Close Encounters – A Pathway to Shamanic Initiation
Religion has undoubtedly had a far-reaching influence on the social, cultural and economic development of our Earthly civilization. Religion has at times helped maintain world dominance, caused people to go to war, obstructed scientific understanding and medical treatments. It’s also reinforced moral behaviour, provided hope in desperate situations, and provided comfort when facing death. These effects are universal in those they touch and are as powerful as the human struggle to meet basic physical needs.
Religious teachings guide the lives of millions daily, however many people remain unappreciative of the fact that these teachings are based on the supernatural experiences of lone individuals.
For example, traditional Jews believe that Moses spoke directly to God, a supernatural being. Muslims are taught that Muhammad received the entire text of the Koran via the angel Gabriel from God and as a consequence the Koran is now the primary source of information for Islam. Mormons believe that their prophet Joseph Smith received his revelation from an angel named Moroni who led him to gold tablets inscribed by information that Mormons live their life by. Mormons also believe they originated from a planet called Kolob, the heavenly body nearest to the throne of God. Hindus and Buddhists recognise the existence of limitless non-physical realms, entities, intelligences and states of existence. St Paul began his Christian mission with a supernatural encounter on the way to Damascus when suddenly he heard a voice accompanied by a ‘light from heaven’ so bright that it knocked him to the ground and blinded him for three days. The visions of the children of Fatima were received from a small woman with large black eyes who seemingly appeared out of thin air. Christianity is founded on a belief in the life, death and resurrection of a supernatural being whose father was a god, his mother was a mortal, and who himself was a spirit-human hybrid. Christians also believe in the spirit worlds of heaven and hell, immaculate conception and the Holy Ghost.
We cannot escape it, the Supernatural, whether manifested through spiritual beings thought to be born in human form, or through direct revelations to particular humans, have been responsible for social, political, economic and cultural developments of monumental significance in the history of mankind.
However, the earliest religion, believed to be the “original” religion developed by indigenous people is Shamanism. Indeed, the word shaman comes from the Tungusic (Manchuria and Siberia) saman, meaning Buddhist monk.
Shamans, like those as previously mentioned, experience direct contact with supernatural “helping spirits” who share guidance, insight and healing, not just for themselves but for the world in which we live. The practice of shamanism also reveals that the spiritual aspects of all life are interconnected through what is often called the web of life.
In the western world we have lost touch with the experience of direct revelation with Spirit and if anyone should mention that they have ‘received’ telepathic communication from an unseen source they are quickly dispelled as crazy or delusional. Yet there is indeed enough evidence to suggest that some people receive accurate information from unseen sources that has proven insightful and extremely helpful.
Sometimes this information is unsought and can emerge during or after an unusual event that might be called paranormal eg. a near death experience (NDE), an out of body experience (OBE), after death communication, a crop circle encounter, or other unusual experiences that are beyond the range of ordinary human experience and are referred to as Exceptional Human Experiences (EHE).
As diverse as these experiences are they all share commonalities. There is an internal structure to the experience, there is a predictive after effect of the experience, and there is a particular personality type that is more prone to these experiences known as an encounter prone personality. This personality could also be called a shamanic personality. Shamans of indigenous cultures and people who have these seemingly supernatural experiences are one in the same, and if modern westerners having these experiences were existing in an indigenous culture they would be deemed shamans.
Dr Ken Ring, psychologist and author of The Omega Project : Near Death Experiences, UFO Encounters and Mind at Large, states “when one looks beneath the surface of these divergent experiences one finds a common structural basis that binds them. To understand this we need a template for the shamanic initiation experience”.
Shamanic initiation often takes the form of a sickness and the cure is the discovery of the vocation. Individuals who have a shamanic initiation event may already be ‘sensitive’ or show signs of ‘exceptional giftedness’. Shamans can often become sick when they are young. During their illness, they may see visions of spirits or meet the ghosts of their ancestors. Shamanism can also be inherited through a family line. Illness is not the only way for an individual to be initiated into shamanism, but it is certainly through a traumatic experience that they meet ‘the spirits’.
Already we can see similarities between shamans and close encounter experiencers emerging with sensitivity or giftedness, seeing visions, meeting entities and the experiences following genetic lines.
Another dramatic way to become a shaman is to be struck by lightning and survive. The Greeks believed a person struck by lightning was in possession of magical powers, and in tribal cultures throughout the world lightning shamans are venerated and feared as mighty shamans. Under this definition, author of Saved by the Light and At Peace in the Light, Dannion Brinkley, who was struck by lightning, had a near death experience, then clawed his way back to life, is indeed a modern lightning shaman.
Following the initial event of sickness or trauma, the individual is separated from his ‘tribe’ and put into the hands of his/her shamanic trainer. Dr Ring states, “the apprentice is required to undergo various ordeals, both physical and psychological, as his training progresses. Often, as is well known, these rites involve a powerful dismemberment and reconstitutive motif as the candidate undergoes a death-and-rebirth ordeal, a necessary component for all true initiations of course, as well as the experiential foundations for a new sense of identity as a shaman”.
Here we can liken this to the close encounter experience where an individual has contact with ETs usually while in an altered state of consciousness, then is taken away to undergo a physical examination or some type of study. In the Betty and Barney Hill incident, Betty Hill underwent an amniocentesis prenatal diagnostic test at the hands of her ET abductors, and both Betty and Barney had skin scrapings taken.
Further to the shamanic experience, Dr Ring states, “sacred mysteries are disclosed to the individual as he learns to enter into otherworldly realms and acquires his particular shamanic skills, his power animals, sacred songs, secret language, and so forth. After his initiation is complete, he returns to his community as a healer, a psychopomp, a master of ecstasy, a mystic and visionary as a man (or woman). In short, who now knows how to live in two worlds: the world of the soul as well as that of the body. And though indispensable to the welfare of his community, he often remains somewhat apart from it precisely because of his special knowledge and his unusual and sometimes disturbing presence”.
If we take this model of the shamanic initiation and lay it over the alien abduction experience we can see that it follows a similar pattern. During the medical examination the individual often remains entranced and this can be accompanied by paralysis. Included with this ordeal is telepathic communication from ETs, especially to calm the individual if they are upset. Then they are returned to their ordinary world where they may not have any immediate memory of this experience, but with transformation already beginning to bubble through their system.
It is not uncommon for the memories of the experience to begin to bleed through into normal awareness hours, days, months or even years later creating the birth/death experience as the individual no longer feels that anything they once believed is true. Their world may seem to spin out of control as they slowly feel their personal identity and grip on reality disappear. They can often feel like humpty dumpty who fell off the wall and broke into a million pieces and don’t know how to put themselves back together again. However, to do so in shamanic practice is called soul retrieval, where the parts of the individual that “splintered off” as a result of their experience are retrieved and once again integrated.
While their experience may have been frightening, disturbing and traumatising, the remarkable thing is the after-affects of these types of experiences are very similar to the after effects of near death experiences. Close encounter experiencers are changed by their experiences emotionally, socially and spiritually. Their personalities often take on a different persona and they become highly creative, artistic and/or move into the healing fields, whether it is traditional, complimentary or spiritual medicine. These people often make lifestyle changes that are in alignment with the transformation within them.
Sometimes individuals feel that information has been ‘downloaded’ into their mind which they understand while in the altered state of consciousness. However, once returned to ordinary reality they have a hard time remembering the information clearly and only have a sense of an after image of the impression it left on them.
There is an unmistakable similarity between NDEs, alien abduction experiences and other paranormal experiences that leave no doubt that individuals have been “shamanized”. The appearance of spirits, the element of separation, the death-and-rebirth motifs which concern loss of identity, the download of esoteric knowledge, and the return to the physical world with a special sense of purpose particularly towards caring for the Earth and all life on it, all add up to shamanic initiation.
What does this mean for Humankind?
Dr Ken Ring, among others, proposes that “shamanic experiences are to educate the soul. Shamanic visionary encounters are as much a prod to our next level of consciousness as rapidly blooming sexual urges are a prod to a teenager’s move from childhood to adolescence”. Terence McKenna proposes that we are “coming to the end of historical time when”, as he puts it, “we will live in hyperspace, having interiorized the body and exteriorized the soul and dwell in the realm of full imaginative possibility.
It is possible there exist doorways in the human mind that can lead us to other realms where information that is helpful to our personal growth, both individually and collectively, is accessible. We may not ordinarily access this information in our daily lives while we are distracted with the business of living, but are catapulted into these realms in times of trauma or chronic stress. This duress opens gateways to the paranormal which prods us to open our minds and grow beyond who we are to find all types of solutions and insights to our experience of being human, some we may not have been seeking. The fascination here is that not only do individuals grow from these experiences of trauma or duress, but they grow in spite of them. Perhaps it is this latent ability of human beings that is the most fascinating of all.
It may be that Earth has always had shamans who return from their cosmic quest with a strong feeling of stewardship of the planet, with strong feelings of other-world families and a connectedness to all life in the universe. It may also be a possibility that, as Dr Ken Ring proposes, “Earth has its requirements and produces its own form of shamanically oriented steward”. The real caretakers of the planet may not be the aliens as some close encounter experiencers suggest, but the close encounter experiencers themselves who have been the recipients of the seeds of earthly salvation planted into the psyches of receptive and sensitive human beings. They have been opened up to the transcendental order and implanted with the “gifts of the gods” – whoever they are.
For those of you living in Brisbane, Sheryl offers Shamanism workshops – www.bodylight.com.au