Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Images of the Divine

Everything that lives is an image of the divine. An expression of magnificence, and beauty.

We experience the divine on a daily basis, if our language reflects our reality. Let's look at paradigm cases of how we express our experience. Bring to mind hearing someone respond to something they see, hear, smell, taste, feel. "That's heavenly; that's divine." And guess what? "That's out of this world!" Common expressions, common experiences.

Nature offers infinite images of the divine. All plants, the earth, the air, animals, insects, birds, fish, fire, water. All of these manifestations of magnificence, of sentience, are potential portals.

Have you ever been transported by the scent of a rose, a hyacinth, narcisscus, rosemary, oregano, pine? Heavenly. Where do you go in those seconds of experiencing olfactory bliss? Do you remember being transfixed as a child watching ants work, spiders, snakes, a ladybug, a bee collecting pollen, a lightening bug at night? Amazing, yes? Where did you go?

Have you been transported by the flames of a fire to somewhere in your mind, you don't know where? Coming back to consciousness we realize that we've been somewhere else. At any moment we can go to an ocean beach and see people staring at the water. Often we hear people say, "I can sit for hours watching the ocean."

So, how do we collaborate with elements of Nature, images of the divine, in order to move into the spirit world?

c Alesia Kunz

Friday, January 19, 2007

Portals, What Are They?

Windows, doors, gates, entrances. Openings to something. Openings to other worlds. Worlds of information, worlds of animals, worlds of plants, worlds of science, medicine, art, music, sports, drama.

We choose to enter portals all the time whether they're in the material world or the virtual world. Every time we swim in the ocean, every time we walk into a new building, every time we learn how to do something, we're entering a portal in the material world. Every book is a portal. Whenever we open one, we're entering a portal into a virtual world, whether it's fiction or nonfiction

Portals are real in the sense that they are entrances to other worlds. But are the worlds beyond the portals real? How can we tell? In the realm of books, nonfiction purports to be about material world truths, facts. We still choose to believe it or not based on our experience in the material world. It gets a little dicey when we read about physics, black holes, and the Bermuda Triangle. There's a lot we don't know, and nobody knows.

What happens when we read fiction and we find ourselves weeping, laughing, terrified, elated, hopeful, or desolate? Is this experience real? Where does the experince that evoked our emotions take place? We might say we're employing Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief" when we open the book. Does that change anything?

In shamanism the practitioner travels through portals, that open to the spirit worlds. The practitioner learns the ancient methods of "journeying" to the worlds of the spirits for help: information and healing. The shaman brings the information back to the world she/he lives in, the Middle World, and assists in being a bridge for the spirits to come and heal people. Shamans have done healing and divination work for tens of thousands of years. Do we believe this? It doesn't matter because the healing is the evidence.

So what about these worlds of spirits?

There are so many accounts of people having near death experiences who describe finding themselves "on the other side," the place where souls or spirits go when the physical body is dropped at death. It seems the person's spirit or soul has temporarily crossed over into the world of the spirits. Spirits of people who have died. Perhaps there would be vastly divergent accounts of these experiences if they were what we call someone's "imagination." But, the accounts are strikingly similar. That suggests that a spirit world may exist.

This is the same phenomenon exists in accounts of shamans' journeys to the spirit worlds. Shamans all over the world recount strikingly similar experiences. In his book, Shamanism, Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy, Mircea Eliade, scholar of history of religion, describes the practice of shamanism over two and a half millenia all over the world. These shamans could not have known what other shamans were doing on the other side of the world.

In the first post I said anyone can access portals to other worlds. Spirit worlds.

In Louise Erdrich's novel, The Birchbark House, the protagonist, Omakayas, a young Ojibwa girl, encountering bear cubs, addresses them as "little brothers." She plays with them until suddenly she is flipped on her back and pinned by the mother bear who is breathing "on her a stale breath of decayed old deer-hides and skunk cabbages and dead mushrooms." The girl knew not to move, but when she closed her scissors, she cut a piece of the sow's fur by mistake. She calls the bear, "Nokomis," grandmother. She apologises and continues to explain why she is playing with the cubs as the mother sniffs her. There is a long passage about their communication. Omakayas has another bear encounter and talk which when her grandmother hears about it, she knows Omakayas is a healer.

In this instance the portal was opened by Omakayas addressing, acknowledging, and talking with the bears. She talks with other animals, their spirits, and receives information from them. It's interesting in her speech she acknowledges the animals and herself as part of the same family.

We can access the spirit worlds by acknowledging them. Accessing the portals. Do I mean talking to animals and plants? Yes. But talking is only a part of the process. We must listen. We must learn to listen. We can talk with spirts of people, animals, and plants that are living, and that have died. This act of acknowledgement opens the way.

Contacting the spirit world is available to everyone. One of the main entrances is through images of the divine.

c Alesia Kunz

Monday, January 15, 2007

Portals Into Other Worlds-- Are They Real?

For many years science fiction writers and readers have been fascinated by portals, opeinings to other worlds. Is it the fantasy element, transporting without moving, curiosity about what's on the other side, imagination in action, or something else that feeds our fascination?

The worlds portrayed through portals are generally fantastic. Worlds where magic happens, worlds in the historic or mythic past, future worlds, or worlds with different cosmologies.

Public school English classes in the U.S. have been offering reading experiences about portals to students for over fifty years. "The Veldt," published in 1951, written by Ray Bradbury is an example. In this short story parents have set up a play area for their children inside a portal in the house. It is a virtual reality, a jungle. The parents are warned by their psychologist not to allow the children to spend too much time inside where all of the children's wishes can manifest. The parents begin to worry that something strange is happening and the psychologist tells them to shut it down. But, when the parents threaten to shut down the portal, the chidren beg, the parents succomb. The children invite the parents in,and lock them inside where they are slaughtered by the jungle animals who have come alive. Wow!

But perhaps it's not only being virtually transported into fantastic worlds that fascinates us. Perhaps we have real world personal knowledge of portals. Perhaps this knowledge lives in our cells, a Jungian collective unconscious memory of the experience.

The experience of openings to other worlds. Spirit worlds.

Thousands of years ago people all over the world were in contact with the spirit worlds. Often their lives often depended on it. They contacted the spirits to find food and shelter. These people are our relatives, our ancestors. We have memories.

As the world moves more and more into material consciousness, we need legitimate frameworks within which to exercise and understand our other-than-material experiences. Also we need ways to save and honor our traditions. Science fiction, inadvertantly, is one of these frameworks. It legitiizes our relationship with portals. We can say, "It's speculative fiction," and no one will look at us as if we're strange. Except insofar as to read science fiction, one might be strange.

Shamanism is another such framework. An ancient tradition in which the shaman journeys through portals to other worlds to get help to do healing and divination. The shaman journeys through a portal into the spirit world to receive help from the spirits. For tens of thousands of years people all over the world have done this work. There is a movement today to preserve and continue this work. The practice of shamanism is growing.

What's really fantastic is that anyone can access portals to the spirit worlds.

c Alesia Kunz