Book Review: Cave and Cosmos
Cave and Cosmos – Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality is the perfect sequel to the late Michael Harner’s legendary work The Way of the Shaman which led many western people on a search for a more authentic spiritual path back in 1980. As the creator of Core Shamanism, which has been built up from his long career of experiential anthropology, Harner fostered a new path back to an ancient spiritual practice. While The Way of the Shaman introduced the reader to the basic concepts of journeying, Shamanic tools and certain practices, Cave and Cosmos gives us clues on how we can further enhance our Shamanic work with a deeper exploration of the cosmology of Shamanism.
The book itself reads like a journey as we begin with some of Harner’s own early experiences including a powerful power quest in a cave, then travel through examples of upper and lower world journeys from both indigenous and western journeyers finally coming to a group of appendices which encourage personal exploration. Appendix D is also a very good argument for Shamanic journeying as a therapeutic practice for consideration within the scientific community; this appendix has been written by Sandra Harner.
For a western perspective, the book draws on recorded experiences of students from the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (founded by Michael and Sandra Harner) and contributors to their Celestia study none of whom had been told what to expect within their journeys and it is exciting to see the many similarities between western and indigenous experience of the Otherworld (referred to as Non-Ordinary Reality by Harner).
The chapters briefly touch on some of the spirits which one may meet in the various layers of the upper, lower and middle worlds while in Non-Ordinary Reality.
I find it heart-warming to read a book which confirms many of my own experiences where I have not discussed them with others and as the book seems to prove, it doesn’t matter where in the world you come from, nor the cultural conditioning which we may have grown up with, the Otherworld is open to us all and in many cases will be strikingly similar.
True to the principles of Core Shamanism, Harner places no emphasis on specific places or levels in the Otherworld, does not insist on any right or wrong way to begin and sets aside cultural influences on the experience. This leaves it open for people from any cultural background, removes the risk of being accused of ‘cultural-appropriation’ and does not influence the outcome of a journeyer’s experience.
For may of us in the modern world, access to a Shamanic teacher is difficult if not impossible; Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality invites us to step into the world of the sacred and experience it first-hand rather than relying on dusty old manuscripts from the world’s major religions. I honestly believe this to be one of the most important books on modern Shamanism and I would recommend this to anyone seriously interested in learning more about the nature of the cosmos from a Shamanic perspective, or in deepening their own Shamanic experiences.
You can buy Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality on: Amazon
Find out more about the Foundation for Shamanic Studies at their website: shamanism.org