The Shamanic Journey

May 16, 2021
Every week a project called Storyworth asks a question and saves my answer. After a year they will create a book of the responses. (This was a gift from my daughter). Last week, the question was:

What is one of the strangest things that has happened to you?

And this was the one that I chose to describe:

I often engaged in periods of meditation. They always resulted in mildly altered states, nothing unusual, but once in a great while, they resulted in something major. I slid into a different “space.” That happened one afternoon and I found myself experiencing something like a lucid dream, a very vivid experience of a journey into and through diverse environments and being mentored by a wise old sage. It’s not unusual for “guides” to be wise old sages in different “genres.” Anyway, it was a powerful experience, deep and meaningful, and that’s what Bishop Charles affirmed when we discussed it and I asked for guidance, what you know for sure is, you have had the experience.

Now that same week or the next week – I don’t recall which – I was browsing in our counterculture book store in Salt Lake City called the Cosmic Airplane I think it was. I saw a paperback called “The Shamanic Journey” and bought it. I read it avidly and the author outlined the typical shamanic journey in quite some detail. It was not similar to but identical to what I had experienced, symbolic events and images and all.

I took that immediate discovery of that book and what it illuminated as obvious synchronicity and still do.

I have said about “conversion” experience, that human brains are hardwired to have a “hierarchical restructuring of the psyche” when the right triggers, internal and external, cause it to happen as they did in my instance. It can lead to transformation or psychosis I think. In my case the dice fell onto transformation and higher integration and a realization that I would never again see the world the same way. I am referring to the prolonged experience(s) that resulted in my trajectory toward the ministry.

The key there is that the experience completed and could be integrated with other experience and a changed direction in life. That relates to a shamanic journey in this way – as a therapist said about dissociated states, the important thing is not that you have them but that you know how to come back home.

If you go over to the far shore and cannot get back, that’s trouble. But if you can come back and know you always can – then you are empowered to “go crazy on behalf of the community” because your “crazy vision or crazy wisdom” can be used to illuminate the consensus reality of the community. That is how I came to understand the priesthood and endeavored to live it out. Preaching was a way of like doing the Tarot for a community using images not from the deck but from the assigned scriptural passages of deliverance, healing, and transformation. You “read the space” of the community and gave them a reading that scattered bread crumbs toward the vision. You spoke to the collective unconscious and when people “got it,” they said, like, “you were speaking directly to me.” As indeed I was, also.

The genuine religious vision is transformational and counter-cultural.

Acting on confrontational principles on behalf of justice or other genuine values will elicit a less than welcome response. The ministry as a profession meant learning to walk the razor’s edge between being booted out and being one of the crowd and complacent about it. That was not trivial as a challenge.

As it is not trivial in any area of life. We all maintain our integrity as we can and we are all assimilated into self-interested structures and behaviors to a degree. It’s how much one tilts one way or the other that makes a difference, in my experience. The depiction of Jesus is of a person – historically correct or not – who maintained integrity all the way. And got what one would expect.

So that’s a bigger view of how I understand what happened.

If you are interested in some of the details, you can find them in my short story “Silent Emergent, Doubly Dark” in “Mind Games” or as always free at my website. I present in sci-fi tropes an “anthropologist” visiting successive alien cultures while I am in fact depicting deeper and deeper states of consciousness.

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