Mara'akame Jonathan Merritt in his traditional garb

Jonathan Merritt

Portland, Oregon

Jonathan Merritt

Portland, Oregon

From the time I was a small child, I was engaged in a spiritual quest. I was always aware of a Divine Presence, something unnamable that invigorated the world. Like many people, I saw that Presence as separate from ordinary reality. I sought to connect with it mainly through the study of sacred texts. I prayed and meditated to transcend the world. While I had some brief experiences of ecstatic connection, my spiritual quest was primarily conceptual.

In 1996, our daughter, Maya, was born dead—for ten minutes without pulse or breath. When the doctors told us that she could not survive, my intellectual engagement with spirit became real. Suddenly, it was clear that we had to throw ourselves into spiritual action in order to recover our daughter.

We did everything we could think of as Maya teetered between life and death. We called a Qi Jong master who got Maya’s kidneys to flow. A local shaman contacted Maya’s spirit and received instructions for what we needed to do. We raised a prayer that went around the world and included people of many spiritual traditions and even some atheists who had never prayed before.

And Spirit responded.  People arrived like angels to give us help. Many dreamed of her and told us she would be okay. Money and gifts flowed in. Maya made rapid progress and on the thirteenth day, we took Maya home alive.

Time passed. Maya had many difficulties though she was generally a joyful being. Jennifer, my wife, found Eliot Cowan’s book, Plant Spirit Medicine. She felt that, perhaps, Eliot could help Maya and arranged for us to receive treatment from him in Santa Barbara.

Eliot looked at Maya and looked at us. He said, “Maya is a magnificent being. There’s nothing she needs from me right now. But you two can use some help so you can help her achieve her destiny. So, I’ll treat you for the next five days.”

On the third day, Eliot told us that he kept getting this message that we were being called to a path of spiritual healing. I was skeptical but Jennifer immediately agreed to go.

When Jennifer went to a pilgrimage site in Mexico the following November, I was wracked with worry. She returned glowing. She was certain that we should follow this path.  

I was called to a pilgrimage in California the following spring. Despite my misgivings, I began the fasting protocols. Then, my fourteen-year-old daughter, Madeline, was swept by a riptide into the ocean from a beach at the base of the mountain I was to attend. The waves tossed her for forty-five minutes in that cold water before a passing surfer pitched in and miraculously pulled her out.

I knew that I had to go, at least to give thanks that her life was saved. Still, I was resistant. None of this made sense to my intellectual view. But, on the first night of the pilgrimage, Grandfather Fire gave an audience. He spoke to my heart. I was enlivened, embraced by that Divine Presence.

I engaged the Sacred Mountain and felt that magnificence and generosity. I made the pilgrimage to Grandmother Ocean and felt Her vastness, depth and grace. I talked and laughed with the other pilgrims and felt that, finally, I had found my way. There was something to this path beyond anything I had ever imagined—an access to Divine Presence that could provide real help to me, my family and my community.

From that moment on, I committed to this sacred path. After six years of apprenticeship, I was initiated as a mara’akame and began my healing work. There have been many difficulties and many revelations, so much that I had to encounter and endure to learn how to help my people. I have sat many times with Grandfather Fire and received His wisdom and guidance. In my healing sessions, I feel the Great Beings who called me into service working through me. I have found, on this long path, my purpose and place, a way to serve the gods, a way to bring healing and wise counsel to my people.    

Patience is a virtue

They are two of China’s most eminent classical artists. Yu leads no fewer than three major ensembles there: the China Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Shanghai and Guangzhou symphonies.

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