Between the Worlds
Morwen Two Feathers
Since childhood, I have
believed in multiple realities, the existence of many worlds underneath and
behind the surface level of reality that presents itself to my senses. These
worlds were obviously real and accessible to me through daydreams and
imagination, and later through experiences I came to understand as shamanic soul
travel. Such experiences felt quite normal to me but as I came to adulthood I
realized that most people didn’t have them (or if they did, they didn’t
acknowledge it). In our society, only artists may regularly step outside of the
generally accepted definition of reality without being judged insane. I think
this was why I began to think of myself as an artist; even though I couldn’t
draw or paint worth a damn, I knew I had an artist’s perspective on the world
and this became part of my self-image.
At the same time, I
developed strong practical and professional skills that were effective in the
“real world” of employment and day-to-day life. Yet I never felt fully
integrated into that world because I always had one foot in another world.
Inhabiting the fringe of the mainstream modern world, becoming involved in the
alternative world, and periodically traveling to worlds of nature, imagination,
and spirit, I have become adept at walking between the worlds.
Yet in talking about this
world or that and focusing on the experience of having a foot in each of two
worlds, it is easy to miss the power of the space between. The phrase “between
the worlds” invokes a duality of place and movement from one to the other.
I’ve learned that the most interesting things happen not at the destination,
but on the journey. It is in the open, formless place between the worlds that
creativity bubbles up from the Depths, that resistance from ego dissolves, that
magic happens. Changes in consciousness that happen between the worlds manifest
as changes in reality through the application of intention. This definition of
magic may also be a definition of art. And this perspective provides insight
into how living a creative life may change the world.
In middle age I have become
a boundary walker. Given any line of demarcation between two realities, I will
most often be found straddling the line. My art, and my life, emanate from the
space between. Yet it is easy to lose sight of this, to forget. All around me,
my culture insists that I must define myself, must choose between This and That,
must live in the real world, achieve and accomplish by the standards of the
dominant political and economic reality. The space between the worlds is ever
present, but the constant din of media, advertising, ringing cell phones, and
the demands of daily life provide a ready distraction from this awareness. And a
different sort of distraction may seduce those of us who are involved in Earth
activism. We may become so focused on the conflict between the world we are
trying to change and the world of our ideals that we forget the space between.
It’s a truism that
synthesis, or synergy, is born in the tension between opposites. It might even
be accurate to say that all human growth and progress arises from the courage to
inhabit the space between the worlds of fixed positions. We can observe this
dynamic in the public politics of groups, and also in our personal lives. As
long as we allow reality to be defined by one world or another, we are bound by
those definitions and rules and no change may happen unless it is limited by
those boundaries. When we step into the formless space between, we open
ourselves to something new.
If we are called to speak
and act on behalf of Gaia, if we are impassioned to work towards a new way of
life that holds hope for peace and harmony with nature for human beings on this
planet, then we must learn to cross the boundaries enforced by our dysfunctional
culture and walk between the worlds of Modernism and Traditionalism, Science and
Religion, Mind and Body, Liberal and Conservative, Political and Spiritual,
Black and White, Fantasy and Reality. There in the space between lies the power
In mythology, folklore, and
legend, the “world between the worlds” is a magical place where thought and
intention can change material reality. For many peoples this place was accessed
through altered states of consciousness, achieved through shamanic techniques of
drumming and repetitive movement or breath. The creative activity of art-making
has also been shown to induce a light trance state. In light of this, I have
decided that creating opportunities for community drumming as I do is a radical,
world-changing act. So is working in a community art center, which I also do. I
have the privilege of opening the door to the space between the worlds for many
people. Of course, the reality they create when they get there is up to them.
Each one of us may tap into
the space between at any time, as long as we remember that it is there. This
could be as simple as a daily practice of turning our awareness to the unseen.
But as that awareness grows and deepens, we soon find that we want to bring our
actions into alignment with it, and to find others who similarly desire to
travel in the space between the worlds. This awareness has been steadily growing
in the underground of our culture for the last twenty years or more, and more
and more of us are finding each other. Perhaps the most radical thing that any
of us can do for change is to inspire each other to live an authentic and
creative life. Walking between the worlds and living our creativity in each
moment is a profound catalyst for positive change in ourselves and in the world
we inhabit together.
Morwen Two Feathers is co-founder of Earth Drum Council and program coordinator of the Musketaquid Arts and Environment Program at the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts in Concord, Mass. This article appeared in Gaian Voices, Vol. 4 # 1 and 2, c. 2006.