Explorations: Healing the Rift: Working with the Power of the Land

By Coleston Brown

Originally printed in the Spring 2009 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Brown, Coleston. "Explorations: Healing the Rift: Working with the Power of the Land." Quest  97. 2 (Spring 2009): 70-71.

Coleston BrownAlthough their expressive forms are continually filtered through cultural patterns, at heart native spiritual traditions retain a unity that transcends local idiosyncrasies. Generally speaking, these traditions are rooted in a set of power centers in the land—an inner-land matrix, a unified field of forces that underlie and underpin physical reality. It is these forces that modern magical work with the land aims at contacting.

One major problem encountered by those who attempt to work with the power in the land of North America is what I call "the Rift." This shadowy layer of energy that shrouds entry to the inner-land matrix is largely the result of the sudden occlusion of the native mystery current. It is a side-effect of the forcible suppression of American Indian cultures and traditions. The Rift lies like a wound upon the land and is as real an obstruction for those who are of Native American descent as it is for those who are not—though each type reacts in a different manner.

Perhaps the most common symptom among non–Native Americans who contact the Rift is a powerful feeling of guilt, a great shame over events, actual or assumed, perpetrated by an invading culture upon the aboriginal inhabitants of this land. Often these non-Indians feel that somehow they do not really belong here, that their roots are elsewhere. Sometimes they even feel remorse for the fact that they cannot "become native." In extreme cases, some people will have a fear of being overwhelmed by powerful archaic forces, leading to a strong aversion to the whole area of sacred magic and the native traditions. Or they may attempt to imitate an earlier stage of consciousness by identifying with the immature and falsely idealized notion of the "noble savage."

Such reactions are simply part and parcel of coming to terms with a collective karmic debt. A tremendous amount of psychic stress has led to the formation of the Rift over the past 500 years or so. It should therefore be no great surprise that this tension constitutes a hefty stumbling block to further spiritual development or that it initially tends to release in powerful and unbalanced ways when one attempts entry into the deeper psychic levels of the land.

Fortunately, a number of magical groups and individuals have worked to alleviate these difficulties, particularly in the past thirty or forty years (though complete release is an ongoing and long-term process). Much of this work has involved working with sacred Dreamers, who are presences in the landscape. They are often mentioned in local traditions in connection with features such as hills, mountains, rivers, lakes, stones, and trees. Another mode of work, particularly with groups, has been to forge inner links with the inner powers and spiritual presences of native traditions in other parts of the world. Such efforts have resulted in the creation of buffers that grant access to the inner-land power with minimal negative reaction, even for relatively inexperienced hands.

Initially, this access is best gained by moving through the sacred magical and mythological patterns of our territorial ancestors. Magicians make extensive use of forms and patterns from the past, yet this should never be done in a reactionary mood; we should primarily be looking forward, not back. After all, the purpose of making this kind of contact is to regenerate and rechannel the power within the landscape into forms appropriate for the future development of a unified spiritual identity.

Forms of contact with the powers of the land range across a surprisingly broad spectrum of experience, of which there are three main bands, which we can simply categorize as individual, national, and international.

Individual contact with the land results in an awareness of being closer to nature, of being earthed and balanced. Many magical workers form elemental contacts as a means of maintaining psychic equilibrium.

Properly trained and dedicated magical workers are channels for the spiritual power in the land on which they live. And they will inevitably be called upon to mediate this power in order to help in the healing of the national soul. The inner-land power centers situated within the territorial boundaries of a nation have a potent influence on that nation’s identity, helping to form its unique character. Old World mystery groups used to focus a tremendous amount of their energies on the healing and development of the soul of the nation in which they lived. Unfortunately, this kind of national healing is sadly lacking in the annals of magical work in North America. And yet, experience shows that an inadequate or an exclusive focus on the national level tends to breed a parochial, nationalistic egotism.

Fortunately, this can be counterbalanced by excursions into planetary or international magic. International magic is aimed at the healing and development of the planetary soul—that of the earth as a whole. The potential scope for international magic has been greatly expanded by the advances in world communications of our current era. It is, however, an area of work presently fraught with difficulty. Again, much of the problem stems from karmic stumbling blocks rooted in the history of international affairs. There is a further difficulty in that inner planetary work requires people to be willing and able to sacrifice a portion of their participation in the national psyche of their home country while simultaneously maintaining a strong link to the currents of power in the land. To say the least, this kind of balancing act requires a rare combination of experience and spiritual fortitude.

Be this as it may, such work does go on, and important international linkups are being made through which the inner-land powers of different countries are cross-fed and even merged into one another.

Whatever our Old World roots may be, the ancient American Indians are our territorial ancestors. As such, their traditional material can supply us with the means to forge important spiritual contacts with the land. Now I am not suggesting that you go out and take courses in Native American shamanism, perform pipe ceremonies, attend sweat lodges, or imitate other culturally specific practices. In fact, such things raise a host of issues, ethical and otherwise, that are too complicated to address here. Rather what I’m suggesting is a simple tuning of consciousness to certain places and patterns of sacred lore. One useful example of the kind of lore I mean is the legend of "The Stone That Gives All Story," a Seneca tradition that tells of "Orphan," who sets off into a forest on a journey of initiation. In the course of his journey, Orphan comes upon a glade where there is a tall stone. He sits on it to rest. This is no ordinary stone, however. It speaks, and Orphan soon finds himself listening to wondrous stories. (For a fuller account, see E. Ella Clark, Indian Legends of Canada, [Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977]). Although expressed in a specific, localized tradition, the tale contains images and motifs that are transcultural and which can thus be used as entry points to the inner-land matrix in many places.

To connect with the presence and stream of power behind the stone, you can use techniques such as recitation (ritually telling the story) and empowered vision (building the main images of the story in your imagination). I give a version of this tale in the form of a visionary practice, with operational notes, on my Web site.

You can also set up your own stone in your home or yard, or you can find one in a local park. It need not be large or obtrusive, just a focus to link you in when you do the visionary work mentioned above. These small efforts can establish a meaningful and lively relationship with the land you live on and will give you access to energies that will benefit you, your family, friends, and local community. Beyond this, if you are called to them, are acts of spiritual service to the earth and all its creatures.

Coleston Brown is the author of Magical Christianity: The Power of Symbols for Spiritual Renewal  (Quest Books, 2007). He is committed to practicing and teaching the Magical Way, which he defines as a transreligious spiritual path of personal and planetary transformation. He has a Web site at www.magicalways.com .