The Shaman laid on the ground looking at the night sky. As he looked at the sky he contemplated his life. Did his actions matter? Was there some kind of cosmic order worth following? While the Shaman had many questions, he had few answers.
So The Shaman closed his eyes. He slowly let go of his thoughts, letting them drift away like flotsam in the sea. His senses became heightened and the world around him grew. His breathing slowed nearly to the point of stopping. As the outside world grew his senses merged with the world around him and he entered a new world entirely.
In other words, shamanism is not so much a religion, as ordinarily conceived, as it is a kind of pre-rational science; a kind of methodology for attaining a certain kind of experience.
The Shaman was disoriented. While the world around him seemed familiar it also seemed distinctly alien. Time had no existence in this place, it could be seconds that had passed since the Shaman had come here or it could be years.
Space too ceased to exist. The boundaries of physics ceased to apply. The Shaman knew that in the place there was no distance between objects, they existed together and separately at the same time.
It was therefore also true that The Shaman was this place. He was inextricably woven into the fabric of the place he had come to. If he wanted to travel somewhere in this place he needn't move anywhere. He simply imagined it and there it was.
If you analyse thousands and thousands of these shamanic experiences, both drug-… both plant-induced and non-plant-induced, the overwhelming connecting thread is boundary dissolution.
The world became more still. The Shaman looked forward and he saw himself looking right back. As he looked at his mirror image, he thought of himself and all of his qualities. His life in his city. The wife that he loved. His profession. His clothes. His personality.
One by one, all those things began to disintegrate. His profession and his clothes. His wife and the city they lived in together. They all went away. The Shaman cried out as these parts of him slowly died. He sat and watched helplessly as all the things he knew to be him were stripped away.
He sat and watched the coming end. The Shaman looked again at his mirror image. The only thing left was his personality and personal identity. He didn't know what to do. He felt as if he was hanging on to a rock in the rapids, in danger of being swept away.
As he hung on for his life he felt his fear. He felt his fear of his impending death, but he also felt his fear for his life. Fear for the things he did not have the courage to do. Fear of being alienated among his peers. The fear of not having the chance to do enough. It built to almost impossible levels.
Boundary dissolution. Why should that be so important, so wonderful? Because it acts psychologically, in the human being, like a birth experience. The world is made new. Everything is seen through newly opened eyes.
In an act of desperation, the Shaman let go of his fear. He knew his death was imminent. What his peers thought no longer mattered. The things he wanted to do with his life were only memories. For his final act, The Shaman let go of the rock in the rapids and was consumed by the currents. Everything The Shaman was, ceased to be.
But, even though The Shaman ceased to be he did not die. Instead, his existence had merged with that of the world around him. Though his identity was gone, his existence was not.
He felt the trees around his body, the animals moving through the forest, and he felt the stars above him shining down. He felt his ancestors and sensed all the moments that had led to this moment. A web of events leading inevitably to an unknown but foregone conclusion.
The shaman basically is an exemplar, a model, for how to be. Not simply how to be in the psychedelic or the trance state, but how to be in the act of wooing; how to be in the act of hunting, child-rearing, so forth.
With time, the other world faded away and The Shaman returned to the world that we all inhabit. For the Shaman though, a part of the other world remained. The connection to the things around him had changed. He felt the plants and the animals around him.
More than anything though, he knew that he needed to bring those around him to the other world. He knew that he needed to share his knowledge. He knew that he must be a bridge between the tangible physical world and the alien world the spirits inhabited.