Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Shaman's Circle--Channelling the Power Within

While working with my dreams, which I do on a daily basis, I noticed that a certain geometrical shape was often showing up. It could be in a hat or a western chandelier or in any variety of objects. I didn’t notice the reoccurrence of this shape until one day as I was writing out the description of an object I was inwardly prompted to draw it out----seems silly—but I couldn’t dodge the feeling---so ok—I’ll draw it:

Oh!!—instant epiphany---circular, oval like forms were surfacing from my inner realms and manifesting themselves in my dream images. The emotional charge of these dreams was always one of wholeness or completeness—perhaps my son’s flippant, adolescent friend was correct when he labeled me a “master of the obvious”—but, hey isn’t that why revelations are so cool?

Carl Jung discovered that when folks produced sketches of their inner worlds they were drawn to use the circular form of the mandala.

He found this to be a world wide phenomenon, independent of a person’s ethnic, cultural or religious heritage. From all walks of life, people drew the famous circle and sketched within its confines various pairs of opposites to depict the dynamics of their interior experience.


Here’s my answer or at least the beginning of one. All life has a powerful impulse towards growth and development. The seed must pop out of the soil, the sperm has to haul ass to find the egg. I haven’t seen any footage of a lazy sperm dawdling about or drifting around in directionless loop de loops, just mucking around with nothing better to do. No, it must unite, it must grow, and it must become everything that it can become. Some are not as fast or as strong as others but they all try. Continual development is a force of life from the tiniest microbe to the swirl of the galaxies. The human organism and the rampaging forces of our own psyches are not an exception to this axiom of nature.

Yet, for all the charge that empowers this lust for expansive life, all is wasted unless it is channelled for a specific purpose. These forces must be contained within certain perimeters for the magic to happen. For this reason, it is a common practice for shamans to draw a circle around the person they intend to heal. The torrent of nature’s creativity is soon dissipated unless we encircle these energies through the consciousness of specific intention.

Whatcha want to do
With all that
Which is flowing through you?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What We Do on Saturday Afternoons: More Visionary Glimpses Beyond the Veil

This is a tale of perception, initially glimpsed in an altered state. It doesn’t matter much which one; meditation, entheogen, dream vision or garden variety epiphany, the point is that all of these various means give us a portal from which to view life from a different angle. This particular day the experience was triggered by a technique called holotropic breath work which joins a simple breathing technique with provocative music. It was developed by the visionary pioneer, Stanislav Grof sometime in the early 70’s while he was director of the famed Esalen institute. Like all such attempts at chronicling living experience, words can only give a shallow hint to the wonder of the actual moment but I’m giving it a try in the hopes that it will encourage others to pursue these dimensions.

Anyway………..As the journey began, I was wandering down a dirt path surrounded by thick jungle type growth. A fellow appeared in front of me appareled as a South American native might have been before the invasion of Columbus; bare chested, shells around his neck, one bright red feather in his long hair. He turned to me as he quickly backsteped the path, mischievously crooked his finger and beckoned me to follow.

He led me into a clearing that was ablaze with a huge celebratory bonfire, encircled by others of our tribe. There was much singing and dancing and it was there that I made some sort of experiential leap from my consciousness into that of the guide. We became fused as one and instantly I understood that the guide was within. Quickly, with some kind of swirling motion the entire tribe was born aloft and we began flying across the breadth of the globe in a fleet of cosmic canoe-like crafts. We veered in and out of local scenes and some how drab situations became charged with living color as we passed through, the populace immediately brightened. “What was that” I inquired of my guide. “Oh, that’s HOPE” was his reply. I was awestruck and wept profusely at the beauty of this inner world. “What is this? What are we doing”, I stammered as the marvelous excursion continued. “Ah, this is what we do on Saturday afternoons” was his impish response (the voice of the guide was shifting into something more like the Irish brogue of Father O’Brien at this point :>). I went on and on blabbering out my appreciation of having a glimpse into these wonders. “You come here all the time”, he said, “You just don’t usually remember it.”

It was around this point that we came to the scene that I would like to make the main focus of this piece. Off in the distance, something ominous was approaching. Dark clouds were on the horizon and I instinctively knew we were coming up to some type of major battle. Remembering a rule I’ve made for myself in altered states I announced, “I’m not going to kill anything, I’m not going to stab anything, I even refuse to make any belligerent like motions, I’m just not going to do that”. The guide was reassuring, “It’s going to be ok, don’t worry, you’ll see, it’s going to be all right”. “I just want you to know upfront”, I continued, “I’m not participating in anything war like”. As the scene approached, I continued my remonstrance and sure enough as we came over the hill there was a dreadful battle occurring in the valley. However, and this is the KEY POINT, when I viewed the battlefield it became for me something like a scene acted out in an opera. Deadly weapons were turned into harmless theatrical props bandied about by playful actors on a stage.

“Can you do this?” was my guide’s inquiry. He was bringing home the point that our experience is created by our own perceptions, intentions and expectations. The same scene has many levels of possible experience, just as dreams or waking experiences have many levels of interpretation. The exact same stimuli can evoke in one person a sense of heaven and in another the horrors of hell. How this happens is a major concept too large to tackle in this little blog but my suggestion is that we begin to examine two aspects of our world view; #1 what in our personal history predisposes us to encounter new experiences from a certain mindset, #2 in which direction do we ultimately want to steer our lives. If we make the commitment to know the truth of where we are coming from (hint-this has a lot to do with our fears) we can more freely choose to head toward the light.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

U.S. as us

After sixty years of yakking about health care it pretty much comes down to how you feel about government in general. Is government an “it”, a “they” or an “us”? The healthiest worldview seems to lobby for us to view all of these agencies as an “us”; you know taking ownership, not being a victim and all those empowerment notions. Aren’t there problems we can handle better collectively than individually? For instance should the government be involved with supplying fresh water and sanitation services? We could say, “Hell no,that's socialism, let everyman be responsible and drill his own well and build his own out-house” giving “Drill baby drill” a second fifteen seconds of fame or we could work together as a group via government and provide for universal access to fresh water and dung disposal. Hmmmmmmm, such an ideological conundrum.

The government already works for our greater good in many areas such as public education from K through PhDs (although when thousands turn up on the Capitol lawn worried about death panels and the Prez’s Kenyan connection you have to wonder if the system is failing us somehow). We have a massive transportation system in place that links our sprawling land by air, rail (sort of) and roadway. We could have a system of toll roads and Delta could build its own freaking airports but better heads have prevailed and WE worked together for the greater good. We even enjoy insuring our own savings and we’re glad when we can purchase a home or send our kids to college with a little help from ourselves. Do you think any of our stellar health care professionals might have gone to a public university or were enabled by a Pell grant? Would our parents be better off without Social Security or Medicare? Last September when the world economic system was ready to implode WE infused ourselves with our own credit and averted another Great Depression. Would your 401K be in better shape today if WE had done nothing?

None of these things are free. We pay for them through taxes and fees. No one is advocating a free lunch for anyone except for those who are obviously incapable of providing for their own most basic needs. What the health care public option does is to create a framework were all Americans can pool their resources and buying power to enable US to buy into a health insurance program on a competitive basis. Does that sound like some kind of Satanic, Communistic, Socialistic, Nazi loving, gun grabbing, Bible burning, grandma snuffing conspiracy? I think not. It’s just US, trying to make life a little better for us all.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Experience with Toxic Religion

What Went Wrong at Peniel?

I would like to thank whoever posted the talk, “The Peniel Vision” ( by Ed Miller. It is good to have this man’s teaching available because although he makes many fine points his ministry ultimately became a destructive cult. For this reason, I think it is important to examine the causes of this all too common phenomenon.

My family and I spent over ten years in Ed Miller's church located near Atlanta Georgia, spanning the period from the mid 1980’s to the mid 1990’s. I think all seven of us would agree that our years spent there were very detrimental to our personal growth and mental health. What developed there, in my opinion, is a true example of toxic faith. This is the opinion of many former Peniel members. I know one young man who spent several years in therapy trying to undo his time at the church.

First off, let me say that I very much agree with Ed Miller that any true “knowing” of the Divine must be experiential. That is his core teaching and I have no doubt that he came to this knowledge by encounters with the Divine. I think this is a very beneficial foundation concerning a spiritual life and I appreciate his emphasis on experiential knowing. However, we must also realize that no matter how genuine anyone’s experiences are a structure will be built upon them to create a worldview from which we encounter life. Such mental structures are the basis for religion. Religious frameworks help us to interpret our experiences and guide us in our real world choices. It is in the religion created by the Millers that the danger lays.

The religion espoused by the Millers was both exclusionary and domineering. Only certain individuals ever “got it”. Rather, than seeing every individual as containing the light of God and nurturing their flock to develop the light within, the Miller’s taught that only a few select individuals would ever have divine revelation. Those were the special few just as their own congregation was depicted as the only one in many thousands that really knew the will of God. The Miller’s thought of other ministries as mere children compared to their advanced state of spiritual development. Such hubris is often the harbringer of a forthcoming fatal crash.

In deed, their own parishioners were thought of as children. As the church members accepted the demotion from adulthood to childhood they abdicated their personal responsibility and yielded their authority in the normal affairs of life. The parishioners called Ed “Papi” and ran to him for his input on the most mundane decisions concerning daily life. The pentultimate consequence of such meddling was witnessed in the Miller’s penchant for arranging marriages which often ended in disaster.

When a person chooses to ignore their own gift of humanity and instead feels they can only be completed or “saved” by having a special experience outside of themselves, they lay themselves open to be dominated by others who seem to be facilitating such experiences. This is the danger of a place like Peniel. Over the years I watched as many fellow church members desperately struggled in vain to be included in the club.

This doctrine of inclusion of only a select few has both ecclesiastical and social implications. The church was an oligarchy run by Ed and his eldest son Robert. No one who stayed in the church questioned their authority in anything from theology to carpentry until the entire sham was exposed due to their obvious personal misconduct. The social structure of the community mapped the Miller’s “chosen few” theology. They deliberately created a pyramid type of society with their families at the top, followed by a tier reserved for a few special ones determined by talent or wealth. The unwashed masses made up the base, serving the higher ups with labor, tithes and attention.

As is often the case, such unnatural structures can only be maintained by fear. At Peniel there was a pervasive fear of not being included in the society the Miller’s created or in having a genuine (as defined by the Millers) experience of God. Although Ed conceded that most would make it to heaven, he exhorted that failing to enter the higher realms, (as described by him) would lead to their works being destroyed. Fear of course is the great paralyzer of development and is the hallmark of all cults. Accepting such doctrines greatly limits one’s own ambition to develop their own unique talents and gifts. In deed, in part three of the talk entitled, “The Peniel Vision” 9:24-9:42, Ed describes how disheartened he and Robert were when members concerned themselves with academic degrees and advanced positions in the “world”. Interestingly, Ed liked to use the title, “Dr.” in front of his own name.

My time at Peniel has taught me that I do not need any man’s aid to come in contact with the Divine Life that is within us all. Trust the Life that is within you. You need no one else to explore that which is within. Any worthy guide will tell you this truth and lovingly encourage you to discover that you have been included since the worlds were formed. To live in any other way is a disservice both to yourself and to your community.