You have applied Shamanism, but no one would have told you that’s what it was. Yet there are at least two Shamanic methods of consciousness exploration that people often experience. The first is lucid dreaming.
“Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.” - Shamanism, wikipedia.
A lucid dream occurs when the sleeper is able to dance on the razors edge between sleep and wakefulness. Upon this edge, dreams become participatory. The dreamer can exert a degree of control upon the dream, influencing the events, characters, narrative – even the dreamscape itself.
“The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends.” — Carl G. Jung
Within lucid dreams, you can soar through the cosmos, turn your demons into flowers and make love to angels. You can interact with a dream-like world and channel your conscious energies into your subconscious dream state.
Dreams are a known mystery. We are comfortable with what we do not know about them. We feel they can be revealing but we tend not to examine them with rigour or consistency. We close our eyes, go on a journey, wake up, then forget it all.
The idea of influencing a dream is one we can accept. Sleep is an altered state of consciousness. When you play with your dreams, you are practicing a Shamanistic art.
“In sleep, fantasy takes the form of dreams. But in waking life, too, we continue to dream beneath the threshold of consciousness, especially when under the influence of repressed or other unconscious complexes.” — Carl G. Jung
People are more open to ideas which increase our productivity or competitiveness. Like the student gobbling up stimulants to pass the BAR or the manager who escorts his underlings to the local roaster for caffeination, we are open to giving ourselves a cognitive boost.
We are as infatuated with techniques as we are chemical shortcuts. We love information, those sweet bits of wisdom that give us the edge: “four hot tips for a photographic memory”, “three ways to get people to fall in love with you”. It is not all fluff. You might even recall one of the more popular methods.
You might even have had a room for it – many rooms, perhaps even an entire memory palace.
“The soul never thinks without a mental picture… No one could ever learn or understand anything, if he had not the faculty of perception; even when [one] thinks speculatively, [one] must have some mental picture with which to think.” ― Frances A. Yates, The Art Of Memory
In his 1966 book The Art of Memory, Frances A. Yates restored an idea borne from the well-bearded philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome. It was known as the Method of loci, ‘loci’ translating from Latin to English as ‘places’. The method has been lauded by memory champions who leverage it to stuff details deep within their subconsciousness for later retrieval.
The method requires deep focus and visualization. Breath in, breath out. Be calm. Keep breathing. Now picture an environment. Maybe it is warm and bright and the air is crisp. Now visualize a structure.
It is on a hill. The sun is shining, its rays reflect across old stone which reach toward the heavens like the branches of an ancient tree. You see a door which is the colour of concord grapes. You walk in and to the left there is a room. Within the room is a tome.
The floor creaks as you walk upon it. Light pours in through the windows, sparkling off of the empty glass display cases that line the stone walls. You reach for the tome and open it. You decide to write down some numbers: 180352080556190488200984. They are important dates, belonging to loved ones. You close the tome and depart.
Later, weeks from now, you feel like something important is on the horizon. But you cannot remember what! You return to your breath. You focus, imagine, and return to that grape door – it even smells like concords.
The inside, however, smells musty, like the flowers outside are writhing through the stone-work. You open the tome and it is there, clear as the light still streaming through the hovering dust: 180352080556190488200984.
Imagination is the container where spirits and transcendental energies become symbols, sounds, circumstance and motifs that we can understand. When we visit this place, we are exploring our consciousness.
Within this space we perceive and interact with a non-ordinary world, morphing and molding the energies to do our bidding, if we can, if we have practiced - and if the spirits are willing!
“Skywalker is a direct translation of the word shaman out of the Tungusic, which is where Siberian shamanism comes from. So these heroes that are being instilled in the heart of the culture are shamanic heroes. They control a force which is bigger than everybody and holds the galaxy together.” — Terrence McKenna
If we bend to this premise, that we become the master of our subconscious through dream states and our conscious through imagination then what is off-limits to us?
In an unusual place I found a quiet corner where I could meditate. I sunk deeper and deeper into this most receptive of states and I sent an open call out to spirits of all ilk: “Would anyone like to be written about?”
At once every faculty of my being became overwhelmed by input. Every synapse crackled to life, every cell sang in vibration. Vistas of dense harmonies erupted through my ears, pungent smells oozed into my nostrils. Vision, after vision, after vision bombarded my mind, smashing into one another and accumulating in an eternity of fractal creature, place, feeling, emotion, duality – ecstatic madness, vast weirdness.
“Whoa! Hold on, gang. We’ll have to come up with something a bit more — Erhmm… Manageable…,” I think after recovering.
At that moment, all becomes clear. Three platforms hovering, one above the other. A waterfall splashes down from the top, to the middle, to the bottom, drawing from an infinite well of liquid that rests somewhere within the abyss. A broad sky cradles three blazing suns made up of pure creative frequency. One white, one violet, one a shimmer I cannot quite comprehend, each with a different hue of feeling, attitude, character, setting and narrative.
I walk up the steps, which themselves hang suspended in the air. I am weightless. I marvel at the rich soil which stretches as far as I dare make it go. I find myself mesmerized as the garden plots spiral downwards, ever-downwards. Or maybe upwards? I query the spirits again, refreshed by the reprieve from my temporary madness. But this time I am more careful.
“Whomever would like to be written about, kindly plant yourself as a seed. I will water you and help you grow. This garden has everything you need. When the time comes to write about you, I shall pluck you gently and take you into the world.”
All of a sudden the seeds began to sow. Row, upon row, upon row, all fill with saplings. Without time some explode right then into labyrinthian forest, echoing into the vast reaches of space. Flowers bloom, fruits bare, vines stretch upwards into a sky that is lost to perception.
I will need help, I decide, and a friend appears, a being with which I am familiar. He agrees to tend this place with me, as long as I live. It is not long, for he, but that does not detract from this most honourable of gestures, a reward for strong will and perseverance and an accord of integrity.
When I catch quiet moments, this is where I go. I walk among the rows, through the forests, singing to the plants, the creatures, the flowers and the trees. I converse with strange characters and hear fanciful stories of conquest and romance. Ideas become seeds, rumination, experience, and insight the waters that nourish.
The spirit is there, always toiling, and when comes the need to pluck something, we pluck it together. He protects this place and carries out his duties with diligence and holds me accountable to my procrastinations. Only the right things may enter, even I am not allowed in from time to time. I know this garden well and marvel at the intrigue, mystery and adventure that wait in bloom.>> Home