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The Ecstatic Experience: Healing Postures for Spirit Journeys
Reviewed by Karl Schlotterbeck, MA, CAS, LP
This book is a worthy sequel to the author’s previous work, Ecstatic Body Postures: An Alternate Reality Workbook (1995). It is the result of 30 years of experimentation with ritual body postures that are based on the artwork of early peoples.
They (the author and her mentor) saw that earlier cultures did not necessarily use written materials to convey their teachings and values, or of explaining their way of connecting with the Otherworld. Rather, artistic images point to a way to connect into the experience of their “authors” – not in a left-brain, word-oriented manner, but through full-body participation by assuming the posture depicted in the sculpture, drawing or carving. Thus, the underlying great idea of this work is that these images are more than artistic, esthetic or personal expressions, but are an imagistic, three-dimensional, full-body connection to the nonverbal conceptualization of that culture’s spiritual experience.
The second great idea is that we, too, can enter into that experiential conceptualization by assuming the posture and altering consciousness in a shamanic way, thus opening ourselves to the “body” of knowledge contained therein.
By virtue of experience, practice and careful recording, five categories of postures have been noted, based on the experiences people have had when using them. These are postures for healing, divination, metamorphosis, spirit journey, and initiation. Again, these categories were not derived from an abstract theory but derived from the teachings of the postures themselves.
Of particular interest to us is the Cernunnos posture drawn from a figure on the Gundestrupp cauldron. She describes Cernunnos as the son of Anu, the All-Mother, and he had a dual role: “to sing the souls of the dead to the Summerland,” and as protector of the animals and forest. His inclusion in the category of metamorphosis is seen as apt because of the shape-shifting that humans use to learn from animal ancestors, as well as from trees.
The book contains everything one would need to carry out one’s own explorations. In addition to drawings and descriptions of the postures, the author gives a five-step method for “entering the ecstatic trance” A CD is included with tracks of rattle, drum, and combined rattle and drum to assist in inducing the altered state. A bibliography is also included, which is always good for those who want to pursue various avenues of deeper research.
Some of her explanations and tangential reasoning are not convincing, such as who can be called “shaman,” dividing shamanism into masculine and feminine types, and some of her neuropsychological hypothesizing. But this is a book in which the theoretical considerations can be dispensed with as the real content is in the experiential nature of the teaching. Or, one might say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – not in the recipe or kitchen chemistry.
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