In recent years the term Shamanism has been hijacked by what is known as 'core shamanism' which focuses on journeying into the spirit realm and in some ways has ignored its philosophical basis and world view model. In this time I feel that it is very important to re-focus on the shamanic perspective as a whole rather than isolated practices, and to bring these back into their original context in order to ground them in the Earth Wisdom from which they came.
Shamanism is the root religion of humanity. It is the primal experience of and mediation with, the force of the source of everything. In this sense the shaman was God's first eye, the first living being to comprehend creation as unity, a living continuity beyond form. Through the shaman the Great Mystery first perceived itself and through the shaman humanity discovered its connection with the sacred, in all forms of all things. It was the shaman who created the first sacred image, translated the Unknowable into the Known. The originator of myth, ritual, ceremony and celebration. Shamanism was the midwife of human culture and its triple threads of Art, Science and the Sacred.
The shaman comes from the realm of prehistory, from the aboriginal continuity, as modern anthropology now calls the period before civilisation and history, captured the psyche of humanity. From a time when the peoples of the earth understood that life was sacred and everything was alive, interrelated, interconnected and interdependent. This aboriginal continuity did not disappear with the invention of history, or the global colonisation of arrogance and the domestication of nature. The experience of primal reality became instead hidden (occult), suppressed, unexpressed or feared. It is ironic that the civilising impulse that has almost destroyed this planet and the tribal peoples that once populated its surface, is beginning to seek its own salvation from the survivors.
Like scientists anthropologists have realised that they are not impartial witnesses of their research. Indeed they became profoundly affected by it and as a consequence our culture as a whole has been penetrated and exposed by the shamanic insight. This shamanic insight knows that all culture and society is an invention. A symbolic representation of reality in the face of reality itself. A functional system of organised symbols in which we live and participate. It understands the individual as a creative force, within a humanly created cosmology. In this respect, shamanism is a pre-political way of being, in which each individual is responsible for their own sacred connection with the universe.
The shaman is a technician of the sacred and the ecstasy of divine union, rather than a mediator between theology and life. It is only perhaps now, in the face of its own annihilation that humanity must return to its self and seek its true connection, with life and the universe. It is our individual and collective responsibility, the survival of both may depend upon it. Shaman are often described as wounded healers, their initiation and training as the healing and rebirth of the self, a journey of disintegration into sacred unity. Through the process of self healing, the shaman gains the power to enable others to heal themselves.
With the new millennium, humanity can now see itself as separated from life, wounded within and without, individually and collectively dismembered. There is hope in this understanding, for if we can undertake the shamanic journey we are able to initiate ourselves back into our sacred unity and become healers of self, life and others. Shamanism is not a religion or a belief system, it does not contain dogmatic solutions to the human condition. It is a journey back to wholeness and reconnection with the sacred source of all things.
It does however have its methods and techniques, its ways of doing and perceiving. There are many differing cultural forms and practices, each with its own merits and drawbacks. For myself, as a westerner, the Native American Indian perspective and the schematic maps of the Medicine Wheel has proved to be the most useful.
Indeed this tradition has perhaps, in recent times been the most influential midwife of our own Celtic Shamanic rebirth. It still holds many advantages for the contemporary explorer. The major reason for this has been its translation through what the natives term as the metis or mixed bloods. Those individuals born of both Native and European parents and thus having access and understanding of both cultures.
People such as Hyemeyohsts Storm and Harley SwiftDeer, have done much to translate these time honoured teachings, without losing their original power or essence. Both they and their teachers who authorised this cross cultural fertilization did so in order to fulfill the Native prophecy, that tells of future generations of white people walking and honouring this sacred path, in the knowledge that spiritual truth is not owned by any one culture or group but is rather the birth right of all humanity.
The rapid introduction and growth of the Medicine Wheel teachings in western culture is a testament to their insight and tenacity. Carlos Castaneda being an opening gambit in this remarkable strategy, with the introduction of Toltec philosophy and practices into the spiritual cauldron of the modern world.
Contemporary shamanism has much to offer the modem human and has the power to open direct channels to the mystery of our unique human power and perceptions. In this special time it can re-unite us with the source of creation and the vital and healing energies that this embodies. Our online course "The Cartography Of The Invisible" is a valuable introduction and initiation into this unique and empowering world and our workshops and spiritual life coaching, offer significant insights and knowledge of this remarkable path that resonate strongly with the present times.
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