Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation - Sandra Ingerman MA, Hank Wesselman Ph.D. 2010
Visionary Work with Weather and Environmental Changes
In addition to being the originators, and thus the source, of the world’s first mystical traditions, shamans have always been accomplished in their understanding of Nature and Nature’s cycles, and so it would be correct to describe them as the world’s first ecologists.
It is through our ancestral shamans that we’ve learned of the overarching interconnectedness of all life and the transpersonal energetic matrix that connects everything, everywhere, to everything else. It is through their wise teachings that we’ve come to understand that we are, and have always been, part of these cycles.
Throughout their lives, shamans continually observe the changes of the seasons and the moon, the alignment of the stars, and the movements of the planets. Through practice, they become masters in reading and interpreting what these changes mean, and through the path of direct revelation they communicate with the forces that govern and influence the environment in order to maintain balance and harmony, thus furthering the well-being of themselves and their communities.
According to Hank Wesselman, the Druids were a spiritual fellowship of male and female shaman-priests that spread widely across the ancient world during the classical period. It is well known that the Druids placed the reincarnational cycle and the certainty of our immortality as souls right at the center of their spiritual teachings. This was in direct contrast to the beliefs of the classical Greeks and Romans, among whom knowledge of reincarnation was singularly absent:
The Druids were the wisdom-keepers of their people, and they were known to be keen observers of Nature. For them, as for shamans everywhere, the gateway into the transpersonal realms lay in their practice of Nature Mysticism, with the many aspects of Nature itself, including our own bodies, serving as doorways into the Other Worlds.
As priests and visionary shamans, the Druids knew that our consciousness could be transformed, allowing us to access the true transpersonal realms and experience them directly through Nature Mysticism. This ability allowed them to influence Nature and especially the weather as will be explored in this chapter.
The Druids also knew from their direct experience of Nature that “God” is not a being, but rather a force or process that can be found within everything, everywhere—one that is both immanent as well as transcendent, one that is densely concentrated in living beings and thus found within all of Nature.
From the Druids’ perspective, when we abuse Nature in any way, shape, or form, we abuse Goddess.1
As mentioned, we are genetically hardwired with a program that allows us to expand our conscious awareness. We have also discussed how this program on our inner hard drive (our DNA) may be activated by double-clicking it with the right mouse—the drum or the rattle, the song or the prayer, the ritual or ceremony, or even the hallucinogen.
The Druids, like shamans everywhere, were masters of working with Nature, and they knew that through the practice of Nature Mysticism the deep psychic abilities inherent within all of us could become active, enabling us to experience true transpersonal connection with the worlds of things hidden.
Nature Mysticism is an authentic spiritual path with heart that many of us experienced spontaneously as children through our contact with Nature. As adults, we can learn to reconnect with this path, a path that brings us into direct connection with the World Soul—the same multi-leveled archetypal matrix and intelligence of our planet that the classical Greeks called Gaia. In our own time, this concept has been widely embraced through the visionary writings of the scientist James Lovelock and John Lamb Lash.2
In Nature Mysticism, we achieve a direct, transpersonal contact with the life-giving force that we summarily refer to as Nature, and this is often sensed by the visionary (and those with psychic awareness) as an immanent and user-friendly presence. Some of us experience it on the golf course, some on a fishing trip or a weekend camping expedition. Sometimes it’s a walk in the park, a hike through the woods, a visit to the zoo, a trip to the beach.
However this contact is made, when we sense it, we know with certainty that the soul of Nature is alive. It’s aware of us, and it always has been. When we walk the path of direct revelation, we discover that Nature expresses itself through those archetypal forces that traditional peoples call the spirits.
We are not talking about belief systems here. We have now gone beyond them and beyond faith as well. We’re talking about direct connection with the real thing. We’re talking about communion with the Infinite, and the doorway into that Infinite usually becomes available to us first through a one-on-one connection with Nature at large.
This is considerably easier to feel than it is to describe, and yet once you have had it, the rest follows. We’re talking here about the gateway into true Deity Mysticism, in which we may connect with the real transpersonal archetypes.
The great message of the authentic mystics across time is that “Spirit is.” And they expect us to take nothing on faith. Rather they have set out the steps of a grand experiment spread out across the time-space continuum that allows each of us to achieve the direct experience of what they experienced. That’s what Awakening to the Spirit World is about.
REVERENCE AND DEFERENCE
Celtic shamanic practitioner and teacher Tom Cowan teaches that we should show not only reverence and respect toward Nature, but also deference:
I think “deference” is the key word here because it means that we put someone or something else ahead of ourselves. We usually defer to an elder or superior, which means we concede to their wishes rather than to our own. While it’s important for practitioners to respect and realize our oneness with Nature, I think underlying this attitude should be deference. In other words, we can acknowledge that Nature is superior to and far older than us. We can then understand that Nature is fundamental to our own activities, needs, and well-being.
We live in an age in which we assume that human ingenuity and technology can control Nature to a great extent, at least tempering or eliminating its unpleasant and uncomfortable aspects. We don’t like inconvenience, and we have become addicted to being comfortable. But if we really stop to think about this, we understand that we are not in control. As the world becomes ever more unstable due to global warming and human activities that disrupt natural rhythms and patterns, Nature is responding by becoming extreme. Weather and seasonal patterns are disturbed, defying our so-called weather predictions even more than usual.
Rather than gripe or sulk over this, I think all people could consider actually reconnecting with Nature’s cycles by choosing “acts of inconvenience and discomfort.” For example, we could walk rather than drive, dry clothes on a line rather than in a dryer, set the thermostat lower in winter and wear heavier clothes, learn to live with summer’s heat as much as possible, find recreation outdoors rather than in malls or indoor recreation centers. Through such conscious acts, we could each become more fully aware of our current lifestyle, and we could come up with several practical, concrete changes in how we live that would make us come face to face with respecting Nature. Such deliberate acts will put us more in touch with the indigenous mind and heart that we still carry within us.
We often forget or ignore the fact that Nature is immensely more powerful than we are. As shamanic practitioners, we like to work with Nature in its more gentle aspects: the gorgeous sunset, the flowering garden, the starry sky, or the gentle brook. But Nature is also the hurricane, tornado, forest fire, earthquake, and flooded river. Faced with these inevitabilities, we then stand in awe of these forces, recognizing their power and even their terrible beauty as we pray they do not damage our homes or kill us. The power that we witness in these and other natural events is far older and stronger than we are. These primordial activities happened before we humans arrived in this world, and they will most likely continue after we are long gone, revealing how small we really are in this great drama of the natural world.
And knowing this, we can defer to these natural events. We can feel confident in conceding that they are going to happen, that they in some way are necessary in some grander scheme than we can readily imagine. We can then accept with grace the discomfort and inconvenience they inevitably produce. And if we have already been disciplining ourselves by choosing to experience the less than comfortable, the less convenient ways that humans have traditionally related to natural conditions, then we may have greater understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of those more serious disasters when they occur.
We will then be living more in alignment with our indigenous mind and heart rather than the foundation of our modern Western mind that seeks dominion and control over Nature.
We have all become aware over the past decade of the global changes that are occurring within our planetary “weather machine.” We now know, as well, how these climatic shifts are being exacerbated, even caused, by the activities of industrialized humanity. These changes are now well documented and have been validated by countless scientific studies and manifestos from the National Academy of Sciences in the United States as well as from other industrialized nations.
It is vitally important for us to understand and accept that every change, great and small, entails a death of that which was before. These deaths are necessary and inevitable steps before the birth of what is coming into being becomes possible. Seen from this perspective, there is no question that we live in a transitional time in which everything around us is changing—including the weather.
The Druids of ancient Europe would have considered this to be an issue of more than just passing interest. In light of Hurricane Katrina and her descendant Ike, they might have advised that working in partnership with the weather is the preeminent issue that we face in our time. In this vein, Sandra Ingerman teaches, from a shamanic perspective, that the weather may be a reflection as well as a projection of our collective inner state of consciousness:
There is an aspect of weather that is simply part of Nature and its cycles. At the same time, the environment, including the weather, may be an outer projection of the inner state of consciousness of humanity. In looking at our existing weather patterns, we can work with the spiritual principle of “as above, so below; as within, so without.” The condition of the weather, especially in the extreme, calls us to go within and reflect on our own internal state.
When we do this as a shamanic meditation, we realize with great certainty that the weather is reflecting our toxic thoughts. The weather at large may also reflect our societal state of imbalance: the disharmony and violence we see between one another as well as between us and Nature.
When we intentionally shift into a positive attitude and show reverence toward others and to the world around us, however, we tap into our own divine nature and spiritual light. The environment, in response, will reflect this light back to us, thus creating a growing and pervasive state of harmony within us all. This reveals that who we become can change the world.
THE ROLE OF THE MODERN VISIONARY IN NATURE
The Salish people of the Pacific Northwest have a wonderful word that describes the state of consciousness that we, as modern visionaries, are learning to (re)achieve. “Skalatitude” means “when the people and Nature are in harmony, there is magic and beauty everywhere.”
It has always been the role of the shaman to mediate between the community and the spirits of weather. There are many stories of shamans bringing rain when it was needed or sending sun to areas dealing with flooding. When we consider the role of the modern visionary in this process, this does not mean trying to manipulate the weather for trivial or personal reasons such as not wanting an outdoor wedding reception to be rained off.
The weather works on a regional, even planetary, scale and the key to working with these truly awesome primordial forces lies in asking for the highest good for all of life in the particular region where you live. In other words, it’s not just about you.
This is most important to understand, for we do not want to use our spiritual practice to work with power over Nature. Rather, we want to use our spiritual awareness and abilities to bring us into alignment with these natural forces.
According to Hank, the Hawaiian kahuna elder Hale Kealohalani Makua was fond of observing that “the foundation stone for Western Mind, which is the same as Colonial Mind, is dominion. By contrast, the foundation stone for indigenous mind is respect.” Thus, the first step for the modern visionary in working with Nature is to show our deep and abiding respect.
As modern visionaries working with the weather, teaches Sandra, we must remember to stay humble:
When and if you choose to utilize shamanic methods to connect with the spirits of weather, and if you do have success in working in partnership with the spirits, it is important not to take credit for it. When we brag about our power, we lose it. To avoid letting your ego blow out of proportion, consider working with a group when doing a ceremony to connect with and affect the weather. In this way, no one person can take credit for any successes, and the power of a group is much stronger than the power of an individual working alone.
Another way to keep the egoic mind at bay is to do the weather work at times when it will be difficult to determine your influence on the outcome. You might try calling down the rain when the sky is already thick with rainclouds. This brings in the principle of ambiguity, where you are in the dark as to what forces are really at work. Although this doesn’t create scientific proof, it does keep us open to the mysteries of the universe. And as Hank the scientist is fond of observing, all of us discover sooner or later that transpersonal experiences rarely lend themselves to scientific validation. Yet when they happen, we take note, and in response, we are drawn into a deeper connection with the Great Mystery.
Here are some examples of how working in partnership with the helping spirits and with Nature can and does impact the weather.
In the year 2000, a fire at Los Alamos was destroying much of the wilderness in northern New Mexico. There were Native American ruins in the area, and some very sacred places were in the path of the fire.
People from all cultures of the region prayed for rain and performed ceremonies to protect the area from more destruction. Yet the wind was the force that ended up saving the endangered sacred sites. It suddenly changed to a direction from which the wind doesn’t usually blow. This unusual wind caused the fire to burn back over the same land that was already charred, and so those sacred sites were spared.
This was quite a teaching—a direct revelation of how ceremonies can be performed and how spiritual help can be called in, yet we cannot always predict how that help will manifest.
In this vein, Hank shares a story that has impacted his work. In the late 1990s, prolonged drought and widespread forest fires of great intensity were devastating entire regions of northeastern Brazil. The Associated Press reported that the Brazilian government, willing to explore all options in the face of this overwhelming catastrophe, finally agreed to fly in several indigenous shamans from the Xingu River area in the Amazon region. These power-filled shamans then did a ceremony, using plants (and by association the plants’ spirits) from the region they had come from, and within two hours torrential rains fell over the entire region and doused the fires completely. This made international news.
José Stevens shares a story about people working in harmony with the earth and sky and how the weather responded:
In the fall of 2007, my wife, Lena, and I were leading a group of about twenty Americans and Canadians to the island of Amantani in Lake Titicaca, Peru. This remarkable island lies at an elevation of 12,000 feet and is populated by Andean farmers and shamans. With no electricity or motor vehicles, it hosts two temples, one on each of two peaks. One temple is devoted to Pachatata, the male principle of Father Sky, and the other is devoted to Pachamama, the female principle of Mother Earth.
Early one morning we set out with our group, accompanied by an equal number of village people, to visit the temples about a thousand-foot climb up the mountain. The procession was ceremonial, and with the help of the local shamans we made traditional offerings on the way to the top. First we visited the Pachatata temple and performed a short ceremony to honor Father Sky. The Pachatata temple is a square depression in the ground surrounded by a high stone wall that protects it from intrusion. The gate was closed; we did not have permission to enter, so we remained just outside the gate. We stayed for about an hour to pray and contemplate in this extraordinary setting overlooking the lake and the snowcapped Andes all around.
We then proceeded to walk to the other peak, to the Pachamama temple. Upon arrival we were amazed to find the gate wide open. This temple is a round depression in the ground surrounded by a round stone wall. After serious consultation with the villagers and the shamans we determined that the gate was open for a reason and we had permission to enter. About fifty of us filed in and sat in a circle to perform a spontaneous ceremony to honor Pachamama.
We set up a portable altar, on which we placed coca leaves, condor and eagle feathers, various other fruits, and offerings. Lena stood up, and in her beautiful voice she began to sing a sacred icaro (a healing song) to honor Pachamama. Although the sky had been clear and still on our walk up, a sudden wind from nowhere became a mini-tornado inside the circular temple. Dust swirled violently, and hats, scarves, and the offerings were all taken up high into the sky. Throughout this almost shocking display, Lena simply continued to sing to Pachamama.
Suddenly the wind died and everything became still again just as she finished the song. Not knowing the local understanding of such things, we were a little uncertain about the meaning of this intense windstorm. However, the locals were overjoyed and said this was a rare and special sign that our ceremony was most successful and had been received readily by both Pachamama and Pachatata. They eagerly embraced each member of our party, and a joyous celebration followed with many tears of happiness and much dancing.
Food came flooding out of the women’s shawls and soon we had a surprise feast of potatoes, fish, and local beer. After we were done, we did a celebratory dance all the way down the mountain. I cannot remember a more joyous day than this one.
We had no intention of conjuring this weather phenomenon, yet when a group of people are in harmony with the earth and sky, and when they honor the environment properly, the weather responds with its own display of approval and acceptance. While there are shamanic ceremonies and prayers to deliberately influence the weather, more often than not the weather cooperates with activities of people who are in balance with Nature. Sometimes this is all that is needed for connection and cooperation.
USING SPIRITUAL PRACTICES TO HEAL THE ENVIRONMENT
Today, it is quite obvious to both indigenous and modern visionaries of all persuasions that we simply have to change our way of living to create positive environmental changes. In addition, there is much to explore in terms of renewable energy resources and our political leaders who are devoted to working with environmental issues.
It is also time for modern visionaries to bridge our applied spiritual work into the environment. As we have revealed, the spiritual traditions teach us that everything manifested here on Earth has its source in the Dreamtime—in other words in the spiritual worlds. It is there that shamans and visionaries do their best work. We humans are world-class dreamers, and our task in this time of change and societal transition is to dream well. If we do, our world will change for the better. We must therefore begin by doing our own inner work, notes Sandra, because everything in the outer world is now being born from what happens within us:
When we look at life on earth, everything is being born from within. A baby forms in the womb of his or her mother and then is birthed into this world. In the same way, a tree begins as a seed, filled with purpose and triumph before being born into this world as a manifestation of that potential.
To do our inner work, we must begin to explore what is actually being birthed from within us as well as what is being manifested into our outer world through our dreaming. In this respect, we need to learn how to transform our problematic thoughts and attitudes. We must also work with our thoughts and our emotions so that manifesting those thought forms and emotional fields truly reflects the world in which we want to live. In essence, we all need to dream the world that we want into being.
An important step in this work is performing ceremonies within a group of committed souls with a similar orientation and practice in order to work on behalf of and in partnership with the environment.
We simply have to find and connect with our own spiritual light so that we may shine that light into the world. We are body, mind, and spirit/soul, and when we intentionally peel away the body and the mind, including all our past experiences and wounds of this life, this may allow us to experience ourselves as our original face—as pure divine spiritual light. Meditation is useful for this practice.
As we learn how to express this divine spiritual light into the world, the outer environment will reflect this back to us. This process, called transfiguration, is a process that Sandra advocates incorporating into a shamanic practice:
In the year 2000, I started to experiment with the results of transfiguring into one’s divine light in my trainings. We put toxic ammonium hydroxide into pure deionized water, which has no minerals in it. Ammonium hydroxide is a strong base, and with its assistance, we took the water to a pH of 12. This would literally kill anyone who drank the water, but no living being would do so because the smell is so strong.
In the groups that I work with, we do not pray for the water or ask any helping spirits to heal the water. We simply change ourselves by experiencing our divine perfection and our light. We use the teaching that the outer world is a reflection of our inner state of consciousness. If we exist on a moment-to-moment basis as a light, the world will reflect that divine light back to us.
Since 2000, I have worked with ammonium hydroxide in samples of water with various groups in the United States, England, Austria, and Switzerland. Together we have performed ceremonies where I led participants to experience themselves as more than their body and mind—as pure divine light. In all our experiments, the pH of the water changed one to three points toward neutral. From a scientific view, this would be seen as impossible.
By working in tandem with archetypal forces through the path of direct revelation, we learn that we all have power to create change within the matrix of Nature because we are, and have always been, part of it. At the spiritual level of awareness and experience, we can and will grow into the highly evolved beings about which shamans, mystics, saints, and sages have been teaching for thousands of years.
Remember that we are always dreaming the world into being with our thoughts and words. As we learn to uncover, rediscover, and express our divine light, the world is enhanced and can express its divine light in response.
EXERCISE: A JOURNEY TO YOUR WORLD
It has become apparent over the last twenty years or so that the world’s indigenous shamans have tapped into the dreaming-at-large of the planet and humanity as a whole. In response, cultures such as the Q’ero peoples of the Altiplano region of the Andes have sent representatives to the lowlands to inform us Westerners that we are dreaming the wrong dream.
To change our distorted dreams—and by association the world that we live in—the shamans say we must learn to use the power of our thoughts and our creative imagination. It would be good to journey on those qualities of the world that we want to see—qualities that create balance and harmony. Once we have these, we can then start to engage our senses and begin to dream this world into being.
Consider these questions: What would this world look like? What would people’s faces look like? Would they be smiling? What would Nature look like? How would it feel to live in a world that embraced and expressed all these qualities? What would you feel like on an emotional level in this world?
In your journey, walk around and touch all the various healthy life forms with your awareness and even with your “dream fingers.” Feel how good it is to be alive in this world. What do the sounds in Nature sound like? Can you hear children laughing? What are the fragrances filling the air? Can you smell them? How does the food taste? Imagine yourself tasting and eating the most delicious and nutritious foods. Taste the clean, pure water. Smell the fragrant, clear air. Listen to the sounds of Nature that surround you. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin.
By engaging all your senses, you may work with an inner process that engages your body-soul—a process that can be expressed into the physical world. It is important to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste this world as it already is and as it is coming into existence. Otherwise you are always creating it in the future.
It is also important to actually be part of this creation by fully engaging in the world you are dreaming into being rather than watching your creation as if it were a movie or flat-screen TV. The other key ingredient is a passion for what you want to create. Loving your creation fuels its manifestation, and from the mystical perspective we are in training in this world to become creators.
Imagine how society would change if we all held the awareness that consciousness, not matter, is the primary ground of all being. Tom Hurley, the former educational director of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, once asked Hank, “What if the purpose of business was to nurture and sustain life?” This question deserves our careful consideration—for through our collective dreaming on it, all will thrive.