Maybe you have a bookshelf arranged by alphabetical order. Maybe you live in a Ranch style home. Perhaps you make a living as a seasonal Santa Claus or as an Elvis impersonator. Have you ever acted as a character in a play? Have you ever been possessed by Lust or Rage? What makes a bumble bee different from a wasp anyway?
The word “spirit” conjures up all sorts of weird images in peoples’ heads, so much so that it’s not surprising that people, in general, have come to either not believe in them outright or to just discount their influence over daily life. This is a mistake. Not only are spirits tremendously influential in our world, they’re also fairly easy to understand, at least on a surface level.
A spirit is, essentially, a pattern. A pattern of being. And, here’s the crucial bit, patterns of being don’t stop existing just because they have no physical incarnation at any given time. To return to our examples above, take “alphabetical order”. That’s a pattern of being. It is a way that things, in the world, can be. Now, if you were the only person on Earth left, and didn’t organize anything alphabetically, would alphabetical order cease to exist? No. In the room I sit in right now, alphabetical order has no physical manifestation, I’ve not organized anything in any particular way to be honest, but alphabetical order still exists in this room, it just has no physical manifestation in the moment. It exists as a potential state or pattern of being that could be assumed by the matter in the room. The fact that the matter is not currently assuming it does not destroy alphabetical order as a pattern. Alphabetical order is *a thing*, it’s just not a physical thing. Does that make sense? If it doesn’t it’s not because the concept is complex, just foreign to the way we modern people speak. Another example:
You probably live in a house. What style is it? Contemporary? Colonial? Ranch? Perhaps you live in a French Country home or one styled on Greek Revival? But what do those things mean? If we tore down every single Colonial style house on earth would “Colonial Style” cease to exist? No, because it’s a pattern of being that might still be re-manifested concretely in matter at any time. In a similar way, it is quite obvious that Santa Claus exists. Santa Claus is a persona, a character, a pattern of being and behavior that exists independently of anybody actually being that character all the time and doing so at the North Pole. If a man is playing Santa during Christmas time, and letting children come and sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas, he is incarnating, literally, Santa Claus in that moment. If he were to do instead, come round in July wearing a grass skirt and admonish elderly people about the importance of taking their medicine, nobody would recognize him as Santa, even if, while so admonishing the elderly he kept screaming, “I am Santa Claus!” Why? Because you can’t be Santa in July with a grass skirt yelling at the elderly, that’s not what Santa does. You would not be conforming to the pattern of Santa, and therefore unrecognizable as him. Just like Colonial Style houses, Santa doesn’t cease to exist simply because no one is currently incarnating him. He can be brought “into the flesh” at any moment. We just call upon that spirit of Santa and step into that role whenever we want. Sometimes the spirit comes over you when you don’t mean to invoke it. Have you ever spontaneously shouted “Ho! Ho! Ho!” at a Christmas party? There you go. You were momentarily possessed by the spirit of Santa Claus. Literally. That’s what spirit possession is. It’s when a pattern of being comes over you involuntarily. This happens often enough. You get possessed by Lust or Rage or some other pattern of being. It’s only an abnormal problem if the spirit never leaves.
All physical things are manifestations of spirit. To put it in Plato’s terms, all physical things are Matter adhering to Forms. Is a bumblebee a thing with eight legs, fur, and a wagging tail? No. Obviously not. A bumblebee is a thing with a specific form, a specific pattern of being, to which matter can adhere and become incarnate. If it doesn’t do so properly enough, we say it is not a bumblebee anymore. When the corpse of a dead one decomposes, past a certain point it’s not longer a bumblebee, not even a dead bumble bee. It just returns to dust. Raw, undifferentiated matter. “For dust thou are, and to dust thou shalt return.” What happened? The matter didn’t disappear. All the atoms and protons and electrons that made up the bumblebee didn’t phase out of the universe and vanish. They’re all still there. They just stopped doing the bumblebee dance. They stopped adhering to the bumble bee pattern. They lost their form. Perhaps, after a long while, those bits of matter will return to the earth and be taken up again by some other life form. Perhaps the spirit of a plant will incorporate them into the body of a stem or a petal and from there perhaps they will become a bee again when a new younger bumblebee in the future sucks them from the nectar of a flower. Or, maybe they’ll become a wasp. Or a human being. Who knows? There are many spirits trying to be made manifest.
That’s the war in heaven. Once one understands what a spirit is the idea of a war in heaven is not only comprehensible, it becomes more or less obvious. Of all the patterns that do exist, all the various patterns to which matter could adhere, only some can be incarnate at any given time. The spirits are then, engaged in a kind of evolutionary war for concrete existence in the physical. Each spirit wants to claim as much matter to its form as possible. What do you think bumblebees are trying to do? Are they not engaged, constantly, in an effort at growing their numbers? They and every other life form (life form, you see, it’s right there in the language) on earth. Their spirits are trying to propagate the pattern of bumblebee into as much matter as possible. And all spirits do this. Notice the behavior of someone gripped by the spirit of Lust. Is the object of such a spirit not always to entice other people to lust also? To incarnate that form of being. When the ancients worshiped Aphrodite, they were worshiping, and trying to appease, this very spirit. It’s a real thing, that exists, and that comes over and controls you. Like Rage or War, it drives your matter to its own purposes and promotes actions which further its own being. After all, does not War seem to act in such a way as to beget more War? All spirit does this. The bad ones, we call Demons.
And so in Heaven, the realm of the forms, there is an has always been a battle between the spirits. The patterns of Peace and Justice and Love have been vying for concretization in matter with Strife, Hatred, Envy, and all the rest since the dawn of time. This is why St. Paul says our real struggle is not with flesh and blood but against spirits, principalities, powers, and so on. And this is why Jesus is so important. Because, in Jesus, the ultimate spirit, the “pattern of all pattern”, “being itself”, God, was made perfectly incarnate. And, the story goes, that by following his example our matter can likewise incarnate that ultimate spirit. We can adhere to the pattern of the divine.
The other choice of course is that you adhere to the opposite. I don’t think that’s a good choice, but, what do you want? There’s a war in Heaven. Everybody got to eventually pick a side.
Cool article, but why is every spirit fighting over this limited physical space? Isn't there an infinite amount of space to have physical dimensions in the universe?