The Shamanic Realm

When I was an adolescent I called it the “symbolic world.” I was aware of the importance of symbols, especially symbolic actions, and also aware of the beauty of Nature. I was fortunate that my family’s house was sited on 5 acres of land, 2 acres of field in front of us, 3 acres of forest behind us, and the wooded part was contiguous with other undeveloped woodland so I had lots of forest to roam in. When I had crossed two streams I came to a part of the forest that was made up of huge beech trees, with very little undergrowth. Years later, when I read about forest ecology, I learned it was a “climax forest.” I called it “High Ridge” and pretended I was a horse or a deer. I knew, without being able to articulate it, that the symbolic realm was no colorless abstraction of Platonic Ideals, no far off heaven somewhere up there, that this realm was colorful, magical, mysterious, and contained the true beings of the trees and birds and streams I loved. When I read Lawrence Durrell, he spoke of the “Heraldic World,” and I knew exactly what he was talking about. Later on, when I learned about Celtic spirituality, the invisible world, Tir na nOg, was another name for it. Nowadays I call it the “shamanic realm” and sometimes, when I call out to it, even from a car traveling on the highway, I hear a chorus of voices of trees and rocks answering back. It speaks to me in dreams, and in the appearance of animals at significant moments.

‘The difficulties most of us have with visionary literature are related to how we construe reality in the first place, and that is to a considerable extent culturally determined. Examining the perceptual differences between us and our counterparts in the Middle Ages, historian Carolly Erickson characterizes our own perception of the universe as “controlled, atomistic, and one-dimensional” in contrast to the “chaotic, holistic and multi-dimensional reality” within which men and women of Julian’s time lived [Julian of Norwich, 1342-1416]. Most of humankind, she reminds us — nearly all those who lived in times past, and a great many living even now, outside industrialized society — have subscribed to that richer, multi-dimensional world. Inherently “more real” than everyday reality, this noncorporeal world has always been thought to surround and sustain it and to percolate up into it at regular intervals, visible and audible for those who are attuned to its presence.’
Carol Lee Flinders, Enduring Grace, p 84
Erickson, Carolly, The Medieval Vision: Essays in History and Perception.

“Glorious as the visible universe is, though, these women concur that it is surrounded and interpenetrated by another that is still more real, more real, however, by degree, and not by absolute difference. Two levels of reality seem to have coexisted for them like two versions, almost equally loved, of the same story. And when they experienced, as each of them did, a sudden deepening of the known world and a glimpse of all that hides behind it, each is emphatically clear that she did not just chance her way into the experience.”
Carol Lee Flinders, Enduring Lives, p23

This reminds me of the lovely paragraph from Elizabeth Goudge: “Until now life for him had meant the aridity of earthly duty and the dews of God. Now he was aware of something else, a world that was neither earth nor heaven, a heartbreaking, fabulous, lovely world where the conies take refuge in the rainbowed hills and in the deep valleys of the unicorns the songs are sung that men hear in dreams, the world that the poets know and the men who make music. … The autumn song of a wren could let you in, or a shower of rain, or a hobby-horse lying on a green lawn.”
Elizabeth Goudge, The Dean’s Watch p230

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