I’ve been having such a difficult time with reading Diana Paxson’s Trance-Portation that I’d all but given up on being able to get through it…until I spoke with a friend at Paganicon who suggested I try getting through a chapter each month. So, that’s what I’m intending to do and to keep a record of my progress here.
So, let’s start with the Introduction to the book, shall we?
Paxson starts by describing her own journey of exploring altered states of consciousness. She talks about charismatic Christianity, and the Aquarian Order of the Restoration and not being able to connect to trance-work until taking a course in self-hypnosis. Paxson gradually worked at reducing her boundaries and mental blocks until she was able to identify each step she went through and to break them down into teachable acts for people who were “…too well armored” or needed the process to be slowed down.
Next, she describes the trend toward exploring consciousness that grew out of the 60s, mentioning reliance on Western Mystery Tradition materials and writings by Dion Fortune and W.E. Butler interlaced with new theories in psychology. She notes that using these materials can be beneficial, as can using substances to modify consciousness such as described by Leary, but cautions that what is missing from both is an organized sequence of training exercises. Looking for this herself, she came across a book called The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner, and she found that her own practiced worked well with the framework he laid out.
(I’ll note here my own issue with the use of the word “shaman” outside of referencing the specific culture from whence it came…but that’s neither here nor there at the moment.)
Paxson continues to describe her own path to becoming a teacher of trance work (very interesting, indeed), and then lays out of the purpose of the book which, as she says, is “…for solo study…but the exercises were originally written for use with a class.” It is clear that there will be student comment throughout that may, or may not, be helpful, and that it should be expected that every learner is different and should proceed at an individual pace. Her goal, in writing Trance-Portation, is “…to teach skills that underlie the spiritual practices of a variety of traditions…” Paxson makes it clear that she believes that we all have the potential “…to use our inner senses as well as our outer ones, to transcend the limitations of the selves we thought we knew.” By writing this, it is clear that she expects that her writings will benefit a great many readers.
I found Paxson’s description of what she went through interesting, but I also took some issue with the language she used. Given that the book was published in 2008, I was expecting fewer buzzwords…but, then again, it is an introduction. I’m anxious to see if I can work through any language I find troublesome to learn things I definitely want to learn, or if I get mired down in the process.
Next month – Chapter 1, Travel Planning.