by Kathleen Jenks, M.A.
When I grasped the enormous paradigmatic relevance of the Navajo Mountain Way myth for regression therapy, the direct result was a transformation of one of my own earlier lifetimes. The life in question first emerged in the 1970’s in a regression guided by my friend, the late Marcia Moore. I was a Native American woman, tribe undetermined, in a terrain of forests and meadows. My grandfather in that life practiced witchcraft and was determined to make me his protégé. I was equally determined to resist him because, although I had no knowledge of wiser paths, I loathed the sense of “darkness” I felt around him. In my forties, during one of our increasingly savage and bitter quarrels, I stumbled as I was backing away from him. He crushed my skull with a boulder before I could twist free.
In my current lifetime he was my father. Not surprisingly, we had a stormy relationship, but by the time he died in 1981, a grudging tolerance had deepened into an expected sense of affection, even love.
When I read the “Mountain Chant,” I saw the importance of going back through time to sites of earlier traumas/defeats in order to find a way into a new openness, or inner spaciousness, in the very “rocks.” The Utes” became metaphors for all the many negative energies that repeatedly threaten us. Paradoxically, by returning in a guided meditation to the source of each dark place of “stuckness” or “capture,” release could be found by going into even darker spaces with the help of sacred beings, guides, teachers, and “prayer/wind.” In the darkest of the caves, rainbows could be found; in others, nourishment but, as in the case of the bushrats, this could not be eaten while the hero was still within the cave or he’d lose himself and become like them instead. Nourishment there is, but it must be handled with skill and wisdom in the light of full consciousness.
As I read the myth, I found myself returning frequently to the life where JB (my father) served as a medicine man and I was his granddaughter. I sensed that something was urgently required. I had to go back to that stuck-place and free both of them. At first I resisted, preferring to go on reading, but the text made it clearer and clearer that I had to obey the inner command. So I got up to meditate…
I moved back to the death scene, “frozen” on the inner plane. As I watched, the boulder with which my grandfather had crushed my skull turned into dazzling quartz crystal, spreading its warm radiance around both murderer and victim. Then I went into the scene myself, pulled the “dead” woman to her feet, and whisked her off to the Pacific coast with me in the twinkling of an eye. There, I “sent” her images connected with the Navajo earth-goddess, Changing Woman, especially the goddess’s dance in her rock-crystal hogan which is said to exist on an island in the Pacific off the coast of California (Jenks, 1986). I surrounded the past-life woman/me with light, asking her to forgive her grandfather, which she easily did. I placed her on a mental image of a sand painting of the goddess’s hogan and she walked in the pollen prints, sat in the cloud-house, and bathed her face and hair in yucca suds. She felt a sense of radiant peace, awe, even childlike delight to be permitted into such a realm of healing. Then the scene changed from the image of the sand painting in my mind—and she suddenly seemed to be within the goddess’s actual hogan, being embraced by her, and able to move freely in the light.
So far so good, I thought. Then the woman and I returned to the witchman’s camp and tried to persuade him to accept the healing light and forgiveness. I sensed a great deal of resistance. I felt both the woman and I were arguing, non-verbally, with that Indian, as well as with my own this-life father: both have the same darkness, rage, up-tightness, fear—and neither could accept what she/I was offering.
Following my instincts, I suddenly grabbed him by the hair and shook him. I sensed that he really wanted to surrender because he was actually quite exhausted by his ages-long rebellion; he just wanted it over and done with so he could go on from there. But he still couldn’t let go because he felt too sullied by the “black arts” to which he had committed himself.
So that’s the problem, I thought. And I remembered that it was February 2nd, Candlemas, the ancient feast of the Purification marking the official end of the Christmas season in Catholic monasteries—another milieu in which that same “dark” entity and I have often done battle. I felt awed by such astonishingly perfect timing.
I was still trying unsuccessfully to drag him off by his long hair when I remembered reading in a Festschrift for Leland Wyman that a ritual of “blackening” the body with powdered herbs is used to purify a Navajo patient when he has seriously violated the intrinsic harmony of life. Whether or not we were Navajo, I felt that the principle was sound. With the speed of thought, I blackened my grandfather/JB-father from head to toe. My conscious Kathleen-mind couldn’t recall what kind of herbs to use by I figured the higher deities involved in all this knew and would apply the right ones—and that was that.
So he was purified. Another difficulty then emerged. As a witch, he had worked with scalps and possibly also corpse-parts which he obtained by grave-robbing. The man controlled those spirits while he lived, but after his death, those entities probably attached themselves to him in revenge. If so, that means my this-life father brought in with him a whole swarm of destructive entities.
I had those entities to free before I could help him more fully. Again I remembered something from the Festschrift: to free a patient from ghosts, you have to take all of them into the lower worlds and then convince the entities to remain there, for that’s where they belong; then you have to convince the patient to return back up into the world. So I did that, taking everybody down into the nether-realms, but I, unlike the Navajo, do not believe ghosts “belong” there, so I pointed upwards to openings in the roof filled with light, and there were maybe five or six ladders, one for each entity, to climb up toward his/her own realm of light. So they all scampered happily upward with great joy at being free.
The now-purified and cleansed “witch” and I returned to the surface where I had him walk the sand painting, just as the woman had done before him. He did this willingly, even humbly, greeting the center from all four directions, sitting inside, then bathing head, hair, even body. And Changing Woman came for him. I felt immensely touched. I’ve known the Christ to perform a similar function for someone who believed himself damned, and now she was doing exactly the same. She fastened white feathers in his hair, dressed him in white deerskins, and embraced him as a mother would.
I withdrew, feeling I had no right to intrude upon anything past that moment. That warped part of my father who had earlier been the medicine man was now finally free, cleansed, embraced. For myself, I felt refreshed and, beyond this, bathed in immense, mellow calm.
There was no question here of altering the actual historical reality. I died once when my skull was bashed in and that is that. But the “hologram” had kept running and all the destructive energies had remained intact on the inner-dimensional plane. All I did was to “key into” that scene, let the characters see it, or “mirror” it again, then re-modulate the raw emotion, not only by encouraging forgiveness or by visualizing the woman restored and healed, although these aspects were certainly a crucial part of the process. But where the Mountain Way paradigm functions best is that by working with it, therapy does not stop with that first-level forgiveness and healing. One “mines” it further, goes into the surface rock-face and opens out the hidden patterns that always lie implicit within it.
My that-life energy field already reasoned to the earth wisdom of Native American ways or I would not have fought so hard to protect it; but that earth wisdom, that sense of the translucent numinosity could not be actualized. The secret resonating chamber, if you will, was there but there was no way through the solid rock. To stop at the immediate and obvious therapeutic task of encouraging forgiveness, and “seeing” the woman healed, would have left that resonating chamber still hidden. Yet that is where she needed to go—and the key to getting into that cave is found when one’s present life interfaces with one’s past with the expectation that beyond the obvious there lies that numinous realm.
My present life includes my awareness of what it is to communicate with Grandfather Talking God and Changing Woman, the Navajo Earth-Mother. This awareness served as my key in opening up the woman’s resonating chamber. I used the mythic energy, in Joseph Campbell’s words, “to waken and give guidance to the energies of life” (Campbell:89)–her life as well as my own. I have not changed her physical death; but on the astral plane there is now, if you will, only a sepia-tinted snapshot of it and a flashing “call-forwarding” message stating that she can now be reached c/o Changing Woman’s house off the California coast. “We” mined deeply enough, blew long enough upon the rock-face of the original configuration, to break through into the deeper place that was always there. A shift was made for her, the grandfather, and the “ghosts,” and they are now where their essential harmony lies.
Increasingly, as we become aware that matter and spirit are not separate, do not represent dualities, but are in fact simply differing frequencies of the same essence, we need paradigms which take us within the very structure of “matter” as it is right here, and not in some Christian Heaven or Graeco-Egyptian Underworld. By finding mythic paradigms to awaken our untapped creative resources, perhaps we can continue to evolve by freeing the emotional bodies trapped in an earth-lived past so that we can be more fully attuned to what Joseph Campbell calls the “bliss-space” of our present-day bodies.
The first life to which I applied the Mountain Way paradigm was, appropriately, a Native American life, and the transformative process also involved Native American patterns. The paradigm works in any context, however. It points to the fact that any lifetime, regardless of geography or time frame, has that numinous dimension lying beyond the more obvious therapeutic task. The paradigm is a way of connecting, not to otherworldly realms, but to inner-worldly dimensions right here, right now. It is a way of bringing about a new relationship to place, “matter,” and the sacred, which ushers us into the “bliss-spaces,” those mother lodes of transformation.
Few of us can live consistently in those states in which foregrounds become transparent so that, as Erich Neumann wrote, “the primal light of the pleroma may become visible as background and core of the world.” (Neumann:410) Yet, as therapists, we may perhaps be permitted the fundamental conviction that each person will be there one day. This conviction may enrich the best of our therapeutic work with others as well as with ourselves.
 The theoretical material back of this experiential report is presented in an earlier article in this issue: “The Navajo Mountain Way Myth As a Metaphor for Past-Life Experience.” References will be found at the conclusion of that article.