Field Notes from the Borderland: An Interview with David Spangler

By Annabel Chiarelli

Editor's Note: Curious about Views from the Borderland but wonder what it's about? When I first learned of it several years ago, it was described as David Spangler's "far out" explorations of the subtle realms, and so not for just anybody! It turns out that such a notion isn't exactly what David himself has in mind. In this two-part interview with blog writer Annabel Chiarelli, David dispels the myth and leads us into the heart of a personal, ordinary experience-- while sharing his desire to make the subtle worlds, earth's second ecology, natural and explorable by everyone.

Annabel C: Views is unique in that it’s a sort of premium-priced print-only publication.

David S: I knew that the journal had to be a print document because I wanted folks to feel they had something special and unique. Anything now that’s posted electronically can be copied and distributed so indiscriminately on the web. I didn’t want that. Because the material is so personal to me and represents an intimate side of my work, I wanted to have some control over who had access to it. I make a lot of my work available to the public, much of it for free, and I felt it important to have something that was not as easy to access.  I also felt it important that the journal be something that you can hold in your hands as a tangible way of transmitting an energy. So I wanted something that was outside the digital universe from which we get so much of our information these days. I wanted to know that the person reading Views honored and valued the material and the relationships and explorations it represents as much as I do.

Annabel: Views from the Borderland is subtitled “An Esoteric Journal.” What does that mean, exactly? The word “esoteric” can seem daunting to some; it can sound really abstruse and arcane, when in fact my experience of Views is that it’s accessible to anyone who has a serious interest in understanding and working with the subtle realms regardless of their level of expertise.

David: That’s a really good comment. Honestly, that had not occurred to me. I think it’s because all the years I’ve known and used the word “esoteric,” it’s come to mean to me simply anything dealing with the subtle worlds. When I thought of doing this journal, I knew this would be the subject matter, so calling it an “esoteric journal” made sense. I didn’t think about it that much, a case of falling into habit. The funny thing is that I’ve read academic journals on esoteric philosophy and practice that are dense, arcane, and filled with symbolism, footnotes and bibliographic references. They can be a challenge to wade through. I’m not trying to write in that way about those kind of topics.

Annabel: You would say, then, that Views is pretty much accessible to anyone, not just the experts?

David: Yes, I would. My purpose is to write something that will make the non-physical dimensions more ordinary and accessible to individuals, and I try to do that by sharing the fact that it’s ordinary for me, I try to share my own feelings of ordinariness about it.

Annabel: Yes, that’s great, and you also share things about your process, not just the results.

David: Yes, that’s right. I feel that’s important for two reasons. One, I think it’s interesting for people to have a sense of what actually goes into the process and to see that what I write isn’t the product of some mysterious, mystical revelation but the result of ordinary intellectual and intuitive inquiry coupled with a sensitivity to subtle dimensions. Secondly, by describing my process, I hope to emphasize the individuality of it. That is, it’s just one person’s process; it’s not necessarily the “best” process and certainly not the only way to go about it. The results are shaped by my individuality and the process I use. I work to be as accurate as possible, but I can make mistakes, and I’m not free of bias. Everything I share, however good the process, is still filtered through one person’s consciousness.

Annabel: I also wanted to ask you about the word “Borderland” because in your Subtle Worlds book that has a pretty specific meaning, but in the context of this journal what does that mean?

6th yr-Vol I Views Cover-Front

David: In the course of my other work preparing and teaching classes or working on Incarnational Spirituality or just in my own daily interaction with the non-physical world, things happen. I have experiences or I get bits and pieces of information that seem exciting and interesting to me. I’d like to share them. But it’s not always clear just how to do that. Back when I started the journal, I had no place to share these experiences because they didn’t fit into a class, they weren’t really part of Incarnational Spirituality, and they might not provide material for a lecture or workshop. So I thought it would be nice to have a special place where I could just share these experiences–I call them my “field notes."  That’s when I thought of creating this journal.

As I thought about it, I realized that most of my field notes came out of experiences with the life and the beings and the energies that were immediately around me in the house, in the neighborhood, in this geographic area. These were not “higher beings” off in some distant dimension, but they were engaged with the physical dimension all around me, like the nature spirits in the backyard. And so I thought, “This is the borderland between the deep ocean of the subtle worlds where you really do get into very different characteristics and conditions of consciousness, and the physical realm. This is like the shoreline where the two meet. That’s where the term “Borderland” came from.

Since then, as I’ve gone on with the journal, I’ve realized that this “borderland” has been deepening and broadening. This has been as much due to the influence and energy of the wonderful community of subscribers that has been developing over the past 5 years, as to anything I’ve done. So the “Borderlands” are not so much borderlands anymore. In that sense, yes, the range of what I can explore and want to explore in the journal is definitely widening out.

When I first started, I did not have in mind that it would become a kind of educational venue, but about two years in, I realized that in effect the four issues a year and the two online forums were acting as if they were parts of a single class. So that got me thinking, “I don’t have to structure it like a class, but nevertheless there is an educational process going on here–and for me too.” So that also broadened and deepened the nature of the journal.  I began to see each issue not as a stand-alone item but as part of a larger whole.

Annabel: So you do add supplementary text and exercises to the forums now that aren’t in the journal itself?

David: Yes, that’s right, I do. I consider the Forums a chance to extend and further explore the material in the journals.

Annabel: Now that most of Lorian’s classes are taught by other faculty, would I be correct in saying that the Views Forums have become the primary way people interested in your work can interact with you directly?

David: Pretty much. That’s true at the moment. Whether that will be true going forward into the future, I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. I’m really very happy for what’s occurring with the whole educational side of Lorian. It’s wonderful to have more people taking up the teaching. For one thing, they can teach in ways that are hard for me. For instance, because of my difficulty hearing, I don’t do teleclasses easily, but Julie can, and Rue does and Freya does. This offers many more ways for people to engage with our material and teachings than what I offer. I love that!  But for the time being certainly, Views is my primary educational contribution to Lorian’s work.

Part 2 of this interview will be published on Wednesday. For more information about Views from the Borderland, click here.