Community ConneXion - directory, articles, and links to wholistic, alternative, community minded resources for conscious living in Oregon and the Northwest.
Resources for conscious living

Dream of a Shamanic Initiation
by Paul Levy

We are all taking part in a shamanic initiation; the question is whether we . consciously recognize the greater process that we are involved in or not. Becoming a shaman is not something that you consciously decide to do; it's not like you go off to shaman's graduate school or take a weekend workshop and become a certified shaman. Becoming a shaman always is something that we are "called" to do by a greater power; it is a true vocation in the sense that it involves listening to one's inner guidance. The shaman's calling puts one deeply in touch with one's "genie," which introduces us to our true genius. The word genius is derived from the word daemon, which literally means our guiding spirit or inner voice. A word of caution, though, for as Jung points out, if one doesn't listen and honor one's daemon, it turns negative and becomes a demon.

In all traditional shamanic cultures, when the person gets called to become a shaman, they almost always look like they are having a nervous breakdown. Unlike normal cases of psychotic breaks, however, the soon to be shaman's psyche is dis-integrating towards a higher transformation. The crucial point is when the would be shaman chooses whether or not to assent, to say yes, to co-operate with the deeper process that they mysteriously have found themselves drafted into. If they continue to resist, holding onto the life they were used to living, they can become genuinely neurotic, even psychotic, and possibly even die.

Invariably, the would be shaman needs to descend to "the underworld." This is nothing to be afraid of, as we are all in the underworld anyway, only most of us are going through the experience unconsciously, resulting in a mass of symptoms and neuroses. For the shaman, the underworld is a place of confronting the demonic, experiencing death, and going through insanity. The great psychiatrist C. G. Jung himself went through a severe shamanic crisis, during which many of his colleagues thought he had gone insane. He wrote about his initiation in the chapter of his autobiography called "Confrontation with the Unconscious," and he reminds us that the demonic is "the not yet realized creative." The idea is that inherent in the demonic is a blessing, is our creative power. Lucifer is truly the bringer of light.

Jung pointed out that myths and fairy tales with all their spells and tales of enchantment are deeply shamanic in nature. In the ultimate sense, the underworld is nothing other than an invaluable opportunity where we can confront the seemingly darker forces in our own nature; it is the place where we meet the split-off parts of our own psyche that we have so disowned and are so afraid of that they appear to be evil.

The shaman's journey is deeply related to the archetype of "the wounded healer," which points out that it is through our wounds that we receive our gifts. The wounded healer is someone who, as if by magic, is able to alchemically transform the darkness into light. Wrestling and confronting these seemingly darker forces has to do with gaining one's ego strength and owning one's intrinsic power. In the deeper sense, when the shaman recognizes the true nature of their situation, which is that they are simply struggling with their own energy, they have become lucid in the dream. The shaman then recognizes these seemingly darker forces as aspects of their monstrous totality, which they share with the entire universe. They can then welcome and embrace these seemingly darker and adversarial forces as long lost parts of themselves; this is true soul retrieval. This is the point where the demons turn into allies, and the shaman is ready to return back to the world to share the gifts of healing that they themselves have realized.

The point is that we are all by nature shamanic; we are all shamans in training. Maybe all cases of mental illness and emotional disturbance are actually aborted cases of shamanic emergence in need of deeper unfoldment.

For more articles about dreaming, see