(Revisions to Introductory remarks made Dec 19 & 20, 2008)
In the fall of 1983 Bob attended a Ghost or Dream Dance Workshop led by Michael Harner under whom, for several years, he had been a student of the “generic” shamanism the Dartmouth anthropologist was dedicated to reviving. Bob, when he first had read Harner’s Way of the Shaman, had recognized the “way” as one he had spontaneously experienced, not knowing it was the path of shamans the world over, perhaps even of his own druidic ancestors.
Recently I had been sensing Bob’s urging to find and transcribe his notes from the Ghost Dance workshop, particularly the part concerning possible futures. These impressions had begun and persisted since the September (I believe 30th) stock market plunge of 777.7 points. At the time I had read the symbolism as the “handwriting on the wall” of major collective synchronistic importance. And I had pulled up a writing project set aside nearly ten years ago when I had gotten bogged down by the immensity of the subject: a study of numbers and synchronicity Jung had initiated and Marie-Louise von Franz had carried on.
My understanding of seven in its single digit form is as the completion of the stages of a creative process. In its quadruple or four-fold expression it seemed to me to portend, in the very least, a major historic and cultural paradigm shift. The “handwriting on the wall” of the Book of Daniel had signaled the end of the reign of one ruling kingdom and the beginning of another. But in terms of today’s world, what way of life or belief system is running out of time? and where and by whom is the nature of reality now being redefined? In other words, what possible futures are presently being determined?
In any event, contemplating the subject of numbers, synchronicity and Bobâ€™s journey to possible futures, a strange thing happened. While looking for something else I came across Bobâ€™ shamanic journals, including his 1983 Ghost Dance experiences. The transcripts of these are below.
The Ghost Dance Workshop
This workshop had consisted of three sessions on two successive days. The first had been a ceremonial religious enactment known as the “Standing Dance.” The second and third had been based on another version, known as the “Sioux Dance.” These rituals had first appeared in the Missouri basin and spread to and beyond the Rockies in the mid to late 1800s. Their movement west in a very few years had swept through Nevada, and from there into Northern California, even to Jamestown, not far from Murray Creek. The rationale for regaining lost knowledge from the ancestors seemed to have been two-fold: to seek help of a personal, healing nature; and to obtain guidance concerning ceremonial, even sacramental rituals by which, according to native peoples understanding, the physical world is sustained and supported by spiritual energies and principles, and by interactivity between the two worlds. Most essentially, the Ghost Dances were trance-inducing rituals whereby the participants were transported to the alternate reality of their ancestors for the purpose of seeking help, healing and guidance for their communal lives. It was a time of radical changes in their entire way of life. The times could easily have been described as catastrophic, and even apocalyptic, in that their tribal ways had been forever disrupted. In these circumstances they sought the wisdom and help of their ancestors in order for their survival as a people, including the time-honored ways that had sustained their communal lives.
I believe that since Bob’s transition to the realm of his ancestors that his communications, to the degree I have been able to receive them with a semblance of clarity and purity, have been towards an end similar to those of the original Ghost Dancers: to avert extreme hardship, and if not, then to aid and assist the demise of our cultural milieu in its initial and subsequent de-structuring phases.
The Standing Dance
This Standing Dance begins on the toes with four beats followed by a pause. With a feather (or handkerchief) held in the right hand and moving clockwise without pausing, the left hand is placed over the heart. Around a fire or candle in the center, the dance is carried on until the participants fall down in an altered state of consciousness.
In describing his experience Bob recorded:
I went up in a whirlwind through a nondescript intermediate world to a barren land I took to be in the South Western United States. From there I followed a rocky trail over a rise into a hollow. There I observed a hut with smoke coming out. It was next to a long cave which opened into a hill. I sat before the opening to wait for a sign that I was to enter. Very soon an old man came part way out of the cave and motioned for me to come that way. I entered what was a very large, high ceiling cavern. A large fire was in the center with torches set around the walls. I sat on the earth near the fire. Men and some women and children came in and sat around the fire. At first all seemed to be Native Americans, but then I noticed a sprinkling of white people, including some in old time U S Cavalry uniforms. A large peace pipe was lit and began the rounds.
My preliminary intention had been to ask for guidance in healing techniques for my wife, family, and circle of friends. A secondary question had been in reference to the earth and to its healing.
I watched as a young US Cavalry soldier took the pipe and, on drawing in the smoke, burst into tears. As the pipe was passed on several Indians gathered around to comfort the soldier. When the pipe came to me I reluctantly drew in the smoke. As an ex-smoker I was fearful of getting re-hooked. Without inhaling I filled my mouth and then expelled the smoke and passed the pipe along.
I noticed some present in the room were not Americans but Russians and Russian soldiers, all of whom were participating. As the room became more and more crowded, and we squeezed together, the feeling was good.
Then an Elder got up and began speaking. I did not recognize him. In fact his features were quite fluidâ€”first appearing to be Indian, then Anglo, and his features altering once again into another ethnicity. This Elder was gray-haired and with a look of wisdom. I was not able to make out his words but strained to understand from his gestures, expressions, and what I could read of his thoughts, what the gist of his message was. The clearest I was able to make out was that times of great trouble were coming to certain peoples of the world and that only by helping our â€œenemiesâ€ or being helped by them, and this done without rancor, could we survive.
Workshop Day Two: The Sioux Dream Dance
Again, the following is transcribed from Bob’s journal notes:
In this ceremonial dance there was no fire or candle in the center of the circle and no drumming.
We gathered in a round circle holding hands. In a clockwise direction we moved our left foot and dragged the right up to it. As we moved we sang the Circle or Ghost Dance song. Swinging our arms way up and then down, with Michael in the center as guide, we waved a feather or handkerchief. As we began to stagger we were told to make “Whoo!!” sounds, and when overcome to allow ourselves to fall into the center of the circle. As one after another fell into the center, others closed the circle and continued singing and moving. No one was to touch the fallen (dreaming) dancers. After a time those who remained standing stopped moving and sat down, forming an outer circle.
Having fallen into trance, Bob’s journal describes what he experienced:
I struggled to rise to the upper worlds. Very soon a group of “elders” came down to help lift me and with their help I went very rapidly to the second upper world and into a small cave about size of a living room but with a lower ceiling. I dropped in a heap in the center of a sandy area, curled up in an almost fetal position. I actually was on the floor at the workshop and was gasping for breath. When this quieted I became aware of about six to eight Elders sitting about in a semi circle studying me. The leader told me curtly to stand up. When I did he told me to strip naked. I did. Then he told me to turn slowly in a circle. I became acutely aware as to how I looked in their eyes with a heavy flabby middle of 25 to 30 extra pounds–mostly in the area of the belly, but with added weight spread over my torso. I knew this was slowing me down and robbing my energies. The knowledge came over me that I was to get in “shape” to resume and extend my Friday fasts, and to seriously diet and exercise. I told the Elders I understood what they were advising me and asked what I should do after following a regime of bodily renewal. But I was told, again very curtly, to wait until I was in shape and then come back and ask. Again I asked for further instruction. This time I received a somewhat kinder response that I should continue what I was doing but not to expect new instructions until I was in shape.
After a break, a second Sioux Dance commenced. Again with left hand on right shoulder and shuffling clockwise, Michael again in the center, the participants bobbed down, then back up, chanting as we did:
Future Ones, Future Ones show us what you know. [Bob notes he was uncertain of the exactness of these words.] We continued in this until falling into the center as in the previous Sioux Dance.
I knew right away that I would have to go through and above the first and second upper worlds. I shot up as if I had a booster rocket attached in the back to my belt. I went right through the first and then the second world. The third world seemed to be all glaring white. The fourth world was dark or very dim. I was moving very fast and may have flashed by other worlds. The upward passage at times appeared blurred.
Then, slowing down, I entered a very strange, surreal, science fiction type world of discharging bolts of energy, and a strange pulsating red light as if from a volcano. There was no sign of life. I came to rest at the top of a very tall steep mountain-like object. I soon began to feel it was alive, that it was one of the Future Ones, but a non human life form. I asked to be shown the future and was answered, a bit sarcastically,
“Which one? The future is not fixed”
I was told to look up at the horizon. It was a huge world with a horizon much farther in the distance than on earth. I seemed to be swerving as I was shown hundreds of contrasting areas, and as they came into view–not clearly but dimly ”the scene was like a huge pie cut in radiating wedges from the point where I was standing.
I then asked to see the most likely futures.
The first I was shown was a Narnia type Golden Age world. Here there were large talking animals in what appeared to be a rich fascinating paradise.
“Is this the best or most likely?” I asked.
“Both.” I was told.
The Second world was a super crowded, super technical world.
The Third was the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust
And the Fourth was a Dark Ages.
I asked what I was to do. In answer I was told to continue opening doors into shamanic worlds.