Awo Fa'lokun Fatunmbi
I have been fortunate over the past ten
years to have had the opportunity to study the shamanism used in the rain
forest of southwestern Nigeria. This is the traditional home of the Yoruba
Nation which is one of the largest cultural groups in Western Africa consisting
of over twenty million Yoruba speaking people. The shamanism of southwestern
Nigeria is called "Ifa" which means "wisdom of nature". Based on
my experience in the study and practice of this tradition I believe that
there is value in examining the world view of Ifa as one possible
paradigm for explaining the data collected by Dr. Mishlove in his study
of the paranormal activity associated with Ted Owens.
All Things Have Some Consciousness
The world view of Ifa differs from the world view of mainstream Western metaphysics in two ways; Ifa teaches that everything in nature has some form of consciousness called ori, and it teaches that the world is a multi-dimensional reality. Most forms of shamanism teach the idea that the visible world is influenced by invisible worlds that co-exist in the same dimensional space as the physical world. The invisible realms are usually called "Spirit Worlds". The word "spirit" means "essential nature" or "essence". From a shamanistic point of view Spirits are fundamental Forces in Nature that help shape the physical reality perceived by the senses in a non-altered state of consciousness.
Ifa teaches that all things in the world have some form of consciousness. The first step in developing the shamanistic skills of an Ifa initiate is to learn how to empathize with the consciousness of non human Forces in Nature. One of the easiest ways to do this is to sit in the presence of an Oroko tree. In Africa the Oroko tree can have a trunk the size of a house. Biologists estimate that as many as a thousand different life forms co-exist within the sphere of influence of one of these trees. That would include everything from tiny microbes living under the earth to birds and mammals living near the top of the trees. The cumulative effect of this vast network of consciousness involved in the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth within a confined space can be extremely informative. Merely being in the presence of the tree produces an altered state of consciousness that seems to generate information that transcends the experience of the person involved in the encounter. The tree is a universal symbol of spiritual growth because a tree is capable of giving instruction to those who are willing to watch and listen.
Communication with non human forms of consciousness
is generally described by anthropologists as "possession." There are two
Yoruba words for this phenomena; "Ini"
meaning "I am", and "ogun"
"medicine". The student of Ifa who learns to empathize with the
consciousness of various Forces of Nature uses their ability as a problem
solving tool. From an Ifa perspective learning how to empathize
with the consciousness of a cloud is a way of retrieving information related
to future weather conditions. It is also the first step in learning how
to influence the weather.
Shamanistic Weather Control
Dr. Mishlove makes reference to numerous examples where it appears that Ted Owens effected the weather and appears to have caused lightning to manifest. In Ifa the invocation of lightning is used as an instrument of warfare. There are very specific and detailed rituals that are designed to produce and direct this natural phenomena. I have personally witnessed enough examples of Ifa initiates invoking changes in the weather that it now seems normal rather than abnormal.
From a parapsychological perspective claims of effecting the weather result in a debate between two possible explanations. One explanation is that the person has a telekinetic influence on conditions that produce the weather and the other is that the person has powers of precognition and is simply predicting events while claiming to exert some form of control.
From an Ifa perspective these two points of view are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Ifa makes extensive use of a variety of divination systems that are used to predict the future. If a predicted future event is deemed favorable, rituals will be performed to insure that the anticipated good fortune becomes manifest. If a predicted future event is deemed unfavorable, rituals will be performed in an effort to alter destiny. To me this ritual process suggests that there is a interactive relationship between precognition and telekinesis that does not appear to have been fully explored by Western scientist who research paranormal phenomena. This polarity would be extremely difficult to analyze in a laboratory setting. In personal terms it is the polarity between optimism that generates good luck and pessimism that generates bad luck.
It is interesting to read that Ted Owens appears to have had a certain amount of ambivalence about this subject. Early in his career he believes that he is the sole agent responsible for effecting the weather then he believes that he is the messenger for entities who actually cause the event. There also seems to be some limitation on his ability to effect the weather instantaneously. His predictions typically come within varying time frames suggesting to me that there is a precognitive component to his process. This does not suggest that Ted Owens was being deliberately deceptive. It is quite possible that his intuitive understanding of the weather was expressed as the desire to invoke specific weather conditions. On an unconscious level this would be consistent with the Ifa process for invoking good fortune.
The shift from thinking he was solely responsible for effecting the weather, to believing he had extraterrestrial help may have been a consequence of the improvement of his ability to see a broader range of hidden influences on his work. The idea of being a parent only becomes real at the birth of a child. Understanding evolves with experience. I would be more skeptical of Ted Owens if he claimed to have fully developed paranormal abilities that came complete with coherent explanations and impeccable laboratory proof of their existence than I am of someone who shows signs of gradual development in all three areas.
Based on my own experience I have seen
shamans invoke rain and watch the rain manifest. I have seen shamans invoke
the spirit of lighting while their invocations were punctuated by bolts
of lightning hurling across the sky. I have seen shamans command the wind
to blow and demand that it stop. On one occasion a wind storm disrupted
a ceremony that I was participating in, and the Ifa initiate who
was leading the ceremony poked his head out of the door of the room that
we were in and yelled at the wind to stop blowing. There wind stopped until
after we had finished. When I asked how he did that, he answered; "You
have to believe that you can." This answer is not flip. Believing that
you can means that you have worked through doubt, fear, hesitation, and
confusion. These are all emotions that would restrict access to ase
inhibit the manifestation of kundalini (as it is known in the yogic traditions).
The problem encountered by Ted Owens appears to have been that he was trying to understand what was happening to him while his skills were developing. He appears to have devoted much of his time and energy to the task of convincing others that his paranormal abilities were real. The effort to convince a skeptic, especially around issues that generate hostile emotional reactions, is not a conducive environment for formulating clear theoretical explanations of paranormal phenomena. This is a challenging effort for a trained scientist who has no personal investment in the results of his research. For this reason I do not believe that Ted Owens' explanations about how things happened need to be accepted in order to accept the possibility that they did in fact happen. I also believe that any difficulty in accepting his explanations is not an automatic basis for doubting his sincerity. In contemporary American society hairless beings with thin limbs, large back eyes and small mouths would frequently be called "aliens". Those same beings in medieval Celtic culture might be called "ferries". In Ifa such beings are called "aja" which is the Yoruba word for dog. In Ifa cosmology dogs are the messengers of the wind.
In the early days of my studies of Ifa I heard stories that I assumed were exaggerated, apocryphal, or simply symbolic. As I gained more direct experience of various phenomena, two things happened; I discovered that more of the stories were true and accurate than I had originally believed, and I discovered that my understanding of phenomena made a radical shift every time I initially encountered the phenomena. Before I experienced possession for the first time I assumed that it was a projection of some hidden aspect of the inner self. Now I believe that there is a merging of personal consciousness with the consciousness of something outside of the self. The shift in explanation is based on continuous evaluation of ongoing experience.
The west African shaman Malidoma Some tells a story of being told to sit in front of a tree until he was able to speak to the spirit of the tree. After many long hours of no results he decided to pretend that he was talking to the tree. One of his elders admonished him for making the conversation up. Sometime later Malidoma reports that he was able to communicate with the tree and that as the tree began to speak, it took on an anthropomorphic form. At that point the elder agreed that he was in communication with the tree.
This is a common account among those who are being trained in various forms of shamanistic discipline. An inanimate object will become transformed in the minds eye leading to a dialogue between the object and the observer. This suggests that there might be some mechanism that is latent in human consciousness that stimulates an anthropomorphic image when communication occurs between people and things. If this is true and if all things do have consciousness, this mechanism would not necessary bias the message and the mechanism could work differently for different people. It is possible that this mechanism is similar in function to the way in which we translate information when speaking in a second language. A shift occurs that enables us to start thinking in the second language so that literal translation is no longer necessary.
Assuming that this analysis has validity, the implications of this theory leads to a serious problem. If the mind is able to create anthropomorphic images of inanimate conscious objects while those inanimate objects are attempting to communicate with human consciousness, how do you make the distinction between valid messages coming from Nature, and the possibility that the image is simply a figment of the person's imagination. It is very interesting to me to note that my teacher's in Ifa are very concerned about the possibility of confusing these two functions of the human mind. Ifa teaches that true communication with Nature requires that the person receiving the message has access to ase. In other words communication with Nature involves a rekindling of the kundalini experience. When this occurs there are easily observable shifts in the demeanor of the person who enters that state. Imagination does not require ase. Malidoma's teacher knew that he was not communicating with the tree because Malidoma was not in the right state of mind for that type of communication to occur.
Ted Owens states that he used imagination and visualization as a key to gaining access to the paranormal. It would be fair to wonder why if the process began as imagination, it did not simply continue in the same vein and to assume that the entire event is nothing more than personal fantasy. I have found that I can access ase by repeating the invocations that were said at the time of my initiation into Ifa. I also have discovered that I can access ase by remembering the sights, sounds and smells that occurred during my initiation. Both mechanisms have the same triggering effect. All this is to say that I suspect that it was possible for Ted Owens to use visual images that gave him access to his telekinetic abilities and that these images may have been effective without necessarily generating accurate images of the true source of his power. Most shamanistic traditions have what could be called the Spirit of Fire. For Yorubas this Spirit looks like an African Warrior, for the Lakota Sioux this spirit looks like a Native American Warrior. Both images may be an authentic gateway to some form of transcendent interaction, two different forms accessing the same elemental power. Perhaps the gateway that made the most sense to Ted Owens was the image of an alien from another planet.
The discussion of a possible explanation for the physical appearance of non human life forms does not necessarily call into question the material reality of these life forms. I think that it would be more accurate to say that there are a variety of shapes and forms that these life forms can take when they make themselves visible to human powers of perception. This may have more to do with human bio-chemistry than it has to do with metaphysics. It is also a possible source of the popularity of the image of shape shifters in Shamanistic literature.
The perplexing aspect of the Owens story is the question of UFO's. In the West mention of the word UFO implies visitors from another planet. Based on the scientific understanding of cosmology and physics the possibility of contact between life on this planet and life from another planet ranges from slim to non-existent. For most scientist the possibility that the number of encounters that have been reported represent real interaction between humans and alien life forms is an absurdity unworthy of serious consideration.
In my own study of Ifa I have identified
at least forty different categories of inter-dimensional beings, and each
category has a number of sub-categories. The shamanism of west Africa and
south Africa makes clear reference to Alien life forms who visit the earth
from different dimensions of reality and some who claim to be from specific
places in the visible universe. Similar material appears in the shamanistic
traditions of Native Americans, most notably the Hopi who dance in honor
of their alien visitors. The Hopi are extremely reluctant to speak about
their relationship with alien visitors, not out of fear of being called
"crazy", their reluctance is based on a concern for the safety of the aliens
themselves. Elders among the Zulu teach a form of sign language used to
communicate with visitors from other planets. Efforts have been made by
the Zulu elders to publish this material for the benefit of everyone. Some
of the material has reached the printed page most of it has been rejected
by publishers as non credible. It seems to me that the issue of credibility
should be left to the reader and that any effort to edit ideas that are
uncomfortable to the Western reader takes the entire concept of colonialism
to a new level of insidious sophistication.
Every form of martial arts that I am aware of teaches techniques for using mental ability to influence the out come of a fight. The martial art that was developed in Yoruba culture is called "Aki" meaning "bravery". The physical techniques taught are relatively simple and are very similar to wrestling. The mind control aspect of Aki is extremely sophisticated and includes incantations for causing different levels of damage as the situation warrants. I have seen fighters pass out as a result of words that were spoken to them prior to any physical contact.
Traditional Yoruba hunters use similar techniques to track and capture game. Some Yoruba hunters go into the forest at night without weapons. They use incantations to call animals out from their hiding places, then they use incantations to paralyze the animals which are simply picked up by the tail and brought back home. When it is time to eat the animal, the hunter will say something into the animals ear and it will expire quickly and without the necessity of drawing blood. For most Westerners this is shocking and hard to believe. In Yoruba culture it is simply a skill needed to insure survival in the rain forest.
Based on my experience there is no doubt in my mind that Ted Owens may well have had the ability to do many of the things that he claimed. I base this opinion on the fact that I have witnessed similar abilities used by the Ifa elders of southwest Nigeria. What is remarkable to me is that I have been given instruction in the methodology for accessing what Western science calls PK ability and have found the methodology to be effective. I have also discovered the methodology is most effective when it is applied to solving a real problem as compared with being used simply to prove that it is possible.
Ted Owens spend most of his life trying to convince others that his abilities were real. I believe that this effort effected the ways in which he chose to use these abilities and in retrospect I think it would be fair to say that some of his choices were overly emotional and counter productive. This is not a judgment of the man, disbelief of what is true and real in your personal life can be a devastating experience. Ted Owens did remarkably well considering the circumstances.
Ifa is based on the idea that some people have more life experience than others. Those with more experience are considered elders. It is the task of an elder to guide those with less life experience towards those experiences that will bring wisdom, clarity and understanding of both the self and its relationship to the world. If there are elders who claim to have interaction with visitors from different dimensions of reality and visitors from different places in the universe and if these elders are will to share the wisdom of their experience I believe that this offer should be taken seriously. In the world of shamanistic belief taking this offer seriously does not mean asking the elders to prove their world view in a laboratory setting. Taking this offer seriously means having the courage to surrender to their process of instruction. You can't learn how to ride a horse by simple reading about it in a book, at some point you have to climb on to the horse's back. Any real understanding of UFOs requires a similar effort.
I believe that Ted Owens suffered needlessly
because he invested so much time and energy into trying to convince his
peers that his abilities were real. In my experience it is much easier
to develop paranormal abilities in an environment of support rather than
an environment of hostile skepticism. Hopefully the lessons that we can
learn from an examination of Ted Owens life will allow us to move beyond
the "is it real" phase of our understanding of consciousness into the much
more rewarding phase of applying the optimal levels of consciousness to
the task of solving real problems. Shamans invoke spirit beings from invisible
realms of reality to effectively improve the quality of life in their communities.
Shamans tend to view this interaction as benevolent, desirable and part
of the scheme of things. Skeptics either dismiss this all together or become
extremely hostile about the notion that we are not alone. Hostility is
rooted in fear and overcoming fear is the function of initiation. Every
ritual initiation has a segment that challenges the courage of the initiate.
Understanding the life of Ted Owens could be just such a challenge.
Biography of Awo Fa'lokun Fatunmbi
In 1989 David Wilson, who has an academic background in law, traveled to southwest Nigeria where he became a member of Egbe Ifa Ogun ti Ode Remo which is a society of Yoruba diviners living in the west African rain forest. At this time he was given the name Awo Fa'lokun Fatunmbi and has continued his study of traditiona Yoruba spirituality on four subsequent trips to Nigeria. This tradtion is called Ifa. Awo Fa'lokun Fatunmbi has written three books on Ifa, Iwa Pele: Ifa Quest the Search of the sources of Santeria and Lucumi, Awo: Ifa and the Theology of Orisa divination, Iba se Orjisa: Ifa Proverbs, Folktales, Sacred History and Prayer.