In my lifetime, those who have popularized shamanic techniques have attempted to integrate them into their existing Western worldview. For example, Carlos Castaneda, Felicitas Goodman and Michael Harner were all anthropologists with an implicit bias towards framing their experiences in terms of literate Western Civilization. My challenge is to integrate the foundations of that intellectual verbal worldview into the kinesthetic experiential indigenous framework of the shamanic World Tree.
I am able to share a dynamic inclusive world-view that has offered a means to sustain human life in the harsh and unforgiving climate of the American Southwest for thousands of years thanks to my father. He and my Pueblo Indian godfather become compadres in the 1940’s when the government policy of annihilation of indigenous peoples through assimilation appeared to be working. My father was a very early and vocal advocate for bi-culturalism, insisting that there was no need for the indigenous peoples of the Americas to choose between the old ways and the new.
Together the two men sought not only to preserve millennia old traditions, but also to integrate them with the demands of surviving in a hostile culture. Just few days before my father died, in a brief moment of private conversation, he asked me what I knew about spiritual power. I was in my early twenties and very much focused on functioning in the mundane realms.
I told him that I did not know much but I did understand that spiritual power was to be used for the good of the community, not for self-aggrandizement. My father then informed me that out of all his children, I was the one to inherit his spiritual connections. That was all he told me, but within six months I had realized that his connections were not only real, they were demanding responsibilities.
I was immediately overwhelmed, as he had passed the entire esoteric energetic matrix that sustained the health of an entire community on to me. The man who became my godfather was the cacique, the religious leader of his entire Pueblo. In the 1940’s and 50’s there was very little interest in sustaining the ceremonies and keeping the knowledge of the Pueblo alive. My father’s interest in maintaining the ceremonial heart of his compadre’s people led him to becoming one of the very few white men to be fully initiated into the spiritual secrets of one of the Pueblos here in Northern New Mexico.
By the late 1960’s, there was a renewal of interest among the younger generation of the Pueblo. Unfortunately, there was also considerable animosity towards my father from the generation that had been assimilated by the dominant paradigm. The compadres had to choose between their friendship and the future.
My own contact with the Pueblo had been minimal after they chose to focus on the future of the Pueblo, not their own friendship. That meant I had none of the details, none of the rituals, none of the teachings, only the direct and overwhelming experience of the activity of the field. Neither my living relatives nor my ancestral lineages were in any shape to help me.
Dealing with the responsibility of holding such a spiritual matrix without any understanding or support from my human community was devastating. The strain of integrating the spiritual lineage I was responsible to with my genetic ancestry was such a strain that it took me to death’s door. By my mid-thirties when my godfather died, my body was ready to give out.
I was already struggling with adrenal collapse, kidney failure and mal-absorption. When I got pneumonia taking yet another breath seemed more effort than it was worth. I was in the space between one breath and the next when my father, my godfather and all the rest of the Grandfathers showed up in the luminal realms. They startled me by insisting that it was not time for me to die because I had to teach about community.
In retrospect, I am not at all sure that either my father or my godfather realized the full ramifications of introducing me to the spirits of the land and culture of New Mexico when they baptized me in the Pueblo way when I was newborn. Much like Tibetan Buddhism, the dynamic presence of the spiritual field we had been integrated into demands that those responsibilities be directly transmitted to the next generation. We argued about my purpose for living for three long days and nights.
My side of the arguments included the fact that my body was too damaged to keep on living. I also had to point out that I had no community to support me. In fact, the sociopathic dynamics of my family of origins were responsible for my weakened state and lack of resources. Most of all, I had no cultural context and so no means of sharing what I had inherited.
The Grandfathers were unmoved and finally gave me to understand I would neither die nor improve until I agreed to their demands. Hanging out in limbo seemed the worst of all my possible options. However, I was genuinely unable to comply with their demands. I could not share what I did not know.
If they wanted me to oblige them that badly, I informed them, they had to give me a tool, a means to show others the information they wanted me to teach. My life experience finally convinced them that that my father was an honorable man and he did not share any of the practices he had sworn to keep secret. When my godfather saw that my father truly had told me nothing of what he had learned, he blessed my life path with corn pollen.
That blessing resulted in this deck of cards making itself known to me. Not only did the entire matrix appear in my head in one massive understanding, my adrenals, kidneys and lungs began functioning equally abruptly. The rest of my symptoms eased up enough that I could function.
The fundamental structure of this deck of one-hundred and forty four cards came to me in as a whole in that infinite moment of realization. But, if the deck was to truly be a guide to develop the self-awareness and resilience required to serve a pluralistic and complex world, I had to understand and refine how the details of our fragmented literate cultures could be integrated into the basic structure of the World Tree constructively.
Eventually I came to the realization that not having to keep other people’s secrets was actually a great gift. I can only share what I know from my own experience. I have first -hand experience of what is required to transmute one’s life-path so that is impetus for the organization of the information included in the deck. deck is my own journey towards wholeness. That I can share whole-heartedly with others.
You can get a copy of this deck for visionaries, storytellers, mythmakers and community builders by special order.
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