Book Review – Talking to the Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Pagan Religion by Kenaz Filan & Raven Kaldera 

November 1st, 2017

Talking to the Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Pagan Religion 

by Kenaz Filan &Raven Kaldera 

This book by Filan and Kaldera explores the value of (so called) UPG and PCPG in Neo-Pagan traditions and in reconstructionist work done to recover ancestral faiths and religions.

When I first came across the abbreviation UPG years ago, I assumed it meant “Unique Personal Gnosis”. That was optimistic! In reality it is an abbreviation for “Unverified Personal Gnosis” – in plain English: information you receive from the spirits that has not been backed up (at this time) by lore or the findings of other people.

In contrast PCPG means: Peer Corroborated Personal Gnosis and this refers to the phenomenon where the same information is received from the spirits by several people (or even whole groups of people). The authors painstakingly explain how several (or even many) people consistently receiving the same information from Spirit allows a case to be made for gradually accepting that information as part of a tradition or pagan religion.

The flip side of this process would amount to saying: “absolutely anything that absolutely anyone receives from spirit goes” – but guidance received may well contradict what others get or even cause controversy within communities. For that reason some kind of consensus-based protocol is desirable – which is why the authors wrote this particular book.

Filan and Kaldera also, rather bravely (!), tackle related issues such as “signal clarity” and “mental health issues”. Signal clarity refers to the fact that not every spirit worker has the perfect hotline to the spirits 24/7. Issues such as exhaustion, personal preoccupation or stress and emotional baggage can all get in the way of being a clear channel for spirit. Such things can and will cloud the issue even for very experienced spirit workers (and indeed this is what I teach my own shamanic practitioner students and I teach them ways or running checks on themselves and their own process). Spirit workers themselves need to arrive at their own code of ethics and a set of personal boundaries around this.

Even more importantly perhaps, the authors also discuss the dimension of mental health. On a popular level we all “know” that mentally ill people sometimes “hear voices” – are those spirit voices or other voices (perhaps internalised voices from a dysfunctional childhood?!) In reality “hearing voices” isn’t as simple as this (or as popular culture portrays the phenomenon) and distinctions can definitely be made between the feel and energetic signature of different messages.

The authors do an excellent job raising and mapping this issue and they also invited some spirit workers with mental health issues to contribute – those people are quoted by means of lengthy passages written in their own words. Excellent approach! This helps make this text a good reference book for other spirit workers.

What else? I am teacher of both Norse Shamanism and Core Shamanism. From my own teachers (in core shamanism) I have always learned that shamanism is “the path of direct revelation” – meaning we seek guidance directly from spirit wherever possible. If signal clarity is poor (inevitable at times) we seek second or even third opinions from colleagues we trust.

Personally speaking I do not really feel that such guidance and information shared in circles causes controversy – actually it usually brings many beautiful points of resonance, confirmation and bonding in groups. Then again, I am not a religious leader keeping my congregation on a steady path for years – I train groups of people to the very best of my ability and then I release them to their own calling and spirit guidance. Let me also point out here that shamanism is not a religion but shamanic techniques can be used successfully in reviving extinct or obscure ancient faiths and traditions (because in shamanism we step outside time and we communicate with beings more powerful and knowledgeable than ourselves).

All in all this is a brave and welcome book that opens up great points of discussion and gives a useful framework for future work and other groups. It describes candidly where neo-pagan/reconstructionist traditions are “at”, the challenges they encounter but also ways of moving forward with integrity. It is bit less “extreme” than some of Raven Kaldera’s writings – which I take to be the influence of co-author Kenaz Filan. The result is a balanced book that attempts to look at tricky issues from all possible angles without getting stuck in just one way being “right” or “wrong” for all.

This is a very useful book to read (and return to) for anyone who makes themselves available for doing spirit work on behalf of others (in any capacity).I will definitely recommend this book to my own students as various issues come up in class!

Imelda Almqvist, Philadelphia, 1 October 2017

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About the author:

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon on 26th August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally. 

For her courses in Norse Shamanism (in both Europe and soon coming to the USA as well) please visit the following webpages

FORNSED IN SWEDEN

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=211324

2 YEAR PRACTITIONER OF NORSE SHAMANISM PROGRAM

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=224450

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

YEAR OF CEREMONY

http://affiliate.soundstrue.com/aff_c?offer_id=124&aff_id=2260&url_id=86


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