The writer of Hebrews in the Bible tells us of a great cloud of witnesses, surrounding us and cheering us on to the finish line (Hebrews 12:1). These are people who have crossed the veil before us: our relatives, beloved friends, faithful saints and leaders of all religious and spiritual traditions who know the joys at the end. There are also crowds of angels and other spirit beings who may never have journeyed on this physical plane, but they encourage and help to guide the spiritual seekers on earth.
I grew up in a tradition in which it was “evil” to set up altars honoring the deceased or to talk to the dead at all. Generally, this is taboo in this hyper-scientific American (white, Protestant Christian) culture, where spiritual encounters are explained by physics or neuroscience, and children are discouraged from believing in imaginary friends. But I am seeing signs of hope with an increase in paranormal movies and psychic documentaries, with increased public conversation about life beyond the grave, and with the blossoming interest in spirituality and answers beyond the simple black-and-white, heaven-and-hell teachings of the church.
Cultural conversations with the cloud of witnesses
Many cultures around the world, even some American cultures, do embrace the spiritual and peek into the veil separating the seen from the unseen. The Japanese set up beautiful altars to honor their deceased. Mexicans celebrate and converse with their ancestors during Dia De Los Muertos. American Indians talk to the spirits and use soul retrieval to help the deceased to cross over. African-Americans share ghost stories and folk mythologies full of truth. Mystic Catholics pray to saints for guidance. All of these methods are ways to communicate with, and receive love and encouragement from, the cloud of witnesses. Of course, I am greatly generalizing here, and every person has an individual view of spirituality, but I am also exploring the big cultural ideas.
What does it mean to be encouraged by the cloud of witnesses?
Encouragement: take courage, find strength on the journey.
Sometimes the evils, hatred, and greed in this world cause me to tremble in fear and lose my grasp on happiness. But I have learned to talk to the unseen beings surrounding me. They tell me jokes and stories, remind me of my mission and destiny on earth, and help me to remember my home full of love on the other side.
As an empath, when I hear a story of someone abused or the innocent jailed and caged, I feel intense emotion, even to the point of physical sickness. Because of this, I can get too wrapped up in earthly concerns of justice and pain. My cloud of witnesses whispers to me and remind me that karma will always be fulfilled, and I can only change myself, and hopefully help to lift up a few people in my small corner of the world. I really hope that my writing can make some small difference. Ultimately, I cannot save or change a world that does not want to be changed.
Instead, I can focus on the reward, the homecoming at the end of my journey. My spiritual friends tell stories of wild, trippy dimensions of ultimate bliss and fun. They describe giant feasts of food more delectable than the grandest dinner on earth. They tell me about houses made out of light, and one giant community made out of love. That is a dream worth living for!
Namaste, friends. In the future, I will talk more about heaven, the cloud of witnesses, and the spectacular spirit beings I have met. For today, look inside. Listen to the whispers of your loved ones who have passed on. Embrace their joy and embrace the journey of light and love.