardless of whether the duwende really exists as a small trickster with a funny hat, we know that it represents some ancient and natural force that we don’t fully understand. This is difficult to measure. How do you capture an elemental spirit?
We can think of the material world as a conduit for consciousness and the tangible manifestation of psychic projections.
We’re used to thinking of the Universe as a functioning machine. This raises a few questions, like, “Who made the machine?” or “Who programmed it to do what it does, and why does it do that?” But we can also think of the Universe as a living, breathing organism. It’s difficult, even today, for us to define what “life” really means, as some organisms do things that only living things do, yet are not actually alive. So if we’re all made of the same stuff, does that mean that everything is all dead, or that everything is all living? The postmaterialist might say that all things are conscious in some way, just in varying degrees. I don’t have sure answers. These are all just floating thoughts. I do, however, like the idea of a transpersonal world view, as it aligns with my cultural background. Even today, I still bite my finger if I accidentally point at an acacia tree.
For further reading, you may check out Fr. Bulatao’s article, “Filipino Transpersonal World View”, as well as Beauregard et al.’s 2018 article, “Towards a postmaterialist psychology”.