Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jesus as the Archetype Shaman (Part 4b): Descent by crisis or struggle

This particular series was begun under the assumption that God has spoken and is speaking into all cultures of people. Could it be that ancient (and even more recent) shaman are experiencing God dynamics? If so, is it also possible that Christ models the search, the experiences, and the utopian hopes wrapped up in the vocation of the shaman?

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"  Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, "This Man is calling for Elijah!"  Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.  The rest said, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him."  And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. (Mt. 27:45-50)

In the case studies of shamanic trance travels there is an oft repeated theme of crisis and shamanic travel being combined.  In some cases this crisis accompanies an initial journey which beckons a neophyte into a lifetime calling of service to others as a shaman or medicine man.  In other cases danger is part of the trance journey, and challenges the shaman even before he completes a descent into the under/other world.

Black Elk's initiation into his life as an Oglala Sioux Medicine Man outlines a 12 day struggle with sickness when he was a young man.  For those 12 days he laid sick in his parent's teepee.  In his dreams, or in trance-like state Black Elk traveled to distant places, and heard sacred things.  Upon his recovery the medicine man who was credited with healing him declared that he had a special thing to do in his life, because he was "sitting in the sacred manner."

Black Elk would go on to serve as a Holy Man for nearly 50 years.  During his time he joined a Messianic movement called the "Ghost Dancers,"  and became a Christian who served God and his tribe in a uniquely native American manner, which included dreams and trances with messianic visions.

The Altaic shamans speak of underworld journeys with dangerous bridges to be crossed on path down, and visions of shamans trapped in the underworld who could not make it because they were sinners.  Evil beasts are met on the path, and must be fought or avoided.  These stories retold in Eliade's book Shamanism underscore a oft repeating motif in shamanic underworld journey:  It is frequently met with difficulty.

Jesus' entrance to the underworld began in the greatest of human struggles: death, and not any death, but a violent, tortuous death met at the painful hands of betrayal.  His journey, which would end up victorious begins on this deadly note, and appears to have no hope for redemption.

Part 1 of the series
Part 2 of the series
Part 3 (thoughts on shamanism and glossalalia as it relates to Christians)
Part 4a of the series

Top 10 New Year's resolutions for the preacher in your life

As we come to the New Year, here are some resolutions you can apply to your local preacher. As a Christian preacher myself I am not suggesting things I would not be willing to do - well, okay maybe that's not completely true, but comedy has to play a part of a New Year's resolution list.

Here are the top 10 things every preacher should have on his or her list this year. These resolutions apply to those who are preachers by profession, and those who are preachers by daily habit. Please feel free to pass them on...(click to read the full article)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Jesus as the Archetype Shaman (Part 4a): Descent into the Underworld, entrance through a hole in the earth

Click on this image for a full map of Dante's Inferno.

"Now you are ready for your first experiential exercise in shamanism. This will be a simple journey of exploration through the Tunnel into the Lowerworld." These are the words of Michael Harner in his book The Way of the Shaman released in 1980.

Travels into the underworld were identified in Eliade's classic study of Shamanism as a regularly identifiable aspect of the practices of many shamans in many cultures. Michael Harner considers this a beginning point of learning the arts of his brand of neo-shamanism.

Eliade noted that among the Tungus the younger, newer shamans were denigrated as cowards, because many no longer took the difficult journey to the Underworld. (Shamanism: 237) Eliade's recounting of an Altaic shaman's descent in the underworld is not unlike portions of Dante's Inferno. This underworld journey is filled with challenges and tests.

In a universe which is often (but certainly not always) viewed as consisting of the three categories of the heavens, the earth, and the underworld, the shaman takes the challenge of navigating the realms unseen by others for their benefit.

This particular element of shamanism is perhaps the most dramatic illustration of Jesus as the Archetypal Shaman. His death, burial, descent into Hell, and resurrection in victory is the physical/literal accomplishment of a shamanic underworld journey. The various elements of underworld journey as they are practiced across the shamanic cultures of the world appear to be fulfilled in the journey of Jesus.

This section has taken a bit more thought, and preparation than I might have anticipated initially, and so I tread this ground carefully, but I do so with a larger vision of the capacities of Jesus than I might have presented had I simply approached this as a minor exercise in anthropological missiology.

Here begins my consideration of Jesus' descent into Hell, and the place it holds in fulfilling the needs of humanity, and myths of shamanic cultures across the world.

Descent through hole in the earth (Mt. 27:57-60)

The story of Christ's descent in the Underworld begins with his burial in the cave tomb provided by Joseph of Arimithea. Holes in the ground, hollow trees, oceans, and entrances to underground rivers have been used by shamanic trance travelers as entry points into the underworld.

Christ's burial in the cave tomb has a similar point of initiatory dynamic as entering hole in the ground, or the hollow of a tree. It mimics an entry point to the underworld. Once the stone was rolled in place, Christ was sealed to the fate of his underworld journey, which to a wondering world appeared to be a permanent unconditional journey. Through His spiritual authority this was not to be a final journey to death and afterlife, but a powerful expression of his conquest over the underworld.

Mircea Eliade's book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy describes the ritual descent into the underworld by an Altaic Shaman. This ritual was observed by an orthodox priest who had attended and chanted at a number of these rituals in his youth. After the Shaman journeys across land, and climbs a mountain in his trace, he then is taken to a hole in the side of the mountain which leads him to the underworld - to face trials and a difficult journey before a successful return.

The journey of Christ into the underworld likewise began in an entrance upon the face of the earth. Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Christ to be given to him, and then with Nicodemus took the body to a new tomb, and placed the stone over the grave. This began Jesus' journey to the underworld. He began it as a dead man, and would return in archetypal shamanistic fashion three days later as master over life and death.

more to come...this is the first section of part 4 in the series on Jesus as the Archetypal Shaman. There are likely to be half a dozen sections to this part alone.

Part 1 of the series
Part 2 of the series
Part 3 (thoughts on shamanism and glossalalia as it relates to Christians)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Kenyan Witch hunts highlight seriousness of problem

The report from the Al Jazeera website on the Kenyan witch hunts highlights an ongoing problem in Africa.  This is not limited to Kenya, but appears be a problem throughout the continent.  Superstition, greed, poverty, and corrupt religious leaders appear to be stirring up community fears, and it is costing lives.

Previous posts on this subject:
Persecution of Supposed Witches on the Rise
Witch Children of Africa Cont.
The Children of Pentecostal Theology?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Auschwitz Sign Found After Being Stolen: My Thoughts

After being stolen on Friday morning the famous sign over the gate to the entrance of Auschwitz has been found in a house 100 miles away. For more on my thoughts about this go here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saint Elijah's Monastery Being "Healed"

Soldiers tour ruins
Originally uploaded by The U.S. Army
The monastery in Iraq has become a post for American soldiers, but they have taken upon themselves to restore this ancient "house of God." Read more here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another Blog?! Yep, about My One Thousand Things To Do

I have this blog, which appears to be my most visited, but of course after 314 posts over the course of a few years, this would be my most prolific blog as well. Then there is the fact that I talk about weird things like Christians as Pre-Mortem Psychopomps, or hanging out with Pagans. This is my theology, ecclesiology, missional, and maybe even catch all blog.

Then my original blog (The Why Man), which has another 200 posts (yep, exactly 200) has maybe half the visitors as this one, but was popular for the Duck Daddy Chronicles. The Why Man is my cathartic life stories blog.

Then the church has a blog, and I am one of a few contributors there. It is what it is - a church life blog.

Less used, but active as March 1st moves closer is the blog about the Patron Saint of Wales and his holyday. Saint David's Day Blog. Obviously this is a specific Welsh connection kind of blog.

Well, now I have another blog. Yep, another. It is called My 1,000 Things To Do. It is my what am I going to do with rest of my life blog. I'd love to have you poke your nose in there from time to time, and if you wanted to hit the button on the Google friend connect, or follow through NetworkedBlogs on Facebook, that's cool too.