In the mid-1960s, I lived for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer among the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria, and it was there that I first witnessed something I didn't fully comprehend. It was only years later, when I had seen it among other tribal peoples in southern Ethiopia and eastern Africa, that understanding came.
Among these traditional peoples, when a woman expecting a child enters the last trimester of her pregnancy, the shamans of her community approach her, and with her permission, they place her in a deep state of trance. The shamans then connect with the spirit of the child coming into life, and they speak to it, requesting that it reply using the mother's voice. The shamans' questions are riveting: "Who are you? Why are you coming into our village? What is your life purpose?"
In this manner, the village learns who's coming in and why, and this is important for the community as well as the child. During adolescence, for example, when the teenager is driven by natural contrariness and by the need to individuate, that individual may stray from their path. The whole village knows who they are, however, and what their life purpose is, and so the community can gently steer that person back in the right direction.
It's in this way that harmony and balance is maintained and furthered -- in the individual as well as in the community. It's in this manner that disharmony and dis-ease, which includes illness, is kept within bounds.
While this custom may seem strange, even outlandish, to Western peoples, I suspect that it may be very much part of the given for traditional societies everywhere. It may be that it was once part of our heritage as well. But there's another aspect of this dynamic that is of great interest....
The Cosmic Committee
The words spoken by the child's spirit also suggest that the incoming individual has submitted a proposal for the life-way to be lived to a council of elder spirits. And it's on the basis of this proposal that the newcomer is given permission to be born into this world, to inhabit a physical body here on the plane of action, and to become part of the community.
The implication is that each one of us has such a spiritual council, a cosmic committee, if you will, who gave us permission to be born. This cluster of "elder spirits" is very much aware of what our life's purpose is, and they're monitoring our life as we live it, silently applauding us as we achieve our life's goals, silently feeling concern as we fail in our tasks. This insight implies that privacy is truly an illusion ... and that we are never, ever alone.
This revelation also implies that each one of us has a cosmic contract upon which we ourselves have written the shape and nature of our life's purpose for this time around, and possibly many lifetimes to come.
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We can use our shamanic journeywork to reconnect with our cosmic committee, traveling to meet with them in the Upper Worlds, or we can actually invite them into our garden.
Once in connection with our council of spirit elders, we may actually review the terms of our cosmic contract. It is in this way that:
we can learn the true nature of our life's purpose, and
we can reaffirm that which we agreed to do in this life.
We can also renegotiate the terms of our contract. Whenever we feel lost or confused, or when we feel that we've somehow strayed from our path, it's my gentle suggestion that we make a journey to our garden and invite our committee to come in for a meeting.
These elder spirits know who you are and what you're here for. They are members of your spiritual family, and it's through them that you may discover paths into understanding the nature of yourself, the nature of this reality, as well as the nature and shape of your trail through this life. You may even get glimpses into many of your lifetimes, both past and future, giving you greater insights into who you really are.
As I, the writer, create these words, and as you, the reader, read them, I perceive the nodding assent of uncountable unseen allies, and I know with absolute certainty that there's much richness to be explored here (more nods).
Recent surveys have revealed that as many as one in every two of us has had an involuntary paranormal experience at some point in our lives -- one that has carried us across some unknown inner threshold into the more expanded realms of consciousness.
This confirms my suspicion that when each of us becomes aware of that bioenergetic program that exists within us, when we awaken from the consensus slumber of culture at large and remember that we were once seeds of light, traveling among the stars, accompanied and protected by spiritual guardians (another story for another time), each of us can use the spiritwalker program we possess as a guide, as a map. We can then use this map to navigate our way through the forests of illusion and across the plains of experience.
As we awaken, our life experiences can begin to manifest themselves as a true hero's journey, as an upward quest that leads us inevitably into direct experience of the spiritual realms. Those who have already achieved this know that this journey becomes possible for us only through the doorway of the heart.
It is through this gateless gate that we, as individuals, can personally experience connection with unlimited power and a godlike mind. We know then, with absolute certainty, that no holy words or books, no secret ceremonies and rituals, no spiritual leaders or gurus or faiths can do this for us.
Once the spiritwalker program is activated and the higher evolutionary functions are triggered, a predetermined schedule is set into motion, one that cannot be given to us by any outside agency.
This is because each one of us already has it.
The paths that we take through life are the vehicles through which we awaken. So as each of you proceeds on with your life, growing, increasing, and becoming more, please take these thoughts with you ... with my gratitude and my warmhearted aloha.
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About the Author
Anthropologist Hank Wesselman, Ph.D., served in the U.S. Peace Corps and has taught for Kiriji Memorial College and Adeola Odutola College in Nigeria; the University of California at San Diego; the West Hawaii branch of the University of Hawaii at Hilo; and California State University at Sacramento. He currently resides in Northern California, where he teaches at American River College and Sierra College and offers experiential workshops and presentations in core shamanism worldwide. He is also the author of Spiritwalker, Medicinemaker, and Visionseeker. Visit his website at www.sharedwisdom.com