Shamanic Perception and Altered States of Consciousness


Can you define what you mean by Shamanic Perception and Altered States of Consciousness please?

As we exist in our physical form, we are tied to our linear timeline; past, present and future. As much as I'd love to believe in time-travel, I believe that physical time-travel will remain the exclusive domain of science fiction. Now in physics, we understand that particles without mass are not tied to the same linear causality that normal, 'touchable' matter is bound to. I would extend this model to include the mind.

We're going straight to physics again?

For an answer to have any chance of credibility, it has to begin with acknowledgement of that which is already established and understood. Any answer that denies that which is already evidenced by extensive experimental outcome is on very flimsy footing indeed. Think, "Delusion" for what I am hinting at.


So consider that our memory moves back through time, not physically, but reconstructs in our present time an image of a past time. Extend this thought through to dreams and visions of times yet to come. Not every dream is more than random meanderings of a subconscious mind, but every now and then, some lucky folks get truly prophetic dreams, seeing things in living colour and 3D which come to happen exactly as seen. The mind can, from time to time, plug into a level of perception not tied to our physical constraints. I think many people would be reasonably happy with this concept so far.


So now we have some basis for understanding that every now and then, a person can have a flash of something so real that it is the analog of a glimpse into the future, or a present not known to them. For instance, there are quite a few documented cases where a person has 'seen' a situation with a loved one from hundreds or thousands of miles away, only to later find that their vision was absolutely accurate to the last detail.

A good friend of mine watched her sister in another country tell a friend [unknown to her personally] she was pregnant; so clear was the vision that she rang her sister to test it by opening with the friends name and what they were all wearing. When confirmed as completely accurate, she then told her sister that she heard her tell her friend she just found out she was pregnant. Needless to say, a few freaked out moments ensued.

Most people, at one level or another, are able to understand that this happens, albeit more rarely than we would like to think. We tend to see patterns retrospectively, finding portents of events after the fact. This 'patternicity', as Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine calls it, is the wish to find the supernatural in otherwise natural chains of events. I would define the state of mind where linearity and geography are not absolute limits as a state of shamanic perception.

So when I am remembering the birth of my child, am I in that state?

Not necessarily, maybe even no. Remembering or imagining times distant to the present are constructs of our now. Memory works by taking snippets and constructing full scenarios around them, a bit like 'crib' sheets that were to trigger your memory when studying. I would suggest that a shamanic state of mind is more about seeing things in detail that are not generally accessible to the seer, to be confirmed in detail by outcome. 

To me, a so-called psychic telling someone, "they have had a number of large challenges including the one they know they are facing now, and to find their inner knowing because they understand the needed course of action already, and it probably involves someone with a J or K name…" is snake oil sales.

A person I'd call a true clairvoyant once told me of a situation coming up by specifics, naming the person, place, time and situation in detail, and asking that I take consideration of the needs of another person, also named specifically, because of impacts upon his family situation, also described in detail. That is a shamanic state of mind. No cold calls that can be generally applied to many things, but an item specific set of statements, all of which came about.

Did the advice pan out?

Yes. It took my decision process in a different direction to that which I intended, and had far better outcomes for all involved that might have otherwise happened.

How did he do it?

SHE allowed herself to enter into a state of mind without ego. That is the significant feature. True, effective shamanic practice has to be executed, not performed. It is without ego. If I try to practice from a state of ego gratification, the focus is about me; how can I possibly journey on the behalf of another effectively if I am worried about my performance?

In a shamanic state of perception, the practitioner's training and intent is to tap into this level of ego-less perception far more reliably and regularly than a few random 'flukes'. It is a level of consciousness which has to be beyond delusion, beyond imagination and it must be at the level of detached observation. Not 'wanting to see' is almost a key requisite.

How you get there depends on training and aptitude. Often, when following a calling, you are attracted to the teacher who can cultivate and relate to your 'wiring'. This state of egoless, non-linear, non-geographic, non-corporeal being, in a nut-shell, is the level of shamanic perception.

So how do you get there? Can you get there by accident?

Of course. The shaman practices finding that space where the mind remains perceptive but is able to wander free of the constraints of the physical linearity in which our bodies exist. (laughs) OK, I am seeing a frown which tells me I need to re-phrase.

There is nothing what-so-ever super-natural about a shaman. As a matter of fact, I would term it in opposite description; the shaman is instinctually natural in thought and mind. Those who want the 'Harry Potter' experience should go to the movies and play dress-up; anything but explore shamanism. To see as a shaman means to not delude one's self, but to see what is really there. Magicians have worked for centuries, if not millennia, to make us not see what is really there. 

There is no such thing as a 'powerful' shaman. One who claims power is deluded. One who has a strong understanding, can call upon reliable energetic and spiritual allies, one who listens to what is said by the people, plants, animals and land, one who sees what is really there; this is a shaman who might be described as powerful by Hollywood standards, but a clean practitioner would describe him or her self as a servant and assistant to nature.

So are you a servant, slave or master?

I am a willing assistant to what I call internally the Great Spirit. I do not call myself a shaman, there is no need of title. In the course of my practice, I intervene on the behalf of my clients, often with themselves [literally] and their own energies, to help them find a state of balance themselves. Their healing is not mine; I am not injured. Their healing is theirs alone, so all I can possibly be is an assistant.

Is there a scientific definition of the shamanic state of consciousness?

When the body reaches into a deep Alpha or high Theta brain wave state, but remains alert and conscious, it is now in a place where shamanic perception can occur. These levels are normally accessed only in sleep or deep concentration – by accident so to speak. With sufficient training and practice, the shamanic practitioner can access these levels intentionally. This is the first stage in the shamanic journey, a journey of the mind.

I find drumming effective, but any rhythmical, monotonous 230-240 beat per minute rhythm works just fine. Other methods can include chanting, dancing, physical exhaustion, sweat lodges, physical endurance, fasting, or many other forms of pushing the egotistical senses aside.

What about drugs?

Ah yes, the ever present short-cuts. (laughs) Entheogens, agents like psychedelics used to alter reality and perception are often cited as 'the way' to get into this state. Of the more popularly known are magic mushrooms, peyote and san-pedro cactus and ayahuasca. LSD and other psychedelics I do not find particularly effective when balanced against risk and health issues. Even the three listed there are not necessarily good, unless used in context and with appropriate supervision. There is a gulf of difference between popping some 'magic mushrooms and watching the Wizard of Oz' and going through an appropriate fasting and cleansing cycle, culminating in a guided and sanctified rite including those same agents.

A small but significant part of my current practice is working with those who have lost themselves in one of these less-than-contextual experiences. I will get to the mechanics of this when we discuss soul retrievals.

Basically, I think that the most effective teaching and perception can be done quite well with rhythms and guided meditations. Drugs do not let you volunteer for a thing, once you are in the grip of the chemical agent, you are on the roller-coaster and you have to ride it for the duration. There is also the legality side of things. No court is going to say, "oh, ok, you were doing it for a higher purpose? Well off you go then." A police record is a police record.

I would endorse a san-pedro experience [where legal] in a guided shamanic context with an accomplished practitioner in attendance as a way for the lay person to find and see the web of life as taught by a plant spirit maestro [Mescalito in this case]; but would not endorse that same person having even the exact same dose of plant substance in a living room with a few friends and Pink Floyd playing in the background. Context and guidance are keys to effective and safe experiences.

So where do you go when in a shamanic perception state?

Now we are into the concepts of the three worlds.