Many thanks to Tamara for joining us on the blog, we had discussion after I posted a SixtySkills book review of ‘Ecstatic Body Postures’ by Belinda Giles. Tamara kindly agreed to answer some questions on the blog about her experience with this method as well as her path in general having experience of various methods while also being a student of Franz Bardons method.
PAA: Please introduce yourself and your path so far.
Tamara: First, I would like to thank you for inviting me to this interview. I hope I can contribute something interesting here.
Fortunately, paths were already open to me as a child of a mother with occult interests. Nature was my favourite animate realm and I spent hours alone, merged into this world full of wonders. Since very young I had intense dreams which I discussed with my mother and brother at breakfast the next morning. As a teenager, my grandmother visited me after her death. This was so impressive that since then, it was clear to me, that there is something extraordinary about what happens after the physical death. At the age of 13, I converted to Tibetan Buddhism through my mother. When I was almost of age, I distanced myself from these gatherings, although the philosophy of Buddhism would always accompany me. It was an act of detachment from my mother, but also my split relationship with the existing hierarchy in the group and the submissive behavior of the students to the point of exaggeration. There was also a problem with the ambivalent behavior of my Tibetan teacher towards me. Only later, I learned from my mother that he asked her for my hand.
On the other hand, my father tried to get me to the side of his Jehova´s Witnesses and then the Baptists. I had enough from dogma´s, groups and their dynamics. Although I am very thankful for the Buddhist period.
After that, in my twenties, there were different activities and influences like practicing Qi Gung and Wu Chi with Master Chee Kim Thong, Butoh Dance with Masaki Iwana, studying the writings of Gurdjeff and always Krishnamurti, when there was a dead end. In some way, in my mid-thirties, I lost touch with my spiritual self and lived a very mundane life, I became a mother. I came across the ecstatic body postures when I was studying shamanism and saw an interview with Dr. Felicitas Goodman. She discovered this type of induced trance technique and made her experiments with it available to science. I began a formation but quit it after a year due to the pandemic.
The COVID period was decisive for me. I lived like many at that time, withdrawn, but was not unlucky at all. On the contrary, it was until now my most intense time with diving into the occult. I merged myself into the secrets of Tarot, began to paint my own deck although I realized, that this is a life task- you cannot just create one card after another. I understood, that I had to meditate over each card, to experience it´s meaning. Through the Alchemy and the Kabbalah finally, I came to Franz Bardons third book The Key to the true Kabbalah. It sat on an old, dusty shelf in our old French vacation residence. I read the first pages and learned that I would have to first start with Initiation into Hermetics (IIH). Some days after, I bought three more books from and about F.B. in an occult book shop in Clermont Ferrand, France. I remember very well the people, which crossed my way to the shop this day: A man staring straight into my eyes, wearing a pentagram necklace, an old lady asking me, if it was green to get to the other side of the street, the nice lady in the book shop, which whom I spent nearly one hour talking. Random, but not for me- it was the day, Franz Bardon took a seat in my heart.
PAA: We initially got talking in regard to the practice of ‘Ecstatic Body Posture’ by Belinda Gore. Can you tell us how you got into the practice of this system and what your experience was?
Tamara: To be honest, I am not familiar with Belinda Gore´s writings but she was a close friend to Dr. Felicitas Goodman. This method was discovered by her, a German cultural anthropologist and trance
researcher. She found out, that, when one assumes traditional ritual body postures, accompanied by a rhythmic stimulus, such as a rattle or drum (200 to 210 bpm), a state of trance with visionary experience occurs. In 1979, Goodman founded the Cuyamungue Institute near Santa Fe to research and teach about ritual body postures and ecstatic trance. She wrote many books on the topic, including one about her Native American vision of dying and death, which she experienced in a spontaneous trance state (“My Last 40 Days”).
Fortunately, I found a trainer in this method (Sabine Rittner, a music therapist in Heidelberg/Germany) and started training, which unfortunately had to be interrupted after a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with the ritual body postures always was embedded in a ritual context, which involved physical and mental preparation, such as symbolic cleansing with incense, invoking the powers of all directions to ask for protection and supportive energies, and resting on a mat at the end of the process. I was very tense for a long time, had too many expectations, thought I would be sucked into a completely different world but unfortunately the experiences were almost completely absent at the beginning. I expected a visual fireworks display. Interestingly, my own experiences went then in a different direction. I learned that it is also possible to experience an auditory trance, in which the rhythm of the rattle expands into a new dimension of sounds, such as the singing of several people, and this transported me to “another place”. My sense of smell changed too. I had particularly impressive experiences with two body postures, each involving a partner. There are also depictions of two people in an archaic body posture. The first time, I felt my hair become dense and long, until it formed a protective shield around my body, then I crawled forward with my head through a grass landscape, I had no extremities, probably I was a snake. Seeing colors was intense, the mountains in front of me were bathed in violet light. This experience differed significantly from a purely visual imagination. The second time was, when we used the method in the forest. It was a body posture of the ancient Aztecs. With it, I grew like a tree towards the sky and prayed to the sun with my whole being. I had never felt such a devoted ardor before.
Sometimes, I was still partially in a trance state during the relaxation at the end of the ritual. For example, I learned about my creation from within the maternal uterus. My father’s blood mixed with my mother’s, formed a large mesh of red crystals, like those of snowflakes. Through this, I was able to learn something important about the circumstances of my birth.
PAA: In Belinda Gore’s other book she focuses on trance. Did you manage to experience this for yourself? How would you explain the method in terms of the mechanics? How does the method
Tamara: I don´t know this book, but there are writings which I studied about the state of trance from Felicitas Goodman and Sabine Rittner. I managed to get there, very few times, but it was worth to wait until it finally happened. They idea “to get somewhere” is not correct, It´s about letting go and being open
without any concepts.
Each individual posture contains a different visionary experience within a fairly large frame. E.g. the experience of the soul journey, healing, fortune telling, metamorphosis (the transformation into a plant or mostly into an animal) and much more. In contrast to the processes of visualization, the being or image perceived in trance is a transpersonal experience where consciousness is expanded beyond the ordinary ego boundaries and also transcends the boundaries of space and time. Important for the ability to partially lose control in visionary experience is the practice, the security donating habituation of the ritual participants to a process that remains as constant as possible. The rhythmic accompaniment of the steady pulse of a rattle has a strong stimulating effect on the central nervous system, both due to the rhythmic stimulation and the extremely high frequency of the noisy components of the rattle sound. This synchronizes the naturally rhythmic physiologies of all participants in the ritual.
According to my trainer Sabine Rittner, there are certain stages of experiencing altered states of
consciousness: In the beginning one often sees geometric shapes such as dots, zigzag stripes, grids,
colours etc.. In the second stage, the people give the perceived figures a religious or emotional meaning. Then you can get into a kind of whirl or tunnel in another transition. When you finally exit the tunnel you find yourself in a different reality. At this stage, people no longer just see unusual things, they become a part of them themselves. After the third phase, they return to the ordinary state of consciousness. All stages do not necessarily have to occur. Very few experience a spontaneous, so-called “peak experience”, a feeling of bliss that changes the person permanently. This usually requires decades of disciplined training and experience, e.g. in meditation. (Description from a writing by Sabine Rittner)
In a study with the ritual postures, highly significant differences in the topographical EEG could be
determined in the comparison of rest and trance. What the test subjects had in common was a
simultaneous increase in low- and high-frequency waves in the theta and beta bands. This does not
occur in the normal waking state of consciousness. The results in general probably represent a more
vivid approach to pictorial structures. With this method of experiencing trance, self-control is
retained. A highly concentrated hyper-alertness develops, a controlled loss of control. (Results of
these studies at: www.SabineRittner.de, link: publications)
PAA: Do you feel the results and experiences people have from these practices are comparable to
that of Western Magical systems? Would you for example be able to recreate the visit to a place or
being or is it very much spontaneous and out of the practitioners control?
Tamara: I have no experience with other western magical systems besides Franz Bardon, but I would say, that the ecstatic ritual postures can be a great support to work on one’s own character. I think many people feel that deep-seated conflict issues come up as soon as they start working on their Soul Mirror. At
least it was the case for me. Felicitas Goodman’s method could speed up this process- you can quickly get to the bottom of things. In general, you get better access to the creative and intuitive potential of the brain, which would not be possible with the controlled thought processes of everyday consciousness.
It can also help to find the connection to powerful resources, to get in touch with protective and empowering energies and beings. It is also important to continue working with the content of the
trance afterwards and not to try to interpret it in a cognitive way of thinking. For example, building a
spiritual relationship with the bear I meet. In that way there may be similarities to magical training.
I cannot yet judge to what extent an experience in such a setting corresponds or differs from that of
a magical evocation, for example.. I can imagine that the evocation or astral travelling in magical training has a more mental character than the trance experience itself. In any case, this would be an interesting
topic for research and discussion.
For me personally being in a group, worked very well and much better than doing the postures alone
at home with a sound recording of a rattle. Some people are more receptive to this type of trance
induction than others. Some also take a little longer, like me for example, I’ve found that I’m kind of a
control freak and don’t let myself go that easily. That’s why the group cohesion, which can only develop after a while, helped me a lot.
Felicitas Goodman wrote “There are so many ways to induce a trance because it is not the stimulus
itself that causes the transition from one state of consciousness to the other, but the expectation
that it will happen. This expectation leads in conjunction with the ritual events lead to a strong
concentration, which in turn is supported by the sensory stimulus. Concentration is a prerequisite for
Are we in a trance when we work magic? The ecstatic postures also require intention, practice and repetition. The more experience you have at it, the greater the likelihood that you can possibly navigate yourself and get to the same places. From my training experience, these were rather unpredictable experiences, which, however, always coincided somehow with my intentions, needs and feelings.
PAA: Following the previous question, what do you feel this method reveals to practitioners?
Does it take them somewhere ‘real’ or does it evoke something for their own mind?
Tamara: I think (hope) I already answered the first part of this question here above.
Bardon suggested a test of the objective in the step 8 section mental wandering: if you can change
what´s happening/ being said or seen by merely imagining something entirely different, then its your
imagination. So, everybody can do this test on their own to verify if it´s “real” or not. You will be certain when it is “real”, no doubt about it.
PAA: I know you are also a practitioner of Franz Bardons system, did you work with any other magical methods prior to discovering Franz Bardons work?
Tamara: No, I have not worked specifically and long-term with another method besides the path of Tibetan Buddhism. But some experiences I have had in the past, form a good basis for his path for me. For
example, I learned to meditate as a Buddhist, to perceive and direct energies in the body through my time with Qi Gung. With Butoh you learn something similar to transition of consciousness into something else. I also did a Shiatsu training. Energy in meridians are always worked with. All of this now benefits me for the exercises with vital energy, impregnation with vital energy, the accumulation of the elemental qualities in the body, etc. Besides this, I have my own habits for personal and spiritual growth too like dream journaling, which I can recommend to everybody. The unique language of our dreams is fantastic and can reveal so much deep insights to us.
PAA: What has been your experience of Franz Bardons Hermetics so far? Any tips/suggestions you
Tamara: It took me a second try to warm up to Franz Bardon’s instructions. The accompanying material by Rawn Clark helped me a lot here. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve followed a path for so long and so consistently. My life has changed a lot since then. In the course of working on the Soul Mirror, I had to deal with shadow areas, some of which I was able to work on relatively quickly, but not without outside help. With a family constellation- and body somatic – therapy, it was easier to deal with. The soul mirror has to be balanced constantly.
Also, my perception has changed, my senses have become sharper, both externally and internally, and I have learned to impregnate spaces, which I use at certain intervals in everyday life. I also try to help people close to me with this method. It’s an adventure and I’m looking forward to all the experiences that are yet to come.
My suggestions would be:
- Re-read passages from IIH from time to time. The content always appears in a different light,
just as it should be at the moment.
- Giving up performance thinking: It´s not about levels like in a school and in the end you get
your grade. Rather, it is layers that are being removed more and more until the true
potential is revealed. This potential has always been there, like a crystal in a mountain that is
slowly being chiseled out
- Stick with it, no matter what: If there is no strength or time for the exercises at all, going into
meditation for 5 minutes is better than nothing
- Being too serious is a crime, my Butoh teacher Masaki Iwana once said
PAA: Thank you very much Tamara for your generous sharing of your journey. We very much appreciate the time and effort.
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