The Substance Of Reality

“The Shaman Returns With Medicine”
I believe this memoir is a good introduction to Shamanism.

This is a chapter in my book “Compassionate Tarot Companion”.
The book’s overview with download & 2 chapters … {-here-}
All blog posts that are chapters … {-here-}

I hit a child with my car. It was a big heavy car and a little boy running out into the street to chase a ball.

The boy, in my visual impression, looked about six or seven, but tall and thin for that, in one of those growing spurts you get before you’re ten.

It was a crowded suburban neighborhood. The place was grassy green and shaded with trees but the neatly kept houses were crowding close behind small front yards, so there was very little space for the child­ren of the neighborhood to throw a ball.

The street was also long and narrow and even lined on both sides with parked cars crowded nose to tail so the child’s view of that street where he lived his life was very closed.

I was already standing on the brake, and the brake was working, and in fact my big heavy car was then ex­actly stopping, exactly when the child reappeared on my right from between two parked cars where I had seen him disappear an age-long moment before, his face now appear­ing in the lower right corner of my windshield where nothing should have been while I was moving, his inno­cent beautiful face still utterly absorbed in thoughts about the utterly innocent life that he was leading here and about that damn ball he was chasing

And then this lovely child vanished.

My car was in the last few inches of its stopping at the time when he was struck, but he was struck as if by lightening.

He was thrown out of his shoes a little way ahead and then from there had run on across the street to sit down on the curbing stone. There, after leaping from my car, I would find him sitting deep in shock, wordless and unmoving.

No blood was to be seen and yet the innocent beauty that was in this face before was now being overcome, as if the moving shadow of a cloud was in him now, a cloud of creeping death, for he sat there staring straight ahead and deeply pale but flushed and catching puffs of breath in little gasps.

They rushed him to a hospital. He was treated and released. I was not there, of course, but waiting by the telephone at home till word came from his family in early evening that he was considered by a doctor to be well. Nor have I ever heard of him again, nor do I know what deeper harm or lingering harm he may be suffering to this day. I wish him well with every beat of my heart.

The brief police investigation cleared me. A police­man got there on the scene quickly and spoke quietly and looked around carefully.

He finally measured the speed I had been traveling on this crowded residential street, by measuring the marks my tires had written on the road while I was standing on the brake. Very quietly, not quite smiling reassuringly, winding up his measuring tape, he told me that my car was going slow. And so I never heard from the police again.

And yet, in a certain way this trauma broke me. In me this crisis brought the psychological “shamanic break” that is described by Dr. Jung and other modern scholars of human magic.

Astonishing truths about the world have been dis­covered. These truths are so fundamentally astonishing that in response a new and different self must be construc­ted. It must be a true self, a self of truth, a self who knows how to be intimate with the beautiful mysterious horror of reality, a self with a different world.

When I turned down to that street, very narrow with all those parked cars, I realized with surprise, instantly, that there was no way of safely backing out with this big car.

Then, the following instant, when I looked and suddenly saw the children playing far ahead, how they chased the flying ball with complete abandon, a recog­nition broke into me of descending to a passage where there was a horrid test.

And I understood at once that I would likely fail this test.

Although my foot at once went down to tap the brake, I must go onward to escape the place. Of course I must slow down more when approaching but little else was obvious.

In fact, the substance of this world was such that I must certainly measure out my speed so as to stop by standing on the brake between the time my eyes recog­nized a child running toward the street and the time the child emerged into my path, but otherwise I should creep forward fast enough to minimize the time of danger.

And I was not finding any competence in my eyes and limbs that felt sufficient for that impossibly difficult calculation. And failure was destruction.

I must simply summon every faculty that my heart’s cry could reach and do my best.

Therefore my consciousness was thrown into the realms of waking myth. I was now consciously with Frodo or Odysseus or Black Elk or such, inside their story.

This summer was 1979. I was thirty-three years old. I was a former anti-war medical corpsman soldier. I was by now a beginning dabbler in various arts. I was a seeker equipped with scholarship and wonderment but only vague religion, an employed but poorly earning husband of a wife in struggling health that would later kill her, and the adoptive father of a little girl.

I was the driver of a big old cheap junker car. This city was Houston. We had moved here from Boston seek­ing better work. I was lost.

But when you are as lost as anyone may be, some­one awaits you. A destiny, an image of the person whom you can become and should become, a person closer to the truth than your bewildered self, is waiting for you.

The person you are destined to become is waiting for you just as surely as the oak tree is waiting for the acorn that is waiting too.

Our eyes are always looking for the visions our true self would recognize. That person’s thoughts are always whispering in our ears. That person’s arms and legs and feet and hands and every faculty are ready to be ours if we will stretch our limbs into their shape.

Our true self can burst into this world of physical reality at any moment when the acorn shell is broken.

When I had turned down into that street and recog­nized the true dimensions of that mythic place, immed­iately a voice that usually whispers in the ear started speaking clearly, describing this impossible task, and calling me to courage.

That voice, my true voice, even seemed to be a person standing at my side, standing with me on the deck of our peculiar ship, gazing watchfully in all directions.

Then while we approached the children, me already gently pressing on the brake, and we saw this beautiful young boy in particular reach for the flying ball and miss and start running out toward the street, and then when my true self thrust his leg in mine to stand upon the brake, then it was with true eyes that I saw that beautiful face and saw through the face into the mind behind the face, into the world the child inhabited, truly saw into his world, so that my heart burst out into a flowering of love.

That was the first moment in this lifetime when I inhabited the shaman.

Then when the car was finally stopped and I was leaping out toward fate, it was my true self who knew the certain way the child had run, between the other cars, to where I found him sitting on the curbing stone and staring fixedly into his world and deep in shock.

Now the bit of medical training I possessed was absolutely clear: Proper action now depended on the ques­tion of internal injuries.

If the victim’s only major issue was this horrid shock then he must be rushed at once in any vehicle to hospital. But if there were ruptured tissues behind the child’s unblemished skin then an ambulance with well equipped professionals, even if the wait took precious minutes, would be needed.

And the wrong choice would be so dangerous, and the overwhelming likelihood of grievous wounds in such a case was so obvious, that if I did not know his status per internal injuries then I should not even dare to touch.

And now the mother came, screaming in her agony but held back in another woman’s arms to stand there on the far side of the street, the far side of a river which the boy and I had crossed, the mother reaching out to try to seize her child out of this distant place that was so instant­ly turned to horror, those two ordinary women mystically transfigured into figures posing in a tragic drama, thus compelling me along the story’s path.

So now I knelt behind the child. Kneeling there behind the boy, I suddenly began to pass my hands through his body’s aura. Quite surprised to find I knew this part and yet performing it, I passed hands everywhere about him, just half an inch from touching but not touching.

Carefully around the head and face and neck I did not touch, carefully reaching long electric fingertips into the trunk, the arms and hands, the legs and feet.

These real etheric hands, my real self’s shaman hands that were my hands, saw deep into the flesh, into the flowing colored and transparent substance of the flesh.

There were no internal injuries.

And yet, the boy was closing down. The heart was slowing. The vision of the eyes was thinning like a mist that is vaguely lifting. The woven web of conscious thought was loosening. Inside the mind I even saw a figure of the child as he now saw himself, surprised but willing, standing bidding farewell to his world. In him everything was slowly sinking down toward quiet death. He deep in shock already.

So first I shouted to the mothers that he was not hurt. I shouted this astonishing news to them several times back across the river.

Then I stood and started shouting for the other men and women who were running up to get him to a hospital at once. I quit shouting when they laid him in the backseat of a car that sped away.

Then the wait for the policeman. The brief inves­tigation. The drive home, the wait beside the telephone, the news that he was well. The intimate examination of my heart.

Next day, a day at work and then a month and then a year. But certainly my life had changed.

I understood that I had seen and touched the liquid substance of reality. And ever since I found that seeing touch, it has not left me.

I am a shaman.

(- Here is the end of this blog post.-)

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