Living with a Spirit
Evident throughout history, humanity has always been concerned with entities beyond our usual planes of existence. Roles such as shamans and diviners are among civilisation’s oldest professions. Even in today’s science-driven world, this fascination hasn’t subsided. Gallup polls held within the past decade indicate that nearly three in four Americans believe in the occurrence of at least one paranormal phenomenon. There has also been a growing number of paranormal societies and investigators across the globe, not to mention all the attention that is generated by the entertainment and media industry. Real scientists aren’t leaving this alone, either. State-certified research programs have been designed to explore the possibilities of communicating with angels, higher powers, and the deceased. Furthermore, futuristic thinkers are often theorising about transhumanist potentials of extending our beings into realities outside of constraints that currently bind us to the physical world, evolving our species to interact with any interdimensional life bereft of the natural barriers that would separate us now. The prospects are both exciting and terrifying.
Studying about entities may be an interesting pursuit, provided that it doesn’t creep you out. Having one follow you around 24/7, on the other hand, is a whole different issue. It is already difficult enough working out the intricacies of spending life together with someone you love — more notably, someone visible; how much more complex and gruelling must the challenges be for living with the unseen?
Jodie Holmes can surely testify. The protagonist of Beyond: Two Souls has endured her days with a spiritual presence. This entity, whom she calls Aiden, has been tethered to her since birth. While this attachment gives Jodie access to several supernatural abilities, it is also the source of a staggering amount of frustration and grief that characterises her daily existence. As a result, no one who has witnessed her struggles would light up with envy. Being stuck with Aiden is simply more trouble than it is worth.
But perhaps I could turn your attention to another example — one that would serve as an uplifting contrast to the tragedy of Jodie and Aiden. After all, the experience one has of living with a spirit is highly dependent on the nature of the entity.
I speak of the Holy Spirit, whose company is vital for all who profess to be Christian. This Spirit isn’t connected to a person through the use of an ethereal cord (as is the case with Jodie and Aiden), but rather finds permanent residency directly within the believer. The Bible plainly describes that our “bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.”1 Nevertheless, don’t mistake this indwelling as a form of possession. Think of the relationship more as cohabitation based on trust. And due to this intimate bond, the influence of which the Holy Spirit has on the Christian is ultimately life-changing. Thankfully, as I will attempt to demonstrate, the experience is one that brings peace and blessing to a person’s life, instead of a cause for distress as portrayed in the plot of Beyond.
The following is my exploration of four distinctions between living with Aiden and living with the Holy Spirit. It is not an exhaustive list, but touches on some of the fundamental differences in their nature that, in my opinion, vastly separates the two relationships.
1. The Issue of CONSENT
Great commitment is required when two people decide to spend the rest of their lives together. To start things off on the right foot, mutual consent is the least that each person can offer to the equation — the act of exercising their free will and giving conscious permission to the other party’s desire for union. Sadly, none of this ever took place in the life of Jodie. She was dealt the extra hand upon birth. It is no surprise that feelings of resentment developed in her since childhood.
In the chapter titled “My Imaginary Friend”, a young Jodie gets into trouble with her parents due to some of Aiden’s protective, albeit dangerous, actions. After she is put to bed that night, and if the player allows Aiden further disturbance, Jodie will inevitably snap and shout, “Go away! I hate you! It’s your fault my parents don’t love me!” In all fairness, it wasn’t ever Aiden’s decision to be bound in this way. As best as the story later reveals, their abnormal bond was formed out of what can be best described as a metaphysical glitch in the universe envisioned by David Cage (the writer of the game).
Further into the scene, we are shown that the lack of consent has also been an issue with the parents, Philip and Susan. While conversing with his wife, Philip expresses his fear of Aiden before saying, “We agreed to look after a little girl, but not this.”
Never mind the discovery that Jodie isn’t actually their biological daughter — the more pressing matter is that at the time of adoption, the couple gave consent to only one addition to the family. I am not saying that when a child comes packaged with unexpected burdens, it is then a valid excuse for parents to hold back their love. For unlike her husband, Susan has shown great kindness to Jodie, even in light of the strange manifestations surrounding her. However, it is still true that when something as basic as consent is absent at the dawn of new relationships, they have the tendency to become very complicated and messy.
By contrast, the Holy Spirit doesn’t intrude upon anyone’s life at random. A clear prerequisite is given to how Christians have come to receive him: “You were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”2 As implied, the opportunity emerges from hearing the gospel of Christ, at which point the perceiver may choose to either reject or accept the message. Christians may sometimes seem pushy in their evangelistic efforts, but rest assured that no one can ever be forced into belief and, in turn, accommodating the Holy Spirit.
In other words, God graciously sends an invitation to humanity through the gospel, making known to the world his longing and consent for a personal relationship with us, all the while respecting man’s freedom of choice so that the Holy Spirit does not make himself at home in our lives unless permission is granted from our side. This protocol based on open knowledge ensures that all who have the Spirit are people that welcome his presence. It is a suitable system for something so momentous.
2. The Issue of IDENTITY
The mere thought of meeting with a supernatural being may stupefy many. We are curious creatures, and at times too trusting without investigating the true identity of a spirit. Some stranger-danger education never hurts, as the Bible warns: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”3
“The Condenser” is a chapter of the game that depicts what happens when people act too quickly without taking precautions. I refer to the folks at the Department of Paranormal Activities (DPA) fiddling around with a device constructed for the purpose of opening up passages to parallel dimensions. By activating the device, these scientists have carelessly allowed a whole shoal of unknown entities to flow through — hostile ones who seize the opportunity to invade our realm and attack everyone working at the facility.
The people of DPA are considered experts, but even they are clueless about the identity of these spirits and how to handle them. Out of desperation, they turn to a teenage girl who has had an ongoing personal experience with a spirit. “Jodie, the entities around the rift… They’re not like Aiden,” instructs Nathan, a researcher related to the project. “We know almost nothing about them.”
Well, lucky for Jodie that she at least knows precisely who Aiden is — or does she? The blunt response says it all: “I’ve been living with an entity that I know nothing about since the day I was born.”
As it turns out, Aiden has never introduced himself after all these years. He is able to write on walls, type on the computer, whisper thoughts directly into Jodie’s mind, yet never once explained who he is or from where he came. I hesitate to pin it all on him, because it is possible that he also knows nothing about himself besides a name to go by. But either way, it is an uneasy circumstance, and I doubt that Jodie will ever get used to living with someone who is both unseen and unknown.
To learn about the identity of someone, it is important to understand their origin. For the Holy Spirit, this early event documented in the New Testament is most telling: “After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.”4 Indeed, this Holy Spirit is none other than God’s Spirit originating from his heavenly dwelling. Throughout his ministry on earth, Jesus continually relied on the Holy Spirit for power and wisdom.
With firsthand knowledge and experience, Jesus made known to his disciples that they are to also receive and know the Holy Spirit in the near future. He said, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”5 His promise was satisfied on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to fill all those who believed in what Jesus taught and waited on God. And to this day, Christians remain with the knowledge that “what we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.”6
3. The Issue of MOTIVE
From watching footage of the game before its release, I have always felt particularly intrigued by “The Party”, a chapter where Jodie takes a break from her confined lifestyle and joins a group of teenagers in a birthday celebration. It is amusing to see how hard she tries to fit in — either by drinking beer, smoking marijuana, or dancing intimately with a boy — but at the end of the day, the condition of interdimensional attachment creates a chasm that impairs their acquaintance.
One thing leads to another, and eventually Jodie is utterly ostracised and thrown into a cupboard under the stairs. Once she escapes with the help of Aiden, however, an option of revenge is available. So I take it on with glee, ready to show those bullies the consequences of messing with the supernatural. I cannot wait to use Aiden and methodically destroy the party.
The cake is the first thing to be blasted, upsetting the birthday girl, though she assumes that her friend is at fault. Rattling the furniture gets them to realise that something is definitely wrong. Before long, chairs and tables are flipped over; people are hit and crushed. They attempt to escape, only to discover that the doors and windows won’t budge. The hostile makeover continues as lights shatter and decorations crumble. At this point, Jodie yells for Aiden to stop, stating that the kids have had enough.
But have they? This decision falls to Aiden (or the player who enables him in wreaking havoc). It dawns on me that no matter what Jodie thinks, the entity that lives with her is not a slave, but an individual with his own will.
Despite being invisible, Aiden’s intentions are rarely transparent. Sometimes he assists Jodie, other times he disrupts her; sometimes he is there to guide, other times to trick. This ambiguity is evident throughout the entire story. The one sure thing is that Aiden does what Aiden wants. He has no other purpose than to be motivated by his own desires. And in this scene, it culminates with a burning house.
Like Jodie, Christians don’t act as masters in the spiritual relationship; we aren’t here to give orders. However, there is a clear and consistent purpose of the Holy Spirit’s presence. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears,” said Jesus. “He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”7 Strictly speaking, what the Holy Spirit wants is always in tune with what Christ wants.
This serves as an anchor to the Spirit’s behaviour; his sole motivation to aid us in living within God’s will, just as Jesus received from him the counsel and power required to fulfil the plans of the Heavenly Father. Thus, the Spirit is an indispensable partner in the effort to become Christlike, and we can always trust that he is on our side: “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”8
4. The Issue of RELATIONS
Some problems in our lives can be compartmentalised when we have the luxury of forcing a cap on them. The affliction may be one of relational difficulty, bad failure, or physical limitation — as long as there is room to adjust and adapt, the impact that it has on other areas of life can be minimised. Little outbursts may erupt once in a while at the seams, but for the most part, we cope and life goes on.
Aiden is not so easily contained. Worse yet, he doesn’t exactly operate like a respectable roommate who honours Jodie’s personal space. This is especially true regarding her relationships.
A prime example is seen during “The Dinner”, as Jodie is invited to an evening date by a colleague named Ryan…except that she never got the invitation because Aiden thwarted the plan by breaking her computer. Jodie apologises on the phone and asks Ryan to meet at her new apartment instead, to which he agrees. Upon hanging up, she reprimands Aiden for his manipulation.
Jodie proceeds to prepare for the occasion, but Aiden counters her every step by throwing chairs onto the dining table, opening drawers and cupboards in the kitchen, ringing the doorbell at random, and writing on the bathroom mirror: You don’t need him, you have me. The jealous Aiden encroaches on Jodie and tries to prevent the date from happening.
Should Aiden continue to ruin the dinner after Ryan’s arrival, the evening will come to an abrupt end. Prior to leaving, Ryan will express to Jodie, “Aiden is very possessive. I think you’ve gotta work it out with him.”
The Holy Spirit also cares a lot about the relationships in a person’s life. Yet with verses such as “Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord,”9 it is clear that God delights in providing a suitable spouse for people who may be seeking. His Spirit wants to bring people together, not to cause separation. In fact, there is an inherent rapport among Christians that is beyond any earthly romance or association.
People with the Holy Spirit have a special bond within this commonality. An encouragement goes: “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.”10 The Spirit brings reconciliation and builds relationship between those belonging to the family of Christ. Therefore, it is usual to hear Christians refer to one another as brothers and sisters, since we are all God’s children.
And this leads to a most important influence, that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is tantamount to accepting the privilege of becoming God’s beloved sons and daughters. “You have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.”11 Amazingly, the indwelling of the Spirit acts as living proof for not only the harmony that is established with others, but also for the peace that is reconciled with God — peace enough for him to settle an everlasting residence within us.
- 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NIV).
- Ephesians 1:13 (NIV).
- 1 John 4:1 (NIV).
- Matthew 3:16 (NLT).
- John 14:15-17 (NIV).
- 1 Corinthians 2:12 (NIV).
- John 16:13-14 (NIV).
- Romans 8:26-27 (NLT).
- Proverbs 19:14 (NIV).
- Ephesians 4:3-4 (NLT).
- Romans 8:15 (NLT).