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Spirit guides are a form of imaginary friend for adults. They are widely believed to exist by people in New Age circles, and these beliefs are propagated by psychics and authors who profit from this. For example, a psychic can take money from their client for telling them what their spirit guides' names are and what they look like, etc. For maximum profitability, it's usually asserted by the psychics/authors, and their fans alike, that all people invariably have a host of spirit guides; there are only extreme cases where a person doesn't have spirit guides at all.
Nature and function
Many variations of New Age beliefs contain descriptions of spirit guides: beings invented to assure the believer that they are not alone, or that they are in the care of something wiser or greater than themselves. Whether by migration or parallel conception, spirit guides also appear in many practices with varying properties, natures, and professed levels of influence over humans. They are popular among psychics as well as a staggering number of fluffbunny-targeted green ink websites and support forums.
When called upon by psychics or similar practitioners, spirit guides are usually described as being not angels or other mythical creatures, but souls who may or may not have incarnated as people on this planet or others. They are usually "highly evolved" (never mind that evolution doesn't work that way) and as a rule are not the person's deceased family members (who may not be "evolved" enough to function as spirit guides). They are claimed to have been assigned or "hired" by each person's 'Higher Self'. A person's Higher Self is claimed to make 'contracts' with other souls so these souls would guide them through life. The Higher Self can continue to make contracts with guides as the person lives and grows older, sometimes hiring a guide to get through a specific time in their life. A person is usually said to have circa 4–6 guides involved with them at all times, with there usually being a main one who's been with the person their whole life.
Fluffbunny practices may refer to humanoid spirits, ghosts, or other beings as above, but they also may also claim animal spirit guides, power animals, or spirit animals as well. While many people may deeply identify with a kind of animal or simply have a favorite one they find inspiring, spirit animals take it a step further. Often claimed to be some sort of ancient druidic or forgotten animal guardian spirits, these concepts may be borrowed from Native American woo regarding animal totems and totemic spirits. Nine times out of ten, individuals will 'encounter' (or, pretend they did and instead just pick from a list or some other selection method) an animal that they just so happen to like. It may or may not be said to reflect the person's inner soul, but it is telling that, no matter the content of the lists provided, wolves, foxes, ravens, cats, bears, and other 'cool' animals are far more common than say, goats, jerboas, molluscs, or lungfish.
Although most spirit guides are not said to be angels, there is also a whole branch of Christianity-neopaganism transitional practice that claims various angels as guides in similar roles, not only for humans but for entire nations and for the order of the world itself. Because nothing makes a person feel more at ease than a divine being carrying a giant flaming sword of death looking over one's shoulder, or the shoulder of one's entire country. Additionally, there's a staggering number of people (at least in America) who believe in angels, mostly Christians, and quite a few of them believe in angels of the mortal-meddling guardian persuasion. Thankfully for the sanity of those who do, the angels in question are usually of the gift-shop cherub or tender all-loving-spirit varieties, rather than the completely-encrusted-with-eyes variety (Ezekiel 10:12).
Actually, they seem to be able to conveniently do whatever anyone wants them to do.
Strength of belief
Not all New Agers necessarily believe in spirit guides, but those that do often believe in them harder than a Christian believes in Jesus. Their existence is taken as solid truth thanks to subtle indoctrination and brainwashing from certain spiritual authors and psychics. The believers are usually not familiar with the relatively recent origins of the belief in spirit guides.
Spirit guides and free will
Erin Pavlina (ex-wife of Steve Pavlina), a psychic and one of the main culprits of propagating the modern belief in spirit guides, usually insists that spirit guides can not interfere with anyone's free will, presupposing that people actually have free will in the universal sense. She wrote a post saying that she believes that before the 9/11 events many people were 'nudged' by their spirit guides not to arrive at the buildings on that day. Too bad we don't have statistics to prove that an unusual amount of people were actually absent from the buildings when they should have been there. She says that she doesn't believe that the victims were meant to or fated to die, but adds: "Some of those innocent people may have received an intuitive feeling but ignored it. Some may have used logic to override their intuition. Still others may have received an intuition not to gone to work or went late, but feared being fired so pushed themselves to make it to work on time." This is classic victim-blaming and also pandering to the New Age beliefs that logic is bad and intuition is good, and that the feeling of fear is bad and should be ignored. She adds, "We can’t really ask any of them now." How convenient.
She added in a forum post that the "guides of the terrorists were definitely attempting to get their charges to stop their plan, just like any guide would of anyone planning murder". This clearly implies that there are some universal rules of morality, not too different from the concept of the Ten Commandments, that the spirits adhere to.
People who have claimed to have spirit guides
- Green ink sites like this are astonishingly common.
- Some green-ink 'druidry' It should be clear by now that most of these green-ink sites are individuals garbling about their personal spirituality… which then gets picked up by anybody impressionable enough to find it on a google search.
- A handy how-to!
- The mystical, magical image map of power animal goodness!
- http://ap-gfkpoll.com/featured/ap-gfk-poll-december-2011-santa-topline Around halfway down this page is the relevant result.
- Spirit guides
- stevepavlina.com forums — Psychic & Paranormal — "I don't have a guide?". Indoctrinated minions parroting the claim that everyone has spirit guides. Tons of additional examples can be found from that forum alone.
- Erin Plavina: Did Spirit Guides Save Lives on September 11th?
- There are some examples of some of these people, but considering how many people were supposed to be in the buildings in the first place, it is not surprising that a few of them were coincidentally saved. Famous examples include Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) who was suffering from a hangover on the fateful morning and also received a wrong departure time from his travel agent, and therefore missed the death-plane by ten minutes; and Michael Jackson who was supposed to attend meetings in the Twin Towers but had slept in due to sleep deprivation. Death caught up to Jackson eight years later.
- Steve Plavina forums: Did Spirit Guides Save Lives on September 11th?