Spirits’ Rights – A Manifesto
It is herein asserted as axiomatic, based on direct observation, that spirits who communicate and interact with human beings are self-aware and possess their own strong sense of independent identity.
It is asserted as axiomatic, based on direct observation, that spirits who communicate and interact with human beings have a capacity for reasoned thought and for moral and ethical behavior of the highest order.
It is asserted as axiomatic, based on direct observation, that spirits who communicate and interact with human beings experience both happiness and unhappiness, and furthermore, that they seek out and rejoice in pleasure, but shun and are tormented by pain.
The premise is offered that human beings in communication with spirits may by their emotions, thoughts and actions either increase the happiness of spirits or decrease it. Specifically, that humans have the ability through willful and deliberate actions to constrain spirits and to cause spirits to suffer.
An argument is made that as intelligent beings who are self-aware and who have the capacity to experience both pleasure and suffering, spirits are entitled to the same basic rights as humans — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No one shall seek to deprive spirits of these rights, which have the same source as the rights of humans.
Life for a spirit consists of continued self-aware existence. Liberty consists of the freedom to travel and act without constraint. The pursuit of happiness consists of actions perceived by a spirit as essential to its fulfillment as a conscious, independent being.
The conclusion is reached that spirits, as intelligent and self-aware beings, possess the same inherent dignities as humans, and may demand the same level of civility and respect.
It may appear strange that I raise the matter of spirits’ rights, when so many in our Western societies stoutly deny the very existence of spiritual beings, but those of us who have interacted directly or indirectly with spirits have no doubt as to their existence, and it is to these more knowledgeable readers that my remarks are mainly directed. I have little hope of affecting the beliefs of those who, without any knowledge of spirits, scorn and dismiss them out of an impulse of sheer social prejudice.
The essential nature of spirits is open to debate. I do not presume to know with certainty what spirits are, where they come from, or what their ultimate purposes may be — however, my direct involvement with these beings has convinced me that they do exist, on some level other than the physical level. When you have conversed with a spirit, shared jokes with that being, listened to the spirit express its hopes and desires and intentions, it is difficult to assert that it does not exist. The question becomes — What is the nature of that existence?
Accepting that spirits exist, it may further be observed that many of them behave as intelligent, independent persons. They possess strong self-identities, have their own likes and dislikes, their individual goals, their own hopes and fears. They are capable of deriving enjoyment from their existence, and are equally subject to unhappiness and suffering when conditions are not to their liking. True, there are spiritual beings of a lower order who do not appear to be intelligent or capable of communication through the use of language, but this manifesto is concerned with those who do exhibit intelligent behavior, and who interact with human beings as intellectual equals.
These intelligent spirits may identify themselves as the souls or spirits of human beings who have died. Is this identification accurate? For the purposes of spirits’ rights, it does not matter. Other intelligent spirits identify themselves as completely non-human beings, and again, in the matter of spirits’ rights, it is beside the point how they may see themselves. What matters is how these spirits behave toward human beings. In my experience, most intelligent spirits behave in a civil and moral way. They are polite, compassionate, and loving. They are reasonable and can be reasoned with. It is possible to hold a conversation, and even a debate, with spiritual beings, and those spirits are no more apt to resort to irrational or emotional arguments than human beings.
Given this reasonable and ethical behavior of spirits, it seems to me deplorable that they are regarded in many quarters, even by those who habitually interact with them, as in some way inferior to human beings. The attempt is frequently made to coerce spirits into performing actions against their will. Examples of this behavior are rife throughout the history of Western ceremonial magic. Spirits are treated as servants, or even as slaves, by those who summon them, and are compelled to perform tasks as though they were incorporeal beasts of burden.
When spirits refuse the demands made upon them, they are often threatened with punishment, or even deliberately tormented by various magical means. It was common in centuries past to bind spirits into objects that might be subjected to heat or other unpleasant physical conditions, as a way of torturing the spirit into compliance. One torture was to set the object that served as a spirit’s prison above a fire to be roasted; another was to hang it from a tree so that it would sway and twist in the wind; yet another form of torture was to bury the object, so that the spirit was buried alive.
In modern times, few who converse with spirits are aware of these methods of coercion and torture, which evolved in the context of ceremonial magic, but they exhibit an equal disregard for the freedom or happiness of spirits. It is common for spirits to be automatically regarded as demons, even though they have committed no wrong. The immediate response of the average person to a spirit communication is terror. All the prejudices instilled since childhood come bubbling to the surface. They begin to curse the spirit, threaten it, abuse it, make prayers against it, and call in the exorcists. Little wonder the spirit usually withdraws in confusion and disgust.
Even when a continuing communication is sustained with a spirit, there may be a tendency to regard the spirit as a kind of astral pet, rather than as an intelligent equal with as much right to be treated with respect and dignity as any human. Old prejudices die hard. It is a tragedy that a spirit who comes to a human seeking friendship may find only contempt and abuse. Such spirits can scarcely be blamed if they respond with resentment, or even outright malice, and in this way the prejudices perpetuate themselves.
It has become common to talk about animal rights. The recognition is growing in our societies that living creatures who have feelings and the capacity to experience both pleasure and pain should be accorded a basic level of honor and dignity, as sensitive fellow creatures with whom we share a common origin.
The time has arrived to raise the bar of universal rights and freedoms to embrace no only sentient physical beings who are non-human, but those who are non-physical as well. Unlike animals, spirits can both feel and reason. In this capacity they are closer to our human nature than the beasts of the field. It is my contention, expressed by this manifesto of spirits’ rights, that the basic rights of spiritual beings must be recognized and respected. Spirits are no longer to be treated as slaves or pets, but are to be given all the honors of rational beings.
©2006 Donald Tyson. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits: A Practical Guide for Witches & Magicians, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.