Category Archives: Personality Fragments

Shamanism * Psyche, Symbol and Transformation

In Shamanism * Journey to the West, I suggested that Shamanism had come to the West in the same way that successive waves of Eastern philosophies and practices had come. Just as yoga and meditation, Buddhism and Taoism were embraced by a spiritually bankrupt West, so Shamanism has resonated in the Western soul. I observed that Shamanism seems not only here to stay, but is here because – even in its stripped-down “westernized” forms – Shamanism works.

I wondered if we in the West have been mistaken in our concerns about emulating the dramatic indigenous forms of traditional Shamanism. It seems clear that the spiritual and psychological power of Shamanism lies in the metaphysical realities – alchemical processes of the Mind – which it has embodied and transmitted through the ages. Though we have so much to learn from traditional Shamanism, is it possible this is a two-way street? Has Shamanism come to the West on its own Journey, to explore its origins, find new forms, and express itself anew?

Here, I look at the elements of Shamanism that I believe have been somewhat obscured in both Indigenous Shamanism and the new “Core” Shamanism in the West. It seems to me that, beyond all these cultural forms of shamanism, there exists what an essential Shamanism in which the psyche, through symbol, can access energy and matter to create transformation and healing.

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Dreams and DreamWork * Silk Road Journeys

Much of our dream life we hardly remember, but without these visits to the Temple of Dreams we could not survive here in the Outer World. Though experienced on a different plane of reality, dream life is as real as our waking lives. In fact, our dream life is much more creative and transformative than most of our waking life. Through dreams we embark on shamanic journeys and encounters within our own psyche and beyond.

This is Part 1 of my Dreams and DreamWork Series (Note that the featured image here is Flight Of Aquarius by the wonderful artist Josephine Wall).

Dreaming and the Higher Self: A Spontaneous Balancing Process
When we sleep we enter the Temple of Dreams, and here we become in some way different – the Dreaming Self, the Observer. We seem to play many roles, but to retain a vantage point – the “I” who reaches conclusions and makes choices in dreams.

At the same time, however, there seems to be a larger Self behind the scenes, one Who keeps track of all one’s dreams, picks up their themes in meditation, and relates them to our life through other events in the mysterious events we call synchronicity. This wonderful presence is the Higher Self, and as Carl Jung observed, its whole purpose appears to be to help keep all of our experiences – conscious and unconscious – within a Circle, and then to move them toward the Center as we become aware of their patterns of meaning.

The Higher Self is this bridge, then, to the Soul, and the Circle of Meaning is the archetypal Mandala. I think of this magical process as part of the Road in our spiritual Silk Road Journey.

Dreaming is essential to the healing and psyche-balancing process which goes on all our lives. It is not a mistake that the unconscious is unconscious. There are reasons concerning mental, spiritual, and physical health which make the unconscious accessible to our everyday conscious selves only in rare states.

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Finding the Self * Solitude, Healing and the Spiritual Life

These are difficult, even dark, times. Almost 25 years ago, I began to predict in the psychic readings of many of my clients that there were dark times visible on the distant horizon. These were visions of a future in which stark changes in the climate as well as geological and political stability of our Mother Earth were the dominant features of a dramatically darkened world.

Balsamic Moon, end of a Phase, end of an Age

I saw soldiers relocating people in what seemed to be massive floods, even large pieces of land turning into islands at sea where they had been part of a mainland.  In fact, one good thing was that the world’s armies were deployed more in saving, than in destroying, and it seemed that this was redemptive karma for those whose lives had been ones of violence.

I saw what seemed to be islands formed by rising waters, camps of orphaned children, and doctors administering vaccines or antibiotics to the children, as is done in the midst of an epidemic or to prevent the spread of something like malaria or dengue.

There were perhaps new wars but if so, these seemed less immediate than changes in our collective, social, geographical worlds.

Because above all, I sensed far-reaching dislocations in social mood, in our connections to one another, in our connections to the planet itself. Some of this is now upon us, in the form of climate changes, weather violence, and a pandemic which adds a massive layer of existential uncertainty – indeed fear – to every aspect of our lives.

Even with the war in Ukraine, and all the shock felt by a world not expecting this war, at this time, in this place, the real threats seem still lurking, not quite upon us, but vaguely sensed by so many of us.  It is this premonition of coming dark times, I think, that has caused so much psychological alienation…we feel as if the world is moving beneath our feet, that nothing will ever be the same…

Yet out of all of this,  may come for many a blessing, a light in dark times. In the midst of social disconnections, we discover the gift of solitude, the recovery of a fuller selfhood, opening to creativity and growth in ways our busy, highly socialized lives could never give us.

Though it may sound impossible to achieve, it is actually liberating to face dark times boldly, to embrace what they bring into our lives, and in a way to defy them by refusing to be unhappy. There can be something empowering in spiritual insight which tells us that this world is not the beginning nor the ending of the universe, God or Love, and it is certainly not the ending of us.

These are the times which force us to go deep within and reaffirm an identity and strength which truly can never come from the world and its goods; many of us knew that a long time ago – our heritage as Baby Boomers. Much less obvious is another truth, that as we progress on the spiritual planes, we must walk a more and more solitary Path.

We will still love, but the Circle for us is as large as the Earth and the Universe beyond,.

So it may well be a time to embrace the social solitude so many lament.  This may be the high point, the high ground, of this lifetime – the very reason you chose life at this time here on Earth.

I am not alone in suggesting that solitude brings extraordinary gifts, that these  may be the lemonade we can make with our lemons…

An article in LifeKit – How Solitude Can Help You Regulate Your Mood is a good starting place, pointing to research showing that time alone helps us even out in our mood, that we don’t have to go into full-blown monastic retreat to attain alone time, nor do we have to push our friends away from us. There can be an art to finding small spaces of solitude, though we may need to first overcome a (western) aversion to being alone in the first place…

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Active Imagination, the Higher Self, and the Spiritual Life

The Meditative Process * Not Silence, But Active Imagination, a Faculty of the Soul.

(Please see note at the end of this article on the possible negative effects of various kinds of meditation.)

There is a unique meditative state which for lack of a better term, many have called Active Imagination. It is not imagination in the sense of conjuring up something fanciful, or unreal.

Active Imagination has been known to humanity as a distinct and rather esoteric state for a very long time.  The Shaman almost certainly lives within it at times continuously, and Carl Jung experienced it as a lively personal inner world of events, debates and conversations.  It is a state of being in which we enter a realm between conscious and unconscious, between waking and dreaming.

In ancient Arab and Iranian philosophy the term Imaginal Realm was coined to describe a space which bridged the worlds of matter and spirit – a place referred to in most world cultures, and associated often with being a causal plane, one in which changes made in the imaginal dimension of mind could effect changes in the material plane.

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