Type of Spiritual Experience
In this observation I have included quite a long but extremely helpful description that is fairly typical of cave journeys. In the example, we have an introductory section that describes the type of journey expected and then we have a description of an actual journey and the lessons learnt and how it helped. The example is a healing journey – which can be one of the uses to which this form of spiritual travel is put, furthermore it is the ‘shaman’ helping another person by travelling on his behalf, this is a vision, a composer constructed set of images designed to reveal hidden truths ……………
A description of the experience
From Internet – Jeff takes a journey [deathisanimposter.com]
In the minutes before reporting his meeting with Scott, Jeff had set the stage by explaining the basic principles at work in shamanic healing practices, and describing in full detail one of his early journeys. Although our culture has been stripped of this ancient wisdom and thus lost a central source of spiritual power, he explained, the ideas nevertheless remain with us, diluted to story. The adventures of Alice in Wonderland, he pointed out, illustrate the basics of a classic shamanic journey. “First the traveler relaxes and prepares to enter an altered state, like Alice did as she nodded off listening to her sister read by the river. If you’re gonna travel,” he emphasized, “you’ve got to be willing to let yourself go, and start with an open mind.”
“Then, to gain entry to the spiritual underworld, the realm of spirit, one must descend through some sort of tunnel.” He explained that the archetype of the mandala, a series of infinitely decreasing concentric circles, is believed by some to symbolize this primal experience of descent
“Alice started her journey,” he continued, “by falling through the rabbit hole, falling deeper, deeper, deeper. Then, she found herself experiencing a new world [a cave], accompanied in her journey by the spirit animals of a talking rabbit, a wise old caterpillar, and a series of other animal and human guides.
In that realm Alice came to realize that anything could happen. Things solid and relatively unchanging in this world, such as size or shape, suddenly became completely fluid.”
“Just like in a dream, the old rules had been left by the wayside. And,” he continued, “she experienced a dramatic series of lessons in that surreal world, all of which she brought back with her to this side when she woke up. She came back wiser than when she left, and I’d bet nothing was ever quite the same.”
Having educated me as to the basics, Jeff then proceeded to tell me the tale of a healing journey he had undertaken on behalf of a friend, a man we’ll call Sean in order to protect his privacy. “I’ve taken a couple of workshops and read up on it,” he explained, “but don’t have a lot of experience yet with unsupervised journeys. But I wanted to tell you about one I did make for my friend Sean.”
“He knew I’d been exploring this work, and asked me if I’d learned anything that I might be able to put to use for him. He said that he needed a little help, that he was experiencing some distortion in his eyesight he’d never had before, and was also dealing with some emotional blocks. It bothered him that he felt like he was unable to grieve the loss of his dead mother, and that he had a distant, sort of adversarial relationship with his father.”
“I agreed to give it a try. I explained to him that it was important that we both approach the situation with an open mind, to avoid any preconceptions that might limit the experience. Neither of us had any idea what would happen, if anything…………….
“It’s important to the trance state to have some rhythm going on in the background, usually a steady drumbeat. That day I brought with me a c.d. of Native American drumming, and we put that on. We lit a candle, and I asked Sean to lie down on the floor .. and to make himself comfortable. I told him that it was important that he stay present, try and keep attuned to what we were doing. Then, after saying a short prayer, asking the spirits to help me help this man, I took my route into the underworld.” “This is some wild stuff,” I thought to myself. “What do you mean,” I asked him, “your ‘route into the underworld?’”
In response, he asked “Have you ever seen Blue Springs?” I nodded in affirmation, recalling the beautiful site in the spring country of North Central Florida. Through impossibly clear water, in which fish seemed to hang suspended as if in air, their shadows darting across the green and aqua field of grass far below, one could easily spot the bubbling sources of the spring. That area had inspired Quaker traveler William Bartram during his explorations there in the Eighteenth century, and his published journal entries had in turn captured the opium-fueled imagination of his contemporary, Englishman Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who penned the words into his magnificent poem fragment, Kubla Khan……..
“I remember going there when I was a little kid,” Jeff continued, “and looking way down deep into this hole, that seemed to go all the way down into the center of the Earth. Even then, it fascinated me.” He paused for a moment, recalling. “That’s how I go down,” he explained. “I feel myself standing in the water, I feel the cold around my ankles, and then I dive in. All the way down.”
“At this point my eyes are closed, so I’m seeing with my mind’s eye. Floating there in the darkness, I requested contact from my two helper spirits.” “What are they?,” I asked, full of curiosity about this bizarre realm of experience. “One of them is my spirit animal,” he told me. “Does everyone have a spirit animal?” “Yes,” he replied. “What kind of animal is it?” He vaguely frowned at me, explaining that that is sacred information, not open for casual discussion. “O.K.,” I said, “I respect that. I was just asking.” I smiled to myself, noting that all of a sudden I was filled with intense curiosity about this question now that its answer was hidden from me.
“The helpers then took me on a journey,” Jeff continued, “deep into these mountains, up to the entrance to a cave. Then they left me there. They said ‘Go on, we’ll be waiting for you when you come back.’” I found myself full of questions. “Now, you weren’t under the influence of any drugs during this experience?” “No,” he laughed. “When you were in this state,” I asked, “with Sean laying on the floor beside you, did you narrate the things you were seeing? Did he have any idea what was going on?” “Usually I’m pretty good about that,” Jeff explained, “but it’s more important to me to have the experience. I can always share the details when I get back.”
He looked at me somewhat impatiently, as if hoping I had run out of questions so he could get on with the story. I shut up. “So I went into the cave, and found this kind of crazy-looking holy man there. He looked like one of the saddhus, the ascetic holy men you see pictures of wandering India. His hair was kind of rastafari, going everywhere, he was real thin and dressed in rags, and his eyes were bulging.” He thought for a moment. “He looked crazy, but I knew he had this terrible kind of wisdom. I wasn’t afraid. So I asked him ‘Are you going to help me help Sean?’ He didn’t say anything, but simply pointed with his long, thin arm in one direction.”
“At that point, the wall of the cave became mist, and his arm went right through it. I followed in the direction he pointed, and suddenly found myself on the roof of an old fashioned kind-of skyscraper, looking down on this bustling city.
It was so vivid, I could feel the warmth of the sun and the wind on my face and the roof sturdy beneath my feet. I knew that it was the 1920?s, because there were all these beautiful old buildings, like the ones here in Seattle. It was like I was seeing the city from the perspective of being on top of a five or six story building, the kind they used to consider a skyscraper. I saw a streetcar passing below, and the streets were jammed with great old-style black cars. And these were definitely the Roaring Twenties. Even from above it was obvious that something special was going on, that the city was bustling with energy and commotion.”
“From where I stood, beyond the buildings, I could see a huge blue body of water that looked like a lake. I then realized that ‘This must be Chicago.’
All of a sudden my perspective shifted, and I was down on street level walking among the excited crowds. A lot of the men were wearing those old-fashioned flat-top straw hats with the wide brims, with those red, white and blue bands around them. I figured some kind of political event must be going on. Even I got kind of caught up in the excitement. I was having a great time, observing the really cool dresses the women wore, drinking in the scene.”
“Suddenly, from out of the crowd, this man walked toward me.
“First he looked kind of above me, then he stopped right in front of me and looked at me. It was like no one else there could see me, so I figured this meeting was no accident. In my conscious mind, I was wondering ‘what’s going on here?,’ but surrendered my disbelief to see where the journey might lead me
I asked him ‘Do you have something for Sean?’ He was this really handsome man, and he just looked at me and smiled very beautifully. It was like I could hear his thoughts, and he was thinking about a woman he had had sex with. All I could feel was this absorbing sensation of deep love. Suddenly, I knew that the woman he was thinking about was Sean’s father’s mother, and that this was Sean’s grandfather. He only smiled, and said ‘Tell Sean that I love him.’”
“For a minute it was like I just stood there, absorbing his energy, the two of us among the crowd as if we were alone. Then, I asked him ‘Is that all? Is there anything else?’ Then he said something else, something else about the grandmother. He was so full of love, but seemed to smile sadly. ‘She really was wonderful. I should have married her.’ At that point, I sensed that it was time, so I gathered my energy and turned to go. The saddhu was back, and he guided me back toward the mist, pointing me back out of the cave. My spirit helpers were there waiting for me, and I asked them if there was anything else. They said, ‘Give this to Sean.’”
“So I brought myself ‘back up,’ and woke up holding my midsection, almost doubled over. I felt this incredible energy running through me, almost like an electric current. It came to me to breathe this energy into Sean, so I blew a breath into his chest, and then one into the back of his head. He started crying, and said that something had just happened to his eyes. He said ‘I felt like energy coming through my eyes, and then passing through.’ I just sat there with him for a few minutes, being there with him, as he went through this emotional experience and sort of settled back down.”
“Then we talked,” Jeff continued, “and I told him about what I’d seen in more detail. I can never be sure exactly how much I’ve gotten across while in the trance state, since more of the communication there than not is probably nonverbal. He told me that his father had been born in Chicago, which I hadn’t known, and that his father had never really known his own. Sean felt that that loss had become part of his problem with his father, his coldness, distance, etc. Maybe Sean’s father didn’t feel able to give something he had never really been able to receive himself.”
“I’m still not exactly sure about what it meant,” Jeff concluded, “but it had something to do with healing the sense of continuity that had been broken in the male relationships in Sean’s family, between generations of fathers and sons.” Anyway, it seemed to do great things for Sean.