(14) Riding the Tree of Life in the Shamanic Journey
All shamanic experience means entering the Tree and thus reaching any desired entity throughout the entire life wave, whether such entity is presently in molecular incarnation or not. This means "riding" the Tree, and that Odin did by means of his eight-legged magical horse. Indeed, in the same Nordic version of this universal shamanic mythos the name of the Tree is Yggdrasil, which is literally "Odin's Horse", and the name of the horse is Sleipnir ("slippery one"). The current Norwegian cognate of sleip is slip, the word for the slippery liquid film on fishes. Thus Sleipnir is the living sap that courses through the Tree of All Life. Its eight legs, head and tail constitute a paradigm expressing the whole Tree with head (crown) and branches (forelegs) at one end, and the equally branching root system at the other end being the wind-blown tail and hind legs. The "wind" here is the living force of the whole life breath.
The initiated shaman/ess must learn how to ride this wonderful horse that appeared later in corrupted form as the medieval witch's broomstick (the broom being the tail) on which she rode through the skies as part of Odin's wild hunt. To go through the horse/tree, one first descends into the roots and then up through particular and myriad pathways to even the tiniest branch and leaf where the being needing help is livingly attached to the Tree. After accomplishing the theurgic work one returns - through the tree again - to where one was at the journey's start, that is now also its end, thus making the circle complete.
The way you enter the Tree and "ride" through it is not found in three-dimensional space, but in a higher dimensional direction as noted in the little anecdote in Part One. Imagine a two-dimensional being: one able to move only in two dimensions. For instance, on the surface of a vast sheet of paper only two mutually perpendicular lines can be drawn through any given point on that surface. Imagine then, on that sheet, that this two-dimensional being is now enclosed by a circular "wall" around her and that you lifted her and placed her back again on the sheet but outside the wall. She could then well ask, but how did you transport me here? For you did not pass through the wall and hence did not take me out along any of the infinity of directions that radiated outward from me to the surrounding circular wall.
Your reply would be simple, but almost incomprehensible to her as you say: "No, you are quite right. I did not use any one of that infinity of paths, for that would have meant injuring you by collision with the inside of the wall as you tried to pass it to outside of it as you are now. So all I did was to direct you along a higher dimensional direction (that is, in three-dimensional space, which to her would be "higher") which is perpendicular to all those countless directions. Thus none of them was used because you took an extra-dimensional leap out of and back into your world. Our 2D lady, being a trained mathematician in her world, would understand what you said in principle, would know it was provably correct, and yet would not be able to imagine or visualize it in the least.
So it is in our world, and we can get into the Tree by a path that is not any of the infinity of directions possible in three-dimensional space. Traveling such distances is perfectly possible, and, if you fall back through such a distance into your molecular body, you will feel a shock similar to what your body would feel in a fall through a distance here. There are ways you can learn how to quiet your consciousness, your spinning mind-wheel of associations, memories and sensory inputs - a skill sometimes called knowing how to meditate, although no word does justice to what actually occurs. Those of you who have tried them would know that the Lion Path cassettes are an easy way to get to be able to do that. You will then also realize that if, say, you were suddenly shaken out of your altered and quieted state by some sudden shock, "falling" back into the molecular body would be experienced very similarly to a sharp short fall in our ordinary three-dimensional world.
This is an experiential way to know that we really move in some sense when we enter, travel in, and return from the Tree in shamanic work. There is of course no need to visualize all this. The metaphor will translate itself into its own reality. Shamanic journeying is often felt to be so much like flying that its prime symbol is a strong bird as, for instance, the eagle among the Selkup and the falcon (and kite) among the shamanic priest(esses) in Ancient Egypt. Here is the experiential origin of creatures like Pegasus, the winged horse, or the Taoist tales of being carried on the wings of a magical crane in flight or on the back of the mighty Simurgh of the lore of the Magi, shamans of old Iran - recalling the flying Dragon ("loong") of ancient China.
Learning how "to fly" is an essential shamanic preparation. One of the nearest "modern" teachings to what we are discussing is the revelation of reiki, the neo-shamanic way of healing that arose in early 20th century Japan and has now spread to the West through the good work of people like Diane Stein, who writes authentically about it. The first two degrees of reiki initiation relate to the healing part of shamanism, while the third degree, that of raku, relates to the shamanic journey.
Reiki is simply one of the most clear-cut demonstrations that shamanism is alive and well today. And why should it not be, for it is embedded in the reality of things, of ourselves, and of the world, both as we know it - and as we do not yet know it. The Lion Path is one of the most natural and least encumbered ways to enter, attain and manifest shamanic reality. But that reality is universal and ancient - more ancient than even words, which in turn are older than any man-made object. Language far antedates archaeology. But the magical speech is another story … The Path, suffice it to say, will teach you if it allows you to walk upon it.