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  • Writer's picture Brian E Pearson

Accessing the Spiritual Realms

When I was very young, I lived in a house that was haunted by a hand. It once appeared to me in the middle of the night, passing as a silhouette in front of a Day-Glo plaque I'd received from Sunday School, a picture of Jesus with a lamb over his shoulders, and the verse, "The Lord is My Shepherd." Not that night, he wasn't!

Nor another time, in the early morning hours, when I was awakened by an invisible hand, above the covers, making a grab for my ankles at the foot of my bed. Nor the night I turned out the light and shut the door on my brother, hearing him scream moments later when a hand passed before his face in the dark.

The Good Shepherd was MIA on those occasions and I was left to my own devices, sleeping with my knees drawn up tight in a foetal position, long after we'd moved away from that house.

Such phenomena may have explanations--be they scientific, psychological, or paranormal--but we tend not to want to revisit them. We'd rather just move on, allowing mystery to be mystery, letting sleeping hands lie, as it were. But it remains stubbornly in the past, a live memory, like an unsolved crime, taunting us, beguiling us, calling us back for a second look, or for a second opinion. And with that remembered experience, the corollary: the world is a far more numinous place than we really want to admit.

But that nether world is precisely where shamans do their work. As old as humanity itself, shamanic practice assumes not only that there are spiritual realms and spiritual beings, but that those realms can be accessed and those beings approached for the healing and wisdom they offer to our day-to-day world. Shamans routinely go back and forth between what they call Ordinary Reality and Non-Ordinary Reality to seek the rejuvenating energy of spirit plants and animals and the wise counsel of spirit teachers and guides.

The shamanic cosmology, which is shared by Indigenous cultures around the world, including those that have had no contact with any of the others, is represented by three distinct realms, each populated by spirit beings of one kind or another: the Lower World, which tends to reflect our natural world, with spirit plants and spirit animals; the Upper World, which tends to reflect the higher states of human consciousness, with figures both human and divine; and the Middle World, our world, which we share with both flesh-and-blood humans and various spirit beings.

The Upper and Lower Worlds, reflecting the Divine Oneness from which all form arises, are realms of pure compassion and the beings you encounter there are manifestations of unconditional love. The Middle World is a mixture of the loving and the not-so-loving, as we know, and is therefore less trustworthy, in the spirit as in the flesh.

I know, I know. Are we actually talking about some sort of fantasy universe here? Can this be considered "real" in any normal sense of the word? But shamanism doesn't care whether or not you accept its cosmology. It's not a belief system. It's a technology for accessing those realms. It's all about the practice, about what you do—the drumming, the intention, the openness—not about what you think. Just follow the practice, the shaman says, and you'll find out for yourself.

Which is exactly what happened to me a few weekends ago. I attended a two-day shamanic training event led by a local practitioner and--I kid you not--I visited those spiritual worlds for myself. It helped that our teacher, Wade Prpich, was such a normal, grounded person, humble even. There was no hype, no sales job, no hocus pocus. He didn't even have a ponytail. Just do this, he'd say, giving us clear and careful instructions, and something would happen. And something did.

Obviously, when it was over, exhilarated by the experience, but also confused, I needed to know more. I had arranged ahead of time to meet again with Wade, several days after the workshop, for a conversation to debrief the weekend and extend the bounds of my knowledge. Pressing the Record button in The Mystic Cave, we discussed his own route into this work, the salient practices that define shamanism, and the cosmos as it is revealed in shamanism.

And that hand? Sill a mystery. But I may have a better idea now of where it came from (a wayward spirit from the Middle World?) and perhaps what it was up to (trying to get a toe hold, literally, back into the corporeal world?). Having that knowledge, it becomes a little less frightening ... and a lot more fascinating. It is indeed a numinous world we inhabit, and perhaps, an even more wondrous world beyond.

To listen to my conversation with Wade Prpich just click on the Play button below. To learn more, follow the Information button (i) for links and resources.

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Well, Brian today’s interview was most intriguing. I did appreciate the no nonsense, analytical and researched approach taken by your guest speaker. There were a number of ah ha moments, and I shall certainly follow up on the resources that you’ve provided. Again, thank you. Dan K.

 Brian E Pearson
Brian E Pearson

Thanks, Dan. What was so compelling for me about Wade was that there was nothing "woo woo" about him. In fact, the opposite. It lends credence to shamanic practice that someone so practical can be doing it. As he himself said, it's a practice, not a religion.

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