Concerning Ceremony

To the urban shaman, ceremony is a fancy user interface. It’s sole purpose is to affect others in a manner to positively influence their perception of your practice. Do the spirits require ceremony? No. Is ceremony required to heal others? No. Do I need to perform a ceremony to journey and seek guidance from the spirits? No.

Does ceremony have value? Yes.

The spiritual healing process is broken down into four stages:

  1. A person requests the shaman to help them with their illness.
  2. The shaman consults with their spirit contacts and requests aid on the person’s behalf.
  3. The spirits locate fragments (parts of the person’s spirit that have been lost during their experiences in the physical layer) and offer to replace them.
  4. The person accepts the lost fragments and reabsorbs them into the whole.

If all of these can occur without ceremony, then how does it have value?

People are spirit entities, but this experience in the physical layer (our current reality) often hides this understanding from us. Some of us need a physical representation of the work. They need to have something they can experience in order to make a connection between the work and the result. Ceremony is the tool that provides this.

Ceremony is what prepares the physical mind, which in turn allows the recipient’s spirit to accept the work being done.

This isn’t faith. This isn’t about having to believe. Ceremony is used specifically to prevent the mind from blocking the work. Some people can fully believe in the shamanic healing process but still need the ceremony for their mind to accept it.

Our brains are dependent upon processing input. Most people do not easily “tune in” to their spirit sense, so the brain relies on physical input in order to understand that something has happened. As bound spirits experiencing the physical realm, mental acceptance permits spiritual acceptance.

Some may always need it. Some may not need ceremony after the first experience with spirit. Some minds may be open to the work without need of additional evidence at all.

The shaman is the bridge, the facilitator, the one responsible for initiating the healing process and for ensuring the healing is accepted. By using ceremony, they are able to increase the chances of success.

Advertisements

Concerning Evil

I was asked, “How do you deal with evil spirits?”

Short answer? I don’t.

Good and evil are concepts created within our human existence. Evil describes a person or act that is culturally abhorrent, immoral and malevolent. People can do evil things. But this is a subjective property that only exists within our frame of reference.

Soldiers may travel from one country to another for the purpose of “restoring order and bringing a “better” way of life for the people, which usually involves imposing their way of life on the people.

Back in the soldier’s home country, they are celebrated as heroes. They are doing good things by spreading the ideals of their people. However, in the receiving country many might view the soldiers as invaders, forcing their ideologies upon weaker people who cannot defend against a powerful enemy. They may look upon the soldiers as evil.

So which is it? Good soldiers or evil soldiers? It depends on your point of view.

When I first began working with spirits, there was fear. Fear comes from the unknown. I was afraid that some would do harm to me. Why did I think this? Because that is the way of this world. Every unknown entity could be a predator. It is a primal instinct that our advanced society has done little to eradicate.

But we do know better. I’m reminded by the scene in Empire Strikes Back where Luke sees a cave and gets a feeling that something is not right. Yoda tells him it is a domain of evil. Luke asks him, “What’s in there?” Yoda tells him, “Only what you take with you.

We bring our baggage with us when we journey. If we have fear, we will find things to be afraid of. If we believe we will encounter malevolence and harm, that is what we will find. How we experience the spirit realm is still molded by the physical mind, because it is through this that our interpretations are formed.

In the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Daodejing are some insights that echo this:

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.

This idea had a definite impact upon me back in the mid-nineties when I was struggling with my own fears. I began to question why would spirits want to do me harm? What is their motivation? I understand human motives like greed and jealousy as reasons other people would do me harm, but I knew nothing about what drives the actions of spirits.

Then I asked myself, other than my fear, what evidence do I have that spirits want to harm me? Of course, I had none. While that was comforting to realize, it still didn’t erase my fear. Fear is overcome through experience and knowledge. It took time, and experience working with spirits to fully understand that malevolence is something I bring with me to the spirit world, not something that I encounter while there.

My personal experience with spirits now is that I do not encounter evil. I do not project this upon them and I do not perceive them as evil or malevolent.

Will others encounter evil and malevolent spirits? Absolutely, just like Luke encountered Darth Vader in the cave. What we bring with us is real to us. Belief is a very strong tool, but it can also be a prison. It not only shapes us, but also how we see the worlds around us.

 

Some things I have learned

Spoiler alert: This is my understanding. If it doesn’t feel right to you, let it go. There is no value in debating spiritual matters. I am sharing this for the benefit of those who are seeking to learn different beliefs, in search of their own understanding. The thing to keep in mind is that what we believe is the choice we need to make at the time we make it.

Urban shamanism is not a religion. As shamans, we do not worship gods. We do not pray to deity. We communicate with spirit entities on behalf of others to help them in this world. We request guidance, insight and healing in order to benefit our communities. Here are some of the things I have learned through working with those spirit beings:

  • The universe is not divine.
  • There is no universal “love” or any other emotion.
  • There are no gods or goddesses.
  • The universe does not punish us, nor does it reward us.
  • The spirits shamans work with are kin.
  • We are spirit entities who are experiencing the world, the universe, from the perspective of physical matter and energy.
  • Everything we experience while being “alive” is for the purpose of learning and having fun.
  • Many of the spirits we encounter have experienced countless “lives” here.
  • We choose to be here, in this state. While most of us purposefully forget who we really are while we’re here, this identity we accept is just temporary.
  • Often we meet others here in our physical lives that we also know as our true selves.
  • The spirits are energy beings, just like us but are not directly experiencing the world as we are. Some know us in our true form and stay close during our trip through the middle layer.
  • The spirits want to help us, but typically will not interfere in our experience unless asked.
  • Shamans are able to perceive outside the experience of the physical world, and interact directly with those entities who are not currently inhabiting this layer of being.