At some time in any person's life, there will emerge a period of crisis and rapid transition through unfamiliar experiences. This life crisis may be the result of any number of causative factors, but its resolution is imperative to the continued development of the human being.
It has generally been acknowledged that "socio-cultural acceptance of the crisis experience" fosters the resolution of the disturbance into socially accepted forms of expression, conversely, social rejection or dismissal of the crisis experience often leads to "paranoid delusions" and hostility on the part of the experiencer. (Peters, 1981, 83) In some societies, from ancient times to the present, there have existed those whose lives were transformed by a crisis, and who learned to use the knowledge and skills derived from their experience to heal themselves and others. These persons are generally called "shamans", or medicine-people.
One of the main features of the "shamanic experience" is the development of a perspective that includes senses of"reality" that may be alien to the non-shaman. It is as though a "doorway" appears, through which the shaman passes, leaving "normal" conceptions of what is "real" at the threshold. "The idea of the simultaneous coexistence of an alien dimension all around us is as strange an idea in the context of modern society as it must have been to the first shamans, whose experiments with psychoactive plants [and other means of consciousness alteration] would have brought them to the same ...doorway." (McKenna and McKenna, 1975, 104)
Could it be that the shaman has consciously evolved away to pass out of "consensus reality" into the primordial world of sacred space-time, and then to return with information and abilities that may be applied to the concerns of those of us living in "this world"? "What is the nature of the invisible landscape beyond that doorway?" (Ibid.) What importance does this experience of another dimension of reality have for us modernized peoples of the late 20th century ?
"If the world beyond the doorway can be given consensual validation of the sort extended to the electron and the black hole--- in other words, if the world beyond the door is found to be a necessary part of scientifically mature thinking about the world--- then our own circumscribed historical struggle will be subject to whole new worlds of possibility." (Ibid.)
The purpose of this paper will be to explore the "world beyond the doorway", the travelers in that realm, and the means by which they maneuver about strange and beautiful places and mingle with inhabitants of the "other side". There will be a development of an understanding of the status and function of these travelers within their societies, and also of the historical and trans-cultural influence of their "journeys" upon human culture and kind.
Toward this end, a relatively open-ended approach of benevolent acceptance has been taken. "While cultivating a suspended judgement, we endeavor to allow the phenomenon every opportunity to reveal and refine itself." (Ibid., 106) Though much of the information presented here has been derived from literary sources, personal communication with practicing shamans and medicine-people, as well as participation in shamanic ceremonies and rites of passage have played an important part of the development of this thesis.
Much that was learned could not be included in the present manuscript. At least three future products have evolved out of the efforts to complete this baccalaureate essay, as well as several career options. The work here presented is only a progress report for what may become a long "Journey," a "Quest" or "Path of Power."
May We All Walk Together In Peace..."Ho!!"