“Jung says that we are a sick society because we have lost a valid myth to live by, and in my small back room (in the apartment where I grew up as a child), I was absorbing a mythic view of the universe, a universe created by a power of love far too great to be understood or explained by tenets or dogmas. That power of love was offered me by those writers and artists whose imagination took me beyond literalism.”
Madeleine L’Engle from “The Solid Ground of Myth” in Glimpses of Grace
I’ve been a fan of Madeleine L’Engle’s “Wrinkle in Time” series for many years. This quote captures the importance of allowing a “Mythic view of the Universe” to take shape in our heart and mind. It also calls into question the current myth from which our society seems to be operating. Is it producing results in our lives that we all can agree upon are life-giving or is it as Jung is suggesting causing great sickness in our world? It’s an interesting question to ponder especially during the time of Pandemic, in the midst of a dawning realization of damaging climate change and species extinction, and the daily challenges many people face throughout this world to meet their basic needs to survive.
Looking beyond the literalism, into a more abstract realm has brought me to the work of Native American Artist, David Chethlahe Paladin from Albuquerque, NM. David’s work is remarkable because many of his pieces were created while he was in a trance state, and reflect images and direct experiences while in an altered state of consciousness. These states of mind were actually measured by the Voluntary Control Labs at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, KS, which found that he exhibited a high amount of Theta while in the waking state.
As Patricia Norris PhD, the Clinical Director of the Center for Applied Psychophysiology, Voluntary Controls Research Department at the Menninger Clinic, Topeka KS noted in her summary: “ It is rare to see someone with their eyes open producing theta. It seemed as if he was connecting with the subconscious and normal reality at the same time. … Theta is the brain rhythm associated with deep reverie. It occurs most frequently when people are falling asleep or waking up and is associated with hypnagogic imagery. Beta is associated with problem solving and with attention to the environment.”
Paladin also reminds us that….“We need to achieve more than a simple desire to live in harmony with each other. If we are to survive, we must creatively respond to the spirit of transformation”
It should be noted that lab studies using EEG measurements (electroencephalogram) of Ecstatic Trance Posture Practitioners similarly show that their brains also exhibit a high amount of Theta brainwave activity.
Photos of the pages from “Where the Spirits Ride the Wind” noting lab results in two sets of experiments finding strong Theta courtesy of the Cuyamungue Institute. Read an excerpt from Where the Spirits Ride the Wind: Trance Journeys and Other Ecstatic Experiences (Indiana University Press) to learn more (Page 25 and Page 26)
David visually expressed an idea about how we, as a society, are living through a period of “Shifting Paradigms”. He writes that “All great truths are only myths that exist momentarily in the evolving greater consciousness”…and that “now we need to move on to new myths. We are taking quantum leaps, and our paradigms are shifting rapidly”
“Shifting Paradigms” by David Chethlahe Paladin (click here to view website)
“All great truths are only myths that exist momentarily in the evolving…Now we need to move on to new myths. We are taking quantum leaps, and our paradigms are shifting rapidly”David Chethlahe Paladin (for more info click on https://davidpaladin.com/)
We are generally not so well equipped to grasp the enormity of the timescale (current estimates are that our Universe has 13.8 billion year old history) in our ordinary waking state of consciousness, nor the seeming paradox that our Cosmic origin story presents (out of the nothingness of a singularity, something as grand and complex as our Universe emerges). A remarkable documentary called “the Journey of the Universe” written by Yale Professor and Author Mary Evelyn Tucker (no family relation) and Brian Swimme, Mathematical Cosmologist helps translate larger Scientific Discoveries into a series of what I call “mytho-poetic” reflections set during a 24-hour period filmed on the Greek Island of Samos – in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece. I would encourage you to watch this documentary, which is available on a Streaming service over the Internet.
Another favorite of mine, Mythologist and Author, Michael Meade, whose non-profit “The Mosaic Multicultural Foundation (www.mosaicvoices.org) in Oakland, California, reminds us of the power the imagination plays in helping to reinvigorate life and possibly heal:
“When the planet is in this much trouble, we are in the dark night of the soul of the planet itself, then we are strangely closer to the seeds of imagination that can be used to reinvigorate life and possibly heal”
Stanislav Grof, a pioneering Consciousness researcher who has developed a technique called “Holotropic Breathwork”, ponders the possibility that…
Laura Lee, Director of Research and Outreach a the Cuyamungue Institute, explained recently in a Sunday Q&A presentation that the word “Ecstatic”, from the Greek “ekstasis”, is about stepping outside (“ex”) our ordinary reality (“statis”, the sense of staying in place, equilibrium). Dr. Goodman used the phrase “Ecstatic Trance Postures” to describe a particular group of body postures which when held within the context of a ritual for a brief period of time (about 15 – 20 minutes) could provide the practitioner with a shift of perspective, insight or personally meaningul imagery. My interest in Ecstatic Trance Postures has grown alongside my exploration of other embodied spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation both of which I’ve been studying with a local Hindu teacher, Swami Amarnathananda, at the Bharat Sevashram Sangha in Kendall Park, NJ where I also study Vedanta Philosophy. The Trance work offered by the Cuyamungue Institute has given me an opportunity to explore beyond seated contemplative postures and experience directly this shift in perspective.
On Evolution, Self-Empowerment and Shifting to a Greater Consciousness
With embodied interspirituality, I’m primarily interested in exploring four archetypes of our Collective Psyche (Conscious and Unconscious) -Shaman, Prophet, Mystic, Sage:
Shaman – That aspect which has the ability to Shapeshift into other forms of life, and helps us to build empathy, connection, healing within the context of a greater Earth community. The Shaman can challenge our traditional notions of reality, and help our consciousness see greater possibilities than our perceptions allow.
Prophet – that aspect which builds Visionary experiences which can help transform society. The prophet sees new possibilities where others might have given up hope.
Mystic – this aspect provides Insight, Intuitions, as well as visions that work to transform our personal and collective sense of reality
Sage – This aspect operates both personally and societally for the benefit of all humanity and manifests as Wisdom (Sophia/Shekinah) – I see the work of Felicitas Goodman as an expression of the Sage Archetype as well as other aspects.
During this time of Pandemic and societal unrest, I’ve been longing for ways to feel a greater connection with the Universe, and these trance postures have offered me a chance to slow down, listen to the imagery arises from within, and share in reflection with this larger community of practitioners.
With each session of the Ecstatic Trance Posture (see blog posting) there has been some small shift or insight that has been meaningful. While it’s hard to articulate these small shifts in my worldview, I’ve found that the postures open me to a “feeling dimension” and somehow a deeper resonance with life. Sometimes the energy of the posture has brought a feeling of descending into the Earth, and at other times there have been the sensations of being brought up into the Sky or standing on the edge of a canyon in a ceremonial fashion looking out at a great expanse. I’ve felt a closer kinship with indigenous tribes, with fish, frogs and other creatures like the Bear, Deer, Rabbit, Butterflies, Snakes, Iguana Lizards, Birds and Parrots. In one of our sessions, I believe it was the Greek Youth Posture (Kourous), I felt a kind of alignment with what I perceived to be a kind of galactic spiraling movement.
In that same session, one participant shared his excitement about wanting to talk with a Physicist about Gravity as a Life Force. Another person, spoke about became small and traveling to the atomic level and described going to an even more fundamental level of creation where he could see objects becoming manifest. Others have described a desire to “sing to the stars” – or have described a feeling of traveling through the Solar System, merging with animals, landscapes or even the Cosmos at large. This leads me to wonder if the trance postures might have a role to help us in our modern lives overcome a sense of fragmentation and disconnection from the Cosmos – bringing us closer to the a connection our ancestors might have once felt with all of Nature. As a narrative based in Science but filled with mytho-poetic interpretation, the “Journey of the Universe” story (see next post “On Interspirituality and Shaping a New Worldview”) excites my imagination – and the postures seem to help me connect and integrate on a body wisdom level what my mind struggles to comprehend on an intellectual level.
In closing, my wonderment on this topic leads me to hypothesize that using Ecstatic Trance could be for many people a potent way to effect their worldview and promote a shift in the understanding of our reality. With embodied spiritual practices including trance work we can learn to build a bridge between our waking reality and what Mystics and Indigenous leaders have referred to as “the Dreaming” to help create a beneficial reality for all life on our planet.