Most of us cannot see into the spirit realm. While we can see the effects and fruit of spiritual activity, we don’t actually see spirits or spiritual things. So it’s hard for us to conceive what it is seers see.
Quite by accident, I discovered a tool to help understand what sensitives see in the spirit realm, and I thought to share it.
The title is a bit click bait-ey because when I say “help non-seers to see the unseen realm,” I use the verb “see” to mean “to understand” or “think clearly about.” I don’t mean “to perceive with the eyes.”
God has granted some people the ability to see spirits and spiritual things, and if God hasn’t granted you that, feel free to ask God for this ability, but don’t try force it. Don’t climb over the fence to try to steal the gifts of God. Instead, receive the gifts through the gate of Jesus.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to think about what it is seers see. This website is all about aligning our ideas of the spirit realm to the way the way the biblical writers thought about it.
Too often, we read the Bible through modern eyes, missing what goes unsaid by the scriptures because the writers shared something with their intended readers that they didn’t share with us: a cultural supernatural worldview.
You and I are products of our own scientific age. We are conditioned to think about everything through a scientific materialist lens. We can’t help it, but this mindset is not conducive to understanding spiritual things; it leads to distorted ways of thinking about the spiritual realm.
So I’ve considered different tools to help retrain my mind to think scripturally about the spirit realm. That includes the nonfiction works of scholars, but another useful tool is the fictional works of scholars.
Scholarly Tools… of a Sort
My thinking has unexpectedly been influenced by Dr. Cory Olsen, an English professor with a Ph.D. in medieval literature. The culture and mindset of the medieval Europeans was supernatural. They did not think about the world like we do. They thought about the world supernaturally.
Their supernatural perspective is far closer to the mindset of the biblical writers than ours.
To help his medieval literature students better cast off trappings of modernity and embrace an ancient supernatural mindset while reading medieval literature, which aids in understanding what the author was thinking, Dr. Olsen had them read the fictional works of J.R.R. Tolkien, an influential professor of English language and literature.
Tolkien’s fictional The Lord of the Rings (LotR) is epic high fantasy, set in a world populated by creatures and cultures invented in Tolkien’s imagination. Many Tolkien scholars have noted that the worldview of Tolkien’s works is similar to the supernatural medieval worldview, and studying Tolkien is useful when considering medieval literature.
I think also it’s useful when trying to consider the biblical mindset when thinking about spirit realm.
Dr. Olsen has had a “The Tolkien Professor” podcast for many years, which I’ve followed because I’ve always loved Tolkien’s works. He’s also founded Signum University and its related Mythgard Academy. He makes many of his classes available for free on his podcast, available at iTunes, Podbean, and elsewhere.
One of his free courses is called “Exploring The Lord of the Rings,” which is taking a very slow and careful reading of the text, with lots of discussion in an online community. I’ve been tracking along with the discussion, and occasionally partaking in it, mainly because it’s fun.
Thinking carefully about Tolkien’s world -and the medieval mindset – is a tool. When we read and think about fiction, we engage parts of our minds that are not engaged when we think only about nonfiction. When we allow the author’s story to affect us, we absorb some of the author’s thoughts in ways that a lecture cannot achieve. (This is, after all, why Jesus’ primary teaching method was story telling).
I’m not suggesting that Tolkien’s description of the spirit world is perfectly biblical. It is, however, differently conceived than how we normally consider it (which is to say, even less biblically), and therefore, may be helpful in reshaping how we consider spiritual creatures and spiritual attacks.
Tolkien certainly wasn’t attempting to teach a particular theology; he’s trying to tell an interesting story that is internally consistent.
I’m suggesting that by allowing Tolkien’s ideas to impact us, we can think differently about the spirit world.
The Barrow, Crickhollow and Weathertop
Dr. Olsen’s discussion of three scenes in The Fellowship of the Ring (the first book of the LotR trilogy) have challenged some of my thinking about the spirit realm. (They’ve also made reading Tolkien more interesting and enjoyable).
I’ve found myself wondering if some of what Tolkien describes is similar to what seers have seen.
If you haven’t read The Fellowship of the Ring then these discussions may not have much of an impact on you. The scenes are the
- The barrow-wight’s attack on the hobbits in the barrow. Barrow’s are burial mounds, and wights are spirits.
- The Ring-wraiths’ attack on Frodo’s house in Crickhollow
- The Ring-wraith’s attack on Weathertop.
(The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring film does not portray the Ring-wraiths or the spirit realm as in the books. It skips the barrow-wight and Crickhollow scenes (which are both terrifying) and distorts the Weathertop scene to make it more action-oriented. So if you’ve only seen the film but not read the book, then the discussions and the rest of this post may be confusing).
The Ring-wraiths, also called Nazgul, are the spirits of nine disembodied kings who are enslaved by and serve the evil divine being known as Sauron (who, unlike in the movies, is not a flaming eye on top a tower). Their invisible bodies are given some shape by robes (not like in the films), and they ride black horses.
In the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring, the Ring-wraiths are hunting Frodo because he came into possession of the Ring of Power. When Frodo wears the Ring, he enters and sees clearly in the spirit realm (not like in the films).
Terrified at Night
I have always read the attack at Crickhollow and the assault on Weathertop as physical attacks and was confused about how they were described. I always wondered why the Ring-wraiths were not more violent and simply didn’t take the Ring on Weathertop.
It turns out, these aren’t physical attacks at all.
Tolkien is describing spiritual assaults.
When read that way, these scenes explode with meaning, depth, and are very relevant. When we drop our modern perspective, and put on an ancient perspective, the spirit realm – and its effects on the physical realm, makes a whole lot of sense.
I know many people who feel terrified at night for no good reason. Could it be a spiritual attack? The attack on Crickhollow illustrates how spirits might attack.
The Crickhollow the discussion is here:
On Weathertop, as soon as Strider stops singing, the Ring-wraiths attack. The company is struck by terror.
Then Frodo puts on the Ring, which plunges him to the wraith world (wraith is an old word for “ghost” or “spirit.”) He can clearly see them (being spirits, they are invisible) and they can clearly see him.
I’m curious if seers function a lot like Frodo with the Ring on – if they see clearly in the spirit realm, can spirits see them more clearly as well?
Can spirits see us because of our gifts? Can they see our gifts?
Part 1 of the discussion can be found here.
Call on the Name of the Lord!
The wraiths are not driven away by a man with flaming sticks. Just when the leading wraith is about to kill Frodo, he cries out the name of a divine being, Elbereth Gilthoniel, basically one of the principal deities of the Elves. Earlier an Elf blessed Frodo with Elbereth’s name!
It appears that Elbereth intervened to drive away the Ringwraiths and save Frodo. That principle in Tolkien’s imaginary world is a reflection of reality.
How many times have I heard about people being assaulted by dark spirits, and they cry to the Lord Jesus, which drives away the attack?
Even unbelievers have been rescued by calling on the Lord Jesus, which naturally challenges their unbelief…
If you choose to listen to these episodes, please understand that Dr. Olsen is recording a live session while interacting with a discussion board. The first hour or so of each episode is discussion, and the last hour, he explores the game Lord of the Rings Online (also called Lotro). I personally find the discussion interesting but have never played or listened to the game portions.
Also, there are lots of “um’s” and “okay” and “but, ah’s.” I find them a bit annoying, but when you participate in the discussion live, it’s clear he’s reading live-stream comments and deciding to discuss them or not. Oh, by the way, when I do make it to a live discussion, I comment as “Croaker”, and occasionally get a mention. The “ums” are more tolerable when you know what he’s doing.