Spirit jump

He was fine, and then he wasn’t. It started as a cold, or maybe the flu. A sore throat and weakness in his hands and feet, the afternoon after work. He thought he was just tired after a long week but it was only Tuesday. Brian felt well enough to go to his job on Wednesday only because that was the end of his work week. If he’d not been off from Thursday on, there would be no way he could have pulled himself together.

Brian owed it to his patients to be at the top of his game every day, to be alert and attentive. Machines couldn’t do it all, shouldn’t do it all. You needed a person to notice the subtle signs of a person regaining consciousness too soon, of them experiencing pain and unable to do anything about it. That was part of his job as an anesthetist, to safely ferry them across the dark waters of that chemical sleep during their operation.

He’d done his job well for seven years. He’d never lost a patient due to his error. Sure, some had died, but it wasn’t his fault. The surgeon made a mistake, an accident happened, a hidden deficit in the constitution of the patient made itself visible. Things happened that were beyond his control.

Some people were barely held together. Some people were sicker than even they realized. A shell, a façade, a thin veneer was all that stood between them and utter collapse. It wasn’t his fault when they died. He just happened to be there, like a bystander at an accident.

It was a little like that on that Tuesday, that meaningless day, that between day. Nothing happens on a Tuesday. The only problem is that sometimes nothing is something. Without noticing, without thought, he was infected by something worse than a virus, more insidious than a disease. It wasn’t even something that would show up on a blood test or an MRI.

It happened like this:

The patient was infected, possessed if you will, by a spirit. It had caught him and was riding him, like how the fleas rode on mice during the bubonic plague. The mice weren’t infected – the fleas were. The mice were just vehicles, taxis if you will. They shuttled the fleas around faster than they could have on gone on their own. In return, the fleas left the mice pretty much alone. They didn’t even know they were being used.

The same was happening here. The patient was the mouse, the evil spirit was the flea. It hadn’t badly affected the patient – that wouldn’t do. You can’t use them up too soon, they’d wear out. Then you’d have to find another one, sooner than you might want.

This was a spirit of complacency, of smugness, of self-satisfaction. It was a belief in a job well done in spite of evidence to the contrary. It was insidious, spawning vanity and a total lack of hubris. It said “all I have accomplished has been by my own hand, and mine alone”. It invited no disagreement and produced no diligence. There was no need to double check your results if you were convinced they were perfect. There was no need to try harder if you knew you were better than everyone else.

It produced vision problems, but the vision was of the heart, not the eye. It made the “mouse” see everyone and everything as lesser than. Instead of being better, it made everyone else appear worse. It made its victim feel higher by making others appear lower. Average was suddenly an accomplishment.

It caused alienation, of course. Nobody wanted to be around a goody-goody and “I Told You So”. And that led to stress, to dis-ease. The problem wasn’t a virus but a victimhood, a sense of lesser than, of isolation. People separated from others became sicker more often, and for longer. Humans were made to live in community, after all.

The patient suffered from stomach problems – losing weight, loose stools, frequent vomiting. It was part of the stress of the dis-ease, the particular form of illness his spirit assumed. The same spirit could cause cancers, or heart disease, or anemia for instance. It didn’t matter. Genetic tendencies were just indications of possible failure, weak spots in the wall of immunity. The disease was just a manifestation of an excess or lack, an imbalance of nutrition, movement, or something more nebulous. “Failure to thrive” isn’t just about infants. A soul lack, an empty yearning, a hole, these wore away at any possible wall a person might have. Aimless, loveless – a life without meaning was a death sentence.

None of this mattered when the last transfer happened. Brian was strong in body and soul, regularly walking on the track and with the Lord. He took care of himself and of his spirit. This is why it was such a surprise when he got sick.
The spirit hadn’t been listening when plans were made for exploratory surgery of its “mouse”. That was part of the specific character of that spirit – an unwillingness to listen to anyone or anything. So it came as a huge surprise to it when the patient began to go unconscious as the anesthesia took over, paralyzing his body so the surgeon could work. It bolted, like a startled colt, unsure, unaware, suddenly stronger than it already was because of fear.
It was afraid, not of dying, because that was impossible. It wasn’t corporeal, so there was no body to die, to decay. No, its fear was of a deeper sort. It was of ceasing to be, of existence itself. The spirit had to be in a body – any body, to exist. This is why spirits resisted being cast out. So when the fog of anesthesia began to cloud its victim’s eyes, it panicked.

Spirits need skin to skin contact for transference. That is how sexual disease spirits infect new people. That is why lepers are segregated. So when the panic gripped it, choking, struggling, it jumped to the one person who was touching its previous vehicle.

This was Brian, the anesthetist, who was holding the gas mask to the patient. The transfer was sudden and sure. Normally Brian would have been immune to such a spirit, but this was not a normal situation. The fear of having its existence snuffed out as instantly as a candle flame, spurred it on, made it more violent. Brian had no chance against this force.
In the same way that mothers gain incredible powers when their children are in danger, the spirit became unstoppable, irresistible. It barreled into Brian the same way a linebacker runs into his opponent.

Brian was very spiritually strong, so the force of the unexpected attack was not enough to knock him down. He felt something shift, slide sideways, and lock. The feeling was a lot like what Obi-Wan Kenobi felt when Alderaan was destroyed – a great disturbance in the force. This was what Brian first thought it was – some outside event, some terrible, horrible occurrence, a victory of dark over light.

It was a month before he admitted he was the one who had been defeated. By then he was unable to work. His gait was slower, his reaction time tripled. He couldn’t respond to sudden changes quickly enough to prevent disaster. A missed a step lead to a fall instead of a minor correction. While inconvenient for everyday life, this inattention could be deadly at work, where patient’s lives were in his hands.

His speech was slower too. He used to be garrulous and outgoing, but now he was unsure if he could remember how to say what he wanted to say. Words were slippery or sluggish or not there at all.

It took him six months of struggle to admit he needed help, even though the doctor still couldn’t tell him what his disease was. He felt a little like the woman in the Bible who had bled for over a dozen years and doctors hadn’t be able to heal her. If only he could be like her and touch Jesus’ robe! In the meantime he’d have to settle for the leash of his therapy dog.

New Age faith healing

Several new friends that I have are practicing what is essentially faith healing. But it is New Age faith healing. And they are charging money for it. Something feels decidedly wrong about this. Not just the practice, but charging money.

Now, we have these words from Jesus in Luke 10:7
7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. (RSV)

But he also says in Matthew 10:8
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay. (RSV)

So are we or are we not supposed to get paid for faith work? In the first part, we are, but it seems like the “wages” are food and drink, not money. In the second, it looks like we aren’t supposed to get paid at all because we didn’t pay anything to learn what we do. Being able to heal is a gift from God, not something that has to be learned.

But then are they talking about God? Do they think their gifts are from God? Do these above statements even apply to them?

I say new age because they do not use the name Jesus or God, or even Father. They use the ambiguous term Source or Spirit. Are they being politically correct, to not offend those who have been turned off, turned away from, or turned out of the Christian church? Is Spirit or Source a more inclusive name for God, in that it isn’t owned by any one faith tradition? Or is it something else entirely?

They all say that they are into the feminine side of divinity, and while I feel it is appropriate to balance out the representation of God that our society uses, I think it is important to make sure we are still talking about the same thing.

At a certain point a definition can stop being a definition, stop defining, stop having a limit. At a certain point the walls of meaning fall down and a word stops being a word and starts being a random collection of letters. They stop being a container for meaning.

Jesus says that anything we ask for in his name we will get. Jesus gave his followers the ability to heal the sick. Not some ambiguous Source, or Spirit, or Goddess.

And where are they, really? Did any of them come down to earth in human form to live and die as one of us? Or are they just stories? If there is no proof, it isn’t real. A disappearance isn’t a murder until the body is found. So a story of a god isn’t real unless there is some evidence.

They will play their drums over you or sing through their drums at you. Why drums? I don’t know. They are using frame drums, and because they are unusual, perhaps that adds to an air of mystery. A little of something unusual helps in the suspension of disbelief.

Suspension of disbelief helps in telling a story. It helps in getting a person to believe that a made up story is a true story. In other words, it helps people think that what they are being told is the truth, even if it isn’t.

But it also works in the placebo effect, and maybe that is what is going on here. Belief in a cure sometimes is the cure itself. Sometimes you have to give people a sugar pill in order to get them to get over their belief that they are sick. You have to “sell” it to them, make them believe that what they are getting is the real deal, or it won’t work. When I say “sell”, I don’t mean money, but money is part of it.

Carny men know about “selling”. They have to convince people of the value of what they are buying. With a normal purchase, you exchange money for a product. You can see what you get. There is no ambiguity. A real, physical object is in your hands. With healing, there is nothing there. Healing takes time. But that is part of it.

People are starting to realize that a lot of healing doesn’t come from the doctor, but from the patient. The doctor does what is necessary to get the patient to heal herself. Some of that involves a little sleight of hand, a little head game. A little suspension of disbelief.

Terry Pratchett used the term “headology” in his Discworld books. His character Granny Weatherwax used it to explain her work as a witch. “Witch” in this sense doesn’t mean that she casts spells or put hexes on people. “Witch” in this sense means wise woman or elder. She had authority by virtue of her knowledge and ability to stay calm in a bad situation. She kept her head about her when others were losing theirs. She said she used “headology”, rather than magic.

Perhaps this is “headology”. But perhaps this is deceit. If people are being healed, isn’t that all that matters?

Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe they are deceiving people as to the source of the healing. Maybe they are leading people astray. Maybe they are leading themselves astray.