In the Centre of the Circle of the Ancestors

I Lár Ciorcal na Sinsir (in Gaelic)

In the Centre of the Circle of the Ancestors

by John Cantwell

[Excerpt from this chapter in ‘Soul Seers – an Irish Anthology of Celtic Shamanism’]

We are your Ancestors. Our presence and voices include all those you remember and have recorded and the great number who you have naturally forgotten. Among us there is no unease that you have not recorded each and every one of us. We know this is simply impossible, but moreover we know that it is Nature’s way that when on Earth, there is the incapacity to know every single one of us. Yes, we are the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and the grandfathers that have lived before you and we are much, much more.

Let me tell you this, that for a single human to be alive in the physical world in your time now, over one billion Ancestors needed to have incarnated on Earth, lived, given rise to the next generation and died. Cascading beneath you, beyond two birth parents, four grandparents, sixteen great grandparents are millions and millions of us who lived before you as two leggeds.

Yes, we have died from the physical Earth realm, but we are not dead. Without us you would not be in your physical body living in your physical world. Our living voices have never become mute, but we have seen that many of you in your world have become deaf to us.

At that we are uneasy. We, the everliving ones, the Ancestors, have never separated ourselves from you. Our love of your life could never allow that to happen. Listen to us. We have only the love of your life and the love of all life in our hearts.

“Simon came to see me”

Simon came to see me (he has given me permission to share his story with you) and on the surface of his life, there was nothing wrong it seemed. Happily married with three healthy sons in school or university, he had been working as an investment banker for the last 26 years. He enjoyed sailing and lately hill walking. His company record was exemplary and his large comfortable home in a well regarded suburb of south Dublin had just been improved by a new conservatory. Of course, Simon didn’t seek me out to make an appointment because of these sweet reports. He made an appointment with me because on the private landscape of his inner world, he had hit a wall.

Worse, all he could glimpse over that wall was emptiness. The truth was he had met the wall and the vista of emptiness a long time ago. Working long hours for many years helped, as he dedicated himself to supporting the needs of others, spouse, children, mortgage lender, corporate colleagues and especially clients. That tactic was beginning to unravel and now in his early fifties, he had been recently been forced to admit to his GP about the chest pains that didn’t match up with his general physical fitness. What the GP was not told, was for my ears only.

Simon didn’t risk sharing with his GP the private feelings that had lurked for years and recently amplified. He knew that the combination of his physical symptoms and psycho-emotional ones might prompt his GP to prescribe anti-depressants and probably a referral to a counselling psychotherapist or psychiatrist. Often, he would park his car in a lay by on his way home from work and sob, without knowing why. Sometimes sailing with his friends, he would zone out of the conversation, even if it was pertinent to the handling of the vessel. The place to which he felt his mind going at those times was a bleak, flat, dry place of loss. The result of his cardiogram and blood pressure according to his GP suggested he could benefit from stress reduction and a less fatty diet. Twenty minutes into our conversation, Simon admitted that he felt he was dying.

“How can we awaken you?”

How can we awaken you? You have your beliefs and your religions that tell you where we are and with what we are absorbed. But let us tell you that we are not dead. Just like you now are not dead. Even though one day you know that you too will die, let our presence and our voices be testimony to the truth that not all of you will die. Yes, your body will be relinquished. Yes, you will cease to meet the physical world through the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. But your essence cannot die. Your pure energy cannot die, even your science tells you this is so. Like us, in your essence you are ever living. If it helps, we can call that essence your Soul or your Spirit. Our place is the Otherworld, right now your place is the Earth world. You need to know these worlds are separate and not separate. As two hands make a handshake, our world is clasping yours. We have known the beauty of incarnation in the Earth world and to experience that beauty with the human senses. We have experienced all that you have known and will come to know.

We have experienced all that you have heard others experience, love, suffering, joy, pain, ecstasy, misery, intimacy, abandonment, wealth, poverty, war, peace, fertility, slaughter, abundance and hunger. Among us here there is all of human experience, but I ask of you to listen to us today because we now experience ourselves in a current of everlasting life that looks upon your human journey with the greatest of love. You see, you are our children.

“An existential crisis”

If a French philosopher was listening to Simon, he might indicate that this man was suffering from an existential crisis. On the outside, living to meet the demands and choreography of a successful, happy middleclass life, on the inside simultaneously meeting a chasm of meaninglessness, futility and despair. The critical lack of match between Simon’s public and private lives was now bringing him to a brink. One of the first things I offered Simon was to acknowledge how much energy it took to live so many years coping and masking this profound tension.

The sight of the wall and the emptiness might not be the actual cause of his deepest stress, the years of effort to avoid it and live as if it were not there, could be.

So today was a good day. He had found someone worth the risk of revelation. On one level Simon’s contemporary identity and profile was archetypal, that of the “successful man” who had met family and societal norms with elan, but was in his core, unfulfilled by doing so. This however, did not make him stereotypical. He had come to see a Shaman, so there is going to be a healing adventure of some kind! I shared with him the  need to hear of The Hero’s Journey. Being a man he cannot be saved from his own initiatory, self-healing odyssey. One only he can undertake for himself, by himself.

Filling him with summaries of several European (Irish and non- Irish) tales of the boy becoming the man, the man becoming the knight, the knight becoming the king and the king becoming the sage, Simon came to see how ancient mythologies were addressing the absence in his life of a true quest to discover on his terms where meaning, vocation, passion and service awaited him. Unlike many of the heroes in these mythic tales, Simon had not undergone initiation as a man that unearthed his essence and revealed to himself what he was truly about. So, with me in the wings of the theatre of his life, Simon was presented with his heroic quest and his need for initiation.

Could he accept the spotlight centre stage and walk into the fire of his Soul?

Soul Seers – an Irish Anthology of Celtic Shamanism is available here.

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