Dr. Jane Kent practices Wicca and High Magic in concert with traditional Western psychotherapy.


photo by: Kali Bardi

On this episode of Skeptiko, I’m joined by Dr. Jane Kent to talk about her new book,  The Goddess and the Shaman: The Art & Science of Magical Healing:

Alex Tsakiris: …when I talk to people who are deep into magic, Wicca or any of those things… and I’m not a Christian, I’m not a Buddhist, I’m not a religious person, but if a Christian comes to me and says, “Hey, you know what? It’s all about love and it’s all about selfless service.” I get that.

Dr. Jane Kent: Nothing wrong with that.

Alex Tsakiris: Right. But here’s the thing, I may think that their knowledge of history is pretty lame and I’d probably push them on the historicity of Jesus. And I may think they’re kind of closed-minded about how their sacred text have been twisted by institutions for control and manipulation, but what they’re saying speaks to my heart. Versus, if I speak to someone and they practice magic, and the first thing they tell me is about Aleister Crowley and “do what thou wilt” — I don’t get it. Love, selfless service speaks to my heart. “Do what thou wilt”, I can’t get there. It comes back and it starts sounding a lot like power, control…

Dr. Jane Kent: Self-indulgence. I do talk about that in the book, about Crowley’s approach to things. I go into quite a lot of detail about that. But yeah, love is at the basis of spiritual reality, so I think people who focus on that, good on them. That’s fine. But Huhn says that the whole Jesus story, the whole basis of Christianity is actually taken from the Egyptian text and that in Egypt and Greece, that the mystery plays and the mystery tradition were all about understanding that coming into the physical world is coming into really like death. What we think about death as death is not how those people saw it. The physical world is death and the spiritual world is life.


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Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Dr. Jane Kent to skeptiko-Join-the-Discussion-3Skeptiko. Jane is a therapist with a postgraduate degree in counseling and psychotherapy and a doctorate in social ecology from the University of West Sydney in Australia. And she has a new book out titled The Goddess and the Shaman which really shatters that nice sounding academically sanitized bio that I just read for you because as you’ll hear, her book documents her own “dynamic tension”, to use her words, with the Western paradigms of health and healing and her unexpected encounters with extended consciousness realms, high magic, Wicca, and shamanism and, in particular, how she’s managed to meld all that into what she calls the “fragility of therapy.” It’s quite a journey and quite an interesting, interesting book.

Jane, welcome to Skeptiko. Thanks so much for joining me.

Dr. Jane Kent: Thank you.

Alex Tsakiris: You know what I thought we might do because we’re talking around what you do and maybe it’s best to give people just a real jump in the deep end of the pool kind of taste of what it’s all about, here’s a chapter that you sent me very early on, actually Mike forwarded it to me. I think it’s a fantastic story. It’s Chapter 12 from your book about Zach and Josephine. Do you remember that story?

Dr. Jane Kent: Yes.

Alex Tsakiris: So this is a case where Dr. Kent actually relates a synopsis of these therapeutic sessions she’s had that venture into some of these other realms and how that can be brought to bear in therapy and how it can help people better their lives in ways that we just really can’t imagine how a traditional Western approach could do it. So, best just to dive in and tell folks about Josephine and Zach.

Dr. Jane Kent: It’s a terribly tragic story, but Josephine came to see me because she was having outbursts of rage and also panic attacks. Her partner found it extremely difficult to live with all of this so he paid for her to come and have some therapeutic treatment. She had been living in Western Australia and came back to the far north coast of New South Wales to find a therapist, and eventually she found me.

It just struck me when she came for one of the early sessions, I just noticed that she was a very beautiful girl but dressed in a very plain masculine way, like wearing delivery man outfit, shorts and a shirt and I just thought that was a bit of a strange dichotomy there. So I decided to work with that and eventually, she told me that she had had a brother who was around her age who had suicided in very tragic circumstances. He was 11 when he actually suicided and it was because he had been caught stealing at school and his parents were told that they ought to chastise him severely for this. Anyway, they did that and the next few minutes he walked into the parents’ wardrobe and took out his father’s gun and killed himself in the wardrobe.

Alex Tsakiris: As a parent, just your absolute worst nightmare, that’s why this story was just absolutely chilling to me because we all struggle with where to draw the line and discipline. And we have institutions that come and say gee, you know, you’re really not doing your parenting the way you could. It was just a little window into what really sometimes goes on in the minds of young people. But please, go ahead and finish the story and what this did to this family.

Dr. Jane Kent: Oh, it was completely devastating. Everybody was traumatized, in profound shock and Josephine was hospitalized after this event, and for quite a few weeks, she was teetering on the verge of death herself. Anyway, she did recover.

She came to see me and as she was talking to me, I had a vision…

Alex Tsakiris: Now she came to see you what, 10, 15 years later right?

Dr. Jane Kent: Yes. She was in her 20s when she came to see me; it was like 10 years later. I’d have to check the case notes to tell you exactly because I haven’t got it in front of me. But as she was talking to me, I had a vision behind her, a very young boy standing in a desolate field all covered with weeds. So I asked her about this and she told me that her younger brother had suicided in that way and I began to think that the panic attacks she was suffering and the outbursts of rage might be connected to him somehow. As we explored it, I became more and more convinced about it.

What had happened after the suicide, the whole family had just closed down and never talked about Zach again and it was like he hadn’t even really existed. And so I told her it’d be a good idea to go out to the grave and see what was happening, so she had to drive out of the country town we were working in about 20 kilometers outside the town. They lived on a multiple occupancy community and the grave was there on the community and it was just totally neglected, covered with weeds and no headstone or anything. So she decided that they needed to do something about that. The family needed to start talking about it and doing something about it.

As all that unfolded, it became clearer and clearer what was happening in Josephine’s life was Zach trying to communicate what he needed from her, and that was all about honoring him and setting up a proper gravesite. And when all of that happened, when the father and mother became involved in it, they put a big headstone out there with his name on it and the date of his death and they kept it simple and all of a sudden all of her symptoms just disappeared. The panic attacks stopped, the outbursts of rage and other physical symptoms that she had been suffering just all disappeared.

I can’t give you photographic proof or evidence that this actually happened, but it was quite convincing circumstantial evidence that Zach had been attached to her in spirit form and trying to get her attention and trying to communicate what he needed in order to move on into the other reality, rather than being earthbound, so to speak.

Alex Tsakiris: Right. Although you’ve kind of tied it up into a nice History Channel spooky story there, but I like the way you treated it in the book because you actually leave open some really interesting twists at the end and the kind of whimsical way that she says, “Oh, you know, and I made a vow to light a candle every year and remember Zach, but you know what? I don’t even do it anymore. I don’t even think about it.” And I thought what does this say because in a way, it can kind of roll back the whole story into what is Zach’s real needs on the other side and why would we even suspect that someone on the other side would have a need? Or was the need really to give this to his sister as a way of kind of relieving some of the things that she had experienced of other members of her family. So let’s kind of tackle that one first and there’s a big, big follow-up question I have there as well, but what do you think about that?

Dr. Jane Kent: I think that he was probably too young to be thinking that way, because he was stuck at the age of 11 and I think he just felt totally abandoned by his family and needed their recognition; that’s my view anyway, but there could have been other elements in all of it. He could have been trying to help his sister to move on. I can’t say definitively whether that was the case or not. But, you know, an 11-year-old suiciding is a pretty horrific thing.

Alex Tsakiris: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Jane Kent: I think the last thing he remembered of his parents while he was just leaving the body was being chastised and told how bad he was and I think that he needed to hear that he was actually a good person worth of respect. He had a contact with his sister. They had a real contact in life in the body, and I think that he went to her because he thought she’d be the most open to helping him and hearing what needed to be done.

Alex Tsakiris: How would you characterize or categorize this type of work, Jane, that you did? Is this shamanism? Is it magic? If we had to put a label on it, it sounds to me just like after death communication. I’ve talked to a bunch and bunch of mediums and part of a medium experiment that I did with medium researchers and that’s what these people do all day long. Is it just pure mediumistic after-death communication or is there some shamanistic aspect to it, or am I kind of splitting hairs there and even the definitional kind of thing is it doesn’t matter?

Dr. Jane Kent: Well, I think shamanism is a method of altering consciousness and being able to work successfully on the other subtle level of reality; I don’t think there’s anything more mysterious about it than that. Some people have to do a ritual in order to gain that level of consciousness and in tribal societies, that’s the common way of doing it, through the spending, the intellectualizing part of the mind and going straight to the part of their mind that can communicate telepathically with the subtle reality, whether that might be drumming, dancing, deep meditation, or whatever. But some people, in the west in particular, can just kind of click over and work from that level in a more natural way. Well, I don’t know if I’d say more natural way, but an easier way than spending a few hours drumming in order to change consciousness, if you know what I mean.

Alex Tsakiris: So you’re saying it’s really kind of all about the net effect of reaching those extended consciousness realms and the words that we attach to it, in terms of mediumistic communication versus shamanism versus…

Dr. Jane Kent: Yeah. Well, it’s not versus anything really, it’s all the same thing in my view. It’s being able to work in the subtle reality in whatever way. A lot of people would disagree with that because they see shamanism as something that involves ceremonial and taking purity or whatever in order to change consciousness. But I don’t think it’s always necessary to do that and maybe a more modern way is just being able to… my experience is being conscious on two levels at the same time.

In Josephine’s case I was working with her in the physical word, but also, conscious of another consciousness behind her in the subtle world and I thought that was important. That sort of indicated that this person was attached to her in spirit form and that was probably because of the panic attacks, heart palpitations and other things that she was suffering, outbursts of rage like we’ve already talked about.

Alex Tsakiris: I guess one of the things that I get hung up on when I try and approach this extended consciousness stuff from a somewhat scientific standpoint, and I realize right off the bat that that’s a hopeless proposition because once we step out of the materialistic kind of drive to measure and control and once we give that up, we can’t really reintroduce it, but we all try and do that because we like the comfort of our little consensus reality, scientific hold the ruler up, how does this compare with that? But the problem I always run into is we wind of presupposing so many things about these other realms. I can tell you, people that I’ve directly spoken with and worked with who have entered those extended consciousness realms for the purpose of doing therapeutic work and have a total different perspective, a total Christian overlay, and say this is really the work of Jesus.

I worked with this one woman, and she came back and proved to me amazing results that she was able to achieve and actually documented in a little experiment that we did and yet, that was her overlay. And then you’ll find people that will have another overlay that is an alien or UFO overlay. And yet, again, spoke to Mary Rodwell there in Australia and she does spiritual work with folks in a lot of cases, and again, it’s with an others alien overlay. I think this is one of the things that is challenging to me and to a lot of people is how much do we really know and how much can we pretend that we know about these extended consciousness realms?

Dr. Jane Kent: That’s a big question. I don’t know everything about this, I only know what I know, but in my experience of being into the subtle worlds and what I’ve found is that, for example, great forests that exist in the physical reality, the dying actually exist in the nonphysical world and I believe that the physical world is the end point of energy from different levels of the subtle world like the physical world, the Aztecs describe it as the painted world. It’s not real. We create it through our perception.

I did read something years ago that was quite interesting. I can’t remember the source, but it was about people who had been blind from birth and gained their sight, they don’t actually perceive the physical world as we perceive it. The article said that what they see originally is just swirls of energy and color and that they have to be taught in order to see the physical world in the way that most people see it; we all know that people see color differently, for example.

I think the physical world is the least reliable of the worlds, that’s why it was called “The Painted World.” It’s actually an illusion. We create an illusion in order to live in it, in order to experience to physicality, in order to work through certain things that we come to work through. One person’s reason for being might be they’ve come to learn how to be a good mother, for example, and that’s what their focus in this life is on and there’s spiritual growth in that. If you’re following a spiritual design or a spiritual path, I believe that we decide on that before we come here. That we make up our minds about what we want to learn in a particular incarnation and we struggle to learn it because we’re all imperfect. We’re not saints. We’re not angels. We’re a struggling humanity trying to sort out what’s reality and trying to refine ourselves. That’s our goal, to refine ourselves spiritually, I believe.

Alex Tsakiris: That’s all well enough; it’s just we’ve all heard that so many times and it has so many different shades and flavors that it almost becomes worn out in some ways and kind of loses some of its meaning. I think that’s why some of the times we’re trying to find some deeper understanding to that. I know on this show what we’ve often done is tried to bring science back into the equation.

I just interviewed a guy I have a lot of respect for, Dr. Jeff Long. He’s a near-death experience researcher and he’s just written this new book, and it’s about near-death experiencers’ encounters with God. So this is a medical scientist, not a religious guy. Not coming at it from a Christian perspective or anything like that, just someone who has collected 4,000 cases and has meticulously, with a medical survey, gone through them to try and get an understanding of what people are experiencing with regard to God. I don’t know, that’s the kind of approach that to me, it is satisfying in the sense that it gives me some grounding other than just to repeat these things that I’ve heard that we all have a purpose, we all have a mission and we set it up. I’m not saying that’s not true, I’m just saying how do we explore that in a way that we can feel some degree of confidence in beyond the confidence of the person who is delivering the message?

So I can sit down with you in a therapy room and I can get a good feeling about you. You can tell me something about my father who’s sitting over my shoulder and then we can go from there and we have this connection, but a lot of us, we want something a little bit more than that. We want to know on something more approaching a scientific level what’s going on because I can then leave your office and go down the street to the next person I encounter, and they can tell me everything about what you did was wrong and that there’s a different reality in those extended consciousness realms.

Dr. Jane Kent: Well, science is basically materialistic study. It doesn’t really go beyond this. Even if you’re collecting information about near-death experiences, can that take you into the world beyond the physical? I don’t think so.

Alex Tsakiris: I think it can help you navigate that. The same way when you were talking earlier, Jane, and then you said yeah, there’s this realm, but you have to be careful; what does that mean? There’s some laws. There’s some particular set of rules that one must follow.

Dr. Jane Kent: No, not really. If you open yourself up psychically, then you can open yourself up to spirit possession, that’s what I’m talking about and that’s not a good thing for anybody. People who want to explore in that field need to protect themselves and need to know how to do that before they venture forth because it can be dangerous. Spirit possession can cause all kinds of illnesses, in my view, even cancer, all kinds of things. It’s not something that people should play around with.

Alex Tsakiris: That’s a lot to say. I mean, what do we do with that? How do we understand that? That is a very specific warning that implies a certainty about how things work over there, do you see what I mean? How we kind of jump back and forth between saying well, you know… what if somebody comes out and says there’s no such thing really, as spirit possession, per se and that your spirit can never really be possessed. There’s no monovalent spirits out there. Someone could easily say that, right? And they do say that.

Dr. Jane Kent: Why would they say it? They wouldn’t have any knowledge of it, it’s just their speculation.

Alex Tsakiris: There are people who have claimed to have reached those same extended consciousness realms and said there’s nothing like that. There’s no evil in that way. Now I’m inclined…

Dr. Jane Kent: Of course there’s evil. Evil exists because good exists. We live in a jewel reality, so we wouldn’t know goodness when you’re evil, that’s what I’m trying to say. Evil definitely exists and to say that it doesn’t is just ludicrous and naïve.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay. I like this.

Dr. Jane Kent: It’s what I wish were reality, but it’s not really reality. The physical world only exists because it has a balance between polarities, so it’s a jewel reality. If we didn’t know evil, how would we know good? We wouldn’t be able to choose or decide in any way, you know what I mean?

Alex Tsakiris: I do know what you mean, I just don’t know how we really approach that. I’m inclined to agree with some of what you’re saying, but… I’ll just give you an example. If you talked to people in the nondual community, the people that kind of argue…

Dr. Jane Kent: Okay.

Alex Tsakiris: Go ahead. Go ahead. I mean, there’s a lot of people that have done a tremendous amount of work, work as in meditating for thousands of hours in well-established traditions. Look at the Zen tradition or you look at the Vedic tradition. There’s the Tibetan tradition, but Tibetan get into more of a magical thing and stuff like that, but you take other ones where all that is taken out. All that stuff that you’re talking about is basically stripped away and it’s nada, nada, nada. Don’t look for any of that. Look beyond that. Look beyond that. And they claim an understanding of this extended reality that doesn’t match up. What they would say, I think, is that all this stuff that you’re playing with is just another illusion that we need to get past and that you’re spending all your time in this kind of halfway between what really you’re trying to get to and our material world there. So is that a fair and viable kind of ontological map of what’s going on.

Dr. Jane Kent: Oh, I don’t think so, but anyway, I’m speaking from my own experience, not their experience. I take a more Egyptian view of reality. In the Egyptian view, the physical world is the tomb. We are spiritual beings. We come here and we’re encased in the tomb of the physical body and the reason that happens is we’re learning hard things sometimes. It’s all about learning. I guess if you’re a spiritual master, you can transcend all of the stuff that goes on in the physical world, but I think if someone has a spirit attachment and they’re ill because of it, why wouldn’t you want to help them become free of that? But there’s some ideology. I don’t really have an ideology as such. I’m attracted to weaker, but I’m not an (inaudible 24:59) about it. I really trust my own experience more than anything else. I know that what is said, you transcend this world through meditation. You probably can, but I don’t know that that’s very useful.

In my book I talk about that we are created from the essence of the bodies. Divinity actually exists in us at a deep level and that we are seeking to become in contact with that sense of divinity and we do that through our soul self. We become soul-infused beings but understanding reality and working in ways that help us come to terms with it and help refine our understanding of what the spirit actually means.

There’s a writer called Alvin Boyd Huhn who writes about this. He’s a bit of a ranter, but he’s an Egyptian scholar so I trust pretty much what he says and that is that the Egyptians described coming from womb to tomb and that’s what happens. We’re very restricted in the physical body. I found that when I was outside my physical body, there was a sense of liberation, joy, freedom and a completely different kind of feeling as a nature of who I am as a being. So I learned that my physical body is not my real self, I just inhabit it for a time in order to learn certain things, often traumatic and hard things to learn, that’s all part of it. So what we’re seeking to do is to refine ourselves to become in touch with that divine spark inside us.

When I heard people talk about this in the past, I was always mystified about people saying we are really divine beings, but understanding how the goddess works makes it more feasible, sensible and logical. We’re created from the essence of the goddess so we have that essence inside us, so that’s why I follow a goddess path rather than the typical male divinity path of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, the classic world religions. It make a lot more sense to me that the divinity that creates the physical world in all its aspects is feminine divinity, not a masculine one.

Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk about that a little bit because I know this is on the back of the mind of a lot of people who are listening. It’s always right behind the scenes a lot of times for me when I talk to people who are deep into magic, Wicca or any of those things and that’s that I’m not a Christian, but I’m not a Buddhist, I’m not a religious person, but if a Christian comes to me and says, “Hey, you know what? It’s all about love. It’s all about selfless service.” I get that.

Dr. Jane Kent: Nothing wrong with that.

Alex Tsakiris: Right. But here’s the thing, I may think that their knowledge of history is pretty lame and I’d probably push them on the historicity of Jesus. And I may think they’re kind of closed-minded about how their sacred text have been twisted by the institutions and control and manipulation, but what they’re saying speaks to my heart versus if I speak to someone and they practice magic and the first thing they’re going to want to tell me is about Aleister Crowley and do what thou wilt, I don’t get it. And then we can spin it around and tell all this other stuff, but I don’t get that. Love, selfless service speaks to my heart. Do what thou wilt, I can’t get there. It comes back and it starts sounding a lot like power, control…

Dr. Jane Kent: Self-indulgence. I do talk about that in the book, about Crowley’s approach to things. I go into quite a lot of detail about that. But yeah, love is at the basis of spiritual reality, so I think people who focus on that, good on them. That’s fine. But Huhn says that the whole Jesus story, the whole basis of Christianity is actually taken from the Egyptian text and that in Egypt and Greece, that the mystery plays and the mystery tradition were all about understanding that coming into the physical world is coming into really like death. What we think about death as death is not how those people saw it. The physical world is death and the spiritual world is life.

Alex Tsakiris: But does that matter? I don’t think that matters. From my vantage point, the fact that millions and millions of people connect with Christ consciousness on a way that deeply affects their life and causes spiritual transformation for them, that’s the evidence that I care about more than I care about some wanky history of the historical Jesus and all that. And that’s what I think people struggle with and that’s why I think Christianity, the real deeper spiritual Christianity is so misunderstood. What they’re saying, without even realizing it is that it’s all about Christ consciousness and Christ consciousness is real and from my experience with these people, I have no way to dispute that. Yes, Christ consciousness seems to be very real in these people’s lives in a way that we would all look at and point to and say well, that seems to be spirituality in its purest form.

Dr. Jane Kent: Well, I would not agree that there was a historical Jesus or historical Christ. I think that this is all the mystery tradition stolen from the Egyptians.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, what does it matter? I’m saying that obviously, (inaudible 31:22)?

Dr. Jane Kent: What is Christ consciousness?

Alex Tsakiris: The easiest way to describe it again is through the accounts of people who have a near-death experience. The nice thing about the near-death experience is we can really kind of put some alligator clips on the experiment here and we can say these…

Dr. Jane Kent: And they all say they met Jesus at the end of the tunnel, is that the story?

Alex Tsakiris: No, they don’t all say, but enough of them say that for us to then say we have to start looking seriously at the reality of that Christ consciousness. I just don’t see how we can then, like you did, marry that back and say oh yeah, but we’ve already looked at the history books. Jesus Christ, the way he’s written in the Book of Mark didn’t exist. Yeah, we all know that isn’t true, but we don’t understand how this Christ consciousness figure seems to work for all these people.

Dr. Jane Kent: Well, I would suggest that what they’re actually coming in contact with is their own soul.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, you could say that about anything. You could say that about all the practice, all the experiences that you’ve had. We could say that about Josephine and the earlier story. We could say that about every story in your book.

Dr. Jane Kent: Why would you say that?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, we could and that’s what the Buddhists would say, right? The Buddhists would say the drop of water in the ocean and you can look at all the little droplets and make up all sorts of stories about what they’re really doing and how they’re interacting, but it’s really just one ocean of consciousness, right?

Dr. Jane Kent: I’m not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean the mind of divinity, is that what you’re talking about? We all exist in the mind of divinity?

Alex Tsakiris: I’m saying if you overlay some kind of hierarchy that behind it is a higher and higher soul or a higher, higher coming together of the consciousness, well then we don’t really have anything left to talk about. Then we’re just saying it’s all a creation underneath that higher hierarchal structure, right? Because when I pushed you and said well, this Christ consciousness thing and you said it’s all just a reflection of their soul, right?

Dr. Jane Kent: Well, I’d say people who see “Jesus” standing at the end of the tunnel in the light are actually experiencing an encounter with their own soul, not Jesus because Jesus, in my view, doesn’t actually exist. But the soul certainly exists and a lot of the attributions of the soul are exactly what people would attribute to Christ consciousness, but impersonal loving kind of radiance and that’s also an attribute of the goddess. So I do talk about (inaudible 34:23) in the book.

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