The first-person commentary is a common format for tales of spiritual change, growth and adventure. Often the names of the author's associates are changed or the occurrences happen in a place and time distance. The events cannot be verified in a scientific way. Indeed, this is the nature of the personal experience. Carlos Castaneda is a excellent example of this phenomenon. He published many books about his experiences in the Mexican shamanic world. While the books contained many details about people, places and events, the ability to verify these experiences has not been possible as Castaneda chose to shroud his life in mystery. I read all of Castaneda’s books. They did richly inform my spiritual life, giving me glimpses into the possibilities of shamanism. According to his words, Castaneda’s life was one of spiritual adventure.
The tales were inspiring, prompting me to read other author's stories of shamanic initiation and change. I continued to do this for several years. The settings, beings and magicks in each story varied. The common thread was one of shedding of the past, spiritual growth by struggle, opening of new realities, adapting of spiritual tools, and ascension to a place of power/responsibility. Again, this was inspiring, but there was something missing. I realized that the stories were about other people's lives. While my eyes were opened to opportunities, my own life was not truly enriched by merely reading these stories.
I was reading these books during the incubating period of my shamanic walk. A dear friend of mine would ask, "what are YOU doing?". Her point was that reading about all these other people did not necessarily mean that my life was developing. In time I put aside this form of shamanic literature. Reading the "personal stories" of others, in the first-person narrative format, only told me about what others were doing. The words they shared were their own. The experiences they had were fantastic and unprovable. It was time for me to have my own fantastic and unprovable experiences. My shamanic path continued.
This brings back to my second reaction to the proselytizing message. The message was personal. While it contained echoes of a larger school of spiritual beliefs, the story was only one person's expression of their own experiences. My cynical condemnation of an entire group was not a valid response. The world has it's share of people creating characters to express an ideological agenda. The world is more full of people who are sincere and real, expressing their first-person life stories. On the other hand, the unquestioning accepting embrace of an entire group based on only one life story is not valid. It is up to me to both validate and create my own life story. In my story the cynical condemnation would be replaced with discerning judgment. In my story my unquestioning accepting embrace would be replaced with the wisdom of personal knowledge.
Now, my own life journey has become paramount to me. I see the stories of others as mirrors to my life. While other people's stories inform me, it is my life's own prism by which I discern the world. I rejoice in the educational interactions with others even while I seek to discover who I truly am, who I truly am destined to be.
(x-posted to allpaths)