Guest: Christine VanPool
Speakers : Paul Robear, Laura Lee, Christine VanPool
March 24, 2021
Welcome to the Cuyamungue Institute’s q&a conversation for exploration. We’re your host, Laura Lee, and Paul Robear.
Hello, and welcome to the Cuyamungue Institute and our q&a conversation for exploration series. I’m Paul Robear, the executive director and president of the Institute, and along with my wife, Laura Lee, the director of research, education and outreach. We want to thank you for joining us today. In case you’re not that familiar with the Cuyamungue Institute and who we are, let me share with you a little bit about our mission. The Cuyamungue Institute is an independent nonprofit organization committed to expanding consciousness through the ancient practice of ecstatic trance postures. Our mission at the institute is to introduce sustain and support the practice and research of trance states, which we believe were widely used and enjoyed by indigenous ancestors worldwide. It was the insightful work of anthropologist Dr. Felicitas Goodman, the founder of his Institute, who found the clues and revive the practice. She searched for the oldest evidence available, what she discovered in the world’s collection or prehistory in indigenous art and decoded these selected artifacts as ritual instructions. And as part of our mission of the institute, it’s to expand our own experiential research with a multidisciplinary understanding that’s available to us today. Dr. Goodman provided a roadmap of how someone with an academic approach can delve into the world of direct experience. As an educational institute, we recognize that to thrive, we must take an open approach. So we invite scholars of parallel research and related fields to help broaden the scope of our own work and exploration. On these Sunday sessions for the last many months, we’ve included a full spectrum of topics including neuroscience, mysticism, trance states, anthropology, art history, archaeology, Archeoastronomy, shamanism, wisdom, traditions, and mythology and much, much more. And, of course, the many aspects of our own work from the origin story to the indicators of being deep in trance and how this whole activity works, to now 50 years later, where we’re going and how we’re growing, and we invite you to visit our website to find YouTubes and podcast recordings of this growing selection of past talks. On today’s talk, we have a one-on-one conversation with Laura Lee interviewing Dr. Christine Van pool Professor of Anthropology from the University of Missouri. They’re going to be looking at the anthropology of shamanism, altered states of consciousness, and the contributions of the founder of the queer Hmong Institute. Dr. felicitous Goodman.
Christine Hello and welcome.
Thank you, Laura, for having me.
As an anthropological archaeologist, take us back to the origin point of your career when you first decided, ahh, this is the field that I want to dive into. And then why of all the many flavors of archaeology, the anthropological angle call to you.
Let me back up just a little bit. I was raised in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and in the 1970s when I was in elementary school, there are a lot of different cultures, different people in the town I grew up in, a lot of Hispanic population and had a patchy children going to school and I was just kind of looking around and watching. I also love being at outdoors. That was something really important to me as a young person. And so my father Mom, I don’t know, I joke they let us be feral. My sister and I were allowed to roam the mountains and my dad from a very young age taught me how to climb trees. He told me if you’re tired or stressed, this, hang out in a tree just just always have that your safety. So I learned from young age to climb trees and think and contemplate in trees, so I knew I love the outdoors a lot. My senior year in high school. The school offered a class in anthropology, which was really unusual in 1986. And so I took this degree in anthropology. I thought, wow, anthropology is really fascinating. I love the four subfields so it’s biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. Now my high school class was geared more toward biological and cultural anthropology. But I never planned on going to college. It wasn’t something on my radar. I’m actually I was learning disabled growing up, I have death in my left ear, and lots of speech problems because of hearing loss. Anyway, so no college on my horizon. I’m working for my father. I’m doing all kinds of various jobs in Ruidoso. My best friend says, Let’s go to college. I’m like, I’m not going to college. No, come on. And a friend of the family overhears and says, you probably will qualify for a Pell Grant, why don’t you go to college? At least fill out the paperwork. So I was like, Okay, fine. So, I fill out the paperwork with my family friend, his name is Roy C, we fill out the paperwork. And sometimes later, I get this Pell Grant to go to eastern New Mexico University. And I thought, Whoa, I guess since I’ve got this money to go out to go to college. So my dad in his wisdom says, You need to be a business major. So you can make some money and have a good career. And I’m like, Okay, another thing that happened, and I know we don’t talk about things now in modern politics, but it’s just who I am. I was touring eastern New Mexico University and they had an R R O T, NC double a rifle team. And I was kind of interesting. And doing that. And I ended up being on the rifle team, and it paid my tuition and room and board. So also know how my college paid for by a rifle team, plus my Pell Grant, which was work study on the rifle team. It was a no brainer; I was getting paid to go to college. And I thought, This is a gift. So every semester I thought with one more semester, I’ll go one more semester, I’ll go. Well, I started off a business. I got great grades, but I hated it. It was not where my heart was. And I was looking around there several people on the rifle team that I knew, and one was Todd van pool, and another couple of guys, and they were all anthropology majors. I thought, Wow, that sounds really cool. And so I already knew by anthropologist so I wouldn’t call I went over to the anthropology department met professor he said, What are you interested in? I said, I think archaeology of all the anthropology archaeology sounds really great. So I love being outside. I love playing in the dirt. I’ve always been in mud or in trees, I’m either in the earth or up in a tree. I thought that’s perfect for me. And he said, women really shouldn’t be archaeologists. And I’m kind of like what he goes. You can’t have your blow dryer, your curl iron or your makeup in the field. It’s not a job for women. I said, Hey, that sounds great. Let’s go. And I took a very advanced archaeology class with this professor, I think he set it up for me to fail. But I looked at the sky new from eastern New Mexico University rifle team, Todd van pool, and I said, you’re gonna help me study, right? And he says, Okay, so we set up a study guide. So we start studying together, fast forward, we will end up dating and then we’ll get married. And we’ve been married 28 years. So that all started. My first love has always been anthropology, the four subfields. So anthropologists’ study of humans. I find humans fascinating. And all of our many facets, many flavors. I just chose archaeology to be outside. So I did contract archaeology after my four-year degree. And one day, my boss, David Phillips, just looked at me and he goes, Pecos that’s what he called me. Pecos Pecos. You’re on top of the field that you can be with a bachelor’s you got to go back and get a masters and I’m like, a masters. Okay. So I talked, my husband was already in grad school for PhD. He knew he wanted to do a PhD. Me not so much. I just want to be in the dirt. So I went and talked to his advisor, Bob Leonard. And Bob, says UNM University of New Mexico tends not to accept just master’s only students. We really like PhD students, I was like, Okay, so just say you’re gonna do a PhD and just get your master’s on the way and then you can just go about your life. I’m like, okay, so I put in a proposal, I applied to grad school. Long story short, I get in grad school, and then I fall into my dissertation research. And so there was beautiful pottery in Chihuahua, and into southern New Mexico. So Chihuahua in Mexico, up into United States border lands, in Arizona, Chihuahua and Sonora. And this beautiful pottery needed somebody look at the iconography, and I kept having people say, when you look at the iconography, like okay, so I go home, and I’m already friends with David Phillips, who told me I need to go to grad school, and I come home with a report how much I love this pottery. I think I should study it. People are suggesting I shouldn’t. Oh, I started a project on that. And he hands me a box full of photographs of casa scrotus polychrome, from the Smithsonian and the Museum of New Mexico and said, Here are some of my notes good, go run with it. So I get this gift. And so I started, so I’m doing my dissertation research, and unfortunately, my mom’s in the hospital cancer. So a lot time to think why she’s in the hospital. I don’t know. I just kind of had this moment of clarity. That’s something I saw on the effigies look like shamans and I don’t even know exactly how I came up with that in my head. But then I go running to my advisor as fast as I can and his name is Garth Bodden. As like Garth, I think I have shamans on my pottery; he goes, Yeah, I think you probably do. But you have to stick to your original dissertation project, you can only write one chapter on shamans, you can write entire book on shamans. But in the meantime, go and learn about Peruvian shamans, what they do. So I took his reading list on Peruvian shamanism and the more I read about Peruvian shamanism, the more the pottery looks shamanic to me. And the more that explained it, and the more I learned about the pottery, the more the shamanism made sense, I work back and forth. I finished my dissertation in; about 2001, I had one or two chapters left, but then I got pregnant, have my oldest child, and it was a race between the baby coming or the dissertation coming, the baby won. But then shortly after my son was born, I finished my dissertation. So then Todd and I, and basil my oldest, we moved to Missouri, targets a one-year temporary job in Missouri at the University of Missouri. So I stopped and I pause, and I don’t have a job and I have a toddler at this time. So I sit down and write the book, signs of the cost score on shamans and so I finally got around to writing the book. Oh, we were so poor, but that’s okay. I wrote that book and I kept getting drawn back into shamanism and I, I love ethnography. I love personal accounts. So I kept reading and reading and you would think after writing a book, I’d be done. But no, instead I’ve just kept absorbing and then I decided it was time to teach a class at Mizzou called the anthropology of shamanism. And it’s mostly a cultural class. So I’ve been on the path of shamanism studies for almost well over 20 years now,
one step one door open to go through that door, the next door opened, and just the sequence of events that called you ..
Friend who teaches the hero journey, right? The hero journey in your own life, you are the hero of your own journey. And she says sometimes you have to look back and realize that there’s something larger that is cowriting your story with you. And I think you sense that I do and your story. So how did you end up here with us? And what, how did you find Felicitas Goodman?
Oh, that’s a fun story too. I do believe that there is higher power and things that guide us even when I kind of put down my fuel some time. And I’ve been many times like no more shamanism, I’ve done enough, let’s stop. But then it keeps seeping in. So a couple things that happen was that shamanism we learn about, a lot about spirits that some definitions of shaman are there, the mouthpiece of spirits is one definition. It’s not one that I normally use in my writings. But something else I was teaching a class I learned. So Roy, my youngest child in about 2014. It’s really hot in Missouri, and it’s hot and sticky here. I do better in dry heat. I’m, I’m used to dry heat as a desert rat from New Mexico. But we go into the TV room and we are watching a show from the animal planet with animals sensing spirits. And as we’re unfolding in the summer, we go and during the heat of the day, then we go back outside. But during his day, Roy and I would watch these shows about animal perceptions of spirits, but also people perceiving spirits. And you would ask these questions like Mom, how come the house wants to hurt that person? How is the house a part of it nice, well, in other cultures, people think a house is a sentient being and it’s alive. And it has to be cared for just like you would your grandpa, your grandma. And this is a very common issue. So the more I talk with, with Roy, then my oldest son was very much in a scientific mode saying this can be real, this is all fake. And I’m saying well, hold on, buddy. That may be true. It may not we don’t know. But at least let’s explore this. So I was sitting there talking to these young men about anthropology and shot or rather to the anthropology and spirits. And then sometimes a medicine man would show up and do a cleansing for the property or the house and I’d explain how that works. Because I was already teaching Anthropology of shamanism. And the more we talked, I realized some of these to do a book on spirits because nobody’s really doing it the way us anthropology would do this for the public. So I started a book on the anthropology of shamans or souls, ghosts, these type of what we in common language called paranormal. As part of that book, I was looking at spirit possession. And so and so I’ve been doing shamanism for almost 20 years and I find this book on spirit possession by Felicitas Goodman. I’m like holy smokes, and I’m reading this piece How about demons or something like that? How about demons? 1988. Like this is pretty good. And then I’m reading. So I get like all good scientists I tell my students not to do I go to Google, right? And I see the Wikipedia page, or I tell my students, Wikipedia is a great place to go. But look at the links and then find the academic stuff. So poof, up comes the Cuyamungue Institute, which I didn’t even know existed. So I looked into that. And I thought, wow, I should learn about more about that. So that’s one line getting me to the path of Felicitas Goodman. Going back about 10 years ago, line two was I was really thinking that maybe it was time to try trance states, and I kind of explored Michael Horners Institute, and they had a workshop in St. Louis, but it was a lot of money. I had two young kids. I didn’t really feel like I could take the time to go to St. Louis and do training. So I tabled it. I’m still not sure if I’ll go that far. But when I saw Felicitas Dr Goodman’s Cuyamungue, I thought that was the way that I would like to explore trance or ecstatic trance because I do believe and I’ve always believed that these ethnography shows there are lots of ways to have altered states of consciousness from drumming, to rattling, just what Felicitas has found. Also, Michael Winckelmann talks about this a lot. And I’d read a lot of Michael Winckelmann work so already understood, as much as we can understand there’s so many hypotheses so much, we don’t know, but it really does look, and I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but that it looks like the trance states can be reached just with sonic driving or music. So I was really thrilled to find you guys through her foundation. And as you know, I wanted to do a workshop in Santa Fe with you last summer so summer 2020. And of course that was cancelled because of COVID. So I’m very thankful you guys started doing this on Zoom. And it’s been a wonderful blessing but that those are two lines already knew I kind of want to do it for my own research purposes, but now also because of souls and spirits. So her work intertwines both of them nicely.
On topic, let’s define a possession trance. And let’s define an ecstatic trance from academic terms from an anthropologist viewpoint. How do you see the difference between the two?
Um, that’s a great question. And I would probably have to fall back on Dr. Goodman’s discussion. Spirit possession is really interesting. It can be by intentionality. So we have mediums and shamans that set up a ritual and call for the spirits to inhabit them. So you have voluntary spirit possession. You also have and Felicitas Goodman was an expert on this involuntary possession as well, where people have to have exorcism and these sorts of things to get rid of that that spirit. Spirit possession in itself can also have ecstatic trance sometimes the spirits plus ones and give them a really good feeling. And it’s a joyful experience. Yeah, and so ecstatic trance is more of the pleasant aspect of this, we might call spirit possession is in some ways, it doesn’t have to be spirit possession. And that’s again, that’s a really problematic thing to find. Some people assume any type of altered states of consciousness are spirit possession, are seeing spirits or even if you see momentarily a ghost there are those professionals in anthropology, but also in religious status say, oh, Chris saw ghosts right here. She must have been in an altered state of consciousness. It’s not that simple. And I think Felicitas Goodman, if we were to talk to her if she was still alive, I suspect she will say yeah, consciousness is so broad and so flowing that you don’t have to be in a full-blown trance state to see spirit or have spirit perception. But if you want to come closer to those experiences, you probably need to go into trance. So again, the fine there’s a fine line between just normal trance and ecstatic trance, I guess it would say, Do you feel euphoria would be how one might talk about ecstatic trance?
Are you conscious during the trails or not conscious. So the Edgar Casey, that was a possession trance. And he was not conscious during that he would have to wake up afterwards. And then it was spontaneous, almost involuntary. So he allowed it to happen, but it just came on and he called it like a dream state. But he would wake up and go, what happened and he report of the conversations. And also, it’s interesting to me that she points out that there’s a protocol between the spirit world and the human world. And they there are tried and true avenues between the two. So there and that’s what ritual is all about is opening the door , closing the door, allowing the transference , not allowing it. So in her book, what about demons? She, Do you want to summarize that from an anthropological, I’d like to hear how you interpret that. She basically said, there are ways of dealing with that, that societies have known for time immemorial to cure that.
right, absolutely. And one of the things I like about that is she talks about spirit door, or the doorway or the past spirit doors, but also spirit key, she talks about there’s a door, that door to the other realm, but we can have a key and that key is ritual. And when we do the correct protocol, with that key, we unlock, or we open that spirit door, so that we can have that experience with the other realm. And so in my own classes, that’s one of the things I have a PowerPoint where I outline with her spirit door in spirit key. One of the things she talks about in that same book that you mentioned, Laura, that I really like is, she likened spirit possession to driving a car, sometimes, you know, your body is in your car, you’re driving along, you’re really conscious. Other times, you let another spirit in the driver’s seat. Now, she also sets it up where you can be fully conscious in the backseat of the car by spirit drives it, or you might be asleep in the backseat where the spirits driving. And that can both be both can be present with spirit possession or with trance, I think that’s really telling that she had both phases of that in the 1988 books so you can be conscious or unconscious. And there’s many different mediums tend to, tend to either, a lot of mediums today, especially in Brazil, tend to be unconscious of it and that have to be informed of what they said. Others within throughout the world are conscious. And again, even in Brazil will find really good practitioners are in the backseat watching it. They know what’s happening as the Spirit drives their proverbial car, their body.
And in ecstatic transfer, fully aware, we’re awake, we are in control, but it’s we are having a journey and an alternate reality. And that’s, that’s really, so akin to what shamans have all described. Right? How do you see an alternate reality from you?
And I go back and add one thing to the, if you think about Goodman’s definition of spirit possession and spirit control, her translate, she sets it up, I thought about this some, I think one of the ways we might think about that is it’s like Driver’s Ed, you have the novelist driving the car, but you have a coach right beside you. And then that coach has the brakes and is controlling us almost like for me ecstatic trance is, at least when I started, it’s like, yeah, I can’t even control my car. But I’ve got a coach right there. And he can hit the brakes if need to be but I’m still in control. I’m still navigating. So I think maybe Driver’s Ed model might be a good way of thinking about the ecstatic trance that we do with the Goodman foundation.
Right? And people ask us, Why do you never get scary spirits? Why are they always the healing spirits, the spirits to show you things? And all of that? How did she manage to close the door to other spirits? We’ve been asked that. And why is it that isn’t the door that we dial up? Is it the spirits that were calling when we are doing the ritual? How do you how do you proceed?
I’d say with the way that she set up the ritual was before you open that door, you’re purifying and cleansing around the door, if you will. So I think that the smudging the Cuyamungue Institute normally does, I think the smudging there’s something about that we don’t understand how that works. But smudging with sage or even tobacco tends to ward off evil or malicious spirits. Many people believe that so tobacco or white sage or whatever can be done. Other ways that people do throughout time is water, clear water, salt, these types of things, but the ritual sets up the cleansing to ward off the malevolent spirits. And then when you put everything into place into the key, and I think the key is, is asking from the spirits for help and guidance, but also then the Spirit key is opening, if you will, a clear, cleaner doorway into the spirit world. And then with her practice that you guys do so well, is that after the ritual is closing down, saying thank you spirits, Goodbye till next time, thank you. And I think it’s also closing it too. And so it’s the open close aspect of, of the ritual that really helps in I don’t know how to test this or how to think about it in my social science realm. But I think some of that maybe doing with the time, the time that is allotted to 15 minutes may also be more conducive to good spirits. Maybe if you stay there a long time, that might cause more malevolent things to come in. Another possibility is that we’re not eating or ingesting any type of spirits. So in a tobacco if you were ingesting it, I mean, like fully eating and not smoking it, but something of that nature or potentially peyote, or something else, mushrooms. When one takes those entheogens are plant medicines, you don’t know exactly what you’re gonna get, because it will have its own spirit and its attached spirit. So that may also be a portal for something a little more malevolent to come in. So, again, I don’t know how you test that. But, you know, it could be all these little things. And I think the breathing exercise, clearing yourself of the cortisol, the bad things in your being or that’s associated with your being I think is really important. And I think you’ve said this, Laura, that you know, gets the brain hyped to do it, but also kind of lets the daily stress of your life melt off you. A lot of Native Americans go through incredible cleansing ceremonies to ward off and get rid of the bad spirits around them or are attached to them before they’ll do trance because you don’t want to bring in the bad stuff. And I’ve read more than one time that a lot of shamans or Medicine man say you got to be in the right space, you got to be in the right place, if you’re not in the right space, the right place, bad things can happen. So I think that Goodman set it up so that we’re in a better place. And I would also suggest to young people, you know, make sure you’re in a good place, don’t launch this, if you’re under stress, or having a lot of bad stuff in your life. If you’re going to do it, make sure you cleanse it and you pray, or you fast, or you think clearly or you release whatever’s bothering you before you try to go into ecstatic trance would be my recommendation.
As she said, it takes the healthy nervous system to do this.
What she did was she looked at dozens and dozens of ethnographies. And she was pulling what do they all have in common? The step was set aside a sacred space so you’re cleansing not only yourself, you’re cleansing that space, and then you expect good things to happen. And so you’re setting up intentionality, almost like a circle around yourself. Things can happen. And then you’re calling the spirits. And the spirits to me are saying to the universe, hey, you’re intelligent, you’re loving, you’re benevolent, you’re conscious, you are the creator, and want to engage on that level. So I think that is part of it, too. And maybe it has to do with the frequency of the drumbeat. Maybe it has, I mean, all those cues, people are always talking about in a trance state here, I’m a transmitter I’m the receiver. I’m on downloading. Having this energy I’m the conduit, so maybe we’re just dialing in a certain frequency.
Right Absolutely. And that’s some of the Dr. Wayne Coleman’s work with neuroscience on is styling it up and the brainwaves. And that’s given to which a lot of work with EEGs in Germany, so that the drum or the rattle out certain beat definitely changes our brainwave patterns. And if you take the idea of the brain being like a television receiver, yeah, your brainwaves with the rattle or the drum makes that wave at a certain level, a certain speed that we’re more likely to perceive things, if you believe in the spirit world. And yeah, you’re opening up yourself as a receiver to get information from spirits,
always interested in how we and she, she would say, this is what they were doing 40,000 years ago, all over the world probably further back. This is a time and well-traveled avenue to the ultimate reality. And so it’s interesting how often we see either humans in really ancient looking God, animal spirits, an ancient landscape, we really see an ancient thing, an ancestor show up. And so maybe my thought was, maybe this just is a well-traveled pathway right here in this frequency. And all of the millennia, all of the various spiritual journeys of all of the ancestors all over the globe, have left their imprint there, are still accessing that. And so it’s not a new path. It’s a very ancient path. It’s this been well traveled. And we are just the latest participants in a very long chain. So definitely, definitely there was so interesting to me is that when you look at ancient cultures and their belief systems, there’re the typography that they describe with these realms, their own world view, we tend to partake of that, too. That is so fascinating.
That is fascinating.
The lessons that are that are there and you go, Oh, okay. This has been a well-traveled path, and it’s an enduring one, and it will last beyond us. So does that give you as a scientist as an academic confidence that this is a realm that really does exist that changes maybe what science might say about the nature of reality, which seems to be softening, that is not just made up and a symbolism that has been invented for humanity or pattern recognition gives us, that there’s some depth and breadth and reality to this, what does it say to you? Or how you position this? Because you are in a tougher position than Paul and I are? You answer to the academic colleagues and realm and, and all of that.
Right. And right now in American science and in American colleges, there’s still the thought that spirits aren’t real. There’s not a spirit world in; anthropology is full of a lot of atheists that don’t believe in a God. And there are a lot of people that think these older traditions are, if you will, not me, but a lot of people that they’re baloney. And so that’s really hard call because the, it, I’ve had a couple of conversations where I’ve tried to push on some of my peers, with spirits, and they’re not willing to even, you know, begin to entertain that. So it’s really a hard thing to say that people are still closed minded to the idea of spirits of any form. So, for me, it is telling and the question we get within science and in the social sciences, because it’s something that people may be doing 40,000 years ago, is it just our physiology and our neurology? There are some of my peer peers to say, we have the hyper agency, hyper agency. Yeah, hyper agency, meaning it’s better to believe there is a spirit out there when there’s really not because it protects us. So the thought is that our ancient humans, that you can see out into the forest and you sense there’s a cat out there, you could either go into the forest thinking there’s a cat and get eaten by the cat, or you can just go back to camp and be safe, and that people that perceived it and live longer, evolutionarily wise, that’s why they didn’t you know why we believe these things is because evolutionarily advantageous to believe in spirits because it keeps you safe. That’s one of the old arguments and evolutionary science. I’m not so sure about that. And, but that’s what we’re, we’re facing are these types of principles. That’s a really hard question from science, myself having mystical experiences all my life growing up in New Mexico, that there’s something there that defies my science, and I don’t know and so, yeah, for me, I think that the fact that I can feel like I’ve turned into a bird or a bear, that’s what we’re seeing in iconography all over the world, people from the earliest Upper Paleolithic iconography, we have a Birdman, it looks like he’s doing something with the big bison whose intestines are running out. Something was going on and that sort of feeling and it’s a Birdman, that’s something that in trance you might feel if you’re, you’re traveling you feel like you metamorphize into the Birdman, people tend to do that a lot. They can do with tobacco quite frequently, or you can do it through this type of ecstatic trance postures that Cuyamungue does. So to me, that’s, it’s telling that we can repeat the same scenario, is a physiological? is a spirit? Is it some hybrid between the two? My more rational person says something between the two as both our physiology as Goodman, and you guys say is that we are physiologically neurologically in our nervous system designed to trance and we all can do it. Now why and how that works is really curious.
To me, this is really interesting. Well, so Goodman would say and I’m going to quote from ecstasy, ritual, and alternate reality, religion in a pluralistic world, her 1988 book. So she would say that the argument in favor that the alternate reality is real and not just supernatural or out of our reach, is because we do experience it. If it were supernatural, not part of nature, then humans who are also part of nature would be unable to perceive it. So she says, instead, we, we will assume that the alternate reality is another part or dimension of reality as a whole, as the cultures previous did. That it’s not just a dream state, it’s not just a figment of our imagination, not just a hallucination, because we share such a common ground of experience to that, why is it so consistently? So in somebody’s cultures through time across the world, and described as such, or our ability to go there? What do you think of that argument?
I like it, but then I’m a fan of Dr. Goodman. So that makes sense to me. So, yeah, it’s not a lot I can add to that, at least from her arguments, but I find it I always am impressed with native practitioners that tell us that our waking eyes or our consciousness blinds us to the real reality. So in many ways, Shamans and medicine men flip it on their head, and that we’re kind of blinded in our normal consciousness, we’re not seeing everything. And they would say, Yeah, we’re the ones deluding ourselves if we don’t think it’s there, so they really do push us in other ways. So and we know that there are a lot more than five senses, we know that there’s a lot more colors that we can’t see, there’s lots of stuff that we really are blind to, and who’s to say that some of these other energies or other frequencies are something we experience in trance state as we get our brainwaves slowing down and being able to perceive things different. So that’s some of the ways that scientists think about if it’s real than what’s going on. Yes,
even Plato was talking about the cave of shadows, being the state the shadows for the reality, right perception is just limited. To that degree. So here’s another interesting thought of Goodman. So she would describe glossolalia or speaking in tongues, as falling into a trance state during those types of celebrations, religious celebrations, falling into a trance state that temporarily overtook your speech center, and so that you people who dropped into this trance state, particular translate, we start uttering in a certain cadence and a certain pitch and a certain, the hallmarks of true glossolalia, it which is overcome them, it wasn’t about the words, it’s about the cadence of the speech, and, and the tonality and all of that. So I sort of think of it also as in ecstatic trance state, and I don’t know about the full spectrum of trance states, because I haven’t done them. I can only speak to this one. But it would appear that it temporarily overtakes a couple of centers, our visual center, so that we’re receiving visuals to process through our visual vision center from some other source. It’s not through our eyes, which are closed. And sometimes we hear sounds over the rattles that would overtake our auditory sense, because we’re not hearing sounds in the room or hearing something else and would overtake temperature because sometimes we heat up dramatically, to the point of perspiring profusely or cold, sometimes we feel cold. Sometimes your kinetic sense, you can feel wind across your face. So temporarily overtaking these other senses, but the set of inner senses as well. So it’s flipping on what your energy body vehicle is, is inhabiting to navigate through this alternate reality. So it’s really, really, really interesting. I know that you would love to go back to the lab and look at this, what would you hope to see in a laboratory setting? If somebody just said, here’s a graph? What do you want to do?
I would like to look at the body sensations, looking at skin temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, I like to look at brainwaves, I would. I know it sounds crazy, but Goodman’s research is based on, scientifically speaking, very few numbers, I would like to look at all aspects of that. Another thing I’d like to do if I had the money and a research team that we’re all working together, I would like to look at brain scans. Look at blood flow, what’s going on? There’s a lot of tantalizing evidence for nuns, monks and other mystics that there’s increased blood flow to the frontal lobes. There’s something going on the right parietal lobe, as well with space and understanding organization with how you get out of a door that looks like that is sliding up with some nuns and monks. That’s Andrew Newberg work so I’d like to see our trance states are doing similar things. What’s also curious is the mediums that channel and right so they go and call the ancestors, our recently dead person, they’re channeling that and then they’re doing auto writing. Those areas are not lighting up in scans. And it looks like from what we can tell from some of the EEGs, where it gets a surface map, something different is going on. There’s been some hypothesis by other that the language center should light up because you’re doing writing, but it doesn’t. Somehow, they’re able to write very persuasive, beautiful things, lots of information download. But it looks like the brain is not doing it so yet the writing, but the brain is not doing to it. And that’s really curious too. So we’re beginning to see, sciences begin to paint a picture, at least with these small numbers of case studies, that different trance experiences are or altered states of consciousness, wherever you want to call that is eliciting different brain functions and different blood flow. So I think that if I had the money, I’d want to look at all that. One of the things I’m most curious about is the parasympathetic system as well. But also both systems, you know, so what’s causing the body sensations? And how do we there must be something with these ritual postures that sends a cue, through spirit or through physiology that makes these slightly different realities, if you will, I don’t know what to call it, but there’s something going on. So I’d also like to look at, if we can wire the body as well with the head, looking at what’s going on with the body to the head and try to figure out a map that I would be really interesting to. I’ve had times where I feel like there’s so much energy going on in my hand. Or last time, I was like you, Laura, where I felt like energy was flowing through a portal in a ring, I was just so much flow, it really felt like there was real energy buzzing through that thing. Was that just because I’m hold something round in my brain goes, Wow, it’s round. It should be a portal? Or was it really a portal? I don’t know. So is it a brain hack? Or is it a spirit hack? Or is it something between the two?
Are we dissolving boundaries, and then our energetic field is extremely large, right? Like plugging your finger into a socket. Right? Quite often. You know, what’s interesting to me also is that some part of the body often heats up, your hands or your feet, or your whole body or your torso or one specific spot. It’d be interesting to have sensors just to see if it’s a skin thing. Is the actual physical part heating up to some degree? Oh, my gosh,
Oh, yeah. In the energy, the energy aspect of it. Okay. So here’s another study that we don’t quote, often. And the conclusion of the study was that not enough data to make a call on this, but there were some interesting insights. And this was about gamma rays. So Goodman was involved in a gamma ray study with Belinda Gore. And they did this at the University of Ohio, Ohio State University, rather, with an actual nuclear engineer, monitoring the equipment, somebody who really knew this with gamma rays; they were, they weren’t emitting using a device to make gamma rays, they were just measuring the gamma rays, which are naturally going through all of us, our tissue, the, you know, the world at randomly. But they, one of the outshots was that the group that was most clearly attuning to the actual practice as we are practicing, and they knew that they could tell that by you describing your journeys. So if you were projecting, or you were doing some other technique, which a couple of them were doing, we’re getting much of a response in this test, but the people who were doing the protocol, we’re getting some interesting results. And they found that in the room that they tested the baseline measure of gamma ray, then they tested people at so many intervals during the trance process. And then afterwards, the amount of gamma ray in the room for days after was less that it has changed the reading in the room. So there was an effect in the room. And they also compared this to other techniques where they have also found gamma ray differentials like Reiki they found and so the thought is what’s happening there that you’re changing the cosmic radiation background, you’re absorbing it, are you opening a portal, is something happening? So people have often thought maybe that accounts for some of the energy because we are appealing to the universe at large? For the free energy, for life force, for whatever isn’t responding? Can we actually measure the field shift?
I would love to see that. University of Missouri has a nuclear research reactor here at Mizzou. And I’m involved in Boy Scouts of America, I sat in on a nuclear merit badge. And one of the things that they were showing the young scouts, both males and females, is how certain things like bananas have more radioactive waves coming off of them. Yeah, so you take a Geiger counter, and Fiesta orange ware so the real truth he has to wear, some of that is really radioactive, you really don’t want to be drinking off of it, it’s in they’ll show the young people in the lab, the Geiger counter going off. So you’re really funny or fun? Is it? Do I have our postures with a banana? And see if we could decrease the radioactive stuff out of the banana? What happens with the banana? We be able to do a before and after measure of…
interesting. Is gamma ray the same as radioactivity? No,
no, I am not a nuclear science scientist and I sit on that. So I’d have to do a little bit of research, I’d have to go back in and look at that. But I think that the radioactive waves you can measure with bananas, so but it feels to work. But I would have to go back in
time you eat a banana? Oh, my gosh. So here you are teaching a group of the next generation and archaeologists that will go out there. And I kind of wonder what this generation that’s coming up, is going to do to turn over maybe some of those artificial barriers that are out there in the field in terms of our entrenched thinking as a society. I wonder because it seems to be the young people coming up are much more open to new interpretations of the world. They’re more akin to having explored alternate reality. And, and more versed in that. It seems to me that we’re going approaching a sea change across the board in our society. I think it has a lot to do with women retaining or reclaiming our rightful place in the world, across the board. I think it has to do with evidence that’s just accumulating, for example, this old idea of it’s only the land bridge, where humans populated the new world. No, no, it’s many migrations by sea, the evidence is showing so many sites of human occupation prior to where the land bridge could have answered that. So I wonder where you think archaeology is going, and what will be, what envelopes, the new generation that you were teaching that is in your classroom, over your career, will be pushing against and breaking up in areas they were overcome in their thinking?
That’s a really interesting question. And I’m not sure right now, where we’re going in archaeology, there is a move in American archaeology. That is true. All the archaeology in North America we study is Native American and indigenous populations in the new world from at least minimally Clovis time forward. So there’s been a big push of not doing archaeology, not doing research, filling people that should be digging sites or doing the research should be in tribal people. And so there’s been a real slow down in archaeology, at least at the academic level, out of respect for indigenous populations, tribal people, but other hand we have contract archaeology. And anytime there’s federal money or state money available for land grants, or big buildings or highway something like that. Archaeologists have to go in and do compliance work to make sure that sites are easily being protected or avoided, or dug correctly. So there’s a lot that goes on with that type of research right now, that’s entrenched in a scientific archaeology. And that’s good at collects data, consults with tribal people. There’s a middle road to do that. So right now, practicing archaeology is kind of at that at the federal and state level for compliance work. Theoretically, we’re in a little bit of a stagnant time, if you will. We have some theoretical musing, but very few archaeologists right now are pushing that that envelope. There are some, Chris Carr out of Arizona State University. He’s retired now, but he’s been pushing Native American belief with animism, animistic style, thought, as I have been doing so I don’t know how many grad students will come with me and push that envelope are with Dr. Carr. But we have some people pushing that right now. It’s We’re also in COVID. So COVID for public institutions like Mizzou, we can’t go out and do research. So right now we’re in a really weird moment, if you will, that I see just kind of, we’re on pause, we’re on pause for COVID, we’re on pause, theoretically because of Native issues. So right now, it’s almost like we’re on pause. So I’m excited what the future is gonna hold. I also think that many of my peers and other countries are also looking at the Americas and looking at indigenous populations, looking at some of our ethnographies, because they realize there’s a deep humanity that, you know, humanity across the globe, probably 30,000 years ago, were kind of doing similar things. And during the Paleo Indian occupation, Paleo Indians probably, were doing things similar to those in Europe. This Smithsonian has excellent video on a man and a woman, maybe a teenager from Horn Shelter in Texas. And this guy looks like his bone structure, Paleoindian has really thick arm build up and has interesting tools with them. And they think, he’s a drummer, they think he’s a shaman. And they link this to all worldwide practices. And so we think that there were shamans during that 13,000 to 10,000 years ago, when we can start to see some of the stuff they’re doing. And one is rhythmic drumming. So I think again, we’re looking at across humanity that this ancient humanistic way of understanding your world and interacting with it is through percussion, drumming, and probably rattles as well.
Well, good insights, so many benefits and in our community, doing the ecstatic trance postures that she pulled down from history, revive this technique, find so many benefits of doing this, that why wouldn’t you want to do this? She said, we are ecstasy deprived. And so you’re not going to live a full life until you are open to these other realms and made richer, more beautiful, more vibrant, more meaningful, ecstatic, we should all be experiencing ecstatic joy and union with the with each other in the universe. So my gosh, I always say like the Sherlock Holmes novels, the means the motive the opportunity, take a look at that. Yeah. A lot of instruments to produce the sonic driving, the motives. Oh, yeah. Are there any opportunity? My gosh, we’ve had many 1000s and 1000s of years, right? What is the most important lesson that you want to impart to your students? What do you want them, what the fire you trying to light within them? Or did they come with a fire and a passion, and you just want to fan the flames.
I hope they come with their own passions and their own desires. And I’d like to, if you will flame them. But mostly, most of all, I want them to learn how to be free thinkers, I want them to take in data, think about things critically come up with their own informed opinion and take on their own. I am concerned and academia in the world in general, I don’t want to feed them anything, I’m really cautious. I want again, I just want them to learn how to do research, learn how to think and be opened to understanding the other if it’s Native American religion, or if it’s, you know, even Solutrean or something like that, you know, they need to take in the data, think about it and come up with their own informed opinions. And I always tell them, Don’t trust me, don’t trust the guy next door in the next classroom, learn and trust yourself, not others. There is a trend in American education right now I have a lot of young people that want one answer and want the answer. And they’re looking for the thing. And I’m like, sorry, that’s not me. I don’t really subscribe to any one thing. I just tried to present as many sides of a problem or a facet. So when I talk about shamanism, I talk about the debates, the scientific debates and all the issues understanding shamanism to the more humanistic aspects, some of the shamans are saying, and I don’t really try to give them my opinion now. And they asked me, I’ll give him my opinion by try that let them come to their own understanding and interpretation, which is a dangerous thing. Because sometimes people say she didn’t give us a full answer. I’m like, Yeah, I gave you three different answers to that question.
To stimulate your own thinking.
Exactly. And I think that’s really important. That’s just my take is that they be free thinkers.
You mentioned Solutrean. So that’s the culture in France that are making close points.
Well, they’re making their own points about 30,000 years ago, and that close is 13,000. So there’s a big-time gap and a big space gap. But yeah, so I don’t know what to do with that because there’s a big-time space gap. So there’s some people that think they’re related other people that don’t that’s a great debate in archaeology right now,
or could have been a tradition coming forward through time the way to make these really big blades with the megafauna.
Yeah. And that’s an open debate for sure. One thing that we have in America that we don’t see with Solutreans is the fluting. And that’s where you drive a flake off the bottom of that point to probably go into a shaft. And I say, probably because, you know, these are hypotheses, but we’ve had a few show up in rock shelters, we’re pretty sure how they were hafted. So yeah, those are fluted and put in; the Solutreans are not fluted, like the Clovis stuff. So different technology, a different way of the weapon system. Now, that’s my husband’s specialty. He does lithic analysis; his dissertation was on weapons systems. And so we went and measured a whole bunch of projectile points from Arizona.
And so I guess this brings up the question, how much can we read culture by the artifacts that they left us? That’s your job. What do you think? What are the challenges involved in that?
I think from a scientific perspective, yeah, we can really start to understand weapon systems, how they’re used, how much force goes behind the analog Dart, what speeds how accurate they are. Science is really pretty good at that. That stuff. And one of the things I love every year, my husband and I and our TAs on Mizzou, we’re always dragging our students out onto our quad, we have to get special permission from Jesse Hall. But every year we take students out and they’re throwing out all dark. So they’re called darts, the things you throw out darts. And we, we do it and my students love that they love that in a lot of them end up taking up out a lot of throwing as a hobby. And there’s a World Association and they have all kinds of meats and thrown; Todd is a member now. We don’t do any competition, my back won’t allow me to do competition anymore, but is the most amazing thing. And we can sense how powerful they are. And we can understand how maybe they could take down a mammoth or a mastodon. So yes, and so. But what we lack or what was harder to say is, what was the religion of the Paleo Indian people, the religious aspect, those are the things that are really hard to pull from archaeology, at least from the dirt now the science but yeah, there’s so much we can do and read, read the past what; people like myself and others that are interested in religion and meaning. It’s really through the iconographic or what we might commonly call the arts, the pictures themselves, things we see that we can start to interpret and maybe come to a sense of understanding.
comments I have, which is yeah, thank you for a Dart is a projectile that goes through the air and lands, a sphere hold on to while you’re poking it out the mastodon
right, so we think about that.
Yeah, okay, well, you guy’s gonna come in and tell us more about the intricacies of this because I’ve read an analysis of like, in terms of the physics and the ergonomics, and the dynamics and the, whatever of the model, and they can put a lot of science to it about why it works, and why you get so much more strength added and force added and accuracy and distance and all of this to go into. And I’m thinking, wow, well, that wasn’t the terms in which some engineer in the Paleolithic times 20,000 years ago, described this thing, and they were just doing it over trial and error. They were doing over what really works. And the fact that it popped up all over the world, and disparate points, either it was one common tool, from time immemorial that spread or they kept adapting it. But still, the point of it is, is that however you arrive at such a sophisticated, but simple and universally applicable instrument, let’s call them scientists, and
and give credit to our ancestors who figured this out and standing on their shoulders, we are standing on their accomplishments. We have to honor them.
absolutely. no, I completely agree. And Todd and I in 2000, provided to Canada to talk about Native American archaeology and theory. And one of the things that we and our peers are pushing on that Yeah. Native Americans from before Clovis time if you accept pre-Clovis but definitely for clovis. These are incredible scientists. They’ve always been if you will, trial and error putting together what works, what doesn’t work. Yeah, we call that inductive science and that’s really important in all science’s inductivism, you know, day to day, what works, what doesn’t work, you keep the good you throw off the bad so Yeah, incredible science and there’s a whole subfield, if you will, of indigenous science, that is, that’s a building thing. But they definitely were incredible, incredibly knowledgeable people that understood the natural environment, and were able to harness and use it effectively. And if you don’t believe that look at agriculture, because by 5000 years ago, all of our major domesticated crops were in play 5000 years ago, and that’s a form of science for sure, figuring out what you’re going to pick and choose and do. And then having corn going from Teosinte to a little Highland grass and Mexico to full blown corn. You know, that’s, that’s science in the making. We know as scientists today; they altered the phenotype and the genetics. So yeah, we’ve had genetic modification going on for 5000 years.
They might be the first genetic scientists.
You’re doing it on nature. So I’d also say, Chris, that, you know, you talked about looking at the artifacts, I really want to just give a nod to Felicitas for looking at certain artifacts and saying, oh, ritual instructions, oh, let’s do this. And maybe that one day, my dream is one day, the kind of trance experiences that we get that are consistent, that are profound, that are rich with meaning, that Oh, my, when we are assuming these, even back to the earliest, earliest 40,000 or so 17,000 years ago, we have postures based on artwork that old , why cannot this be added to the database when we are trying to look and piece together the worldview. If it’s true that these ancestors were using trance and using postures and memorializing them in the artwork in this way, then certainly this had to either influence or be representative of some worldview out there. And for us, it makes sense. There’s a consistency, there’s a storyline, there’s cross cultural connection, there’s redundancy, oh, my gosh, all the hallmarks of science, one of these days it will be looked at, I predict
absolutely, that the ritual postures form of inductivism that we could take the data from these experience with our inductive science and then look at the past as archaeologists and you know, how closely does the past iconography look with our modern experiences, look at the commonalities that’s actually a form of inductive science, and it can be done and it can be, it can be placed within archaeological science or anthological. Science. So yeah, something that I hope that Cuyamungue with you and Paul and others, and Todd and I can actually work on this art form of inductive science and get it rolling. And then take those inductive trends that we identify, hypothesize what’s happening, and then go into the brain lab with some research questions and start analyzing that. And then trying to think about deductively, the mechanisms at work and postulate how those work. So really great science can be done even through experiential evidence, because most everything we do as human is still based on experience, and how we experience the colonnades out at Mizzou, and we take photos on that, you know, that means something to so many people down the arch. The arch, the gateway to the west of St. Louis and our columns here are the most photographed things in Missouri. And people have an engagement with that perception. And we can mark it through a number of photographs on the web. You know, why can’t we take the trance experience and our art and our perception and analyze and come up with some numbers like we do for the arch and the Colonnade, we can do that in science.
You’re talking about symbols that really speak to us and ancient cultures over and over you see the symbols that really speak to them : this relates back to our conversation on entoptic phenomenon. Those are across the board meaningful to us. And while surprised we still see them in our trances even today, and David Lewis Williams and Dawson, back in the 80s.
1988. That was the year
that was a good year.
I mean, that’s when that Current anthropology article. And for if you don’t know about current anthropology, that’s a really tricky thing to get published in and then people get to respond in press in tell you what they think about your research. So if you get published there, you’re going to have your reviewers writing the critiques, if you will, or the attaboy or atta girl are the not so much moment behind it. And so for them to be published that article in 1988 and current anthropology and have all the critiques and follow ups behind that article is a really; it’s a big Kudo, so good for them. But I have a laugh because that’s when Goodman has two books in 1988.
Ecstasy, ritual and alternate reality. And in 1990, where the spirits ride the wind where she wrote the origin story. But I want to say, Okay, here’s a goal. If, if those guys could get that published back in 1988, basically say, Hey, look at all the geometric shapes that we see, which is totally a third to half of the artwork that is in the ancient most ancient caves, South America, or South Africa, sorry, and, and Europe. And these looks like they’re the notes of shamanic spirit journeys. And we see those today. So we can put a direct link to what we’re doing today. And we could say, Well, look, you can do it in here now. And this and then we can start comparing, I think that they published that current archaeology anthropology published that, why not our study that we could collaborate on
broaching it in the right language the right way. That’s the name of the game is just presenting it in the right language. So it goes on. That’s the I don’t see a problem because honestly, with Lewis Williams and Dawson’s 1988 piece, for many archaeologists, myself included, that’s a central piece. So I cite it all the time in my own work. And when I did my dissertation on my one chapter on shamanism as I was allowed one chapter, so I, I use that as a front piece. And so today we do it. Many archaeologists worldwide use that piece. Not everyone agrees with it, not everyone accepts it, but a lot of people do.
So it has made inroads because it’s so logical, and it makes sense. And it’s the evidence. Our work is just a continuation of that,
we can expand further from that.
Yeah, and there’s some ways there’s nuances in the work through Cuyamungue, there are nuances that I might quibble respectfully, because I’m so thankful for Davis, Lewis, Williams, and Tossin. So thankful for them. But you know, when it’s time to revisit some of those ideas, we could quibble a little bit in the world of sciences, this is what you want to do, you want to, you know, honor the past, but also talk about, you know, what about this, or what about that. So I think that there’s some room for discussion.
And we have a discussion coming up that we’ll be comparing what you see in the iconography, because you’ve made this one of your main focuses of study, what does it all mean, the shamans of old? What were they saying? What were their lessons? What were they seeing at the universe? What were theirs? The tenants of their worldview? Let us compare them with our communities, try experiences, that’s going to be a rich and interesting conversation. So
I hope so.
Yeah. So what do you want to say by way of conclusion, so appreciated, all the work that you do and what you bring to this community of the Cuyamungue Institute. Christine? So what do you want to say by way of summing up today?
Be a free thinker. Think about all the data. I would suggest that people before they just totally try to discount the work. At least try it three or four times, at least be open minded. Same thing I tell my students, be open minded. Yeah, I guess that would be my conclusion. For those that believe in the practice, believe something happens. Now as a spirit, we can’t say for sure, it could be as you guys, it could be energies, it could be the brain, but at least explore the possibility. So there’s something enticing going on and something that’s poorly understood.
It’s also worth saying that this is an attribute that you carry within you. It’s a legacy of, of evolution of our DNA, of our ancestors, of a benevolent universe to equip us with that is something a tool that you have within your own physiology, use it,
independent of belief, system, dogma, culture, time, whatever, it’s not an ism, experience it, directly for yourself. There’s something to be said for that.
The second book by Goodman on a ecstatic trance, the 1988. She really, I like how she ends that if we were to forget this, and if people gave up on religion, humans would pry reinvents trance and they would reinvent very similar experiences because of it because it’s so entrenched so I thought that was interesting; she ends on that note that, you know, we as human we would reinvent this, it is just who we are as humans, so enticing so we come back full circle.
and wonder it is found all over the world and through time. Yeah, it works. Follow the evidence it works. So um, We will, we will have continuing conversations with Christine Vanpool. She’s such a font of wisdom and insight and research and study, and in wonderful opinions and conversation. So we look forward to more. Christine. Thanks so much. Thank you. This has been the Cuyamungue Institute podcast where we are going out and exploring what this work means and the greatest context that we can find with many, many disciplines. If it is universal that has impact and insight to be shared across the board, and we enjoy exploring, that’s one good thing humans are good at over the years, we go exploring.
And exactly we all do. I think every group of people have their explorers.
And we continue that trend here for the ultimate frontier and thanks for listening. It’s a big universe out there, and lots more to explore. Okay, join us next time. Thanks for listening. I’m Marley.