Somewhere in August I agreed to receive the ebook Sitting with Spirits by Bob Doto, a featured Speakeasy selection and write a review. But 2020 has been weird in all kinds of ways, and the Covid-crisis has given me a writers block that stopped me from writing anything at all for most of the year, so while I instantly have read most of the book it took me a while to get myself to compose a review.
‘Sitting with Spirits’ is a short book (138 pages) about ‘spirit work’ from a Christian perspective. The book itself not that long, but it seems to be part of a bigger work ‘longer work exploring liminal, shadowy, and magical entry points into the Christ tradition.’ that it probably interesting too. Even with the short length it’s a fascinating read with a lot of stuff to wrestle with, which made it even harder to write a review.
I’ll be honest: The book is like I already said absolutely fascinating, very deep, thoroughly written and yet frustrating at the same time. Doto has some things in his worldview that I don’t agree with (about spirits and afterlife for example), but he also says a lot of interesting things that make a lot of sense, sometimes far away from the actual topic of his book. Indeed sometimes the side-remarks about completely unrelated topics are the deepest parts.
The part about spiritual commodification and ‘Old-Timey Holy Ghost Spirituality’excerpted on Mike Morrells blog for example is in itself worth reading, and certainly something to ponder and wrestle with… He surely says a lot of things that need to be said!
It’s also interesting to read read a book written from an actual spiritist point of view (not just animist, which I am much more familiar and comfortable with) that still identifies as Christian. (Even though it’s a very open-minded progressive form of Christianity that borrows from a lot of other traditions too, and probably the same can be said about his way of engaging ‘espiritismo’ in the book.) It’s the first book as such that I’ve read after only seeing warnings against spiritism being evil and worse all my life, and now my introduction to it is in many ways (certainly not only in name) thoroughly Christian, and very much bible-based. Much more bible-based than a lot of Christian writing I’ve read throughout the years even.
I have indeed been warned about spiritism from a young age in Christian books as a warning. You know the stuff: it’s demonic, the spirits that show up are always devils, and so on. (That and the secular ‘it’s all nonsense, cold reading and theatre’, which is rather boring) I am still wondering about that too by the way, what Doto would said about the prohibitions against consulting the dead, and about how he would exegete the medium of Endor story for example, which at a serious read defies every simplistic ‘all those things are demons in disguise’ theory anyway.
Yes, I hesitate to ascribe every spiritual encounter to demons of the gaps explanations but that still doesn’t mean I agree with Doto’s views of life after death, in which if I understand well -I might be wrong though- we (and other beings) become mostly spirits that wander around here, and might give guidance to those who come after us. He gives a thorough explanation of spiritism, the spirit-filled worldview, and on how to engage the spiritual world, complete with historical and biblical data that are very consistent.
On the other hand, that isn’t the only topic he engages at all: like I already mentioned the book is full of deep explorations of spiritual, religious and psychological themes that make a lot of sense, and at times Doto seems to have more insight in core aspects of Christianity than a lot of more ‘orthodox’ Christians in many traditions do, as well as a much deeper view of spirituality than a lot of ‘spiritual’ modern types. His definition of ‘spiritual’ for example doesn’t only go deeper than wishy-washy modern ‘spiritual not religious’ types, but is a good and very biblical reminder for Christians too:
To Paul, whether a person was spiritual or not was entirely dependent on a person’s relationship to the Spirit of God, what he and his comrades called “the Holy Spirit,” as it was specifically promised by Jesus Christ. Whether or not you meditated had nothing to do with it. (…) Far from being either a statement of belief regarding a person’s outlook on life or a choice one makes to become more peaceful and calm, to be a spiritual person meant you were in direct communion with the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus Christ, as gifted by God.
So the book did several things to me: it was an introduction to a worldview alien to me, it reminded me of basic Christian and other truths that are often watered-down nowadays, and provided interesting interpretations of the bible. Some of his advice is very solid, and in other areas he goes where I wouldn’t go. And even there he’s careful, nuanced, and not falling into a trap of giving methods in a book for things that take years of practice.
So on the one hand there is deep stuff, good reminders, and paradigm-stretching information. On the other hand, there still are things that I have no place for in my worldview, and even things that seem quite dangerous to me as a small o orthodox Christian. Even though I think he is much closer to describing the invisible world than most Christians, even Charismatic Christians who believe in the spiritual world, often get. (Or maybe especially Charismatics, sometimes those who engage in spiritual warfare are extremely weird and creepy to be honest.)
So while I certainly don’t agree with everything I will say it’s an interesting read, and a good introduction to a spiritist worldview -from a more postmodern and open but definitely Christian POV though- anyone who wants to expand their world and explore other paradigms, and pick up a lot of wisdom along the way.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook free through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.