My field is history, and in my early days of nontraditional spiritual development, I worried that studying the past was futile. Spiritual books were emphasizing being in the moment and so forth. But one day it occurred to me (you guys are probably way ahead of me) that if we are all connected, then the reading of history is tapping into another part of the Great Us. The "they" we write of in historical pieces are really "we." Therefore, understanding us can be greatly benefited by the study of history with a spiritual eye.
This is on my mind--something I want to explore further as a historian. But it's also relatively new to me. Do any of you have recommendations for books that have already been written exploring this idea?
History is fascinating, but its usefulness seems to be more in what it reveals about human nature. The "repeating history" argument is probably better said as "We are capable of."
Consider the possibility that we as a people have evolved to the extent that what is sensible for us today is not the same as it was a few years ago. In a very real sense, history is about an extinct worldview. To say that we are still that, and therefore should take the truths of those times as our truths is to ignore that evolution. (Not saying good or bad)
So yes, endlessly fascinating, but perhaps better for entertainment only.
With that said, the fundamental concepts about our relationship with the greater reality that were "revealed" to us by past teachers such as Hermes and the biblical Jesus are the same fundamental lessons being brought to us today. But with the change in worldview between then and now, much of what was taught then no longer makers sense today. In the three aspect of a teacher: "see me as the teacher, the example ( the way ) and the results of following the way" it is the way that is fundamentally true today. In that regard, history is sometimes the only form of access to that realization. It is the translation of the fundamental concepts into today's terms that is relevant, and that is not often in the history books.
(For me, "history" has different meaning depending on the subject. In ITC, more than ten or twelve years in the past is ancient history. For Spiritualism, anything prior to around 1970 represents an older consciousness. What was brought to us via an 1890 seance, for instance, is only relevant in those fundamental concepts. "Though shalts" and the like are pretty out of date.)
I agree completely that it's futile to study history as a pattern for how we should now think, believe, or act. History doesn't repeat itself, but as you say, human nature has a tendency to, until we locate and replace faulty or ineffective beliefs (which usually requires some degree of historical understanding). History is entertainment as portrayed at the movies, I'll grant you, but for those of us who've pursued it as scholarship, it's more about context--helping us to understand what created now and what we reinvented in myth. It's about making sense of the human experience, to the extent that documented facts allow (and that's admittedly limited).
I'm thinking of looking at history for the spiritual residue we carry--understanding why we might hold on to beliefs that don't fit any more--the same way a person holds onto, say, a religion taught to them as a child (their history), only enlarged to major groupings of humanity. Also, it would include looking at how the beliefs that are making sense now came into being--and what environments encouraged that growth. What can we learn about ourselves by examining the residue that has not only been passed down through cultural teachings, but persisted in our collective memory--if we buy into the theory that we are all tapping into a collective consciousness? Or, for many of us, we believe we actually lived in those earlier times and might carry subconscious memory.
What can we learn about examining the spiritual quest, as pursued by many, many generations. Not religion. Spirituality. Most historians I know that are getting remotely close to the question are examining religious institutions and not so much beliefs. If over centuries, our ancestors were actually "us, collective" and/or us in other incarnations searching for truth, then it could be valuable to see how we've grown in the seeking--and where and why we haven't. It could provide context.
I'm not saying it would be easy, however.
Which raises a related question, which I yield to those of you with experience in tapping into that collective consciousness. History is traditionally tapping only into documented facts. But what might we learn about the past by making use of spiritual tools? Clearly we'd need careful ways to verify "data" coming out of such experiences, but have any of you witnessed history being unfolded by spiritual means? Has it ever been reliable? Are there books that could be useful in getting a background on any pursuits of history by spiritual means?
Your approach might be beneficial to all of us. I have seen that explaining to a person how something they believe to be true came to be in our worldview helps them better align that belief with reality.
I have always been fascinated by the roots of belief and how current beliefs contaminates future beliefs. A couple of examples:
Modern-day channels and trance mediums are way too prone to coloring what they bring through with such cultural contamination. We even see this in ITC. That is one good reason to be able to explain to people that their beliefs are just historical memory because of ...
By the way, my avatar is an ITC image. We see a lot of apparently historical characters in the visual ITC features. Keeping in mind that we think even ITC is subject to cultural contamination, it is a potential means of studying history. First, one need a competent practitioner. In the same way, I think a historical remote viewer would tend to have a problem with preconceptions.
Very helpful, Tom. My PhD was in American history, but I'm itching (eventually) to immerse myself in world history.
Starting at what I know, though: One idea that started rolling around in my mind last night is the possibly of looking at the "genealogy" of spirituality using my own family's trek as a starting test case. Only in my own generation and my parents do I have a very specific picture of how I challenged what they taught me, as have my sisters in various ways--two of them retaining the religion, but stretching the rules; the other one keeping quiet about her spiritual choices; and me being labeled "New Age." So the study would only be about my family in broad strokes of geographical movement, religious preference, economic class, family size, etc. I'd use our genealogy as a skeletal framework for examination of how ideas changed along a realistic path of generational movement. My parents grew up in central Alabama--so I could look at that region in the 1940s and 1950s to examine expressed beliefs. Then I move back in time and eastward in space to the locations of their parents in 1920s on the Alabama-Georgia border, looking at how spirituality was being encouraged, expressed, and challenged. Then it's several generations in western Georgia, then 1830s in North and South Carolina (via Virginia and England) for one side, immigration from Ireland for the other.
While no one's family is typical of all others, it could begin to set up the questions we need to ask about how beliefs might be indoctrinated, challenged and expanded upon through generations.
OK, so the idea has had only 12 hours of contemplation and might change in many ways or be discarded altogether. But if any of you have ideas about it, I'd welcome them.
That would be an interesting take on one family's evolution as Spiritualists. I know a lot of people like personal stories that also enlighten.
Lisa and I came to spiritualism late, shortly after we dropped out of the corporate world in 1996. Our mentors were from Phoenix and San Francisco, so we began with something of a modified version from what we would have learned if we were closer to the Eastern core.
We are analytical by temperament and had already been well-versed in metaphysical concepts. Shortly after we earned our credentials from the NSAC, we assumed leadership of the ATransC. The combination of objective evidence from ITC and a growing realization of how our unconscious mind colors experiences has forced a ... well let us say a more contemporary view of spiritualism.
Most people come to Spiritualism as the system of belief by way of other religions. This path is often via New Age concepts, making them a kind of highbred Spiritualists. I am going to guess that your ancestors followed a path something like that. I will also guess that you are not so much an active Spiritualist as you are New Age spiritualist-minded.
It is that kind of evolution in the system of belief that is so interesting.
Actually I don't know if I qualify as a Spiritualist, though I'm intrigued by it, and would love to investigate it more. I was raised Southern Baptist, but started to get curious and explore all sorts of ideas when I was in my 20s and 30s. There's not a name for what I am (that I know of), but my family calls it New Age (with a sneer, of course) because I believe in reincarnation and have received messages from "the dead relatives." It would be intriguing to do another case study on a family that descends from nineteenth-century American Spiritualists--to see how it all unfolded, especially if the family has left records of their thoughts. In my PhD dissertation research, I found many Spiritualists descending from Universalists. What did the Spiritualists' descendants tend to become, I wonder? Has the family tradition persisted? Good fodder for more research!
We like NSAC spiritualism (nsac.org) because it provides a local community of like-minded people. If you consider our spiritual nature, we are creatures of a collective. It is through interaction with others that we are able to explore our understanding. For instance, thinking about how to compose a comment here forces me to review my understanding of the subject. In effect, you are teaching me by simply being part of the community with which I interact.
Talking about things esoteric creates these opportunities to purge our worldview of nonsense/prejudicial beliefs ... if we listen to ourselves with a discerning ear. Talking to people about the latest movie or the weather, for instance, does not provide much opportunity for such introspection.
In fact, any such gathering will suffice, it is just that NSAC spiritualism is pretty dogmatic free and the Nine Principles are very useful. Spiritualism should be a servant and not a master.
Good luck with your studies. The project sounds like fun.
I rarely find a like-minded person locally, so it has been great to be engaged with this group. I will definitely check out the Nine Principles. Thanks, Tom!