By November 23, 2012 8 Comments Read More →

Shamanism and Spirituality

Konstantin Eriksen, Guest Writer
Waking Times

Man is a spiritual creature, always searching for meaning. But for many people in the so-called “western world,” there is a feeling of disenchantment with the world as it is: Wake up, do your job, get a mortgage, buy a house, pay your taxes and eagerly await the weekend. Perhaps you’re one of these people.

Traditional religions don’t fill the gap. People become exasperated. They start drinking alcohol or using drugs. They see no meaning in their routine days of drudgery.

Watching some documentaries about shamanism over the last few months has gotten me thinking. A lot of these so-called “primitive” peoples appear happier than we “westerners” are. They have a sense of community, a sense of belonging and a sense of responsibility to those around them.

Spiritually, they don’t seek to find a “god” outside of themselves. They don’t have rigid religious doctrines that attack all non-believers.

In traditional cultures all over the world, and in places as diverse as Siberia and the Amazon jungle, shamanic mysticism is integrated into the culture. Spirituality is integrated within each individual, and every day is considered a spiritual day. Spirit is everywhere. It is not something they do once every week on a Saturday or Sunday when the kids are out of school.

Their spirituality is experiential and visceral. They live it.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in their use of psychotropic (mind-altering) plants to affect changes in themselves. These “primitives” actually have very sophisticated ways of inducing psychological changes. Using various mushrooms, green leafy plants and plant mixtures that affect the brain, and rituals that include dance and music to affect a trance on the participants, their spiritual practices are designed to help people discover and face their dark sides, their fears and their anxieties.

Researchers who have a lot of experience studying shamanism and participating in the rituals, such as Terence McKenna, have found that this attempt to communicate directly with the spirit and emotions can transform people’s lives. Through these rituals, nature, spirit and life become unified. People become more free to express themselves. Substances are essential parts of a ritual and are not used as recreational drugs or as substitutes for television, as they are in many industrialized countries. Drug addiction is unknown in these ancient and traditional societies.

As with the sufi poets, shamans compose poetry, which they later chant. Here is a poem by the Peruvian shaman Kestenbetsa, which I have translated from French:

I will open, I will open your thoughts
by opening them, I will fill you with joy
by filling you with joy, I will straighten your thoughts
straightening them, I will do it joyously
I will straighten your body
now, I will heal you
to the depths of your heart
opening your heart, I will give you an immense feeling of joy
in this way, I will return life to you
I will return life to your body
I will return life to your thoughts
I will heal your being, I will heal your body
with the powerful scent of the trees
and with the faultless scent of the universe
in thought… for you to be joyous
remember my words
so that you may remember them, I chant them to you
although I am unimportant, I have made you shine
I have made your thoughts shine
the universe harmonizes
my words have fulfilled their promise
and that, ’till infinity.

To me it’s obvious that there is a way to be spiritual without being religious and without following a strict, dogmatic code of conduct.

After all, research in biochemistry and biophysics has shown that the world is not nearly as simple as most “scientists” have thought: DNA has electromagnetic qualities. It is not merely a chemical-reaction-generator. There are snake-like bodies inside of cells that nobody understands and whose function nobody knows. Most of the “stuff” of the universe is theorized to be “dark energy,” an energy that nobody knows anything about.

Could coming back to living a more natural life actually be a way out of our modern-society-induced disenchantment?


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8 Comments on "Shamanism and Spirituality"

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  1. Metaphysics and physics share a common thread discussed at length in William S. Lyon’s new book, Spirit Talkers: Native American Indian Medicine Powers. Dr Lyon explores the shamanic powers of medicine men and compares the experience to that of modern quantum physics research. Spirits have power and are real might be said after reading this scholarly book.

  2. Angel says:

    Good article and I will check out the book. We don’t need to take any drugs at all. Meditating gives a very similar effect and so does singing, chanting and dancing. It is very powerful to start to take responsibility for your own life, your health and that of your family and community.
    This is where the tribal peoples found their strength. As shamans we look after our tribe – the human tribe – and our planet – our earth Mother – and all our relations – the other creatures.

    Best modern shaman I know with an international following – David Icke. See his amazing 11 hour presentation at davidicke.com/wembley

    Lovexxxx

  3. EV says:

    Best book to read about this topic: “Inner paths to outer space,” by Rick Strassman et al. (2008).

  4. Vincent says:

    Hang on a minute… what’s religion got to do with spirituality to begin with? The sole purpose of religion is to own, to control. The sole purpose of spirituality is to liberate which is 180 degrees opposite from the goal of religion. I don’t know what you believe in but here is my take… from Buddhist point of view, we all have ‘Buddha nature’ instilled within us, from Christian point of view Jesus said ‘The kingdom of God is within you’ so what is the difference? There is no difference at all. You are perfect already, you are enlightened already but that is not what government and society wants you to believe . The trick is to realize that and once shackles come of only then do you get to liberate yourself. Well, it is slightly more complicated than that but in a nutshell that is what it is.

  5. Kelley says:

    Indeed, both traditional and modern shamans have found a more direct way to engage Source, an option which most religions discourage. I’ve written a lot about it on Huffington: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelley-harrell/neoshamanism_b_976102.html
    I also think you are hitting on a vital detail in the emphasis on community. It’s extremely challenging to have an ecstatic experience that changes your life, then carry that insight forward to mature into wisdom, alone. That is something individualist structure of the west just doesn’t understand, let alone support. There are good roots in animism.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  6. KEN says:

    You must WANT spiritual things MORE than WORLDLY things —- Americans are BRAINWASHED to want worldly stuff that will make them ” happy “

  7. Loren says:

    Shamanism is a western invention. Totally bastardized. Terence McKenna has been exposed as a fraud and a ‘plastic shaman’. Open your eyes white people.

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