Subtle Worlds (Book Review)


Here is an honest book review of Subtle Worlds: An Explorer's Field Notes. It was authored by David Spangler who helped establish the Findhorn spiritual community in Scotland, in the early 1970s. David and his wife Julie also co-founded the Lorian Association.

The fact that Subtle Worlds is a unique book, made for a review with a twist. Since David kindly agreed to shed light on my questions, the review features clarifications straight from the source. David Spangler ended up answering 5 questions via email.

This is an honest book review for my readers, which naturally makes it critical. One of the questions for Mr. Spangler points to a contradiction, but more on that later.

Not only have I paid for the Kindle edition of Subtle Worlds with my own funds, there are no ties between axel g and the Lorian Association. The review is not sponsored and there are no affiliate links on this page. In short, this post is all about spirituality.

This is the first ever book review on axel g, how did that come about? I read Subtle Worlds and thought to myself, "This is such a burst of wisdom, I have to share it with my readers."

Let's dig into it...

Subtle Worlds: An Explorer's Field Notes


David Spangler is from the US and says that he has been able to perceive energies and spiritual beings from a young age. All up, he has about 70 years of spiritual exploration under his belt.

Subtle Worlds serves as an introduction, it is not a complete guidebook. David has authored several books and the Lorian Association teaches classes online, in classrooms and self-study programs, that prepare seekers to explore the spiritual worlds.

Throughout the review the words subtle and spiritual are used interchangeably.

This book is truly spiritual, yet it is not about enlightenment. Rather, the aim is to cultivate the ability to perceive the spiritual worlds, and then to work together with spiritual beings to make the world a better place. This is similar to the Anthroposophical path I have followed, hand in hand with the Buddhist.

As a spiritual book, Subtle Worlds is quite unique. It offers a hands-on approach to understanding the spiritual beings, the spiritual realms and how to engage with them.

One aspect that stands out is its emphasis on engaging with spiritual beings, which forms the very core of Subtle Worlds. If you want to learn how to engage with subtle beings, this is the book for you.

Unlike older spiritual literature I have read over the years, that often limited what could be shared with the public, Subtle Worlds gives more detailed information. It is definitely a modern spiritual read.

In Subtle Worlds the chapters are referred to as field notes, like entries in a spiritual journal. Mr. Spangler shares his discoveries with fellow spiritual seekers, in a straightforward and personal style.

David makes it clear from the get-go that there is at least as much diversity in the subtle realms as there is in the physical world. In other words, there exists a myriad of spiritual beings and spiritual environments.

For practical reasons, David Spangler divides the spiritual worlds into three main realms. Pointing out that he finds it helpful to give the spiritual worlds some basic structure.

The spiritual worlds are known to be more abstract than the physical world.

In Subtle Worlds the three main spiritual realms are called the incarnational realm, the transitional realm and the higher-order realm. For easy understanding, we are incarnated and live in the incarnational realm. When we die, we move on to the transitional realm, which is something in between the self-serving physical world and the altruistic higher-order realm. Finally, the aim is to return to the higher-order realm.

David means that life as a human on earth is characterized by self-serving or selfish drives. For instance, we engage in the activities we enjoy, have personal goals and agendas.

On the contrary, in the higher-order realm the innate drive is to serve the greater good. That is the strict opposite of how the majority of people lead their lives.

When we die and enter the transitional realm, we gradually let go of our selfish drives and take on an altruistic mindset. Moreover, we learn from our experiences in the incarnational realm. When all the processes have been completed, we move on to the higher-order realm.

The spiritual beings that are described in Subtle Worlds include elementals, nature spirits, devas, angels and non-physical humans, which is a human without a physical body.

According to Mr. Spangler, the purpose of learning to perceive spiritual beings and to work with them, is to unite the physical and spiritual realms and to call forth collective healing.

Here is a wonderful gem from Subtle Worlds: David describes the sofa in his living room, in great detail. He goes on to explain that the sofa is sticky, meaning that feelings and thoughts can enter its energy field and stick to it.

I found that such a revelation.

For years, when going to bed at night, my experience has been that I enter a clearly defined energy bubble with a distinct mood. What is more, I immediately pick up on the thoughts I had while in bed the previous night. This doesn't happen every night, but quite regularly.

What is your experience?

Since Subtle Worlds emphasizes how to engage with subtle beings, why not illustrate it with a handful of examples:

David confirms that the joint effort of a human being in a physical body and a spiritual being from the higher-order realm, is a much more effective and powerful force, than the two of them working independently of each other.

Yet, Subtle Worlds acknowledges that it is far more complex to communicate and work with a spiritual being from the higher-order realm, than one from the transitional realm. Our energy as physical beings is closer to the energy of the transitional realm, than that of the higher-order realm. The differential in energy makes for a challenge.

Furthermore, David points out that it is easier to communicate with non-physical humans from any realm, than subtle beings that have little or no understanding of the human mind.

The field notes also provide many a pointer, or common sense for spiritual seekers, on how to stay safe in the spiritual worlds. One such example is to discontinue contact with any subtle being that tries to arouse your ego, by suggesting that you are special or that it is willing to share secret spiritual wisdom with you.

According to David Spangler, certain beings may deceive you in an attempt to persuade you to work with them. The subtle being may claim to be a master from the higher-order realm, yet it may merely be a non-physical human that has stalled in the transitional realm. Once you have opened up to such a being, you risk being exploited by its self-serving agenda.

Note that a sensitive spiritual seeker should be able to tell the difference in energy, between a manipulative subtle being and one that serves the greater good. The book makes it crystal clear that the spiritual beings from the higher-order realm, all work for the greater good and wholeheartedly respect your integrity and free will.

The Author reminds the reader several times that it is perfectly fine to say, "No", even to the mightiest of spiritual beings.

Subtle Worlds does a great job at presenting multiple strategies on how to minimize the risks of engaging with subtle beings. That includes some examples of individuals who got involved with the wrong subtle beings, for the wrong reasons, even though there were plenty of red flags.

It is better to be safe than sorry. David suggests that it is advisable to think major decisions over for a few days, and to adopt a long-term perspective on your spiritual partnerships.

If I were to paint the aura of Subtle Worlds, by that I mean to describe the book's overall spirit, I would say that it is unusually humble throughout and full of hands-on, down-to-earth pointers. It is indeed packed with common sense for spiritual seekers. The last few brush strokes would depict how Subtle Worlds zooms in on the engagement with subtle beings.

Q&A David Spangler


The questions and answers are complete and unedited. However, some commentaries have been added to make it easier for you to understand the topic at hand.

Q: About how long does it take the average student to complete the journey from the first Lorian class, to the first encounter with a subtle being?

A: This depends wholly on the individual. Many people who take our classes already have some form of contact with the subtle realms and are seeking more information that can help them with their own experiences. For someone who has never consciously experienced any form of contact with the subtle realms, it usually takes one or two classes, though honestly, we've never tried to document this. It's a good question, but not one we've tried to measure. Some people "get it" almost right away and for others it may take a year or more. Also, we don't focus our classes on contacting specific subtle beings but on learning to operate as a whole person whose wholeness includes a subtle dimension. We focus more on how to work with subtle energies in ways that empower the individual to be a blessing in his or her community than on communication with subtle beings.


As I mentioned earlier, I asked Mr. Spangler about a contradiction. It is related to the following quote from Subtle Worlds:

"Rather than seeing the subtle worlds in religious or spiritual ways, I have always seen them as earth's "second ecology" and have approached them as a naturalist exploring the wilderness."

It is not difficult to understand why David looks at the spiritual worlds this way. With the gift to perceive the spiritual worlds from a young age, the spiritual worlds are as natural as the physical world.

Most of us have to meditate and work on our morality for decades before we make significant progress on the spiritual path. How about 3-month meditation retreats in the tropics, without an electric fan. You are literally bathing in sweat. No wonder we call it spiritual worlds, after all the effort and sacrifices we have made on the spiritual path.

Q: Having adopted Anthroposophical and Buddhist world views, I find the earth's second ecology "label" most refreshing.

In Subtle Worlds you write:

"Rather than seeing the subtle worlds in religious or spiritual ways, I have always seen them as earth's "second ecology" and have approached them as a naturalist exploring the wilderness."

That is most beautiful and poetic.

As I browse the Lorian Association website, I come across religious titles such as minister and priest. What happened to the naturalist?

A: Well, Lorian ordination is an experiment. Lorian is legally a seminary with the ability to offer courses leading to ordination. Some years ago, one of our colleagues asked if she could be ordained as this would be helpful in her work. We explored just how we might do this and ended up creating an ordination program that met the requirements of the State of Washington where we are located. As it turned out, a number of people wanted to take this course to become ordained. It wasn't clear just what to call such people once they graduated, and they decided amongst themselves that "priest" came closest to what they felt they wished to embody. Honestly, the term "naturalist" didn't come up, largely because our ordainees were less interested in exploring and researching the subtle worlds than they were in helping people in their communities. They were committed to a service role. And I should add that we no longer have the ordination program nor are we ordaining people at the present time. Lorian may undertake to do this again in the future, but we felt we needed to take time to learn more and evaluate the results of the program that we did have.


David Spangler makes it clear that it is much easier to communicate with a non-physical human, than an angel or any other spiritual being that is unfamiliar with the human mind.

The term non-physical human refers to a human without a physical body.

Further, David adds that the communication with spiritual beings is rather abstract and that mental images often are used.

Imbuement means that you for example become one with an angel, by being absorbed into its energy field, hence you perceive everything as if you were the angel.

It would be interesting to know, if a non-physical human who still remembers how humans exchange ideas, is able to talk to us or at least communicate more directly, than other spiritual beings.

Q: As you write in Subtle Worlds, "The inner worlds often have to communicate with us through the images we provide".

Is even the mode of communication with a non-physical human, in the transitional realm, limited to images, intuition and imbuement?

A: Not in my understanding. These are modes used to communicate with us--and most likely, not the only ones available; telepathic (i.e. verbal) communication is certainly possible. In my experience, a subtle being may not be used to thinking or verbalizing as we do or we may only be receptive to energetic impressions. It's like teaching online. I may have the ability to stream video and audio and send you complex movies, but the bandwidth of your computer or the way you connect to the internet may not enable you to receive that much input all at once. I do a number of ZOOM meetings with people around the world in our classes, and there's always someone who has to turn off their video in order to get the verbal, audio part successfully. So subtle beings often have to adjust their mode of communication to match what we are capable of receiving in the moment.


In Subtle Worlds David puts it plainly, the soul is ultimately who you are, and it dwells in the higher-order realm. Surprisingly, when the soul incarnates, part of it remains in the higher-order realm. Thus, to awaken to your soul, is to remember who you truly are.

Q: At the age of seven you awakened to your soul. Kindly explain what the limitations are on a person that perceives the subtle realms but has not awakened to her soul, and what changes when she awakens to her soul.

A: What a great question. Again, this depends so much on the individual. A person may not be in conscious contact with his or her soul and still be unconsciously or intuitively guided by it. There is nothing that says a person operating only from personality cannot handle subtle contacts well or that they will succumb to glamour or ego inflation. Yet, over the years, I've seen plenty of instances of this happening. What the soul offers is a strong presence of love and of service. The soul embodies blessing, and when one is aware of its presence, then that love and blessing become the context in which subtle contact is held. This protects against glamour and inflation, the two risks that an unaided personality may encounter.

However, it is also true that there are higher or more intense and complex levels of subtle energy that no personality is safely able to hold or handle without being integrated with its soul, but this is, metaphorically speaking, a matter of wiring. The presence of the soul prevents the "fuses" from being "blown," so to speak.

In Incarnational Spirituality, the first thing we teach people is to attune to their indwelling soul Presence through what we call our Sovereignty and our Self-Light, the radiance of our incarnation as a soul act. This is our way of asking people to practice attuning to soul first before engaging with subtle energies or beings. This is the whole focus of our foundational class, Journey into Fire, a pre-requisite before a person can go on to take other classes dealing with subtle energies or subtle beings.


A sincere thank you to David Spangler for taking the time to provide the detailed answers, which adds significant depth and clarity to the book review.

As I mentioned earlier, I asked David 5 questions, but so far only four of them have been covered. The last one has been saved for a future article. In that post, I will share my take on why secret spiritual teachings are not made public. Then, Mr. Spangler will illuminate the topic with his reflections.

The review of Subtle Worlds is drawing to a close. I hope you have found it inspiring. So, what is the bottom line?

Hands down, Subtle Worlds is the best spiritual book I have come across since the millennia. Every seeker that yearns to explore the spiritual worlds and to serve life itself, should read it.

And what about David Spangler? In my eyes, he is a true spiritual master.

Best of luck!





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