I feel clear water splashing on me, and wake up. I realise its ice-cold Shakti pouring from my third eye onto my face. I see the Tiger and small birds fly up into the air. A voice says, ‘Only one who can define themselves, then let go, can fly with the shaman’.
We live in an illusion but it is sacred and what we do here matters. Through my music I was very fortunate to connect with Josephine Fire Lame Deer. Like me, Josephine is a little between-worlds, in that she was raised Lakota Sioux but with a Scottish mother. I was honoured that she gifted a copy of my clairseach CD (Cumha), to her mother as a birthday present. Josephine has inherited a formidable spiritual lineage, being the daughter of Archie Fire Lame Deer and the granddaughter of John Fire Lame Deer. It is clear to me that the wisdom of these great medicine men continues to flow strongly out into the world through this medicine woman. I love the way Josephine expresses the ideal way in which we should live. She says,
‘It is not what ceremonies you have, but that you pray…it is not what species you are but that you respect ALL your relations, rooted and skinned alike…it is not who your ancestors were but how you conduct yourself in this lifetime.’
In a dream/vision, I found myself at the source of a river and ahead of me I could see the kundalini serpent swimming through it. I observed that in the distance, the river turned in its course and flowed back towards me. I understood that I was responsible for maintaining the purity of this source, that what I allowed to flow from me, into this river of consciousness, not only flowed out into the world but also returned to me. This is why it is so important to always strive towards higher consciousness, even though this may seem very difficult at times. How we conduct ourselves in this lifetime, is of course affected by the main aspect of the illusion, that of separation. This is reinforced by the values of western society and in turn leads to cumha. As a professional musician on the road I have on occasion been witness to the sadness of cumha in others. I remember once playing in a small French village. There was a little fair on the village green and a marquee had been erected for the concert. There was a very strange and sad atmosphere in this place. Sitting alone on a bench on the edge of the green, away from where everything was happening was a hugely obese woman. She sat like this for several hours before the concert, talking to no one and no one talking to her. When we started playing everyone sat on chairs around the edge of the dance floor, no one came close to the stage, no one danced, no one talked or smiled. I sensed that they yearned to do all these things but something just held them back. One woman in her mid-thirties danced all night, but she would not come into the marquee, she danced alone in the entrance, between worlds. Then I noticed the obese woman, sitting at the side. She couldn’t dance, I think she could barely walk but her head moved from side to side with the music and she was smiling, cumha-less, for a moment. An old man sat immobile all night until near the end we played Country Roads by John Denver. Then he was up like a shot, dancing passionately with a vigour that belied his years. After Country Roads he sat down again but at least for a few minutes he too had broken through his cumha.
Shakti through her power of Maya tricks us into forgetting we are One. Yogic tradition teaches that the human being is like a series of sheaths or like the Russian dolls that fit into each other. At the centre of our being is a tiny fragment of Spirit and surrounding this is the soul. Surrounding the soul is the mind and surrounding the mind is the body. The body is essentially a means for gathering information. My friend the Sanskrit scholar Susan Ferguson describes the body as a data-collecting vehicle. It relays data back to the soul for Spirit to experience. This is done via the five senses, which are the tools of Maya, the five serpents that bind us in their coils. If the line of communication were just body, direct to soul, there would be no confusion as to our true nature. The ‘problem’ lies in the fact that between the body and the soul is the mind. The mind is really a tool for interpreting the data brought in via the five senses but what happens is that the experiences brought in are so sensual, so overwhelming that the soul begins to identify outward towards the mind instead of inwards towards Spirit. Eventually the soul thinks it IS the mind. A good analogy is that of NASA sending out a probe to the Moon, Mars or deep space. The probe (body) collects data (five sense experience), which is interpreted and converted into images by a computer (the mind) and displayed on a screen. Imagine then that the person in NASA begins to identify so much with what they see on the screen that they forget who they are. We might consider them at best deluded, at worst mad but this is exactly what happens to us! This is why meditation is essential for those that want to take the journey home because meditation weakens the soul-mind connection and strengthens the soul-Spirit connection.
There are those who say the illusion is only an experience but the spiritual messages given to me do not support this. So many times in dreams I find myself in classrooms or colleges and other educational establishments. I sense we are in school and will remain so until our desire to graduate aligns us with the frequency of Love. It might be unnerving to some, but I also sense strongly that we are closely observed. In altered states of consciousness I have been purposely shown spiritual machines like cameras or drones following me around as if to say, we are watching, don’t say you didn’t know. In a dream I turned my Sami drum around to find the front had become a peacock with its tail fully opened, there are a lot of eyes in a peacock’s tail! In a winter solstice vision I looked out of a window in my house to see the Tiger walking in the field. As I walked through the house, the Tiger was at every window looking in at me, nothing was hidden from the eyes of this Tiger. Ultimately of course, this is the One soul, in a myriad of forms, observing itself in myriad forms. Not only is nothing hidden but also everything we do is recorded. Once I journeyed to the place known as the Akashic Records, it was a limitless library with endless bookshelves. Quite quickly I found my own book, on the spine I saw my name, followed by a long series of numbers, all this was written in golden light. What was really interesting was that the numbers were constantly changing at tremendous speed; it wasn’t a countdown, they were ascending and descending. I understood that the story of my book was being recalculated and re-written with my every thought, word and action and that I was entirely responsible for the potential outcome.
There are two interlinking paths of consciousness described in this narrative, the path of kundalini awakening via the self-initiation of yoga and the shamanic path of consciousness via initiation by spirits. I related earlier my vision of the Vertical Pillar of Light, intersected by the Rainbow Bridge. The Vertical Pillar of Light as the kundalini awakened spine is the natural yogic impulse within the individual to reach towards higher consciousness and oneness. The Rainbow Bridge I see as the shamanic aspect, the DNA, stretching out into the world, bringing higher consciousness down here and integrating it into the experience, Earthing it. Our spiritual experiences of higher consciousness and oneness are essentially meaningless if not integrated here. There are spiritual teachers out there, great ‘masters’ making a lot of money telling people, do not worry, everything is as it should be. They will tell you it’s all illusion, of no importance, that there is no work to do, you already are what you seek. Well this kind of enlightenment is of no use to the world; higher consciousness must transform us into beings that actually care in a practical way. There is as much wisdom in Black Elk Speaks as there is in the Bhagavad Gita. The great Eastern teachings are like the Vertical Pillar of Light in my vision, a highway to higher consciousness but there is a danger of leaving Mother Earth behind. Indigenous wisdom traditions are like the Rainbow Bridge, spanning the Vertical Pillar of Light bringing higher consciousness back down into unification with nature. The shamanic path of consciousness reveals the Spirit that moves through all things. The yogic path of consciousness reveals that you ARE the Spirit that moves through all things. Although the various spiritual paths may sometimes seem to contradict each other, the various truths they profess often make sense when superimposed upon one another like the three shamanic worlds. Mongolian shamanic souls oscillating through holes in a central axis, Indian nadis criss-crossing sushumna, double helix DNA serpents, snake-like vines climbing tree/spines. There are many tributaries of truth running into the World River and we are tributaries to the river ourselves which runs both from and to us. The shamanic teachings of the directions and the gol reveal that we are always at the centre of all this. Black Elk said,
‘The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the centre of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka , and that this centre is really everywhere, it is within each of us.’ 38
Another aspect of the illusion is that the majority of us only ever consciously experience one reality, we live with a conviction that the material world of everyday existence is all there is. Michael Harner, an anthropologist and the founder of Core Shamanism coined the term Ordinary Reality to describe this state. The additional states of consciousness experienced by shamans, he calls, Non-Ordinary Reality. There are multiple layers of Non-Ordinary Realities as was revealed to me in a complex dream sequence. I found myself in a room in which there was a small box. A room is, in a sense, also a box, so, a box within a box. I was told to look through a hole in the box. Looking inside, I saw a strange but beautiful being, humanoid but not human. I watched as this being moved with incredible poise and grace in a whole different universe, contained within the box. Then I left the room and I was looking at a round table in the middle of an ocean. Sitting at the table was another strange humanoid, it looked both futuristic but also like a wild-man, it had something of the Almas about it. It said, here, we answer the big questions. It then reached into the ocean and pulled out a human skull. As it did this, I was aware of being both above and below the water simultaneously, I saw the hand entering the ocean from the top but was also the witness to it plunging through the surface from below. Once again the scene changed and I was looking at the entrance to a tunnel cut through the rock on the side of a mountain. In the tunnel were two strange beings of yet another kind. They were humanoid in shape but what was un-nerving about them was that they were made of darkness. They seemed one-dimensional, like silhouettes, it looked as if their shapes had been cut out of the canvas of ordinary reality with a craft knife, revealing a blackness so deep, it could swallow you. Then, moving with lightening speed, the two beings passed through the wall of the tunnel and disappeared. Although I was scared, I felt I was supposed to go after them and I found a door in the rock and entered into a small room. Here, there were cupboards, wardrobes and chests of drawers. I began to open doors and rummage through the contents, expecting any moment that one of the shadow beings would leap out at me, but this did not happen. Instead, I heard a soft female voice say, did you really think we would ever let any harm come to you? At this moment I shifted from being in the room to looking through a round portal, watching myself, still in the room. From this I understood that my consciousness exists at various different levels, that simultaneously I am both observer and observed and that I am loved.
The majority of the experiences I share here have been joyful but that is not to say that everything has been easy. Some of the kundalini phenomena have been rather scary both psychologically and physically and I thought I was dying in two of my ayahuasca ceremonies. The dredging up of the really deep dark stuff within us can also bring disturbing manifestations. For a time maggots kept appearing in my dreams, everything would seem normal until I would notice hundreds of them crawling on the floor and furniture. In one dream a couple came to see my house. In dreams the house often represents you, and the state of your subconscious. They said they were from the parsonage, which is a house for the clergy and therefore symbolizing a holy place. They looked around and said my house was very nice but there was a problem and they looked to a corner of the room. I followed their gaze and saw a bowl on the floor, it was red with white spots, like an amanita muscaria mushroom. I looked in the bowl and saw it contained some maggots, so I took it outside and emptied the maggots into the earth. Maggots are of course the start of the life cycle of the housefly which brought me the disturbing realization that this was only the beginning of something. Sure enough about a month later the houseflies came in dreams and I realized this was about a repetitive, cyclic behaviour that I had to stop repeating. It certainly didn’t feel nice to know that I had something inside me that maggots and flies could feed from, in my otherwise clean house.
Other times, the knowledge that comes to me may simply make me sad. I might for instance be shown the outcome of a situation involving a person but know there is nothing I can do to change it, that it must run its course. One incident that upset me was discovering how distraught our dog Duncan was the first time we had to leave him. He was at home with his cat-friends and a person he knew was staying in the house to look after him, but he was still deeply affected. While I was away he came to me in a vision, he was so happy to see me but on his spine, at the location of the heart chakra was a deep wound. It was red and open as if someone had hacked at his heart with an axe. After this I would always tell him when I was going somewhere and when I was coming back. There was another upsetting time, when a fox systematically took one of our ducks every day. I don’t resent the fox having the odd duck or chicken but not all of them! I was away from home and during the night I found myself in an altered state of consciousness back in my garden. The spirits of the ducks were running in confusion and panic. The fox was there with a duck in his mouth, I fought with the fox and freed the duck but it was too late. The fox then began to bite my hand repeatedly as the spirit animals so often do and then all of a sudden he let me put a leash on him and we were friends. I was very happy to have the fox as a spirit ally but the memory of the distress of my poor ducks has remained with me. The next day Michèle rang me up to say the last two ducks were gone, but of course I knew this already, because I was there. Then, there can be a certain feeling of loneliness also, as the kundalini process is so intensely personal and internalized, you cannot prove what you are going through and over time you learn that talking about it is not always for the best.
Indigenous peoples are rightly protective of their own words and spiritual traditions and are sometimes critical of westerners calling themselves shamans. Yet it is also true that the phenomena of kundalini awakening and shamanic awakening are universal, we are all human beings with equal spiritual potential. The difference is that indigenous people have retained knowledge and respect for these processes whereas in the west knowledge has been suppressed, lost and ridiculed. A person in a tribal situation experiencing the phenomena described here would likely be sent to the shaman and would most probably be recognised as one with shamanic potential and enter into training. In India, a kundalini awakening would be acknowledged as a great blessing. Once I saw an Indian man performing pranayama in a park. We got talking and when I mentioned my kundalini awakening, he bent down and kissed my hands. I felt like crying, as the response of this beautiful yogi was so different to that of anyone else I had shared with.
The west has no such structure to support the person in these processes. Talking to a doctor will result in heavy medication at best, incarceration at worst. The other choice is to find a spiritual teacher. This is in itself a minefield peppered with well meaning people who are misguided and not ready to be teachers to full-on predatory conmen out for sex, power and money. The main difference therefore lies in the support system and structure provided by millennia of tradition for the potential indigenous shaman as opposed to a society that regards the process as simply impossible and an indicator of madness. It is the initiations by Spirit that make a shaman not initiations by humans. The human initiations act as a support to the spiritual ones within specific cultural parameters. In my own experience I have found that in the absence of human initiations the spirits will perform something very similar in Non-Ordinary Reality. For example, there is an initiation of Mongolian shamans where they merge with the spirits and climb trees. Once I found myself standing halfway up a hill, at the top, emerging out of thin air was a great body of water which flowed powerfully past me. I stood by calmly watching and found I was standing next to a tree. Then the spirits merged with me and I found myself climbing up and down the tree repeatedly and rapidly with great ease. I realised this was the World Tree and flowing by, was the World River. This experience closely mirrors that of the Mongolian shamans and was undoubtedly an initiation.
Although I have the utmost respect for the ancient lineages, there were at some point the first shamans, the ones with no teachers, the ones finding their way alone through the great conversation with the universe. The newly awakening western shamans are finding themselves in this position. As Josephine Fire Lame Deer says,
‘those with the spiritual strength to walk in ceremony-way but with no teachers from childhood, must find their own way with the help of the spirits.’
Often, inside indigenous cultures ‘shaman’ or its equivalent is a title bestowed on the person by a community that recognises what they are. Outside of these cultural parameters it’s just a word but I would argue it’s a word we need to use because it’s highly unlikely that western society is going to start awarding this title. The community in which I live, doesn’t know what a shaman is, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t want one! Rather than the title I prefer to use the word shaman to describe a specific spiritual condition. This is a condition that may result in one that is not only a technician of the sacred but also a spiritual ecologist, one who through direct experience can articulate the intelligence of nature and the importance of maintaining balance. Siberian shamans talk of ‘ongon hirbee daida’, the sacred land, a phrase acknowledging that,
‘…the land is sacred because it is inhabited by the spirits of the ancestors and the nature spirits who protect and maintain the ecology of the natural world.’ 39
Traditional peoples have followed this way of spiritual ecology for thousands of years and have managed to live harmoniously in the world with little or no detrimental impact. The main problems affecting the world today are the product of western culture and change must come from within that culture if we are to return to any form of balanced state on this planet. This is why shamanic people are appearing in the west. Perhaps they will act like a spiritual virus destroying the system from within. In his book, ‘Shamans Through Time-500 Years on the Path to Knowledge’, Jeremy Narby points out that there has been, ‘…a great flowering of neo-shamanism…these neo-shamans have barely been studied.’ This is an important point and I suspect that if such a study were to be undertaken it might be discovered that some of these new western shamans have undergone spiritual awakening phenomena that bear a great similarity to traditional models.
The new western shamanism needs to offer a balanced alternative to counteract both the extremes of religious fundamentalism and the rise of fundamentalist atheism. A true spiritual awakening automatically changes the way the individual acts in the world. We consider in a different way, how we earn our living, where our food comes from, how our actions affect our community and the planet. It cannot be denied that within some traditional shamanisms there are practices designed to cause harm to other beings. Clearly this type of shamanism is not what she should aspire to in seeking a better world. I feel we need a shamanism, where the highest enlightening principles, combine with earth-based spirituality. This, in combination with movements like permaculture and deep ecology, creates a powerful, practical spirituality.
Although in some traditional societies the shaman receives payment, I do not think this a model that modern western shamans should follow. It is only right to pay for crafted shamanic tools like drums and rattles, or to be taught techniques of yoga and meditation, this is a tangible exchange. However, the proliferation of courses, clients, and price-lists for intangible spiritual services, is something that personally I am uncomfortable with. Whilst there are of course some genuine people out there, much of what is being sold as shamanism today, is little more than psychology with a veneer of spirituality. I know that this point of view will make me unpopular with many but charging for the intangible is really no different to the mediaeval church charging for indulgences. In thirteenth century France, Catharism emerged as a real threat to the church simply by returning to a pure form of Christianity and embodying an ideal of the original apostolic life. This included equal status for women in religious life and living in spiritual poverty. That they were in alignment with a greater truth is evidenced by the fact that the church instigated a crusade against them lasting forty years that was so barbaric it became the first genocide in Europe. Better to be like the Cathars than the church, I think. Many people do like to give something in order to receive and I have no issue with this. I have for example, been gifted magic mushrooms in honey and handmade shamanic objects in exchange for my time and this sits well with me. However, there seems to me, to be a sort of dark magic in the energy of actual money, worry of its lack lurks as fear, at the back of so many minds, and commercialisation of the sacred only serves to consolidate its hold.
In France the traditional healers are called guérisseur and there are two in my village. They are not shamans but copeurs de feu, meaning they can ‘cut’ fire. They can take away the pain from burns and skin diseases and do not even have to be physically present to effect the healing. Often the nurses from the hospital will call, unofficially, and simply give the name of a burn patient. Usually, within twenty minutes, the pain is gone. They also effectively treat cancer patients that have suffered burns through chemotherapy. These two women are actually the local hairdressers and elderly people from the old folks home come to get their hair done and any skin problems cured as a matter of course. They refuse to accept a penny for any healings, they earn a living by cutting hair. Having experienced what I have, I would not dare consider charging money for that which was gifted freely. How can we place monetary value on the soul?
Although there is great emphasis on the role of the shaman as a healer, some are primarily mystical visionaries and dreamers, those that can receive, interpret and pass on the great loving dream of the universe to those simply willing to listen. For my own part I fall primarily into this latter category and do not consider myself in any way a healer in the sense of a curandero for example. If someone asks me to drum for them, I will of course oblige, but the healing may come in ways that the person may not expect. Once a young woman to whom I’d taught some kundalini yoga meditation requested a healing session and so I drummed for her. She enjoyed it and felt a sense of well-being but nothing extraordinary. That night however I received a very big dream for her. I saw the woman and her boyfriend standing in a bathroom, symbolic of a place of purification. He is a gardener with a very deep connection to the earth, in the dream he was dressed as a shaman. The woman was holding a shoulder bag and there were two chrysalis stuck to it, one for each person. In front of them a giant dragonfly spanned the length of the room. The dragonfly lives the first part of its life underwater before emerging above into its true magnificence and is therefore a powerful symbol of transformation. This woman has very strong bhakti and from the dream I could tell her that, within the bag, she had all the tools needed for her own great transformation, everything was within her and ready. In Mongolian shamanism there is a word, ‘butar’, which means cocoon. They use this to describe a person that has the potential to become a shaman but is not answering the call. They have cocooned themselves and are not surrendering to the beautiful possibilities offered to them. That her boyfriend was dressed in shamanic costume told me the second chrysalis was for him and that he had the potential to become a shaman but did not realise this. They were delighted to receive this information as they were setting off to start a new life with all the uncertainty that entails. The dream was the real healing from the drumming, but how can you charge for a dream?
Yoga also, has not been immune to commercialisation, in fact yoga is big business. More often than not it is reduced to being nothing more than a glorified keep-fit regime, its original purpose of union with the Divine through the awakening of kundalini, forgotten. Kundalini yoga is very popular, with a large following. If you pay approximately five thousand U.S dollars you can qualify as a kundalini yoga teacher in under a month. There is absolutely no guarantee however, that two hundred hours of yoga will awaken a person’s kundalini. Whilst there is much of value in kundalini yoga, the fact is, that the majority of kundalini yoga teachers are not kundalini awakened, and the qualification means nothing in this context, as they are teaching techniques designed to cultivate a spiritual condition of which they themselves have no comprehension. Kundalini yoga is a beautiful system for health and happiness but if kundalini awakening is your motivation to do yoga, bear in mind that being kundalini awakened is not a required prerequisite to be a kundalini yoga teacher. The Sanskrit texts are available free to all on the Internet and everything you need to know about the yoga of kundalini awakening is in the Hatha Yoga Pradapika and the Yoga Kundalini Upanishad.
It is true that a shaman must be chosen by the spirits and that you can’t do a course or pay for this kind of initiation. But that doesn’t mean you cannot become a shaman if your spiritual desire is strong enough. You must simply alter your state of consciousness so that the shamanic spirits want to be with you, want to choose you. I’m not saying don’t get a spiritual qualification if you want to, I’m saying don’t attribute any degree of spiritual authority to a piece of paper awarded by any human agency. This power is in all of us; we do not have to give our personal spiritual authority away to any other human being. Ultimately, success is guaranteed once we have taken our first steps on the spiritual path although it is the work of lifetimes. A wise yogi once said to me,
‘we are all like fruit hanging from the Tree of Life, when we are ripe, we cannot but fail to fall, into the waiting hands of God.’
I share a great many dreams in this narrative. The Upanishads talk frequently about the three states of consciousness, waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Above these is the witness state turiya, ever present yet separate from all. In that context, dreams are considered merely a reflection of our concerns and desires in waking life and ultimately as unreal as waking life itself. However we are allowed one desire, that is spiritual desire and once our bhakti becomes focused this is reflected in our dreams, which then transcend the mundane and become agents of spirit.
The three shamanic worlds, themselves containing other worlds are a like a multiple layered dream interacting with our waking dream. Once I dreamed of a girl I know called Aishling. This very beautiful name means ‘dream’, in Irish. Within my dream, I had a dream of her; she gave me the message that we are all one. Still within my dream I woke up and went to find her and told her about the dream. The next day I met her and found myself telling a girl whose name means ‘dream’, about a dream, I had about her, in a dream. As my dream of the dancing shaman child showed me, we live in a world where our leaders are beyond influence, unreachable and untouchable by conventional methods, their power is consolidated by the corporations and the vast military complex. All we can do is that shaman dance, change our consciousness, and make sure our individual dreams within the collective dream reflect the highest truth.
I felt guided to share these experiences and I’m very glad I did because I find they reveal the great beauty of the way the Divine will express itself if you only let the Mother take your hand. I also gained a great deal of understanding by revisiting these memories, of messages and wisdom I was receiving but that were beyond me at the time. I share them not only for their beauty but also that others experiencing the phenomena of kundalini or shamanic awakenings may be helped by reading this account. Because the understanding of the shamanic spiritual awakening process has been forgotten in the west we no longer have our own words that meaningfully describe the condition of shaman. We do however have shamanic archetypes like Merlin, the Green Man and Mad Sweeney. These characters are of the forest and there is a certain wild quality about them. Becoming ‘wild’ certainly has been an aspect of my personal shamanic process. These wild archetypes give a sense of being apart from the community and I, for the most part, remain solitary. What I describe here is also in a sense, a shamanic ‘Way of the Wildman’, the shamanic way of the Sasquatch, Almas and Omé Pelut. Civilisation is what brought us away from this aspect of ourselves. The growth of cities meant the necessity for intensive agriculture. Wherever we find this, we find a pyramidical structure to society which persists to this day which essentially results in a tiny percentage of privileged few and the rest of us as slaves. Europeans lived as shamanic hunter-gatherers until the ‘civilised’ ones came bringing agriculture with them. The shamanic peoples of the world had no need to build temples, nature was its own temple. Likewise the sages that composed the Upanishads, removed themselves into nature. Despite the fact that India was no stranger to the rise and fall of great civilisations the sages sought and taught enlightenment in forest academies. One of the main Upanishads is called ‘Brihadaranyaka’, which means, ‘of the great forest’.
I sense that there is an important message in these communications I received from the Sasquatch and the Almas, that although we are clearly a different type of animal to all others on this planet, we are deeply connected to these Wild People and that they want us to remember this. I believe that they are the original hominids of this planet and that rather than having evolved from them we have somehow been created from them. The Yokuts have a beautiful story of how the animals created people. Each animal suggested an attribute and it was Hairy Man that said, people should walk on two legs like me. This is saying that Hairy Man gave part of himself to us. We need to remember this because we have a choice. We can go fully with civilisation or we can balance it by reconnecting with our ancient Sasquatch/Alma selves, bring forth that part of us that is the natural shaman-yogi of this planet. Peoples with surviving shamanic cultures still know this. Trainee curanderos may spend years alone in the jungle dieting plants, in this way the forest literally becomes alive to them. In the north west of Canada, the Squamish sent their shamans to be out alone into the wilderness for up to ten years. In this way they returned to their wild selves. They had to be re-found and re-integrated into society along with the knowledge they had gained. In the pictograph at Painted Rock, Hairy Man is crying. This is because of the way that human beings became in the world. The problem is that we worship the great minds but not the great hearts. We need to bring this into balance and make Hairy Man stop crying.
It is clear that the Way of the Human is currently not beneficial to our beautiful planet, and now that we are venturing into outer space we are bringing the same problems with us; our concerns being primarily about plundering our planetary neighbours for natural resources and dividing up territories, we hear little about the ecological conservation of the Moon or Mars. Despite the best efforts of our governments to suppress information and ridicule or intimidate witnesses, the evidence overwhelmingly points to the conclusion that we are not alone in the universe and that our responsibilities therefore extend beyond this planet. The search for extraterrestrial civilisation remains focused on finding material evidence but there is most certainly also a spiritual element to the UFO phenomenon. Initially, I wasn’t going to include anything about UFOs here but a vision of flying saucers coming towards me, whilst a spirit opened a book, caused me to reconsider. UFOs have been a subtle spiritual presence throughout my process. In the early days of my kundalini awakening, I dreamed of a UFO sending down blue lightening. In another dream, a UFO inverted itself into a chalice containing a blue liquid that was poured into my heart. The colour blue in the dreams caused me to identify these UFOs with Shiva. Another time I dreamed of two huge flying saucers, resting motionless in the sky above our field. This felt so real that I was sure I would see them in ordinary reality, but they never came. I related earlier, how just before taking amanita muscaria, I was shown a UFO and told, THIS is the big meditation.
In dreams I have also encountered beings that I sensed strongly were from other planets. Once I met a group of very tall blond ‘people’, dressed in white futuristic clothes. One of them, who was about nine feet tall, bent down and picked me up. He said, ah, an enlivened one! Do you know what that means? Let me show you. He carried me to a pure white room where we lay down to sleep but I remember nothing after. Another time I met a female of the same kind with a jewel on her forehead, she was presiding over an operation on a human. I wasn’t happy about this but she said it was necessary.
My sense is that at least some of the UFOs are inter-dimensional and that they may occupy the same places between the worlds that shamans also frequent. Once, Michèle and I were walking in a field, when she spotted an unusual plant and bent down to examine it. At the exact moment she was looking down, I was looking up. Only a few metres above me, a bright gleaming metal object appeared out of nowhere and shot across the sky for a short distance before vanishing into thin air. What I saw was very close to me and I sensed it was part of something bigger, as if just its edge had slipped briefly into this dimension. It all happened so fast, that by the time Michèle looked up from the plant, it was over and she found me standing there in open-mouthed amazement.
It is sometimes suggested that the UFO abduction experience may be the modern minds interpretation of the traditional shamanic initiation by spirits. Or, that in fact the aliens were the ‘spirits’ all along. There are certainly parallels to be drawn between the operations performed on abductees and the dismemberments experienced by shamans. Likewise, abductees report having implants inserted in them and shamans have objects like crystals put inside them. However, many indigenous people have legends of Star People and in India, the flying ships known as vimanas, are well documented in the Sanskrit texts. Flying saucers are also a common theme in the ayahuasca art of visionary Amazonian shamans. It is clear to me, that historically shamans have certainly been aware of UFOs and their occupants, yet have not confused them with their shamanic spirits. Another thing is that shamans remember their initiatory experiences whereas abductees report missing time and the memory of the event may not emerge until hypnotic regression takes place. That said, there is no denying that many abductees become spiritualized after their experiences, so perhaps the abduction phenomenon is to do with making a different kind of shaman.
A very intriguing link between UFOs and shamanism is the presence of owls. This has been explored in depth by Mike Clelland in his book, The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity and the UFO Abductee, in which some of my own experiences feature. One night I dreamed I was standing with a white owl, high on a hill, overlooking a valley. Shortly after this, a tawny owl and a barn owl came together in a dream, the barn owl nuzzled my hand. The following night I awoke into a vision of the oak tree that stands in our field. Its leaves and branches were enveloping me, pulling at me urgently. I had the sense it wanted me to go outside, and even though it was about four o’clock in the morning, I pulled myself out of bed and answered the call. Outside, owls were calling, Orion was above me, and to the left, a planet shone as bright as a moon. I had only a few seconds to take in the glory of this, when what I’d thought was a star, flew upwards across the sky with a snake-like movement. I have no doubt that this was a UFO and that the tree had called me out to see it.
From my own perspective however, it is the shaman and the tree that are intrinsically connected. The shaman is in essence the human embodiment of the tree, the shaman’s connection is very much to the Earth, and although I may look in wonder to the stars, I know that here, is home.
Many shamanic traditions believe that the soul may split apart usually due to various shocks or traumas experienced in life. In order to restore wholeness, shamans conduct soul retrievals, journeying to the other worlds to bring back the missing parts. With me, soul parts often manifest as tiny birds. There was a time when I was feeling a lot of fear and unease, so I asked to find the source of this within myself. I entered a very dingy, gloomy room, with dirty brown walls and peeling wallpaper. In this place I found two beautiful birds, one was a jay, which flew up into my hands. I took it outside and released it into the sky. I went back in and found the other bird, I picked it up and found its wings were broken and I felt responsible for this. When I threw it into the air, it hung motionless for a few moments and I was afraid it might fall but then it began slowly to flap its wings with increasing power. As it rose into the sky, the wings became bigger and bigger until it was like an eagle flying up to the Heavens. Our wings are never truly broken. After releasing these beautiful soul parts back to Oneness, all my fear simply left me.
Once I came out of a very deep meditation and found myself in a shocking situation. I didn’t know where I was, how I was, who I was or what I was; I was utterly alone, there was only energy. This state passed after a few moments but made me think about the universe. The Vedas tell us that the One Soul, in order to experience itself fully in divine play (lila), divided itself into the illusion of infinitesimal separation, that the universe exists purely for the purpose of concealing and revealing the divinity of the Oneness from and to itself. Perhaps the One Soul shattered itself out of shock and loneliness. Sometimes, during a soul retrieval, a soul-part may return willingly to oneness but others are just not ready to return at that time. So it goes with us and God, and as such, the universe may be viewed as one giant cosmic exercise in soul retrieval, our purpose as fragments of the One, is to find our way home.
Years after my initial awakening I ask, who am I? why am I here? I’m given a vision, I see the air full of golden molecules that coalesce into the form of a jaguar. Spirits throw the jaguar up into a tree. Jaguar-me begins to climb. In another vision I see the shamanic anaconda and the kundalini king cobra. They are entwined in a DNA helix, like ida and pingala nadis, like the oscillating souls of the Siberian shamans. I caress their heads and they slide fluidly through my hands out into the cosmos, serpents of shamanism and yoga in complimentary balance. In a dream I find myself like the little snail in the story finding his way home. First, I am in my childhood home and I know I am going on a journey. In front of me is a large key ring with dozens of keys. I call my father to ask which are the right keys for the next place I am going, Coolinarne, the Land of the Sloe Trees. This is the home of my Irish ancestors and a second home to me. Eventually I find myself approaching a sacred mound in the woods, the home of my ancient Sasquatch/Almas self. The road is very muddy but I don’t mind because where I am going is beautiful. Then, as I’m walking, something comes up behind me and very lightly and gently grabs my legs. I spin around to see my Siamese cat, Singha, a little bodhisattva, running away mischievously across a field to a dry stone wall, just like the one where I found the statue of Isis in my dream. I see that over the wall is my current home in France, Anma, which means ‘soul’ in Occitan. I then realise that I have been given all the keys I need and that whether I take the way of yoga straight across the field, or the shamanic path through the woods, I am going HOME.
On this journey home, the influences in my shamanic path have come from diverse cultures. Yet the lessons I received were universal and I applied them to who I was and where I was. I discovered kundalini in the Gaelic harp, I used the technique of ‘dieting’ from Peru to reconnect with druidic knowledge, the trees and entheogens of Ireland and France showed me their medicine, I made drums from animals and trees that have a strong connection to my land and culture. We should not think of shamanism as something that happens somewhere else, it happens in the centre, which is always within you, wherever you are.
The English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, upon first discovering English folk music said that he felt a sense of recognition, of something he had always known, yet hadn’t known was there. He said,
‘a folksong is like a tree, whose stem dates back from immemorial times, but which continually puts out new shoots. In one aspect the folksong is as old as time itself; in another aspect it is no older than the singer who sang it’. 40
We can also rediscover that which has always been there, waiting patiently for us to remember and become new shoots of shamanism, new singers of the oldest song.