This is the first sermon I wrote for the then newly-formed Unitarian Universalist Community of Lake County (CA)
Today's sermon is about Impeccable Intent. First, I just want to celebrate the beautiful combination of two excellent words: impeccable and intent. Alone, they are both highly descriptive, precise words, but together they form a very powerful concept that I wish to explore with you today.
I was first introduced to the phrase "impeccable intent" when I was about 20 years old. At that time I was attending the University of California at Santa Barbara. I can't remember exactly how I was introduced to them, but there was a period when I discovered, and then devoured, everything Carlos Castaneda had written to that point about shamanism and the Yaqui Indian way of knowledge his spiritual teacher, don Juan, had imparted to him. The books themselves are wonderful, if not just a little strange at first. Castaneda, who was an Anthropology graduate student when he first began his field research with don Juan in the early 1960s, at first didn't know what to think about all the carrying ons of the ever-enlarging circle of sorcerers and shamans that don Juan introduced him to. Through the series of books Castaneda wrote, you are taken through a bizarre world punctuated by, what at first, seems to be drug-induced hallucinations. It quickly becomes apparent that these early sessions with psychotropic plants, which were never repeated, were arranged by don Juan for Castaneda's benefit. He did this to shake Castaneda out of his intellectual stupor and get him to understand, on an experiential level, that existence itself is much more magical than he could ever have believed before.
I can tell you that when I was reading these books I would sometimes enter into altered states. I found myself many times being so overwhelmed by what I was reading, I had to simply get up and leave my apartment. That's when I would get into trouble. From within these book-induced altered states, I would sometimes walk around Isla Vista, near UCSB, late at night. Once, I decided I really needed to connect with the spirit of trees, so I found a beautiful one by the beach and hugged it for a long time. For a while there I was ecstatic. I had been allowed to enter the magical kingdom of tree spirits. But when I felt my body sinking into the tree and my consciousness being enveloped by it... well that's when I realized I had enough of tree spirits and Carlos Castaneda for that night.
Shamanism is defined as the use of archaic techniques of ecstasy that were developed independent of any religious philosophy. Ecstasy is defined as the contemplation of wholeness. It literally means the withdrawal of the soul from the body; mystical or prophetic exaltation or rapture characteristic of shamanism and visionary states; also, such states artificially induced by breath control, fasting, meditation, drumming and other shamanic and yogic practices. Of course, I discovered that hugging trees late at night after reading consciousness-expanding books can do the trick too. Joseph Campbell, the anthropologist defines a Shaman as "a person, male or female, who has an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him (or her) totally inward. The whole unconsciousness opens up and the Shaman falls into it." I think Campbell came up with a brilliant, all-inclusive definition. What is characteristic of Shamans from many cultures is that they can enter other realities not usually perceptible to the rest of us and they are able to work effectively in an altered state of consciousness.
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!