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Author Continues Odyssey of Enlightenment

December 03, 1987|BETH ANN KRIER | Times Staff Writer

She is known as the "Beverly Hills medicine woman," and comes complete with shoulder pads, Mercedes-Benz and a long, blond mane that could send even Linda Evans back for more Clairol.

Yet Lynn Andrews--who has spent much of the last 15 years studying with indigenous shaman women all over the world and produced five best-selling books on those adventures of spiritual self-discovery--is hardly your standard Westside shopper/luncher/dilettante.

Not anymore.

Key Pathfinder

A former art dealer, wife, documentary producer and Elizabeth Arden regular, she admittedly knows the pampered life all too well. But at 42, Andrews is considered a key pathfinder in post-feminist America. And, to a growing legion of fans, she's known as the female Carlos Castaneda. (Anthropologist-author Castaneda wrote about his apprenticeship to a Yaqui Indian sorcerer in "The Teachings of Don Juan: The Yaqui Way of Knowledge.") One book reviewer even credited her with co-creating, along with Castaneda, a new literary genre: "visionary autobiography."

Like Castaneda's, Andrews' accounts are about a personal, transformational journey, what she calls "the extraordinary, internal struggle to find one's true self." (Then she adds, in the next breath, "God knows I haven't found it yet--not totally.")

On her often grueling road to enlightenment, she learned such things as living directly off the earth (finding and cooking larvae over coals in one instance), tracking prey, butchering a freshly slain deer and eating it raw (an assignment designed to teach her to deal with her emotions) ridding herself of all peripheral habits and using stones and crystals as tools for healing (which she frequently does in working with the hundred or so clients she now privately counsels).

As chronicled in her books, Andrews also was trained by various spiritual teachers to master an assortment of mystical feats: seeing and balancing auras (electromagnetic energy fields said to exist around human bodies), "dreaming" (entering a trance-like state and being simultaneously in one place with the physical body and another with the dream body), and doubling (a form of dreaming in which two or more observers report seeing the dreamer's image in different places at the same time).

Once Divorced and Lost

When Andrews' odyssey began, however, she was freshly divorced and totally lost, a woman "with no discipline who was unable to focus on one subject for more than 10 minutes at a time." What's more, she was addicted. Not to the conventional alcohol, cigarettes or drugs but to "vacuum cleaners, baths, sadness, not feeling worthy as a woman and to my fears of dealing with my relationship with my father."

Her first book, "Medicine Woman," published in 1984, is expected to be made into a film starring Sally Field. According to Andrews' New York City-based literary agent, Al Lowman, 20th Century Fox has optioned the book and a script is presently in the works by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman.

Andrews' latest chapter in her personal saga, recounted in "Crystal Woman: The Sisters of the Dreamtime," published in September, made both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times best-seller lists. Perhaps more importantly, she is what publishers call a "backlist author," one whose newest book typically increases demand for all those preceding it.

Though she still maintains a Benedict Canyon home (which she mockingly refers to as "the Beverly Hills wigwam"), Andrews is only there about half of the time. She spends several months each year with her teachers, especially Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs of Manitoba, Canada, and has studied with other shaman women in Australia, Guatemala, Alaska and the Yucatan.

Trip to Himalayas

This spring, she plans to travel to the Himalayas to camp with female shamans from around the world--the only white woman invited to be in their midst. That trip and its teachings will be the subject of a sixth book and will continue Andrews' work as what she terms "a bridge between the primal mind and white consciousness . . . taking what I've learned about the spirit and power of women back to our patrilineal society."

Andrews also spends considerable time writing in her tiny Santa Fe studio, five minutes from the Pecos wilderness. And when she's in her Beverly Hills home, as she was recently, the author provides spiritual counseling to private clients three days a week. Andrews charges $150 an hour, sees up to 10 clients weekly, and is booked up through next July.

"Fortunately or unfortunately, we're no longer hunting buffalo and living in tribal situations," she said, sipping herbal tea in front of a gas-log fire on a rainy afternoon and launching into one of her favorite themes. "Because of that, I think we have to face our reality and understand what we're doing to our environment, why we are creating pollution and disease that is running rampant.

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