Allies and Demons
Working with Spirit for Power and Healing
Welcome to a sneak peak at the first chapter of my new book, Allies and Demons: Working with Spirit for Power and Healing. I'm so excited to bring this life changing work into the world and even more excited to offer you this opportunity to preview chapter one. I'm really interested in any feedback that you have. Bring it on. There is a comment section below. Please be honest and don't be shy. I'm really looking for constructive suggestions to make this next step a success.
CHAPTER 1 ~ Spiritual Reality
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience. From this perspective, we are never alone. There is a great spiritual reality which is always available to us. It is our true nature and our ultimate home. The purpose of Spiritual Psychology is to empower and connect us on a soul level with this experience in our everyday life.
The intention of the journeys in this book are to provide an easily accessible path to the profound wisdom, power, insight, and healing that are our birthright. Finding and following our own highest good is a joyful, fulfilling, and freeing experience. Otherwise why would we do it?
There are lots of reasons people open to the mystery of inner work, mostly having to do with escaping pain. We might do inner work because we are suffering from anxiety, depression or addiction. We might be coming out of yet another failed relationship, in a health crisis or are just tired of doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. It doesn’t matter what brings us here. What matters is that we are here now.
If you want to be free of the past and find hope for the future, you’ve come to the right place. The processes described in this book will change you. They are not a specific road map for success or a how-to manual to fix your life. Spiritual Psychology is a gate to the unlimited realm of your own highest self and the unmanifested potential of which we are all a part. These processes will heal you, empower you and change you on a soul level.
Living on this soul or spiritual level opens an entirely new way of moving through the world. Doors will appear where there used to be walls, answers will arrive in response to our deepest questions. Wisdom will replace mere knowledge, and a sense of purpose and fulfillment will arise where confusion and fear used to reign.
I do not speak to you from a place of authority, but from a place of experience. After suffering years of emotional turmoil, multiple addictions and repeating cycles of anxiety/depression, this work healed and redirected my life. My deepest hope is that it will do the same for you.
Pain is a great motivator. It makes us willing to do and try things that we would never do or try if everything were feeling okay. Unfortunately, we live in a culture which believes that pain is bad and should be avoided or eradicated at all costs. Certainly there are times to medicate pain, but there’s a risk involved. The risk is that we don’t get the information pain is offering that something is wrong, that correction is being called for.
There are many ways we medicate authentic pain. We ease our emotional and existential suffering with prescription drugs, alcohol, addictive relationships, obsession with food and body image, overworking, social media or shopping, to name a few. Even spiritual and religious practice can be used as a way to leave our bodies and deny our reality.
Our instruction manual is our own experience. Joy and pain are our compass. Joy pulls us forward to the the open road of our highest good. Pain lets us know we’ve hit the guardrail or are driving in the wrong direction. Joy and pain are available as information for us on all levels - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally and professionally. Learning their language and recognizing the gifts our feelings hold is part of the work of becoming an emotional grown up.
Taking a Shower
The point of this book is to get you to actually do the inner work outlined in the following chapters. Talking about the work of Spiritual Psychology is like talking about taking a shower. We can discuss the warm water, the lathering soap, the smell of shampoo, but rational understanding won’t change anything. It’s only by getting in the water that we get clean.
Intellectual understanding can be helpful and important. When the mind understands a concept, it can create a sense of trust that allows us to move forward. That said, it cannot be overstated that intellectual understanding alone is not enough. Accessing the powerful realms of body, emotion and spirit is essential to become a whole, fully functioning human being. We MUST learn to access both our brilliance and our deepest dysfunction to heal and grow to our potential individually and collectively.
Our mental operations process our experience intellectually. Our emotions give us relational information and help us process our reality. Spiritually we experience our connection to the earth, the larger universe and the life force as we understand it. Our physical bodies are the vehicle that allows us to interact with others and the material world in a sensory way. On more subtle levels we may sense the energy of others and everything around us.
We can rationally understand something, but it doesn’t necessarily provide the change, relief or healing we seek emotionally, spiritually or physically. Logical understanding is important, even necessary, but the rational mind often cannot access the emotional or spiritual systems where much of our suffering resides.
In Spiritual Psychology, our active imagination is a bridge between our rational mind and the non-rational aspects of emotion, body and spirit, where much of our life experience happens. Traversing the bridge between the material and the spiritual creates a healthy, more holistic inner ego-system, where all parts of the self are validated and supported.
It is essential to actually do the work in the chapters that follow by listening to the online guided audio available at www.reneemckenna.com. Though reading this book may be interesting, reading alone may not provide the deeper change you seek.
Allies and Demons
This book is divided into two sections of inner spiritual journeys. The first section Allies provides practical resources for power, wisdom and guidance. These journeys will deepen, improve and enhance your life experience by connecting you in a direct way with the God or Goddess of your own understanding.
Throughout this book I will use a variety of words and phrases to describe and name the Universal Source to which we all belong. The Divine has infinite faces and a thousand, million forms through which we can connect and source power. Rather than simplifying with one term, I have chosen to intentionally challenge your inner belief structure. My hope is to expand your understanding and spiritual experience. Feel free to substitute any word or phrase that is most accurate for you.
Words are powerful and it is important to find language that feels authentic and accessible to us when addressing the realm of spirit as a source and resource. We’re building a relationship with the life force as we understand it. This relationship is foundational for our health and well being on all levels. Developing a relationship with Spirit is very personal, so feel free to find wording that works for you and ignore the rest.
The second section Demons offers a series of powerful processes that will heal and transform you on the deepest levels. Demons are our fears, our ignorance, our hatred, our selfishness and our unhealed wounds. Our demons are those things which hold us back, cause us pain and limit our ability to follow our joy and fulfillment. Our demons can be transformed and healed. In fact, bringing the light into our own darkness is perhaps our highest purpose as human beings.
The path of Spiritual Psychology is an updated hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell, the scholar and social archaeologist who coined the term hero's journey, found this mythic story in almost every culture on Earth. The hero’s journey is an expression of the universal process of personal growth and evolution. Growing on a soul level is our work in this lifetime and the hero’s journey is like an instruction manual for how to do it well.
In the traditional hero’s journey, there is a terrible dragon or demon ravaging the countryside. The hero goes on a quest to save the village. He challenges his own limitations, slays the dragon and brings back the treasure which the beast has stolen. He returns the treasure to the village for the benefit of everyone and becomes a hero.
The problem with the hero’s journey is that historically you had to be a man to take it. Not just any man, either. You had to be Hercules or King Arthur, somebody strong, smart and extra special. If you want to wait around for someone bigger, stronger and smarter to save your life, then close this book right now. This is not the path for you.
Spiritual Psychology is about learning to become your own hero or heroine. Taken as a map for our inner experience, each aspect of the hero’s journey is a part of ourselves. The hero is us. The village is our life circumstance. The dragon is our lower self, lurking in the shadows of our own unconscious, messing everything up. The dragon is all the stuff we find unacceptable about ourselves or scary about the world at large. It steals our treasure by keeping us from our own soul’s purpose. The dragon greedily and jealously hoards the gifts and talents of our purest and highest self, deep in the cave of our unconscious. Without this treasure, the village is impoverished or destroyed and we live as frightened, victimized villagers.
This very masculine approach to inner transformation needs updating, or at least an alternative. Killing or destroying that which frightens or harms us has limitations. If one believes that we are all part of a greater whole, then doing harm to anything or anyone eventually harms us as well. In Spiritual Psychology, our intention is the highest good for everyone involved. This includes the dragon and the ignorant villagers.
In a more Eastern, feminine approach, a dragon can be a challenge in the highest sense of the word. A challenge is something to rise to, to meet, and to learn from or even be sustained by.
We come to understand the dragon as the part of ourselves we ignore or avoid because it is terrifying - that particular mind habit or defense we can’t let go of or that deep wound we’ve pushed down since childhood. It poses challenges to our safety and security, our sense of ground, and the greatest challenge of all - to our ego self and the limiting narrative we have about who we really are.
In the traditional Western, masculine myths, heroes fight and slay the dragon and become the heroes they were always meant to be. We need to integrate the knowledge and wisdom gained from the experience rather than running around killing everything we find difficult or challenging. From this perspective, the dragon is making a spectacle of itself and destroying everything because, like physical pain, it has a message.
Our inner dragon, when engaged and dialogued with, does have a treasure for us - the treasure of how we can face our deepest wounds, fears and challenges to become the hero of our own life. From this more benevolent, feminine perspective, the treasure we are questing for is not something we need to rip from the grasp of someone else, but is something we’ve had inside of us all along - the treasure that we need to own and reclaim for ourselves. Through the power of compassion, the dragon itself is healed and transformed to become a mighty ally, just as intense, but now fighting to support our highest good rather than keeping our treasure buried and imprisoned.
There is so much help available to us if we know how to access it. Whether we understand this ocean of consciousness we live in as our own higher self, God, Nature, or Universal Mind is irrelevant. The truth is that we are part of something greater than ourselves. Accessing the power of The Divine, of higher purpose, of The Great Mother - whatever your understanding of Source may be, will change the course of your life and your experience of it.
Like the greatest heroes, we do not travel our path alone. We need help. We need to know where to go, what to do and how to do it. Gathering spiritual help and preparing for our inner quest is where we begin.
Becoming the hero of our own life requires an inner journey. First, we must establish the place to begin our quest. Discovering this sacred, inner space is the purpose of our 1st journey.
The spiritual path we’re embarking on is all about exploring and navigating our own inner world. Seeking out important but long-buried parts of our selves and retrieving the life energy they hold is crucial to our development. Healing and transforming our inner demons and revealing the magnificent resources of our own highest self is the call of human evolution, individually and collectively.
Because we are all connected as part of a greater whole, what happens to one person, affects us all - positively or negatively. When we do our inner work, we help the village. By retrieving the treasure of our own authentic self, we enrich the lives of everyone we come in contact with, whether we are aware of it or not. From this perspective, any personal growth we do improves the quality of the collective pool of experience from which we all drink.
Honoring Sacred Material
Inner journeys in Spiritual Psychology lead to new, interesting and profound experiences. These new ways of understanding and interacting with the realm of spirit can be exciting and life changing and it is natural to want to share with others.
This is your information and you can do with it what you will. It’s wise to be selective about who you share details with and in what circumstances.
The problem with oversharing is that it can drain the power from the experience and may even have some effect on the spiritual relationships you’re building. It’s important to stay in integrity and be aware of your motives. Inner journeys are mysterious and fascinating, but they are soul level material and should be treated as sacred.
This doesn’t mean you should never discuss your inner experience, just that there are appropriate ways to share. Although I talk about this work all the time in a general way, I never discuss the specifics of what happens in my own inner journeys outside of times specifically for that purpose like a workshop, individual counseling session, or when speaking with someone else engaged in Spiritual Psychology work.
The danger in casual oversharing is subtle, but it can tarnish the depth and mystery of the encounter , and tends to be rooted in boosting our own ego rather than growing in integrity and character.
There’s an old saying, “Don’t throw pearls before swine.” This doesn’t mean that other people are pigs, but that it’s important to share valuable information with people who can honor, hold, and understand its true value. This elevates the process rather than devalues it, and elevates your relationship with your own authentic self and with the supportive spiritual realms we are accessing.
In Spiritual Psychology we use our active imagination as a way to work with and conceptualize the non-physical realms. The active imagination is a resource whereby our conscious mind can conceptualize the non-physical and the non-rational. Everything we’ve ever thought, dreamed, imagined, or experienced is recorded in our bodies.
Through body-centered mindfulness we can access the non-rational realms of higher consciousness, historic experiences and our own emotional/spiritual self. The active imagination provides concrete forms that allow us to work directly with our unresolved emotional issues and past trauma as well as allowing us to have direct interaction with the spiritual or transpersonal.
Active imagination can be used to access tremendous power, wisdom and guidance in the form of guides and teachers, ancestors, nature spirits, life force, God/Goddess, or our own highest self. This type of inner work provides tremendous opportunities for healing trauma, unwinding dysfunctional systems that underlie many addictions, and repatterning toxic core beliefs like shame, self hatred, unworthiness or victimization.
Direct access to our emotions, our belief structures, and our stored experience provides tremendous opportunity for personal growth. The following chapters offer processes to mend and heal on all levels - physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, energetic, social, sexual, familial, and creative.
We’re all aware of the basic physical senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. However, there are many additional senses that we have access to such as energetic sensitivity, emotional awareness, intuition, instinct, and spiritual insight. Each person has their own unique configuration of how they experience the world, both externally and internally.
Some people are more visual, some are more auditory, some are sensory or intuitive. As we move forward in this work, we will discover our own particular sensory structure.
Don’t worry if you aren’t particularly visual, there are many other ways of knowing that are just as valid and offer their own unique perspective on an experience. There is no right or wrong, it’s purely individual. In this first exploration, you’re just opening to learn, observe, and discover your natural, internal ways of knowing, creating, and receiving.
On some level most of us have empathy, an awareness of how those around us are feeling. For some, being able to sense the emotions or feelings of others is a highly developed system that we use to understand people or situations. Many of us have emotional sensitivity, but are unconscious about it. We can easily access the feelings of others, which can be confusing or overwhelming if we don’t understand what’s happening.
Spiritual or energetic sensitivity is also very common. Some are able to tap into the life force of places, animals and plants. Others have awareness of non-physical spirits, angels, ancestors, negative energy interference and the dead. Some are physically or kinesthetically tuned in, gathering information through their bodies about the people, places and things around them, or have intuitive access to the physical health or dysfunction of these people, places or things.
As we move forward through the sessions that follow, these alternate or complementary senses will become more obvious and useful both in this work and in regular life.
The easiest way to access the realm of spirit for most people is through nature. One of the tragedies of modern life is that we are living in near-total disconnect from wild places and the beauty and power they offer. Historically, we were provided with continual opportunities to engage with spirit through nature. Daily life included regular connection with the natural world through farming, hunting, gathering, and walking or traveling with animals.
Unfortunately in contemporary life, we could spend days or even weeks with our feet never touching the bare earth. Moving from house to sidewalk, into a car or bus, onto more concrete into another building, and back again.
In Spiritual Psychology, consciousness exists in all things, not only in people, but in places, elements, and all existence. The entire world is a complex configuration of consciousness. We are an intrinsic part of creation; children of the universe. Sadly, most of us feel disconnected from this great reality. We are like waves in the ocean that don’t realize we are actually part of the water itself.
Our first piece of work is to connect with the deep truth that the power of Spirit is always available to us. Using our active imagination, we will access the transpersonal realms of higher consciousness by going to a safe and sacred place in nature. This may be experienced as a beautiful and powerful place that no one can come without our permission. It may be a place you’ve been before, or it may be someplace new.
In this guided meditation or inner journey, we will leave the conflict and duality of ordinary reality and open to realms of pure intention that have only our highest good in mind.
The work is to access the spiritual power and wisdom available to us by bringing these realms into our awareness. Almost all religious ritual and spiritual practice is intended to create this connection between the practical and the metaphysical, to mate the transpersonal with daily life.
In fact, one way to interpret the symbolism of the Christian cross is that the vertical post represents spirit or consciousness and the horizontal is the physical plane. Where they meet is humanity. Our suffering is our misunderstanding of this profound communion. Our joy is their conscious interplay.
Most people have had some experience of communing with the beauty and wildness of nature. Even if you have not had this experience directly, it lives in our cellular, ancestral experience. We each have elements that we resonate with. Some people like the water, others the forest, desert or mountains. I love the moon. Many of my friends need sunshine to feel balanced. Wind, rock, earth and fire are also powerful elements that are essential parts of our being. Fire can be understood as our life force; air or wind as our breath. Our bodies are 70% water, with the other 30% being earth elements like carbon and minerals.
The elements are always available to us; sun, air, water, earth. These elements are easy entry points which allow us to encounter the Spirit of Nature directly. In Spiritual Psychology, the elements have consciousness and helpful intention. This is working with the realm of archetypes or the essence of a given form; its spiritual counterpart in the non-physical realms of pure consciousness.
In most ancient culture, the realm of Spirit was a given. Only in modern life, have we degraded Spirit to the irrational and come to worship scientific method and the physical world as the only reality. If it’s not observable in a laboratory, it must not be real.
The purpose of this first journey is to discover a place of pure consciousness, positive intention, wisdom and power. As forementioned, the entire first section of this book is dedicated to establishing relationships with power and wisdom which will be resources for the deeper healing and transformative processes in later chapters.
The depth and effectiveness of Spiritual Psychology can be similar to a well executed surgery. Part of good medicine is to prepare a clean and clear operating room, minimize the opportunity for infection and unnecessary distraction, and optimize the potential for healing.
When we find a safe and sacred space in non-ordinary reality, we establish a spiritual ground to return to again and again in later work. Simply making a direct connection with Spirit can be profoundly healing and empowering, because our spiritual disconnect is the source of so much suffering. Like plugging in a phone for recharging, spiritual connection is vital for us to fully function in the world.
Let’s Do It
In Taoism and many other traditions it is believed that everything has a spirit, even seemingly inanimate forms like rocks, rivers, trees and the sun. This is a non-rational way of knowing. Be open hearted and notice what you feel drawn or connected to in this place. Touch the great tree, immerse yourself in the water, feel the sunlight penetrating your skin or the solid stone beneath you. This is about felt experience and connecting with the elements of nature of which we are literally a part. This is our first step into direct connection with the realm of Spirit. This is our first step home.
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Bring your awareness into your body and take a deep breath in and out. See if you can sense or feel or imagine a path or stairway that leads to a powerful place in nature that has only your highest good in mind. Does the staircase or path lead up or down? Trust what comes. What is the path/stairway made of? Follow the path and notice what presents itself.
It might lead to a place you’ve been before or someplace new - a beach, forest, meadow, or mountain top. Allow yourself to fully engage with this place. Really be there in your active imagination. Notice if you can hear or smell anything. Is it day or night? How does it feel to be there? As you drop deeper into your awareness of this place, perhaps you can open to the possibility that this place is aware of you.
This first journey is available in guided audio at www.reneemckenna.com
Much of Spiritual Psychology operates in a deeper dimension of consciousness. Inner journey work is similar to dream work. It is common to have a very interesting or powerful dream that’s quite vivid upon awakening, but after we have our morning coffee we can’t remember what it is. Integrating the information we receive and the power of spiritual experiences into our ordinary lives is the whole purpose of this work.
Writing about our inner journeys provides a bridge between ordinary and non-ordinary reality, or our spiritual and intellectual selves. After each practice, writing down what occurred will help you remember and also provide a record of your process that may be useful in the future.
It is common to enter into the light trance state that journeying provides and have no memory at all of what happened. If this is the case, it is a good idea to transcribe the inner journey as it’s happening. Because inner journeys can overflow with important details that may be hard to recall afterward, some people like to narrate their experience onto an audio device.
Write down your experience, including the route you traveled to get to the sacred place.
How did it feel to be there?
What did you see, hear, smell, touch or sense?
What element or aspect of this place felt most comfortable, supportive or inviting to you?
Was there anything unexpected or surprising?