The following essay is the second installment of a two-part essay on the spiritual entities frequently invoked during Santo Daime ceremonies. Read part one here.


Suffering Spirits

I think that I can safely say that although incorporating spirits of Light, and/or having encounters with some of the other countless beings that seem to inhabit our multi-dimensional universe, is at times a rather charged and challenging process, nonetheless, for the most part, it can also be quite pleasurable, even ecstatic.  However, incorporating suffering spirits (espíritos sofredores) is a whole other story.  

Suffering spirits are spirits of human beings who have died, but who have not moved on to a higher realm.  They are, in essence, stuck here in this level of reality, but without the benefit of a physical body. And these spirits are genuinely suffering – they are filled with almost unimaginable anger, terror, self-loathing, and so on.  And unfortunately for us, to the extent that we have not worked on ourselves spiritually, we can and do attract these spirits to ourselves through our own negative behaviors, emotions, or beliefs. These spirits want nothing more than to encourage us to deepen our negativity so that they can, in and through our body and mind, continue to experience and re-enact the same quality of addictive behaviors and obsessive thoughts and feelings that they were used to in their previous existence.  Most of us, however, are not aware of this symbiotic and parasitic relationship and we will often, unfortunately, allow ourselves to become subconsciously influenced by these suffering spirits – an influence that, if not corrected, can lead to a flood of toxic and disturbing emotions and thoughts, which in turn can catalyze a wide range of debilitating and detrimental mental and even physical illnesses. (In fact, within the Santo Daime, it is often said that the only people who are actually ever possessed are those individuals who, without their knowledge, allow themselves to be negatively influenced by suffering spirits.)  

It is therefore the task of every Daimista to work to become conscious of the ways in which these suffering spirits negatively impact his or her day-to-day existence, and with the help of the Daime, to attempt to free himself or herself from this previously unconscious influence. Daimistas, however, do not practice exorcism.  They do not seek to expel suffering spirits from their aparelho, but rather, they are taught how to transform these spirits, a difficult and demanding challenge in that it is simultaneously a task of transforming suffering spirits and a task of self transformation. (In Portuguese, to transform suffering spirits is to doutrinar or to “indoctrinate” them – a translation that, in English, carries many negative connotations that are not associated with the Portuguese term doutrinar – which means to teach, to discipline, to transform.)

The goal of this transformative process is to begin to function less from our “lower self” (the eu inferior), that aspect of our psyche that is covered by a veil of illusion and is hence vulnerable to the negative promptings of these suffering spirits, and instead, through a process of quieting our minds and opening our hearts, to begin to increasingly identify with our “higher Self,” (the eu superior), a Self who is pure love, joy, and calmness, a Self that, as Daimistas, we come to know in and through the powerful assistance of the Daime.

This process of transforming suffering spirits is not just a task that each Daimista takes on within him or herself.  It is also one of the primary tasks of those mediums who are willing and able to incorporate suffering spirits. During that particular St. Michael’s work, for instance, this type of mediumship began, as is typically the case, after the spirits of the Light had manifested themselves for a long period of time in a wide variety of forms, so that the aparelhos of the mediums had already been cleansed, opened, and filled the energy of divine Light and Love. Suffering spirits, like all spirits, on some level of their being, want to spiritually evolve.  Therefore, they are attracted to that Light and Love that the Daime brings, so they will often crowd into the hall when they are invited, even if, at the same time, many of them arrive resisting that Light every step of the way, often literally kicking and screaming.

During that St. Michael’s work, these suffering spirits were invited, at least implicitly, when we began to sing another collection of hymns that almost invariably seems to open the door to these sort of spirits. For myself, the process of incorporating suffering spirits began almost immediately. During the next hour or two, I would sit in my chair, singing the hymns if it were at all possible, perhaps feeling a bit nauseous or bloated from the presence of the Daime as it actively worked within my body.  I’d then suddenly feel an influx of ecstasy, joy, love and light that let me know that a Being of Light had arrived. Throughout the process, this Being (or Beings) would remain, and I would feel myself centered in my heart, calmly watching and witnessing everything that was going on within me and around me – and at times it would be difficult to distinguish between this inner peace and the presence of the Being, or Beings, of Light. Then, at a certain point, an aspect of my awareness, as well as my physical body, would suddenly and forcefully contract and tighten up, as I was flooded with a quality of suffering that can manifest either as anguish, rage, terror, grief, or self loathing, depending upon the specific nature of the suffering spirit who had arrived.

During this part of the St. Michael’s work I primarily remained seated in my chair.  There have been other works in which I would need to get up from my chair, and perhaps even go outside, so that I could give a spirit sufficient free space in which to express itself.  But in this case, it was almost as if there was some sort of prior agreement between “me” and these spirits. It was almost as if on some level of my being I had told them, “Hey listen, you can enter, but there can’t be a lot of drama – there are a lot of beings in line after you, so just come in, show yourself, manifest as minimally and quickly as possible, and then keep moving so that you can let yourself be raised up and transmuted.”  Therefore, when a suffering spirit would arrive, I would, for example, hunch over in my seat, grimacing, my hands perhaps bent at the wrists, my fingers coming together like lobster claws, my arms almost hugging my body, groaning and moaning with anxiety and fear; or I’d snarl as I roughly wiped my face, sneering with contempt at everything that was taking place, as I would carelessly blow astral phlegm into my hand and shake off to the side in disgust and distain; or my hands would cover my face as I breathed in and out heavily and through my nose and mouth, not wanting to see or be seen, writhing in self-loathing.  It was, in other words, a very restrained and modulated work with suffering spirits.

Although it didn’t happen in this work, at times if the suffering spirit is manifesting in a particularly dramatic way – and there can be a lot of screaming and thrashing and weeping at certain points in these sorts of works – one of the leaders of the ceremony might stand next to me, and quietly say a few words of welcome to the spirit who was temporarily present in my aparelho, and then offer that spirit a small extra serving of Daime to drink – in and through the my aparelho – as a way for that spirit to be filled with the transformative divine Light of the Daime.  At other times, advanced mediums might also work with a spirit within me to help it to calm down or to move on, perhaps brushing my aparelho energetically, or snapping their fingers around my aura, or smudging my aparelho with the smoke of a sage stick, or so on.

But in this particular work, I simply remained in my seat as each being would come in, carrying with it a very clear sense of individuality. I would give the spirit some time to express itself, then little by little, very gently and patiently, following inner guidance, I’d begin to sit up straighter, and then let my torso begin to move and sway from side to side, almost as if I were shrugging off some emotional or energetic heaviness, as I would feel, and at times even see within myself, the energetic body of that suffering spirit beginning to uncurl, untighten, as I would watch or simply feel the dark, knotted strands of its prior substance unfurling, opening up, as with tremendous grace and compassion, this being, often to its amazement, was welcomed and assisted by the Beings of Light who accompanied and guided it during this process.

There have been many times in which I was deeply moved by how these suffering spirits would at first resist this inner welcome, would fight against the unconditional forgiveness they were receiving from the Beings of Light, protesting that they were not worthy of this level of Love, and yet finally, amazingly, they would let go, they would take in that compassion and Light.  Then, before my inner sight, I would watch, in awe, as they would transform into a swirling mass of crystalline light and almost explosive joy that rose upwards and then merged, literally in a flash, into the Light that surrounded and welcomed them. (Some Daimistas actually believe that the more negative energy that the suffering spirit brings with it into that transformative encounter, the more positive power that spirit will manifest when that process is completed.)

During this St. Michael’s work, as with many other mediumship works, the transformational work with suffering spirits just went on and on, perhaps for about two hours.  Almost the moment that one spirit had moved on (signaled by me sitting up fully erect, often lightly and quickly brushing off my arms, chest, back, legs and head while making low soft whistling sounds, and then centering and aligning myself, once again, with my higher self and/or the spirit of the Christ within me), another spirit would arrive, with almost no breaks in the process.  It was almost like some sort of transformational assembly line, or as if I was some sort of spiritual train who would stop, take on a passenger, move forward, let them off, and then take on someone new. It just went on and on and on.

By the end of the work I was, not surprisingly, extremely tired.  This sort of incorporation process can be exhausting work, but it is also tremendously rewarding.  Not only is it said that mediums acquire enormous good merit from taking on this often difficult and demanding task, but more importantly, mediums also vicariously experience within themselves the Love, Light and Forgiveness with which the suffering spirit was showered during that transformational process. Simultaneously, as a medium increasingly comes to identify with the power of the Higher Self, with the I Am (the Eu Sou), or the power and presence of the Christ that is working within the medium, that identification itself, as it deepens, allows the medium (to the extent that she has purified herself of her egoism and negativity) to become increasingly translucent to the Christ, who is her true being, and who is manifest in the Daime itself, so that this Light and Love and Power can work in and through her to take on the sufferings of the world in order to transform and redeem them.  

Interestingly, however, mediums do not have to be completely pure in order to do extremely powerful work.  One of the amazing things about mediumship in the Santo Daime tradition is that our own neuroses and psychological complexes actually provide opportunities for suffering spirits to manifest themselves.  What happens is that these spirits, drawn to a corresponding energetic “stuckness” within ourselves, are in a sense provided with a “door” in which they can “enter” into our aparelho. Paradoxically, therefore, it is through our own fears, doubts, anxieties, anger, and envy, that these spirits are given an opportunity to incorporate within us.  And as they are redeemed and transformed, so are we. Their healing becomes our own. The goal of mediumship, therefore, is not so much to eradicate or exorcise these less-than-perfect aspects of ourselves, but rather, to bring them forward into our awareness with compassion, patience, and faith.


A Few Final Thoughts on Mediumship

The incorporation of spirits (whether spirits of Light or suffering spirits) is actually only one form of mediumship, even though it is the most obvious and/or dramatic.  Many mediums are so willing to serve, and are so open to the pain and suffering and darkness that they sense around them, that they will, often without a lot of fuss, simply as part of their mediumship, take that negativity into themselves in order, with the help of the Daime and the spirits of Light, to clear and transform it. Some Daimistas actually argue that often the most advanced forms of mediumship are actually the least dramatic, and do not even have to take place within the setting of a Santo Daime ritual. So for instance, moments of intuition and inner attunement with the depths within you can also be seen as powerful forms of mediumship, as when, for example, you are teaching or giving a talk and you let the words just flow, not knowing moment to moment what you’re going to say, trusting your alignment with your depths, letting “Something” speak in and through you.  

Ultimately however, at least for a Daimista, perhaps the most important form of mediumship is the ability to remain calm, centered, and firm in the I Am or Christic presence during the moment to moment flow of daily life – so that mediumship, in the end, merges more and more into a type of ongoing practice of Presence and Heart in which, having become increasingly translucent to the Light of God within, the medium comes to rest within the awareness that “not I, but the Christ lives within me.”