CLOCKWORKS SUMMER/FALL 2006
s a child growing up in Salem, Mass., Hillary Smithfound fertile ground for cultivating an interest ins p i r i t u a l i t y.“Because of Salem’s reputation as the site of the infamousSalem witch trials, it has become a kind of mecca for peopleinterested in alternative spirituality and philosophy,” Hillarysays. “So, as a kid, I had easy access to these ideas as well asthe people who practice them.” She would spend her dayscombing the local witches’markets and bookstores, searchingfor information on ESP, reincarnation, astral projection—“anysubject dealing with the mystical or metaphysical.”To d a y, as a student in Goddard’s individualized studiesM Aprogram, Hillary is still searching, still delving into “themysteries of the unknown and unseen.” Her musings havee vo l ved somewhat since her days in Salem, and she hasfocused her master’s program on consciousness studies.“I began my Goddard studies with the question, ‘Whatdoes it take for large shifts of consciousness to take placewithin society and within the individual?’”Her thesis, which she says emerged from Goddard’sorganic, “magical process” of following your instincts andfollowing the path of your learning, concentrates on“ Paradox and the Reconciliation of Opposites.” It looks atthe different, sometimes antagonistic forces that exist with-in the individual and explores how one might bring theminto a complementary existence, or “oneness.”She likens it to the Jungian psychology of bringing oppo-sites of the self into wholeness, “instead of getting sucked intothe confusion and chaos of feeling like yo u ’re separated intot wo different people.” Although this may seem a we i g h t ysubject, Hillary is no stranger to intellectually-challengingpuzzles. She has spent her life grappling with the intangible.After leaving her native Salem and earning a bachelor’sdegree in journalism from New York Unive r s i t y, Hillary leftthe East Coast and landed a job in New Mexico as a writer andeditor for an alternative weekly magazine. For two years, sheexplored and wrote about metaphysical subjects, gathering agroup of friends with interests similar to her own. A l t h o u g hher magazine writing gave her a chance to delve into her ownspiritual interests, she found it, likewise, to be limiting.“ Writing has been a passion of mine for a long time,” shesays. “I think I decided at one point that I wanted to get out of journalism as my career because it was taking away from myown creative juices.”It was then that her path took another turn and she wa sintroduced to shamanism, or the spirituality of indigenouspeoples. “I found that it really spoke to me and called to me,”she says. For the next several years, she threw herself intoshamanism, studying and taking workshops on the subjectand finally traveling to Peru to study with shamans living inthe Andes Mountains.“The shaman is an individual who has the ability to go intoaltered states of consciousness and gain extrasensory knowl-edge and healing powe r,” she explains. “They’re the healersand visionaries for their community. ”She worked with the Q’ero people, the last of the Incas whol i ve in the High Andes, and spent time in the jungle as well. Herexperiences led her to write two books on the subject, bothunder the name Hillary S. Webb (Webb is her middle name):
Traveling Between the Wo r l d s :Conversations with Contemporary Shamans
. The latter is a compila-tion of interviews with medicine people from around the wo r l d .“One of the great things about shamanism is it’s providedme a set of tools for having some extraordinary experienceswith consciousness,” she says.She found the consciousness studies program at Goddardalmost by chance, through a link on a website she was visiting.She says the program has given her the chance to stretch herprevious experiences into new areas. “Yo u ’re there with peo-ple who can speak at such interesting and deep leve l s . ”With her August graduation just around the corner, Hillarysays she is ready to move on to “whatever is next,” but she isgoing to miss Goddard and its people tremendously. “I’mcompletely in my element when I’m at Goddard.”
—by Kelly Collar
Hillary Smith during her time with shamans in the Peruvian A n d e s .
student pro f i l e