My clippings from ‘A Branch from the Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace of Wildness (Shaw, Martin)’
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Where is the mystery in going straight from school to college to job to mortgage? What wider perspective, what beauty cuts through that ghastly procession and makes you howl with the joy of being alive?
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The practice of shamanism has at its very center a teaching from the non-human, not from an Indian medicine man or a Buddhist master. The question of culture does not enter into it. It’s a naked experience that some people have out there in the woods.7
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What is lost is the community understanding, as the idea of wilderness changes with political or religious agendas, the ceremonies turn to dust and those original longings become the domain of certain intellectuals, poets and a heretical few.
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This kind of wildness has a child’s unsteady steps to it. As a reaction to repression and outside a ritual context it takes on a devouring form. It’s out of balance.
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The temptation is to try to reclaim the cauldron, but we can’t remember the particulars of the spell; the aspiration is there, but not the framework. This early story gives us counsel, however, of an implication of specifics, of distillation, of time limits—there is waiting involved, a year and a day, while a blind man, Morda, attends the kindling.
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Dzoghen in Tibet, in which long retreats in darkness are encouraged to access an acute inner sensitivity. Ironically, the seeming limits of stimuli open up information hidden by too much choice.
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The instinctive self, if not totally buried, understands the moves required to achieve this, if that self is obscured by static, it will create chaos till we pay attention.
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So, four insights from this Welsh teaching story are: 1. The need for boundaries (three drops, no more) 2. The original complementary mix of instinct and intellect (Ceridwen’s potion) 3. The need for gestation through the interior of those ingredients (Morda, the blind man) 4. The fluidity of forms that arise from it—the initiated form.
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You must admit, as D. H Lawrence calls them, “The three strange angels.”3
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We find in Michael Richardson’s translation of George Bataille’s The Absence of Myth: For Bataille, this absence of myth was merely one aspect of a more generalized “absence.” It also meant absence of the sacred. Sacred, for Bataille, was defined in a very straightforward way—as communication. Quite simply, the notion of an “absence of myth” meant a failure of communication which touched all levels of society…. In a very real sense it becomes an absence of society, or more specifically, an “absence of community.”4
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It is by its very name unsettling: underworld, not visible or accessible to topside consciousness to manipulate for gain. In the very otherness of its shadows, however, lies the possibility of fresh perceptions, to glimpse something anew, before the mind has claimed it as conquered territory.