Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Bible is essentially shamanic

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

"I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground . . . " Daniel 8:18.

Previous posts have been exploring the evidence that many of the events in the Biblical scriptures describe the motions of the celestial realms, in metaphorical language. 

In "Samson and the seven locks of his head," we saw that the Samson series in the book of Judges contain numerous clues pointing to the conclusion that these stories describe the motion of the sun through the signs of the zodiac.

In "The vision of Ezekiel and the Tetramorphs of the Four Gospels," we saw that the vision of Ezekiel described in the first two chapters of the book of the prophet Ezekiel contain details which precisely correspond to the turning of the heavens as modeled in an armillary sphere, complete with "wheels" for the celestial equator, the ecliptic path, and the solstitial and equinoctial colures, and that the wheel of the ecliptic was described as being composed of "strakes," which correspond to the segments of the ecliptic band belonging to each of the signs of the zodiac.

In "The Four Evangelists, and the Cherubim and Seraphim," we explored evidence which suggests that the four evangelists themselves (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) embody the four first-magnitude stars Regulus, Fomalhaut, Aldebaran, and Antares, and the additional possibility that the cherubim and seraphim described in the Bible correspond to the brightest first-magnitude stars, or perhaps to first-magnitude stars and planets.

And in "The Angel Gabriel," we looked at some of the evidence which points to the conclusion that this angelic messenger corresponds to the planet Mercury, and thus to other divine messengers in other myth-systems, including Hermes, Thoth, and the Norse god Odin, all of whom are associated with crossing the boundaries to the unseen realm, and who are sometimes depicted as bringing messages in dreams, or as bringing the gift of communicating through runes or symbols.

I believe that all of this evidence strongly suggests that the Biblical texts, in common with other sacred texts and stories from around the world, are profoundly shamanic in nature, using celestial imagery and the heavenly realms in general as a metaphor for the unseen realm or spirit world, which shamanic cultures the world over can be broadly shown to understand as intertwining and interpenetrating this physical or material universe, and in fact to be the true source from which our more familiar visible world is actually generated or projected.

The shamanic aspects of the Bible (in common with the other mythologies of the world's cultures) are explored and discussed at length in The Undying Stars, as well as in many previous blog posts such as here and here. This post will examine a few more aspects of this thesis.

First, it is very noteworthy that the visions which in the above-linked discussions can be shown to depict the motions of the celestial realms, as well as other similar visions described in the Biblical texts, are often described in conjunction with the seer of the vision falling into a deep sleep, sometimes with  the additional detail that they are lying with their face to the ground at the onset of the vision.

In each of the visions of Ezekiel, for example, the text (which describes the visions in the first-person perspective) states "I fell on my face," or "I fell down upon my face" as the divine glory which marks the beginning of a vision appears (see Ezekiel 1:28, Ezekiel 3:23, Ezekiel 9:8, and Ezekiel 11:13).

In the book of the prophet Daniel, Daniel is twice described as being in a deep sleep during which he meets an angelic being and has a transcendent vision: in Daniel 8:18 he says, "I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground," and in Daniel 10:9 he says, "then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground."

And, in the extremely important vision of Abram in Genesis 15, we read in verse 12: "And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him."

These descriptions of falling into a deep sleep and then obtaining a vision of the spirit world are extremely characteristic of shamanic experience the world over. Similar descriptions can be read again and again in the encylopedic catalog of shamanic technique collected in Mircea Eliade's Shamanism: Archaic techniques of ecstasy (1951), many of them reported by first-hand observers in previous centuries visiting cultures where shamanic traditions had remained largely undisturbed by modern incursions.

Below is an image from an observer of the shamanic culture of the Sami people of the far northern regions of Scandinavia, showing a noaidi with drum (on the left as we look at the image on the page) and stretched out upon the ground another Sami entering into a state of ecstatic trance:

Other similar drawings depicting Sami techniques of ecstasy, such as the one labeled "Figure 4" a little more than halfway down this webpage discussing the Sami drum (in that drawing, the artist shows the vision of the spirit realm as being populated by demon-figures, probably indicating disapproval on the part of the person making the drawing itself).

The degree to which these images correspond to Biblical verses such as "then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground" is extremely noteworthy.

In the New Testament as well, there is a passage in 2 Corinthians which appears to refer to an ecstatic experience, and an ecstatic experience by the apostle Paul (although he relates the event in the third person, while including hints that he is describing his own experience). At the beginning of the twelfth chapter, we read:
1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful [margin note offers as an alternative translation "possible" rather than "lawful"] for a man to utter.
Based upon this text, as well as a host of other evidence which he discusses in more than one of his essays, poet and esoteric scholar Gerald Massey (1828 - 1907) argued that Paul was actually teaching a doctrine which can broadly be described as Gnostic, meaning that Paul taught an allegorical understanding of the scriptures and that Paul experienced a personal vision of the spirit world on at least one occasion, but that forces during the first four centuries AD supplanted the original Gnostic teachings of Paul and others with a completely different system based upon a literalistic interpretation of the scriptures rather than a Gnostic one.

In an essay entitled "Paul the Gnostic Opponent of Peter, not an Apostle of Historic Christianity" (Massey uses the term "Historic" to describe those teaching that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were intended to describe historic events that took place in literal history), Massey says:
Paul, on his own testimony, was an abnormal Seer, subject to the conditions of trance. He could not remember if certain experiences occurred to him in the body or out of it! This trance condition was the origin and source of his revelations, the heart of his mystery, his infirmity in which he gloried -- in short, his "thorn in the flesh." He shows the Corinthians that his abnormal condition, ecstasy, illness, madness (or what not), was a phase of spiritual intercourse in which he was divinely insane -- insane on behalf of God -- but that he was rational enough in his relationship to them. [. . .] Paul's Christ, the Lord, is the spirit; his gospel is that of spiritual revelation, the chief mode of manifestation being abnormal, as it was, and had been, in the Gnostic mysteries.
The Gnostic Christ was the Immortal Spirit in man, which first demonstrated its existence by means of abnormal or spiritualistic phenomena. It did not and could not depend on any single manifestation in one historic personality. And when Paul says, "I knew a man in Christ," we see that to be in Christ is to be in the condition of trance, in the spirit, as they phrased it, in the state that is common to what is now termed mediumship.
Being in the trance condition, or in Christ, as he calls it, he was caught up to the third heaven, and could not determine whether he was in the body or out of the body. Paragraphs 24 - 26.
Along with these admissions that he is prone to being "caught up" into the state of ecstatic trance, Paul also declares plainly that the stories in the Hebrew Scriptures are intended to be understood as an allegory. 

Writing in the fourth chapter of his epistle to the Galatians, Paul presents an argument in which he explains that the story and circumstances regarding the birth of the two children of Abraham (namely Isaac and Ishmael) are given as an allegory in order to convey spiritual truths, saying:
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
This passage is clearly of tremendous importance. First of all, Paul directly and bluntly states that these events "are an allegory" (Galatians 4:24). Then, he goes on to explain what he believes this allegory was intended to convey to us.

He says that the two women by which Abraham is said to have had the two sons are actually two "covenants." The first woman, Agar (more commonly spelled and referred to as Hagar in most later English translations), actually "is mount Sinai in Arabia," Paul says, "and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children." Then, Paul declares that in contrast to the "Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children," there is a "Jerusalem which is above" and which is free -- and that this Jerusalem "above" is in fact "the mother of us all."

What could he mean?

In light of the discussion above, and in the posts linked at the beginning of this discussion, and all of the evidence pertaining to the worldwide symbolism of the zodiac wheel and the great cross of the year which depicts a horizontal component representing the spirit or the Djed column "cast down" into material incarnation and a vertical component representing the spiritual nature being called forth and "raised up" again, I believe that this passage from Galatians 4 should be interpreted as follows: 
The two sons of Abraham, one by a bondmaid and the other by a freewoman, are an allegory. They represent two covenants, a word which literally means "coming together" [the prefix co- meaning "with" and related to or shortened from the prefix con-, which is still seen in the Spanish language meaning literally "with," and the word venire in Latin meaning "to come" and seen in other English words such as intervene meaning "come between" and invent meaning to find "come upon," as well as in the Spanish descendant word venir meaning "to come"]. These two "coming togethers" or covenants are, in the zodiac wheel, found at the two points of equinox, where the ecliptic path crosses the celestial equator two times during the year, once at the fall equinox when the sun is on its way down to the winter solstice, and once at the spring equinox when the sun is on its way back up to the summer solstice, the very pinnacle of the year. These two points can be allegorically seen as representing two different births: one of them the birth from the bondswoman, after the flesh, and the other of them the birth from the free woman. If you need me to spell this out to you, the one from the bondswoman which is the birth "after the flesh" is the birth into the material realm, when we take on a physical body, and are born into this human life. On the great cross of the year, and in the allegories of the sacred stories, this takes place at the point of fall equinox, when the heavenly sun passes down into the lower half of the year, representing the experience of each one of us: we are each a heavenly spirit from the unseen realm, sojourning in this material realm for a time. This is what I mean when I say that this birth gives us "the Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children" -- this is all of us, trapped here in this material realm below, imprisoned within a physical body in order to learn and do and accomplish certain things which could only be accomplished by entering into this realm. But everything here is based upon a heavenly pattern, a spiritual pattern -- everything here contains and reflects and is patterned after and even projected from the other realm, the heavenly realm, the realm of spirit. That is what I mean by the "Jerusalem which is above, and is free." The covenant that marks the beginning of that "upper realm" is of course the spring equinox. A major part of what we are supposed to be doing in while we are toiling through this "lower realm" is to be remembering and recognizing the fact that we  and everyone around us each comes from the spirit realm, from the "Jerusalem above which is the mother of us all," and we are to be elevating and uplifting the spirit in ourselves and in others, and in fact in the entire creation, all of which contains and is interpenetrated with and projected from that unseen world to which we travel when we go "out of the body." Got it?
In other words, it is most significant that the same Paul who tells us that he experiences the ecstatic condition of being "caught up into paradise" also tells us that the scriptural characters and events are actually "an allegory," and that in fact the allegory has to do with the lower realm into which we are born as if into a prison, and the upper realm to which we actually all belong, and which in fact is "the mother of us all." 

The two go together: knowledge of the absolutely central importance of the ecstatic or trance condition (which can also be contacted through dreams and many other methods which are as varied as are the myriad different cultural expressions and experiences of the human race), and knowledge that the sacred stories are allegorical in nature and intended to convey to us the understanding of the importance of the spiritual realm from whence we come and to which we journey when we go into non-ordinary reality.

If that upper realm is the mother of us all, that means that we are all actually "native" to the spirit realm. The scriptures, with their celestial allegories, are meant to tell us that and remind us of that fact. So are the teachings of spiritual seers such as Paul.

The scriptures themselves plainly proclaim that they, along with the other sacred traditions the world over, are in fact shamanic in nature. The broadly shamanic (or broadly Gnostic) understanding of the scriptures was very widespread during the early centuries of Christianity, during the period that the advocates of the historical interpretation were hard at work establishing a literalistic and hierarchical form of Christianity to supplant the Gnostic understanding, and during which the literalist Christian authorities published numerous texts which had as their express central purpose the demonization of the Gnostics and everything that they taught and did. 

Massey also refers to these opponents of Gnosticism, who became the "fathers" of the literalist Christian faith, as "the literalisers" and the "de-Spiritualizers." 

We can see that these two labels place them squarely at odds with Paul himself, who taught an allegorical rather than a literal understanding of the texts, and who taught that the purpose of the allegory was to convey an understanding that is Spiritualizing or broadly shamanic in nature: an understanding of this material universe as being interpenetrated by and indeed generated from an invisible spirit realm, and an understanding of our human nature as being essentially native to the realm of spirit but temporarily plunged into physical incarnation, which is akin to a state of bondage.

This knowledge is extremely uplifting and empowering. It is plainly and abundantly evident throughout the scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments. The only real question we should ask ourselves is why someone would want to suppress it?