Familiar Spirits, and the Education of a Shaman
Here is a link to a Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Familiar
Caution, this is very personal, and collects into one essay material spread throughout my other writings. It will seem like a brag, yet I believe it is more accurate to see my soul and spirit as possessing natural gifts, and the deeper truth was that I was subject to a lot of what I now call: cosmic whimsy. At many crucial biographical intersections, the Divine Mystery touched me, and changed me thereby.
Among the Lore then, it is said that witches, wizards, shamans, and such folk would see/feel something Other, sometimes so strong a sending that there was a “visual” presence. Usually the familiar spirit is linked to the appearance of powers or abilities. Not always a selfless helper, and on occasion urges us into dangerous waters.
My favorite literary version is in the Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson, where the heroic male often finds himself succumbing to what he called: the imp of the perverse.
A wonderful modern excursion into such territories is the recent HBO Max release of “The Flight Attendant”, staring Kaley Cuoco, of The Big Bang TV comedy success. Not describable, yet obviously magical/metaphysical.
The primary experience is that my “I” did not incarnate in this physical body at birth. Another did, “Joey”, and his story is at this link. http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/Joey.html
When my current astral, ethereal, and physical bodies were age 31, when Joey left and Joel walked in. The new “I”, myself”, did not know the nature of this process, although on awakening from sleep (the change happened during this night passage), I was aware of something interior that was fading. The feeling was subtle and continued over a many months.
In essence the mental matrix by which we know our own “I” was fading, and being replaced by a new such matrix. If you read Joey’s story, you will find that he was an innocent, and a powerful natural empath. He could feel the soul of others in the sound of their voices, and how they expressed themselves. He thought everyone one could do this.
The world acted upon him, and he absorbed these experiences, but was in a certain sense rather passive. He had no desire or need to become. During his 31 years he became aware of three riddles, aspects of the world he did not understand: What was evil? Why is American politics not living up to the ideals of the Founders? And, what happened to Christianity – why was it faith without practice?
I inherited these questions, and a great deal of my work was directed at resolving them.
I have certain experiences that may fit this way of conceiving intimate (familiar) spiritual intercourse. Even Joey had them. For example, he saw an angel in church when he was confirmed at age 12. He never spoke of this to anyone.
When he was 18, and just had graduated from high school, there was a six week period before he was to enter the USAF Academy, during which interlude he would often go to the public tennis courts and look for a pick-up game with a stranger. There he met a young man, seemingly in his twenties, who when hearing Joey was going to the Academy he related that he had just graduated from this elite school, and advised Joey to “keep his head down” as the best way to survive the experience.
For years nether I or Joey thought much about this, until one day in my own reflections of this moment, I realized that at that time no one had yet graduated from the Academy. A purposeful fiction – intervention – by what was later to become a regular familiar spirit.
During a hospitalization a few years ago, “he” appeared again. I was lying in a gurney in an empty room in the ER, while waiting for a room in cardiology. He appeared in the doorway, and asked me if I knew the name of my doctor. I gave a name. He paused, as if I was mistaken, then went on: “He’s an interventionist”.
I was, myself, in inner soul pain, thinking that what with the crazy in the world I needed to go stand on a street corner and make a spiritual noise. The message then had a double meaning. My doctor was soon going to put a pacemaker in my chest – an intervention, without really listening to me tell him that the cause of my tachycardia was from a huge self-poisoning via gluten (a bad poison to which I was sensitive).
My body rejected the pacemaker/defibrillator, which was good fortune. There is a lot more to that story. To intervene, without knowing the real need, was to cause harm, whether as a doctor, or as a shaman in soul-pain. The Mystery would call on me when I was needed, which mostly means to continue to be a writer, attending to the Ideas that touch my heart’s mind, and need to come to rest in words on a page.
Back to Joey becoming Joel … One day at work, an attractive co-worker walked up to my desk, and said to me: “There once was a man named Wendt, whose mind became boggled and bent. One fine sunny day, Wendt went away, and no one knew where Wendt went.” What had she observed?
The most obvious experiences of this kind – via familiar spirits, began when I lived in the SF-Berkeley school of magic for almost fourteen years (1969 to 1983). A major aspect was forged in my decision to trust providence – the Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want. This followed my reading, and then acting upon the Sufi Tale: “The Increasing of Necessity”. I understood that life was teaching better lessons than books, although not at all as pleasant as a good read.
Still, I was a lover of books, and providence was very active in the unfolding of a very unexpected education, which on occasion included the “feeling” – that came while looking at a shelf of used books – that that particular book should be bought. I sensed this helpful entity as looking over my left shoulder, from behind me. I assure my reader that there are many such individual instances, where fate and fortune blessed me in finding the right book at the right time. Even though I was very poor, and often out of work, there was always just enough money for Franz Bardon, Rudolf Steiner, Goethean scientists, Owen Barfield, Ursula Le Guin, and the Music of the Moody Blues (of Knights in White Satin, guided by the man with clear eyes}.
The Moody Blues albums first came to my attention as a gift from a friend. The Bardon books each have a story, which will help illustrate the influence of Providence, during this phase of my present incarnation.
Around the time of the Change, from Joey to Joel, my younger brother came by my house, and wanted to do a Tarot reading for me. He used the Case deck, had me shuffle the cards, and then cut the deck three times, each time taking the top card and laying it between us. He called the first card my inner nature, and second card my outer nature, and the third card my life destiny. In order, these were all major arcana: the Fool, the Hermit, and the Magician.
A couple of months later, I had my own Case deck, got stoned and spread the cards out in a fan. On impulse I passed my hand (palm down) over the deck. There came a tingle in my index finger, and I reached down and pulled out that card. I did this three times, and in order they were: the Fool, the Hermit, and the Magician. I did not know what to make of this.
Later my brother told me he had made up the whole form of this process of divination.
Also at that house, where I was living with Tina and our first two children, Marc and Doren, there was – in the back yard – a shed, in a state of ruin, covered inside and out with odd bits of plant growth. Inside the shed was a wooden chest. I took it out, cleaned it up, and it has been with me ever since. See picture.
Another friend, on a camping visit to Yosemite, found for me a wonderful, mostly straight tree limb, about five feet tall. I cleaned away the bark, sanded the yellow/white bare wood, and then painted the three cards on the upper quarter, … from the top down, the Fool, the Hermit, and the Magician. I also did some abstract drawings in it, in the form similar to this self portrait.
One day, a man who was living in our garage, wanted to borrow the staff, and take it to a kind of new age festival in Berkeley, in what was at that time called: Ho Chi Mien park. When he left, I had the premonition that the staff would not come back, so I mentally let it go. It did not come back, and according to this man, he let another hold it, who then ran off with it. A powerful object, whose destiny remains a mystery.
My living situations began to change rabidly for a time, for the new person I was had trouble continuing to be in a relationship with Tina. I became very depressed, given that I – as Joey – had previously been divorced from Tina, and had left these children with her. How could I do that again?
One morning, in severe moral gridlock, I left the house and just starting walking. Off in the distance was Albany Hill, a forested mound rising among the otherwise flat areas next to San Francisco Bay. I walked there, a long walk, found a road and went to the top. There was a concrete Cross there, perhaps twenty feet high, surrounded by trees.
I found a place to sit, and prayed for the first time since Joey has become estranged from his youthful Christian feelings. In an instant the depression disappeared, and it was made known to me that which ever Way I chose would be morally okay. To not chose, and remain conflicted – that was the problem, a lesson relearned many times over the years.
At one point, in these early years after the Change, I was living in a house that was mostly used for lay psychotherapy, called Group House. I read the book The Magic of Findhorn, and knew then that magic had to be real. At the moment on finishing the book, I felt a need to go looking for the lost in time and space wizardly staff. I decide to go then on what I called a “spirit walk”.
This was a walk were at each intersection of choice of where to turn, I would just spontaneously pick a direction. The walk took me past a small book store that I usually did not enter – its window full of books of poetry and other artistic literature.
It was a typical Bay Area day, mild weather and subdued sunlight. On the side of the open doorway to the store was a tall yet narrow bookcase. It had a few books, and the case was labeled “Occult”. I saw no books on magic, yet stepped into the store, and spoke loudly to the owner (?) who was thirty feet away in the back of the store, behind a counter.
I asked if he had any books on magic. He said no, and then reached down and said wait, I just bought this just this morning. I walked back, and looked at the book. It was a used copy of Franz Bardon’s “The Practice of Ceremonial Evocation”. Given my assumptions, this seemed the perfect book.
I asked the proprietor how much he wanted. He said $7.50, which was at that time all the money I had in the world. Needless to say, I bought the book.
The book was fascinating. It did have a problem, of sorts, for it said that the reader had to become familiar with his first book: “Initiation into Hermetics”, in order to make full use of this work.
I continued to be mostly out of work, trusting Providence – “the Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want”. I found money on the street. One day my younger brother came by, and gifted me with three tabs of window-pane LSD. I took those over a period of five days. The last time, I was at his apartment on Sacramento Street in San Francisco, and spent the night stoned and lying on his living room couch.
I did not sleep. I left my body, and was surrounded by many voices. They all were trying to tell me something different. I was at a cross-roads, and far too many familiar spirits were interested in me following their advice.
Some months after this, I was living in a room, in a house where Tina and my kids, and her latest boyfriend, gave me a little room that used to serve as a laundry room, although there were no machines there.
The house had an apartment below, and I become acquainted with the man who lived there. He worked as a technician for Pacific Gas & Electric. We chatted, and I told him of my magic book, and that I was on the lookout for the first book, yet had no money for it yet. We were watching TV, and the story was about a man in the Southeast, who had been burying young women alive – and now was captured.
I made the remark that I would not like to be living in his head. Somehow this woke something up in my host, who handed me $40, and said go buy the book you need, which I did.
Bardon had written a third book: “The Key to the True Quabballah”. While I had known where to find Initiation Into Hermetics, my explorations of book stores had never yielded this book.
One day I was wandering in San Francisco, and visited a very old lecture hall, with a book store on an upperfloor, that was called: The Metaphysical Town Hall. Laying on a table, were two new copies. I had enough money to buy the book, and was chatting with the clerk, remarking how hard it had been to find this book. He told me that periodically an old man would bring such books by, leave them for sale, and within a couple of days someone – who was looking for it – would show up and buy one.
In the 1970’s I had became an “addict”. LSD and weed mostly. I also had a mistress, which I did not recognize until later. The spirit called me to intercourse, and much of my mind and will were devoted to that Lady, at a cost to others, especially my children.
The next paragraphs will be like a flat rock skipping across the surface of a pond. Hints … mostly. The whimsical interventions of Providence were many, and there is not enough time to tell all those stories.
I had found my social relations falling apart. I had been too crazy with my choices. Bardon’s books said that to rely on Divine Providence could lead to harm. I went back to working jobs, and was able somewhat to keep a roof over my children’s heads, and food in their stomachs.
During the years of my “the Lord is my Shepherd”, I had learned how to dumpster dive, for food that grocery stores would throw away, because of their being past some date. Sometimes this was where the food came from.
In 1978, I had written in a notebook, this question: If the ground of existence is actually spirit, which I now knew from experience, what does this mean for our social and political life? Three weeks later, I discovered Steiner through his books. Three weeks after that, …
I’ve had visions of a kind that blow your mind in the most gentle fashion imaginable. The Burning Bush came to visit me at work – in the flesh, as I was transitioning from Franz Bardon’s Hermetic Science to Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy. He blessed this shift from Moon to Sun wisdoms.
There was always a curative quality present. In the case of BB, He healed the wounds of the death of JFK, MLK, RFK, my dad, and the crazy of Vietnam. I had lost faith, and He reminded me that I did want to do something about that “out there”, as He put it.
Steiner pointed me in the direction of Goethean thinking, and its foundation for pure thinking. At the same time there were wives, children, and other blood relations, all needing attention. Jobs came and went. The Vietnam War. Nixon. Reagan was in the future, and the internet had not yet arrived.
Years passed. Another woman was fool enough to be my wife, although she did very much try to remake me. We ended up in Fair Oaks, California, where Rudolf Steiner College was, and while there I was introduced to the work of Valentin Tomberg.
It was 1986, when I was first reading Tomberg’s “Meditations on the Tarot – a journey into Christian Hermeticism”, while living near the base of Mt. Shasta, when JC touched me to heal, via a dream and a vision, of the social biases against Catholics, imprinted on my soul in my youth.
The wonderful element was that after being touched this way, I lay in bed, on my back, with no thought, and completely at peace for about a half-hour.
I’ll leave aside the details, although as a result I joined the Catholic Church around 1991. An event essential to my later works on the influence of the Holy Mother.
As I became more and more a “writer”, the discipline – being learned from Steiner’s works on the science of knowing – showed me that when I was thinking selflessly, and ideally, of a very real social mystery, there would be a “Wind” in my soul. Up or down was my choice, but the company lent encouragement and trust. “It” was more interested in what I thought, than any system of morals, truth, or other mystery.
In the 1980’s, I called this activity: Listening to the World Song. By the turn of the Century, I referred to “It” as the Presence of fullness, and the Fullness of presence. I was not alone, but neither was I coerced in any fashion.
She, the Mother, touched me on Epiphany 2008, although so gentle I did not – at that time – know it was Her. A year and a half later, the Greater and Lesser Guardians of the Threshold paid a visit, and, just after, on Pentecost, my interface between spirit and brain was rewritten – not by my will. Details are here: http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/threshold.html
All a surprise, and – truth to tell – also a weight. Gifts of this sort don’t belong to us. They are meant to be shared.
I had stopped using in 1987, and for thirty years I pursued a pragmatic understanding of Steiner’s science of knowing. I was successful in learning a great deal from an empirical study of my own soul&spiritual “inwardness”. Yet, as I aged I slowly acquired the chronic degenerative disease we call arthritis.
For pain, I was among the last directed by my doctor to try oxycodone. As an addict in recovery I could see the folly, and stopped using oxy after a couple months. It is good pain relief for serious dental work, but very dangerous if used regularly, as we all now know.
In 2017, I tried medical marijuana (the Ganja Goddess). I had a lot of trouble finding the right form and dosage, and certain medical issues required hospitalizations. In my life I’ve learned to look at “trials” as teachings. Our folly is a tool for growth if we attend rightly.
These visits also woke me up to certain problems in the medical system itself. Industrial medicine is based upon scientific materialism (all is matter, there is no spirit). As a consequence, these visits taught me much that helped me understand the covid crisis … a matter not to be elaborated here.
My main question during this return to “using” was whether or not I would maintain a connection with the familiar spirits of my life; and, in fact, the mastery of dosages – through trial and error – kept me nicely “high”, and connected via that aspect of the dreaming life the Mother encourages for poets and madmen.
Novalis and Coleridge were friends with the syrup of the poppy. Now my knees are bone on bone, and I can hardly stand and walk, and for all that I am certain that there are others far worse off than I.
Recently I stopped these regular doses, remembering how good it also feels to be straight. I did get in touch with my earlier mister grumpy – a personality quirk well observed by my Lady, so my usage now is one five milligram edible of THC, on Sunday mornings, as a sacrament – and mister grumpy is held in check.
The covid nightmare unfolds. I “see” it differently.
The above tales are only a minor part of all my “spiritual experiences”.
My CV can be found here: http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/thetree.html