Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Shaman

Before we start this entry, here's a new video we posted on YouTube yesterday which is attached to a blog entry from a month ago: "Aren't There Really 11 Dimensions?". I'm posting it here for all the subscribers to this blog who wouldn't have seen this video back when that previous blog entry was first released.

A direct link to the above video is at And now, on with today's entry!

A direct link to the above video is at

I've quoted author and psychobiologist David Jay Brown before, who had some very kind things to say about my book:

Rob Bryanton's Imagining the Tenth Dimension is one of the most brilliantly-conceived and mind-stretching books that I've ever encountered. Bryanton presents a uniquely compelling model of our 10-dimensional universe, that allows one to visualize and grasp the topography of the higher dimensions in a step-by-step manner. This is must reading for anyone interested in the philosophy of physics, shamanic exploration, or the nature of reality.
Last time we talked about Augmented Reality, new technology which allows us to visualize things that aren't part of our physical world. This time I'd like to look at David Jay Brown's suggestion that my way of visualizing reality is useful for people interested in shamanism. There's an extensive article on this subject in wikipedia, here's one sentence that I think is key:
Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits which affect the lives of the living.
The idea that our reality is created by extra-dimensional patterns and shapes is, of course, central to my project. Whether one thinks of those as "invisible forces" or something more metaphysical, I've been insisting, may have more to with point of view than what it is we're really describing. Regardless, though, a shaman's viewpoint has to embrace the basic idea that I've been promoting here: that there is much more to our reality than the 3D world we see around us, and finding ways to visualize how that could be requires us to embrace a perspective which is "outside" of time, and "outside" of space. What I think is remarkable, though, is that this same "timeless" viewpoint has been central to the theories of many of the great scientific minds of the twentieth century: we've talked about this before in entries like Wormholes and Dimensional Folding and Scrambled Eggs.

Black Elk
Ever hear of Black Elk? He was a Lakota medicine man who lived from 1863 to 1950. While there appear to be varying opinions on whether it's proper to call Black Elk a shaman, I would say there are strong connections between this man's transcendent viewpoint and what is referred to as shamanism in other parts of the world. There's a well-known book called Black Elk Speaks which recounts his visions and insights, in what some are calling "the most famous Native American book ever written". A YouTube visitor named "crazedmystic" posted the following quote from Black Elk Speaks on one of my video blogs a few weeks ago:
Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all.
I love this quote, not just because it speaks to the enfolded nature of reality which I am constantly going on about, but because it states it in such a beautiful way. I've tried to portray similar ideas about the connectedness that we all share, and the beautiful hoop, the "zero" that holds all other possibilities in so many other entries: Going to the Light, "t" Equals Zero, Imagining the Omniverse, and The Big Bang and the Big O, to name just a few.

Drums and Trance
What else is central to the shamanistic experience? It's impossible to generalize too much because shamans appear in various cultures throughout the world: still, music, trance, and altered states of consciousness can all play a large role. Have you ever been in a drum circle? This is one of those things that comedians like to make fun of, but there really is something there - the power of the drum, the shared experience of a large group of people becoming physically and mentally entrained through just drumming together, and the trance-like altered states of consciousness that can spring from such an experience can be surprisingly uplifting. One of my favorite books about all this was written by Mickey Hart, well-known musicologist and drummer for the Grateful Dead, called Drumming at the Edge of Magic.

"Altered states of consciousness", of course, can be brought about through various natural means, including dance or meditation, or through more traumatic experiences, but for many people the phrase makes psychedelics spring to mind immediately.

We started this blog with a quote from David Jay Brown. As we discussed in David Jay Brown and Psychedelics, David is a respected expert on psychedelics and their serious study: he is also sometimes a guest editor of the newsletter published by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelics Studies, which you can find at

Which brings us to Terence McKenna, who some have referred to as a modern shaman. Here's a very interesting video showing Terence McKenna talking about shamanism in a way that seems very related to what I've been talking about here: McKenna tells us that a shaman would have to be able to tune into the "bifurcating trees of possibility" (McKenna's words) that are coming towards them from beyond the solid reality they see around them. I'd like to think that McKenna would have appreciated the connections between what he's talking about in this video, and the way that I've portrayed the fifth dimension as being part of our probability space (in entries like Dr. Mel's 4D Glasses and Predicting the Future). In entries like The Holographic Universe and Slices of Reality I've also described the fifth dimension as the place where we can see the underlying patterns of our reality are springing from, another related idea. And speaking of Augmented Reality, in a fanciful moment I find myself wondering if we'll ever get to the point where certain psychedelic experiences could be simulated using an augmented reality interface to superimpose those effects over top of the world we see around us? Now that would be quite the software program.

A direct link to the above video is at

It really is too bad that Terence McKenna passed away in 2000, well before the advent of YouTube, as he has some fascinating presentations out there that are finding a new audience through the medium of streaming video, but without his participation in the dialog we are deprived of the instant feedback loop that can make YouTube and its comments sections so interesting. To close, here's a couple more of Terence McKenna videos that relate to all this:

You are the center of the Mandala:

A direct link to the above video is at

Changing your operating system

A direct link to the above video is at

Next, we'll continue this discussion with an entry called "Modern Shamans".

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

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