I'm in the midst of my research for Pop Culture Magic 2.0 (thankfully I'm almost finished with it). Part of that research has taken me to some interesting tangents in relationship to how people experience the otherworld and daimonic spirits. While most people wouldn't associate pop culture with daimonic spirits or the otherworld, I'm seeing a connection and it's also helping me understand the affect anthropomophism has had on people's encounter with spiritual beings. Patrick Harpur makes an intriguing point when he notes the following:
"It is to our discredit that in order to draw attention to their reality, the daimons have been compelled to become physical and fixed, like crop circles. By Masquerading as - by parodying- literal facts, they answer our modern requirement for quantifiable effects besides which everything else is deemed illusory. In other words, their way of presenting their own metaphorical, mythical reality is to appear not as literal, but as if they were literal" [Italics are his] - From Daimonic Reality
What I take away from this quote is that anthropormorphism is at the root of modern society's fixation on quantifiable reality. There are, of course, other disciplines and perspectives which also inform that fixation, but if we examine anthropomorphism carefully, what we find is that it seeks to recast experiences with Daimonic reality, and indeed with the universe at large, into human perspectives that label and categorize such experiences into neat little boxes. The resultant problem with this is that it creates a rather static experience of reality that always needs to be situated in what humans find meaningful to them, as opposed to really being open to how the experience might change their perspective of reality. This leads to the issue described above in the quote, wherein the Daimonic spirits need to appear in a specific context in order to connect and communicate with us. That specific context is filtered, sanitized, presented in a package that is ultimately limited because of the need to attribute human behaviors, meanings and values on the connection that has occurred.
This does open the floor to a question however: Why do these daimonic spirits want to connect with us so much that they are willing to limit the context of the experience to what fits us? I think there's two possible reasons. The first has to do with symbiosis, and the second has more to do with how we limit the experience and how they respond to those limitations. Lets explore both reasons in depth below.
The symbiosis reason essentially explores the possibility that daemonic entities have a symbiotic connection of sorts that requires a connection. I'd argue that the connection runs both ways. In other words, there are benefits conferred to both humans and Daemons by the nature of the connection. As a result its worth it to the daemons to continue to have contact with us, even if that contact is limited in ways that makes it more acceptable to humans. What's fascinating is that if this is the case, Daemons have nonetheless adapted quite well, and one possible theory for pop culture magic could be that what we're really connecting with are daemons that have taken on pop culture as one way to connect.
The second reason focuses on the limitations humans create in order to interact with Daemons. If we use anthropomorphism in its various forms to categorize our experiences into something that is comfortable for us, the challenge for Daemons then is how to respond to such a limitation and that may very well involve taking on the limitation and its context and using that to establish the connection and then afterwards challenging that limitation in whatever manner possible. Thus they may act as if they were literal and yet find a way to challenge that sense of literal reality by helping the person experience something that can't be categorically defined very easily.
Bringing all this back to anthropomorphism and its affect on the perceptions of reality, I think that what we'll discover is that anthropomorphism really does limit our experiences and contact with the otherworld and with the kinds of experiences we can have. It filters out what doesn't fit the comfortable human definition of reality, so that what is experienced spiritually or otherwise can be explained away and written off into convenient categories and labels that seem safe. The problem with this is that if it ultimately a filter that may cause us to miss experiences and information we need to have access to. The challenge then is to recognize anthropomorphic inclinations and determine how useful they really are for the spiritual work we are doing. Are we truly allowing ourselves the opportunity to have an experience or just turning it into a label that makes us feel safe for the sake of not challenging our perceptions of reality?