Dirt digging radio signals

©2021 Michael Raven

The universe sometimes is weird and I often don’t know what to make of the messages I receive based on the patterns that emerge. I think it might be that I’m mistaken that there is any meaning at all, which is just par for the course. I tend to be wrong about so many things unless I follow my gut instincts and intuitive mind. And, even then, I have to admit that I am likely wrong more often than right.

But, when you see patterns emerging and they seem to say something, it’s hard not to find meaning in the patterns. But, as I said — it might all be a mistake and I should just see things less of a pattern and more of things are as they are, without value judgments or meaning assigned to anything.

Finding meaning in patterns is probably what makes so many alternative theories about the world so compelling — it is hard to ignore patterns that show up, and our minds want to justify those patterns we see and put meaning and value onto them. I’m not the only one making mistakes in doing so — all you have to do is look at any of the myriad conspiracies out there that are based wholly on patterns (and often wholesale ignoring those patterns that don’t fit into a particular schema).

Patterns kept me up (again) last night. Messages from the Universe. Insomniac. Upon waking, I think those patterns are probably just echoes and thinking about how things might have meaning that probably never did. So, aside from needing to get some sleep, I am grounded again and firmly in the realm of what is instead of what might be or what might have been. I don’t need to worry my pretty little head about such notions until they come to pass, and it seems unlikely that all that hand-wringing was worth the loss of sleep.

But, that all said, I’ve been doing some journeying of sorts in my own little corner of the underworld (I know some shamanic practitioners eschew this word, but I tend to embrace words others avoid — maybe to be contrary, but often for my own reasons). Not to get too deep into the details of such things, which might not be appropriate to share anyway, but I have fallen easily back into my old visualizations and trips after a brief moment of feeling like I might have lost the ability to do such things. I received a strange directive in my head and I intend to follow it through, but it was atypical of the patterns I had seen emerging of the past few weeks. I mean, the message was essentially to start doing something that I had very little desire to do at this time and was counter-intuitive if you knew at all some of the personal struggles I have undergone. But, I trust certain messengers and so I will do my best to follow that directive. I wrote down my experience on my epaper tablet (a reMarkable), as I’ve been starting to journal these things as a record for my experiences in case it is helpful later on, and then I received another message from the Universe that was more of a kick in the gonads than anything. It was a “are you fucking with me, Universe?” moment. I think it might have been just that. A test of some sorts. I don’t know what to make of the message, so I will just let it all play out and see what happens — I think it might have just been a blip in the matrix, if you want to use the trapped-in-simulation theory to visualize the Universe. I’m not going to concern myself with something that may have been absolutely nothing.

Besides, my directive includes blips, but is bigger than that and I can’t hyper-focus on whispers.

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Book Reflections || Rewilding Yourself

©2021 Michael Raven

I’m reading through the second of three (currently published) books about shamanistic practice by Paul Francis, Rewilding Yourself: Discovering Your Soul’s Deep Roots Through Shamanic Practices. I’m about a third of the way through and I have to say that I’m increasingly disappointed in the messaging after such a strong start with the first book.

My disappointment stems from the fact that, thus far, much of the book has been clarification or repetition of what was said in the first book, doubling down on this fetish with what Francis calls “The Fall”, e.g. the movement of homo sapiens from a hunter/gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural lifestyle and how this movement away from a more utopian (my word, not his) social engagement has severed the connection between spirit, soul and everyday living. According to Francis, the Fall is responsible for all of the world’s ailments: religious persecution (religion itself, actually), dualistic thinking, hierarchies (socioeconomic), taker mentality versus leaver mentality, sun god worship, etc. And while he does have some valid observations, I am reaching the saturation point with the argument. I get it — things (in his worldview) were better before we started domesticating plants and animals.

But this fetish with some unprovable past starts to sound patronizing and ego-driven after a point. What I dislike tremendously is when someone takes an unproven idea and uses it to bludgeon those people who disagree — including people who otherwise share some of the same values. Francis has started to confuse his way as being the right way, which begins to smack a bit of guru ideation — although he makes a point to counter this perception throughout the series by stating that shamanic practice is experiential, not driven by dogma. However, in the same chapter, he tells you what he perceives to be the correct way of going about your practice, while pointing out the flawed practice (and thinking!) of other practitioners. In my opinion, if you have the right of the understanding, you are so correct as to not need to counter the other arguments when it comes to these matters — evidence of your right-ness will be self-evident, either as people confirm it in their own practice, or that the logic of your assertions are so concrete as to make it obvious that what you say is true.

If you haven’t guessed by the above paragraph, I really get turned off by people saying the linguistic equivalent of “there is no right way to do things, but mine is more right than theirs”. It was what turned me off from the local Gardnerians when I went to an informational presentation back when I was 18 or 19 years old: they’d said something along those lines and I was fed up to my eyeballs with people putting down the value of someone else’s practice, however it might work (and it was hardly true, considering Wicca is a reconstructed religion with no evidence as to who is more correct than any other branch). If it works for the individual, there is no need to elevate yourself above them; doing so is a continuation of the dispute between the Abrahamic religions that has done nothing but end up in the killing and injuring of millions over the centuries because of a theological argument.

I am also bothered a bit by the rejection of dualistic thinking in this book, which is quickly forgotten when Francis begins to discuss the “evils” and dangers of the middle world (most people’s current perception of the world), while elevating safety and serenity of the lower and upper worlds (earthy underground and airy heavens). This is another dualism disguised as a tryptic. There is the “hell” of the world that people reside within and the paradise of the otherworld, both upper and lower. Francis begins to ignore his own biases (as should have been evident with the choice to call the advent of domestication “The Fall”, which sounds terribly biblical, which itself is an example of extreme dualistic thinking).

Am I refuting any of his understanding? Certainly not. But I am pointing out the logical gymnastics Paul Francis has to take on to stick with all of his arguments. While logic doesn’t always have a place in spiritual matters relative to mundane matters, it is important to still be internally consistent with your logic. You can’t have things both ways. So, no, I don’t disagree with his core sentiments, but I do find the inconsistencies and bias blindness to be disappointing, if not frustrating. I had hoped to learn more from outside my own practice, but I find it increasingly difficult to take what the author says at face value when there is so much that seems to be motivated by something outside of shamanic practice. In my opinion, the whole “Fall” discussion should have been trimmed to a very short chapter instead of a sprawling theme of the book, especially after the first book covered the core concept of “The Fall” already. As it is, so far, much of the book is rewording of sections of the first book — if not direct a copy/paste of several sections in the introductory chapter.

I’ll keep reading it, but I am finding it less valuable as a resource that I found the first book. I definitely have reservations now about any coursework conducted under his banner, but will reserve final judgment until I’ve finished this book.

Wyrd, orlæg and tarot

©2021 Michael Raven

I’m still toying around with the conceptualization of the tarot spread I was working on yesterday, as I felt it was missing some key element based on a barely-recalled online post that I had read a while back.

I managed to re-locate the post. While there are elements that I found a bit strained, I found other people afterwards that supported the parts that I felt were less so. I wouldn’t classify myself as a Heathen, but I do feel alignment with some of the old Norse/Viking and Anglo-Saxon/British Celtic themes and those cosmologies. So I tend to think about things like wyrd and how that might operate in the world as an animist with shamanic leanings. And something felt “missing” from the spread.

I went with the parts that felt right and looked for other sources that confirmed some of the understanding and was likely right in rejecting the part that seemed off, but found the bulk of the remained to be in agreement with other folks.

The element that I think might be missing from the spread that I was working on is the idea of orlæg, or that element of wyrd that is outside anyone’s control.

Let me roll back a bit and explain how I see wyrd. Wyrd, to me is not a predetermined inevitability, a “destiny”; there is no butterfly effect going on that determines my eventual immutable destination. As one author has said, once the thread has moved from present to the past, it is then fixed, and may impact the unknowable future, but the future is still mutable. How mutable is based on those decisions made that have moved towards the past, as well those things outside of our control, orlæg. Wyrd (to me) can be seen as a tapestry for which we all contribute, our threads are entangled and bound, and we can make choices that impact the colors and shapes within that tapestry. But the woven elements are only “fated” as the present becomes the past.

Orlæg can be seen as those things chosen for you before birth and those things that are outside the control of a growing child. Or- is the “fundamental”, while -læg finds it’s roots in “that which has been laid”. Thinking of it as building a home, it is the foundation upon which other things are built upon, the essentials. This would include things like ethnicity, socioeconomic status to which you are born into, place of birth, parent(s)’ occupation(s), year of birth, assigned gender, sexual orientation, emotional and physical addictions, etc. These are the “fates” written for you before you were born or before you were able to make certain decisions.

And I think it is important to consider those things when doing a spread for wyrd working — understanding the options available for you to tweak in the manifestation of your ultimate tapestry.

As such, I think I’ll add a fourth card to the three-card spread for orlæg, or those fixed elements of your wyrd that you never had control over.

Or, perhaps, I am overthinking — as I am wont to doing.

Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

Please note: I do not consider tarot to be a divination tool. I see it as a tool for personal reflection and a means by helping one look at their present moment from a different perspective other than how they may see it with their current cognitive biases, not as a magical device or a tool to predict any future.

Book Reflections || The Shamanic Journey

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading Paul Francis’ The Shamanic Journey: A Practical Guide to Therapeutic Shamanism in response to having reached out to some local folks who would be “in the know” about who’s who for practitioners who might help with shamanic healing — and then coming up largely empty-handed.

I won’t go into it at length, as I’ve already covered my situation in previous posts, but I have been suffering from a new downward cycling of my chronic depression since about December and I’ve never had much luck with the more traditional routes towards therapy and/or medication (although I have positive “vibes” about the therapist I just saw, who seems to eschew the psychotherapeutic practices that I have experienced up until now and leans more into something I can relate to).

This time I had wanted to add some spiritual elements to my healing process.

Unfortunately, my contacts haven’t had much luck and, in my own, independent, online search — I have found local people that seem to have a different ethics system about the matter than I do. I believe charging more than a token amount of money for anything spiritual cheapens it, and have always preferred to not accept payments at all when I was still offering spiritual services. I have a hard time spending hundreds of dollars on something I’d refuse to accept money for if the roles were reversed. And, while I understand wanting to make a living at something you feel you are good at, helping other people overcome their spiritual misfortune seems like a poor way to make a living.

I had been eyeing this book (and the remaining series) for about a year or more now. Over the years, I’ve been burned badly by books of this type… They tend to fall into two categories: amazingly good and insightful or godawful pits of tripe. The only real touchstone I have, because you can’t trust books reviews at all, is that there are several publishers that primarily churn out garbage, and I tend to avoid anything by those publishers. Additionally, there are a few authors who I know I can safely avoid, because everything they write seems to follow a formula that says a whole lot about nothing, with no supporting information aside from taking their “expert” word on the matter.

The nice thing about Paul’s book is that it tends to trim away all of the cultural color of the process. If shamanism is truly a universal practice, as many who subscribe to shamanic practices declare (and seems to be accurate), then the cultural biases presented by favoring, say, Lakota practice versus Norse practice, are essentially obfuscations and not helpful to folks seeking to to engage in their own personal practice. Trimming it down to a series of practices that are untainted by cultural concepts opens the door to better understanding. However, as you might guess, there is a financial, positional power, or otherwise, incentive to keep people from understanding these kinds of things that really should be readily accessible to whomever wants to learn. I really appreciate that the author kept the cost of the ebook to less than $10, as some publishers and authors would readily ask for more than half again that price for far inferior material. [Aside: Paul Francis offers coursework along these lines for a fraction of what others would charge elsewhere. What would cost upwards of $400 elsewhere, he charges $85 (for perspective).]

Now, before you think I am fanboying a bit much, I do disagree with the author on several notable items. For instance, it has been a fetish of spiritual practitioners of all stripes to try and place our modern living conditions, with our cities and electronics and plastic and steel, as outside of “nature”. The author succumbs to this obsession. My argument has been, for years, is that to separate that these elements of mankind’s presence as “not-nature” instead of “people-nature” is to ignore a whole slew of spirits present in our everyday lives. A true animist will accept that the artifacts of humankind are still imbued with spirit and you must recognize those spirits as valid parts of existence if you don’t want to gimp your understanding of the universe.

The author also succumbs to the preagricultural paradise romanticism of the hunter/gatherer. While there is some evidence that there may have been a better balanced time period, such evidence is weak and it would be a logical fallacy to look at the few remaining tribes out there and project backwards through 10,000 years and assume the same stood true for those people. I don’t deny that may be the case: that our prehistory ancestors were possibly more egalitarian, more peaceful, and less warlike, but I think this is unproven and the author allows this meta-bias to color his writing — including with his representations of the three worlds of the shamanic practitioner.

But I applaud Paul’s attempt to cut out the bias to get to the core ideas of therapeutic shamanism which, while not directly an analogue, are in alignment with much of the work Jung did on cognitive models of the mind. As a psychotherapist, Paul Francis’ biases also show through in favor of those models — which is also acceptable in my mind, but may ring dissonant to people who have issues with Jung’s approach (most of my own spiritual understanding is largely in agreement with Jung, or so I discovered after I had already started codifying my conceptualization of spirit on my own).

I have the second book of four in the series (one of which is still pending publication), and plan to begin that tonight. While the first book was a generalized overview of therapeutic shamanism (or shamanism), the second book focuses on the lower-world conceptualization of the three-world cosmology in most shamanic systems. If that goes well, then I’ll consider attending the first course online and follow up with that, as I am genuinely interested in where this path may lead. I’ve been largely frustrated the past 25 years whenever I try to get into a practice that seems closest to my understanding of my spiritual nature due to purposefully oblique reference materials, heavy-handed cultural interpretations using reconstructed or culturally-appropriated concepts, or downright garbage. So far, Mr. Francis’ approach seems to cut through the BS and get to the heart of the matter without having the author loudly applaud themselves for their amazing brilliance.

And — I can get behind that.

On shamanic practice

©2021 Michael Raven

At risk of beating a dead horse, I’ll preface this post by mentioning that I’ve been diagnosed with a form of chronic depression known as dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder. It is considered to be a mild, potentially chronic disease and, in my case, it generally is. I occasionally dip deeper into depression, which is what is currently happening for me — for the past six to nine months. I’ve gotten various treatments for the dysthymia, from therapy to medication or both and have found all of the options presented to range from ineffective (most therapy, ineffective drugs that are not even designed for dysthymia (e.g., Zoloft), to too horrifying to consider (EST and lithium, both of which I adamantly refused), to potentially effective, but with unsavory side-effects (libido- and creativity-killing medications).

Needless to say, this last downward spiral finally hit a peak recently (beginning as early as mid-July to this past weekend, it is hard to say for sure when the peak actually hit). I have made an appointment with a therapist at the end of this week, and have done some looking around at some other alternative options.

There, that’s enough of a preface, one would think.

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One of the things I asked some people who might know people who know people about such things is where I might find a shamanic practitioner to consider doing some soulwork with to see if it is more effective than the standard cognitive therapy I’ve tried out in the past — not so much as a replacement, but as a supportive tool. Unsurprisingly, I’ve come up empty-handed on the matter and I barfed at the prices being charged by the folks who have gone to the effort to sell their services. If you know me at all, I may be sympathetic to the idea that one needs to make a living, but I am always skeptical of people who charge premium (instead of token) fees for such things when there are no bodies that recognize such approaches to license or otherwise assure quality. Insurance will, of course, refuse to pay for shamanic services and, while I am not destitute, I assuredly can’t drop $500-1000 for a series of sessions to do soulwork on the chance that will help me identify and correct the thing that ails me since I was in my early 20s.

While I was waiting for responses from people I know, I delved back into the abyss of books that approach such matters. Most of them have too much mysticism attached to the concepts they are trying to sell at terrible prices, sounding less grounded in meaningful concepts than they are in woo-woo new-ageism and justifications for using psychedelic drugs.

I have stumbled onto one series of books repeatedly, authored by a gentleman named Paul Frances, which always piqued my interest, but I have typically looked for a cultural tie-in (Celtic, Norse) — of which his books seemed to lack. So I passed them over as part of my purchases into such matters, usually wanting to maximize my purchase by having subject and cultural reference point tied together in a single text.

This time I looked a little closer after still coming up empty-handed with something tied to the cultural traditions (aside from Native American beliefs) I was most interested. This time, I found value in the non-specific approach and ended up looking into Paul’s webpage for his “college” for study, trying to grok his approach without actually reading his books and I was intrigued by the low-cost approaches to his coursework offerings. Additionally, the topics for the courses seemed mostly in alignment with my own unaffiliated system of beliefs. His six-session classes are priced on par with community some education classes (how to cook, making X art project, 6 weeks of archery lessons) around here (just over $100-$150) for each session. As I thought about it, I realized that I couldn’t be the only person looking for such services and… if his approach was effective in addressing my own issues, the costs involved in being able to help other people in a similar manner seemed nominal.

The idea intrigued: assuming I could “heal myself”, I could get more information in order to get some kind of “accreditation” through the coursework and help other people. And, to boot, I could be one of those jerkwad disruptive people who charged real token fees for my time, or work on “in kind” barter — a trademark of how I approach anything that I consider to be a “spiritual” service (see Reverence and horror–). These guys charging upwards of $250/session would be furious with me if such a thing occurred.

But, that’s getting ahead of myself.

What I need to do first is get my own head screwed on right — and I think shamanic practice might have a complementary impact on my regular therapy.

Sold on the idea, I bought his first two books to see how they aligned with my own experimentation in shamanic journeying over the years. Amazingly, they are not only in alignment, but his non-cultural approach is actually very refreshing to behold. Unadorned with all the tapestry of manufactured or potentially misleading information, the material is quite easy to digest without insulting one’s intelligence so far. Granted, I am only in the beginning stages of the first book, but I am literally finding nothing that makes me raise and eyebrow, or wholly toss the book aside in disgust.

Believe me, this test is rarely passed with the bulk of the books in this genre of non-fiction (which is misleading in of itself many times, as some of these books are entire fabrications sewn together from the cloth of the writer’s imagination).

While I’m not going to get too excited this early in the game, I am increasingly interested in the idea of pursuing this goal. One of my regrets in my life is feeling like I haven’t been very good about leaving a more positive legacy for when I pass into the next realm. If I can get my own shit together and, in a verifiable manner, help out other people — I think I might be able to leave something behind that I could be proud of having been a part of.

I had originally planned to delve into the ideas of animism and panpsychism as well in this post, but it fit less as the post got longer. I’ll probably approach those ideas in a later post. Back to reading and considering my next steps, both with my own therapy and what, if any, path I might want to pursue along these lines.