6. Learning the Trickster's Art

Wrapping/Rocking - OTO PerformanceI hitchhiked in 1970 from Santa Fe to the Brotherhood of the Spirit in Northwest Massachusetts. There I danced with the communal rock band, Spirit in Flesh, risking being called a freak, having fun, touring the East Coast.

But my first major performance began in a spiritual commune in which I lived. This commune was itself a liminal altered state in which 350 people went around doing their everyday duties, but talking about who they were in past lives, going into trances, channeling spirits and other things that I, skeptic, thought were weirdnesses better suited to cheap horror movies than to real life. But the people would not listen to me when I tried to tell them this spiritual business was spacing them out of this human life. But then one day, when I was typing, a spirit who later introduced himself as Reed, came through me, typing, "You are not typing this, Frank." At the beginning, I thought I made Reed up to get the people to listen, to get the woman of my dreams, and to start creating my ideals in the world. But I may have been taking more credit than I deserved because Reed and two other spirits/characters/persons took on reality for themselves. People waited for the next "lecture" to come through. The spirits talked to people, guiding them (and me) to create a new personal community. Even when I left the spiritual commune, reading the new lectures for the people around me became performances aimed at them. People started seeing Reed and the others in their dreams. The question of whether Reed is "real" is not a useful question in shamanistic performance -- that is, performance for change. Reed is real whether he is a spirit floating around somewhere, or my alter-ego, or a conning fiction which I used as an invisible puppet. His reality is the change he created in the outer world.

Reed lasted for three years as an active performance. He as a performance contained the qualities which shape all my work. It was aimed at building a personal community which by its very existence threatens the established order of isolation and fragmentation. Its parts, the lectures, used the people around me to get to universal concerns. Reed was a framed process running parallel to, but braided with, my normal life.

From the time I left college to when I left the commune I watched other spiritual teachers of all types. I learned the moves and the humor of the holy trickster and the focused power of charisma.

Playing CardsI also saw what did not work. I saw teachers who tricked themselves into thinking they were the ones who were doing the magic rather than that they were the channels of the magic. I saw them getting sidetracked by wanting masses of students. This changes students into followers, and followers are always dangerous.

The teacher-student relationship in the Shamanistic Art is an intimate physical relationship needing continuous one-on-one contact between the student and teacher. The magical healing effect on the world comes from this private relationship between the teacher and the student.

This is the way of evolutionary change in which the small effects the large radically on the subtle DNA level. This runs against the western mind set that to effect change, you have to reach as many people as you can.

Gurus started getting seduced into gathering faceless followers around them. Understand, teachers are human. They can be seduced. This seduction happened not only in the West and Asia, but also in small African villages. This seduction made the word Guru a terrible joke in the 1960's-1980's.

I have found students need one-on-one contact with the teacher at least once a week. Teacher and student are lovers and family.

Photos (from top to bottom): Linda Mac, Eric Kroll

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