I have thought at times about how English (and European languages in general) make it difficult to perceive the spirit world. This is a good example of how language conditions our perceptions.
There is a word in linguistics called grammaticalization. This means what the grammar of a language requires you to specify in order to make a correct sentence. For example, if you said “he picks it up” in Navajo, you would be required by the rules of the language to specify the shape and other qualities of the “it” that he picked up. In English, you have the option of saying “He picks up something that is flat and soft (like a blanket)” or “He picks up an object that is long and stiff” but only if you have to and you think of it. But that is grammaticalized in Navajo, it is built in to the sentence, you cannot make that statement with a generalized kind of “it.”
Now, look at verbs in English (as in other European languages). If I speak about him picking up an object of whatever shape, I am required by the rules of the language to place that event somewhere in linear time – past, present, or future, or variants thereof (or conditional/contrary to fact, as in “If he were to pick it up…”). Even modals (can, may, should) must be placed in linear time. (“He can pick it up (today or tomorrow),” “He could pick it up (yesterday, but it’s too heavy today),” “He could have picked it up (yesterday),” “He will pick it up (tomorrow),” “He might pick it up (soon),” “He might have picked it up (this morning),” etc. All the various English verb forms – tenses, aspects, modals – all require verbs (unless contrary-to-fact) to be assigned a place on the linear time line that separates past, present, and future into distinct categories. (Actually, in practice there is some blurring between the present and the near future, so to be more correct we might say that English contains a strict separation between past and non-past.)
The simple fact that Hopi contains no past tense (and is hardly unique for that) was the foundation of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, that language conditions thinking/perceiving processes, because Benjamin Whorf experienced how different was the Hopi relationship to time. (Actually, although Hopi verbs do not have past/present/future tense, they do include two other tenses, manifested and becoming manifested. Manifested includes all that is and ever has been, physically. This includes the senses and concrete items. Becoming manifested includes anything which is not physical, has no definite origin and cannot be perceived with the senses. This is grammaticalized; that is to say, Hopi verbs are required to carry one of these tenses.)
But think about the world of people who grow up being required by their language to place all verbs in linear time. There is no “neutral” time in English. We are forced to choose, one of the limited options offered by a linear, either/or language. There is no way to be outside of linear time, outside of either/or true/false choices.
It is no wonder that the Abrahamic religions (Hebrew and Arabic also have grammaticalized tenses) have no place (or rather time) for their mythology to unfold except in “the past,” so they have to be literal history. Either something occurred in a certain specific date in the past, or else it is false – a mere “myth.” Or else fiction. It’s either true or false. Myths are obviously not “true” (they didn’t happen in a literal way on a specific date) therefore, they are “false.” There is no other alternative but “true” and “false” for a language that offers no other tenses. Myths take place outside of linear time, but there is no mythological, outside-of-time time in European languages, so their relationship with their spirit world is literalistic: the Bible is history, Revelations predicts events that will happen on some future calendar date, the purpose of life is to determine your everlasting afterlife. So it isn’t surprising that people who think this way have to fight each other over whose myth represents the one and only truth.
Linear time also makes death frightening, a scary “future prospect” in place of the recognition that we live in death all the time, that our bodies are always in flux and exchange with all other life, that life and death are interwoven cycles. Paradoxically, it is this culture’s pathological fear of death that has caused it to be the great death-dealer of all time. The grammaticalization of tense makes our own death separate from us, a future event that we hope will be very distant. (And it frames the question of what lies “beyond” death – is there an "after"life?) There is no tense that we can use to refer to all of reality at once, our birth and our death and our ancestors and our descendants as a single whole. The language makes them separate from us because we “live” and they either “lived” or “will live.”
This is why it is hard for people conditioned by this type of language, that forces them to think within a narrow linear framework and limits their thought-choices to this narrow line, to conceive of the spirit world. The spirit world is outside of time, it is the intelligent communicative aspect of all being. But in this culture, as children learn to talk, they are taught by their very language to forget the spirit dimension.