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.

The Solitary Calling * Going Where the Path May Lead
Many spiritual seekers in the West are finding inspiration and assistance with life’s challenges through explorations in shamanism. Some seek out traditional or western Shamans for healing sessions. Some go a little deeper and attend workshops, and join circles for training and guided development.

Sometimes, there is a calling to enter formally into training as a shaman. This can be undertaken these days within a western setting, but there are those who choose to immerse themselves in a traditional shaman apprenticeship within an indigenous culture.

Yet there is another path for the seeker, one which may open up spontaneously or after gradually, as other choices recede. This is the solitary path, a calling to shamanism which has its own forms, its own practice.

This may seem controversial. The idea of solitary shamanism seems to contradict the notion of shaman as community doctor, community wise person, emissary between the realms of heaven and earth.

But nothing could be farther from the truth. First of all, the gifts of the shaman are known in all cultures to be spread throughout a people, though only one or two may formally be called “shamans”. Here in the West, we need to remind ourselves that we are all part of the great Web of Life, indeed, the Cosmic Web.  We are always connected to community – near and far – because the magic of our connectedness is not physical, but of Mind.

Secondly, within the Sacred Circle of Mind, it is possible for the solitary Shaman to transform, heal and guide anyone or any community which appears – rises up – upon the inner shaman’s mental screen. For the essence of shamanism is Mind and Soul, not the physical body, though it can and does participate in situations where ceremony and ritual activate it.

There are 3 good reasons to follow the heart and set out on the Solitary Path of Shamanism alone:

1:  Is This an Apprenticeship?
We may be preparing for a public role as a shaman and this will be our private apprentice with the Higher Self, the Great Shaman within. In addition to deeper levels of self-healing, we may now be initiated into some, and perhaps many, shamanic mysteries. One day, in this life or another, we will find ourselves ready for, and called for, the role of shaman in the public realm.

2:  The Higher Dimensions of the Healing Journey:
We may at last be ready for the shamanic level of our private healing. This will take us deep within, and we will explore the frontiers of cellular transformation, neuroplasticity and quantum physics, while visiting the 4th dimension, and the World behind our world, the Mind behind our mind, the Heart behind our heart. This is The Divine Matrix , (as described by Greg Braden), known through the ages by Indigenous peoples and given names such as The DreamTime – an Eternal Now of Creation.

If we have not explored these realms in other lives, then this may be the time. It is the foundation without which there can be no real shamanism, and in focusing on communal, ritualistic shamanism, there is a risk of missing this Journey, the highest levels of Higher Mind.

Shaman To the World:
We may be preparing for our part in Dreaming the World. One may be called to minister to nations, perhaps one in particular to which one’s soul is Kin. Nations and peoples have their karma, their destinies, and they are reborn together, again and again, weaving their threads as surely as do you and I. Their karma is, in many cases, our karma, for we have many identities – race, ethnicity, culture, religions and gender – all of which bind us here, to our life on Earth.

We may walk, in Spirit, beside the oppressed on the Great Road; we may turn back, and help a straggler who may one day be a Leader…We may travel to the Ganges and bless a great nation, that it may not forget its destiny, as Mother of the World…

Thus we need to think about the Solitary Path as one which is just the beginning – who knows where the path may lead?

Getting There * Entering Upon the Solitary Path
If we can minister to communities unseen as a solitary sShaman, can we also train alone in this calling? The answer, I feel, is yes.  Shamanism is natural to the human psyche, and all who devote themselves to the inner life will, in time, find themselves drawn into the visions, journeys and transformations of Shamanism.

One day we find ourselves spontaneously entering states which can only be understood in terms of the dramatic journeys and transformations in shamanism.

We are led – by our Higher Selves – into a dimension of meditation where ritual and sacred objects seem to appear, in real or symbolic form. We may connect with special plants (or planets) which seem to tell us of their powers.  These then come alive, as we enter into psychodramas which teach, heal, and lift the Soul to God. These experiences have a thrill and power all their own and one feels at once that they are new, quite different from other spiritual states.

Here, we may meet for the first time animals and birds who seem to understand better than we do why they have come. We embrace these and cherish them as much for their quiet companionship as for the psychic strength and protection they provide.

We become aware that their gifts may include assistance too with our worldly concerns. Our internal world comes alive with symbols who are also entities, bringing power and meaning all their own.

When we reach this point on the Path, it is one of the most important milestones in our spiritual lives.

There is a natural progression in almost all areas of life from the physical or material planes of experience to a level that is of the quality of Mind and Spirit. This progression involves learning to move from concrete to abstract thought, and we reach the point where one word or one image can represent a wide range of things.

Thus a Tarot card can represent a person, a type of event, or even a time frame. In dreamwork we merge with Shaman Within and interact with physical objects, events, situations and people in symbolic forms that come deeply personal as well as universal “dream dictionaries”.

As we learn to work with symbols, we find ourselves entering what is known in Australian indigenous and other traditional cultures as the DreamTime or place of creation and transformation. This is the world in which the psyche naturally belongs, where it is most comfortable, for here it is fluent in the universal language of symbol and, as in Dreams, easily finds its way.

Flight Of Aquarius by artist Josephine Wall, UK

Now, the Higher Self literally takes off, and we find ourselves in spiritual flights and investigative Journeys to the Center of the Self as exciting as any movie we’ll ever see!

The freedom of symbolic language allows our Higher Self to take us deeper than we have ever thought possible into the realms of the Self, and also out into the World shared with others.

As we enter this new phase, we find ourselves often engaged in inner work I describe in Healing Tears in Meditation.

Remember too:
A spiritual law which binds even the shaman is the spiritual “ownership” of master templates – the Dreams, Life Plans, Karma – that a Soul creates, some of which reside in the Akashic Records.  Hence, the shaman cannot connect with, much less change a root Reality unless he or she has received permission from the one, or ones, whose Reality he feels called to change. That one, or those ones, “own” the template(s).

This permission does not come from the Conscious Mind, but from the Unconscious – if we do not give it from this deeper level, it is not given, and we will ask – and pray – for another’s healing in vain. This spiritual truth applies to ourselves as well as to others.  When you are “stuck” and cannot seem to heal from trauma of this or other lives, look as deeply within as you can – be patient – to see and feel why this is something you actually do not wish to let go of.  This will spark shamanic work in its own right, and is much more common than one might think.

Hence the greatest law of inner growth is “Know Thyself” – only then will do we know if we have given permission, have released a master Template for change. Even after a Template is changed, there may still be the old effects – Karma – rippling through time. These however are governed by deep Laws within the Soul ensuring that as we change within, so the Karmic purpose is fulfilled, and energy to the Karmic Pattern is turned off. Thus we simply live -in Grace – with the lingering effects of the Karma, knowing it is bound by its own Law to fade from our lives.

An Evolutionary Path In Shamanism?

Not all roads to the practice of shamanism are the same. It is a language – of psyche and symbol – and one with many dialects. But it is possible to express the same meaning – healing and transformation of reality – in all these forms.

There may actually be an evolutionary path in Shamanism, or it may simply be a matter of preference. If evolutionary, it seems likely we would first set out on the Way of the Shaman in the covens and brotherhoods of Wiccan, Pagan and traditional indigenous Shaman practice, in this or other lives. In the periods of history dominated by collective groups, such as clans, and by communication through ritual, we would express the power of Mind in those forms.

We might train, explore, and expand through all these forms of practice, through many lifetimes, in many cultures around the world. Then in various lives, not necessarily “in a row”, we would gradually find ourselves moving away from these early learning tools. I believe that this is the way it works, looking at the other evolutionary themes we see around us.

There is a fear, well-founded I believe, that we in the West are losing touch with vital elements of mysticism and spiritual truths, precisely as we “evolve” away from older forms. I am concerned that this is true, but I also feel that a new Path is opening up, as we understand more and more about Mind, and how our little minds are part of the Big Mind, which seems to form the very fabric of the universe, of all space-time we are embedded in, and realms even beyond space-time.

Let us remember that within indigenous shaman traditions, it is the shamans themselves who tells us – “it is all Symbol, it is all Mind.” So it seems to me that the external ritual, dress and drama may be exactly that – externals only – which in their place and time have spoken best to humanity. These are forms, however, not essence, and I have come to believe, through my personal experience, that we do not need them to practice Shamanism, and most especially, Shamanism of the Solitary Path.

I highly recommend this book by Holger Kalweit.

A Framework for Shamanism in the West * New Horizons

We may be witnessing a transformation, a continuation of what I called shamanism’s journey to the West.

I believe that the study of shamanism should begin with exploration of indigenous traditions around the world.  Here one discovers the truly magical, mystical power of who and what we are as human beings.  The early shamans of the world and their successors in time are the sacred Keepers of a legacy which should never be forgotten. It remains as the root of all we truly know about magical transformation.

Yet the brotherhoods, the priesthoods, the covens and other group identities give way to the Solitary Path, a lonely learning period to be accepted and finally understood as its own form of Initiation.

Gradually the drums, rattles, and other ceremonial objects give way to the soaring vistas of Mind and its natural ability to “fly” through the many levels of reality – this is our inheritance, as Divine Sparks of the Creator, holograms of the Divine Mind.

The same healing and transformative journeys and rituals will take place in and through Mind as take place in the older Shamanic forms. They will arise out of the same deep psychic states…We may travel to the River Ganges, cross mountains and arrive in cities. We may gather up and carry with us a person or group we are engaged in healing, warning, helping in some way we will not have anticipated on setting out.

These places and people, and our interactions with them in a “DreamTime” dimension, are realities. We are touching with our Minds the Form or Symbol which gave birth to the earthly realities to which our energies have been directed.

Without leaving one’s armchair – the Sacred Circle is in the Mind – the same powerful, transformative psychodramas can and will be enacted.

The Shaman’s role remains central as the matrix through which energy and meaning pass in transformation, with the same effects as those created by a traditional Shaman. We will dream ourselves, while we Dream the World.

© Carol Leigh Rice 2022

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