How does the concept of God relate to the practice of shamanic journeying? This is a question that arose in our circle last week and I hope you’ll join and help us to move in the direction of fruitful exploration together.
As one who went to Yale Divinity School, I can attest that the path to God isn’t through the mind. This is true even for the most brilliant minds among us.
Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest theologians and philosophers of the Catholic tradition, abandoned his masterpiece, Summa Theologiae (Summary of Theology) after he had a profound mystical experience. He told his secretary: “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.”
His writing and thought helped lead him to that moment, no doubt, but the example of Aquinas suggests that theological formulations are nothing more than straw when compared to the direct experience of God.
In Christian theology, God is understood as a trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The relentless maleness of this imaging of God is reason enough to toss it as far as I am concerned, but there is a clue hidden in here about the essential nature of God.
A trinitarian understanding of the Divine is found in various mythologies throughout the world. The Norse tradition, for instance, has three Norns, an all-female Trinity, responsible for spinning the thread of fate that determines the lives of gods and humans alike. Archetypal patterns, like that of the Trinity, signal the presence of larger truths.
Within the understanding of God as Trinity is a beautiful insight: God is relationship and God is community, right down to the core.
Made in God’s image, we, too, are relational and communal beings at our core.
This pandemic cuts against some of our most fundamental ways of being human in the world. But there is an opportunity hidden in these strange times because as relational, communal beings, we aren’t meant to continue the modern error of relating only to other humans.
So long as we take what we want from the land without permission, so long as we forget to converse with the trees and hillsides and weather and treat them as kin, we will fail to relate well to the other humans and we will also continue to overlook other daily opportunities to relate to the God who animates and lives in the bodies of the many.
To ignore the larger web of relationships of which we are a part is to carry an insatiable yearning for Something that our self-absorbed and acquisitive culture cannot provide. To meet this Something, this Other–God–would be so sublime that this meeting would make all of our desires and achievements seem as straw.
Now isn’t that an aspiration worthy of a lifetime?
This week, let us journey to a non-human elder–a place, an animal, a tree–to ask for an experience, view, or expanded understanding of God.
De-centering the human point of view and acknowledging the wisdom of our non-human kin is an effort to regain a more alive and enlivening take on the Magnificent One we call God.
Shamanic journeys are a meditative technique that allows us to (somewhat) bypass the indoctrinated mind for the more direct view available to us from the gut and heart. The hope of this journey is to be able to receive something new, perhaps unexpected, to crack open our habitual ways of thinking and help us to relate anew with the Divine.
In preparation for this week, I ask to you spend some time, 15 minutes or so, with a non-human elder–a tree, a creek, a garden, the ground. Bring a small gift with you: a cup of water, some sage smoke, a seed, as a gesture of thanks. Just take the time to slow down and be present to this presence. This is background energetic homework to help you more readily commune with a non-human elder on your journey.
For the circle, bring something from the natural world that somehow speaks of God to you. Just go with your gut on this. No need to defend or even explain. Enjoy.
This is a free weekly online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism at 4-5:30 pm PDT every Wednesday in 2020.. Email your interest in joining us at firstname.lastname@example.org. All skill levels are welcome.