The Original Mysteries of the Spirit

By Troy Marsh

Elder Wisdom from the Kalahari Bushmen.
by Troy Marsh
We now know that we are all Africans.

Anthropologists have long held that belief as they searched for the origin of modern humanity. Geneticists have come to the same conclusion by tracing the entire human family to a single woman who lived roughly 150,000 years ago in Africa. All non-Africans share DNA markers from the original "mitochondrial Eve," which links us to the Bushmen people of South Africa.

From the red sands of the Kalahari, this first group of hunter-gatherers, perhaps a few hundred strong, migrated into Asia, Australia, and other continents across the globe. Now six and a half billion descendents spread across the planet, living in peace or at war, believing in a thousand deities or none at all (see National Geographic, Mar 06).

Bradford Keeney, PhD, renowned scholar, therapist and shaman, has been called the world's leading authority on indigenous spiritual and healing traditions, especially those among the Bushmen people.  He is one of the few the elders call the "Heart of the Spear,", referring to one who has received all of their healing knowledge and spiritual wisdom. His latest book is titled "Shaking Medicine, the Healing Power of Ecstatic Movement."

Keeney calls this wisdom the original mysteries of spirit. The Bushmen people, our earliest ancestors, want him to share the long-lost secrets of spirit with the world. All the world's great religions-from Buddhism and Christianity to Paganism and Shamanism-originated from these mysteries, but subsequent institutions later suppressed them.

What are the original mysteries of spirit? Keeney has documented twelve.

•    First, natural body movements facilitate the flow of universal life-force energy (others call it chi, kundalini or Holy Spirit) that nurtures health, creativity, and everyday performance. Automatic movements and spontaneity, even shaking and trembling, continue to be a major key to the Bushmen tradition.

•    Working the spirit leads to ecstatic expression and a whole body and mind tuning that enables the spirit to learn through higher transformative experiences. Along with the Bushmen, this is exemplified in shakers of St. Vincent, the Umbanda of Brazil, and the sanctified African-American church, among others.

•    Healing conversation is the third mystery. Bushmen shamans tune, heal, and inspire with words, stories, and language filled with spirit. Psychiatrist Milton Erickson's methods are modern examples of the power of healing conversation.

•    Death and resurrection, the fourth mystery, is the process of burying everyday habits, patterns and routines that keep us stuck, thus making way for the birth of a new way of being. The Bushmen concept of thuru, or shapeshifting, is their way of allowing spirit to flow in an ever-changing reality free of structure and rigid control. Even their concept of god has aspects of change; the stable sky god is also the trickster god.

•    The most important beginning gift, says Keeney, is a song. Songs of the Bushmen are gifts to shamans from the "Big God" and are manifestations of the "Big Love" that inspire the shake during tribal dancing. Songs and spirited sounds, the fifth mystery, are the highways to transcendent experiences.

•    The sixth original mystery is the inner healer brought on by the ecstatic body pump. During the tribal dance, the belly tightens and pumps, which serves as the means for pulling out sickness in oneself or others. Life-force energy or n/nom is stored in the belly.  N/nom heats up and rises up the spine as steam to heal and clean, bringing forth higher mysteries of spirit.

•    The strongest Bushmen shamans are able to transmit life-force to others. In sharing the spirit, the seventh mystery, they become lightning rods and conduits of n/nom to others as a means of helping them become spiritually awakened. This kind of transmission is seen in the kundalini and deeksha traditions and among other spiritual cultures.

•    Attending spiritual classrooms is the eighth mystery.  Shamans experience visionary travel where they may learn from spirit guides, ancestors or other unexpected encounters. Here they may learn about healing plants or other important instruction for the individual or tribe.

•    Several mystical traditions know about receiving the divine elixir. Named the golden elixir by the Taoists, the Bushmen call it drinking God's water.  This blissful fountain of life is the ninth mystery, and a person is never the same after drinking from it.

•    Intercourse of the souls or vibrational union is the tenth mystery.  This takes place when two people, usually advanced practitioners of shaking medicine, shake together. It is more exhilarating than conventional forms of intimacy and opens the door to advanced mysteries and adventures in spirit.

•    Entering the sacred library, mystery eleven, occurs after intercourse of the souls causes the spine and body to vibrate at higher frequencies. The master key of higher consciousness, this universal sacred library downloads knowledge directly into one's mind.

•    Bushmen shamans say the most important original mystery is a close encounter with God. There, one is rewired, filled with spirit and reborn as a new person. Getting to the Big God requires climbing the mystical rope to the sky. No words adequately describe this sacred experience (see "Ropes to God: Experiencing the Bushman Spiritual Universe," by Bradford Keeney [2003]).

Perhaps the most wonderful of stories hidden in our genes is that, when unraveled, the tangled knot of our global genetic diversity leads us back to living roots in Africa. If we listen closely, we can hear the rhythm of the drums and the voices of the elders issuing a timely wake-up call to experience the oldest medicine on earth-the ecstatic shaking of the human body-to open our hearts, learn their healing ways, and love each other through the shaking dance.

Troy Marsh is a physical therapist and ecstatic shaker. He is hosting Bradford Keeney for a two-day workshop in December. For more info, visit For information on Keeney's books, visit

This article was originally published on December 3, 2007.