Welcome to the Mystery Show
Settle in, this is a longer read…
Sacred Ecstatics follows an old recipe in a new way that welcomes a remarkable diversity of sacred names, metaphors, chants, songs, dances, and endless forms of expression that permeate the many cultures, places, and spaces where we go to help people get spiritually cooked. Like a rolling First Creation stone, our work is continuously influenced, inspired, altered, and reinvented by each gathering and visionary journey that bring unexpected mystical gifts and teachings. At the same time we have no attachment to whether Sacred Ecstatics finds a stable form or keeps changing. When you follow your rope to God and hand your life over to the big mystery you cannot know how, when, or where you will be directed to host the spiritual fire.
Over the years we have experimented with many ways of conducting intensives that last one evening, a couple of days, or a full week. We have called these gatherings by different names including Life Force Theatre, Shaking Medicine Show, Shamanic Cabaret, Mojo Mystery Spa, Rehab for the Soul, Seiki Circus, and the Burning Bush Festival. These shifting names echo the changing we experience as we enter First Creation in each intensive. From the theatre we might experientially go to a mystical carnival or we may land in a shaker meeting, a sanctified shout, or a Kalahari dance revival. Anything can happen in the vast room that hosts Sacred Ecstatics.
Once in Paris we spontaneously recreated the French cabaret of the 1890s, while in London we brought back the fire of its flame-throwing preachers of the 18th Century. On another night at a historic mountain ranch in Arizona, the Kalahari dance with its way of singing, clapping, and throwing nails of n/om spontaneously broke loose under the moonlight. In New York City the ghosts of Tin Pan Alley and the great secular shamanic song catchers like Gershwin, Porter, Kern, and Sondheim graced our stage, while in Amsterdam Brad played the Mississippi blues in homage to Van Gogh’s starry night of the soul. Soon after, the fervor of Franz Liszt fever was reignited in a Budapest ruin pub when a Hungarian folk dancer rediscovered his life force. Down in Mexico City, we invited Frida Kahlo’s life to give testimony to the magical transformation of suffering into creative art. The Blue House she shared with Diego Rivera, with its vibrantly painted floors and walls, inspired us to tear down all boring, lifeless barriers that block us from living with more creative emotion and motion under a vaster blue sky.
Sometimes we take people on mystical visionary journeys, at other times we conduct ecstatic healing sessions, and sometimes we work the spirit all day long. The only thing we demand of ourselves is that we start with no plan or purpose other than crossing into the big room to get ecstatically moved and spiritually cooked. We focus on striking a match and once the fire is set, we simply get out of the way and let divine mystery direct and perform. Our matchbox includes sanctified music, spontaneous dance and movement, improvised chants, and spirit driven percussion. Brad is a fire-setting improvisational pianist and drummer while Hillary is a n/om dancer, chanter, and singer. Whether talking, making music, or dancing, all action is dedicated to placing everyone inside the fire of mystery.
Our ecstatic visionary journeys may sound like a wild mix of mystical induction, shamanic combustion, and magical theatre production. These are improvised and different each time but always include changing rhythms and music. With a musical background, sound effects, and theatrical delivery, we once led a group to imagine a London chapel no longer in existence. As we fantasized walking through its secret passageway to the back entrance of another building, we entered to see a red curtain opening. A special announcement proclaimed that a mystical song would be given to everyone. We then shocked the group by belting out a musical theatre song with altered lyrics to the melody, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”
Mixing metaphors, genres, themes, lyrics, songs, rhythms, and dreams, we create a space so large that show business and mystical transmittance need not be separated. In the changing of First Creation, all venues are avenues to Sacred Ecstatics. What matters is that these musical-mystical journeys expand and heat up the room, making things vast and hot enough so anything can happen from visionary experience to spontaneous healing and whole being transformation. When things are really cooking, someone may receive an infusion of the sacred vibration that is pulsing in the celebratory ecstatic atmosphere.
Spontaneous Spiritual Combustion
This is not merely wild entertainment or radical amusement; it is an example of the way First Creation changing can move us to and through any performance form, all in the service of spontaneous spiritual combustion. There are times when we get deeply in a groove and hang out for a while. We especially find this true for the sacred spaces of the ecstatic lineages with which we have relationship. For example, we often ride the gospel song tracks of old school sanctified black churches, reaching as far back to their earliest roots as possible. We also enter into the Kalahari way of archery and carpentry, shooting arrows and nails of mystery into welcoming hearts. Similarly, a Japanese seiki jutsu bench can float into the room and send you bobbing down the life force stream. We do all of this freed from the heat-constraining habits of institutionally (dis)stilled beliefs and wing-clipped practices. In other words, we are not attached to anything other than the rope to God.
We acknowledge, however, that when we are in the midst of any particular genre of spiritual expression, it truly feels like “this is it” or “this is our true spiritual home” and we can’t imagine exiting. There are moments when we are sure we will pour Kalahari sand in a warehouse and invite folks to a regularly scheduled n/om dance. At other times we are ready to open a storefront Holy Ghost Clinic or a seiki jutsu hall of non-subtle energetics. Over the years our web site changed every few months. We have been “the mojo doctors” of New Orleans, the seiki jutsu practitioners of California, the shaking medicine doctors of Toronto, the café mystics of Budapest, and the Life Force Theatre performers of New York City. It took us a while to realize that we live in First Creation and that Sacred Ecstatics is a name that enables us to keep all of this on a stage vast enough to welcome any known or unknown way of getting spiritually cooked.
Since we place our hand in the hand of the changing (wo)man of First Creation, we allow the changing One to have his/her way with us and this means we must be open minded and open hearted enough to allow the wind of big room mystery to carry us to wherever it is blowing fire. We might find ourselves suddenly transported to African ceremony, a juke joint, a Viennese waltz, a Mexican mariachi bandstand, a Balinese trance dance, an improve comedy show, a circus act, or something out-of-the-box and not yet named. This is ultimate living, the practical and theatrical spiritual cooking enacted on the ever-changing mystery stage for every age.
We recognize that First Creation can be disorienting to newcomers, as it should be. If you are stuck believing one way is the only way or equally stuck with the assumption that one particular way can never be a worthy ambassador of the singular ropeway, then the changing of First Creation is going to shake you up. Rather than resist and raise your fist, make friends with a First Creation handshake. Sacred Ecstatics may irritate word trumping and thumping Christians even though we sing old hymns with heart and soul. We are not moved by any admonishment of emotion in favor of the stilled and overly tilled word. We also may equally irritate New Age evangelizers who are rigidly gluten-free, sugar-free, and God-free. We simply dismiss all talk and thought that lacks the fire of the changing God(ess) of First Creation. May a big ecstatic firestorm be their fate, clean their slate, and feed them a plate of truly baked holy cake.
We recognize Ibn al-’Arabi as a fellow sojourner to First Creation. When he heard a mysterious voice call out to him, he fled and hid for several days in a cemetery, where he had a vision in which he met Jesus, Moses, and Mohammed. In this formative mystical experience he was taught that all prophets, saints, mystics, and anyone else admitted to ultimate mystery are representatives of the same primordial religion. We are dedicated to keeping afloat what he wrote: “There is no knowledge except that taken from God, for He alone is the Knower,” and that those who directly experience divine mystery have “no disagreement in knowledge of God, since they took it from God.”
Tripped, Flipped, and Dipped
If you want the diverse flavor and fervor of the sacred fire without a rude observer saying you immediately need a life preserver, then say hello to Sacred Ecstatics. This is more than enjoying a mystical firework show, because the way of ecstatic living requires you show the divine you are serious about moving past the past, taking a trickster talk fast, and being cast on stage with a script that is tripped, flipped, and dipped in the changing of First Creation. Enter the Bushman fire of the oldest ancestors no matter the color of your skin for we are one in eternity and the names of separation only exist when Second Creation tears us apart. Join us under the brush arbor of a long lost revival and make yourself ready to party. Do so without concern over whether you will sing “Precious Lord,” “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” or “Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.” In summary, all that can be known about a gathering of people who come for an intensive in Sacred Ecstatics is that you won’t know what will happen other than there will be a lot of changing and spiritual cooking going on.
When the moment strikes during an intensive, we may invite someone to come forward and receive ecstatic healing. We usually hold one or both of the recipient’s hands as our sacred vibration is shared and circulated, providing a handheld bridge to First Creation. Fresh metaphors arise and turn into unexpected life themes, poems, or songs. As a new foundation and room is built to house more creative life and mystery, we prescribe action that helps sustain the changing that has arrived. You might be advised to write your name backwards on a leaf that is dropped into a lake, make a crown for your pencil, or write a poem for your next teardrop. Whatever is said, sung, moved, or shaken will likely trip you into a mystery fall that assures the arrival of an ecstatic spring. Everyone is surprised to find that whatever heartfelt emotions, radical changes, and eureka moments take place for the person we are working with also take place for others in the room. It is as if each volunteer for healing is an elected representative of the whole group, chosen by mystery to deliver a First Creation teaching to us all.
Like all spiritual captains, we know when to change a tune as a means of steering journeys up and down the musical roadways. Our room is big enough to hold and cook any kind of song, from children’s tunes to a classic love song, cowboy sing-along, Motown hit, Broadway skit, or old sanctified hymn. At a Sacred Ecstatics gathering you might hear the sounds of Beethoven, Chet Baker, Erroll Garner, George Gershwin, Mahalia Jackson, the Mississippi Mass Choir, Cole Porter, Shirley Horn, Johnny Cash, Pavarotti, Albertina Walker, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Ray Charles, Thomas A. Dorsey, Tito Puente, Stevie Wonder, Shirley Horn, Zulu drumming, Guarani stomping, Kalahari clapping, or other field recordings Brad has made of ecstatic music found throughout the world—all in the same day. Our music and rhythm repertoire is unconstrained, unfiltered, and unlimited, though any particular choice of live or recorded performance is always determined by the ecstatic pulling of our ropes to mystery.
Our greatest treasure is our own special play list—the songs we have received in visionary journeys to the mystical music rooms. Not surprisingly it is an eclectic playlist that includes African American gospel hymns, jazz, and other contemporary genres. Because these songs are especially anointed and spiritually charged, their impact on people is often miraculous. Though our Sacred Ecstatics community is scattered across the globe, we are bound together by these mystically blessed song ropes that have lassoed our hearts.
It is not uncommon for unexplainable events to take place at Sacred Ecstatics intensives that range from microphones bursting into flames, fire alarms spontaneously going off, light bulbs exploding, and even lightning striking the building, all of which have happened in different venues around the world. Perhaps the oddest occurrence of all took place at a farm in the English countryside when during the transmission of a nail of n/om, a loud knocking sound was heard at the window. When we looked outside all we could see was a large hare standing upright and knocking its head against the door. We took it as a message that everyone should stop trying so hard to get ahead; instead, just open the door and ecstatically hop into mystery. Then the bliss you have long missed will raise each hair on your arm and mystically attract a hare at the farm.
An Original Composition
Playwright and author Nor Hall described this ecstatic work as “a way of dissolving the bundling boards that people erect to keep themselves separate.” She adds, “Each encounter is an original composition” and gives the feeling that “something from elsewhere/elsewhen has powerfully rearranged us in relation to each other.” It matters less to us whether Sacred Ecstatics is regarded as the introduction of a unique spirituality or whether it brings renewal to what already exists, or both. At its best, it provides a new kind of syncretic hybrid of transformative art and religion that is rooted to diverse ecstatic lineages that are all welcome to a performance space without boundaries. Here sanctified gospel music intermingles with the American songbook, as absurd comedy tickles praise-based feelings and improvised ecstatic healings. What is most important is that our work and way of expressing it evokes sacred action and does so by serving the changing of First Creation. It offers a jazz of spirituality and an ongoing improvisation of ecstatic living. In this fervor of spirited expression and experience, Sacred Ecstatics invites you to join the chorus line of the spiritually cooked ancestors who dance across all space and time.