Only as a warrior can one withstand the path of knowledge. A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge, and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges.
ECHAN: Last night we were talking about Earth Pilgrims, that the image of a pilgrim is an ancient idea, that it predates the birth of religions and also that there is the biological aspect of pilgrimage too as we all get born and go on a life journey, and of course many of us feel that there is also a spiritual journey , since we move through space and time to learn and to evolve. So evolution itself can be seen as a pilgrimage, an ongoing development of characters in a story leading to higher evolution. Another idea we talked about was the pilgrimage of the solar system through the galaxy, the sun is moving with the planets round the centre of the galaxy and of course the Milky Way itself is moving through the larger universe of multiple galaxies. Then we took the idea a step further to where it connects more with your current work, especially Supernatural and the idea was that the shaman is moving from this world to other worlds. What I would like to ask you today, as you have moved on to a different stage of your own personal pilgrimage which began with ancient civilizations and on to supernatural themes, is how do you see the idea of a pilgrim relating to that of a shaman. The shaman moves between worlds and I think that could be a precursor to our future situation on Earth. In other words, we are already moving towards the realms that the shamans have always been teaching us about.
GRAHAM: If I look back on my life I have been travelling all my life, since I was four years old. I have travelled to many different lands, first with my parents as a child and later as an adult travelling and exploring, I always felt restless. I didn't feel that enough of what I needed to know was right here in front of me. I felt that I had to get out and explore, to test my own limits and to learn in every way I could from the experiences and the encounters that I had. A large part of my life as a writer and as a researcher was spent travelling to far off lands and when you go into a new culture that you know very little about you are immediately challenged if you are going to function in that culture.
I confronted myself with that kind of challenge again and again in many different cultures and sometimes I found a culture that I wanted to explore in greater depth and spend more time journeying in. Now what is the point of all this? Why not just sit at home? The point was to learn and to develop and to hopefully at the end of the process to be a better, perhaps more evolved person than I was at the beginning. What I have discovered as I have gone along, is that there is an inward journey that we need to pursue which is part of the pilgrimage process. In latter years, in the last five or six years of my life when I encountered the visionary plants that shamans use, literally to send their consciousness into other dimensions, other realms, and explore those realms I have realized that this whole lifetime of travelling the Earth has only been a preparation for the journey into other dimensions and other realms.
To enter those realms it is imperative to enter a deeply altered state of consciousness because if our state of consciousness is focussed only on this realm, it is very hard to attend to other realms, and that is what the visionary plants do; they allow us to change the receiver wavelength of our consciousness and tune in to another realm. And then as we enter that other realm, curiously enough many of the challenges and difficulties and learning experiences that we face in this world travelling to other cultures, you also face in that other realm too. It is a totally alien and unknown realm in which you have had no experience whatsoever.
You suddenly find yourself plunged in to it and so you must make do, you must survive and you must hopefully learn from the experience. I think that is where shamans and particularly shamans of hunter gatherer cultures who have been doing this all their lives and who are descended from people doing this for thousands of years really do have a lot to teach us in the West. We have almost no experience of other realms. We have to learn to find our feet in those realms.
But the process is the same. It is a process of learning, of growing and of developing and of the preparation of oneself. I think the ancient Egyptians called it the perfection of the soul. It is like you are seeking to take a rough hewn object and gradually, in the process of your life to end up perfecting and improving on that object as best as you possibly can. Rather like as you might work on a carving or a piece of sculpture or even writing for very long periods of time and finally look at it and say, 'This is as good as it gets, as good as I can get it.' In a way that is what you want to do with the whole story of your life. You should be able to say at the end that you started off with something roughly formed but that you ended up with something good, something that had meaning and purpose to it. I have just come to the conclusion that the inner journey, which in the shamanic context becomes a journey to other realms and other dimensions, is an essential and absolutely vital part of the pilgrimage process. If we deny ourselves access to those other realms for whatever ideological reasons or preconceptions that our society may impose on us then we are denying ourselves our birthright as human beings.
ECHAN: Absolutely. The reason I bring up the pilgrim motif at this point in our history is because everything you say is of course true. In our daily lives we have come here to learn, we have got seventy years or maybe eighty years or whatever, but when we look at the global situation right now do we really have a whole lot of time to prepare ourselves for what may be really difficult transitions, from one stage of our culture to another stage of our our culture where we might not have the energy that we have now, we might not have the oil or the electricity we have now? We might have to live on a much more moment to moment basis, even within two or three years in the future. Who knows? Most of the predictions are not very rosy, we all know that.
We are all aware of the situation here, so the pilgrim stands out as somebody who is very able to adjust to the conditions that exist, no matter how extreme they may be, because he or she has an attitude of moving through a sacred landscape with a sacred
sense of purpose which is to spiritually evolve, to become a better person, to become more integrated with the environment, to become more holistically present. This is what you have already talked about and the shaman in a sense is the epitome of that because he goes into completely wild and unexplored territory with only his consciousness as his tool, his only guide.
GRAHAM: It teaches you to master the vehicle of your consciousness, this is really what shamans and the whole tradition of shamanism are about. The nature of reality is much more complex, much deeper, much more scary in a way than if you limit your horizon to the physical realm and I think that there are huge learning experiences to be had in the exploration of other realms and other dimensions. None of us know what happens for sure when this physical body dies. There are those who believe that nothing happens and who believe that our consciousness is generated by this physical body and therefore when the physical body dies the consciousness blinks out like a light that has been turned off. That is a belief system, it is not a fact . It is equally valid to say that your body and your brain are vehicles for your consciousness.
ECHAN: That the journey does in fact continue..
GRAHAM: The journey does in fact continue and therefore you would like to be as well prepared as possible for the experiences you are going to have after death and it seems to me that this is one of the things that shamanism is about. It is about familiarizing you with that other realm that lies just beyond our touch and just beyond our sight in this realm. And certainly if you go back to the ancient Egyptian religious tradition their whole concern really was in preparation for the afterlife. This involved intense spiritual journeys which had to be undertaken so that you would be prepared for those mysterious realms that lie beyond life. But ancient Egypt is gone, though we may have the books the living experience of the exploration of those realms, that tradition is gone. So who can we turn to in our day? Only the shamans, who do that as part of their daily life, as part of everyday exploration of those realms . I often feel that we in the West, in the industrialized and technological countries, our situation is like being children. We are taught that our cultures are so superior because of their technology, but they are incredibly inferior in my view in terms of spiritual exploration. If we really want to be pilgrims in the truest of senses then we need to listen to what the shamans have to teach us.
ECHAN: That's right. But why is it that we can't listen to them? We originally started off aware of the fact that we are all spiritual travelers, since all of the ancient traditions were aware of the spiritual journey. You mentioned Egypt but all of them shared that. The spiritual journey always has been there and always will be but somehow in the last 200-300 years of our scientific culture the idea of location has become very important, that is the idea of stopping, the idea of owning, and the idea of exploiting all came with our stopping . As soon as we stopped the fluid motion of a pilgrim who is always moving stopped. But the pilgrim never stops because there is no end to the journey, it continues. When we stopped all our problems seemed to start. Now the entire world is enveloped in this 'we have stopped' mode of opertion and only the shamans seem to have any fluidity left.
Our religions have frozen and become fossilized and evn the pilgrimages which exist within our religious traditions, for example the Camino in Spain, or even the Buddhist one that I did are still only very pale reminders of what a true pilgrim's spirit is all about. In my experience as perhaps with yours also, the shamans represent a much more dynamic and courageous leap into the unknown, as cosmic pilgrims, as multidimensional pilgrims so I think we both agree here that we need to learn from them. There are however a huge number of problems when we Westerners learn from them because we have decided to stop!