Confluence of Kings River and Sycamore Creek

CONFLUENCES

   At Pine Flat Reservoir, where a pounding stone juts from the steep, denuded slope halfway between Trimmer Springs Road above and the lake below, a soul path grows clearer. The canyon below holds the dark weight of suppression: buried beneath the water, at the confluence of Sycamore Creek and the Kings River, lingers the ancient village site of a vanished tribe, the reservoir stretching out like a vast collective shadow.
   Under water now an old dirt road meanders through the village site between skeletal oaks preserved by cold water for over fifty years, the support columns of a bridge like abandoned fortress walls within the creek bed. Not far away, where Big Creek meets the Kings, a stone chimney looms above the cockleburs that have spread wherever the reservoir has devoured the oak woodlands.
   A soul journey can be strangely unbalancing. Legend has it that two out of three who enter the magical forest go mad. In a drought year, when I was exploring the former contours of the river and creek at the bottom of the reservoir, my soul flowed into a confluence of time: Even though I had never been there before, I suddenly recalled that I had in some other life envisioned what I was experiencing, and my soul not only foresaw my return but also knew that I would remember the vision.
   As I was living this vision from some other life, I sensed that my core self is like a vast watershed with forgotten trails and streams, transcending the comfortable "I" of my personality, transcending even what my culture has done to ecosystems and races. Somehow my soul knew of the devastation of this place beforehand and knew also that I would experience its aftermath.

Site of Soul Vision

   I have hiked all over the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, finding Native American trails and village sites wherever I go, on public and private lands. The pounding stone on the steep slope is atypical. Most pounding stones dominate comparatively flat land where the tribe could build huts, on ridges or near water. The reservoir has eaten away the trails as well as the vegetation, so it is impossible to know how the stone connected to other sites, but I at least can surmise that it served as a lookout point where women ground acorns, warning the village below of potential threats.
   As I peer down into the reservoir from the pounding stone, I hear only the lapping of water and the wind moaning occasionally around the canyon. The sense of disconnection is palpable. A trail must have led down to the village site that is now under water and up to other encampments because vanishing trails still link Native American sites in one huge net across the entire range, the boundaries rewoven with barbed wire. This pounding stone on the denuded slope represents social and environmental and historical disconnection on a large scale, but what my soul revealed in the vision at the bottom of Pine Flat Reservoir is that everything is connected, even beyond space and time, transcending the disconnections caused by race and culture. The soul, or higher self, a state of lucid meta-conscious awareness, knows the divinity and kinship of all things; the collective shadow reveals in stark contrast the need to strive for the courage to live from the perspective of eternity, to re-establish the sense of kinship, harmony and order for self, family, and community.

Pounding Stone at Confluence of Sycamore Creek and the Kings River

Rediscover the foundation.

   For years I have explored the watershed of the Kings River, finding again and again places that feel familiar, the paths next to streams leading to ancient Native American village sites--places so familiar, in fact, that I have often believed without a doubt that I once haunted that watershed in another life. At the same time, I feel in some ways that over the past thirty-five years, I have lived the archetype of Job (except perhaps for the end of the story), not quite as dramatically or as tragically, but with similar effect, as part of some alchemical process of the soul. I’m not sure that I believe in fate, but the feeling lingers that I was intended to know the terrible shadow of disconnection during those thirty-five years, resulting in a spiritual transformation that has moved me from a transient sense of identity to a sense of eternal and expansive Being. If there is fate, then I have to believe that some part of myself, my higher self perhaps, did not let me veer from the path even though my incarnated personality expected so many other things.
   Because I have experienced disconnection on many levels in the past thirty-five years, I continue to explore a spiritual path that honors ancient wisdom and allows me to experience the mysteries without fear of purgation or hell, a path that enables me, in shamanic relationship with the land, to call forth the elemental energies of nature and the powers of local deities and great Shining Ones, a path that celebrates the interweaving of visible and invisible energies, Other worlds and Under worlds, and the spiraling cycles of transformation, birth, death, and regeneration.

Glimpse the Fool.

   My spiritual territory contains an oak grove on a ridge above Sycamore Creek. Because I have purified myself, the subtle senses of my soul have awakened, and I experience unexpected spiritual connections and synchronicities. For instance, every time that I hike the trail through the grove, I feel like I am being watched by a mountain lion--even though wildcats are rare (I’ve seen only three in twenty years). One day recently as I was strolling through the grove, I rested my palm on the handle of my buck knife, asking myself what I would do if I ever came face to face with a mountain lion--and at that very moment I glimpsed a wildcat ahead of me near the trail about to pounce on a squirrel. It bounded off into deer brush nearby as soon as it noticed me. I get the same feeling regarding invisible, intelligent natural forces known as “genius loci,” or the “spirit of place,” which the Romans often depicted as a figure holding a cornucopia, a patera (a shallow dish used for libations), a snake, or a combination of the three. These spirits, personified symbolically by shamans over millennia, are extremely powerful and intelligent, and tend to rise into my conscious mind when I am near an ancient Native American village site. Since they are invisible forces that maintain natural systems, they are more easily revealed by symbols, the language of the subconscious, rather than words. Some consider them nearly omnipotent and omniscient inside the realm they inhabit, while others consider them vast, semi-sentient wellsprings of magical energy. They are part of a spiritual territory that we have inherited and tend to ignore since one can only perceive the invisible natural forces with the “senses” of the soul.

Play a game.

   Another time, in the same watershed, I climbed a hill next to a stream. In the wetness, under the buckeyes and oaks, I felt a presence, so foreign to me in this life, but so familiar to my soul, that I performed a small ritual of adoration. A few minutes later, I “felt” a warning of impending danger. I rested next to the pounding stone for a few more seconds and decided to heed the intuitive warning, quickly descending the trail. A minute later, I heard the bellowing and snorting of a bull on the ridge close to where I had been. I believe the over soul, the spirit of the place, had communicated with subtle currents of “thought,” warning me about the raging, territorial animal. (Ten years ago, to my detriment, I would have ignored that warning.) Another day on a different ridge in the same area, I found several pounding stones and house pits. Suddenly the image of a God wearing a blood-red robe and deer antlers rose into my mind’s eye, and I felt the urge to run up the hill. A few seconds later I heard a deer bounding through the brush on the hill above me. I jokingly apologized to the God under my breath for being too old and out of shape, and I “felt” a wave of laughter washing over me.
   Humans throughout history have assigned a personality to things for a reason; for instance, a river might be known as “old man” or the sea as a woman: Humans sense life, conscious, intelligent, and invisible, within organized natural systems. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, for me now every river and stream has a different “feel” to it. Some local spirits seem to welcome human beings, some seem distrustful, even afraid, while others seem hostile. One stream in the lower foothills, for instance, contains an over soul that is welcoming and maternal. Every time I’ve strolled next to the stream, I have sensed that the spirit has a loving psychic connection with every blade of grass, every mushroom, every bush and tree and flower within its domain. The stream flows next to an ancient Native American village site, and I sense that the spirit experienced a loving relationship with generations of people there, and therefore is glad to “see” me. In contrast, the spirit of another stream nearby, closer to a modern habitation, seems “resentful,” as if it has experienced too much degradation at the hands of humans in recent history.

Pounding Stone in Region of Welcoming Genuis Loci

   One actually prepares for years for a soul journey, whether or not one is aware of it. I believe that I have already to a large extent faced my personal shadow, but like so many things on a soul journey, one is never completely certain. I’ve discovered, however, that accepting uncertainty is essential for maintaining reverence for otherness. A few years ago, I had begun to feel so fatigued that I had to take a nap every day. The last thing I expected at the time was a spiritual experience; in fact, for several decades before then I had doubted the existence of the soul. But I started to meditate, usually when I woke up from my nap, emptying my mind completely. Unexpectedly in my mind’s eye, I started envisioning pearls in the joints of my fingers and a rainbow of wheels, known as chakras, spinning in front of me along my spinal cord. I noticed impurities in the vortices and mentally wiped them clean. Some of the spinning wheels were harder to keep clean than others, however. I kept mentally draining the blackness from my heart and emptying trash from my crown chakra, for instance, but the blackness and the trash kept returning, so for a long time--in fact, until this day--I continue to purify my aura.
   One day when I finally felt purified, I began having visions of symbols, such as a simple mandala comprised of a golden, equal-armed cross with angels at each end, each angel in a differently colored robe; a gray figure-eight on its side above my head; and a pure, white flower with countless petals above my head. (I had thought at first that the flower was a rose, but a voice in my head whispered, “Lotus.”)
   Nothing had prepared me for these visions. No one could explain them and very few people felt comfortable discussing them; some people were even openly hostile if I mentioned them. I do not harbor Panglossian notions; I know the universe on our plane is essentially a predatory system. Our present form of capitalism is arguably one of the most predatory economic systems that has ever existed. Every weekend I look at the pounding stones of a culture destroyed a century ago, and I cannot believe love conquers all, but I know that purification and exaltation of consciousness leads to higher states where one truly experiences a sense of harmonious unity within the self and nature. Many people, in this society especially, from bitter experience insist that this sense of oneness is false, an illusion. The Fall from grace, however, is a fall into form that inevitably creates a blinding sense of separateness and disconnection, which I believe, and mystics claim, is ultimately the illusion. However, the experience of unity and universal harmony is, at this stage of evolution at any rate, not normally a shared experience; the mystic finds him or herself in the uncomfortable position of not believing in the shared reality of his or her culture.
   Due to my self-purification, something higher and deeper than my conscious mind suddenly communicated with me through symbols. I did some research and discovered that the figure-eight on its side, called a lemniscate, is a symbol of eternity and of the infinitude within. The thousand-petalled lotus associated with the crown chakra is a symbol of spiritual enlightenment. And the equal-armed cross, besides being a symbol of psychological integration, divides the magic circle in esoteric ceremonies that include invocations of the archangels stationed at the end of each arm of the cross; the “magician” conducting the ritual constructs a three dimensional magic circle in his imagination in order to project his mind into a fourth dimension: the spirit realm.
   Despite all of my visions, I still doubted the existence of a spirit realm. So I began to do rituals to see what would happen, such as “The Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram,” which invoked the Archangels of the four “elements of the wise.” Once, even though I felt clumsy while conducting the ritual, I was touched by the energy of an intelligence so far above my own that I felt like an amoeba in comparison--I was suddenly immersed in a thought-bubble of mind-boggling complexity, which impressed me with a sense of eternity and a level of knowledge that I cannot begin to comprehend.
   The next day at the end of the ritual I glimpsed a vague presence from a different dimension for a moment. Unfortunately, I neglected to do the banishing ritual of the pentagram, partly, I realized later, because I wanted to know for sure whether or not I had invoked a spiritual entity. That night, as I was falling asleep, something shook me so violently that I felt like every cell in my body was vibrating. I didn’t know what to do, so I just continued to lie there, hoping that it wouldn’t shake me anymore.
   But just as I was falling asleep again, something nudged me hard four times. I felt around for my dog and turned on the light, discovering that my dog was sound asleep on the other side of the room, and no one else that I could see was in the room with me. Later that week, something made a farting noise right behind me while I was alone, working on the computer. After that, I performed the banishing ritual in every room of my house and was no longer disturbed.
   I continued meditating and noticed in my mind’s eye a patch of black in my etheric body under my right arm. I mentally drained the black energy from my body and filled the area with blue, yellow and brilliant white energy. Several days later I pressed a round ball of white flesh, the size of a musket ball, painlessly through a slit under my arm. Weeks later I envisioned another black streak, this time under my left arm. After doing the same visualization, mentally draining the negative energy and filling the underarm with positive energy, a large round boil surfaced under my arm. Several days later another round ball of flesh, along with a teaspoon of puss, painfully oozed out. The same process occurred two more times over the period of a year, my left underarm forming a boil and white growths oozing out--after I had drained the black energy from my aura.
   From then on whenever I envisioned a streak of black anywhere in my aura, I mentally drained it away into magma and engulfed my aura with blue, yellow and white energy, and soon I began to feel healthier than I have ever felt before even though I was almost fifty years old. The black energy continued to appear in my heart, which caused me concern not only for my physical and spiritual well-being since the heart, I realized, was where the spiritual and physical energies of the self meet, but for the well-being of society, which is deluged by negative energies. I continued to drain the black energy from my heart whenever I envisioned it there and slowly felt more and more joyful, experiencing a radical innocence that I have not experienced since childhood, and rarely even then.
   On my weekly hikes in the foothills, I have found many undisturbed Native American village sites, and I have experienced a uniquely human enchantment in those ancient, abandoned encampments. After envisioning archetypal symbols in my mind’s eye while hiking in the forest, I began to sense the presence of Gods and Goddesses in those village sites. The formless spiritual forces behind nature stimulate the subconscious mind, which projects symbols, the primal language of form, to the conscious mind, much like a dream, if the channel is open. Over thousands of years, shamans at those encampments, I believe, had personified the spiritual forces behind nature as Gods and Goddesses in human and animal form for the collective imagination of the tribe; those forces stirred my subconscious mind, causing the astral images built up over millennia to rise into my consciousness, so I began to sense the presence of male and female spirits, the deities of the hunt, war, cleverness, healing, beauty, love, abundance, and the home. Those village sites felt enchanted to me because the spiritual forces ensouled the forms of human archetypes rather than archetypal symbols, which may explain why I almost always sensed that I was nearing village sites, some of which had been buried under earth and humus for years.

Enchanted Tree of Life

   Deities surround us, but Western cultures have all but lost the ability to know them, especially since the vast majority of people no longer have regular contact with nature. Because comparatively few have had the opportunity to experience the sentient, invisible forces behind manifestation, and science has no devices to detect them, the Gods are treated as the phantasms of primitive, superstitious minds. To a few, the archetypal figures of the Gods shed some light on the mindset of ancient cultures, but the Gods typically remain oddities for the modern, rational individual, who has never mused over their bones nor gawked at them like so many giraffes and elephants in the zoo. The spiritual significance of the Gods eludes the average person, who often only encounters them in brief retellings of myths.
   Science has never adequately explained consciousness, let alone created a device that measures all aspects of the psyche. Science, on the other hand, has revealed that the five senses can only perceive a small fraction of the measurable frequencies of energy in the known universe. Mounting evidence also suggests that human beings have a “sixth sense” that is sensitive to subtle currents of energy, resulting in experiences that cannot be explained nor explained away: clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, telepathy, retro-cognition, precognition, and other types of extra sensory perception. And there has always throughout history been faith in a spiritual dimension, a faith which develops after repeated experiences that cannot be measured but which have an immeasurable effect. All of this is not proof, of course, that deities exist; however, the most advanced cultures in the history of civilization have had their pantheons of Gods or Angels, the great Shining Ones who influence human evolution. Were those cultures simply primitive, or is modern, monotheistic humanity missing something?
   Based on its needs in different times and places, the human mind has created the forms of deities as a way to connect with the invisible natural forces. Spiritual traditions have operated from time immemorial as if these natural forces are intelligent and willing to ensoul the symbolic forms, channeling their energy into the human mind. To those with the powers of sympathetic imagination, the Gods aid circumstances and stimulate evolution. If one is reverent enough, sensitive enough, and fervent enough, the Gods return, the form a symbolic fabrication of appropriate correspondences, the force real. If one successfully invokes a God, one can feel that humans are like amoebas in comparison; humans notice the Gods because we are made of the same soul stuff, only much less developed: "As above, so below." Fashioning symbolic human and animal figures simply makes the invisible forces more accessible to the human imagination.
   The mystic glyph of The Tree of Life factors out these forces, revealing the correspondences between the macrocosm and the microcosm. Nobody knows the origin of the fantastic symbol system known as the Tree of Life, but legend has it that a Shining One gave it to humanity. Based on my experiences, I cannot imagine that any human being could have created it. On the surface, the basic structure appears simple. As many have pointed out, the Tree on one level is like a filing system that enables one to classify the various energies within the cosmos and the human being--the macrocosm and the microcosm. Because the human being contains the energies of the macrocosm, energetic correspondences exist at subtle levels perceived by the soul.
   The Tree of Life is a map, not the terrain itself, and ultimately, every true experience of a path on the Tree is deeply personal. In order to follow the map, however, one needs to have at least a basic summary of the most important aspects of the Tree, which can be structured several ways. The conventional (and perhaps most helpful) way presents the sephiroth, or objective states of being, as spheres in three columns. The right column, known as the Pillar of Mercy, represents types of expansive force, and the left column, known as the Pillar of Severity, represents types of restricting energy. The central column, known as the Pillar of Mildness or Middle Pillar, balances the energies of the right and left columns. In the process of involution creative energy flows from spirit to matter in a zigzag from the first sphere in a lightning flash, known as the Way of the Lightning, from the heavens to the earth, from sphere one to ten in order down the Tree, each sphere, or “sephira,” (singular for “sephiroth”) emanating the next, until creation reaches its culmination in Malkuth, the Kingdom.
   In the process of spiritual evolution, the energy rises up from the earth toward the heavens, but follows a different route known as the Way of the Serpent, which snakes along the paths connecting the sephiroth. The individual works up the Tree, following paths thirty-two through eleven in The Way of the Serpent. In the process one experiences four cycles, each containing five paths, the first set of five corresponding to the element of Earth, the second to Air, the third to Water, the fourth to Fire, and ending with the two side paths that represent two basic types of spiritual force connecting the Source with the left and right pillars.
   The highest spiritual vibration flows like a river from the Source down to the densest physical manifestation. Moreover, the Tree spatially represents the three-fold division of the human psyche, from the incarnated, lower personality in the two spheres at the bottom, to the evolutionary personality, known as the soul or higher self, in the five middle spheres, to the transpersonal core Self, or divine spark, in the three supernal spheres at the top. Connected to the Source, the core Self links to the soul, which in turn connects with the conscious mind of the incarnated individual. In most cultures, unfortunately, the divine spark and the soul are buried deep in the subconscious mind, the conscious mind being overwhelmed by the demands and distractions of physical reality and social expectations. The conscious mind from childhood develops an identity, or ego, based on social conditioning and personal inclinations and abilities, to deal with the exigencies of reality, and gradually loses touch with the higher and deeper dimensions of the psyche.
   Buried in the subconscious, the higher self, which contains spiritual knowledge not connected to the physical senses, can communicate with the conscious mind through visions of symbols and archetypes or through pure knowledge not linked to the perceptions of the physical senses. This communication usually occurs during crises or when the mind is calm, undisturbed by negative emotions and social pressures and personal dramas. The subconscious, if it is clear and calm, can reflect the higher self, something which does not occur often in a society such as our own brimming with negative thought forms and distractions and demands based on the profit motive and ego satisfaction. The mind for many people grows shallow and stagnant, cut off from the spiritual life force, so people come to fear or ignore or forget the higher and deeper dimensions of the psyche (which the Gods help one to develop). There are many challenges in the journey to the Source, the two most difficult being, first, the passing through the veil from the lower, incarnated personality to the higher self, and, second, the crossing of the abyss from the higher self to the transpersonal core Self. Very few people have done the latter, and no one has returned to talk about it. Clearing a channel to the higher self is one of the great challenges for the individual in most cultures in the modern world, and it requires breaking out of the conformity demanded by family, friends, and society--and one must not only cleanse the subconscious but balance and integrate the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energies so that the soul can communicate clearly with the conscious mind.

Take the next path.
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