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The Shaman’s Journey: The Shaman and Intent

articles_shamanism1Copyright © Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls, 2012. All rights reserved.

There are 3 elements to being a Shaman: intent, emotional control and impeccable skills. Here we will look at intent.

“Intent is not a thought, or an object, or a wish. Intent is what can make a man succeed when his thoughts tell him that he is defeated. It operates in spite of the warrior’s indulgence. Intent is what makes him invulnerable. Intent is what sends a shaman through a wall, through space, to infinity.”
– Carlos Castaneda

Intent is the basis of manipulating this reality for anything including healing and manifestation. Reality is quite malleable really. It is just that we don’t use our will or intent to make it the best it could be.

“Inflowing thoughts come to an end in those who are ever alert of mind, training themselves night and day, and ever intent on nirvana.”
– Buddha

Often we say we want something, but deep down in our hearts be really don’t want that. And then we cry out in anguish because we don’t have that “thing” in our lives.

“Science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated.”
– George Santayana

Our reality is completely and entirely based upon our intent. You say, How can that be? I did not create this world, this country or this house. But you do accept the intentions given to you by your parents, your relatives, your school, your community, and your society. We have been taught as babies to accept the realities of others for generations. This is simple psychosociology 101. We are even taught to fear anything but these realities and so life changes at a very slow pace indeed!

So yes, you aligned your intent for housing to that of your relatives. Your idea of social success is the same intention as your society at large. This is not necessarily a bad thing! But it shows the power of intent. One more example is the phrase we hear “If it is not good for me or meant to be then God will not give it to me.” I think this is probably a good intent to inherit because you intend only good things for yourself this way. Without intending only good things in some way, you would have to assume responsibility for all the bad things that happen to as well. Get my drift? You are responsible.

“It is a sign of considerable advance when a man begins to be moved by the will, by his own energy self-determined, instead of being moved by desire, i.e. by a response to an external attraction or repulsion”
– Annie Besant, The Ancient Wisdom.

So how do we bring more good things into our lives? By intending only good things. Dwell only on good things. Whenever you think a negative thought, immediately replace it with a good intention. Picture abundance in your life. Practice looking for goodness around you. Intent creates your reality-what are you intending for yourself? For others? You know the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it” I guarantee you will get what you really wish for.

First, you must be in touch with your real wishes, not just your fantasies. You real wishes are the ones with emotional buttons on them. The wishes that make you cry or scare you enough to make you cringe, or bring a huge smile across your face just thinking about them. They are buried deep inside and sometimes are really echoes of other people’s intentions for you. If your father intended for you to be a doctor but you didn’t want to do that, you may still walk through your life without a purpose because you accepted your father’s intent for you all along. This is the stuff counseling is made of.

But for a Shaman, it is using intent properly now that can heal issues of soul loss like that for others. All healing begins with intent. Unless the patient himself intends to get well, the reality will be his own intent of illness.

This knowledge can be very frustrating to the healer who knows that complete healing is just a change of mind away. But intent is free will and no one has the right to usurp another’s free will. Many times I have wept bitterly before the campfire for those people who chose to suffer rather than to heal. There is only one reason for the intent to not heal and that is fear.

Isn’t it odd that people fear change more that anything else in life? And yet, that is the one thing that is guaranteed with your passage! I invite you all to embrace change. Embrace each new day, each gray hair, each meal, each encounter, and each tiny adventure of every day. Learn to enjoy the most natural thing in life – change. And learn to use it to your advantage.

* * *

Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls is one of America’s most loved elder teachers of Shamanism for today’s modern society. Her classes are always ongoing online and she also offers free initial counseling to anyone who wishes it. Visit her site to learn more at

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Kabbalah and Science: a Journey With the Same Destination

Italiano: Albero della Cabbala, Kabbalah Tree,...

Kabbalah Tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author: Bnei Baruch

Empedocles, a pre-Socratic philosopher who lived in Greece in 490–430 BC, had a very interesting theory: he proposed powers called Love and Strife that act as forces to bring about the mixture and separation of elements. In fact, in this theory he grasped the essence of what animates nature: attraction and repulsion. These forces control everything in the universe, from the most simple and basic movements to the most complex ones such as electrons in sub-nuclear levels or even the behavior of men.

If we transfer this theory to quantum physics, which is concluding that every little thing in the Universe is connected, we can infer that there is a force that unites everything, and this force can be called “love.”

In Kabbalah, the force that connects, attracts and unites is called bestowal or altruism. Everything that exists in nature works under this law or force. The sun, for example, makes life possible with its heat and light; the moon dictates the tides; the grass grows without sacrifice to feed animals. Everything has its purpose and everything lives in perfect harmony for the sake of the whole. When a lion eats a deer, the deer doesn’t think the lion is cruel, nor does the lion feel guilt for hurting the deer. Both act without question according to their inherent nature, and as a result, the ecosystem stays in balance.

If everything is so perfect why is there so much suffering on Earth? All the suffering is created by us, human beings. While nature works in bestowal or altruism (the force that connects everything), men work in egoism (the force that separates everything). Therefore, we have two opposite forces running together in the same place: nature is trying to connect and we are trying to separate. This antagonism causes pain and suffering.

Kabbalah teaches that the source of this suffering is the egoism that acts in this world as a force of repulsion. In nature, everything takes only what it needs for survival and passes everything else on for others. In this way, harmony is maintained and there is enough for all. On the other hand, we function egoistically, thinking only about self benefit. We want more and more of everything, not caring about the impact on the whole. As a result, we have wars, famine, diseases, violence, and the resultant suffering.

How can we change the way we understand this world in order to avoid this ‘repulsion’ we are experiencing these days? We first have to change our perception of reality. Have you ever seen the Magic Eye 3D puzzles? At first glance, these look like colorful repeating patterns of dots. If you let your eyes go out of focus, however, a three dimensional picture pops out. Nothing has changed but the perspective of the viewer.

Kabbalists tell us that the same happens with our world. When we operate based on our egoistic nature, we perceive a world filled with suffering. If we change our human nature to operate on nature’s altruistic programming, then the picture we perceive will be completely different. We will see how our actions affect everyone else on the planet, and we will care more for their well being than for our own. With this new perspective, we will make different choices on how to live.

This sounds wonderful in theory, but is it realistic? Science has already come to the conclusion that everything in the universe is interconnected, but can we realize this same connection on a personal and social level? Kabbalah provides us with a methodology to attain this state of connection and bestowal. In doing so, we will finally be able to understand the true purpose of our lives. We will merge with the force Empedocles called “Love,” and “Strife” will disappear.

About the Author:

Bnei Baruch, is the largest group of Kabbalists in Israel, sharing the wisdom of Kabbalah with the entire world. Study materials in over 25 languages are based on authentic Kabbalah texts that were passed down from generation to generation.

Article Source: ArticlesBase.comKabbalah and Science: a Journey With the Same Destination

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Are Spirit Guides the same as Totems?

The Shaman by Temari

The Shaman by Temari via Flickr

Introduction by Michael Clark  ‹ skip intro

A good percentage of schoolchildren are taught that reality is about things we can measure and easily describe. This focus on the observable world has obvious advantages. Bridges are built, science develops and economies thrive.

But that’s only half the story. There’s also the inner world described by the mystic, saint or seer. Sadly, some spiritual seekers end up like the ill-fated Greek mariners of antiquity, caught between Scylla and Charybdis or seduced by a siren’s song and getting strewn across the shoals of their own splintered psyches. And by the time these people receive psychiatric treatment it might, in some cases, be too late for any kind of healthy reemergence or reintegration.

Having said that, not everyone ends up on the rocks. Some make it through to the proverbial other side. Carl G. Jung was one of those individuals. And Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls is clearly another.

In the 21st century, however, the cosmovision¹ of the shaman remains largely unrecognized or devalued. So practicing shamans tend to be reserved when sharing their inner experiences. They probably don’t want to hoard esoteric knowledge but, instead, have realized that Jesus was right when teaching that it’s unwise to cast one’s pearls before swine.²

For that very reason I hesitated to post this article by Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls. It probes deeper into esoteric realms than other pieces she’s submitted. But hopefully these introductory remarks will facilitate the kind of open-mindedness required to appreciate such a rare, first-hand account.

— MC

Shamans Dream by Bob G

Shamans Dream by Bob G via Flickr

Are Spirit Guides the same as Totems?

Copyright © Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls, 2012.

Spirit guides may or may not also be totem animals. I have a spirit guide who comes to me as a white pelican. I have an elephant who is strictly a totem and not a spirit guide.

A spirit guide is a teacher with something to teach you. A totem animal is often a protector, a mate to travel the Inner Worlds with who knows its way around and can get you in, to your destination and out again safely.

I can ride my elephant right into the Under World and he will stop at exactly the place I need to be to effect someone’s healing. When I have the healing I climb back on and he brings me right back. If anything untoward appears he can step on it with out effort and so he protects me completely. That is a totem animal.

Why an elephant? If you look up elephants you will see, Elephant: Royalty, strength, ancient wisdom, patience, careful, confident, education. No wonder I have an elephant as a totem. He represents me. Notice too that he is not a Native American animal. That means something, too.

Your totems choose you as you are aware. You meet a totem animal, usually in the Inner Planes but sometimes it is an animal you have a special affinity for or have seen a lot lately. I prefer to meet them on the Inner Planes in meditation or such because sometimes those animals you see a lot of in this world are bringing you a message and are not totems for you. It is easy to confuse the two.

Your totem animal can change during your life. As you grow and change your totem animals may change as well. You may have several totem animals at once. But one is a life totem and represents your basic self or personality, your essence.

Spirit guides are teachers. They come to guide you in your education. They teach you things. They may have lived other lives. They may be “ascended” beings. They may be the wind or Father Sky or a guardian angel. They may be your higher self. They may be God. You decide. They can be animals or plants or trees or people. Here is another wisdom nugget, everything has three emanations or faces or appearances. We do and plants do and animals do and everything does.

When I go into the Inner Worlds for a healing for someone, I encounter some being there who is responsible for the sickness. The first face it shows me is really goofy, odd or weird and I know that is not what it really is. So I dismiss that face and ask to see its true face.

The next face it shows if it is a not nice being is some ferocious, grizzly, nasty, scary being who tries to bite me or otherwise scare me. But I am not scared because I know that is not its true face. I may have to fend it off or punch it or step on it or catch it but I am not scared of it. I dismiss it and ask to see its true face for the third time.

The third time I see what it really is and if it is a not nice being it usually looks weak and small and very lacking in every department. This is the being I negotiate with.

So I know that everything has three faces. Another example is when I sit with a rock and it turns into a lily and then it becomes a butterfly and flies away. When I sit with a river and it becomes a meadow and then it is a bear walking away.

So my totem is an elephant, a white elephant and it does not change its face around me. Why? Because it represents me! It is one of my own faces! How cool! A totem is one of your own many faces. That is why some people call them “familiars”.

Can we have more than three faces? Yup! Some people have hundreds of faces. But everything has at least three. And usually the three represent a plant, an animal and a sky creature.

Your spirit guides will help teach you intent, emotional control, knowledge and impeccability if you allow them. Remember it is always your free will to learn or not to learn. But don’t travel to the Inner Worlds if you have not mastered the skills necessary to be safe there and to do your work there. And never go there just out of curiosity. There are too many discarnate beings waiting for you to come there unaware so they can get what they can get from you. They can be tricky and sly and even devious. Even one bee is enough to stay away from. It doesn’t take a pack of grizzly bears to kill you.

Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls has been a practicing Shaman for over 50 years. She recently received a dispensation to reach out to those who have a desire to learn about a Shaman’s path and now offers an online course at Many people on this earth have been Shamans in other lives and only need to reconnect with their lost knowledge and skills to bring shamanic healing back to Mother Earth and its peoples. This is Shaman Elder’s goal. Please visit her website at or write her an email for a free consultation at


¹ Cosmovision is a term used by David Carrasco and others for a worldview where cultural, environmental and spiritual elements exist in an integrated whole. Because cosmovision involves connections across space and time, it implies sentiments like “yesterday I experienced some of tomorrow.”

² “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6)


Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls’ 50th Anniversary Teaching

Copyright © Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls.

Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls sent this piece to Earthpages on October 24, 2004 and its timeless wisdom is just as relevant today as it was then.


In the day to day existence we struggle through, sometimes it feels as if we get no where. We try so hard just to stay afloat in this sea of hunger, panic, need and competition. It is an amazingly hard thing to keep one’s sanity and some sense of calm and peace when we are swirling around in other people’s demands and expectations.

As I celebrate my 50th year or Golden Anniversary as a healer, I have surely seen much and experienced for myself this sense of trying to have a life that seemed to never be allowed in peace. I have worked with all kinds of people and have brought what help I could to each and every person who asked for healing. I have taught people the ways of healing in many forms, the way each person could most resonate to their own gifts for healing others. But I tell you, I have the feeling that I am trying to do heart surgery on a kitchen table.

Sometimes we throw our hands up and say, “I just can’t do it anymore!”, but no one hears us, the wind does not die down, we continue being buffeted, pushed this way and that. No matter how we try, how we manipulate, direct, avoid, manhandle, negotiate, cry, scream, or medicate, it does not stop. Is this all that life is?

Now is the time to step right into the middle of this hurricane. Get out of the howling wind and walk into the eye. Stop trying to do surgery on the kitchen table. Stop struggling to do the impossible. Walk into the most fearsome place of the hurricane, right into the eye and stand still there for a minute. The wind has stopped. There is no noise, no person, no conflict, no positive, no negative, no goals, no rewards, no expectations. Stand there for a minute. This place is even more scary than your overwhelming life. You can feel the fear in your chest here, you can feel it in your head and spine, you can feel fear physically here and can hardly bear to be here for one second. The quiet is deafening. The lack of movement is unbearable. But stay here as long as you can. Stay here for a few more moments. Listen.

Try to hear the ocean waves as they reach the shore. Are they crashing in or gently lapping the beach? Can you hear seagulls calling from the sky? Is it day or night? Become aware of what is here in this quiet place. You have come full circle back to nature. Nature who bore you in the beginning, who carries you through life although you are barely aware of her and nature who takes you back when your overwhelming life is through. Is it any wonder that all the mystical, magical practices of healers and Shamans throughout history are connected to nature. Be with the seashore and seagulls for a moment. They demand nothing of you. They are you.

Who are you here? Do you feel little and insignificant? You cannot do heart surgery with a butter knife. You feel you cannot do anything. You are so helpless really. And all that you do is just a terrible effort with so little benefit. You are tired. You want to let go. And in this place, the center of the eye of your life, right here, right now, in this most scary place, let go. Just be here. Watch the winds howling around you. Flying people and chairs and buildings and expectations and responsibilities can be seen whirling around you. But you stand in the eye where the wind is still and you are untouched by those things for just a moment. Let the fear subside. You are still.

This is the place where healing begins. This is the place I teach about. It is different for each one of us but we all have this place. As we get over being scared of it, of being in the eye of the storm we can find our true self here. But most people are too scared to stand here for any length of time at all.  For most, it is easier to be swallowed up in the storm than it is to step out of the storm and see your own smallness, your own insignificance. But in this very place, this  insignificance, lies your peace. And your ability to heal.

Some people call this place, this eye of the storm where you are small and little, God, Allah, Spirit, At-One-Ment. And because they believe it is the place of God they find the courage to stand here and not be too, too scared. And if we stand here long enough to get comfortable with this trueness of ourselves we can find the peace and love that is here, has always been here waiting to love us and heal us and give us peace. In fact, if we can spend more of each minute in this place, more of each hour, more of each day, we find that we too can find a way to heal ourselves and to heal others. We find the power of the Spirit is here, in this hurricane’s eye and this power has always been here with us. The power to heal, to love, to be happy, to be at peace. It is not of this earthly world. It is inside the center of each of us.

This is what I teach. Each of us is unique and each person that I teach to heal learns in a unique way. But I am here to help you draw back the curtain and expose the truth about your own self. You are powerful. You are the most powerful person on earth. You have the power to be happy, to let go, to be at peace right now within you. And you have the power to heal.

Fifty years of my life have been dedicated to healing and teaching healing. I have studied all over the world with teachers and healers from so many walks of life. And every one of those wise masters will tell you about the place in the center of the storm we must learn to find and stand in to realize those most precious gifts we are all given.  It is from this place that much more than heart surgery can be done on much less than a kitchen table. If you are ready to find your gifts and share with them with those you love, those you care about, those who need you, I am honored to show you how.

For 50 years of service to you my brothers and sisters I am truly grateful! I honor you for showing me the way.

Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls

Come Walk With A Shaman and re-member your own skills to heal yourself and others. Learn the ancient ways.
Copyright © 2012 Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls.
Write me at

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The spiritual and practical aspects of discernment

Mysticism by gianluca.nastasi

Mysticism by gianluca.nastasi via Flickr

The following originally appeared as an entry at – Think Free.

One Aspect

In Catholic theology one aspect of discernment is the use of reason and experience coupled with divine gifts to distinguish between true and false interior perception.

As Henri Martin P.S.S. puts it:

The charism of discernment is “a kind of supernatural instinct by which those who have it perceive intuitively the origin, either divine or not, of thoughts and inclinations submitted to them.” (J. de Guibert, Lecons, p. 306). It is to be distinguished from revelation of the secrets of hearts, properly so called, made directly by God. In such revelations, which is extremely rare, objective certitude is absolute. In the case of discernment the chances of error lie in the subjective interpretation and use of the supernatural light received. Lacking an infused charism, ordinarily “God will assist by special interior light a gift of discernment acquired by experience and prudence in the application of the traditional rules of discernment.”¹

On the need for seekers to be sincere, humble and rational in the discernment process, the scholar of mysticism, Evelyn Underhill, says:

Ecstasies, no less than visions and voices, must, they declare, be subjected to unsparing criticism before they are recognized as divine: whilst some are undoubtedly “of God,” others are no less clearly “of the devil.”²

Likewise, the Protestant William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience, suggests that some lower forms of mysticism may have “proceeded from the demon.”³ The Lutheran Rudolf Otto also talks about different types of mysticism. See, for instance, “An Outline of Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy,” Chapter XVI – The ‘Cruder’ Phases.

In Protestant and Catholic Churches discernment is described as a gift and developed ability where a person learns to differentiate among

  • divine spiritual influences
  • evil spiritual influences
  • one’s truest self.

But a problem arises in that many religious people claim to discern. And often different religious and New Age enthusiasts discern differently on the very same issue, citing the “Holy Spirit,” “Allah,” “Angels” or “Objective Truth” as their source of authority.

Discernment often seems to mean taking an alarmist, knee-jerk view of issues that one doesn’t understand, projecting bad habits and transferring the unsavory contents of the unconscious onto scapegoats. This can happen on an individual level or through a kind of institutionally reinforced hypocrisy, as we’ve seen time and again in the history of religions, cults and spiritual movements.

Indeed, unconscious anger, resentment and unresolved psychological complexes may color discernment. And it seems that psychological pain, immaturity and the potential influence of fantasy or evil influences can all be intertwined.

Another Aspect

Another related meaning of the term discernment is to discover what God wants an individual to do in life, to find one’s calling, as it were. This relates to the first meaning of discernment because we can’t do the right thing in life if we’re following imaginary voices, fantasy desires or the promptings of an evil power.

Thomas H. Green S. J. notes that, within Catholicism, this second form of discernment of finding one’s calling was once premised on sheer authority. A spiritual director would simply tell a religious what to do. Today, however, the relationship between discernment and spiritual directors has evolved. Emphasis is now given on “co-discernment” and, in the larger sense, communal discernment. Authority figures only provide general guidelines, as plainly evident in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ultimately it’s up to each individual to flesh out God’s will for his or her life.4

A Synthesis

Father Edward Malatesta, S. J. definition of discernment combines the two previous aspects:

By the discernment of spirits is meant the process by which we examine, in the light of faith and in the connaturality of love, the nature of the spiritual states we experience in ourselves and in others. The purpose of such examination is to decide, as far as possible, which of the movements we experience lead us to the Lord and to a more perfect service of Him and our brothers, and which deflect us from this goal.5

Interestingly, some believe that a higher power or spiritual gift can override personal biases, enabling an imperfect person to make perfect discernments. This dynamic may, indeed, occur from time to time but for the most part it seems that the development of accurate discernment is a lifelong process.

And, quite possibly, we may continue to sharpen our powers of discernment in the afterlife.

¹ (ibidem). (Jacques Guillet, Gustave Bardy et. al. (trans.) Sister Innocentia Richards, Ph.D., Discernment of Spirits. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1970, p. 104.)

² Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, New York: New American Library, 1955, p. 361.

³ London: Penguin, 1985, p. 423.

4 Thomas H. Green S. J., Weeds Among the Wheat – Discernment: Where Prayer and Action Meet, Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1984, pp. 11-17).

5 Cited in Green, p. 41.

Copyright © Michael Clark.


The Soul – Bird in Persian Sufi Literature

bird of life by Sheldon Wood via Flickr

By Rupa Abdi

Equating the human soul with a bird is found in myth and mystical literature all over the world. From Hallaj to Sanai and Rumi, Persian mystical poetry has used the symbol of Bird, beautifully. The human soul, like a bird can choose to remain caged in this perishable world or fly towards Liberation.

Ibn Sinna (Avicenna) used this motif and Ghazali wrote the Risalat at-tayr, “Treatise on the Birds”. The nightingale of Sufi poetry, yearning for the rose, singing night and day of its unfulfilled longing and union, suffering without complain the sting of its thorns – is the soul longing for eternal beauty. It is this longing that inspires the soul bird to sing. Longing is the most creative state that the soul can reach.

Rumi often spoke of the soul as a white falcon, exiled amidst the black crows, or a nightingale in the company of ravens. Rumi’s pun on the word falcon or baz, which in Persian also means “to come back”, refers to the baz’s desire to come back to its Lord and Master.

However the symbol of the soul bird’s jouney to is final abode is ingenuously developed by Attar – the master story teller of Iran, in his epic poem, Mantiq u-tayr, “The Birds’ Conversation”, also known as “The Conference of the Birds”. Fariduddin “Attar” (= seller of essence and scents), a druggist by profession, is considered by many as the greatest of the Mathnavi writers of Persian mystical poetry after Rumi. He was born in Nishapur (north-eastern Iran) and died there most likely in 1221 C.E. The idea of traveling and ascension towards the spiritual home, so dear to the mystics of Islam, found its most poetic expression in Attar’s poetry. The Mantiq u-tayr was modeled on the, Risalat ut-Tayr, Treatise on the Birds composed half a century earlier by another Sufi master, Ahmad Ghazali (d. 1126 CE).

“The Conference of the Birds” revolves around the decision of the birds of the world to embark on a journey to seek out their king, the Simurgh – their debilitating doubts and fears, and the knowing counsel of their leader Hoopoe. Each bird falters in turn, whereupon their leader urges them on with parables and exemplary stories, including numerous references to some of the early Muslim mystics such as Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya, Abu Sa’id ibn Abi’l-Khair, Mansur al-Hallaj and Shibli. The different birds represent the different personality types among humans as well as the complex characteristics that make up the human individual.

In these 4500 couplets, Attar speaks to all of us – to our inner being. We are all born with wings, but few of us discover them in our lifetime. Wings to fly back to our home – the abode of the mystical Simurgh – the Lord of all Birds, who lives on the world encircling mountain of Kaf. This journey ultimately is the soul’s progression towards inner perfection.

The different stages along this spiritual journey, which may take a different sequence in different individuals, are symbolized by Attar as seven valleys. Perhaps the series of valleys are used to denote that this journey is not that of a single ascension. It occurs in stages, and once you crossed one valley, you find yourself at the bottom of another. Valleys can be both enchanting and entrapping and the wayfarer may be tempted to linger on or get trapped in one of them. These seven valleys may be interpreted as follows:

The valley of Longing and Searching: The longing and searching of all creatures, who unknown to themselves, long for their original home. It is the strange yearning that overcomes some of us when we listen to beautiful music or behold Natures’ beauty – its mountains and valleys, oceans and springs…… It is this longing that drives us from one desire to another. Not knowing what it is that will quench our thirst once and for all – the Trishna of the Advait yogi.

The valley of Love: The all consuming Love which purifies and the lover is regenerated and altered by it to such an extent that his very being undergoes a change – his every fiber purified, raised to a higher state, resonating to a higher tune. True loving surrender, irrespective of religious tradition, reputation, name or fame, like the Love of Majnu for Laila; like the Love of Sheikh Sanan for a Christian maiden for whom he gave up the rosary for the ‘infidel’s’ girdle, like the Love of Mirabai for her Giridhar Gopal – the Bhakti and Samarpan of Bhakti yoga.

The valley of intuitive Knowledge: Also known as the wisdom of the heart, marifa or gnosis, this is direct revelation of the truth as apposed to ‘ilm‘ or discursive knowledge. This is the Atmagyana or Atmabodh mentioned in Advaita. This revelation leads to detachment from all things perishable (valley of Detachment) and the realization of the unity of all existence (valley of Unity) – of both the phenomenal and the causative world. All opposites melt, everything is renounced and everything is unified. All forms merge into one singular Essence.

According to Jami, ‘ Unification consist in unifying the heart, that is, purifying it and denuding it of all attachment to all things other then “The Truth”, including not only desire and will but also knowledge and intelligence’. These valley or state leads to the valley of Bewilderment, this is the long dark night of the soul, referred to by many Christian Gnostics – a state of perpetual sadness, and consuming desire – the agony of being in Love but not knowing with whom.

Finally in the valley of Poverty and Annihilation, the thirsty birds who undertook the painful journey in the search of Simurgh realize that they themselves – si murgh (= thirty birds in Persian) are the Simurgh. The story thus ends with one of the most inventive puns in Persian mystical poetry. This is the ultimate sought after state of fana – the nullification of the mystic in the divine presence when the seeker finds his way into the ocean of his own soul, all longing ends. However, this is not the end. When the soul has finished its journey to God, the journey in God begins – the state that the Sufis call baqa i.e. the absorption and abiding life in God – the Sat Chit Ananda of Advaita Yoga and the Sahaj state of the Indian mystic poet Kabir. Here the soul traverses ever new depths of the fathomless, divine being – which no tongue can describe. Referring to this state Ghazali says ‘When I saw the rays of that sun, I was swept out of existence. Water flowed back to water’. The water drop finally falls back into the ocean, and the mortal form of the moth is reduced to smoke and ash in his Beloved flame’s embrace. It is the Nirvana and the moksha of the soul-bird which has finally returned Home.

“The Soul – Bird in Persian Sufi Literature” by Rupa Abdi. Some Rights Reserved: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons License


An Outline of Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy

otto1Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the non-rational factor in the idea of the divine and its relation to the rational was first published by Oxford University Press in 1923. A second edition appeared in 1950.

This brief outline is based on a 1973 reprint of the second edition. The specialized Appendixes on pages 179-229 have been omitted.

To fully appreciate the height and depth of Otto’s work, one should really read the whole book. Here we find impressive scholarship, innovative ideas and the somewhat obvious influence of his documented travels in North Africa and Asia. John C. Durham‘s thematic summary is also recommended.

This outline is, of course, selective and should be taken in no other way. The following quotations and paraphrases were deemed most important to each chapter.† Another reader would have, no doubt, picked out different passages. Critical comments appear [in square brackets like this, followed by—MC]. Black page numbers indicate chapter lengths, red page numbers are for quotations, and blue page numbers are for paraphrases.



Translator’s Preface to the Second Edition ix-xix
Translator John W. Harvey says the following quote from Pascal’s Pensees expresses Otto’s own attitude: “‘If one subjects everything to reason our religion will lose its mystery and its supernatural character.'” xviii
Forward by the Author to the First English Edition (1923)
Otto says he wishes to study the non-rational or supra-rational but does not wish to promote “fantastic irrationalism.”
Chapter I – The Rational and the Non-Rational 1-4
“So far from keeping the non-rational element in religion alive in the heart of the religious experience, orthodox Christianity manifestly failed to recognize its value, and by this failure gave to the idea of God a one-sidedly intellectualistic and rationalistic interpretation.” [Otto was a Protestant. The Catholic tradition honors a rich variety of mystical writings from countless saints. I refer the reader to The Life of St. Teresa of Avila by Herself among other titles which I would provide on request. See also Otto's own comments in Chapter XIIMC]. 3
Chapter II – ‘Numen’ and the ‘Numinous’ 5-7
Omen has given us ‘ominous’, and there is no reason why from numen we should not similarly form a word ‘numinous.'” [Numen is a Latin word usually translated as the power, presence or manifestation of a deityMC]. 7
Chapter III – The Elements in the ‘Numinous’ 8-11
The experience of the numinous requires one to feel creaturely and dependent on some kind of supreme, overpowering might. “The numinous is thus felt as objective and outside the self.” 10-11
Chapter IV – Mysterium Tremendum 12-24
‘Numinous dread’ or awe characterizes the so-called ‘religion of primitive man’, where it appears as ‘daemonic dread.’ “This crudely naive and primordial emotional disturbance, and the fantastic images to which it gives rise, are later overbourne and ousted by more highly developed forms of the numinous emotion, with all its mysteriously impelling power.” 15-16
Chapter V – The Analysis of ‘Mysterium’ 25-30
“Mysticism continues to its extreme point this contrasting of the numinous object (the numen), as the ‘wholly other’, with ordinary experience.” 29
Chapter VI – The Element of Fascination 31-40
Lower levels of the numinous are evident in such works as the poetry of Sophocles. “It may mean evil or imposing, potent and strange, queer and marvelous, horrifying and fascinating, divine and daemonic, and a source of ‘energy.'” 39
Chapter VII – Analogies and Associated Feelings 41-49
Music feeling is something like numinous feeling in that “we attribute to it a spell, an enchantment.” But this is only an analogy. “We must beware of confounding in any way the non-rational of music and the non-rational of the numinous itself, as Schopenhauer, for example, does.” 49
Chapter VIII – The Holy as a Category of Value 50-59
We have both the light thrill of awe before the tremendum of the numen and also, and more especially, the feeling of this unique disvalue or unworth of the profane confronted by the numen…Here, then, comes in the felt necessity and longing for ‘atonement.’ One begins to crave the close presence of the numen so as to transcend one’s sense of unworthiness as “‘creature’ and profane natural being.” When we feel “guilty of a bad action…the evil of the action weighs upon us and deprives us of our self-respect.” And the negative effects continue into a second stage. “The same perverse action that before weighed upon us now pollutes us…The man feels a need, to express which he has recourse to images of washing and cleansing.”Christianity expresses the mysterious need for atonement or expiation more fully and effectively than any other religion. And in this too, it shows its superiority over others. It is a more perfect religion and more perfectly religion than they, in so far as what is potential in religion in general becomes in Christianity pure actuality…[teachers will have to demonstrate how] the Christian religious experience, how the ‘very numen’, by imparting itself to the worshipper, becomes itself the means of ‘atonement.'” 54-55, 56
Chapter IX – Means of Expression of the Numinous 60-71
“The magical is nothing but a suppressed and dimmed form of the numinous, a crude form of it which great art purifies and ennobles.” Otto says the Chinese landscape and religious painting of the classical T’ang and Sung dynasties confronts us with the numinous. He adds that the use of empty space – the void or emptiness – is a negation that allows the wholly other to become actual. [We cannot know for certain if this type of numinosity is qualitatively equivalent to others. To compound the problem, various individuals may experience this type of numinosity differently, not only in intensity but in character.MC] 67, 69-70
Chapter X – The Numinous in the Old Testament 72-81
The numinous is found in all religions but is preeminent in the Bible. “The capital instance of the intimate mutual interpenetration of the numinous with the rational and moral is Isaiah.” 72, 75
Chapter XI – The Numinous in the New Testament 82-93
Otto notes the power, majesty and goodness of God but also the presence of “weird awe and shuddering dread before the mysteries of the transcendent.” He then cites Matthew 10:28, “‘But fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.'” [Some translations of this passage use the word "him" and others "God"MC]. Otto says that the idea of election (i.e. chosen by God for salvation in everlasting heaven) entails the experience of grace. [As with the term numinosity, we cannot know just what the so-called "experience of grace" means for different people. Even within ourselves, at one stage in life we may associate a certain experience with grace (e.g. an endorphin rush after jogging) and yet later in life come to experience something even more sublime, which we then designate as "grace," reformulating the previous endorphin rush as something qualitatively different. It seems the healthy (and scientific) position would be to stay open to new experiences (and conceptual updates) with regard to the idea of grace, all the while realizing that we can probably never know with certainty what another person experiences (or means) when using words like grace and numinosity. This issue arguably cast some doubt on Otto's claims about comparative mysticism and the superiority of Christianityassuming, of course, that God didn't directly or indirectly reveal true knowledge to Otto. Even if Otto's claims are correct, the argumentation would appear weak to hardcore rationalists, especially those biased against the idea of revealed knowledge. More creative and arguably advanced thinkers, however, would at least entertain the possibility of revealed knowledge rather than automatically dismissing it.MC] 84, 87
Chapter XII – The Numinous in Luther 94-108
Otto says that in “less authentic forms assumed by legend and miracle,” in its Neo-Platonic influenced concepts, and in the “paradoxes and mysteries of Catholic dogma” there is an “intimate rapport of Catholic piety with mysticism.” He suggests that the Lutheran school has “not done justice” to the numinous aspect of God as understood by Luther himself and Christianity in general. [This chapter highlights Otto's independent thinking. Along these lines Otto originally aspired to be a minister but a very conservative German Lutheran Church hesitated to give him an appointment.MC]. Otto also says that “the mysterious is much less in evidence in the official systems of doctrine, whether Catholic or Protestant.” [This may seem confusing in light of the above quotation but in Catholicism all dogmas are doctrines but not all doctrines are dogmasMC] . 94, 100,  104, 108
Chapter XIII – The Two Processes of Development 109-111
Otto speaks of a two-step process involving the initial numinous consciousness followed by the rationalization and moralization of that experience. But Otto’s view is not a kind of postmodern, open-ended polymorphism. He posits an overall spiritual and moral development in this process. “And this process of rationalization and moralization of the numinous, as it grows ever more clear and more potent, is in fact the most essential part of what we call ‘the History of Salvation’ and prize as the ever-growing self-revelation of the divine.” Otto stresses that this does not entail a suppression or supersession of the numinous, “but rather the completion and charging of it with a new content.” [Today we speak more in terms of how we 'conceptualize' an initial experience. Along these lines I often stress the role of interpretation, especially with regard to unusual experiences which supposedly prove certain beliefs (e.g ETs or reincarnation) beyond a shadow of a doubt.MC] 109-111
Chapter XIV – The Holy as an A Priori Category, Part I 112-116
Otto likens the numinous to Kant’s use of the term a priori. For Otto the numinous “issues from at the deepest foundation of cognitive apprehension that the soul possesses.” This means that the numinous “comes into being in and amid the sensory data and empirical material of the natural world and cannot anticipate or dispense with those, yet is does not arise out of them, but only by their means.” [Kant also makes a debatable distinction between (a) essentially unknowable noumena and (b) the world of phenomena. See discussion
Chapter XV – Its Earliest Manifestations 117-131
Otto discusses numinosity in ‘pre-religion’ in the following order: (1) Magic (2) Worship of the dead (3) The idea of power in objects, such as mana (Pacific Islands) and orenda (North America) (4) The idea of ‘souls’ and ‘spirits’ (5) Natural phenomena believed to be alive or animate (6) Fairy stories and myth (7) The rise of the daemon. With regard to (7) Otto says “to each numen is assigned a seer and there is none without one.” (8 ) The notions of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’, ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ “already found in a purely natural sense, prior to their religious application.” (9) Otto discusses the relation between the numen and the natural. (10) He then says that the type found in (7) “the feeling of daemons,” is the purest form because the “‘religious’ emotion” isn’t being projected onto an earthly object but is experienced within the self. [Otto uses the term "diverted" in a way that seems similar to instances of Freudian and Jungian projectionMC]. Otto then says that the natural psychologists of his day ignored the importance of the “self-attestation of religious ideas in one’s own mind.” Otto says theories which attribute the numinous to “historical traditions and dim memories of a ‘primeval revelation'” are as remiss as the natural psychologists because they too ignore the importance of “self-attestation from within.” 117-131, 122, 125, 130,
Chapter XVI – The ‘Cruder’ Phases 132-135
“The more developed forms of religious experience…and the ‘crude’, and rudimentary emotions of ‘daemonic dread'” are both a priori. Wild fanaticism is a crudity or primitive ‘religion.’ “Here the numinous appears as religious mania, possession by the numen, intoxication, and frenzy.” [Some of the so-called developed religions still valorize this idea. For instance, there are stories and legends of Catholic saints euphorically running about convents and doing seemingly 'crazy' things (e.g. St. Francis of Assisi standing naked in public, declaring the glory of Christ). Otto perhaps addresses this issue in the next chapter.MC]. Otto says “to know and to understand conceptually are two different things.” 132, 135
Chapter XVII – The Holy as an A Priori Category, Part II 136-142
“By the continual living activity of its non-rational elements a religion is guarded from passing into ‘rationalism.’ By being steeped in and saturated with rational elements it is guarded from sinking into fanaticism or mere mysticality, or at least from persisting in
these, and is qualified to become a religion for all civilized humanity.” Otto says the degree to which a religion unites the irrational and the rational in a healthy, harmonious way is a measure by which to rank religions. [This loosely parallels Einstein's views about religion and science and might have implications for a discussion on religions and cults.MC]
Chapter XVIII – The Manifestations of the ‘Holy’ and the faculty of ‘Divination’ 143-154
Otto talks about several forms of ‘signs,’ divination and inner impulses. “Beside the inner revelation from the Spirit there is an outward revelation of the divine nature.” [Some would say that this is similar to the assumptions underlying Jung's idea of synchronicityMC] Otto says the divination of Goethe, the ‘pagan’, as he sometimes referred to himself, may be accurate but doesn’t involve the numinous as it would with a prophet. [A critic might ask how Otto is qualified to say what Goethe, himself, experienced. I discuss this issue in IX and XI, aboveMC] Acts of divination that merely entail the daemonic experience of the numinous “not at the level of the divine and the holy may in a highly cultivated mind only stir emotional reactions of bewilderment and bedazzlement, without giving real light or warmth to the soul.” Goethe is being informed by an “a priori principle that is not explicit and overt, but dim and obscure.” [This calls to mind C. G. Jung's archetypes, particularly those pertaining to the shadow. Jung's archetypes are underlying, unknowable substances existing in the genetic structures of the bodyMC] 143, 153, 154
Chapter XIX – Divination in Primitive Christianity 155-161
Speaking of Jesus, Otto points out that “His own relatives take Him for a man ‘possessed’, an involuntary acknowledgement of the ‘numinous’ impression He made upon them.” 159
Chapter XX – Divination in Christianity To-day 162-174
“Whoever can thus immerse himself in contemplation [of Jesus without sin, suffering for others]…will find the ‘intuition of the eternal in the temporal.” The suffering of Jesus and the resultant Cross, which symbolizes the eternal mystery, is the completion of Job. 169, 173
Chapter XXI – History and the A Priori in Religion: Summary and Conclusion 175-178
Jesus is the highest stage of the ‘Spirit’ where person and performance is “most completely the object of divination [and] …holiness.” Next is the prophet, who has “the power to hear the ‘voice within’ and the power of divination.” 178

† Please reference the above quotations as follows: Otto, Rudolf. The Idea of the Holy cited in Michael W. Clark, “An Outline of Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy.”

The Idea of The Holy by Rudolf Otto

The Idea of The Holy by Rudolf Otto

The Idea of The Holy by Rudolf Otto

The Idea of The Holy by Rudolf Otto


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