Monthly Archives: December 2013

2.0 The Galilean Shaman

The Return Project:    2.0: The Galilean Shaman

Stretching to larger perspectives! That is what our conversation is about, right? During this holiday season, I launched a fresh inquiry in this blog into the question: who is Jesus? For over four decades I have been cautious about this question after having my fingers burned in organized religion as a young man.

That said, the results have surprised and delighted me, and all of you are contributing to our process. In previous blogs I have built on current research that directs us to consider that the most accurate and basic entry to the man, Jesus, is to view him first and foremost as a shaman. Pieter Caffert in his seminal book,The Life of a Galilean Shaman: Jesus of Nazareth in Anthropological-Historical Perspective, has advanced this hypothesis and rocked the world of New Testament experts. If Caffert and a growing brace of scholars are on target, then the most accurate way to view Jesus is through the lens of the nature-based pathway.

 Further, if the hypothesis is even somewhat accurate, it could influence and encourage people interested in nature-based spirituality, whether of a Christian background or not. In that regard I want briefly to link the Jesus narrative to my understanding of fourteen marks of a shamanic figure to see if there is a correlation. See what you think.

 1.Birth. Jesus’ birth connects with stars, wisdom seekers, animals, fresh air, and predictions of his impact on not just his Bedouin tribe but also Earth herself, as in peace and goodwill. Sky messengers from the Unseen announce and, in some accounts, actually impregnate his mother. His mother gives birth at the edge of civilization as if to put him immediately in tension with his current culture. Auspicious births such as this one are typical of shamanic figures throughout the Mid-East. Marduk in ancient Babylonia was born of a virgin, as was Horus in Egypt. Tecumseh’s birth in North America was announced by a streaking star across the early morning sky, and the star gave him his name. A principal marking of the shamanic figure almost always comes through the birth story. The birth story is not so much an historic fact as it is a way to honor the shamanic figure and acknowledge his/her powerful influence in the affairs of Earth.

 2.Songs from Upper World. Sky messengers from the upper domain visit and often impart songs at the point of birth and death, as well as important transitions throughout life. We have only fragments of the choruses given for Jesus such as “Hallelujahs.” As many of you know, in the Earthtribe, the eco-fields, spirit webs, give songs for almost every occasions, seemingly out of the blue. Such is almost always the case in shamanic communities. A stunning example is the Lakota story of Buffalo Calf woman’s coming to the Americas to bring the Sacred Pipe Song from the Upper World.

 3.Visits from Elders and early challenges. Wise people often visit during birth and early years as hints about initiation rites begin to unfold. Parents, aunts, and uncles receive instruction and direction for working with the newborn. Sometimes the family responds, but also may become an obstacle to shamanic development. Early challenges from the culture are almost always present, as in Jesus’ family journey to Egypt to escape the scourge of Herod. Black Elk’s relationship with his uncles speaks to this point to assist him when his boyhood visions drove him to the brink of insanity.

 4.Seeking a Nature-based Mentor. Assume for a moment that Jesus was what the church eventually claimed, uniquely spiritual, perhaps divine. If so, he could have any teacher he wanted: priest, intellectual, rabbi, politician, or revolutionary/activist. Yet, he chose as his primary teacher an untamed, unruly man, John, who lived in the wilderness, who wore animal skins, who ate locusts and wild honey as a regular diet, and whose houses of worship were river beds and deserts. Jesus’ mentor was, by almost any standard, a nature-based wise person.

 5.Nature-based Ceremonies.Jesus adult’ life of teaching began with a wading into the afore-mentioned river with John’s pouring water over his head. The skies opened up, and sky messengers sent a dove-like spiritual ally to guide the young man. A voice from Grandfather sky came to affirm Jesus as a beloved offspring.

 6.Altered States of Consciousness. Throughout his life Jesus practiced achieving altered states of consciousness, what anthropologists call shamanic states of consciousness. These states were almost always achieved in natural areas(eco-fields) where Jesus’ wild heart could be nourished. These states of consciousness open portals wherein the mother tongue can be spoken. Such states are typical of shamans, not so much priests, rabbis, ministers, or even sages.

 7.Wilderness(Vision) Quests. Jesus used his river experience to launch him into a profound wilderness quest in the desert where he fasted and cried for a vision. The spirit of the river sent him not to the Temple in Jerusalem but out into the desert. There he received wild animal allies and wrestled with the dark side. When all seemed dark, sky messengers of light returned to bolster him and heal his wounds. This account, by the way, is the earliest account we have of Jesus.(Mark) Later accounts of this same wilderness quest startlingly omit any reference to wild animals as his students already may already demonstrate  a basic misunderstanding of who he was.(Matthew, Luke)

 8.Nature-based Harmony. A central feature of the shamanic figure is an ability to connect so deeply with the natural order that there are unusual occurrences in the eco-field. To uninitiated students, it appears that the forces of nature “obey” the shaman. Actually, there is in shamanic figures a profound exchange of intelligence between the human and more-than-human within the eco-field so that collaboration is increasingly explicit. With this in mind, observe that Jesus walked on water, calmed waters and storms, and collaborated with unpredictable weather patterns. During both his birth and death there were very unusual events of nature, including comets and earthquakes. This profound relationship with events in nature is a key mark of the shamanic figure.

 9.Predictions of Game Location. People in Galilee struggled. During Jesus’ life there was constant drought. Poverty abounded. Nazareth had a population of about 75 people. They all used one bath and one central well for water. Food was scarce. So, we note that Jesus, like shamans around the planet, predicted where fishermen could catch fish. He knew which side of the boat might yield fish. Very important information for hungry folk, and we can infer from the limited accounts that Jesus exercised this shamanic ability with some frequency.

 10.Tribal Language.Jesus spoke a rural, tribal-oriented form of Aramaic. His language was earthy, filled with idioms from the natural order, and connected to the eco-fields of the Galilean landscape. He was a speaker of the mother tongue. He did not speak the language of urban Jerusalem or the Temple or the synagogue (ceremonial Hebrew) or Greek Hellenism. He could if he had to, but he consistently chose a language filled with verbs and short on abstractions, typical of shamanic expressions. The most reliable way to understand Jesus is deeply to connect with his landscape. His culture? Yes, but his landscape even more. I would love to visit there one day. I have little interest in the usual sites, but I would love to speak with the eco-scape that sprouted him.

 11.Healing Events. Depending on how you classify them, there were 30-40 healing events recorded in the synoptic accounts. Nearly 1/5 of the Jesus narratives are devoted to these healing experiences, and, in fact, healing is given more attention than any other subject. These stories are typical of shamanic stories around the world and include giving sight to the blind, walking to the lame, and return of life to the dead.

 12.Mountain Visions and Emerging Identity.Jesus journeyed to the mountain tops on various occasions with the support of his tribal community. While on these quests, he identity was constantly unfolding. So much so, that his community wondered if he was a re-incarnation of previous holy people. Crazy Horse had similar experiences on thirteen occasions through his life as a Lakota shaman when he vision quested time and again as his identity unfolded.

 13.Journey to Upper World. On many occasions during his life and, especially, at the point of his transition, Jesus journeyed to what shamans around the world know as the upper world. Eventually, clouds came to carry him. Energetic beings dressed in white light came to his tribal community to interpret what was happening. The purpose of the journey was to prepare for a larger experience and something that I am correlating with The Return Project advocated in this blog.

 14.The Great Return. Up until know I have followed very closely the events in the accepted narratives in what we call The New Testament. Allow me to go out on a limb here by offering my interpretation of The Great Return. I am proposing on this blog that the central thrust of current evolution is a great return of humans to the circle of life after millennia of estrangement through over identification with abstraction and reason. Very soon after Jesus’ death, his followers became obsessed with transcendent experiences. They wrote down his story in the more abstract language of Greek. They turned to students like Paul and his followers to be the basic interpreters of his life and message. Paul had never met Jesus, and he showed little interest in Jesus’ life, especially as a shaman. Hence, organized Christianity has largely missed the essence of Jesus’ life and relationship with the Sacred Web of eco-fields.

With that in mind, I suggest that The Great Return is deeply tied to humans’ returning to be participants in landscape. Herein is our healing. Herein is our true identity. Herein is our hope.

Jesus as ancestor may well be part of that Return. It may be that a hidden meaning of the Messiah/Christ resides in this Great Return to human identity within the natural order. Next spring  I will address that issue. Meanwhile, I will announce soon the next domain of our conversation beyond our holiday excursion with the hidden Galilean.

A Galiliean Shaman Speaks His Native Tongue

The Return Project:

Recently, Judith and I visited about the subject of “Who Is Jesus?” over breakfast , and she said,”When I met you in 1973, you were already talking excitedly about Jesus and Buddha as shamans. You claimed that the church and its scholars had missed perhaps the essential point of Jesus’ life and times, namely, that he was a basically a man of nature. That trumps everything else, you said over and over.”

While Judith’s memory is accurate, for the next four decades I diverted my interest to psychology and the practice of psychotherapy, to an indigenous apprenticeship, and, eventually, to the science of fields. I had little time to pursue my intuition about Jesus. I returned to the intuition briefly with two of my books, but, once again, I did not pursue the question in any systematic way.

Recently, I suggested to Lillie Rowden that she add a chapter to her new book, one that concentrates on Jesus, the Shaman, as a link to other indigenous shamans. That conversation lead me to the axial work, THE LIFE OF A GALILIEAN SHAMAN: Jesus of Nazareth in Anthropological-Historical Perspective by Pieter F. Craffert. As I study this paradigm-shifting book, I am deeply gratified that a scholar of Craffert’s stature can explore this domain in such thoroughly researched detail, especially since my life trajectory took me in other directions. His research turns our notion of the man Jesus in an entirely different direction, beyond both conservative and liberal pursuits.

After forty years I am more and more certain that the historical figure of Jesus is best understood as a shaman, especially since Craffert and others have come to a similar conclusion from lifetimes of research. (I am not so sure about Buddha, but that can wait.) I did take my church history professor’s advice to explore the canonical gospels by studying koine Greek along the way, the street language of the oldest narratives. It helped in my quest to discover the man Jesus, but I sensed that even these ancient Greek texts missed much since Jesus spoke Aramaic while the gospels writers recorded their impressions of him in Greek, a language he didn’t choose to speak. It is likely that Jesus knew Greek, religious Hebrew, and perhaps even Roman Latin, but it is certain that he chose to communicate almost exclusively in a distinctively Galilean dialect of Aramaic, an earthy language rich in local idioms.

This point is important because Aramaic, like many tribal languages, is much more connected to Nature than Greek. Take the first line of the so-called “Lord’s Prayer.”
Jesus speaks, addressing the Sacred in his native language, offering one of his most significant teachings:
Abwoon d’bwashmaya.

What does the phrase mean? The King James Version translators did not know Aramaic, or even that Jesus spoke this beautiful language. They labored as best they could from koine Greek sources and gave us this poetic translation:
Our Father, who art in heaven…

A recent Aramaic translation of this same phrase is startlingly different:
O Birther, Source, Mother-Father of the Universe.

The entire history of Christianity, perhaps even Western Civilization, turns on that one erroneous report of Jesus’ teachings. Even modern translations such as the RSV don’t seem to be aware of Jesus’ Aramaic tongue and its connection to the Mother Tongue. One Aramaic scholar I consulted stated that abwoon is a word that also describes the source of spring waters in landscapes where local Aramaic is spoken even today. When Jesus chose to instruct his apprentices in his model of praying, he uttered this word, abwoon, closely connected to source and water.It is a word that implies both the masculine and feminine.

Is it possible that Jesus knew to integrate earth and sky, masculine and feminine, immanence and transcendence? Is it possible that Jesus was a speaker of the Mother Tongue? Perhaps, I read too much of my own perspective back into the man, Jesus. It is easy to do. But my curiosity pushes me to look into the Jesus’ narratives to explore how they relate to cross-cultural shamans in my next post. See you there.

The Wandering Galilean Returns

THE RETURN PROJECT:
Who is the Wandering Galilean?

Here is my proposal: Jesus is a Galilean Shaman whose main work was and is to
return humans to the cycle of life.

Let’s see how I reached this hypothesis—contrary to the mainstream as it is– since it could have very important ramifications for planet Earth.

Nearly everyone in mainstream culture confronts this question on one scale or another: Who is Jesus, anyway? For me that question came early, just after I completed my first indigenous vision quest as an adolescent. Profound connections with the Sacred Web (what I would later explore as a system of eco-fields) occurred in that quest, and I moved for weeks in a sense of wonderment, of being loved, and accepted by the Circle of Life itself. Every aspect of the natural world around me seemed not only alive but animated and reaching out to impart quanta of information to me, some intelligence about where life itself was going like an arrow. And, most important to an adolescent, information about who was I as a person.

A boyhood friend at the time was Danny Solomon, and we talked far into soft summer nights about subjects testosterone laden males find interesting. When I hesitantly told him about my consciousness awakenings in the red slick rock canyons of Northwest Texas, he immediately suggested that I attend a small Methodist college in Abilene, Texas–where he was a student–and go deeper into the Jesus questions by studying theology. Danny believed that Jesus could help me in my nature-based spiritual path, though he himself had little connection with Nature. He didn’t mention if such would assist me in my issues with testosterone. These lively conversations launched me into a decade of serious effort in linking Jesus with spiritual resources arising out of the untamed in Nature.
Eventually, that search lead to a cul de sac, or, more accurately, a box canyon surrounded by high walls of orthodoxy.

Allow me to cut to the chase: the more thoroughly I searched in various religious institutions, the more obscure this unusual man, Jesus, became. You might say I went on an archeological journey where I dug through the layers of Western Civilization’s responses to the question. I found quickly that the “Jesus” taught in mainline Christianity was a creation of the organized church dating back to 325 C.E.when Constantine made Christianity the dominant religion of the Roman Empire at the Council of Nicea, known as the first ecumenical council.

The main thrust of this council raised the very question I address with you today—who was/is Jesus? My take on this council? It fabricated the Jesus of mainline Christianity three centuries after the Jesus who lived in Galilee died. The Jesus Christ presented to us as historic is—for good or, in my estimation, ill– actually a creation of this council.

Historians can’t agree on what happened at this tumultuous gathering of 300 or more followers of Jesus. But, as you might guess, I am not bashful about my take. Constantine, the emperor of the Roman Empire, was faced with a nation deeply split. In the midst of increasing rancor and chaos with the hoi polloi, he needed a unifying factor to hold together liberal and conservative factions, a condition we in the USA can currently appreciate. He concocted the cockamamie idea that a previously illegal and little known religion, the followers of Jesus, could be that unifying force and save the Empire from civil war. The trouble with that notion consisted in the fact that there were hundreds of different spiritual practices among these followers, and many of them sported their own narratives about the life of Jesus, or “gospels” as they came to be known. These tiny spiritual communities were vital, intensely intimate, full of life, highly idiosyncratic, and not given to a central authority.

What to do with this pluralism? Like many organized religious gatherings, the Council of Nicea began by throwing out the most troublesome perspectives. For example, they tossed onto the trash heap reincarnation, a spiritual perspective a vocal minority at the Council believed Jesus taught. The stories that portrayed Jesus as deeply embedded in ancient shamanism were not entirely edited as we shall see, but more explicit versions likely didn’t make the orthodox cut. The council likely obscured or minimized a tribal Jesus. We do not know how they decided on the four stories that came to be the synoptic gospels. One entertaining version of the selection process came to me through William R. Cannon,a prominent Church historian, in a graduate course I took at Emory University. According to Cannon the leaders of the council placed the finalists for the normative Jesus stories on a sacred table and asked the Holy Spirit to intervene by removing from the ceremonial table the accounts that were in error.

During the night the most conservative of the delegates sneaked in and removed all but four gospels they favored. When the 300 delegates gathered the next day, they entered the large hall to see that all the books but four had been removed from the table and scattered around the floor. The leaders proclaimed a miracle. Caught up in the fervor of the moment, the delegates ceremonially burned the scrolls that the “spirit” didn’t like. Whether this account is entirely historical or not, this burning of the opposition’s accounts became a consistent, historical practice of the institution that grew out of this congress.

But not to worry about the orthodox cause! Constantine had his four authoritative gospels that now constitute the opening and most important thrust of the New Testament. When I questioned Professor Cannon about the dubious and politically inspired nature of how we came to have holy cannon, he said he still believed in the basic authority of the gospels and the Nicean creed, the accepted orthodoxy of Christianity to this day. Shocked! I told him that the creed, while highly imaginative, seemed distant from the wandering Galilean. He smiled indulgently and told me I should go to these gospels in the original Greek if I really wanted to know who Jesus really was.

I wondered about Cannon’s advice since he had just told me the dubious way the standard stories about Jesus came to the mainline, but I harbored a deep and mostly intuitive sense that Jesus was a nature-based figure. Spurred by an abiding hunger for linkage between indigenous spirituality and cultural religion, I plunged into the accepted renditions of his life. I had concluded that the organized religion we call Christianity presents us with a Christ of creed, and I respect that presentation. It is meaningful to many, but the Christ created by the church is, in my view, disturbingly disconnected from the man, Jesus.

Could this disturbing disconnection from the tribal Jesus be at the heart of the upsetting unhinge from Nature and a primary source of our planet’s problems?

By now I was in a second graduate school and shifted my emphasis from theology to psychology and gave up on organized religion as a reliable source to address the question of Jesus.

But I had not given up on the quest for the Jesus link. What, I continued to query, did the first sources say about him? And were there any sources that survived the burning at Nicea? If so, what picture did they paint of him? That will be the direction of my next blog.

Meet Me in the Field Beyond Christmas Wars

This whole war on Christmas drama leads me to a paradoxical chuckle. A fair number of Christians feel like left-leaning folk use government regulation to abolish their spiritual interpretation of their religion
Really?
Let me catch my breath here before I get too deeply into the drama. Actually, people who are sensitive to some kind of take-over of the spiritual nature of Christmas have an important point. They are not just blind evangelicals, though larger and more powerful lenses may be needed if stolid Protestant and Catholic evangelicals (and even cultural creatives) are to move to a bigger story. With a larger look we can see the government is not the culprit. Mainstream Western culture commandeered the holy days of emerging winter long before there was a democratic nation.

Besides the government is, as they say, the people. We are the people. The government is simply the servant of the people. The culture– we, the people– have co-created a debacle of the sacred since Constantine made Christianity a state religion. Let’s acknowledge that the dimming of the sacred this time of the year issues from unbridled capitalism, which has created a consumer oriented culture. Couple that with our misinformation about Dec. 25th and you do, indeed, have a conflict. But it is not just unfettered capitalism at work on you in the malls that is the seat of war on the spiritual. The obscuring of meaning goes much deeper.

Look with a larger lens at this important time of the year. If offended Christians are intellectually honest and awake, they will need to admit that Jesus was not born on December 25. Scholars disagree about the exact date but agree he was not born on the day we celebrate. Lacking any scriptural pointers, lst Century Christians suggested dates all over the calendar. Clement of Alexandria, an important early leader, picked November 18. March 28th found credence with some. Luke’s account (Luke 2:7-8) suggests, according to another source, that Jesus may have been born in the summer or early fall since Judea is typically cold and rainy in December. The shepherds would not have been out in the fields tending sheep in December, so says this line of thinking.

Why, then, do Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25th if that date is not even close to the actual birth of Jesus?
A convincing theory suggests that this date was eventually chosen by the church because it aligned closely with a major pagan festival, dies natalis solis invicti (birth of the invincible sun god), thus allowing the church to claim a new celebration for Christianity. As Christianity encountered the nature-based spirituality of indigenous peoples, the institutional church was faced with a pathway deeply connected to the rhythms and cycles of the natural order. The Winter Solstice was celebrated as a time of re-entering the womb of darkness with a view toward rebirth of the miracle of Sunlight. It was a time of slowing down, meditating, and reflecting. Days were spent sitting around the fire telling stories, listening to elders, and enjoying a fluency of a mother tongue profoundly connected to the juicy, flow of life. As tribal people lightened their loads for winter, they also engaged in extravagant give-aways. Their value was not in accumulating but in being generous, as I noted in my Thanksgiving comments.

In order to convert peoples of the forests, the church engaged a strategy of “take-over.” They conquered the indigenous and co-opted their holy days. They built their churches on top of power points. They cut down the sacred trees in ancient Dadona and elsewhere. Now, this is where the paradoxical humor comes in. Time passed. Guilt over wars of Christians on so-called pagans was repressed into the shadows of the cultural unconscious. Then, in recent times, Christians noticed that the sublime of the Winter Solstice had been lost, that someone or something had, indeed, waged war on the deep sacred. Out came the projection of their own guilt over the war they had waged on the indigenous practioners of the Winter Solstice.
Who could the culprit be? It must be the government? Not us! Surely not us! Not me! See, that is the paradoxical humor. The War on Dec. 25th began with the church’s war on the natural spirituality of the indigenous and now the very ones who started a war project that war on the vague screen of the government. Believe me, our government has its serious flaws, but the take-over of Christmas is not one of them. We elect people whose major solution to everything is shopping. If anything, the government defends the holidays literally at all costs.
Enough of my pointing how we got off track. Receive this invitation: I call on all Christians to own this shadow of war-projection. I call on indigenous people to let go of the hurt over the repression of their sublime. May we all heed the call of Rumi, the Sufi poet:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
― Rumi

In our returning to the sacred web of eco-fields, we can eventually consider with respect who this man, Jesus, was, a subject I will take up in future writing.
Hint: he wasn’t who the orthodox right or the liberal left has led us to believe.

The Miracle of Sweat Ceremonies

As an adolescent I discovered the miracle of sweat ceremonies. Beset with the crossfires of testosterone and family upheaval, I found relief, purification, and clarity in improvised sweat ceremonies. Then, as a young adult I embarked on a practice with the Earthtribe that for over thirty years has blessed me and many of you with the privilege of what we loosely call sweat lodges. Over that period of time we have entered these lodges at least once per month, and often more. In my way of thinking this persistent practice over the decades is a profound respect of a variety of traditions. In recent emails several of you have asked me to comment on the origin of sweat ceremonies. Your curiosity peeked my interest. Now, let me speak to the origin of the sweat ceremonies and then to the benefits, even miracles.

A traditional informational source came to me from the lineage of Bear Heart Williams,a Muscogee-Creek shaman and a leader in a council of intertribal medicine people during the last half of the 20th Century.For over a decade I was Bear Heart’s apprentice, and he imparted many enriching stories about the use of intertribal sources of sweat ceremonies.
Since many traditions claim to “own” this ceremony, I have embarked on a research journey to discover some of the original narratives. Here are a few headlines to add to what I have written in other books. Most know that the Lakota tradition as explicated by Black Elk has done a wonderful job of preserving and enhancing the practice in North America, but other tribes have also engaged in this ceremony. Bear Heart held that his people had their own version of the ceremony, just as important as the Lakota. A similar claim is made by some Cherokee people, and others as well. In short, indigenous people of North American have no clear consensus on the ceremony’s origin. No one tribe owns this miraculous ceremony.

No wonder. The ceremony appears to have its origins in prehistory, likely among the Mal’ta people. According to recent research up to 39% of genetic material of Native Americans derives from the Mal’ta strain as revealed in a 17,000 year old skeleton in a discovery near Lake Baikal in Southcentral Siberia. The research proposes that Native Americans carry about 1/3 European genes and 2/3 East Asian.(http://sciencenordi.com/dna-links-native-americans-european)

This discovery speaks indirectly to the wide spread usage of the sweat ceremony across the globe. In addition to Native American forms, the Finnish have their sauna; the Russians still engage their Bania; mystic Islamic people engage in the Cagaloglu hammams; Japanese cleanse in the Mushi-buro; MesoAmericans purify in the Temescal. A Russian shaman wrote about his ceremonial sweats at about the same time the Lakota may have been part of the ancient Mound Builders(9th-12th Centuries CE):

“We all know how man came into being
Man was created when God took a bania and
sweated profusely. After the sweat God
gave man his soul.”

With newer discoveries 21st Century scientists raise many questions about the origin of sweat ceremonies: Were ancient Nordic shaman the progenitors of sweat ceremonies across Europe and Asia? Or were the Mal’ta shaman, hybrids of Europeans and East Asians, the originators some 17,000 years ago? And did they bring the practice to the Americas? Current lodges built by nomadic Siberians are almost exact replicas of the lodges I was taught to build by Bear Heart. It is not likely that these Siberian shaman learned how to build their lodges from any tribe in North America. It is likely that their ceremonies predate North American practices, according to current researchers.

Such may or may not be the case. As many of you know, I am of mixed-blood. I have strongly identified with my indigenous heritage. In that vein I am suspicious of Western Civilization’s probing of indigenous ceremonies, especially since the research tends to support European predispositions. I also understand and have compassion for indigenous peoples who are sensitive to what might be seen as the mainstream’s “stealing” their ceremonies as was the case with their(our) lands.

So, what is a balanced take-away from this brief exploration? The sweat lodge ceremonies likely emerged in a variety of power points around Earth’s landscapes. Thus, sweat ceremonies are are for all peoples and, indeed, emerged from the sacred web of eco-fields to lead humans in a return to the circle of life. This ceremonial practice is a primary portal into our human re-connection with the Living Universe. Our current human situation is too precarious, in my view, for any of us to possess any wisdom perspective that has the potential to heal the rip between humans and the natural landscape.

Bear Heart used to say to me,”The miracle of healing lies in relaxation from the grip of our usual mind.” He taught that states of relaxation constituted a pathway to wholeness. Along that line I have performed research on myself through the years using neuro-feedback equipment to monitor my brain waves. As many of you know, in Western Civilization most of us spend most of our time with Beta brain waves, a wave pattern that ancients engaged only when there was acute danger. Our brains in Beta tell us that we are in danger most of the time with our constant goal-oriented thinking and with a culture obsessed with fear.

I was curious if sweat ceremonies would shift my brain waves from Beta to Alpha, a more relaxed state far from the madding crowd of fears. So, two hours after completing a lodge ceremony, I measured my brain waves with my middle-of-the road equipment. To my great surprise the technology told me that not only were my brain waves shifted from Beta to Alpha but even into a much deeper descent into the Theta state. Neuro-research indicates deep relaxation walks hand-in-hand with Theta waves, which likely reside in the frontal brain.

Such results surprised me, but I was in for an even larger surprise. Over the next 24 hours I typically spent considerable time not only in Alpha, not only in Theta, but also in Delta. Delta waves are usually characteristic of sleep, but here I was walking around and dipping into Delta, at least for a day after the sweat ceremony. Extensive research through the neuro-sciences on meditation speak volumes about the relationship of meditation and health. But even experienced meditators rarely achieve Delta waves in their meditations.

Could it be that these ancient sweat ceremonies as practiced with indigenous peoples around the world offer a gateway into states of consciousness conducive to healing of body/mind/soul? Could it be that Spirit is assisting us to rediscover this practice at this particular hinge in Earth’s story? My anecdotal research suggested so.

I have not extended my informal research into a larger domain with other sweat lodge participants, but I suspect I am not exceptional in these relaxed brain states. In fact, I may be a “hard” case. And, if the relaxed state is a major portal to health and happiness, as much research indicates, then the sweat lodge ceremonies are a context for miracles.

I am interested in any significant breakthroughs you have had in the miracle of sweating. Your sharing in this blog will enhance our understanding.

Ancestors Still Speak

Nelson Mandela is now free to speak in a way that was not possible before his death. Death is just a word that describes a process. Another word is transition. Another, sojourn. Another, extended retreat to the Unseen.
In any case grandfather Nelson is now speaking to us from the ancestral domain. You may have noticed how his influence increased geometrically in the last few days when the mainstream may think of him as no more. Here is what he said to me today, after he “died,” as I make the transition between sleeping and waking on a very cold day in the Hill Country.

“It always seems impossible until it is done!”

I write to you from a cozy, warm room when the temperature outside is 25 degrees, very cold for our locale. At this very moment I am aware of fellow Earthtribers who are on a ranch preparing for a sweat lodge. They drive a distance from their urban environments, brave the cold, build a fire, and crawl on Earth’s fertile surface into a sweat lodge, an inipi, a place of energy, a place of spirits. For about thirty-three years a spiritual community called Earthtribe has engaged in this spiritual practice whether the weather was beautiful, rainy, snowy, hot, or cold. To the mainstream such a practice may seem like a fool’s errand, a gateway to the occult, or, worse,a promotion of a cult. To mainstream culture, any gathering where there is deep connection outside the usual may be labeled a “cult.” That’s silly thinking, and I will address it in a future blog. I don’t want to get sidetracked at the moment.
Back to the “inipi” gathering and its seeming “impossibility.”

From my comfortable perch, the ranch gathering in the cold this morning seems “impossible until it is done.” Today, my friends gather on my behalf, and yours. They brave the challenge on our account. Sometimes, people say to me,”I am so glad there is a group that sweats each month. I feel part of that community. It does me good to know folks persist.” That is my sentiment today. Yet, I know how much work it is. I know the sacrifices they make. I also know the benefits they have. While I benefit from their practice, it is not the same were I actually there. I deceive myself if I dismiss what I am missing.

Next week, we will gather for a second monthly inipi on the land which Judith and I share with other creatures. Already, we carry stones to the sacred circle and lay the first vestiges of a fire as various Earthtribers come by to walk, talk, and help.

So Grandfather Nelson speaks: an impossible practice becomes possible when it is done.
Changing the moving train of climate change seems impossible.
Establishing an economy of generosity seems impossible.
Letting go of anger over oppression seems impossible.
Providing food and health for all seems impossible.
Creating low cost education for those hungry to learn seems impossible.
Redefining ourselves as aspects of Earth seems impossible.

Returning to the circle of life seem, for humans, impossible.

Until we do it.

The Neo-Copernican Revolution

The Copernican Revolution constituted a paradigm shift from a view that saw Earth as stationary and at the center of the universe. This powerful pivot in human thinking began in 1543 in the Western world with Copernicus’ assertion that the Sun not the Earth is the center of the solar system. It was hotly contested for 200 years until Issac Newton brought the revolution into the mainstream with the laws of motion, universal gravitation, and the invention of infinitesimal calculus. Newton’s view jolted humans who had lived with the assumption that the most important point in the universe was their planet and that said universe was steady and fixed. The challenge to human narcissism was underway.
Now, a second wave of this revolution is upon us like a Japanese tsunami. The essence of this Neo-Copernican revolution? We humans are not the apex of the universe, nor even necessarily the most advanced consciousness. We who named ourselves homo sapiens sapiens, doubly wise, have so distanced ourselves from the flow of life with our version of “ western wisdom” that this very process of abstraction and illusory objectivity puts us at the point of destruction, along with countless other species.
It took us humans 200 years to ingest the notion that planet Earth is neither the center of the solar system nor is it fixed. Now, another quantum leap in consciousness beckons, with this new wave of the revolution, we don’t have 200 years. We have only now. This axial moment tells us that we humans are not who we thought we were.
We are not the center of the material world.
We are not over here, and Earth is over there.
We are Earth, or, at least, a tiny aspect of Earth.
We don’t walk on Earth, we are Earth walking.
We do not study Earth; we are Earth studying herself.
We are not here to be stewards of Earth; we are Earth taking care of herself.
We are not merely individuals pursuing life, liberty, and happiness;
We are a communal Earth becoming life, liberty, and happiness.

The implications of this paradigm shift are enormous.

The Return Project

Ours is an Era of the Return.
We live in a transitional 21st century. This chapter in Earth’s narrative tumbles humans headlong from the industrial, to the informational, and to the virtual until, at this very moment, Nature bends back on the spiral and beckons us to return to herself in primal utterances of weather and muted voices of prophets. The narrative of this return is long but not linear.
It is both epistemological and ontological.
It is about a coming home to the essence of our being and our intuitive knowing.
It is about rethinking our Western thinking.
It is about connectivity while embracing individuality.
It is about giving up on capitalism as we know it, but not democracy.
It is about submitting humans to the larger community of life.
It is about hoping that this larger circle of life will accept us back.
It is about becoming part of the land by digging in the soil and sifting through the roots, trying to decide what roots are weeds and what roots are fertile for new gardens.
It is about learning how to be both wild and civilized, like the bees, feral cats , suburban coyotes, and golf course deer.
We will either make this return journey or go the way of species extinction. Questions arise: what fuels the return? Evolutionary Spirit?If so, What forms are dissolving? What forms of coherence are rising?