Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘Maya’


Stay Awake to Death

Death is the great black wall against which all of our lives shatter. It is the end toward which each of us is racing with our achievements, our hopes and disappointments, our loves and hates, our cherished identities. And when we hit that unyielding wall of impenetrable silence we break apart, we dissipate; we, as we have known ourselves, cease to be.

All of us live under a death sentence. How we deal with it is the most defining thing about us. Death is the great stumbling block, and the beginning and end of all our myths and religions.

In death we must leave all our earthly possessions in the world of the living, and face the Black Transformer alone, naked before the darkness. If any part of us survives this terrible denuding, if we take anything with us into the Void, surely it can only be the spiritual qualities we’ve developed, the characteristics of soul we’ve internalized through our earthly experiences.

As the wisdom teachings of all religions proclaim, far more serious than physical death is the death of the soul that all too often destroys human lives long before our bodies fail. The Maya shamans believed that soul-death is so seductive and diabolically clever that, without our knowledge or conscious consent, it often gains our fullest cooperation. It uses our personal weaknesses to attack our own souls and those of the people around us. In the end, the most subtle of death’s strategies for killing the soul is to persuade us that death itself does not exist. If death can hide in the shadows while we are distracted by the daylight world of our earthly concerns, it can ambush us. But if we can learn to see death—its reality, its lies, the seriousness of its threat, as well as its potential life-generating boon—it becomes the great awakener of a more vital and whole earthly existence and ora blissful eternal life.

The Maya feared death—physical and spiritual. Like the ancient Egyptians with their elaborate mummification practices, their morbid Underworld fantasies, and their books of incantations and spells, the Maya were fascinated by the darkness. But their morbidity, like that of the ascetics, warriors, and sages of other religions, had a purpose. It helped them to stay awake to death. When it was no longer invisible, it could be faced; and if it could be faced, it could be overcome. Seeing in this way helped the Maya shamans unmask death’s crafty, tricksterish ways and expose its life-imitating pretensions. When they could see as the gods saw, false suns could be destroyed, the demons of Xibalba could be defeated, and severed heads could erupt in torrents of ch’ulel.

Douglas Gillette, The Shaman’s Secret, pp. 132-33

Emphasis mine.

Ancient Asiatic Spiritual Traditions

The history of the Maya is shrouded in the mists of antiquity…. We know that they were the inheritors of the spiritual traditions of the first Asiatic hunters who crossed the ancient land bridge from Asia into Alaska and then made their way through this uninhabited hemisphere to the tip of South America. The possibility of sea crossings from Asia becomes more and more likely too as archaeologists and anthropologists gain new respect for the seafaring capacities of ancient peoples.

We don’t know when these people first set foot in what was then a truly new world for human beings, but there are sites in South America that could date back over fifty thousand years. We do know that the first Indians brought with them from their Asian homeland important aspects of their spiritualities: shamanism; ancestor worship; a belief in the quadrated nature of the universe with a vertical fifth dimension at its center; the idea that various levels of spiritual reality exist above and below the earth; the conviction that jade, flint, and pyrite crystals could be used to communicate with the spirits; the tradition of ecstatic trancing to open the Otherworld and release its deadly and life-bearing energies; the practice of human sacrifice; and an unshakable belief in the survival of the soul after death.

Douglas Gillette, The Shaman’s Secret, pp. 7-9

Emphasis mine.

Maintaining the Diversity Within the Divine

People who have grown up in the Judeo-Christian and Moslem spiritual traditions have usually been taught to believe that the concept of one god is more advanced than the idea of many. But there are advantages to the many-faceted experience of the Divine Being. One is that by celebrating the rich diversity of supernatural forces within God, the believer is allowed to realize that the struggle between good and evil, creation and destruction, and life and death is not something that takes place outside the Divine Being, between a finite God and an external force like Satan. Not only is this way of looking at the Divine Being more honest, it also helps remind us of Its immensity. Unable to simplify the struggle between life and death to a “Good Guy/Bad Guy” scenario, we are forced to face the truth that the “God beyond God” is far more mysterious than our human comforts and discomforts.

In addition, polytheistic spirituality works against our normal human tendency to reduce God to a cardboard caricature of ourselves, our parents, or our tribes and nations. By maintaining the diversity within The Holy Thing and, at the same time, by recognizing Its ultimate unity, the believer can experience a Being whose very complexity blocks his or her attempts to trivialize, idolatrize, or domesticate It. The soul simply cannot grasp such complexity or shrink It to monoscopic proportions. Instead, it is forced to experience the Divine Being from a dazzling, multiscopic perspective. It is also forced to confront the absolute limits of all human ways of thinking. This can have the same effect on the soul that Buddhist koans do. Buddhist koans force the mind to imagine the unimaginable—“the sound of one hand clapping”—then to snap and release the soul into an ecstatic experience of oneness with its Source and final Destiny. That was the goal of the ancient Maya shamans and all those who, meditating on the complex unity of The-Holy-First-Father-Decapitated-Dead-Creating-Thing, tried to achieve oneness with the Mystery from which they had come and to which they hoped to return.

Douglas Gillette, The Shaman’s Secret, pp. 93-94

Emphasis mine.