The Shamanic TraditionAugust 13th, 2007 by John Wolfe
When discussing life altering mystical and metaphysical practices, I often find myself coming back to many ancient (nameless) teachers that have been associated with understanding this wisdom for thousands and thousands of years. Tribal peoples, isolated from the influences of the rest of the world, had to rely heavily upon their natural instincts and the exploration of their inner awareness and knowledge.
In doing so, they tapped into the type of universal energy and power that I enjoy discussing and exploring, both in this blog and my personal life. Because of isolation and the time frame in which they lived, they were afforded the perfect opportunity for the development and attunement to the deeper subtleties of existence.
Many times this power, knowledge, and attunement were further expanded upon through encounters with individuals in their tribe, known as shamans. While tribal shamans are usually thought of as sorcerers, medicine men, witch doctors, and healers; a large portion of their responsibilities and talents resided in shape shifting physical aspects of reality, journeying into altered states of consciousness and opening passageways into subtler realms.
These realms were said to contain the spirit world and even alternate forms of our current reality. Often times (but not always) these experiences occurred through the use of hallucinogens and psychotropic agents, usually from regional plant life.
One of the most well known, modern day interpretations of shamanism has fascinated me for a number of years. The accounts can be found in four books, written by anthropologist Carlos Castaneda, containing the tales of his personal encounters with a Yaqui Indian shaman, named Don Juan.
Under Don Juan’s tutelage, Castaneda journeyed through altered states of consciousness, into other worldly adventures, and engaged in banter and dialogue with Don Juan that challenged Carlos’ interpretation and views on reality. The Castaneda adventures interest me because Carlos was presented with opportunities for breaking the mold, so to speak, when it came to the objective interpretation of reality.
His individual experiences showed it is possible to expand beyond the massive conditioning we all receive, pushing the limits until reality gives way; illustrating its actual subjective nature. Over the years, many have criticized Castaneda because he never felt the need to present “proof” for the legitimacy of his experiences, along with the fact that these experiences were inspired through the ingestion of plants and concoctions derived from psychotropic plant life.
I don’t feel Carlos’ apparent lack of substantiating evidence or the fact that many of his journeys were “vegetationally” induced should cause his work to be dismissed however. I’m not really certain how critics expected him to produce physical evidence to validate his experiences when he was traveling further into his own inner consciousness.
That would be like someone asking me to prove my out of body experiences. While you can prove what you are witnessing, in the physical world, while out of body- primarily OBEs are about a knowing and sensing. I can teach others how to have similar experiences, so they too can feel it and know it, but I cannot impart words that would prove anything, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to most skeptics.
And on the drug front: hallucinogenic drugs, in modern times, are fully blamed for the experiences that are brought forth within the user; however I don’t believe drugs create the experience. Dismissing the experience as strictly pharmacological detracts from the benefit of the journeys they help invoke. Now, I’m not at all encouraging the use of such agents and I fully understand they are considered illegal. I’m only mentioning them because anytime someone has a reality altering experience, while using these substances; the entire experience is immediately discarded and considered invalid.
I feel hallucinogens allow the user to tear down the walls of habitually restrictive beliefs, but they don’t create or cause the experience. I believe these drugs unbind the consciousness from our human imposed limitations, opening an immediate portal for our awareness to then create the experience in whatever way we choose.
We have been quick to label these types of drugs as bad because the idea is that the drug is what’s making people “flip out.” Hallucinogenic drugs only loosen the chokehold on our current concepts of reality, because reality is exactly that- a concept that we continue to habitually think into being. The people that flip out are the ones creating the experience, not the drug.
Now, to counter the assumption that shamans are nothing more than drug pushers, I’d like to point to an interesting account, from the book: The Holographic Universe, which pertains to biologist, Lyall Watson.
Watson was conducting a study on the phenomenon of psychokinesis or the ability to alter physical matter. He journeyed to Indonesia where he witnessed amazing feats by a powerful young lady named Tia. Tia was known for her shamanic like abilities to alter physical reality without the use or aid of drugs.
Watson happened upon her while she was talking with a young girl near a grove of kenari trees. Although Watson viewed the interaction at a slight distance, he could tell Tia was passionately trying to explain something to the child, who apparently was not comprehending the lesson.
Tia began pointing at the grove of trees and subtly dancing around them. Within a few seconds of her movements, the entire grove completely disappeared from sight. After a short time she brought the grove back into physical existence, continuing her feat again and again. According to Watson, “One moment Tia danced in a grove of shady kenari; the next she was standing alone in the hard, bright light of the sun.” You can read more about Watson’s study in The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot.
There are endless documented accounts, such as the one above, that have been witnessed by many qualified scientists. And while the shamanic tradition may seem like something from a bygone era, it’s actually still very much alive among many cultures. Tia and Don Juan are just a couple of documented examples of modern day shamanism and their abilities to influence all aspects of reality. I approach the talents and abilities of people like Tia, as I do all things in life- if they (shamans) are able to do it, then why can’t you or I?
I’d like to close this post with a quote from Carlos Castaneda, which is a reflection of the wisdom he gained during his time with Don Juan. While it’s simple, I believe its meaning is extremely powerful, illustrating the core teachings of the shamanic tradition, and pointing to the fact we create our own reality, each and every day.
“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Castaneda
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