She is vast, like the continent itself. She sits under a great baobab tree in the center of the village marketplace. She is mountainous under the folds of her bright crimson dress. She wears a matching red headdress and heavy chains of gold around her neck. When people come for her counsel, she sometimes reaches for a gourd in which she keeps the cowrie shells and stones and bones that she casts on a well-brushed layer of powder inside her divining tray, to get a second opinion from the ancestral spirits. The top of the gourd has been cut so that it opens and closely like a box.
I remember her youth. She was brought among her present people as a captive with a choke collar around her neck. Lissome and nubile, she was taken by force by the tribal king. Years later, when that chief tried to hang himself from this very tree, she cut him down and raised him up, cleansed and healed in body and mind, to be a better ruler. Like the baobab, she renews herself - and helps to renew herself - endlessly. I feel humbled and blessed to be able to share her life memories and to imagine myself, if only for a moment, sharing her life as the wisdom of her people, under that great tree.
This is a brief report of one of my experiences during a group journey in quest of the multidimensional self during a workshop I led last weekend. I invited the spirited members of our circle to direct their awareness to a Tree of Vision we had grown in a standing meditation and feel themselves rising up to a place of observation among the high branches. I suggested that they could then look out towards the four cardinal directions and connect with a personality in a different time and culture whose life experience was relevant to them now. We then used shamanic drumming to power and focus a group adventure in lucid dreaming. It was remarkably successful.
I had a personal agenda for this journey. I wanted to connect with female personalities in other times and places. In most of my impressions of "past lives" closely associated with my own, I have found myself linked to men, typically men of power. A Royal Air Force pilot in World War II. An ancient Chinese general. A Scottish druid in a cloak of raven feathers. A figure in the high white crown of Upper Egypt, studying his own family of counterparts in mirrors of water or metal. Where are the women? I have often asked myself. Oh, there is that woman of the future, and I feel her even now, as I write. She is a priestess and a scientist, working to restore our world, seven generations into the future. Dreaming is central to her practice and that of her Order, and I am driven by a sense of obligation to her, the obligation - through my work as a dream teacher - to help make her possible. But where are the women of the past?
Mother Africa (as I'll call her, though I also know her personal name) is one, and I am privileged to know her. Perhaps we will now be able to share gifts. Another, I now know, is a magical woman of the Scottish islands who is of the sea as much as of the land, and is clothed in the gifts of the sea. Yet another is a beautiful woman of ancient Persia about whom I will hope to learn more. And I find that, since last weekend, I am starting to find my dream self sharing the experiences of woman as if he has taken up temporary residence in their bodies; I reported one of these in my parallel blog at beliefnet this morning.
In psychological terms, such episodes may mean that I am getting more deeply in touch with my female side. Yet they also feel transpersonal, as if I am connecting with - and sometimes entering into the minds and bodies of - personalities in other times and places who may be part of my family of selves, within the structure of the multidimensional self. Jane Robert's Seth (in Seth Speaks) insists that "the entire reincarnational framework must involve both sexual expereinces. Abilities cannot be developed by following a one-sex line. There must be experiences in motherhood and fatherhood." If this is so, perhaps I'm on the right track. I will be most interested if you wish to share personal experiences relevant to this theme.
Baobab photo by Bernard Gagnon