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The Dreamer and the Dream

{written by : Tira Brandon-Evans}

Article word count : 4428 -- Article Id : 1289
Article active date : 2008-12-15 -- Article views : 14991


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Article is about :
Some thoughts and observations on the various levels of shamanic trance.

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The Dreamer and the Dream ©
by Tira Brandon-Evans

Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream
.
Edgar Allen Poe (1)

I have a dream. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We don"t fly in our dreams, we fly to our dreams. Boy, age 9

How waking and sleeping dreams affect us and our reality in the material world is a subject that humans have long pondered. What is the nature of dream? How does the dreaming mind differ from the comotose or unconcious mind? Why do some people remember their dreams and others do not? Are dreams merely the random synaptic charges of a brain downloading hours of conciousness into the unconcious mind? Are dreams generated by the unconcious mind trying to assimilate and make sense of waking stimuli by internalizing them? While dreaming are we connected to the Jungian collective unconcious, processing ancestral wisdom through the medium of archetypal metaphors? If so, what of lucid dreams? How does the sleeping lucid -- self-aware and self-directed -- dream differ from the waking daydream? Is there any real difference between the sleeping dream and the daydream? How are sleeping dreams, daydreams and trance states related?

We all dream during sleep. Many of us do not remember our dreams and therefore say we do not dream at all, but medical research on sleep and dreaming shows that, indeed, we all dream. Some people dream more than others. Some people remember their dreams and others don"t. Sometimes a person may frequently remember dreams at one stage of their lives and at another seldom remember their dreams.

Research has discovered that when we dream our eyes move rapidly beneath our closed eyelids. This is called REM sleep -- Rapid Eye Movement sleep. REM sleep occurs in cycles during the night and is associated with a particular pattern of brain waves in the sleeper"s brain. People who, for physiological or psychological reasons are unable to attain normal durations of REM sleep often suffer from the exhaustion and/or muscle pain associated with the condition known as fibromyalgia or fibrositis.

Fibromyalgia can be very serious and lead to partial or complete disability in those who suffer from it. Many shamans who avoid pathworking for extended periods contract fibromyalgia. This condition is so common that it is coming to be known as the "shamanic illness" in some circles. More often than not, people with fibromyalgia who begin shamanic pathworking find their condition improves. In some cases the improvement is gradual and takes a long time. In others, the improvement is quite dramatic, and those who experience this may call their sudden release from pain and exhaustion "miraculous".

This raises a very interesting question. Shamanic pathworking involves taking journeys, moving in mind and spirit into the Shining Realms and interacting with Otherworld folk. The shamanic trance may be very deep, in which the shaman submerges her concious mind completely in a sleeping trance and relates her experiences during the trance or immediately after her return. The shamanic trance may also be very light or shallow. This type of trance corresponds to the activity we call daydreaming. It is a type of fugue in which the mind and spirit is released from complete concious control so they it can wander into the Shining Realms and return while the shaman is still aware of his physical body and of the material world. These are the two ends of the shamanic trance spectrum. The states between these two extremes are also available to the shaman in trance.

The interesting question is this: When a shaman blocks the development of their gifts, does this create the neurological conditions that lead to fibromyalgia?

This, of course, leads into another question. When the shaman with fibromyalgia begins to pathwork, and thus to develop their shamanic gifts, does this create the neurological conditions that lead to improvement and healing?

I think the answer to both of these questions is yes. As to the why, I do not know, but this is a field of study for members of the medical profession who would like to pursue it. I do have an idea as how shamanic pathworking, or lack thereof, in people who have shamanic gifts, may affect their health. I think this is directly related to dreaming.

All of the shamanic trance states, from the deepest to the shallowest are a kind of dreaming. In some of the deepest journeys, the shaman has little or no control over where she goes and what she does. The shaman is completely unaware of his own physical body and of the material world. In these states the shaman depends on assistants to guide her through the Otherworlds and call him back into this one.

In the shallowest journeys, the shaman more or less completely controls where she goes and what he does Inworld. The shaman is more or less completely aware of her physcial body and of the material world around him. In these states the shaman may easily act alone and there is no need for assistants.



The Trance Depth Scale

An arbitrary but illustrative way to view these trance states is by using a scale as in this figure. Because trance states vary and shade into one another so subtly, we must bear in mind that when one passes from a Stage A/Level 1 trance state into a Stage A/Level 2 trance state the actual transition is hardly noticable. We should also bear in mind that Stage A/Level 1 trance is not inferior to a Stage C/Level 3 trance. Shamanic practices require many states of consciousness and levels of awarness. A shaman engaged in healing through laying on of hands, Reiki or other "hands on" techniques has to be able to stand, walk, operate her hands, speak to the subject and respond to what is said. A shaman engaged in a difficult soul retrieval may need to be in Stage C trance, aware only of the Inworlds and his work there. Therefore we see that Stage A trances are not inferior, less "powerful", or less "spiritual" than Stage B or C trance states.

Stage A Trance
In the Stage A trance, the trancer is less aware of the material world than someone who is completely unentranced. They are able to walk, talk, and appear to an observer to be aware of themselves and of their surroundings. Even in the deepest level of a Stage A trance the trancer can easily shift their consciousness from the trance state to full awareness of the material world instantly.

Stage A/Level 1 The shallowest trance, designated as Stage A/Level 1 indicates a state that is no deeper than a daydream. This is the state that many writers are in when they are writing or in which artists operate when painting. This is an intensely creative state of mind in which the ego is pushed to one side allowing ideas and information to easily flow into the conscious mind. Nevertheless, the stage one trancer is completely aware of their surroundings and able to write, keyboard, mix paints, and even drive a car and interact with the world around them.

In this state of mind we may "see things". Tree auras, little lights, and other Faery manifestations are most often seen in Stage A trances. This may be because it is the state that is most physically active. Many hands on healers enter the Stage A/Level 1 trance during their healing sessions.

Stage A/Level 2 This is the state of mind some people fall into while reading or watching a television show that completely absorbs their attention. They are intensely aware of the story on the page or the action on the screen and less aware of their surroundings. If someone speaks to them the trancer is slow to respond and needs to "return" to full awareness of their surroundings. In this state the trancer may respond to questions and engage in brief conversations without being fully aware of it.

Most divination seems to be done in this state of trance, especially the kinds of divination that involve scrying, tarot reading, palm reading and other methods that rely on material objects to aid the divination.

Stage A/Level 3 Here the conscious mind is even more deeply engaged in concentrating on something other than the material world. The most common form of this trance in everyday life is the state some people are in when watching a movie in a theatre. You may know someone who becomes so completely absorbed in movies that when the titles begin to roll, and the house lights come up, they are disoriented and need several seconds to adjust to their surroundings, just as if they had suddenly woken from sleep. Even so, although they have been deeply absorbed in the story they have still been awake and able to operate their bodies. In this state you have no problem eating popcorn, drinking soft drinks, or shifting position in your seat, but you do these things on complete automatic pilot and are hardly aware the material world.

This is the trance state usually associated with augury or seership. While in this level of trance, one is open to seeing the inter-relatedness of all things and less likely to self-censor that information. This allows the spirit to see and understand the patterns and to then intrepret what is seen by showing the concious mind the relevant pictures.

Stage B Trance

In Stage B trance states the trancer is more deeply asborbed in the mind and their own imaginations than in the Stage A trance states. They are, nevertheless, still able to easily shift awareness from the trance and into the material world without difficulty, although there is often a "hangover" after a sudden transition. When coming out of Stage B trances it is a good idea to spend a bit of time grounding out. Eat or drink something, visualize excess energies flowing from your feet into the earth, and sit quietly for a time considering what transpired while in trance. Simply popping back into instant awareness and rushing off to engage in material world tasks is not a good idea and doing so may cause feelings of fatigue, disorientation, and distraction. Returning too abruptly from a Stage B/Level 3 trance can be even more unpleasant and the effects may include nausea and dizziness.

Most shamanic journeys are undertaken in the Stage B trance state. In Level 1 of this stage the shaman is still easily able to operate his body but is more aware of the Otherworld than of the material world. The degree of material world awareness decreases as the depth of trance increases.

Stage B/Level 1 This level of trance is best illustrated by the state of mind of someone absorbed in a computer or video game. Like the movie goer, they are less aware of their surroundings than people in the shallower trance states, but the gamer is engaged in trancing on more levels than the movie viewer. The gamer is interacting physically and mentally with the game world, making decisions that affect that game world and their relationship to it. When the game ends, or they are called away from the game, it takes a longer time to become fully aware of their surroundings and there may be more of a "hangover", during which the trancer"s mind is still conciously concerned with tasks that have been accomplished or left unfinished in the game world.

We begin to enter into the true journey states at this level.The Stage B/Level 1 trance is the first of the journey trance states. Because it is the easiest to achieve most people new to pathwork take their first journeys in this state of trance. It is even possible to fall into this state without meaning too. This is the state you are in when creating a detailed fantasy.

I call this the "adventurelands" state. Journeying in this level of trance tends to result in linear, storybook journeys. When reading my old journals, I am instantly able to tell which journeys were done in Stage B/Level 1 trance because they are very linear and lucid, there are many details, the action or story line is logical and the characters -- ancestor guides, animal guides, deities, faerys -- behave rationally. In these journeys I tend to engage in adventures such as fighting dragons, defeating dastardly plans of wicked wizards, healing guardians of the land through magical means, and completing quests such as discovering lost magical items. These journal entries could easily become short stories with a bit of editing. You can stand or walk with the aid of a staff in this trance state. Operating machinery is not recommended.

Stage B/Level 2 The mid-depth trance falls around the middle of the Trance Depth Scale. Although one may fall into a mid-depth trance without intending too, this is not as common as involuntary trancing in the shallower end of the scale. In the Stage B/Level 2 trance, the shaman intentionally removes her awareness from the material world and enters the Otherworld. Once in the Otherworld, the shaman allows the Shining Folk to direct her journey but may easily assume complete control again if she wishes. The shaman is less aware of his physical body than theStage B/Level 1 trancer, it seems remote and far away. The shaman is still marginally aware of the material world but that world seems less "real" than usual. In these states the shaman may trance and journey alone but it is a good idea to set a timer or devise some call back signal to remind the shaman to return after a given length of time. The signal may be embedded in the journey itself. For instance, before entering the mid-depth trance the shaman may decide she will return when her animal guide bites its own tail or does some other odd thing. (2)

This trance level produces journeys that are less linear and more dreamlike. The easiest way to illustrate this is to consider the difference between a story such as those we find in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and the tales written by Lewis Carroll. In the Narnia tales the action is very Stage B/Level 1. The story is linear, contains a wealth of detail, and the characters behave rationally within the context of the story.

"And then someone said — people disputed afterwards whether Lucy or Edmund said it first — "You"re not — not Eustace by any chance?"
And Eustace nodded his terrible dragon head and thumped his tail in the sea and everyone skipped back (some of the sailors with ejaculations I will not put down in writing) to avoid the enormous and boiling tears which flowed from his eyes."

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (3)

In Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass the story is quite dreamlike, details of the setting are clear when present but otherwise sketchy, and the characters do not behave rationally. For example:

"Alice did not like shaking hands with either of them first, for fear of hurting the other one"s feelings; so, as the best way out of the difficulty, she took hold of both hands at once: the next moment they were dancing round in a ring. This seemed quite natural (she remembered afterwards), and she was not even surprised to hear music playing: it seemed to come from the tree under which they were dancing, and it was done (as well as she could make it out) by the branches rubbing one across the other, like fiddles and fiddlesticks.
"But it certainly was funny" (Alice said afterwards, when she was telling her sister the history of all this) "to find myself singing "Here we go round the mulberry bush." I don"t know when I began it, but somehow I felt as if I"d been singing it a long, long time!"

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (4)

Here the story starts out rationally. Alice does not want to shake hands first with either of the twins for fear of hurting the other"s feelings. Alice"s solution to this problem is rational. She shakes hands with both at once. At this point we immediately fall down the figurative rabbit hole into the irrational, non-linear, illogic of Looking Glass Land. In the next moment they are dancing around in a ring. Alice is surprised to hear music and, as we often do in dreams, she tries to devise or construct a way for this music to be produced. Alice is still, at this stage, trying to control her journey, trying to keep the story linear and logical. At the same time she is aware that she is not in complete control and later comments that she did not remember when she first began to sing, "...but somehow I felt as if I"d been singing ... a long, long time!"

Shamans in this stage of trance cannot easily operate their bodies and are usually sitting or lying down. It is absolutely necessary to set a timer or arrange a call back signal if you need to return at a particular time.

Stage B/Level 3 In this trance state the shaman, though technically not asleep, is barely aware of the material world. She has about the same awareness of her body as one does when sleeping. At the same time, the shaman is wide awake and operating in Otherworld. He is essentially living in the Inworlds. She will relate to the people she meets there in much the same way she relates to people she meets in this world. In a waking state we do not tell other people what to say to us. They speak as they will. In a waking state we do not control what goes on around us, except insofar as we may cause things to happen through our actions. For instance, if I decide to, I may walk across the room, open the door and go into another room. My actions have affected my surroundings. In a Stage B/Level 3 trance, the shaman operates in much this same way, except that there are no limitations of space and time, so she may pass from one "room" into another by willing to do it. As in the Stage B/Level 2 trance, the journey does not follow rules of logic and reason. In fact, the "storyline" is even less likely to resemble a linear plot and much more likely to be dreamlike. Again we turn to Looking Glass Land for an example.

The Sheep took the money, and put it away in a box: then she said, "I never put things into people"s hands — that would never do — you must get it for yourself." And so saying, she went off to the other end of the shop, and set the egg upright on a shelf. "I wonder why it wouldn"t do?" thought Alice, as she groped her way among the tables and chairs, for the shop was very dark towards the end. "The egg seems to get farther away the more I walk towards it. Let me see, is this a chair? Why, it"s got branches, I declare! How very odd to find trees growing here! And actually here"s a little brook!
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (5)

This is so exactly like some of my journal entries that I often wonder if Carroll wrote the Alice stories while in a Stage B/Level 3 trance. It may take years for a shamanic practioner to be able to work in this state, simply because we are so used to working within the linear logic of the material realm. Once we move beyond limiting ourselves to linear logic, a great deal of shamanic work may be done in this trance state. Because we are operating Inworld in much the same way we operate in the material world, we are able to go places and do things directly with clear wills. Most of our senses are engaged — sight, smell, hearing and taste are all generally engaged in this stage, the sense of touch may sometimes engage if required. The trancer cannot operate his physical body in this state and should sit or lie down prior to entering it. A timer or call back signal is necessary if one wishes to return at a particular time or does not want their trance to turn into regular sleep. In this trance state the shaman is able to remember all that happened with slightly more clarity than when in a Stage C trance.

Stage C Trance

This is the deepest stage of shamanic trance. In Stage C trance we are almost completely unaware of our physical bodies and of the material world. Yet, at the same time, we are completely awake and aware of the our spirit bodies and the Inworld. We have left behind all the laws of physics operating in the material world and operate with complete ease in Shining Realms. In this stage of trance we may move through the landscapes of Otherwhere or create our own landscapes. We may assume complete control of where we go and what we do, just as we assume control of our waking actions, or we may surrender conscious control and allow our guides to direct us. In the shallow end of the Stage C trance our physical senses may still be engaged, but in the deeper Stage C trance only our spiritual senses are operational.

When we operate entirely in the spirit body we are not limited by anything. We do not see with our material eyes but with our spirit sight which shows us a 360° view of the Inworlds. We hear with our spirit ears, which means we hear everything at once, words and sounds are not separated by time and space. All of the material senses are expanded in this way, which may make it difficult to sort out and intrepret sensory input. Furthermore, the senses are combined or cross-functional, so that in a Stage C trance we may hear colours, smell the touch of silk, and see sounds.

Once the shaman adjusts to these cross-connected senses, she is able to operate at the deepest level of consciousness. This is the state many shamans are in when doing soul retrieval and psychopomp work. (6) This stage of self-directed trancing is not easy to achieve or to maintain. It is common to fall asleep while in this type of trance. One trick that may be used to enter this state and remain aware, is to use a method I call the dream within in the dream state.

I enter into a Stage B/Level 3 trance and go Inworld. Once there, I go to a "safe house" and, with my guides and guardians about me, I fall asleep Inworld and "dream". In my Inworld dream, I go into the inner Inworld to a safe house and, once again with my guides and guardians about me, fall asleep in the inner Inworld. I repeat this until I have achieved the level of trance needed for me to do the tasks I have entered the Inworlds to accomplish.

These trance levels are so subtle it is impossible to describe them individually. Furthermore, it is probably best not to over analyse these states. Nothing is more counter-conducive to maintaining a Stage C trance than trying to decide at any given moment whether or not one is in a Stage C trance or which level of trance has been "achieved". Once again, it must be stressed that none of these trance stages are superior to the others. Each has its own use and purpose and each should be practiced, valued and used as needed. We do not say that a screw driver is "better" than a hammer. A screw driver is best if you are screwing things together. A hammer is best if you are driving nails. Each tool has its own best use and purpose.

Who Dreams?

In the end analysing dreams and dissecting trances is probably pointless. Experience is itself, whether it comes to us from the material world through our material senses or from the Otherworld through our spiritual senses.

Beyond the trance states and the dream states lies the perilous and beautiful realm of the spirit, the Shining Country, Inworld, Otherwhere. The only way into this country is through the imgaination. When we dream, where are we? When we return, does the dream continue?

"Now, Kitty, let"s consider who it was that dreamed it all. This is a serious question, my dear, and you should not go on licking your paw like that — as if Dinah hadn"t washed you this morning!
You see, Kitty, it must have been either me or the Red King. He was part of my dream, of course — but then I was part of his dream, too! Was it the Red King, Kitty? You were his wife, my dear, so you ought to know — oh, Kitty, do help to settle it! I"m sure your paw can wait!" But the provoking kitten only began on the other paw, and pretended it hadn"t heard the question.

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (7)

Which do you think it was?

ENDNOTES:

1. Find this poem by Edger Allen Poe at http://www.cswnet.com/~erin/eappoem.htm#dream.

2. No matter how deep a trance the shaman falls into there is little chance that they will not return. A mid-depth trance easily evolves in a natural sleep from which the shaman wakens feeling rested. Even a deep trance eventually turns into an ordinary sleep state from which the shaman naturally wakens after a time.

3. C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 1952, London, Fontana Lions (1980), p. 79

4. Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There the chapter titled "Tweedledum and Tweedledee" is found at: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/CarGlas.html

5. Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There the chapter titled "Wool and Water" is found at: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/CarGlas.html

6. A psychopomp escorts souls of the dead from this world into the Otherworld.

7 Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There the chapter titled "Which Dreamed It?" is found at: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/CarGlas.html

(The Dreamer and the Dream copyright © 2003 by Tira Brandon-Evans, all rights reserved.)



Author Bio :
Tira Brandon-Evans is the Founder and Moderator of the Society of Celtic Shamans, an editor of Earthsongs: Journal of the Society of Celtic Shamans, and a Faery Shaman. Her books are all published by Elder Grove Press.

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