“Don’t Despair. There Are Others Doing It With You, and We’re Here, Too”: Ritual As Shadow Experience, Part Eight — Always Are We Helping You
Sins of the Father and Cosmic Encouragement: What Real and Unritualized Spiritual Experience Looks Like — “But Always Are We Here Helping.”
I wish now to provide another example of real, unritualized spiritual experience … this time from my own life. What these experiences—that of my wife and myself—have in common are these things: (1) they were spontaneous occurrences … in no way planned, anticipated, or orchestrated by self or other; (2) they were growthful … they led to greater awareness, positive change, and in my case I can say for certainty, life transformation; (3) they came about in ways that had a supernatural quality about them, that is, transcending what is thought to be laws of nature or physics, and (4) they were experienced as a gift … a “blessing” — that is, the recipients did not feel they earned or deserved them.
So, the first quality of these experiences corresponds to my referring to them as unritualized; the next three, together, to why I put them in the category of spiritual.
Keeping those characteristics in mind, let us look at what I experienced one night in 1980, which I would remember ever afterward as perhaps the most unusual experience of my life but certainly the most transformative. It is not that I was not already looking in the direction this experience opened to me; it is not that I did not already have the beliefs or values it embodied; it is not that I was completely unaware of the kinds of things about us and our history that it clarified. No, I was fully prepared to receive what I got; spiritual experiences don’t make you something other than what you are … they facilitate you in becoming more of what you are already. So it is that I was confirmed in a path, I was given a profound direction for a lifetime, I was given … shown actually … knowledge about our history and our situation that was beyond anything anyone could know through normal channels of scholarship and research. And I was given reassurance and a promise of support and assistance in my life’s path.
So you might say it was more like an initiation. But unlike normal societal initiations that indoctrinate one into the roles of society and culture, this one initiated me on a singular spiritual path. So it is more like what a Native American might get on a vision quest. The other thing that comes to mind is the word confirmation. Brought up Catholic I once received a sacrament of confirmation. It involved a ritual that I can barely remember anything about. One becomes “confirmed” in the faith. Well this experience was not ritualized yet it definitely confirmed me on a path and with a set of beliefs and way of thinking about things that has stayed with me throughout the thirty-two years since it happened. Also, it is something I can remember in detail, as though it happened days ago … quite unlike the ritual “confirmation” I received at the age of … it was such a nonevent I can’t even remember my age at the time … about 13 or 14.
So let me share my story of my spontaneous, unritualized spiritual experience. First I wish to give you its context.
A Cosmic Slap on the Back
In the course of my own struggling to change, in primal therapy, I was at a particular place in 1980 where I was very much in despair at the immensity of the task of changing the programming that was dragging me down, that was keeping me from being the full human being — happy, fulfilled, fearless, and doing what I was meant to do in life — that I could see lying there in potential and that I could only sometimes be. It was therefore an encouragement to me when I had the experience that follows — like receiving a cosmic slap on the back, a gift from the Universe, and it helped me through that time. But I am convinced this experience has relevance also for all who are working hard at growing beyond their limited selves. I feel it might especially be of use to someone in a similarly hopeless-seeming place.
For these reasons I wish to share this experience. You can do with it whatever you like.
Before relating what happened, I want to say that although some might be tempted to call this experience a fantasy or a dream, it certainly did not feel that way to me at the time. I cannot doubt that an unusual thing happened to me, which was unlike anything else that I’d experienced prior to it or since. It was related to certain experiences I was having in my primaling but was very different from “having feelings.” I was not under the influence of any drugs, nor had I been previous to the incident. I had one beer that night.
One other note: I will leave the determination of who the “she” and the “we” were in the experience to the interpretation of the reader. I certainly don’t know for sure who she and they were, though I have my ideas — all of them highly positive. Also, the following, except for some minor editing, is exactly the way I wrote it the morning following the experience.
Journal Entry of June 28, 1980:
I was lying in bed last night with Maddie. Couldn’t sleep, air conditioner too loud. Suddenly I was aware of all this energy coursing through my body. Was really scaring me. My body zinging, intense ringing (buzzing?) in my ears, rushes flowing through me. Was scared I was going crazy, would hurt Maddie, would become possessed or something, etc. Tried focusing on my third eye so as to control it like I did in Portland.
That may have helped some, but I could sense, and was scared of, other “presences” in the room. I thought I heard a woman’s voice behind me over my left shoulder and that scared me. Without realizing the transition, I found myself projected into this panorama of history and a woman’s voice was narrating.
She described how once there had lived “noble” beings. I could see vast and colorful panoramas of peoples exuding “nobility” and “integrity” (for want of better words to describe what they were like). They walked and paraded before me and were all around me.
Then the woman explained that the peoples degenerated and, as if in demonstration, I began seeing battles and wars played out before my eyes. I was in the midst of them!
However, I was still aware that I was in my body lying on my bed, because I could feel myself against it. Even so I was afraid that I would begin taking on the bodies of participants in the battles and would feel pain like they were obviously feeling. This feeling was especially strong when I was in the midst of the convergence of two groups of warring parties (their garb reminded me of Israelites or people of Biblical times or something). The group I was facing were going at each other with hatchets and I was afraid of becoming a participant and possibly feeling an ax chunking into my neck or skull. But although it was happening all around me, nobody in the crowd noticed me; it was as if I wasn’t there. In fact at one point I believe they actually may have passed through me!
This scene passed, along with other dramas, and it was explained to me that now it was time for a regeneration of peoples on this “plane[?]” to regain their former “nobility[?],” “integrity[?]” (again for lack of better words).
Still feeling that I was conscious, i.e., knowing that it was all happening to me while I was really lying in bed; I let myself walk through many landscapes and terrains, which I felt I could easily have lived in at one time and which I felt had all existed at some time or place or did now exist somewhere in the world or Universe. I walked through small shack towns. I remember a small group of bedraggled people huddled together in one. There were many kinds of pastoral settings also: some beautiful with rolling, lush hills, and some not as beautiful — rocky terrain, etc. All seemed to be viable habitats for different people. I had the thought that these may have been places/lives that I had lived in at one time.
Certain places brought up bad feelings in me, foreboding, scared feelings. In fact it can be said that the whole time it was happening I was scared about the experience. I feared meeting some dangerous and evil entity or being stuck in an undesirable place. When I was in one particular environ/habitat that wasn’t very pleasant, I remembered something that Seth had said about consciously altering and changing his environment. In line with that I decided to stop believing in the one that I was in and see what happened.
What happened was that environment went away and then there was a blank grayness as I waited for a new scene to appear. I continued to be aware that I was in a trancelike state and that I had a body lying in bed. I would at times vaguely return to the feeling in my body and would feel myself on my back, hands and arms outstretched, mattress against my back, in a very deep state of relaxation and suspended animation which had a feeling of heaviness or deadness about it. My body didn’t need to move and it was perfectly comfortable.
I could hear the air conditioner running, also, and even Maddie’s breathing next to me. Several times, I don’t remember exactly when, Maddie had reached over and put her arm around me, both times only for an instant, before she rolled back away from me. Neither of the times did it disturb the deep state that I was in or cause me to rise at all out of it. I simply felt warm and good towards her at the affection she was showing me. I even had the thought that, considering the fact that she only did it for a moment before turning away, that somehow she knew what was going on, in some deeper, nonconscious part of herself, and was reassuring or encouraging me.
Anyway, I was securely very deep and felt that I wasn’t going to be suddenly disturbed from it unless, perhaps, I let it. But I really didn’t want to do that. I was rather scared and apprehensive most of the time, as mentioned, but, more importantly, it was all so damned interesting!
There is no doubt that I was thoroughly enjoying the color, the panorama, the expanse and freedom of consciousness, the fact that I was experiencing something important and that I had never experienced before, so that I dearly wanted to stay there despite the fear.
Sometime after the gray place, I believe it was, I was aware of some kind of light far off in the distance that I could travel to if I liked. At around that time I could hear Maddie saying to somebody (about my body in bed): “Is he moving at all? Is he breathing? Do you think he’s dead?” and so on. I remember thinking to myself how silly that sounded and that “No, I’m not dead, I’m just in this deep trance and everything.” But then suddenly I began to wonder if maybe I was dead! It had all been so strange that maybe I had actually died in my sleep!
At that point I recalled the accounts I’d heard and read about of people dying and not knowing they were dead, how they would often hang around and watch other people’s reaction to their death (and this could go on for days). I remembered how Steve had once told me something to the extent that if that should happen that one shouldn’t get carried away and fascinated by the after-death state but that one should “get down on one’s knees” (figuratively speaking) and search out the source and the presence of God. Thinking that was perhaps when I actually looked around and saw the light.
At any rate, I found myself wondering if I wanted to be dead. This place was certainly an interesting one, even with the apprehensions. And it sure seemed to be a change (so far, anyway) from the constant struggling to survive and grow. But I also felt that there were just so many loose ends left unresolved in my life. There were so many areas that I’d made good progress in but had not yet taken to completion. My love for Maddie (next to me), which was only just beginning, came to my mind as an example.
And so I decided to find out if I was dead or not, both to know if I should go heading for the light (if I was) or to reassure Maddie (if I wasn’t). I determined to get into my body and, with an effort and strain, I forced myself up from the depths, forcing my body to move and sit up. I was mildly surprised to find that I was able to do this, bringing myself into physicality and into a half-sitting position. In this position I looked over to see Maddie sleeping next to me, I could hear the air conditioner whining, and so forth. I realized then that she hadn’t “physically” been sitting over me, talking about me, but I also felt that some part of her must have. (We used to have this thing when we slept together that often we would feel like we had been communicating with each other on some kind of subconscious level the whole night long. We wouldn’t ever remember all that we had said but we would often both remark about it the next morning).
Realizing that I wasn’t dead, I lay back down and let myself drift back into the deepness. All I remember, after this point, is talking to Maddie, probably about what had happened to me, explaining it to her, though I’m not sure that was all of it. Also I remember at least one other time, maybe two, forcing myself to waking consciousness to see if Maddie was awake (as if in an experiment), because it really seemed that we were actually, physically awake and talking to each other. I thought we were lying in bed physically talking. It was hard to believe it when I forced myself awake only to find her lying beside me asleep.
After that there were some actual dreams, quite different from what had been going on earlier. I fell into sleeping and dreamed of being in my Grandmother’s home. I remember reading a book, sitting in a chair in her kitchen. There were other people there also; they were sitting in the same kind of straight-backed, none-too-comfortable wooden chairs.
I remember that early on, when I was doing all the traveling and stuff, that I didn’t know how I’d possibly remember all the experiences that happened to me and all the things that I saw and learned. It seemed like a lot of time was crammed into that short period. I remembered hoping just that I would retain as much of it as I could, especially hoping that I wouldn’t just blot it all out as it felt important.
Don’t Despair, There Are Others Doing It With You, and We’re Here, Too
I feel like the meaning of the part about the regeneration of the peoples on this plane was an answer to my despair at working on getting through my feelings. It’s like it was saying: “Sure it’s hard! What you’re talking about is the reversal of hundreds of generations of degenerate and violent habit, custom, and activity. But we’re talking about changing that also, and you’re not the only one working at it. There are many others in your time period struggling to do it just like you.”
And the feeling that left me with was/is “So don’t despair. There are others like you doing it, and we’re (out here) helping you too.”
Sins of The Father
Now, having conveyed what I wrote the morning after the experience, I wish to add that regardless of how you may wish to label the preceding experience, it remains one whose message has stayed with me through all the intervening years — thirty-two of them in fact. It is a message that has rung true and helped me through other difficult spaces. Indeed, I still reflect on it and can’t help believing there is a lot to it. Consider: Generation after generation of Western culture has engaged — with little awareness of the consequences — in passing down their personal pain and trauma, in some form or other, onto their offspring. And they in turn dump it on theirs. We know that child abusers were themselves abused as children; but this is just a very blatant example of how the pattern operates. On and on and back through into hazy unrecorded history this situation has existed; this vicious cycle has perpetuated itself.