From my very first experience of spiritual realms back in 1970 at a chamber in central Vermont called Calendar II, my major interest in geomancy and sacred space was, due to the realisation that these special places could enhance my connection with the intangible, to become more aware of the One, with what I have come to call 'Great Mystery.'
It has long been my main goal to be at least one step closer to my Maker when I die than where I am now. With this in mind, to make a theatrical analogy, geomancers are set designers. They create an atmosphere where the actors can better do their jobs. So after forty+ years, while I make no claim to gnow every thing about sacred space set design, I am thinking more and more about getting involved with the actual play.
Recently I have been reading "Prehistoric Belief: Shamans, Trance and the Afterlife" by Mike Williams (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press. 2010. ISBN 978-0 7524 4921 0). The author has an MA in Archaeology and a PhD from the University of Reading, and is a shamanic practitioner having studied with indigenous shamans in both Siberia and Lapland (i.e. with the Samii). In his introduction he writes, "...at its heart, I want this book to be a good read and, while avoiding playing fast and loose with the evidence, I have always erred towards this aim... I also want this book to challenge the way we think about the past and I have therefore added short vignettes that attempt to recreate the ancient and allow us, even if but for a few brief moments, to journey and experience (emphasis mine) it for ourselves... flights of fancy they might be, but they remain tethered by the evidence." (pp 7&8) For me, these words approach the dance that I would call 'gnowing' - using both sides of the brain and valuing them both equally.
Williams covers the vast scope of prehistory from the Palaeolithic (100,000+ BCE) to the Iron Age focusing primarily on Europe, Russia and the mid-East, though he discusses other places on our planet as well. Of this vast spread of time he says, "...I could not hope to equal the works of the specialist in each field that I cover... Does this mean that books such as this, which attempt a broad sweep of the human condition across many thousands of years should never be written? That is for the reader to decide, but it is beholden on a writer to at least try." (p. 8) I have not yet read even half of this exciting book, but already I am very supportive of his attempt.
There is one chapter (Number 5), "Journey to the Otherworld" (pp 32-36) that I found particularly exciting, and would go so far as to suggest that it is worth the price of this book for just these six pages! In it, he describes his first shamanic trance from both an experiential (read: right brain) and an analytical (read: left brain) point of view, and brings together not only many different pieces of trance work that I am already aware of, but also introduces some new aspects that I hadn't connected with before.
The 'drug/enhancer' he is using for this journey is drumming. The first thing he experiences is what ophthalmologists call "entopic phenomena," patterns created within the eye he calls 'phosphenes' - flecks, hashed lines, zigzags, and starbursts, that are familiar to anyone who has suffered with migraines, or when you put pressure your eyelids. He equates these patterns with many that are found on prehistoric cave walls or on Palaeolithic carved beads. The second thing that he became aware of was that these phosphenes converged and a tunnel or vortex appeared. I believe this is analogous to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' tunnel she wrote about when she described near death experiences in her book "On Death and Dying" (London & New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.2008. ISBN 0-203-88965-7 Master e-book ISBN. First published in 1969.) It is a path to Spirit that as a geomancer I am quite familiar with.
After passing through this tunnel, the landscape opens up and the shaman has reached the other side, the spiritual realm. The author continues with a gnowing description of the journey itself, and disorienting issues that occur upon his return to his 'normal' state of consciousness; however, I won't spoil it further for you, as I trust you will read this most exciting book yourself. But it is, for me, the best holistic description of this journey to the other side that I have read.
Now, having praised "Prehistoric Belief" literally to the heavens, I must say that there is one point that I see differently than the author. He seems to be saying that shamanism went back at least as far as the early Palaeolithic (?as far back as 100,000 BEC±?). In one place, for example on page 39 while talking about the Paleolithiccave wall painters, he says, "...it can be seen that the painted cves did not arise as n independent prctice of using trance but were rooted in a culture that was essentially shamanic in its outlook." I don't think so. While shamanism goes back to the Neolithic and perhaps the late Mesolithic (6,000 BCE±), like Popes and Heirophants, I believe that Shamans became necessary with the introduction of the Patriarchy. Prior to that time, individuals we now call shamans were not needed because everyone was much more right-brain/intuitive. Shamans arose at a time when most had forgotten how to connect directly with the tintangible realms. Over the years, I have written many articles on this shift from Right brain consciousness to left brain analytical thinking. Like Priests and Vicars of today, Shamans were 'hired to battle Satan/disease/contact the ancestors for the community.' Only they actually did travel consciously to the other world(s). (See Julian Jaynes. 1976. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. This was the book that ignited my interest in this shift in consciousness. A must in the development of consciousness studies.)
My study of what I would call the 'Devolution of Consciousness' leads me to believe that there was a time as Merlin Stone called it, "When God Was a Woman" (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. 1978. ISBN 015696158X) when everyone could communicate directly with the spiritual realms, not just one or two members of the community (?gifted perhaps with schizophrenia?). The more dominant the pyramidal patriarchy became, the less the people could connect directly themselves. The more we became as we are today, bereft of our right brain skills, and the less ability we had to cross over to the other side.
But please don't let this issue get in the way of your reading "Prehistoric Belief"! It is one of the best ones I've picked up in years. I'm feeling that set design is still important, but perhaps it is time to be spending more time out on the stage as a thespian.
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