Sunday, May 24, 2009

Jesus as the Archetype Shaman (Part 3): Ascent into the Heavens

In my last post on this topic I briefly outlined the topic of humanity's yearning for a utopian spiritual experience. This "nostalgia for paradise," (a term coming from Mircea Eliade's landmark book on Shamanism, more recently used as a book title by Orthodox writer Dr. Alexander Kalomiros) reaches out to the histories, experiences, and myths of religions across the vast landscape of human experience. In religious revival after religious revival, in culture after culture, and in spiritual ecstatic experience after spiritual ecstatic experience humanity continues through the centuries to exhibit a deep yearning.

Among the stories which spark the hope for paradise, and gather people together in communities of faith, which exhibit this search for something better an oft repeated theme is a hero's ascent into the heavens.

The ultimate expression of heroic ascent into the heavens is found in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The repetition of this theme both prior, and following 1st century AD highlights the importance of a spiritually superior human having the capacity to access heaven either physically or spiritually and thereby guarantee a path toward paradise, or a potential from bring paradise down to humanity. Though ascension themes do not always entail bringing paradise down - as in the case of often turbulent Greek, Roman, and Nordic Pagan dieties, seeking a blessing or discovering a paradise still often remains a part of the search in the heavens.

The stories of Mohammed relate his ascension on a winged horse in the year 621. This ascension dream was filled with words from Allah declaring the truth and integrity of the messenger Mohammed. The winged horse ascension was used as a verification of Mohammed's position as a restorer of true, and unadulterated religion.

The story of Zoroaster/Zarathustra may include his ascension into the heavens to receive the law, and an ascension in the great flame.

The more recently developed mythology of the Ascended Masters includes a list of ascensions by numerous historical personages whose ascensions were marks of holiness, and supposed evidence of the restoration of true spirituality they brought during their time on earth.

There is debate about the place of ascension in the stories of the Siberian Shamans. Ronald Hutton suggests that Eliade placed a Christianized interpretation of the Siberian Shaman's ascents. Yet, the spiritual movement upward upon the world tree, or the ascent of the Cosmic Mountain (descent elements of these symbols will be addressed later) to communicate with a great god, or any number of spirits still speaks to the idea of ascent upwards and outside the realm of this visible world into the "heavens" for lack of a better word.

In this particular symbolic element of Shamanic journey Christ's story is of unique dramatic power. Beyond the ascent of the tribal Shaman, Christ goes on to be seated at the Throne in Heaven. His ascension follows the brutal death, and victorious resurrection story as Jesus shows Himself to be the conqueror over the greatest physical enemy of humanity - death. The ascent takes place in before the eyes of his followers, and He promises a return with paradise in his wake.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Duck Daddy Adventures

If you haven't seen the new series of stories about raising 6 little Indian Runner Ducks, you might want to check it out at my other blog. Funny stories, and cute baby duck pics.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jesus as the Archetype Shaman (Part 2): A Nostalgia for Paradise

This is part of May's SynchroBlog on the Kingdom of God. See the bottom for links to other posts.

As noted in my distantly past, last (and first) post on this topic, I believe that Jesus answers the haunting nostalgia for paradise, which follows the stories and myths of many shamanic cultures. This is not only a facet of the shamanic myths and their cultures, but also the leaning of Christianity as it hails back to the garden of Eden, and more often to the early and ancient church.

Yet shamanic culture and Christianity are not the only religious cultures to follow this primal call for paradise. Neo-Paganism began in a similar revivalist vein hoping to restore ancient, magical, and simple practices of Paganism. These primeval ties which Neo-Paganism has to supposed ancient Paganism have often proven to be as illusive as Christianity's hope of restoring the early church. Yet, this urge for a pristine and paradisaical system of religious practice remains a basic ideal for the cultus and theology of many religious systems. Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, and other religious groups which began with a revivalist or reconstructionist call draw human hearts with promises of better days.

Jesus arrived upon the human scene declaring that the Kingdom of God had come. His work of healing, casting out devils, and preaching of a better way of living spoke to the human nostalgia for paradise.

His actions evidenced a benevolent power from an unseen Father. Accessed by faith this power promised to be available at some level to all the followers of Christ. It was a promise of a religious system founded in a paradisaical Kingdom, which would invade those who followed it with goodness.

Like the Shaman who ecstatically travels the unseen realm to seek healing for the sick, or blessing for the crops Jesus sought to bring paradise to earth in small packages of blessing and healing. These blessings answered the cry of paradise even if only for a moment.

The imagery of shamanic cultures includes a Cosmic Mountain, and a World Tree according to Mircea Eliade. Both these symbols imagine ascent to the heavens, and descent back to the earth with the hope of discovering blessing and power from above to help those on earth. This ascension imagery is seen in the words of Christ, "you shall see the heavens open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the the Son of Man."

Answering the utopian urge is one of the purposes of the Shaman, and was clearly a functional and foundational element of the messianic work of Christ. His declaration that the Kingdom of God had come was a challenge to a status quo of human mediocrity, and to the hordes of religious systems which had proven themselves to be hopelessly distopian. This nostalgia for paradise is among one of the many points which causes me to view Jesus of Nazareth as the Archetype Shaman.

For more reading on the Kingdom of God SynchroBlog see the links below:

• Susan Barnes (Christian currently attending a Baptist church) of
Abooklook on My kingdom goes
• Timothy Victor (Christian) of Tim Victor's Musings on The
reign of Godde

• Ronald van der Bergh (Dutch Reformed) of Ronalds Footnotes on
Notes on "the Kingdom of God" in the New Testament
• Nic Paton (fundamentalist, charismatic, liberationist, apophatic,
heterodox) of soundandsilence on The "Kingdom": of God?
• Beth Patterson (Non churched follower of Christ) of Virtual Tea
House on What it's like rather than what it is
• Jeff Goins (Non-denominational Christian) of Pilgrimage of the
Heart on The Kingdom of God: Now and Not Yet
• Brian Riley (YWAMer type o' dude and Jesus kinda guy) from Charis Shalom on Multiple Bloggers on the Kingdom of God
• Liz Dyer (follower of Jesus) of Grace Rules on
The Kingdom of God is at Hand
• Matt Stone (Christian) of Glocal Christianity on
The Only Christian Nation is the Kingdom of God
• Andrew Hendrikse of Fake expression of the Unknown on
The Kingdom of God is...
• Phil Wyman (Non-denominational Christian) of Square No More on
Jesus as the Archetype Shaman (Part 2): A Nostalgia for

• Stephen Hayes (Orthodox Christian) of Khanya on
Kingdom, power and glory