Science and Shamanism

“Everything you can imagine is real.” – Pablo Picasso

Quantum physics, and modern theoretical physics, comes to some pretty odd conclusions. You hear of scientists happily admitting that an infinite universe, or infinite parallel universe, necessarily means that everything possible must exist. Yet when we look at these conclusions from a spiritual point of view, they can be used to understand reality in a very complete way. I’ve often joked that there should be a metaphysics expert at CERN (nominating myself, of course), but the truth is that science and shamanism can blend seamlessly together.

It is known that light exists both as a particle and as a wave. The waveform includes all possible paths the particle may take, and the wave is described as being “everywhere at once”. When forced into physical reality by being tested and observed, the waveform “collapses” and its reality manifests (in this plane of existence, anyway) as one of the potential particles, taking a single path. It is also said that this is not unique to light – that everything exists as both particle and wave. Even you.

I believe that the waveform, which is potential, is what we have been calling “spirit” all this time. It exists as a real thing but we can only ever observe the singular manifestations of physical particles in this plane of existence. You have a spirit, which is all your possibilities – and to me that equates to your higher self. Yet you can only physically observe the one manifestation of it out of an infinite set: your physical being as you know it.

Now, if potential is spirit, existing infinitely everywhere at once, how do we get to know it? I have another belief that answers this in a surprising way.

Our imagination is a direct sense of potential. How else can we know what is possible in an infinite universe? Well, everything we imagine is possible – somehow, somewhere. Thus, our imagination is a real sense, just like vision and hearing, but of spiritual things.

People don’t like to think that spirituality is made up or “all in our head”, and that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that through disciplined use of our imagination, we can see everything that is possible, which is the spirit realm.

Shamanism provides one such disciplined use of the imagination. You will hear great shamanic teachers saying things like, “Of course we’re imagining everything. That’s how we create reality.” The oft-used phrase “dreaming the world into being” speaks to this. What shamans do is to go into altered states of consciousness where they can get answers and see potential while feeling like they’re not making it up – the messages seem to come from outside our own heads.

As Pablo Picasso says, “Everything you can imagine is real.”  Shamans use the shamanic journey to see reality in a different way – to see the full power of potential and possibility, which is spirit. And every time a spirit comes to speak to us, it is scientifically true that there must be a real being (somehow, somewhere) that exists who would say this to us. So it’s real and imaginary all at once, and the real trick is just learning to navigate this infinite universe.

Spiritual Work and Practice

I’ve been doing very well lately — crafting, writing, and helping others with spiritual matters. It has kindled a thirst to do more: to help more people, to spend more time in prayer, to develop new shamanic practices. It’s a pretty good place to be, and a good “problem” to have!

I think this state of mind culminated from the solidification of my personal beliefs. I developed a system of understanding shamanic spirituality that blends very seamlessly with quantum physics, and also appeals to my heart. It is, at its core, only my opinion. But to finally have a rock-solid base that is unique to me and that I know in my gut I have complete faith in, without any doubt…it is freeing and beautiful and inspiring.

The one thing I love to see the most in others’ spiritual journeys is the culmination of this stage of satisfaction and certainty, and it doesn’t matter to me one bit what those beliefs actually entail. We are all unique and entitled to our own truth journeys. They can be a quick and sudden enlightenment or a lifelong pursuit of learning, but when someone reaches this point of faith in their own truth, they have unlocked their best potential.


Time Alone

Consciousness becomes

you. Given enough time, you know

all stones and bones defossilize,

enliven, and grow

again, again, again, spiriting

in cycles too vast for theories to vault.

You verb

to hide the fact you’re doing

time alone,

and there’s no escape

but to dream that eons entwine,

infinitely packed without a care

for paradox or spacetime. Here, you stroke

the everbefore-and-after

with your little hours; here, you reach

the gods of everything.

My Book About the Power of the Imagination

I was going to write a book, but that would mean taking a lot of time away from my blog, and this is an important way for me to connect with people (since I can be too much of an introvert and don’t talk to anyone for days). So I thought that instead I would post installments of the book on my blog, as I write them.

Here’s the introduction blurb.

The world at large trains us to disregard our imaginations. What we imagine has no value, no reality, and no effect on the physical world, the world of actualization. This message renders us powerless in our own lives. With the imagination in full gear, we unlock our spirituality and creativity, and gain mastery over our intellect, our emotions, and even our health.

The imagination seems like mere child’s play: self-created fantasy that has no truth or bearing on our existence. We have been programmed to shun what feels self-created because we don’t believe we have power to create change in the world through our thoughts. But we do. If you are a spiritual person, you might know this in your gut, no matter what the world says. There is a popular spiritual statement you’ve probably heard: thoughts become things. Indeed, thoughts are the engines of our worlds. Shamanic cultures have long maintained that we dream the world into being – thoughts not only fuel the world, they create the world. Thoughts are the world. If you know in your heart this is true, then your thoughts (despite and because the fact that they are self-created) are the most powerful tools in your world.

Spirit is Potential

Spirit is, by definition, non-physical. That is spirit’s only clear and obvious attribute. This is also the only attribute we can name for potential. Potential is simply something that is not currently in existence, since a possibility is no longer a possibility when it is in fact actualized and happening – it is verified fact. Thus potential is inherently non-physical. There is nothing preventing spirit and potential from being defined by the exact same criteria, and in fact it answers a lot of questions when you assume that spirit is potential.

When spirit is understood to be potential, we can also call it an energetic force. The idea of potential can be expressed in terms of quantum physics which calls unobserved or non-actualized electrons wave functions, such as occurs in the double slit experiment, or with Schrodinger’s famous cat idea. The wave function is not like a material, physical electron. This wave function contains every path that the electron might possibly take – in other words, the wave function contains the electron’s full and infinite potential. When observed, the wave function “collapses”, being forced into materialization as a single electron and its single path. It sounds like magic but it’s simply the fact that the situation turned from potential into actualization, from spirit to physical. Everything that is unobserved has infinite potential because we don’t know exactly what it is doing, and we can’t verify it without observing it. Once verified, the infinite potential has actualized into a single potential-point, while keeping its future potential infinite because that it is unverified also.

When someone is alive, their potential is actualized moment by moment, but when they die, that potential is freed and completely infinite. You could also say that the deceased are released into spirit and enter the infinite. Spirit and potential are interchangeable.

Energy is also accepted in spiritual circles as an interchangeable concept with spirit. Scientifically, energy is a property or an attribute of matter, not really a physical thing itself. Energy is always the potential for things to happen. Energy creates change, but is not itself the change. It is the potential.

When spirit, energy, and potential are all understood to be the same thing, many doors are opened. I firmly believe that the imagination is our direct sense of potential (or spirit/energy). Anything we can imagine is possible as long as infinite time or space or dimensions are possible. Thus our imagination isn’t just fanciful but an actual sense of what is indeed possible. Since potential is equal to spirit, suddenly we come to the conclusion that through the imagination we can directly interact with spirit.

It is an idea that takes some getting used to, since the world at large would have us believe that our imagination holds no reality, and spiritual people don’t want to think that they are simply “making up” their spiritual experiences. Yet in a way our brains are “making up” even physical reality as we experience it! In a way, everything happens in our heads; everything can be thought of as imaginary. On the other hand, we often try to force non-physical reality to conform to the same parameters as physical reality. We want so badly for spirit to be real that we want to physically sense it – when there is no physicality to spirit anyway. One has to extend “realness” to both the physical and non-physical world. Both are equally real.

Yanantin of Fear and Warriorship

In believing in complementary duality in all things, I believe we are constructed of two extremes: the fear self and the warrior self. These two give birth to the instance of yourself right now, just as the Everything and the Nothing conspired to create this world of Something.

The key of all yanantin is balance, and in this case it is the balance between fearsome and fearless states. It is not that the fearless warrior is who you should strive to be! It is not that we need to remove and deny all fear. The dichotomy is not good vs. bad here. Everything has its place: fear can keep you alive, or at least keep you from doing senseless things. Complete fearlessness on the other hand can lead to a lack of real love, for what is love without a fear of losing it? (What is having anything without a fear of loss?) That is yanantin, the acceptances of opposites as necessary points on a spectrum between which we seek the wisdom of balance.


Our Innate Spiritual Senses

The non-physical world, or the spiritual world, is revealed to us through cognitive functions that act like our five physical senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing). Our physical senses are processes through which external data is transmitted to a person’s consciousness and decoded to present an experience of what the external world is like. Our spiritual senses are very much the same thing. I’m not talking about ESP or intuition or “the sixth sense” – I am outlining the processes by which our minds download and decode information about the immaterial world.

For me, the spiritual realm consists of all that is not physical. People and other forms of consciousness that have passed on from the physical world reside here, but the spiritual realm also contains things as simple as thoughts – because I believe that the experience of having thoughts cannot be reduced to a purely physical event in the brain. Philosophically speaking, I am a mind-body dualist.

What else is in the spiritual realm? It can be easy in a materialistic society to overlook the many examples of non-physical phenomena that surround us. My brief and currently incomplete list is as follows:

  1. Phenomena of consciousness (i.e., our thoughts and inner experiences, as mentioned above)
  2. Potential (things that can exist or happen, but aren’t presently experienced)
  3. The past (things that did exist or happen at one time, but aren’t presently happening or existing anymore)
  4. Pure concepts (such as love, or archetypes)

Each of these immaterial things is understood by us through a spiritual sense, the same way that physical things are known to us through the physical senses.

It’s an interesting aside that, as far as I can tell, spiritual senses are all direct whereas the physical senses are all indirect. That is, what we see and hear and taste and touch and smell are experiences that have been mitigated and constructed by the brain’s process of gathering that data in the first place. There is no way of proving that if we see a tree, the tree must ultimately exist the way we see it, or even exist at all. This is because we could always be dreaming or hallucinating, or we could actually be mere “brains in a jar” being fed false experiences by some mad scientist. Meanwhile, the spiritual senses sense non-physical things, so there is less worry about whether the immaterial thing itself and our idea of it match up. The philosopher Descartes was getting to this when he said “I think, therefore I am.” He meant that you can only know for sure that you yourself exist because you directly sense your existence when you exert yourself by thinking. If “you” are “thinking”, there must be a “you” that really exists in order to do that thinking.

These are the four spiritual senses that correspond to the four types of immaterial things I listed above:

  1. What we call consciousness is actually a direct sense of our inner experience and thoughts.
  2. Our capacity to imagine actually functions as a direct sense of potential. Everything that is possible to imagine is contained in potential, because there’s always a way to assert that our imaginings could potentially manifest into reality (you need simply posit that parallel universes or infinite space are possible, and then literally anything can happen). Potential and the imagination are directly connected — though I think more things exist in potential than anyone could ever imagine.
  3. The past is sensed through our memory. (In order for this to be a “direct” sense, it is better to say that what we experienced in the past can continue to be sensed through our memories of those experiences.)
  4. Concepts and archetypes, such as love or light or heroism, are sensed through the process of abstraction. We abstract from a multitude of examples of the act of love to get an idea of what love itself actually is. We experience love the feeling, love the action – love the verb, but the noun form of love is only ever sensed through abstraction. It cannot even be well-imagined. Ask yourself, what is pure love? You might have some ideas about it, but no clue if you’re right, and it likely will all seem hazy or unclear – precisely because you are trying to put something which is abstract into concrete terms in your mind.

I am still working on the “so what?” portion of this analysis, to figure out what conclusions follow from my argument. But I have written before about the liberation of knowing that our imagination is a sense, that it is a way of knowing the spiritual world and not merely meaningless self-entertainment. I think the idea of immaterial senses could lead to some exciting things, and will hopefully help us better integrate the physical and spiritual aspects of our existence.