I am currently in a PhD program, exploring how language creates geographic and geologic space. How this can happen in shared conversation, with shared sound and vibration, with beings of all sorts, not just humans. This involves non-standard realities and ways of understanding how one can research the unseen and the known. I shy away from saying ‘believed’ because, well why? To know is to know, to believe is to be doubted.
Early when I started — last fall — a friend recommended I read Orsi, on presence. Orsi is a religious scholar. This lead me to Pasulka and Woodbine, others in the religious scholar realm who write about belief in the unseen, or unagreed upon. One thing said friend, Stephen Prothero, recommended upon suggesting these readings, is that I have an opinion, rather than write as though I am objective. Woodbine goes all in on this, and it is interesting to read a scholar who does indeed believe that the woman he is writing about experiences Jesus in her trance states, and is willing to say so. Presence, in Orsi, has to do in the simplest with the body of christ being in the wafer, being the wafer, not simply a figure of speech, and the ways in which saints are in their statues. Pasulka studies those who believe in UFOs, and while she has many an interesting experience, she does not say what she believes. There are other UFO specialists I have read, scholars, such as Vallée, and Kripal, who say that there is a real phenomenon but cannot say if it is a UFO. They do not deny that things occur, they are wise enough to not attempt to explain them in a language that may not be adequate to hold them, or our minds, which are not fully capable of a perception we can translate into words.
As I began, in the construct of the PhD, to explore how we can travel to other places and build worlds through trance state, in trance state, I returned to the many lineages of thought in the history of humans as to how this happens. This is not the correct phrasing. There are many ways to go about this, and a rich history of those who have, who does it, in what position in community, in different forms, tools, modes and so on. As I have worked to understand this breadth of knowledge, I am also learning to use a specific set of these tools myself, to see how I can use language and sound to create, and how it is, perhaps, specific to the place I am sitting at an exact moment, versus a general sense of earth-ness, separate from the here and now.
Many paths seems to have brought me here, decades of yoga asana, a long term sound meditation practice with a northern Shaivist, a love of language, and of nature and the spaces of expansion one finds when alone for extended periods of time. When deep in long meditation practice at two different times in my life, I pulled back because I wanted to go to so deep. Into the cave, into the desert, into the forest, into the interiority that expands to all ends of consciousness, and perhaps beyond. As a child, I used to travel, as I called it. Walk worlds, at night, under the guidance of an older man, who explained the ways to do it, to be safe, and how to make sure I could return. What to make of such things? In my monotheistic science-based upbringing, one could be sure I did not mention this. Yet I have extraordinary and visceral memories of things that would not be considered possible, of ways of moving and flying, of weaving worlds through song.
Yesterday I had a question and I went off to ask it to the netherworld. One aspect of this is why I am writing today, as I sit here this morning in the quiet of my London flat, far from earth and sea, and listening to a podcast (The Emerald) about the long, long history of human trance states, so lost in the past few hundred years, by most humans, for reasons I won’t expound on, but you could go listen to Josh, he is enjoyable. Yesterday, I sat on the narrow bottom bunk in a cabin on a lake in a place that looked tundra like in its flatness and vegetation. The bunk had a beautiful had sewn quilt in dark rich colours. Across from me, on a rickety wooden chair, sat the person I was speaking to, though we were not using words, but rather thoughts. In answer to my questions, she nodded to the east wall, which was now glowing yellow and had a brighter light in a center slit, which I understood was a portal I was to pass through. And so I did.
I found myself on a sea, enormous, expansive, the pale blue grey of the far north, the clouds reflective, and on edges, reflective trees, but no visible trees they were reflecting from. I looked in all directions and the water, flat and calm, continued across the space. I looked down, having a moment of wondering if I were standing on a secret plexiglass box under the water, faking the ability to walk on water, only to realize that I was slighting above the water, standing on it with a gap between me and it, almost as though I was a maglev water walker. I leaned down, tilted forward as a shape, rather than bent as a human, and put my hand in the water. It was cool, cold, even, exquisite. I stood there for a bit, looking in all directions, and feeling ease and calm.
I have spent enough time on ferries, in the northern seas, long nights of dark with wind and diesel hum, that I can drop into the bliss state that these inspire very quickly. Whatever it is that I seek in those places, standing here on this sea, I realize that this, this sea, the ferries, the ways I travel, these are all liminal states of such beauty and easy, that I feel home when I am there, I lose the grasping sense of being choked, when only in the 3d/real world. I don’t want to loiter though, as there is more to ask, and I dip my head in the sea, then am back on the bunk, continuing.
It feels strange, at times, to have all this practice in my body, in memory packets, in the way that clouds can form over the river that runs inside me, at a diagonal from my left shoulder to my right hip. On a good day, I can look to the pale blues and the darker ones of depth and see upon its still surface the reflection of light and clouds, and now that I hold this within me, and that should I wish, I could dive below the surface and explore other worlds.
It feels strange, at times, to try to explain these things in an academic manner, to think about how the academy wants western knowledge as its sources, not embodied felt knowledge or ancestral knowledge or the gods or plants or stones speaking in and through one.
I do not get answers, I get suggestions, visions of possibilities, ways of seeing, ways of feeling. The expansiveness of the liminality suggested I share this with others, that I find a way to write into existence what it is like to live across space the way I do, when things are at their best. That I let you know how that perfect chill water feels if you dangle your finger tips, moving slowly, unclear if it is you or the water who ebbs and flows.
In some way, this is my former life, my ferries, the Adelphi Project, and my current explorations all rolled in to one, enormous, tearful beautiful space, within and without, that wishes to speak to you, if you wish to listen.