Guest Post Transpersonal Psychology

Charmaine Sonnex is a Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at Northampton University. Some of her previous research has involved pagan healing magic, so I thought it would be great if she could join us. She generously wrote up these thoughts after joining us for a shamanic activity.

“I was excited when Kurt offered me the opportunity to take part in the most recent Shamanic journeying workshop. My background is in Transpersonal psychology: a school of Psychology that explores the mystical/spiritual/religious aspects of human experience and altered states of consciousness, and the transformative potential of these experiences. There is an emphasis in Transpersonal psychology on phenomenology, it is accepted in Transpersonal psychology that in-depth understanding of such phenomena benefits from direct experience.  Academic research in Transpersonal psychology often occurs in combination with experiential elements. This means that I have previously had the opportunity to take part in Shamanic journeying in a similar part-scholarly, part-experiential environment, albeit only a couple of times.

Nick is a wonderful guide through this experience. He is clearly very practised and knowledgeable, and had a knack for making one feel at ease. He discussed with us the importance of journeying with an aim, that the most rewarding journeys are those done with a purpose.

Our first journey was 10 minutes long with the aim of either meeting an ally or exploring the other realm. This first journey for me was challenging. I encountered something that I found frightening, which resulted in me ending my journey early. During the plenary type session after the journey I asked Nick what we should do in such situations. He was very reassuring and suggested either removing ourselves from the journey or the area, (and in my case to find another portal) or to ask it to reveal its true form. He went on to explain that figures that present themselves in a frightening way are often something else in disguise. Although I was hesitant to journey again I felt reassured by what Nick had said and decided to try again and see what happened.

The second journey was a little longer, 15 minutes. The aim this time was either to journey for someone else, to try and find an answer to a question that they had (without knowing what that question was) or to journey for ourselves and to again either try to meet an ally or to find out “what do I need to know now?”.  The majority of attendees, myself included, didn’t really feel experienced enough to journey on someone else’s behalf although a couple of more adventurous people tried it.  This second journey was more successful, I tried a different entry point to the other realm and was able to journey down. I did encounter the same figure as before, however this time it presented itself to me in a different, more familiar form and I was able to understand and process the meaning behind the experience.

For the final part of the workshop Kurt gave a brief talk about Empedocles and the mystical/shamanic aspects of his teachings and the mythology around him. This was fascinating and complemented some of the things Nick had talked about earlier regarding core shamanism.

I would recommend these workshops to anyone interested in shamanic journeying, whether it is from an experiential or academic perspective. Such phenomena have an ineffable quality that means full understanding can only come from direct experience, these workshops provide a safe and welcoming environment for these experiences.”

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