Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation - Sandra Ingerman MA, Hank Wesselman Ph.D. 2010
Working in Community
In the world’s traditional cultures, the role of inspired visionaries has always been pivotal in maintaining the harmony and balance of their communities. It is within the shaman’s capable hands that the physical and the metaphysical equilibrium of these societies are held.
In modern societies, our doctors and psychologists, our politicians and economists, and even our organized religious priesthoods no longer seem to be effective in creating that harmony, and so the social fabric of our communities lacks equilibrium at virtually all levels. Within such a dysfunctional dynamic, the role of the modern visionary has never been more important.
We most often think of visionaries as developing new technologies and generating new ideas, yet Bill Moyers’s television interviews almost thirty years ago with esteemed mythologist Joseph Campbell revealed that the visionaries among us today still play a pivotal role in nurturing us and our communities at the level of our souls.
THE ROLE OF COMMUNITY
In a tribal society, every aspect of the community is tightly interwoven. In such cultures, each person is acknowledged for his or her unique gifts, talents, strengths, and characteristics that they bring into the social dynamic, for in this way each person contributes to the wholeness and health of the community.
This means that when someone is ill physically, mentally, or emotionally, or even spiritually, their affliction affects the entire collective of the community itself. Therefore, when someone requires a healing, each member of the collective is needed to provide his or her unique role, and the entire community may show up for the healing ceremony. The community as a whole, as well as the individual’s place within it, is honored in shamanic cultures.
Sandra Ingerman, who has worked with many in her shamanic practice, can always tell when a client is from a traditional culture that honors community:
When I first started performing healing work with individuals in Santa Fe, I always knew if I was going to be working with an Anglo or a Native American by how many cars I heard turning into my driveway. Whenever Native Americans came to see me they brought their children, spouses, loved ones, and even their dogs. It was always a bit challenging for me to have a dog licking my face or a child jumping on my stomach while I was journeying for my client. But there was something special and sacred about this experience.
In such cases, there was so much care and support shown for the individual. And I knew that those who came to the healing ceremony would continue with that support to really anchor the healing within the client over time.
Accordingly, I began to tell all those who came to me for a shamanic healing session that they could bring friends or loved ones to be part of a support system during the work. I don’t force people to do this, and if a client doesn’t have someone to bring along, that’s fine too. But I have found over my years of practice that by having a client bring one or more support people to the session, the effect of the healing is long-lasting, for the client then has someone who was present during the healing ritual who they can continue to talk to about the experience.
This is healing in itself, for in Western culture, it can be hard for clients to describe the power of a shamanic healing to family and friends who are not educated in or familiar with transpersonal healing modalities.
In today’s world, a powerful and pervasive cause of illness can be found in intense and prolonged feelings of isolation. Many people don’t know who they are, where they belong, or what unique gifts and strengths they have to share in their community. These feelings of alienation are unique to Western people. They simply do not exist in tribal societies in which every individual belongs in perpetuity to the tribal whole. Although I do not feel that we will go back to living in tribal societies, I do believe that reweaving the fabric of our communities will become more and more important during these changing times.
We can already see this happening as people within communities turn to each other during environmental catastrophes for support and help in rebuilding. I feel strongly that it is not healthy to isolate ourselves from our neighbors. No one is supposed to live in a vacuum. We need the support of others during this great time of change. And I do believe that the inexorable process of evolution is moving us toward a greater level of social cooperation and collaboration, not only in our smaller communities but also in the larger global community.
HEALING CHALLENGES WITHIN FAMILIES
Family and friends can be a great support and a blessing to someone in need. They can also end up unknowingly cursing a loved one without meaning them harm. Sandra cautions us about projecting suffering onto others:
I have had many students who never told anyone that they were dealing with cancer. They were afraid others would judge them and project a sense of defeat into their healing process.
There have also been cases in which there is so much fear about the impending death of a loved one that family members projected their fear onto the sufferer or even onto others, creating more illness or exacerbating existing conditions. Many times, out of sympathy and empathy, we feel pity for people we know or for someone we see on the news who is suffering a personal catastrophe.
When we project our pity onto others, this act may actually take energy and power away from that person. On an intuitive level people know this, and oftentimes they will hide their major life challenges for the simple reason that they don’t want to be pitied. We want to have compassion for the suffering of others, but when we pity someone, we actually push them deeper into a hole.
EXERCISE: JOURNEY FOR A POSITIVE PROJECTION
If you had a way to let thousands of people know that you are dealing with a serious or life-threatening challenge, would you prefer people to send pity your way? Would you want people to say, “That challenge is so big you will never make it?” What would you ask for?
In this vein, you might make a journey to your Sacred Garden or other place of power and invite a spiritual team—a community of healing spirits—to come to you with their wise counsel as to how you might proceed. This would be a journey of self-divination in which the team might provide suggestions as to what obstacles need to be removed so that you can achieve a successful outcome as well as how to approach your greater community of kindred souls on this level of reality.
One way to support someone who is ill or going through a difficult time, teaches Sandra, is to envision him or her in divine light:
One of my discoveries on the path of direct revelation has been that the true help we can give people—family, friends, or strangers—is to visualize them in their divine light and perfection. Just as you can practice experiencing your own divine light (see Chapter 8), you can also visualize everyone you know, or with whom you feel a connection, in their divine light. In this way you are not denying them the challenges they are facing; rather, you are sending them strength and the power to stand strong in the midst of change and even in their transition back into the spirit world.
In quantum physics, there is a teaching that has meaning for us here: lower frequencies entrain to higher frequencies. In other words, if you choose to live and act, think and speak, emote and express your feelings as a true visionary, you must transfigure yourself so that you exist in your divine light and perfection—and then it will be effortless to project that experience onto all of life.
In this way, you as the inspired visionary will help the radiance of life around you to shine strong.
As we shall see in Chapter 14, members of the Transformational Community, a vast national and international social matrix that has taken form over the last forty years, are deeply concerned about the manner in which the environment, including the planetary weather complex, appears to be responding to the activities of industrialized humanity.
From his perspective as both a biological and social scientist, Hank Wesselman offers these thoughts:
The environmental issues that we face in our time are well known and need no review here, yet we can also observe that much of our current awareness of these problems is due to the expanded perspective of our visionaries.
Members of the Transformational Community are environmentally savvy, and like indigenous peoples they feel an active, almost ritual, respect for Nature. They express a deep concern for the environment and, by association, the survival of the human species. All are seriously committed to stopping corporate polluters, reversing atmospheric warming, and discovering the limits to short-term growth so that we can achieve the long-term ecological sustainability upon which the future of humanity, as well as our civilization, depends.
Unlike many of the hardcore environmental activists of the last several decades, however, members of this emerging social movement are spiritual seekers interested in achieving the direct, transformative experience of the sacred, and it is really this that defines them as both modern mystics and visionaries.
It is our suggestion that each of us begins to extend ourselves in a healing capacity, individually as well as communally, toward the gentle goddess who gives us abundance. In the visionary perspective, this goddess is our planetary biosphere—the ancient progenitor and sustainer of life that is none other than Mother Nature, Gaia-sophia.
It is imperative that we come together with our communities to heal and support the well-being of the environment that provides so much for us. And, as Sandra points out, the work of a community can be much greater than the work of one:
Over my twenty or so years of teaching shamanism, seeing clients, and leading workshops on reversing environmental pollution, I have witnessed countless miracles when a group gathers its energies on behalf of a focused purpose. There are results that happen when we work alone, yes, yet when a powerful, focused group works together with the compassionate spirits who are willing to help us, healing may occur on an exponential level.
Here is an example that comes from my work with Medicine for the Earth. I have already shared how we started by working with water polluted by ammonium hydroxide. After a few years, I purchased a gas discharge visualization (GDV) camera that is based on the Kirlian effect, which measures the life force of the substance being tested. The camera was developed by Konstantin Korotkov, a professor of physics at St. Petersburg State Technical University in Russia who has published more than seventy papers in leading journals on physics and biology and who holds twelve patents for inventions in the field of biophysics.
The GDV camera allows one to image-capture the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energies emanating to and from an individual, whether a human, an animal, a plant, a liquid, a powder, or even an inanimate object. The camera captures these as energetic images that it then translates into a computerized model. This diagnostic tool measures and evaluates the energy of an object’s auric field and then integrates the information into a computer-generated report with pictures.
In essence, this camera enabled us to document the change in energy that we created inside our shamanic circles during our transfiguration ceremonies. We have worked with different foods, soil samples, and water. (For results and to see the photos taken, you can visit the website shamanicteachers.com and click on “photos/results.”)
Years ago,in a Medicine for the Earth training, our group worked with a peach that came from my drought-stricken garden. Because I could not give the trees at my home the water they needed, I walked through my garden each day visualizing each tree in its divine light and perfection.
When we took the first picture of the peach before the ceremony, the light it emitted looked good. But it looked even better, and significantly brighter, after fifty people performed a ceremony of transfiguration. This was a great teaching for all of us about the power of working in a group versus working alone. It also revealed unequivocally the importance of the role of the visionary.
THE CURRENT SPIRITUAL REAWAKENING
As you embark on your shamanic path, it is important to realize that you are part of the Transformational Community, which has an enormous capacity to heal. And, according to Hank, this community is only growing:
The collective beliefs and values of the Transformational Community constitute an emerging worldview that is being embraced by an ever-growing population of well-informed souls. Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson’s research and book, The Cultural Creatives, reveals that these visionaries may number more than 70 million in North America alone with another 90 to 100 million in Europe.1
These numbers are considerably more than just statistically significant for we are living in a time in which humanity’s problems appear to be reaching critical mass, a time in which our leadership is being challenged at political, corporate, military, and even religious levels. Whether the solutions to our issues can be achieved by our current leadership or reached through the increasingly questionable machinations of our military-industrial complex is unknown.
In response, increasing numbers of concerned citizens are considering the possibility that our problems may not have political, military, or even economic solutions. Rather, the solutions may actually be spiritual in nature, in alignment with the beliefs and values outlined in this book.
In addition, as we will discuss in the next chapter, if our children acquire these altruistic, spiritually based values and beliefs within the fabric of their families, this new way of being will spread throughout the larger society, accelerate this spiritual reawakening.
Although this reawakening is most visible in North America and Western Europe, the invasive influence of Western culture upon the rest of the world suggests that it may, in fact, extend deeply into the international community, offering an unprecedented promise of hope for all human beings everywhere as well as a firm guarantee of sweeping changes to come.
Ray and Anderson state in their book, The Cultural Creatives, “We should take heart, for we are traveling in the company of an enormous number of allies.”
This insight confirms that the Transformational Community emerging in the West is of enormous import and has the power to alter the direction of history in much the same way that the emergence of Christianity utterly changed the Roman world and the Western mind almost two thousand years ago.
While the time frame for this shift may vary with the ebb and flow of current events, there are no maybes about whether it will happen here. The proverbial handwriting is on the wall. The history of the world’s peoples will be profoundly and inescapably changed by the spiritual awakening taking place in the West. The results will be felt at every level of society, in every country, and will, by association, determine much of the politics and individual lifeways of this century and beyond.
Your Role as a Visionary within the
Prayer and meditation are two of the great gateways into transcendent experience. As you pray, meditate, or engage in shamanic journeywork for yourself, for people you know, or for the greater world at large, allow yourself to feel part of the global community that is working right along with you. Shamanic journeywork is an ancient yet highly advanced form of meditation.
You already know what it feels like to try doing a really big task on your own. And you already know how it feels so good when others volunteer their expertise and assistance to help you get your project done. Think of this as you step onto the path of becoming a visionary who can be a positive force in the world, and visualize yourself in connection with others who are working spiritually to heal their communities, the world, the planet—for these are people of all different spiritual traditions and cultures who are in service to the greater good. We can join our hearts and spiritual energies together in every spiritual practice that we do and in all accompanying positive intentions that we create.
As the impetus of our collective focus approaches critical mass, exponential shifts toward healing and re-achieving balance will occur. And our world will change—for the better.
LONG-DISTANCE HEALING IN GROUPS
We have discussed how the power and effectiveness of a healing ritual is enhanced when we are part of a group with a common focus. We should also add that under these circumstances you can still offer healing help to someone who is not physically by your side. According to Sandra, it can be done in much the same way as if the receiver is right there with you:
First, connect with a power animal or teacher in the non-ordinary realms. You can then ask that power animal or teacher to send help to a person in need. Share with the animal or teacher the person’s name and their location. You can share the issue as well, but we usually discover through direct revelation that the spirits already know what type of help is needed.
Keep in mind that there are ethical issues in doing this work as you must have the receiving person’s permission and know that he or she wants some healing help. If the receiver is in a coma, unconscious, a young child, or even an animal, you could perform a Middle World journey to their spirit and ask for their permission to send help. You may journey from your location and simply shift your focus quickly to the client’s location. Once in the journey, you can ask the client if he or she would like healing help from you.
If the client says no, you must respect his or her decision. Yet if they agree, and they almost always do, you may ask your spirits to offer them healing energies, while expressing your intentions for their greatest good. You can also join together with others who know how to journey to ask all of your individual helping spirits to send help to a person or animal in need. In doing so, the power of the ritual is increased exponentially, which is why many people would rather practice shamanism in a group than alone.
Hank, who leads long-distance healing rituals in his workshops, agrees that working as a group can be extra beneficial when performing a long-distance healing:
At my workshops, when we do group long-distance healings, we first wait until each person in the room is “power-filled.” Next we connect the circle by joining hands, and then each person brings up an image in their mind’s eye of the one in need. When we can see or feel our heart connection with that person clearly, we simply say his or her name out loud, and at that instant, an arrow of healing energy travels from our heart to theirs, nonlocally and instantaneously. The indigenous peoples know a great secret: every time you send healing energy from your heart to someone else, that arrow has two points on it and the energy flows in both directions. This means that every time you offer healing to another, you receive healing yourself, and this is why the healers among us often live to be very old.
This kind of long-distance healing also works well for those who have already crossed over and are in spirit. You can simply say their name or say “my mother’s spirit” or “my father’s spirit.”
As we have indicated, when we are “in community,” the power of this method expands tenfold, revealing that for us as modern visionaries there are no limits to what is possible.
FORMING A SHAMANIC CIRCLE
You can gather together with some people where you live to experience the possibilities of the journey together. With practice, each member of the circle can learn how to journey for one another to receive guidance from the helping spirits. Then, when someone is in need, you can work together collectively to perform healing work. This is a powerful way to work.
Carol Proudfoot-Edgar, who founded a nonprofit organization called Shamanic Circles, is dedicated to assisting shamanic communities take form around the world. She has observed that there are many ways in which a new circle can form:
My primary focus in shamanism is to assist in the development of shamanic Circles. These can be local, regional, national, or international. Such Circles may be formed from those simply working with me over the years or from people sharing some common basis who wish to learn how to apply shamanism in their lives. The latter Circles might include groups of physicians, community organizers, women, couples, church groups, or individuals providing ceremonies for the larger community. One of the more intriguing aspects of current shamanism is online networking. The Internet allows for people on this path to focus quickly and strongly on some common concern and to share the results of any shamanic interventions made as well as new shamanic methods that might come through from the Other World.
Each Circle is a constellation connecting with other Circles, with people often spiraling in from different lands, with different experiences. Some of us may have been together at different times, different places. Some of us will be new to each other and by the end of our time together will be One Circle. To have both new and known together is a treasure. This is the very essence of community, of village. For all of us are beginners and all of us have our own life experiences that will make for a bountiful Circle.
From my perspective, Circles within Circles, and Circles joining other Circles, are happening all over the world. Individuals, who might have been strangers to one another a moment ago, are finding that there are strengths and resources that become available when common ground and common yearnings are shared.
In some places, this is happening rapidly; in some places slowly. It is a continuing affirmation to me that the time of loneliness, of only self-enlightenment, of being a lone wolf or a lone bear is over and we are “gathering ourselves” for the changes and transformations needed to be made both in our own lives and in our world, one step at a time, one Circle at a time. Steps upon steps are creating a path; Circles and more Circles are creating the container within which much can be born and held.
If you are not a member of a Circle, go to the Internet and search using the keyword “shamanic circles.” Some Circle website have information about the nature of shamanic Circles and articles on the practice of shamanism. If these website interest you, write to the contact for a Circle in your geographical area and see about participating in one of their gatherings or ceremonial activities.
If you belong to a Circle, suggest to your group that it focus on the issue: ”What is being asked of us now, in this present age, this current time?“ Sometimes Circles use their gathering time as an opportunity for individuals to journey instead of raising, to spirits, the collective questions. However, the Circle is a unique form and there is a reason that shamanic Circles are prospering in these times. I think we are being asked to use our Circle form as a source of power and wisdom for ushering in significant changes. We will only find out about this if we inquire, as a Circle, of our guiding spirits and the guardians of our planet home.
Journey groups have formed all around the world, where participants journey together and then share their experiences. In a meeting, everyone in the group might perform one personal journey and then you might journey together on behalf of a group member who has a question or challenge in life and seeks guidance.
Some groups add to that a collective journey where all the members journey on a global issue or some aspect of current events. Many groups journey to ask how to honor the change in seasons or the current phase of the moon, or how to create a ceremony together as a community. Each member will receive a unique piece of information that can be woven together to inspire and educate the whole group. There might be similiarities and synchronicities that come up within the participants’ journeys underscoring something of particular importance.
THE COLLECTIVE DREAM
As part of a world community, our thoughts and beliefs become part of a collective dream. We have affirmed that the shamanic practitioner can become a master of dreaming. José Stevens emphasizes that it is the nature of any energetic system, at all levels of complexity and awareness, to dream:
From a shaman’s point of view, the material universe we live in is a collective dream and your life story is a local personal dream. Spirit is not attached to these dreams. You could say that Spirit gave birth to the dreamers and then participates in what they dream.
The dreamers, of course, are all the bits and pieces of the physical plane. Each bit and piece has the power to dream at different levels of sophistication. A rock dream is not quite as elaborate as the dream of a butterfly, and the dream of a butterfly is eclipsed in complexity by the dream of a dog. The most sophisticated dreamers on Earth are sentient beings such as human beings and the cetaceans (whales, dolphins). We are capable of dreaming up incredible things. Unfortunately, because of a combination of our amnesia, creativity, free will, and ego orientation, our dreams sometimes turn into nightmares.
In the act of creation, it appears that Spirit decided on a noninterference policy. That is, it created the dreamers and agreed it would abide by whatever dreams they created, knowing of course that in the end, all dreamers would wake up and recognize the basic foundation of love in the universe.
Many who endure extraordinarily challenging lives sometimes curse Spirit for this, believing that it was cruel to create this policy. Yet, if you think it through, Spirit could not have done it any other way without restricting free will. If you lacked this freedom to create any kind of dream you thought of, you might complain that the game was rigged and feel bitter. Nothing less than total freedom to dream and discover is the loving way of Spirit. This is a major understanding on the shamanic path.
From a shaman’s point of view, when sentient beings gather together in great numbers, their collective dreams become very strong. For a long time on this planet, dreams were about survival; then came a long period in which the dreams focused on order, laws, control, and collective living. Then came grand dreams of ambition, power, and material gain. These dreams harbor the beliefs that everyone is totally separate, in competition, and that the creative force of the universe either does not exist or exists as some kind of angry, punitive external force. Today these powerful centuries-old dreams are all entwined and carry great momentum for humankind.
The collective dream has developed a kind of personal ego, an identity of its own, based on what it has become, a long story line. This planetary collective dream appears to have great power and seems to gobble up everything in its path. It feeds on the personal dreams of all the people on the planet. What it considers the best food of all is drama, especially drama that is intensely emotion-filled— particularly trauma with lots of anger, fear, jealousy, envy, and violence. Not only does the collective dream feast on these things, it requires them to maintain its remembered identity. So the agreed-upon collective dream keeps trying to incite more incidents of trauma so it can have more food—just like a raging forest fire that hungrily demands more trees for fuel. The dream then reinforces itself every second with more of the same.
Most people’s personal dreams are sucked into this vortex, and without realizing it we become contributors to a vast nightmare. Sometimes we dream pleasant things like loving relationships and satisfying work and creating great beauty, but these are not as enticing to the historical collective dream as are the more intense traumas. So sooner or later each person tends to be driven into the great dark dream to be enslaved and apparently victimized. A master shaman would say that human beings have become like sheep or cows filing into the slaughterhouse of the dream. The results are not pretty.
Being a dream, it is subjective in nature, yet it has momentum, and the power of the dream comes from that momentum. In this sense, it is literally being fueled by its dreamers who believe they have no other option than to dream this collective nightmare. Yet we do have a choice.
The shaman’s point of view is that a new dream is possible but requires enough dreamers to wake up from their collective nightmare and choose to transform the dream. A few shamans and mystics have managed to wake up from the collective dream, and to some extent they’ve managed to wake up others enough to sway the dream a little. Mostly these teachers have not been heeded because few human beings are mature enough to know what they’ve been talking about. A few have taken their lead and used their help to wake up from their own personal contribution to the nightmare at large. Most, however, simply incorporated what the teachers said into the ongoing dream without waking up at all—similar to the way a person might incorporate the sound of a passing siren into their dream.
It is the opinion of many indigenous shamans that now, for the first time, the possibility of humankind waking up from the old negative mass dream exists on a collective level. The possibility now exists for the establishing of a new dream, one that allows the dreamers to wake up within their dream and discover they are dreaming, allowing them to begin to take conscious control of their dream. The new dream can be anything we want, including great cooperation, sharing, loving relationships, peaceful coexistence, grand creativity leading to great beauty and inspiration, mass healing, and living sustainably with Nature.
Hank offers these thoughts from his many years of living with traditional tribal peoples:
The indigenous peoples know that each creature in creation has tasks appropriate to their being. And only when those tasks are performed, and in the right way, can the universe function in life-enhancing ways for all. If any among the multitudinous creatures fails in its tasks, everyone suffers.
This reveals that every thought we think, every action we take, every word we speak, every relationship we engage in, and every emotion we feel, contributes either to the greater good or greater suffering.
As master dreamers, shamanic practitioners have an extraordinary responsibility. As we look at the state of our world today, including our societies, our communities, and our families, it becomes quite obvious that the time has come for us to dream well in a way that contributes to the greater good of all. By doing so, we may work together, and in response, our world will be transformed.
We have incredible potential to create positive changes in our local and global communities, agrees Sandra. In a journey, she once received the following message:
In the future, the stories parents will read to children will not be about one hero or heroine saving the world. The stories written will be how communities of people gathered together to create positive change for the world.
As we begin to journey together in our communities and share our gifts, talents, and messages received, we create a collective energy which over time creates positive change and healing for the planet.