The Theosophical Society in America

A Call to Subtle Activism

by David Spangler

Originally printed in the Summer 2010 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Spangler, David. "A Call to Subtle Activism." Quest  98. 3 (Summer 2010): 103-105.

David SpanglerThe subtle realms adjacent to the physical world generally mirror thoughts and feelings that are present and active within the collective energy field of humanity. As such, these realms always contain elements of pain, suffering, fear, anger, and hatred, for unfortunately these emotions and energies are still part of the human condition. Anyone learning to access the deeper spiritual realms learns to recognize and deal with this material while still radiating compassionate energies in response.

During times of stress in the human community, such as wars or economic upheavals, the amount of negative thought and emotion can certainly rise. Given what humanity is currently going through, I would have expected to find such negative energies in these adjacent realms. What I didn't expect to find was the level of intentionality that was at work behind them. The deliberate use of fear and anger to manipulate people is an ancient technique that has become highly refined in modern political and economic arenas; we almost come to expect it, especially during heated political campaigns. But this intentionality and the feel of desperation behind it felt unusual to me, reflecting a depth of animosity and resistance to change extending beyond humanity itself. And it appeared to me that both physical and nonphysical beings were behind it, each struggling in its own way to preserve its way of being.

For years now, there has been a gathering of energies within the spiritual realms in order to stimulate humanity's evolution towards a state of greater planetary awareness and wholeness. I have felt the transmission of this energy and inspiration in various ways all my life; my personal response to it was to leave college and my training in molecular biology when I was twenty and become a freelance spiritual teacher. The purpose of this energy is not to make change happen but to enable humanity to find within itself the power to partner with spirit and with Gaia to respond positively and effectively to the changes that are already unfolding. If a wave of change is upon us, this spiritual force enables us to surf that wave and channel its force in ways that bless ourselves and all life upon our world. Failure to do this will leave us tumbling in the force of the wave, victims of a civilizational wipeout of potentially catastrophic proportions. The world will not end, but we can be left bruised and gasping upon the beach of the future amidst the wreckage of our hopes and expectations.

We have not wiped out yet, but we need to make course corrections if we hope to ride and channel the wave. These corrections, along with the new world that can emerge from them, will not favor many of the ways of consolidating and expressing power that humanity has used over the past millennia. In some cases, it is simply a matter of needing to overcome habits and inertia, but for those who live in these deeply entrenched grooves of thought and behavior here and in the subtle worlds (and in one way or another, this includes all of us), such change can be wrenching. For those who derive power and sustenance from these old patterns, whether in politics, economics, religion, or society—as well as for those inner beings whose energy is maintained by the negative emotions generated by these older patterns—change can be life-threatening.

The outpouring of Light from the spiritual worlds cannot be blocked, at least not at this point in humanity's evolution; too many people are responding to it all over the world in a multiplicity of ways. But it can be delayed and distorted. It is not enough that individuals alone receive this Light, even though that is of incalculable importance; it needs to be received and accepted by our national, ethnic, religious, and racial consciousnesses as well. It needs to be received by humanity as a collective field of energy.

And it is this field that is being roiled so that the incoming energies have a hard time anchoring and grounding themselves effectively. Think of a young person covering his ears and singing nonsense sounds in order to prevent hearing what a parent is saying. Or think of trying to sink the support pylons of a bridge into land that is being turned to soft, slurpy, liquid mud, giving very little that is solid for the pylons to rest on. The subtle energetic realms adjacent to the earth are relatively fluid in the best of times; in the worst of times, they can become churned up.

And they are being deliberately churned up now. We have to be careful to avoid playing a blame game or saying the problems in the world are all the cause of dark forces or evil overlords at work behind the scenes. Fear is abroad in the land, and fearful people are quite capable of generating negative energies. In various ways, any of us may contribute through our fears and angers. But one does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to realize that there are men and women of power, as well as their counterparts within the subtle realms adjacent to the earth, who will lose that power if humanity rises beyond its selfishness to promote the well-being of the earth as a whole. My impression is that they are feeling desperate, pulling out the stops energetically to maintain the status quo. This is not even necessarily for evil motives, for there are those on both the physical and nonphysical levels who honestly believe it's in humanity's interest to stay as we are. They are like parents who refuse to accept that their children have grown up and wish to keep them at home and under control "for their own good," even though the children are well into the time of accepting the challenges, responsibilities, and freedoms of adulthood.

In saying all this, I risk inspiring fear, particularly in those whose imaginations are populated with images of evil forces at work in the world. But that is precisely what we cannot indulge in, for it is fear that is the tool of those forces seeking to delay or divert the inevitable. Evil is spread on the wings of fear; it is those wings that we must clip.

There are clear things we can do. For one, we can be aware that we really are in the midst of an epic struggle. For another, we can avoid characterizing it as a battle between light and dark; to do so is to trivialize and distort it; it is more complex than that. It is not a battle but a metamorphosis, a growing up and leaving behind of childish ways. It is an organic process involving humanity, Gaia, the spiritual and subtle realms, and the sacred in a wondrous alchemy of transformation and emergence.

The third thing to do is to bring to our personal and global situations our love, compassion, and forgiveness as well as the courage to stand in our sovereignty and refuse to be shaped by fear, anger, or hatred. We need to stand our ground and not let those who are shaped in the moment by fear and anger advance. We embrace them as lovingly as we can, but we do not give ground.

A battle implies adversaries, winners and losers, conquerors and victims. Humanity has lived with these categories for millennia, and they are more than outworn now. They are dangerous. Instead we need to think the way a caterpillar thinks as it transforms into a butterfly. The cells that formed the old structure of its body are not enemies to be defeated and cast out by the new shape; they contain the very life force and substance from which the new will be built once they surrender to the alchemical miracle of metamorphosis. At this time, we may and do have opponents, but we do not have enemies. Everyone potentially has something vital to contribute to the new body that seeks emergence.

This process is a soul-size challenge worthy of everything we can bring to it. We have tools that we can use on its behalf. We have the rich traditions of compassion, forgiveness, loving, and communion found in all the world's spiritual traditions, and we also have new methods, such as nonviolent communication and conflict resolution techniques, new insights into self and sovereignty, and the tools of subtle activism or intentional work on the energies of the adjacent subtle realms. We need to reach for these first before grabbing the more familiar responses of anger and fear.

When we do this, even if only in the context of our personal lives, we nourish a calming field of collaboration with spiritual forces that can spread out into the subtle worlds, becoming part of humanity's overall response.

The simple fact is that we do not act alone; even in the power of our individual sovereignty—indeed, especially in that power—we are in resonance and connection with the whole of humanity. Refusing fear, hatred, or anger towards those different from ourselves and refusing to participate in spreading hurtful thoughts and emotions make a similar response easier for everyone else. We support each other energetically, pulling each other towards the Light. If there is intentionality in the world that furthers resistance and promotes darker uses of energy, then we can just as powerfully provide intentionality to move in more loving directions, towards peace and compassion, listening and respect. We can intentionally promote the Light, and when we do, we find we have powerful allies, for that puts us, as they say, on the side of the angels.

Working with Your Grail Field

The key to all subtle activism is to find and stand in an inner presence of calm, peace, sovereignty, spaciousness, and love. The power underlying subtle activism lies in our ability to feel connected through this presence to the sacred, to the well-being of humanity, to spiritual allies, and to Gaia—the spirit and life force of the earth. From this presence and this connectedness comes a power of blessing, what I think of as a "Grail field." Just as the mythic Holy Grail held sacredness in a way that was healing and transformative, so our personal Grail field holds our sacredness on behalf of humanity and the world.

So the first step is to enter your own Grail field. How you do this is up to you, but here is a simple suggestion.

  •  Find a place in your heart and mind in which you feel stable, calm, peaceful, and loving. Use whatever spiritual, psychological, energetic, and physical tools or technique to help you accomplish this.
  •   Imagine (contemplate or reflect on), as clearly and lovingly as you can, your connections to the rest of humanity, to the world of nature and the land, and to whatever spiritual forces and images of sacredness are meaningful to you. Feel those connections enhance your presence by enabling you to be part of a larger wholeness, one graced with compassion, love, and an intelligent, wise awareness.
  •  Hold your sense of yourself within that enhanced presence and feel its energy go out to your immediate environment, connecting in loving ways with the specific world around you. Once you have a sense of your own Grail field, focus on a quality of constructive and peaceful collaboration. Imagine people who otherwise are split apart by differences of race, politics, ethnicity, religion, geography, and who may experience those differences in fearful ways, now held in the spirit of this collaboration. Feel and see them held in the grace of a loving, peaceful spirit in which nonviolent communication is possible. See them as able to overcome the emotions of fear, anger, hatred, and suspicion and able to listen to one another. Your task is not to get them to agree, but to enable them to listen without fear and with mutual respect.

Use this visualization with any situation of conflict that you've seen, heard, or read about in the media.

Finally, imagine that you are a lighthouse. You radiate all around you a light of stability, peace, calm, forgiveness, love, and compassion. Imagine the subtle fields surrounding you calming and becoming clear and stable, able to receive and hold an outpouring of Light from spiritual levels. Visualize this clarity and stability spreading far and wide, linking up with the light of other similar lighthouses, other people who are reaching to express peace, compassion and love. As these beams connect, a web of light is woven over the land that empowers all of us everywhere and makes the fear less fearful, the anger and hatred less persuasive.

Do this as long as it feels comfortable. Then give thanks for any and all help you may feel you received in doing this bit of inner work. Carrying this presence of Light in your heart and mind, go about your day. As you do, when you encounter the presence of fear and its offshoots of anger and hate, reaffirm that you are a beacon of courage, strength, calm, love—the creator of a space in which clear communication may take place. Like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings when confronting the Balrog, stand in your sovereignty and say to the spirit and energy of fear, "You shall not pass!" And let it be so!

David Spangler has been a teacher and practitioner of spirituality since 1964. A former codirector of the  Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, he is founder of the Lorian Association, a nonprofit spiritual education foundation. His most recent book is Subtle Worlds: An Explorer's Field Notes. His other works include Emergence; The Call; Everyday Miracles; Parent as Mystic, Mystic as Parent; Blessing: The Art and the Practice; The Story Tree;  Manifestation; Creating the Life You Love; and The Incarnation Card Deck. 

His Web site is