The New Mysteries: An Indigenous Prophesy
Many of my readers are aware of the prophesy made by the Oglala medicine man and shaman Black Elk before his passing more than 60 years ago.
As part of his retelling of the story of the gifting of the first sacred prayer pipe to the people by White Buffalo Calf Woman, Black Elk observed that with the ending of this cycle of ages—the one that is winding down right now and appears to be coming to closure in 2012—that the primordial spirituality would re-emerge and re-establish itself... and it would be on this foundation that the next cycle would begin again.
This is in complete alignment with the dream discussed by Carl Jung and Max Zeller in my second essay about the New Mysteries... and it could be observed that the primordial spirituality discussed by Black Elk is the shaman's path of direct revelation.
It could also be said that no matter what our faiths or beliefs or ethnic origins may be today, we are all descended from indigenous ancestors if we go back far enough... and they all had great shamans. This means that the shaman's path is one of our birthrights, and curiously, just as Black Elk predicted, the ancient way of the shaman has in fact been re-emerging as part of the widespread spiritual reawakening that has been going on in the Western world since the late 1960s.
I have written about the modern shaman in an essay posted under Shaman Wisdom, and so I include some of my thoughts here for our reconsideration as part of this ongoing series on the New Mysteries that are re-appearing in our time in response to our need.
The Shaman Revisited
As you the reader are no doubt aware, all true shamans are able to achieve expanded states of awareness—mystical states of consciousness—in which they can detach their focused awareness away from this physical world of things seen and journey into the inner worlds of the dreamtime while very much awake.
The first thing they discover when they do so is that these inner worlds are inhabited, for there they encounter spirits–the spirits of nature, the elementals, the ancestors, and the higher, compassionate transpersonal forces, many of whom serve humanity as spirit helpers and guardians, teachers and guides.
It is this extraordinary ability to access these inner worlds and their inhabitants that sets shamans apart from all other religious practitioners. And it is through their relationship with these archetypal beings (forces) that shamans are able to do various things, initially on behalf of themselves and then increasingly on behalf of others.
Because of my books about my own paranormal encounters on the shaman's path, I have been brought into close connection with increasing numbers of modern spiritual seekers at conferences and at workshops, and I have watched, riveted, as non-tribal Westerners successfully achieve shamanic states of trance, and often on the very first attempt.
The Shamanic State of Consciousness
This has led me (and others) to suspect that there is a biological-energetic "program" on our DNA, on our genetic "hard drive" so to speak, and it has been my personal experience that when this program is "double-clicked" with the right "mouse," higher functions coded into the personal mind-body matrix may be awakened. In response, our conscious awareness may expand dramatically, allowing us to have that direct, transpersonal connection with the sacred realms that defines the shaman.
The inner fieldwork of the eastern mystics suggests that this program is associated with the ductless glands, the brain, and the heart. These organs, in turn, appear to be in relationship with those dense concentrations of energy known as chakras located in the core of our personal etheric matrix. When these physical and energetic mission control centers are activated, the relationship between them can dramatically affect the body and the brain, which may undergo striking changes in response.
Until relatively recently, most Westerners have tended to regard the whole issue of altered state experiences as mysterious, paranormal, even pathological, and so some of us, in ignorance, still respond to the idea of expanded awareness and connection with spirits, with fear and rejection.
By contrast, in a traditional indigenous society, each child grows up in relationship with elder ceremonial leaders and shamans who are able to access expanded states of consciousness intentionally for the benefit of themselves, for others, and even for the entire community. The traditionals know that virtually everyone can learn how to access sacred states of consciousness to some extent. They also know that some of us are real naturals at it.
Today, the shaman's path can be partially understood in scientific terms. It is known, for example, that the nature of the visionary experience can be determined, to some extent, by our focused intentionality, by our belief systems, and by the setting in which we find ourselves. These serve as "patterning forces" that can shape the visionary experience once the initial state of consciousness has been destabilized by the drum, the rattle–or the hallucinogen, if one was used.
Based on almost 30 years of apprenticeship in this tradition and 18 years of teaching shamanic training workshops, I have learned that the ability to achieve the shamanic state of consciousness is a learned skill that improves with practice. It can give the seeker access many varieties of experience, including connection with the spirit world if that is their intention.
I also know with absolute certainty that the program, once activated, allows us to ascend toward the luminous horizon of our personal and collective destiny in a completely new way.
The traditional people would agree with this statement because they know a great secret: Any human activity or endeavor can be enormously enhanced through utilizing and eventually mastering this sacred technology.
This fact reveals that the shaman's path is part of the cultural heritage of all people everywhere, although it was largely lost in the West due to ruthless suppression by the church for the past 1700 years. Interestingly, shamanism is not a religion, nor does it conflict with any religious tradition. It's a method... and when practiced with humility, reverence and self-discipline, the shaman's path can become a way of life.
A Way of Life
By utilizing the shaman's time-tested methodology, we can awaken from the consensus slumber of culture at large, and it then becomes possible to personally experience reunion with a mysterious, god-like mind...
And once in connection, we then know with certainty that no holy words or books, no secret ceremonies or rituals, no spiritual leaders or gurus or faiths can do this for us. Once the higher evolutionary functions are triggered within us, some mysterious predetermined schedule is set into motion, activating a program that cannot be given to us by any outside agency.
This is because each of us already has it.
Through my involvement with countless experiential workshops over the years, I have guided many thousands of non-tribal Westerners into the shamanic visionary journey experience and I've listened to their stories of their inner adventures on their return-accounts that would pass muster at any Aboriginal campfire.
As we approach the ending of this cycle of ages and the beginning of the next, some shamanic teachers in the Western world are creating a modern upgrade of the ancient mystic path of the shaman. In the process, a new spiritual complex is coming into being, one that reflects who we are now and who we are becoming. This has been discussed at length in my book Awakening to the Spirit World, co-authored with Sandra Ingerman.
From my perspective as an anthropologist who has spent large parts of my life living with indigenous peoples, this reworking must (and will) involve a re-enchantment of the world and of ourselves as well. And yet just what does this mean?
I ask myself this question a lot... most often at 2:00 AM when I lie awake in bed in the stillness of the dark, meditating on the state of world as it is now, as well as how it came to be this way. When I get to the end of my list... and this is a very long list... I dream of what this same world will become as more and more of us awaken from our consensus cultural slumber and become who and what we are destined to become.
It will involve a re-enchantment... I like the sound of this... and I keep returning to this concept over and over again... but just what will this re-enchantment entail?
In a spiritual sense, I feel that it will involve a general discarding of anything that is no longer serving us. This will include many of our archaic belief systems that are outdated, outmoded, or outright false.
It will also include a re-embracing of that which is forever and ever true—a direct understanding of Nature as well as our connection with Nature.
Through an enhanced mystical connection with Nature, we become aware that Nature is a complex mosaic made up of many nations, only some of which happen to be human. And as our understanding of our relationship with these nations deepens, we begin to comprehend something that the Pagan pre-Christian peoples of our world understood well—that Nature ... the infinitely creative and universal principle infusing everything on our beautiful planet with life force and ever-increasing diversity... is God.
This means that when we abuse Nature, we abuse God... an insight revealing that our re-enchantment will involve a returning to and a re-embracing of Nature-focused spirituality. This alone will provide us with a new level of connection with the Great Mystery of Life itself.
And considering the magnitude of the earth and climate changes that are currently in progress, this alone may be the critical cusp that will allow us to continue on our evolutionary path as souls traveling across eternity.
A Redefinition of our Humanity
In one of my previous essays on the New Mysteries, we posited an all-important question:
‘How is each of us to define our own personal standard of humanity... and just what would that standard be?'
In searching for the answers to this question within ourselves, we have the potential to personally achieve a higher value. The word ‘value' in this sense refers to our attitudes that inform and mould our behaviors. And it is precisely here that indigenous mind has something of tremendous worth for us to consider.
My great Hawaiian friend Hale Makua was fond of observing that the foundation stone for indigenous mind is reverence. By contrast, the foundation stone for Western mind over the past two thousand years has been dominion... and as we watch the ever-escalating levels of crisis that inform virtually every level of the Western world today, we can only conclude that this value-domination-is no longer serving us. Quite the contrary.
It has been my experience that increasing numbers of people are concerned with the quality of life at all levels of society. They are especially concerned with the needs of elders, children, the poor and the disenfranchised. In other words, human relationships are perceived as more important than personal gain, revealing that the new spiritual complex coming into being within the transformational community has a deeply humanistic focus at its center.
A Mystical Humanism
This is giving rise in our time to a new form of mystical humanism, one in which the old divisions between liberal and conservative, between Jew and Christian and Muslim, between Buddhist or Hindu or between patriot and revolutionary become transparent as each of us realizes that we are all in this together... no escape... no excuses... no exceptions.
And our re-enchantment? This will involve a recommitment to our ancient Mother—to Nature herself... and with the ancient teachings of the mystery schools of the past.
We will talk more about our re-enchantment in the essays to come.