Malidoma Patrice Some’, from Burkina Faso, contrasts his indigenous people’s traditional beliefs with modern beliefs in his book Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community. His Dagra tribe, like others in Africa, believes that the Otherworld empowers this world, that spirits of ancestors exist in nature and people must be respectful of their presence to be healthy and fertile. In Nigeria, young people often carry charms to protect themselves from supernatural forces;[i] in South Africa striking miners carried charms in 2012 to (unsuccessfully) protect themselves against police bullets.
In addition to a supreme God, there are nature spirits, ancestral spirits, and evil spirits, as Koala described in Chapter 1. During the dry season when the people aren’t able to farm, the villagers commune with spirits through ancient ritual, storytelling, initiations, dance and music. Ritual includes sacrifice in front of shrines in a room set aside for the ancestors. Communal, family, and individual rituals are the way to stay connected to the ancestral realm. Elders know how to do them properly, serving as shamans, diviners, and healers. Some’’s grandmother was such a powerful medicine woman that his tribe believes she was able to take on the body of a dog when she got too old and feeble to walk.
The Dagra believe our spirits continue on after death, some reincarnate in a new body and others become a part of nature. Some’’s grandfather addressed him as brother because he believed his brother’s spirit returned in his grandson. The Dagra believe everyone has a life purpose, “intended to keep this cosmic order healthy.” At Some’’s own “fetal ritual hearing,” when his mother was pregnant with him, the shaman reported that he came to “carry our name across the big sea,” so Malidoma means “be friends with the enemy.” His grandfather raised him in his early years, because they believe babies and elders are closest to the Otherworld, while fathers are too young to be wise.
It’s not just indigenous people who believe in the spirit world and write about the information they gain on other dimensions. Dr. Eben Alexander was a rational nonbeliever, a Harvard University surgeon and professor, until he was in a comma for a week due to bacterial meningitis that attacked his brain, leaving him on life-support machines.[ii] Because his brain was out of commission for longer than in most near-death experiences, he was able to ask questions over time, assisted in his other dimensional journeys by the spirit of his dead sister. OM, as he refers to God, taught him that there are a multitude of universes [just as String Theory physics predicts and Robert Monroe's books on astral travel describe]. The dimensions aren't separate; he explains, "This terrestrial realm is tightly and intricately meshed within these higher worlds." The universal essence is unconditional Love: "Love and compassion make up the very fabric of the spiritual realm." Some evil exists because without it there could be no free will or growth. Dr. Alexander learned, "Our role here is to grow toward the Divine, and that growth is closely watched by the beings in the worlds above,” which he described as "the souls and lucent orbs" called angels. While on the other dimensions, he felt energized by prayers of his family and friends. For skeptics that consciousness exists out of body, he recommends the book Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century.
Scientists only understand about 4% of what’s in the universe, since 96% of it is mysterious invisible dark matter and dark energy. The math of Super String Theory and Information Theory indicates there are multiple dimensions (10) and multi-universes. The invisible information field of Quantum Physics and Super String Theory of mathematicians doesn’t jive with common sense (which led educated people to believe the world was flat and the earth the center of the solar system), but it’s been proven mathematically and sometimes experimentally. Tribal shamans have known about the information field and multiple dimensions for eons of time using different terms.
Quantum Mechanics, the study of sub-atomic energy, began early in the 20th Century in Germany with brilliant young physicists. Quantum physics discovered a universal field that conveys information. This enables distant effects on an electron or photon, including the mere act of observing it. A discovery called quantum non-locality found that if two electrons are paired or ”entangled” and then separated, and you change the spin on one in a distant location, the other immediately changes in response. This means the electrons didn’t communicate with a wave function, but instantaneously through an information field.
Mindfulness meditation taught in The Mindful Schools curriculum, taught to over 30,000 children, produced statistically significant improvements in behavior.[iii] Their video titled Room to Breathe shows students practicing the technique. African-American teenage boys with high blood pressure were able to bring their blood pressure down over the four months they practiced Transcendental Meditation (a phrase or mantra is repeated about 20 minutes while sitting quietly). The teens reported that they were able to concentrate better, felt less anger and had improved relationships with others.[iv] Prisoners who learned to do Vipassana Buddhist meditation in India and Alabama had fewer disciplinary problems.[v] Filmmaker David Lynch advocates going within in mediation as a way to eliminate school violence. He recommends,
In today’s world of fear and uncertainty, every child should have one class period a day to dive within himself and experience the field of silence—bliss—the enormous reservoir of energy and intelligence that is deep within all of us. This is the way to save the coming generation. I have been “diving within” through the Transcendental Meditation technique for over 30 years. It has changed my life, my world.[vi]
Candace Pert, Ph.D., explains in Molecules of Emotion that stress causes:
The largely autonomic processes that are regulated by peptide flow, such as breathing, immunity, digestion, and elimination, to collapse down to a few simple feedback loops and upset the normal healing response. Meditation, by allowing long-buried thoughts and feelings to surface, is a way of getting the peptides flowing again, returning the body, and the emotions, to health.
Meditation involves inner listening, quieting the mind by concentrating on one thing, such as breathing in and out, or a phrase, or a picture. T.S. Eliot’s poem “Burnt Norton” reminds us to be in the “still point of the turning world, there the dance is.” The Buddha talked about this peaceful state in terms of the middle path and non-attachment. Jesus advised to be in the world, but not of it. The Dalai Lama suggested allowing the mind in meditation to be like clear water; “stay with this unfabricated mind without allowing conceptions to be generated.”
[i] Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, ed. Adolescent Psychology Around the World. Psychology Press, 2012, p. 63.
[ii] Eben Alexander, MD. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife. Simon & Schuster, 2012.