In this guest piece David Spangler, who spoke at the Summit yesterday, suggests that we also need a New Story for how we relate to the Subtle Worlds and that life is more than just a story.
Good afternoon, everyone! It’s fitting that we are gathered here at Findhorn to speak of the Subtle Worlds and New Story, for this community was founded to tell the story of the collaborative partnership between human beings and the non-physical denizens of the Subtle Worlds. Everything you see around you in this place began as a result of this cooperation, first with the Sacred, then, thanks to Dorothy Maclean who is among you today, with the intelligences within Nature—the Devas and angels of plants and animals. ROC—R. Ogilvie Crombie—added another layer to this cooperation with his contact with those he called the Nature Spirits and elementals.
As a person who has been communicating with the Subtle Worlds for nearly 70 years, I naturally see our collaboration with non-physical beings as an integral part of the planetary story. Demonstrating the reality of this was one of Findhorn’s original purposes. Certainly partnership with subtle beings is part of the New Story for which we search.
But the fact is that there needs to be a new story told about the Subtle Worlds themselves. For centuries—millennia even—we have seen them in the light of the supernatural, shaped by fear of the unseen, a fear augmented by the imaginations of horror writers, or limited by the skepticism and rational thinking of materialist science. We do not have a story about the Subtle Worlds as a natural, organic, and ordinary part of life with which we are in a symbiotic relationship.
The story I would tell about the Subtle Worlds is the story of the earth as a whole system, one that has a physical side and a non-physical side. In this view, the earth is a single great ecosystem with two interconnected and interdependent ecologies. One of these is material, and one of these is not. In fact, I often refer to the Subtle Worlds as Earth’s Second Ecology.
Occult and religious approaches to the Subtle Worlds tend to define them in stories of creation, emanation, and hierarchies, all very ordered and structured like a great layer cake. An ecological approach describes them in terms of environments, messy as all life is messy, interdependent, growing, and evolving. Subtle beings are life-forms, species of consciousness and energy even as we are, bound to function as we are to structure.
The New Story of the Subtle Worlds needs to move away from thinking mainly in terms of guidance (or deception), as if subtle beings are the experts and we are the amateurs struggling to understand our lives and discern our futures. We limit our imagination of how we interact with the Subtle Worlds to conversations and messages which, truth be told, are the least of the modes through which they commune and collaborate with us—and the mode most open to misinterpretation.
So we need to craft a story, based on experience, which celebrates a collaborative partnership based not on messages but on the circulation and exchange of life, qualities, and vital energies. Dorothy Maclean herself pointed to this New Story fifty years ago when she shared a message from the Devas who said that they took our vital energies and positive emotions and thoughts and wove them into vitality for the growing plants. “Enter the gardens with love,” they said for this very reason.
There is a huge amount of research and work waiting to be done in this area, and we begin it by coming to this collaboration with an open mind and heart—a beginner’s mind free from the old stories about spirits and ghosts, angels and demons, and the other tales that shape our imaginations but fail to give us new knowledge or useful insights. Why is such work important? Because we are as much subtle beings as we are physical ones. We inhabit both ecologies, though largely unconsciously in one. Learning to be conscious of both and able to creatively engage with both opens the door to restoring wholeness to our world.
But before we go too far in telling a New Story about the Subtle Worlds, we need to consider the idea of story itself. Part of the challenge we are facing is precisely that we are a story-telling species, one that shapes our world by the stories we tell, often without realizing it. We see the need for a New Story because the Old Stories are failing us and destroying our world in the process. But we must be careful what we wish for, for every story limits as much as it illumines and defines.
In seeking a New Story, we want to be sensitive to what might be called the “metastory”, that is, the nature of story itself. We tell stories to create meaning. In so doing, our stories may become more real to us than life itself. But we must realize that life is not a story. Life itself comes to us in all its messiness and presence, and we organize it through the narratives we tell ourselves and each other. To really see life as it is and to commune with it fully, we have to resist telling a story about it, a story that lets some meaning in while excluding other insights that don’t fit the narrative. This carefulness with stories is particularly needed when it comes to understanding and working with the Subtle Worlds as some of these realms will conform to our stories and reflect them back to us as if they were true.
Part of the challenge is the dramatic arc of Western literature and theater that often defines how we tell our stories. There is a protagonist or hero, there is an antagonist or villain, there is conflict, there is drama, there is a climax, and there is resolution. Someone wins or loses. But if we’re honest in our reflections, this is not what happens in nature. Nature doesn’t have good guys and bad guys. Life can be dramatic and exciting, but it doesn’t have a dramatic arc in this sense, though we are so used to imagining and projecting one that this may be hard to see. To understand life, we need to sit with it as it is, not as the stories we tell about it.
I do not mean that there is no meaning to life or that everything is random. I only mean that the Western way of viewing and telling stories is not the only way to find that meaning, as I’m sure many people will be exploring in this conference. Our stories, so based on conflict and drama, are not the only stories there are, but we may be so used to them that to tell another story—to tell stories about joy and innocence, love and peace, growth and discovery, or any story in which conflict is not a central feature—is to be told we are being childish, Pollyannaish, unrealistic, or worst of all, boring!
In short, our view of story can limit the powers of our imagination, arguably our most important gift in envisioning and creating a new world. It can channel our energies and efforts in ways that almost inevitably move us into adversarial roles with something or someone. Even the idea of New Story vs Old Story may perpetuate our story-telling habits and continue to shape our thinking along lines of conflict, winning and losing. So we need a new story about stories and story-telling!
Let me be clear! I love story-telling and am a story-teller myself. We do need new stories that can heal our planet and ourselves and create a world of wholeness. The effort of this conference to explore this matter is vital and inspiring. But, in addition to the need for new ways of thinking about one half of our world system—the half we call the Subtle Worlds — I believe we also want to think in new ways about story itself so we can move beyond familiar patterns of conflict and the limitation of imagination. We must remember: life is more than a story…and so are we!