Last night I went to the local prison where I volunteer to mentor a pagan group of men. During the past six months or so, I have been bringing a rattle to use during ritual and meditations. Working with the rattle has brought some uncanny synchronicity between what I experience in my journeys and what the men experience in theirs.
When I rattle, I hold sacred space and I listen with all my being to all the spirits of place, to the men, to the air, to the light, and to the entities that come join our circle. As an animist, I see my rattle as a living being, minded and filled with intention. I am in relationship to it. And together we are in relationship to the greater external reality. When I rattle, I set an intention to call out to all that is unseen and ask those willing to come engage with us, to do so in peace and in a manner we can understand. Poetically speaking, I am calling to the spirit world.
Here are a few examples of synchronicity that brings a sense of wonder. I am rattling. In my minds eye I see a Native American couple wrapped in blankets come stand behind an African American man who has joined us for the first time. I am seeing his ancestors. After the journey session he tells me he is 1/2 Penobscot Indian. Also during the journey I see a stag come in and stand beside a young man. An owl also comes and sits on a branch behind that same man. After the journey, unprompted he tells me in his journey he was in a pine forest and a stag came to stand beside him and an owl landing on a branch behind him. I had said nothing about what I had seen come into the room. So is this just coincidence? Last night the only spirit I saw was a black winged creature come down from above and fly past me. I could physically feel a breeze from its wings. We didn’t have time to talk about the journey at all. On my way out, a man asks me if he can tell me about his journey. He tells me he was in a high tower and a huge raven came flying down to give him a message. Are these “real” or is it just coincidence and imagination?
By the traditional definitions of “God”, I am an atheist. But I also live in an enchanted world filled with spirits I can craft relationship with. The spirit world for me is simply that which is unseen. I do not draw a line between imagination and “reality”. Intellectually I know air is gas molecules moving. I can feel them. I can see their effect as they move through the forest shaking branching and making the leaves dance. I make relationship to it, breathing it in and exhaling it out again but in a different mixture. I can feel the wind and it responds to my engagements (wrapping around my body, messing my hair, moving through my cardiovascular system). The wind is gas. It is also spirit.
So what are these spirits I encounter in my journeys? They are simply things of Nature that I cannot normally see. And that is explanation enough for me. I don’t see them with my eyes, yet I feel their presence. They in turn respond to my engagements. Are they real? I pose that question isn’t relevant. If we try to reduce everything we encounter to an explanation, we lessen the human experience. I am naturally a skeptic and fully support scientific research and the scientific method. Science is beautiful, powerful, accurate. It leads us deeper and deeper into wonder as we discover just how mysterious the universe is. It helps eliminate superstition and fear. But intellectual understanding is not the same thing as experience. I understand ice cream. The experience of eating it is what really matters to me. As science reveals more and more about the nature of Nature, it is important for us to remember, it the living that matters, not the thinking about living.
There is so much more going on than what our limited senses tell us. It is human hubris to think the tiny spectrum we are able to perceive, constitutes a deep understanding of the actuality of Nature. The important thing is to stay engaged with the unseen, feel the wonder of it and realize we are utterly blessed to live in an extraordinary enchanted world filled with possibility for delicious relationships.
We seemed surprised when there is a response to such a call as my rattle makes. The dance between skepticism and surprise is delicious as well. Let’s keep dancing.
Peace and wonder,