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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth (a Shamanic Ritual)

According to Aristotle (De Philosoph, fr. 8), wisdom (Sophia) covers any ingenious invention and conception (all of which ultimately are gifts, sent down by the gods); therefore to do any thing well, skillfully, according to the divine paradigms and models, is to follow the way of “wisdom” which finally leads to the highest metaphysical goals, to the noetic realms where Wisdom itself, the graceful goddess, dwells. No wonder that every nation loves wisdom and has certain “lovers of wisdom”, be they goldsmiths, artists, healers, singers, priests, or magicians.

Algis Uzdavinys, Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth – From Ancient Egypt to Neoplatonism

In my Nordic Shamanism and Forest Therapy practice, I offer to perform a healing-and mystery ritual in Rold Forest, Denmark, called Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth. The ritual is based on an ancient incubation ritual, which I will describe in this article.

The counseling begins with that the guest presents me with a question, which we hereafter will have a dialogue about. This will happen during walks in the forest.

In my context, meditation mentoring is a help to the awakening of your own inner power and wisdom. It is a help to become a Lover of Wisdom and a Life Artist.

The mentoring is based on Greco-Roman philosophy. Philosophy in antiquity was interconnected with theurgy (higher magic), and therefore was a part of shamanic, pagan and mystic rituals. There is therefore a relation between philosophical counseling and shamanic counseling. Philosophy was used to avoid (refute) falsity and demonical influence, and therewith functioned as a navigator (or purifier) on the journey towards unification with the Divine. But even more interesting, as I will show in this article, Greco-Roman philosophy was very likely influenced by Nordic Shamanism, and is therefore a source of understanding aspects of Nordic Shamanism, which has been lost in this tradition itself.

The philosophical schools of antiquity were actually meditation schools fully in line with those in the East. They therefore constitute a specific European path of enlightenment, which, however, has been suppressed by what I call The Matrix Conspiracy. In a modern book about the history of philosophy, you won´t hear a word about the connection between texts and concrete spiritual practices, or about, for example, the high meditative states of Socrates. On the contrary you read that philosophy was a movement away from spirituality, towards science. A colossal historical distortion.

The philosophy of antiquity is what distinguishes higher magic from base magic, which leaves everything to chance (irrationalism), and may lead its practitioners to consort with falsity and evil spirits.

Combined with dialogues, the guest and me can perform walking, sitting and lying meditations in the forest.

In Rold Forest there is a campsite called Klodholmpladsen, which is surrounded by 6000 years old grave mounds. There is an incredible energy here. If the guest wants, we can here perform the ritual. The ritual is meant as a symbolic initiation into a new life as a Lover of Wisdom and a Life Artist. It will take place on one of the grave mounds. This could be followed by talks around a campfire. And if the guest actually stays the night here, he or she might have a dream experience very similar to those people had in the ancient incubation rituals, which we will talk about in the following.

I will begin explaining the ritual by telling the story of my own Kundalini awakening. It all started in London in 1985. I was working as a sales assistant in Harrods in London. In my spare time, I began visiting different occult bookshops. I found some books by Krishnamurti, and a small book called Yoga, by Sophy Hoare.

The yoga exercises were ended with the lying down position called Savasana, which simply means corpse. The description says that it is probably the most important posture of all. It consists in lying flat on your back on the floor. Its purpose is to relax the body completely and to keep the mind still. In other words: you do the same as when you are going to sleep, or when you are going to die. The difference is that you don´t go to sleep, and that you don´t die. You keep awake. It is meditation in all its simplicity. When you are relaxing you can´t be busy in the mind. So, the mind must become still. In attains the quality of neutral observation, or passive listening presence.

I began to stay in the position for longer periods than the five minutes advised in the book. I stayed in it for half an hour, up to an hour. And I supplied it with the progressive relaxation techniques you can find in my supporting exercise The Relaxationmeditation. I simply turned it into a meditationpractice. It is incredible simple, since it is natural. Anybody can meditate in this position, where the spine is natural straight. Anybody can relax in this position.

I have later discovered that what I spontaneous practiced, reminds about Yoga Nidra. But, it is not the same! This is important to mention. Here we namely enter a topic which is quite central in my teaching: philosophy. The philosophy which is lying behind Yoga Nidra is not the same philosophy lying behind my relaxationmeditation (which I later wrote down, and which today appears in my article: Meditation as an Art of Life). And that´s completely central, both in the awakening of kundalini, and your ability to navigate through post-kundalini phenomena. In my article on my cultural criticism, I have explained the importance in investigating the philosophies lying behind your concrete opinions. Also see the introduction to The Kundalini Files

The same is the case when it comes to Tibetan Dream Yoga. Though I´m inspired by the knowledge about dream states and death processes in Tibetan Buddhism, my philosophy is another. See my article: Why I Don´t Teach Tibetan Dream Yoga.

So, my relaxationmeditation was the only spiritual practice I had before my Kundalini awakening. But something important has to be added. And that´s where the behind lying philosophy comes in. I was also in love with wisdom. I was characterized by a very strong passion after finding truth. This wonder made me inquire critically into everything. I couldn´t be satisfied with an ordinary life. I made my life into an art of life. This love of wisdom is what I later have called the art of asking philosophical questions in a meditative-existential way. I think this was quite central in the awakening.

After five years I moved to my hometown Aalborg, where I stayed for a while in my childhood home. One night I had a non-ordinary dream. I was standing at the top of a mountain in a row of sinners. Demons were surrounding the row, and were forcing the sinners to jump out from the mountain, down into Hell. When I was forced to jump, I was falling for a while down into the flaming hell. Normally, when you have a falling dream, you wake up. I didn´t woke up, but hit the ground without dying. I looked down and saw that my legs were broken, and that the bones stuck out. And all around me I saw mountains of skulls and bones. Besides me there was a rock where some runes were carved. They said: You are Norna-Gest. An old woman dressed in black was approaching. I thought it was a witch, but it was Karen Blixen. She bend over me,  and took both her hands down around my throat, and drilled a finger hard and long into the back of my neck, for finally to stroke me over both shoulders (if you read my texts about Blixen, you can see that this ritual is the same as the one she performed on Aage Henriksen - that´s where I had it from. However, the ritual worked precisely as it had worked on Henriksen). 

When I was straightening up, she broked the silence with the unexpected request:

”Now say a verse.” 

The first, which felt into my thoughts, was Rainer Maria Rilke´s poem Autumn

The leaves fall, fall as from far,
Like distant gardens withered in the heavens;
They fall with slow and lingering descent.

And in the nights the heavy Earth, too, falls
From out the stars into the Solitude.

Thus all doth fall.
This hand of mine must fall
And lo! the other one:—it is the law.
But there is One who holds this falling
Infinitely softly in His hands.

Then she said:

”You shall go now.”

I began to scream. But the only sound coming up through me was a wordless auummm. Enormous powers of energy were following this aum. I felt like I was sitting on a jet motor. The powers moved up through my body in violent spinning movements and spasms.

Then I woke up. But I had taken something with me out of the dream, and that was the energy. A new energy was now working in me, an energy which was not mine, or psychological constructed by me. It was Kundalini. It couldn´t be stopped by will, though I later learned how to steer it.

I went into a many years of spiritual crises, since I didn´t know how to steer it. The two main tools for control, which I later found, were Hara and critical thinking (this would later form my teaching as it is today – see the page, Meditation as an Art of Life). Quite central was that I realized that Kundalini was a gift, a calling which I needed to follow. When I accepted this, I finally found peace.

It is first recently I have read Peter Kingsley´s book, In the Dark Places of Wisdom. The description of the book is:

”A set of ancient inscriptions on marble found forty years ago in southern Italy, recording details so bewildering that scholars have kept silent about them ...

Strange evidence about a tradition of people who were mystics but who were so intensely practical that, two and a half thousand years ago, they shaped our existence and the world we live in. And yet they did this with a purpose we've completely forgotten.”

These are just two ingredients of this extraordinary book, which uncovers an astonishing reality that lies unsuspected right at the origins of the western world. Our dramatic failure to acknowledge or come to grips with that reality is what has been responsible for so much of the emptiness -- of the sense of something missing -- in our modern lives.

In the Dark Places of Wisdom is no work of fiction. The documents, the discoveries, the people that it describes are all as real as we are. But the story it has to tell is far stranger than any fiction, because this is the story of ourselves.

What the book introduced me into was the concept of Incubation. Incubation is the religious practice of sleeping (or lying down in meditation) in a sacred area with the intention of experiencing a divinely inspired dream or cure. Incubation was practised by many ancient cultures. In perhaps the most well known instance among the Hebrews, found in 1 Kings 3, Solomon went to Gibeon "because that was the most renowned high place to offer sacrifices." There "the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night," and Solomon asked God for the gift of an understanding heart.

Among the members of the cult of Asclepius, votive offerings found at ritual centres at Epidaurus, Pergamum, and Rome detail the perceived effectiveness of the method. Incubation was adopted by certain Christian sects and is still used in a few Greek monasteries.

In her article The Classical Greek Practice of Incubation and some Near Eastern Predeccors, Juliette Harrison writes that an oracle of Bes from Roman Egypt appears to have grown up in a temple that, from being a temple of Osiris in more ancient times, hosted an incubation oracle of Serapis during the Hellenistic era. She also writes that the late Pharaoh, Nectanebus, also is depicted as practicing incubation.

It is clearly that this discovery had a deep impact on me, since incubation was precisely what I had been practicing. I had already been deeply occupied by Tibetan Dream Yoga, and in the discovery of incubation, I discovered something very similar, but in a more familiar Western clothing.

For example, in the Greco-Roman mysteries, incubation was not only a healing practice, it was a spiritual practice aiming at awakening kundalini, and attaining unification with the divine. But I also discovered that both Hara and critical thinking also were known. Hara was known as Omphalos Psychism, and critical thinking was used as a means of avoiding, or refuting, falsity and demonical influence. It was known as Theurgy (higher magic). Philosophy and Theurgy were simply interconnected in antiquity. It is a scholarly mistake that the mystery religions were replaced by philosophy. Philosophy in antiquity can´t be understood without their connection to the mystery religions. Philosophy was used as a navigator, or purifier, on the journey towards unification with the divine.

Theme from The Eleusinian Mysteries (note the reference to the Kundalini serpent, giving "wings")

Kundalini is in India considered a goddess. Incubation rituals is about receiving a divine dream. Ergo, my dream was an experience of incubation. But the reality of the dream - this, that you can receive a gift in the dream, that continues to be a reality in your awaken life - adds miles to any conception of dream interpretation. A dream incubation by a Goddess is not only about that you in a dream have an encounter with a symbol of some kind, which you, or a dream interpreter, hereafter can interpret. It is a complete real encounter between the immortal and the mortal. There is nothing interpreted in it.

Add to this that Kundalini in India often is described with snake and serpent metaphors. The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today. Those physicians and attendants who served this god were known as the Therapeutae of Asclepius.

The most ancient and the most prominent asclepeion (or healing temple) according to the geographer of the 1st century BC, Strabo, was situated in Trikala. One of the most famous temples of Asclepius was at Epidaurus in north-eastern Peloponnese, dated to the fourth century BC.  Another famous asclepeion was built approximately a century later on the island of Kos, where Hippocrates, the legendary "father of medicine", may have begun his career. Other asclepieia were situated in Gortys (in Arcadia), and Pergamum in Asia.

From the fifth century BC onwards, the cult of Asclepius grew very popular and pilgrims flocked to his healing temples (Asclepieia) to be cured of their ills. Ritual purification would be followed by offerings or sacrifices to the god (according to means), and the supplicant would then spend the night in the holiest part of the sanctuary – the abaton (or adyton). Any dreams or visions would be reported to a priest who would prescribe the appropriate therapy by a process of interpretation. Some healing temples also used sacred dogs to lick the wounds of sick petitioners. In honor of Asclepius, a particular type of non-venomous snake was often used in healing rituals, and these snakes — the Aesculapian Snakes — slithered around freely on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept. These snakes were introduced at the founding of each new temple of Asclepius throughout the classical world.

The traces of this can still be found in Greece. For example, there is a phenomenon today which are called The Snakes of the Virgin Mary in Kefalonia. This is as Kundalini symbolic as it can be (Kingsley sees the Greek Goddess Persephone in the light of the Kundalini goddess, and claims that Persephone later came to be seen as Virgin Mary). The snakes are crawling up on the Icon, like the kundalini power is crawling up the spine. But something else is also happening, which reminds about the asklepios rod. From the article by Niels Christian Hvidt:

The best choir of the island stands in front of the so-called Iconostasis - the wooden wall with icons that separates the normal area of the church from the holiest with the altar. Once in a while the doors are opened to the altar and one can see the priest who interacts melodiously with the tenors and the basses. To the right of the choir is the bishop"s throne, which when empty symbolises the presence of the bishop who in turn symbolises the presence of Christ. Tonight the throne is occupied by the bishop of the island in person, Metropolitan Spyridan Kalafat?kis. At the important moments of the liturgy it is he who sings the lead, and later he gives a sermon. I his left hand he holds his bishop"s rod, a brass pole of about 150 cm, crowned by two snakes of brass. It reminds much of the symbol of medical science, only that I never have seen a such on anything else than paper. Suddenly I notice with surprise that a live snake is winding itself up towards the two bronze-snakes of the rod. From the bishop"s hand it slowly kreeps upwards, while he hymns another line. The bishop seems only to notice it when it is on its way up his sleve. Then he takes it down again and winds it a couple of times around the pole. It is obviously the acrobatic viper on the bishop"s rod that is the primary goal of attention of the pilgrims. 

There are also references to kundalini as a dangerous power which can develop into spiritual crises as for example ego-inflation. In the 2nd century AD the controversial miracle-worker Alexander claimed that his god Glycon, a snake with a "head of linen" was an incarnation of Asclepius. The Greek language rhetorician and satirist Lucian produced the work Alexander the False Prophet to denounce the swindler for future generations. He described Alexander as having a character "made up of lying, trickery, perjury, and malice; [it was] facile, audacious, venturesome, diligent in the execution of its schemes, plausible, convincing, masking as good, and wearing an appearance absolutely opposite to its purpose."

In Hinduism, Kundalini refers to a form of divine energy (or shakti) said to be located at the base of the spine (muladhara). It was originally an important concept in Śaiva Tantra, where it was seen as a force or power associated with the divine feminine, which when cultivated and awakened through tantric practice, could lead to spiritual liberation. Therefore Kundalini, if handled right, is a healing of the soul. This is a death and rebirth process, since all the old stuff in the body is removed and renewed.

Death-rebirth themes are known from ancient schools of mystery, as well as in the transition rites of scriptless peoples´ religions. At the beginning of his career the shaman often goes through heavy ordeals, the so-called initiation crisis. The initiation often includes a journey to the underworld, where the shaman aspirant goes through terrible ordeals with diverse demons and other mythological creatures. As in the hero´s journey the initiation often culminates in the experience of death, dismemberment and extinction. Typical the extinction then is followed by resurrection, rebirth and ascension into heavenly regions.

My view is, that the so-called shamanic power is one and the same as Kundalini. They just follow different directions according to the cultural context. Also Shamans practiced the lying down practice of sleeping (or meditating), for example in caves, or by a grave.

In his book Shamanism – Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, Mircea Eliade writes:

The role of the cave in paleolithic religions appears to have been decidedly important. Then too, the cave and the labyrinth continue to have a function of the first importance in the initiation rites of other archaic cultures (as, for example, in Malekula); both, indeed, are concrete symbols of passage into another world, of a descent to the underworld. According to the earliest accounts of the Araucanian shamans of Chile, they too received their initiation in caves, which were often decorated with animal heads.

Among the Smith Sound Eskimo the aspirant must go at night to a cliff containing caves and walk straight ahead in the darkness. If he is predestinated to become a shaman, he will enter a cave; if not, he will bump into the cliff. As soon as he has entered the cave, it closes behind him and does not open again until some time later. The candidate must seize the moment when it reopens and hasten put; otherwise he may remain shut up in the cave forever. Caves play an important part of North American shamans; it is in caves that aspirants have their dreams and meet their helping spirits (page 51-52).

(In his book, The Greeks and the Irrational, E.R. Dodds mentions so-called “dream-oracles”, or “oracle-caves” such as “Charon´s Cave” in Asia Minor and the hero-shrine of Amphiaraus in Oropus; at the latter one slept on the skin of a sacrified ram. Withdrawal to a sacred cave in quest of visionary wisdom figures in the legends of Epimenides and Pythagoras, 110. I will return to them, and show the, Northern inspired, shamanic elements in Greco-Roman philosophy).

In his book Mysteries of the Dream-Time: The Spiritual Life of Australian Aborigines, James Cowan directly associated the shamanic power with kundalini. He writes:

‘When you see an old man sitting by himself over there in the camp, do not disturb him, for if you do he will “growl” at you. Do not play near him, because he is sitting down by himself with his thoughts in order to see. He is gathering those thoughts so that he can feel and hear. Perhaps he then lies down, getting into a special posture, so that he can also see while sleeping [ie. meditating]. He sees indistinct visions and hears ‘persons’ [rai/oruncha] talk in them. He gets up and looks for those he has seen, but not seeing them, he lies down again in the prescribed manner, so as to see what he has seen before. He puts his head on the pillow as previously so as to see [ie. invoke a vision] as before. Getting up, he tells his friends to strengthen that power [known as miwi], a constituent of the quartz crystals within themselves, so that when they lie down they will be able to see and feel (or become aware of) people present, and in that way they will perceive them.’

Not surprisingly, this miwi or ‘power’ is said to be present in all persons, though especially developed only by a few. It is said to be located in the pit of the stomach, which must be considered as a generalized symbolic location similar to the base of the spine as referred to in Kundalini yoga. According to Hindu tradition, kundalini which is a form of shakti, is always considered to be present in the human being and is represented by a coiled-up snake. Like the luz bone also, that indestructible kernel said to contain those elements necessary for the restoration of an individual being under the influence of ‘celestial dew’ (one cannot help noticing the physical similarity here between celestial dew and the solidified light of quartz crystals as a power-bearer), the kundalini snake can be taught to rise up through the various plexuses in order to reach the ‘third eye’. In other words, the luz/miwi/kundalini nexus, when developed, can precipitate a restoration of the primordial state and so bring about man´s recovery of his sense of eternity (page13-14).

On page 11 in his book, Cowan also find similarities between the Australian shamans practicing meditation, and Omphalos psychism in Greek orthodox Christianity (similar to harameditation) and Taoism, where the practice of Tan Tien meditation is central.

Peter Kingsley described how the spiritual practice of lying down in stilness was used by the philosopher Parmenides, and how he, through incubation (lying in caves for days), came in contact with the goddess, Persephone. Kingsley also describes the whole thing as deeply feminine, and directly refers to kundalini. He writes:

Ancient Greek accounts of incubation repeatedly mention certain signs that mark the point of entry into another world: into another state of awareness that´s neither waking nor sleep. One of the signs is that you become aware of a rapidly spinning movement. Another is that you hear the powerful vibration produced by a piping, whistling, hissing sound.

In India the same signs are described as the prelude to entering Samadhi, the state beyond sleep and waking. An they are directly related to the process known as the awakening of kundalini – of the ‘serpent power’ that´s the basic energy in all creation but that´s almost completely asleep in human beings. When it starts waking up it makes a hissing sound (page 128).

I myself heard the sound Auummm. But it is true that my kundalini awakening was followed by a spinning movement and a sound.

This implies a conception of philosophy that is radical different than what we hear in modern times. Philosophy means love of wisdom, and a philosopher (a lover of wisdom) is, in the Greco-Roman sense, a spiritual practitioner. Philosophy can not be separated from the mystery rituals (theurgy). Theurgy describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more deities, especially with the goal of achieving henosis (uniting with the divine) and perfecting oneself. So, Greco-Roman philosophy is simply a spiritual practice, with incubation as a central meditation technique.

This is now scholarly confirmed, not only by Kingsley, but also by philosophers like Pierre Hadot and Algis Uždavinys. who was arguing instead that the Socratic tradition, to which Plato and Aristotle belong, has more affinity with the Egyptian wisdom and the ‘remote philosophies of India and China.

Kingsley has written extensively on the pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Empedocles and the world they lived in. Kingsley’s work argues that their writings, usually seen as rational or scientific enterprises, were in fact expressions of a wider Greek mystical tradition that helped give rise to western philosophy and civilisation. This tradition, according to Kingsley, was a way of life leading to the direct experience of reality and the recognition of one's divinity. Parmenides, most famous as the “father of western logic” and traditionally viewed as a rationalist, was a priest of Apollo and iatromantis (lit. healer-prophet). Empedocles, who outlined an elaborate cosmology that introduced the enormously influential idea of the four elements into western philosophy and science, was a mystic and a magician.

What is interesting in relation to Nordic Shamanism, is that all of the above mentioned might have been inspired by influences coming from the North. In his book The Greek and the Irrational, E.R. Dodds writes:

…the psyche is most active when the body is asleep, or, as Aristotle added, when it lies at the point of death. This is what I mean by calling it an “occult” self. Now a belief of this kind is an essential element of the shamanic culture which still exists in Siberia, and has left traces of its past existence over a very wide area, extending in a huge arc from Scandinavia across the Eurasian land-mass as far as Indonesia; the vast extent of its diffusion is evidence of its high antiquity (page 140)


Now in Scythia, and probably also in Thrace, the Greeks had come into contact with peoples who, as the Swiss scholar Meuli has shown, were influenced by this shamanistic culture. It will suffice to refer on this point to his important article in Hermes, 1935. Meuli has there further suggested that the fruits of this contact are to be seen in the appearance, late in the Archaic Age, of a series of […] seers, magical healers, and religious teachers, some of whom are linked in Greek tradition with the North, and all of whom exhibit shamanistic traits. Out of the North came Abaris, riding, it was said, upon an arrow, as souls, it appears, still do in Siberia. So advanced was he in the art of fasting that he had learned to dispense altogether with human food. He banished pestilences, predicted earthquakes, composed religious poems, and taught the worship of his northern god, whom the Greeks called the Hyperborean Apollo (page 140-141).

Here we see how relevant Greco-Roman philosophy is for Nordic Shamanism. In Greco-Roman philosophy we see a European path, not only of shamanism, but also of enlightenment, which has been forgotten in the Nordic countries, but which we could retrieve again.

Dodds tells about another Greek, Aristeas, who travelled into the North, at the bidding of the same Apollo, and returned to tell his strange experiences in a poem that may have been modelled on the psychic excursions of northern shamans. Tradition further credited him with the shamanic powers of trance and bilocation. His soul, in the form of a bird, could leave his body at will. The same gift was possessed by another Asiatic Greek, Hermotimus of Clazomenae, whose soul travelled far and wide, observing events in distant places, while his body lay inanimate at home. In his book A Story Waiting to Pierce You, Kingsley writes about Hermotimus:

He became famous for lying down lifeless on the ground where he lived. Then, his body as still as if it were dead, he traveled in his consciousness wherever he was guided to go. And when the ecstasy was over, after he started standing up, he would share with those around him the things he had been shown – a messenger bringing news of whatever he managed to hear and see (page 53-54).

Epimenides came from Knossos, and had grown up in the shadow of the Palace of Minos. This might well lay claim to a more ancient wisdom, especially after he had slept for fifty-seven years in the cave of the Cretan mystery god. Nevertheless, tradition assimilated him to the type of northern shaman. He too was an expert in psychic excursion; and, like Abaris, he was a great faster, living exclusively on a vegetable preparation whose secret he had learned from the Nymphs.

Dodds mentions another and a greater Greek shaman, namely Pythagoras. He is the man to whom Empedocles attributed a wisdom gathered in ten or twenty human lives. Pythagoras claimed to have lived many times before. He is for example represented as claiming identity with the above-mentioned shaman Hermotimus. Later tradition brought Pythagoras into contact with Abaris; credited him with the usual shamanistic powers of prophecy, bilocation, and magical healing; and told of his initiation in Pieria, his visit to the spirit world, and his mysterious identity with the “Hyperborean Apollo.”

Then there is Orpheus. Dodds calls him a panshamanist. Orpheus´ home is in Thrace, and in Thrace he is the worshipper or companion of a god whom the Greeks identified with Apollo. He combines the professions of poet, magician, religious teacher, and oracle-giver. Like certain legendary shamans in Siberia, he can by his music summon birds and beasts to listen to him. Like shamans everywhere, he pays a visit to the underworld, and his motive is one very common among shamans – to recover a stolen soul. Finally, his magical self lives on as a singing head, which continues to give oracles for many years after his death. That too suggests the North: such mantic heads appear in Norse mythology and in Irish tradition. Dodds concludes that Orpheus is a Thracian figure of much the same kind as Zalmoxis – a mythical shaman or prototype of shamans (in the notes, Dodds mentions the mantic head of Mimir, Ynglinga saga, chaps. Iv and ivv. In Ireland, “heads that speak have been a well-attested phenomenon for than a thousand years” – G.L. Kittredge, A Study of Gawain and the Green Knight, 177, where numerous examples are quoted).

 From Darkness to Light - Dream and Sleep Performance. Concept, Choreography and Direction: Apostolia Papadamaki

In his article, Plato, Shamanism an Ancient Egypt, Jeremy Naydler claims that Plato´s philosophy is more or less a revised version of shamanism as practiced in ancient Egypt. But also Egyptian wisdom might have a connection with Siberian shamanism, and therefore the North. This is not far-stretched. In his book, A Story Waiting to Pierce You, Kingsley has, in continuation of Dodds, shown a connection between the Tibetan Bön tradition (wherefrom dream yoga has developed), Mongolian shamanism, and ancient Greece. Kingsley writes (in A Story) that Abaris managed to recognize Pythagoras as a divine incarnation “both from the noble marks he observed in him and from the proofs of identity revealed to him in advanced.”

Western interpreters are as quick to skip over this passage as they can be, even if the cost of mistranslating it. Kingsley writes:

And there is no reason not to do so, because it really means next to nothing from a western point of view.

But the moment we change our perspective these same words, preserved in ancient Greek, instantly come alive. As a matter of fact they happen to be the perfect description of something so strikingly unique it perhaps has become the single most popular characteristic of Tibetan and Mongol Buddhism.

What the Greek text describes is the routine formalities among Tibetans, as well as Mongols, for identifying a great being who out of compassion has decided to become embodied by taking birth in human form.

And one famous word exists for referring to such a living incarnation. The word is tulku (page 41).

Kingsley furthermore show connections between Siberian shamanism, Greece and Native American sacred tradition.

In other words: Incubation, or dream incubation, is the European equivalence to Tibetan dream Yoga.

But something important needs to be added. As far as I can see (I have certainly experienced it), then the spiritual exercises developed in, for example Platonism and neo-Platonism, are refinements of those leading to cataleptic trances and other paranormal experiences (psychic abilities, kundalini, shamanic journey, channeling, possession of gods or demons, ecstasy, etc). They respond to a rigorous demand for rational discrimination, a demand which, as far as I´m concerned, emerges with the figure of Socrates. In this you can see precisely the same as what happened in, for example Tibetan Buddhism and Taoism: a refinement of shamanism into a path of enlightenment (Unio Mystica).

In the Upanishads you can find the oldest accounts of philosophy as a spiritual practice. It is very likely that Plato, or maybe Pythagoras, had knowledge about this tradition. It all suggest a perennial philosophy, a perspective in spirituality that views all of the world's religious traditions as sharing a single, metaphysical truth or origin from which all esoteric and exoteric knowledge and doctrine has grown.

The concept of the lying down practice, and the receivement of power in dreams, are central in shamanism. 

African shaman with tribal face paint

Eliade describes how Australian medicine men are lying on their back under a tree, and sends some kind of magical cord up and climbs up on it to a nest on top of the tree, then across to other trees, and at sunset down to the tree again (page 127).

Eliade also describes how the shamanic power often is received in dreams:

Among the Sinkyone the power is sometimes received in dreams in which the candidate´s dead relatives appear. The Wintu becomes shamans after such dreams, especially if they dream of their own dead children. In the Shasta tribe the first indication of shamanic power follows dreams of a dead mother, father, or ancestor (page 102)

And in the notes:

The same tradition is found among the Atsugewi, the Northern Maidu, the Crow, Arapaho, Gros Ventre, etc. Among some of these tribes, and elsewhere too, powers are sought by sleeping beside graves; sometimes (among the Tlingit, for example) and even more impressive method is used; the apprentice spends the night with the dead shaman´s body (page 102).

On page 103, he writes:

Among the Mohave and the Yuma power comes from the mythical beings who transmitted it to the shamans at the beginning of the world. Transmission takes place in dreams and includes an initiatory scenario. In his dreams the Yuma shaman witnesses the beginnings of the world and lives in mythical times. Among the Maricopa initiatory dreams follow a traditional schema: a spirit takes the future´s shaman´s soul and leads him from mountain to mountain, each time revealing songs and cures to him. Among the Walapei the journey under the guidance of spirits is an essential characteristic of shamanic dreams.

It is on these backgrounds that I see a relation between Nordic Shamanism and Greco-Roman philosophy. And it is on these backgrounds I have developed the incubation ritual in Rold Forest, which I call Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth

Article related to my form of Nordic Shamanism:

Seiðr Shamanism and the Art of Song Healing

Related Ebooks (in the below two free Ebooks I describe my mystical connection to Karen Blixen. First many years after I had the above-mentioned initiation dream, I discovered that she actually did the same ritual with the Danish author Aage Henriksen. The magical philosophy involved is described in these two Ebooks):

In the Dark Places of Wisdom, by Peter Kingsley

A Story Waiting to Pierce You, by Peter Kingsley

The Greeks and Irrational, by E.R. Dodds

Shamanism – Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, by Mircea Eliade

Greek incubation rituals in Classical and Hellenistic times, by Hedvig von Ehrenheim (free Ebook).

The Long Journey, by Johannes V. Jensen (in 1944, Jensen won the Nobel prize in literature for this novel. Here you can find Jensen´s story of Norna-Gest. If you want to read a translation of the original Norna-Gest´s saga - click here).

Related articles:

Plato, Shamanism, and Ancient Egypt, by Jeremy Naydler (article)

Apollo and the Hyperboreans, by Atlantic Religion

My own related articles:

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