Zen Tantric Shamanism
Zen Tantric Shamanism
Deva Daricha is a modern day Shaman living, teaching and practising his art in a small residential community in the Yarra Valley. In this interview he outlines the relevance of shamanism to modern Australians, gives tips on some of the essentials of spiritual communal living, offers a definition of Tantra, describes the basics of deep tissue bodywork and discourses on the potential of radical philosophy.
What is the relevance of Shamanism to everyday life?
Shamanism is the archaic religion. It was the first way in which people started to follow the flow of spirit through nature. As they looked, in an evolutionary sense, into finding the mystery of three-dimensional time they developed rituals for celebrating that-for sometimes trying to invite it, for other times trying to get a bit of a handle on it, or trying to bring it under control. There is no systematic language about it because each culture developed it's own language and its own approach to the mystery and its own words about it.
Basically they were trying to make sense of the myriad manifestations of consciousness and trying to understand the enormous number of different levels or dimensions or intersections that we can live across. Also how sometimes parts of consciousness that aren't normally in three-dimensional space impinge in upon us and create the miraculous, the spectacular, the extraordinary or the synchronistic and we move out of linear time into this completely different sort of synchronic time, where everything has meaning and everything is connected and where a touch and a prayer can bring a miracle. When I look at the bareness of a lot of ordinary life I seems to me that that is immensely relevant. It is about finding the flow of spirit in our lives without having to put it into the boxes that have been produced by the normal religions.
The orthodox religions, in a way, arose to try to celebrate the way in which the mystery had become manifest into three-dimensional space and time. But then what happened is they tried to make it totally predictable and by making it predictable and by setting up cannons of belief etc, ultimately the mystery left because there is no space for it, because everything becomes known or ordinary. So if you look now the fastest type of religions that are growing are the charismatic ones. Because they've got trance they've got dance, movement, ecstasy, prophecy, primal language, they've got healing. These are all Shamanic elements. The Charismatics - give them a different language, put them in a different setting in nature and they are pure shamans.
They wouldn't want to be associated with it because they want to pretend they've got a unique language and a unique force. But you can set up rituals which will deal with precisely the same force, except they'll say it's coming from the devil or its coming from Satan, but people will get healed just the same way. You don't have to talk about the Holy Spirit, you don't have to talk about God, you can just purely have the Mystery coming down and filling us with its fullness.
Good answer - I'm treading water now.
I don't have this stuff prepared - as you ask it I start to enter into the shamanic world and describe the shamanic world from where you're asking the question and it all comes together.
Where do you see yourself culturally within the Shamanic theme, do you identify with Aboriginal cultures or Native American?
The task that I have taken on, I haven't chosen it but I have taken it on, is basically to try to answer the question: 'what is the appropriate form of Shamanism for white people in this country?'
Here we are in the oldest country on the planet, where the dreaming is still strong particularly in the uninhabited regions. This is the ultimate argument for keeping old growth forests-this is where the spirit is strongest, where there is the least disturbance of the natural flow of things. This is where you can go and be refreshed and be healed and feel that subtle shimmer of spirit on the wind or on the lake or in the mist. If our hearts don't get touched by that or by the extraordinary emptiness in the desert places then we're dead. It's like we're dead from the head down and from the neck up.
So I occupy an extraordinarily challenging place because traditionally Shamanism is taught within a cultural context. What I've tried to do is what I started teaching when I was a philosopher, teaching a course called Religion, Science and Magic. The magical aspect that I looked at was Shamanism, as one of the three great ways that human beings have tried to understand the world. The others are the religious way and the scientific way.
What I was trying to do was to extract the essential shamanic understandings out of the cultural ritual and the cultural definition and the planes of cultural uniqueness. Then it's a matter of, once you do that, and you understand how all of that's going and moving, then, how do we apply that? How can we ritualise it, how can we live it? How can we experience it, how can we explore it in the context of this country?
Now certainly interfacing with Aboriginal people who are prepared to share at this level is an important and profound part of that, but we have to face the fact that we are not Aboriginal people, that our whole linguistic thought structure comes out of the European heritage. For me it's no good going back into Celtic Shamanism, although that's part of the flavor of the month, because we don't live in that country. Shamanism has to come out of the dreaming of the country that you're in. It's always to do with the unique spirit force that, that country, is trying to manifest through the forms of consciousness that are living there, whether that's the rocks, the rivers, the animals or the human beings.
So over the years, with some assistance and challenges from very dear friends, I've tried to create a Shamanic process that isn't derivative. One of our teachers is qualified to carry a Lakota pipe and perform ceremonies and from time to time he'll do an amazingly beautiful Lakota lodge. But we'll do that because it is a profound healing ritual. In the lodge you open up to the blessings that spirit can bring to you.
Outside of churches, there are few places where people sit down together and pray out of their deepest most profound most exquisite need for healing, for love to lift them in their own sense of worth. I've been in lodges where I've just been touched to extraordinary depths by the prayers that people offer. And it's, as much for that as for anything else that one would enter into one. I don't experience that as being derivative. I know that there is a whole argument that it should be a pure form, in some ways; I am almost offering a counter-argument here. It is not about eclecticism, but the precision with which a specific tool can be used to assist the movement of spirit within a group of people.
What are some of these tools? How can they be sharpened and does the list of tools psychedelic hallucinogenic drugs?
Well those sorts of things have always been used, Shamanically within cultures. The problem that we've created with psychedelics and generally with drug use is that we've taken substances that have a sacred role and function and we've de-contextualised them. Tobacco was used in sacred ceremony. Alcohol was used as part of the Greek ceremonies where it brought energies of revel and intense sexuality to Dionysian rituals. Ganja was used in the Tantric temples in India as part of the preparation for people being moved into the next level. In Greenland it was hallucinogenic moss. In Australia you have various substances, such as native tobacco, that enable people to shift their awareness; so those sorts of gifts of spirit via nature have always been part of it.
But there is a little more to it than that. Those things will give people access to the Shamanic worlds but learning how to interpret what comes, learning how to be able to handle what comes is another matter. People who enter those worlds, without the skills to handle what comes, go into extreme forms of disorder. Spirits can possess them; they can literally split in half psychically because they accelerate themselves into spaces that basically they are not entitled to enter, because they haven't been initiated to go into those spaces. The processes of systematic initiation that existed in cultures were to provide a way for people to go into those levels with at least a certain form of preparation. There were no guarantees, but you had your best shot of coming out alive with the knowledge you sought rather than being torn to bits by the tigers of spirit.
So, and yet, on the other hand, my own path was very individual. While I was trying to find a path that was not derivative, I couldn't go into the other cultures to try to find it, so basically I had to try to find how to understand consciousness.
Certainly the Yogas and the texts of enlightenment have got that, but then to understand the movement of spirit through nature that's something that basically I did by spending the time alone in the bush and praying. I found that the time of night just between when it's twilight, just before dark falls there's about ten minutes time when there's a subtle breeze and that's the change between the earth's "in breath" and "out breath." And that subtle breeze that's the gap where you can talk to spirit in more profound ways than normal.
I was living by myself in the bush in a green corrugated iron shed and I'd go and stand in a particular place and I'd pour out my loneliness and my desire to be of service and my love to the clouds and to the trees and to the mountains and to the earth and somehow out of that things started coming back. At times I'd start to enter into a totally different zone where I'd ask a question and the wind would blow the answer. The answer would arise in me spontaneously and so I started to enter into this dialogue with nature where sometimes the trees would teach me about themselves and the earth would teach me about itself. It was coming, in a way, directly out of having prepared my consciousness for that level of conversation. It was an individual journey, but all the time it could be cross-referenced through the language of another culture, into how other people do it as well. I was just trying to find out how it could be for a white man living in this country to enter those sorts of spaces.
Over what period of time was this happening?
About 20 years. I had sort of classic experiences in my early years. There's usually an illness in the early years around adolescence when people are called to Shamanism. I had mine around thirteen. I was at a Sunday school picnic where there was a cross-country race - I'd never been in a cross-country race before. I went in and I actually won it. There was something about when I was running and the sun entered into me and then I was paralysed for a week, with no cause whatever, and then I came out of the paralysis and I became a champion athlete and an incredibly fine footballer which I'd never been before. In retrospect, that was like a part of the spirit entering me.
But I lost all of that. Firstly the formal religious process that I was going through tried to produce one evangelical way of being alive, and then I went to university and I studied philosophy and the religious dogmas didn't stand up.
Then I was in Mexico in1976 at a place called San Juan de Teotihuacan- where the largest pyramids on the planet are, they're actually not in Egypt but in Mexico. Anyway, I was by one of the temples that was there and I'd been reading a bit about Castaneda and all that stuff before I went to live in Mexico, and suddenly I turned around and there was an Aztec medicine man in full dress that no one else saw and I knew that I'd entered into the Shamanic world. So I read some of the classic texts on shamanism, psychedelia and those areas and made up for a lack of a misplaced youth and then I trained with Stan Grof, the world's leading expert on the use of psychedelics. His map of consciousness for a simple non-cultural shamanic understanding is the best there is. Chapter four of the Nature of the Human Unconscious maps it. What I got from Stan was incredibly valuable and that is the understanding that consciousness can be infinitesimally small and infinitely large- it can go through size change and it can go through time change. It can also go through space change, so all of the phenomena that you experience in consciousness is to do with the point of identification across n dimensional/ time /space/ size/ intersections and providing you can recognise that, then you've got an operational fix on how to navigate. If you are in a space that isn't functional and working for you, then you can generate the programme to run through the biocomputer that can get you out of it.
So what we tried to do was to develop a technological analogue for how to operate the software to operate the hardware of consciousness. I started in 1976 and I trained for 13 years. Basically I was pursuing three paths-a meditational path with Osho, a Tantric path that had been awakened in me in 1974 and the Shamanic path. When I finally worked out what we would call it, if we were to give this a name, it was: Zen Tantric Shamanism. (I met a guy once who said: "My guru said if anyone wanted to have the ultimately marketable property they would call it Zen Tantric Shamanism - By what authority do you give it that name?" And I said "by my own authority" and the clarity of my look blew him away.)
The reason for the Zen aspect is because ultimately there is 'no thing.' Everything arises out of the emptiness. The emptiness and the point of stillness that is there creates the dream and then manifests in myriad forms which in this country is called the Dreamtime- Everything comes out of the Dreamtime. You can actually push it a little bit further, into the nothing, which is simultaneously everything as well. When you hit that space you come to see the whole trip.
In 1989 I got initiated spontaneously by the spirit of Uluru into the mysteries of this country. I lay on Uluru and said, "well here I am well give it to me" - and I almost died with the impact of what ripped through me. I had intense fever for nine days, couldn't walk for a month after that and then I finally realised that I'd been encoded by this incredible knowledge that came out of the spirit of this country and if I opened my mouth it would come out. So then I started to teach.
After that I knew I was ready to teach and before that I wouldn't. My wife spent a lot of time saying why don't you start working with men and teaching the Shamanic stuff and I said, "I'm not ready", because the decision was not mine. It never is. It is not a matter of will, it is a matter of Grace and Spirit decided at that time, it was time for me to receive it.
So you are incorporating Zen, Tantra and Shamanism because it's all the same thing in a way?
Yes, because once you understand the essential nature of consciousness and how it manifests itself into form and how that form is governed by the time/space intersection you can just go into a whole variety of contexts and take in these sorts of understandings.
A lot of people can't understand how I teach Shamanism, Tantra, Bodywork and Breath but I am only teaching the one thing. In the end, it is all about how energy comes into form how its flow through form can become stuck. The question is how to unstick it, which means transformation occurs. I like a reasonable level of excitement in my life so if I do it in more than one context, it's more mysterious than if I just keep on doing it in the same way. So if I'm teaching Bodywork I'm also at some level teaching Tantra and Shamanism and I'm teaching how to come from the point of stillness that has no mind - because it is all one thing. Any divisions are once it comes away from the One.
When you get to that word - One, it's hard to ask a question because it's only pulling away from the One. I want to stay with the One.
Well words are always pulling away from the One - there are always incompletenesses. What I find, when I talk about my own journeys towards the emptiness, is that words are simply the carriers of the experience and that if people can follow the flow of feeling, they will touch into the reality of it. But following the flow of feeling is difficult if there aren't words for it. The words I use simply define the parameters of the map. They're not the reality of the journey, just like a map of this place doesn't give the reality of it's fullness, but it does allow consciousness to start to travel through it. It's like I want to bring them with me as far as they can grok along that journey and every now and then someone will start to get a touch into the place of emptiness.
About what you went through at Uluru, do you see other people hitting that point now? Unsticking their energy so to speak?
Yes. That experience was not only incredibly profound for me but it took a huge toll on my body. What we've done over the time since then is worked out what are the useful preconditions so that the body and the mind and the feeling structure will more easily cope with that massive shift in the point of energetic identification. That's a good example of the way I am using the words as a road map - 'the point of energetic identification'.
So access into those spaces can be a lot simpler for people who've trained with us for a decade. We even do a training in which people learn how to come to the threshold of another dimension and how to start to put one foot across while still holding the exit door open. That way they can just gradually get a sense of what it is like to enter that new space and to feel the energetic shift in themselves. Then as they prepare more and Grace decides that it's time to give them a bigger hit, they'll go in there for two days, five days, ten days sometimes and then come out very, very different human beings. But we don't try to determine who goes in or when they go in, because it's not our choice. It is always the Grace of Spirit flowing, but we provide the support context for people to be able to assimilate that shift and change their lives.
Where does it leave people in their lives after they do that? Can they go back to the lives they had or do they usually have no intention of going back anyway?
Often what will happen is that the context of their lives will change. They will orientate themselves toward a different form of service in the world. Sometimes the young women who go through it, bring a new being into the planet within the next couple of years. There is a bit of a joke among my apprentices that no one has got a proper job anymore. In actual fact they are finding other ways of existing in the world that aren't demanding their nine to five, five day a week dimension. They tend to be self-employed. We've got blokes who are adventurers, who run 50-foot pearling luggers, who are very robust, and run expeditions around Australia.
You see the healing is one of the Shamanic gifts but it is not the only one. Prophecy is another one- the capacity to see clearly into the future. If you want to look at a very good technological Shaman Steven Speilberg's got to be that. Look at the shift in consciousness he did on a planetary level with his film ET. That's a piece of massive Shamanism. So Shamans don't always work as healers, they may work as communicators, as agents for social change, which is part of that whole notion of what it is to be a Shaman for people in this country. It's not just the model of being a healer. There are also those people who occupy the space between the worlds and the dimensions who become the vehicles from which the new manifests.
Do you have any interest in what is going on in Australia socially and politically or is that just too far from where you're at?
My solution is to generate the new and invite people to step into that. From my perspective it's no good going back into the old structures. I think the whole thing around Pauline Hanson is great because finally the shadow side of the Liberal Party is starting to manifest. It's no longer being hidden. We're seeing what it is. I think it's great and hopefully it will even destroy it. But my work is not trying to fix the old. It's about generating the future and living it now as much as we can.
Part of being able to push forward with this must be getting away from the nuclear family dimension and having a spiritual community of sixteen people, which is an interesting number in itself to have that many people connected in. So where is your community based and can outsiders join it?
Well there are no outsiders. People who come are in. We are in the Yarra Valley in Victoria. The thing about Shamanic Tantric communities within this sort of culture is that they need a certain safety. We live on the last property in a dead end road. It's the whole sort of, you know, mud brick, organic garden, solar system, set up because they're important sorts of ways of easing our spirit in the sort of world that we're in. And amenable social relations are incredibly supportive arrangements between people, so that the mums aren't the only ones looking after the kids. There's a whole pile of people who can take part in the food production and the winter's wood can be collected by all the men in the community. On one hand it's a very simple thing, on the other hand it seems an amazing thing to do in this culture for a lot of people. But I can't live in any other way. I first lived in community in 1978 and that was in inner city Melbourne. Four houses with a common backyard. It was a great experience because I found out how communities don't work, if they're run along consensus lines and trying to be all things to everyone. So we've got a very sharp focus within our community so the great thing is that people who want that sharp focus in their lives come and spend time there and people who don't, don't.
Is it that you don't want to please everyone because if you do you wont please anyone?
Well you can't. The thing is it's not about pleasing people. It's about providing a context in which spirit can manifest. That's what it's about.
So is there a hierarchy? Are you the originator of the community?
Yes. I don't have a problem with hierarchy. In nature there is always hierarchy. I regard democracy as a damaging aberration in the human race because it means mediocrity rules. Wisdom gets very little look in. And I realise that's considered fascist and totalitarian but I don't know any spiritual master who reckons that Spirit is a matter of democracy.
No initiatory tradition is democratic. Leadership is given to certain people firstly because they have done the work to get it, and secondly because it's decided to give them the blessing of it, to become holders of it, and that's not a piece of cake because basically you work your ass off for people.
So it's not like you become leader and then say 'I think I'll just sleep for the next month'.
The people who head up the community - myself and my wife - we probably get less space than other people in terms of the time, energy, the focus, the demands and that's fine. It's freely chosen. It can get a bit onerous at times, but then we have a break and come back refreshed.
So is everybody in the community all committed to the idea of community and sharing? And if they are, do they then facilitate the spiritual growth of other people who come in?
Some people are there on a permanent basis and some people are visiting for three months or a year because they've decided it's a good place in which their process can be supported. They've seen the sort of work we do - the level on which we teach - and they say I'm really drawn to be here. There has to be a drawing, and we have to feel that we want to spend a year of our lives being part of this person's spiritual process and unfolding.
We also need to feel that they're ready to do that and that they can hack the hard work that's involved to deal with the sorts of things that are limiting their access to Spirit. These are the usual sort of classic things; relationships and all the past, infantile stuff, birth trauma, inter-uterine, what happened in their conception becomes the base pattern for their sexuality plus what's being rattled down through the genetic chain and what's coming through their past lives. You can spend endless time dealing with that or you can deal with what's mucking you up at the moment and deal with the rest later when it surfaces and says OK it's time to deal with this now. I prefer to deal with what I have to deal with at any particular time.
I guess you want to try and clear it as fast as possible. Can people really spontaneously let go of stuff?
There's some excellent technology around now so that's speeded up the whole journey. When I look back on what was happening in the eighties it was a bit like brain surgery with a hatchet. I think there's much greater finesse now. We've got everything from eight -sided mirrored chambers that you sit in and you see yourself reflected into infinity where you can change the lights that control your brainwaves, through to state of the art subliminal tapes that invites more Spirit into your life, and stuff like aura blankets and mind machines.
They're all available but not everyone is ready for them at any particular time. There are also still the good old systematic cathartic meditations that people need.
There's a clichéd idea that there needs to be a lot of tears and clearing and weeping etc. Do you adhere to that idea that catharsis is necessary?
I allow for Grace. Grace can shift a whole pile of stuff really quickly. I've seen that happen and I've also seen people who cry and need to do that stuff. It's part of who they are and how they prefer to do it. I sometimes think that maybe the day will come when you can look at someone and his or her stuff will just drop away, but we're not quite there yet. Although I have seen it happen to people, when their stuff does drop away they will often laugh, cry, shake, shiver, go into the unknown, space out for a period of time, not be sure of who they are etc, etc. It's because suddenly the guru's released a whole pile of karma out of them and they don't know who they are anymore. It can certainly happen real quickly but it doesn't mean that it's safe. I mean the spiritual path and the shamanic path are fraught with challenge. I always love that thing the great technological Shaman and the guru of the mushroom, Terrence McKenna says: "When you take a mushroom trip you never know whether your sails are going to be ripped off the craft". He urges people to approach the numinous with a certain cautious fear. I think there's something in that.
I take people out to the desert and I say to them "At times you've got to be aware that there are forces in this country that can kill you" and they say "Oh, now who do you think you are". And there are! The simple reality is there are. I've seen this stuff surface. And I've seen the old men deal with it. I've had to deal with it myself. These energies are awesome, they can cause madness, they can cause incredible shifts in energetic capacity, major changes in people. They're not all malevolent; some of them are amazingly beautiful and divine. The whole reason that some places are sacred sites is because they could immensely shift, very quickly, the levels of energy in the body mind and feeling structure, as well as download a huge amount of information into the organic mind. They could work with these archetypal forces and accelerate them very quickly.
I have to agree having gone through a series of energy shifts in my life. With Tantric energy, some people will know what it is, but some people don't. Can you give an explanation of what Tantra is and how that relates to perceptions that people have of it?
Let's think of Tantric energies as the evolutionary force that guards your genetic unfolding that's existed for millennia and that wants to extend itself into the mystery of the numinous. It exists in you; it's what has unfolded from rocks into plants into simple microorganisms from those to the sorts of things that finally become us that wants to take the next step. And that stuff is dormant in most people but if you crack it open, it rips right through you. And one of the most delightful ways of cracking it open is through sexuality. And then what happens is that your sexuality becomes an incredible exploration of your own being, of your own magic and the nature of things. Instead of just "doing it" - sexuality can become a source of immense satisfaction and challenge and wonder and bliss of the body and confrontation.
Confrontation because the Tantric path is not all bliss. You open up into the bliss and the bliss will release some hidden karmas from out of your body and then you find for days on end you are in total disorder - that's come as the very result of the bliss in your body. So I don't know how that's going to go for the people who haven't read much.
So you go through that bliss and you could find some demonic anger?
No, I wouldn't want to use the word demonic because people will latch on to it with a certain limited understanding. But certainly it's like after the expansion comes the catharsis. And this happens in meditation. You can expand into the most wonderful extraordinary blissful energies and then within two or three days be taken over by incredible doubt and paranoia and difficulty in to your life as you can no longer hold the point of reference that you once did.
And that's just part of the re-ordering that's gradually working through your life that's happened because you've touched in to something deeper that needs you to change, to become who you are. So it runs right across the whole lot. Think of a stagnant billabong and you get a flood through it - it flushes a whole pile of stuff out and leaves it different and that's what tantric energies are like. But they are no different from Shamanic energies - well - they are sort of.
In what way sort of?
In Tantra you don't work in the same way with the natural energies of mountains, rivers, trees, plants and animals of the earth. In Tantra you will often work more with celestial energies and the energies of the body in relation to those, and inviting the body's evolutionary knowing to push you into godliness. And Shamanism is a slightly different enterprise - you tend to do it not as intimately. The intimacy can have profound beauties in the body and profound meetings with another person that isn't usually part of the Shamanic enterprise, unless you have a Tantric Shamanic path.
What advice can you give people about deep tissue bodywork and what is really going on?
Ultimately the human body is light that is frozen into carbon life forms under the impact of gravity - give or take a few quibbles. Now what happens is that when a being experiences deep emotion that isn't released that emotion crystallizes into the tissue as tension. That tension then gets in the way of the pure light of consciousness that wants to move through us to find expressionin the manifest world. As we unlock those crystallised emotions and the biochemistry underlying them leaves our body, not only does the shape, the posture and the health of the body improve, but consciousness has a much clearer vehicle through which to manifest itself in its purity. It may still seem pretty impure but the window is not as foggy as it was. So that's one thing that is happening.
We can see it as moving into the layers of Karma. All karma is hidden somewhere in the body
You can take a head and move it slowly from side to side and what you get is a series of subtle jerks instead of a smooth movement. Each of those subtle jerks holds a karma and you can gradually work with the body so that those karmas gradually release, and they'll be incredibly deep. Some of them might be from an accident when the person hit her head. Some of them might be from being hanged in a past life whatever. They will all be manifest in the energetic template of the body, finally crystallising into deeper tissue. The work I have developed over time is how to keep on going deeper and deeper eventually you can touch the body and feel if you need to through for instance three layers of incarnation and just invite the body's trust that it's appropriate now to let it go. Now that might seem to be incomplete in terms of what you are doing but that's one of the sorts of things that can happen with this kind of work.
You can start to tune up the instrument so that instead of it operating in just the base notes, it can come across the highest trebles as well. So that it expands the subtle energies that it can hold. It awakens the feeling living in a person because often the feeling life has been anaesthetized because it has been congealed into crystallised tissue. People just do not feel! They only feel within a limited range. I used to feel within a limited range - either turned on or pissed off. I didn't really have many other things in between because I'd learnt how not to feel. And for me the journey of learning how to feel again involved letting go of a whole pile of pains that I'd actually crystallised in my feeling structure and structured my body against remembering. I didn't want to remember the hurt so I'd repressed it into my body. And then ultimately my body stopped working. I became depressed at the age of thirty. I sat in a chair and could think of no reason for moving. I thought maybe I've lived half my life and it's going to be like this for the rest of it, I went down, down, down. If I'd gone to a psychiatrist it would have been a classic breakdown. Fortunately I went to a yogi and it became a breakthrough. That was the start of my journey with intent. I had to make changes in my life because I couldn't bear living the way I was. I would have died some where along the line. I would have had organic breakdown from disease or I would have wiped myself out through alcohol or through a car accident because my life was looking and feeling so incredibly bleak.
I know that feeling. I went through that when I was thirty as well. It's kind of a crucial age for a lot of people.
It's the Saturn return, it really triggers it for a lot of people. And also Spirit is inviting you to look at what its map is for you compared with what you have done thus far, inviting redirection. The other time this happens is in those transition years for men between 43 and 49. What's happening there is the comparison between the dream of their spirit and the attainment of their personality. If they are out of alignment, you are going to go through hell because this is your last chance before you reach the age of eldership. What sort of elder are you going to be? What knowledge are you going to have for the journey? Are you just going to decide that stamp collecting and being a member of a club is going to be good enough for the rest of your life or are you going totally address the needs of your spirit? Because it often won't leave you alone unless you totally knock it out of existence in your life.
We have what is like a spiritual ghost town in this country at the moment. A lot of people just don't undertake the role of seeing themselves as elders and don't reflect on where they are now and how they are going to view themselves when they are older.
You must feel like it is a void where there could be an urban dreaming - do you feel that?
It certainly is a vacuum. The heart of the Australian dream is a sordid emptiness. It's not like the emptiness that comes from the emptiness of the All That Is. It's the emptiness that comes from not paying attention. I think part of it is that the power in this land is such that if people did pay attention they couldn't live the way they do with their language, rituals, and lifestyles from other lands and their marriage customs. They haven't paid attention to how this land wants to live through them. If they did really start to open into the voice of their own spirit and try to hear that authentically without it being interrupted by-this book or- the makers of-or the next purchase -or their addictions, but rather ask what is their own authentic spirituality leading them towards? If they start to ask that they've got to change their lives, in many cases because their lives are not an expression of their spirits.
I had to change my life. I lived in the suburbs. I was a professional philosopher. I was married and very unhappy and it just wasn't working. It took a long while to find where my point of happiness was, where I could actually be delighted in myself. Where I could have a life where I feel I fulfill much of how I need to live. It took years finding how this personal manifestation of the dreaming needs to be in order for the dream to live through it.
And now you are doing it?
I am doing things this year that I had never contemplated. I am only teaching two things this year. (1998) I am not teaching in the bush so much or in the temple. I am actually teaching in the world-about change-about the possibility that life can become better, that the body can heal, you can have more energy, more delight. The same stuff, just a different context. I don't drag out the drums and the didge.
It's still philosophy though isn't it? It's strange that you went on that course early in your life. You are a mental achiever almost.
Well, I guess Spirit needed me there. I wasn't trained to be a professional philosopher. I was trained to be a historian and I completed my first degree with a double major in history and philosophy at Monash University and was looking to teach university history but jobs were hard to get and a bloke asked me what I intended to do. I said there are very few university jobs in history so I'll probably just have to keep teaching for a time in secondary schools, because no one wants a philosopher. He said "Well we've got a job for a philosopher at Melbourne Teachers College". So within three months I had that job and I eventually became chairman of the Philosophy department at the State College of Victoria at Melbourne.
And what I was able to do was actually generate quite unique programs in philosophy-that hadn't been taught before- like a 2nd year program in the Philosophy of Consciousness. No one had ever run it. This was 1977-78. I also set up a 1st year philosophy course called Religion, Science and Magic. The students just loved it because they weren't grappling with Plato's ideal forms- they were grappling with stuff in their own lives about," what is a map of reality and what sort of maps am I building?"
What I found was that every one of those students had experienced the Mystery. They had encountered one, or often many more times, when the Mystery unveiled itself to them and their three-dimensional understanding couldn't hold. But they just had to put it off into a pocket because they didn't have a Shamanic explanation for it. As we started to look at other ways suddenly it was "yeah, yeah well I had this experience once but I thought it was just my imagination or people told me it couldn't happen". Suddenly they started to find that their own experience included things they thought only existed in other cultures or were "HLW" - high-level weirdness - finally they realised that they'd experienced something of that themselves. It also gave me an enormous time to read and access to wonderful research libraries. I was using anthropologists and psychiatrists and biologists to give the students a sense that it was possible to look at the world in a different way.
But at the same time I reached a point where I had pushed the edges as far as I could within the tertiary education context. I would be sitting ready to give a lecture and I wouldn't know what I was going to give the lecture on. I had this situation where I'd have a cup of tea and I'd say, "Today's lecture is on, ------" and it would go on for 55 minutes and end right on time, and would wrap the whole thing up. And sometimes I'd say I don't even know this stuff until I say it. So we were actually creating genuine philosophy. Not going over the known but in actual fact generating it out of our own thought processes. At the same time people were going into spontaneous past life experiences and it was time to go. The Fraser Government was cutting back on university stuff and I got a golden handshake that enabled me to take the step to start building the community.
To answer your question though, I used to describe myself as an ex-philosopher.
An abbreviated version of this interview was published in Conscious Living.