Learning Some Weird Vocabulary

As you might have guessed it is raining here a little, I am now just shy of halfway through “Le Chamanisme” by Eliade. Because he is dealing with, inter alia, Siberian shamanism, I am starting to pick up some rather weird vocabulary concerning bones, dead spirits and the prevalent fauna on the Steppes. I can interpolate most of the words from context, but I do have to look things up. Seems to me learning by interpolation is perhaps a more natural way of learning a language than rote. I did not know that the rite of initiation for some Caribbean shamans involved having chillies, scotch bonnet chillies, rubbed in the eyes. We found some of these from French Guyana in the local supermarket and they are super-volcanic-plus-plus. It is a wonder the would-be shamans were not blinded.

This morning I was struck by a sub-heading in the Guardian:

“If I wasn’t autistic, would my encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs be a problem?”

{Their spelling}

I commented to the wife that at one stage I knew not only the normal names, but the Latin names, record weights and habits of all the fish of the British Isles both in fresh and salt water. There are other things that I am like dry blotting paper for.

“If I wasn’t autistic, would my encyclopaedic knowledge of molecular spectroscopy be a problem?”

Anything out of the ordinary is seen to be freakish.

“Is my encyclopaedic knowledge of football results and league table positions normal or a tad autistic?”

Who defines what is normal and what is freaky?

I have just ordered from Congo, the new online bookstore, a copy of the I Ching in French. Already I can see some different nuances in the meanings. Maybe next is:

“I Ging. Das Buch der Wandlungen – von Richard Wilhelm”

That should keep me busy till I pop my clogs.

Types of Initiation

At the moment I am reading “Le Chamanisme” by Mercea Eliade. It is slow progress because my French is not as good as my English. In this he writes about the selection and initiation of shamans across a wide range of cultures. He notes that the proto shaman often has a bad illness which causes him/her to take up the profession. The proto shaman is initiated into the ranks by a variety of grisly methods either by another shaman, the spirits or the Gods. These rituals include dismemberment, removal of bodily organs and the inserting of various crystals. The shaman dies and is reborn with new organs and limbs. So far, he hasn’t commented on whether this is actual or metaphorical. The insertion of crystals is actual amongst Australian aborigines. The proto shaman is taught the trade.

There is a rite of passage in which he enters the craft of shamanism.

The aboriginal shaman is called a man of high degree.

I have read that freemasonry has its various degrees and rites, of which I know very little.

I have participated in a number of rituals at The Royal Albert Hall, dressed in an academic costume at which a swathe of undergraduates is admitted into the degree of bachelor or master. I have signed the document granting a ~hundred people either a B.Sc. or M.Chem. I have partaken of viva voce oral examinations in which together with another we recommend the awarding of a Ph.D. There is no actual disembowelment, but the brain is given something of a workout. A Ph.D. means that you are qualified to do research on your own, it does not say if you will be any good at it. There is a whole lot more to learn after this degree.

There is ceremonial magic in the academic rite of passage. The academics are led on stage by someone carrying a rod of office. It is all a bit seventh ray.

Once qualified people can become a member or a fellow of a learned society. I myself was once a member of The Royal Society of Chemistry and The Institute of Physics.

Yesterday evening I put up the various degree in the Toltec Tradition as per Theun Mares. The blue books talk about nine planetary initiations two of them being threshold and the third being the first initiation proper, the Transfiguration.  In the scheme the initiation is given after the necessary work has been undertaken and the rod of initiation starts, initiates, the next phase of the journey. There is ritual magic involved. Speculating a little the Transfiguration is the culmination of the Warrior’s path and specifically the Path of Freedom. One becomes free of the clutches of the darkened paths. The third initiation precipitates the fourth.

In the blue book schema at the fourth initiation the causal vehicle is ruptured, and the being no longer is required to incarnate, the causal vehicle is blown off, nirvana. But there are still five possible initiations to be undertaken in this planetary scheme. At the fifth initiation the being becomes a master of wisdom and if I understand it correctly writes a kind of thesis so as to “crystalize” the knowledge and wisdom acquired. The initiations are not on the physical plane as per your common or garden degree ceremony.

Initiation and rites of passage are pretty common, from your tribal shaman to your freemason, to your modern university and the inner plans subjective initiations.

Vision Quest – Stalking the Dream

In some traditions as a male reaches his maturity, he is encouraged to go on a vision quest either with or without hallucinogenic assistance. The idea being that he heads off into the wilderness with the intent of seeking a vision about the nature of his purpose or role in life. In humility he beseeches the great universal spirit Wakan Tanka to furnish him with a vision. He must be fully open and adopt the right attitude. He is not “allowed” to return to his tribe until he has been given this bounty. Impatience and frustration prevent the vision. Sometimes he has to have very harsh experiences before the vision is granted. Other times it is much more straight forward.

In the late nineties I engaged in a course of North American Indian based Shamanics and we used to have overnight stays here at Cuffley Camp. {It has been enhanced by a long way since we were there.}

I never used to sleep. I used to stay up all night and keep the fire burning. The woods, the forest can be a tad creepy in the middle of the night. On the Saturday we would do various activities, then have a barbecue and a fire, on one Sunday I went on a vision quest in the woods and then on Monday I taught chemistry at uni..

Obvs, it wasn’t a deep vision quest in the sense of a rite of passage. The idea being, and this is related to the fifth aspect of the stalker’s rule previous, that if you open yourself up to the universe it will offer assistance and guidance. Moreover, if you are in an altered state of consciousness due to shamanic drumming you might be a little more susceptible. The drumming produces a state of ecstasy as per Eliade. It shifts the boundaries of the assembled world view. No need for drugs, drumming suffices.

The key is to let go and not force anything also have not one single expectation. Your mind and heart must be open like a proffered open palm of hand.

I have quite literally sat in the arms of a tree and waited for guidance.

The dream is all around you. The dream is not the socio-political “reality” of your day-to-day life. The dream is imbued with dreaming symbols.  Because my mind is calm, and I now walk slowly I have more animal encounters than most.  And these animals can be interpreted as dreaming symbols, just like one may try to interpret a nocturnal dream.

I can relatively easily shift into what is called left-side awareness or the dreaming awareness. On a number of occasions, I have gone “walkies” without a map largely in heightened awareness. I have explored places like Kinder Scout, the Old Man of Coniston. I once followed some crows up Coniston into the mist when It was descending and covered with snow. Nobody else was foolish enough to be out. I got further and further into the mists, confident that I could follow my tracks in the snow back. And then I bottled and headed back down. Two things might have happened that day. I could have been granted a vision or I could have died.

Because I can see, at the moment, no clear way forward I will invoke the fifth aspect of the stalker’s rule to see if the universe wishes to offer me any assistance or not.

“Whenever faced with impossible odds, a warrior opens himself up to the world around him by allowing his mind to become occupied with the little details of life.”

I’ll let you know what if anything transpires.