Shamanistic World View

Ever since my third year in college, I have been trying to avoid embracing Shamanism. Back then I was deeply invested in Carlos Castaneda’s works and Dzogchen. I read all of Castaneda’s works. I took a philosophy class on it in college. I had a degree of success doing many of the practices, some of them being very subtle. Castaneda referred to his teachings as Shamanism. When I was pretty clear on what his reality is like and where mine would go if I aligned myself with it, I wanted nothing to do it. Later after being exposed to other Shamanic teachings, I felt that Castaneda’s work was not in the same category; it seemed more appropriate to label it a Tantric view.

At the same time I was studying Castaneda’s work, I was studying Dzogchen with Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. I also studied the Tibetan language in college. While the teachings of Tenzin’s lineage are very potent, I felt what was being taught was very unbalanced; I decided I did not want his reality either. My break from both was precipitated by a strong psychic event. I have thought of it as a UFO abduction for a long time but it could be more generally referred to as a Shamanic experience, that is to have entered into an altered state and to communicate with spirits or entities in other realities or other frequencies of reality. The event was so powerful, I slept with the lights on for a year and got professional counsellings, although I did not tell the counselor why I really went to him.

Castaneda’s work planted seeds in my aura and psyche; it continues to shape my world more than I would like to acknowledge. Dzogchen has in many ways remained a mystery to me since those days; I just could not grok it. Recently, I read that Bon and Dzogchen have their origin in Shamanism. This really floored me.

Tenzin Wangyal never, in my memory for all the time I spent around him, referred to Shamanism or suggested any connect to it. His lineage reports to go back somewhere between 17,000 years and 25,000 years, depending on who is accounting. It is not unusual for mystical traditions going back that far to be Shamanistically based; this is not surprising. I recently also came across a document by Tenzin on the Shamanic origin of Bon and how he grew up with Shamanism as his family’s dominate relationship to reality. I felt like I just woke up that day and found myself in some other reality than the one I knew previously.

A Shamanistic view of reality says that all phenomenon is directly related to the activities of unseen spirits and entities. With the ability to enter into altered states, it is possible to interact with these forces consciously, to a limited extent. This has always been my view of reality. I have chosen to do my best to not interact with most unseen presences. I do my best to block them and create a functional boundary between myself and them.

Based on my experience of unseen reality and how blind almost everyone else is to it, I know that changing to this world view, from say a Christian upbringing, is pretty much impossible. I am very inclined to think that Tenzin withholds a great deal based on that limitation. It makes his teachings seem more Buddhist than Bon.

Without the capacity to form a functional boundary with the unknowable, the Shamanistic view is crippling with fear. Before that is likely to occur, a person my first know directly more than this gross reality. Likewise for Tantra, a person must first have an experience of nonself. The crippling fear of a Shamanic view is certainly demonstrated in Castaneda’s work. As an everyday example, there are spirits associate with alcohol. Almost everyone I know consumes alcohol completely oblivious to the relationship they have with these spirits and how it makes a mess out of their life. If they really knew, they would avoid consuming alcohol and situations where others consume, which opens a portal and opportunity for those spirits to interact with you even when you aren’t consuming. If someone really knew about this, they would likewise avoid all drugs and some food items as well. They could easily be overcome with paranoia. Their mundane relationships would be highly compromised. They might even be Baker Acted by friends or loved ones.

The New Age teaching of Shamanism or what is generally known about Shamanism is very sedate. It seems fun and exotic. I have for a long time viewed Shamanism inappropriately and unfavorably because of what is taught to people raised with an early monotheistic imprint. It shocks me to realize now that my first imprint was Shamanism, which occurred when I was in high school. I have been having altered state experiences and interactions with spirits as far back as I can remember, which is also a natural basis for Shamanism. I have consciously and unconsciously rebelled against this world view, so much so that I have relabelled things Shamanic as anything but; I tried to remove it from my vocabulary.

I am very influenced my Tantra as well but these two operating views are complimentary.

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