I now want to take it a step further. I said in the spiritual healing articles how spiritual healing is at the root of all medical systems and at the root of traditional healing.
Well, closely aligned with spiritual healing is shamanism. Shamanism is a healing form that has been documented to be at least 20,000 years old.
In today’s article, I want to explore shamanism in conjunction with mysticism, and also integrate the quantum sciences into the equation.
A tall order, to be sure.
Like the article on spiritual healing, this also will be a multi-part series, so fasten your seat belt and get ready for the ride, cause here we go. This will take you deep and wide, so get ready to open your mind and be challenged.
Not too long ago, I had a dream in which I was in a large Victorian mansion that had many floors and many rooms on each of the floors. I was running from floor to floor, going in and out of the rooms. I then passed a room that was on a landing, next to a flight of stairs. This room was padlocked, chained to let out any intruders. A voice in the dream then said to me, “This room contains the secrets of your psyche. No one is allowed to enter, including you.”
This dream had a little bit of an edge to it, as though it was a scene from a horror movie. But the image stood clear in my mind the next morning as I woke up and clearly remembered it and wondered about its meaning.
I’ve always been a more closed person, not comfortable talking about my deepest feelings, and desirous of pushing my deeper angst well under the rug. So here I was confronted by it in my dream. But I was curious to find out what was behind the door.
A day or so later I lay on my bed and allowed my mind to take me back into that house. The imagery appeared in my mind and I was transplanted back to that place. I approached the door, turned the doorknob and the door opened. There was a ring of fire and I jumped through it. At that point I just started falling through space. I continued to fall – or perhaps it was floating. I got the sense that I was now outside the boundaries of space-time and that I had entered another dimension, one that some call the dreamtime.
That was the extent of my imagery. The sense I got was that in entering the land of my subconscious, I was going beyond the linear, rational world into another world, a world of nonordinary reality, one where the normal boundaries of physical laws are altered. I got the sense that this world bordered on the infinite and that there was neither a beginning nor end to its depth. It was just emptiness and I was floating through it.
Ordinary and Nonordinary Reality
Dreams of Butterflies
Once I, Chuang Tzu, dreamed I was a butterfly and was happy as a butterfly. I was conscious that I was quite pleased with myself, but I did not know that I was Chuang Tzu. Suddenly I awoke, and there I was, visibly Chuang Tzu. I do not know whether it was Chuang Tzu dreaming that he was a butterfly or the butterfly dreaming that it was Chuang Tzu.
Chuang Tzu was wondering whether in his life he dreamed of himself being a butterfly; or was it that his life was the dream of a butterfly? Either way, as you ponder his story, you come to the awareness that at a certain level of human existence there is a blurring of the line between our everyday world of reality and the realm of nonordinary reality.
How readily accessible is this nonordinary realm? It is possible to spend one’s entire lifetime without ever experiencing these realms or even without being aware of their existence..
Ken Wilber calls a reality that ignores the existence of inner realms as the world of “Flatland.” He defines flatland as the worldview that has the idea that “sensory and empirical and material is the only world there is – there are no higher or deeper potentials and what we see with our senses is what there is.” Sad to say, this is the worldview of the great majority of Westerners.
A fundamental tenet of traditional cultures is the knowledge of these inner realms. The Huichol Indians believe there is a portal between the ordinary and nonordinary worlds. They call this portal the Nierika. It is considered both a passageway and barrier between worlds, and usually remains hidden and secret until the time of death.
Death is considered one of the primary ways that people learn of the nonordinary realms. Ancient books of the dead are actually maps of the inner territories of the psyche encountered in profound nonordinary states of consciousness; included in those states are those associated with biological dying.
The greatest proof we have of the relationship between nonordinary states of consciousness and biological dying is research with people who have had near-death experiences. The most profound of these experiences occur to those who for a few moments actually clinically die and have an experience of going out of their body. Research has shown that these people go through an event with transcendental and mystical elements. Elements that are common to the near-death experience are:
* Feelings of peace and quiet
* Hearing unusual noises
* Seeing a dark tunnel
* Being out of the body
* Meeting spiritual beings
* Experiencing a bright light as a being of light
* Panoramic life review
* Experiencing a realm in which all knowledge exists
* Experiencing cities of light
* Experiencing a realm of bewildered spirits
* Experiencing a supernatural rescue
* Sensing a border or limit
Coming back into the body
For some Westerners who undergo this experience the return to ordinary reality can have dramatic repercussions. These include long-term depression, broken relationships, disrupted careers, feelings of severe alienation, an inability to function in the world, long years of struggling with a keen sense of altered reality, and a divorce rate as high as 75%.
I would venture to say that the reason some of the experients go through this is that our Western culture does not encourage the exploration of the inner transcendent realms, and thus many of these people return to a world that they feel they no longer can fit into.
A few years ago I almost drowned and went through my own near-death experience. The day after my experience I had a business luncheon with a lawyer friend of mine. Because we had tried for months to get together, I did not want to cancel the lunch. I went through with it; I did not tell him a word about my recent experience, as it seemed inappropriate. The entire lunch seemed somewhat surreal, although I carried myself normally and I’m sure from his perspective nothing seemed amiss.
Because the people I hang with share similar values with myself, I was able to share with them what I was going through over the next few weeks. This helped immensely as I processed my experience, allowing me to function normally. Because of the assistance of everyone in my support network, I didn’t go through the repercussions that were described above.
Because Western culture doesn’t have a paradigm that enables the transcendent experience to be synthesized into everyday life, it has to be shocking to those who involuntarily are pushed into that realm, as happens to those who undergo a near-death experience.
To be continued tomorrow…