“We do not, of course, have any information
about how these postures originated.
Were they human inventions?
I doubt it.
Consider the fact that certain postures,
For instance the Bear spirit posture,
Arose almost simultaneously everywhere in the world
During the sixth to fifth millennium before our time.
That was a time when there was no modern method of communication whatsoever.
The mythology of the non-Western world suggests
a distinct method of propagation:
the spirits invited humans,
or, in some instances actually ‘kidnapped’ them,
and taught them certain important rituals
because humanity needed them.
From Felicitas Goodman’s foreword
to Ecstatic Trance Postures,
An Alternate Reality Workbook
by Belinda Gore
Completing my catalogue of trance postures through my World Tree cards requires me to dance along the very fine line between opening desperately needed doors to the alternate realities for those who have lost their shamanic traditions, and honoring the secrets of those who have managed to preserve theirs. That the use of body posture to influence visionary experiences is a widespread closely-held living practice has been brought home to me time and time again by those who chose to share with me both the how and why of the positions they hold as treasured secrets. My coming to appreciate just how much flexibility my project requires and how necessary a sense of respect and humor is when seeking congruence between worlds arises out of a shared and bottomless sense of grief and loss, not frivolity. Although the conceptual matrix of the 13 sacred joints in our body allows me to present basic postures while preserving a certain degree of anonymity for the source, only when I have explicit permission and/or see equivalent positions publicly illustrated or displayed in unrelated circumstances or representations, do I consider sharing them.
When the Rune Stances (click here) became part of my posture catalogue, they directed the placement of about a third of my total number of possible postures. After sifting through the duplicates, I was pleased to find a baker’s dozen among the Cuyamungue Institute’s and Felicitas Goodman’s own listed postures that were close enough to the Rune shapes using my joint criteria as a guide to work as Rune Stances. The balance of Rune Stances has made themselves known one way or another, and many of the Stances are shared by different cultures on different continents as several of the Runenyoga stances are sufficiently similar to images found among older cultures to be useable and useful, despite their not being officially recognized Institute postures.
Other than the Runes, the most numerous group of postures in current use was shown to me by a follower of one of the Tibetan Bonn lineages whose Lama was called to share these secrets with all of his initiates for the first time during a retreat in the Jemez Mountains here in Northern New Mexico. My personal favorite however, is among the stances demonstrated by Dusty Miller, one of the last of the English Elves of Kent (click here), who showed the group he was teaching how his people use a particular stance to both fade from the awareness of intruders in their forest and to communicate with the trees. I was startled and honored when I realized that some of the unusual inheritable traits that he described as unique to his lineage were exhibited by my own grandfather Annon, one of a long line of tree-tenders in my family. Learning that Dusty Miller’s tribe is now recognized as one of the rare distinct indigenous tribes still extant in Britain was a poignant and profoundly touching experience.
Occasionally, when I am tempted to fill in the gaps in my catalogue, I revert to my predictive matrix. For instance, if I am accurate when I predict that since there are distinct postures with both hands held flat against the groin, the belly, and the breast, there should be one with both hands flat against the forehead, such an image usually appears somewhere in my circle of awareness sooner rather than later. More often than not, that image is complete with context and purpose.
When I begin to fret over the length of time it has taken me to get this far, I have to remember that acquainting oneself with a new posture every few months for 20 years is a truly punishing pace to maintain. I regain a bit of context when I remind myself that entire cultures managed to get along well enough throughout their entire existence with just a couple of postures. In fact, finding more than a scant handful of postures associated with a particular culture and archeological site is so rare as to be unheard of. Even the idea of a complete collection of Rune Stances is a contemporary phenomena, however ancient the practice’s roots.
I have come to realize that mine is a particularly quixotic quest with challenges peculiar to the literary and internet ages. I have to presume that the remaining gatekeepers and their postures will make themselves and their desires known when the time is right. I am encouraged by those that have already presented themselves. Felicitas Goodman’s own experience with a posture she named “ The Calling of the Spirits’ where she first dreamt of the unusual body position, later saw a representation of it out in the more ordinary realms, then experienced its power in practice is not unique.
In my experience, and perhaps because of my demand for congruence, those postures that insist on volunteering themselves as gatekeepers to particular types of visions for me have all:
- Appeared to me in dreams, introducing themselves and explaining their qualities
- Appeared to participants in my shamanic workshops who, however perplexed by their task, are compelled to describe their vision of the posture and its purpose to me, often with extraordinarily fine and explicit detail
- Appeared in the ordinary realms as objects and/or images
- Precipitate consistent focused visions in practice
- Are persistent, repeatedly reminding me of their shape and use until I acquiesce
While I am always grateful and relieved when the gatekeeper of the occasional posture makes known to me where and how it would like to be placed in my deck, I suspect that the resolution and completion of my quest for Shiva’s 84 asanas of creation lies not entirely in my own efforts. I have come to see how the reflections and reverberations of human awareness and activity through, to, and within the spirit realms can be resoundingly murky and changeable, especially at this time when entire ecosystems and all the living beings associated with them are vanishing as a result of human behavior. Like so many other aspects of our human future, completing my particular piece of work depends on the willingness of the secret holders to share and the seekers willingness to honor what they learn and to hold their teachers in respect.
Critical thought that acknowledges our personal biases is perhaps most necessary when engaging in esoteric visionary practices. Gaining clarity while maintaining one foot in each world usually involves both a great deal of synchronicity and routine self-abnegation. Dr. Felicitas Goodman herself was a remarkably astute observer who strove for objectivity, exhibited some awareness of her own biases, and was willing to change her mind when the evidence indicated. I am left most astonished at how deeply her long-time board members are threatened not only by my turning to the spirits for advice, but also by my insistence in grounding the esoteric advice I receive in critical thinking and pragmatic applications.
- My being willing to follow up hints from dreams and visions
- My being willing to correct my own preconceptions,
- My insistence on grounding the whole in the consensual reality of our human bodies
- My keeping an open ear and eye out for some sort of panhuman cross-cultural basis to define what the criteria defining specific trance postures could actually be based on
is based on the scientific method of gathering evidence, testing one’s hypotheses, and adjusting ones path according to the results. I am deeply dismayed when I am forced to acknowledge yet again that my behavior threatens the status quo not because of any individual personality conflicts but because my approach requires skills that are not only not taught, but are actively discouraged in most modes of education and business found in urbanized Western Civilization. Knowing that founders and followers are often at odds even in more mundane circumstances, and that spirit’s advice is not always straight forward, my wish is that Felicitas Goodman’s work survives to inspire a few genuine students who honor her intent by continuing her research.
There is plenty of work ahead as customizing even 84 basic positions by culture and individual leaps into the wondrously complex considerations of fists versus fingers and how many of each, and/or how we might hold our lips, tongue, and jaws, as well as how our body posture influences our breath and voice. Which in turn leads straight back to the sacred alphabets, as the Sanskrit and Hebrew traditions have particularly well developed and documented traditions of hand gestures, and teeters on the brink of addressing an intimidatingly wide range of human behavior ranging from music theory to speaking in tongues (click here).
In closing, as always,
While my intent is to inform and educate and
I welcome those who share links to my work and new readers,
my work is copywrited.
Normally, I assume goodwill, but you can click here to see why I add the full spiel below:
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