Category Archives: Shamanism

Lights Along the Runway * Imagining Your Flight Into Death

Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, suggests that we think about death often, that we include it consciously within the daily living of our life. Indeed, in the Buddhist Path, blessings and rituals of preparation for death precede as well as accompany the event of death.  I have come to realize that this exercise can also be applied to our deaths in other lifetimes, other places.

When death comes, let it be no stranger to be feared, but an old friend to take us home. In shamanic, transformative meditation we may spontaneously find ourselves journeying to the  moment in time when we will leave, once again, this very familiar world…

One of the most important journeys a shaman takes is the one to assist a soul who is leaving the body in death… I made this journey with my father at his hour of death – a surprising, unexpected enlightment in my training as a solitary shaman.

In the healing of others, the “made” – or trained – shaman takes Flight whenever he or she receives the call.  But each of us has Wings, though we so seldom use them, for shamanism is a natural gift of the Soul. Who knows? Your first practice taxis down the runway of Death may be the initiation you have been waiting for, without knowing it…

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Birth Of a Shaman * The Near-Death Experiences Of Psychiatrist Carl G Jung

One of the most intriguing and, for many, most convincing sources of knowledge about “the Other Side” and the meaning of life here on earth is the Near-Death Experience, known as the NDE.  People almost invariably report similar experiences, including learning about the meaning of life, the illusory nature of death, and the fact that we live not one but many lifetimes.  Above all, the message is one of love and endless patience with each slowly but surely evolving human being.

Here, I reproduce large sections of Carl G. Jung’s own description of his near-death experience which took place while he was very ill (very typical of NDEs) and which in many ways represents the real Jung, as opposed to the more mainstream psychiatrist and cross-cultural explorer.  What we find here are many landmarks of the journey into shamanism, a journey almost never sought, but one which can seldom be evaded.

Beginnings

“As a child I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things and must hint at things which others apparently know nothing of, and for the most part do not want to know.” Carl G. Jung.

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Shamanism * Walking the Solitary Path

In Shamanism Part 1 * Journey to the West I talked about the coming of shamanism – in altered “core” forms – to the West, suggesting it was here to stay, and that even in these altered forms, shamanism works.

In Shamanism Part 2 * Psyche, Symbol and Transformation, I discussed why shamanism works as a dynamic, transformative catalyst of healing and growth. I suggested that there is an essential shamanism which resonates with the structure and dynamics of the human psyche long ago revealed in all cultures, in myth, legend, and story-telling. I went on to summarize briefly the essential elements of shamanism which play out in psyche, symbol and journey.

Here, in part 3 of the Shamanism series, I suggest that one may train as a shaman not only outside of ritual but outside of group, within a personal, private framework of meditation and metaphysical studies guided by the Higher Self. Once we understand that transformation occurs within Higher Mind through symbols, we can see why shamanism can “work” for a solitary path.

Indeed, while most shamans serve a community, they are also noted for living apart, often in somewhat inaccessible locations. They continue their work in the various realms even when, perhaps especially when, they are alone.

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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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