Introductory note by Jaime Meyer, SSP Board President:
I’ve been fascinated with how much vitriol is expelled into the world trying to define what shamanism is. When this discussion gets heated, as it often does, I believe we have stopped talking about shamanism, and moved to a broader, but mostly unconscious conversation about authenticity, the fear of our own inauthenticity, and a darker term: purity. When we argue over what makes a real shaman or real shamanism, we are probably arguing over who is pure, and that always invites trouble.
All spiritual systems worth their salt contain a critical self-reflection – taking a hard look at what you’re doing, what you honestly believe (as distinct from what you say you believe), how your belief truly aligns with your moment-to-moment actions, and how (or if) it helps the world. Without critical reflection, we swim in the light-drenched, self-congratulatory, waters of narcissism. Or we sink to the bottom of the lake of dogma where only creatures that look like us can live.
It is not possible for us to define shamanism. It is only possible for people to agree and disagree. The word itself has become mostly meaningless now, as anyone who wishes to can use it to brand themselves as magical or special. It has become a generic adjective used for anything we want to sparkle up with strange power. I can let that make me angry, and it does sometimes, or I can see reality for what it is and get back to work. And I can remember the words of my first teacher, who said simply, “A shaman is someone whose shamanizing works.” It’s the results, not the word, that matters. It’s not about purity, but about effectiveness.
It is not SSP’s job or desire to define shamanism for anyone, but we do see ourselves as providing an educational service to anyone interested in learning, and in engaging in critical reflection. It is in that spirit we are happy to publish Jade’s article – for you to be comfortable or uncomfortable with, to agree with this and disagree with that, to look at your own life and apply some reflection to it.
𝐒𝐡𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐬𝐦: 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐀𝐢𝐧’𝐭!
By Jade Wah’oo Grigori
I once had a neighbor, a classic old-time cowboy, who had spent a good piece of his life searching for the Sycamore Canyon (Arizona) lost Spaniard gold mine and smelter. A number of people have stumbled across it through the years, but none have ever found their way back to it. Such are the mysteries of lost gold mines. When I asked the old cowboy, Dale, if, after 60 years of looking, he was any closer to knowing the location of the gold diggings, he looked at me with a squint of his eyes, turned his head, and spit upon the dry dusty ground, looked back at me, and said: “Well, I can tell ya where it ain’t!”
In the same vein, when I invariably get asked if I can define what authentic Shamanism is, I reply “Well, I can tell ya what it ain’t!”
𝐒𝐡𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐬𝐦 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭:
+ 𝐌𝐞𝐭𝐚𝐩𝐡𝐲𝐬𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥. The perspective of metaphysics is that everything has a purpose, a reason, is meant to be, is all good, in divine order, and that everything has a lesson inherent within it. Metaphysics is invested in the concepts of karma and the expression of free will… as long as it resides within the constructs of everything being pre-determined.
Shamanism is based in personal accountability without the superimposition of external deities or supposed Universal Laws that dictate the circumstances of our lives. Spiritual sovereignty is asserted without the necessity of hierarchal systems of reward and punishment. When presented with a situation, Shamanism never looks to find what the lesson is, understand its divine purpose, or, failing one’s ability to comprehend the purpose, reason, meaning, or lesson. Instead, we seek to apply our knowledge and capabilities to resolve the situation. An example: If you were out walking barefoot in the park (because you enjoy the feel of the earth beneath your feet, its grounding potential, etc) and upon your return to your house, as you are cleaning off the clinging dirt and grasses, you discover a splinter wedged into the bottom of your foot, would you ponder where you were when you got it, what you were thinking in that moment, what is the lesson this splinter has come to teach you, what is the karma involved, or… would you pull that sucker out, apply some healing salve, and get on with your life? Shamanism is the latter, whereas Metaphysics is the former. Now, nothing wrong with the Metaphysical outlook on life, if it works for you. It just ain’t Shamanism! A person living a Shamanic approach to life might ask: “By applying my creative intelligence, what value can I derive from this experience, and how might I change my behaviors to better express the insights I have garnered?”
+ 𝐏𝐬𝐲𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥. Psychology, an honored profession practiced by reputable psychologists, endeavors to understand the motivations and pay-offs inherent within a person’s mental/emotional behaviors. It does so by uncovering the hidden agendas and issues at play in a person’s actions, deeds, and choices.
Shamanism recognizes the worth of the psychological paradigm, however, it does not utilize the methodology of investigation into one’s issues, agendas, and mental/emotional behaviors. We leave that to trained psychologists. Indeed, from the Shamanic perspective – which is to say a Soul-centered perspective, rather than a mental/emotional perspective – it is recognized that the state and condition of the Soul is expressed as the circumstances, events, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and such in the 3D realm. The mental/emotional/metaphysical conditions are but the symptoms, the product, of the inner state of the Soul.
+ 𝐄𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐲 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤. Energy workers work with… energy. Energy work is based in the natural laws of polarity. Where you have two fields of energy, the field of the greater intensity of charge will flow to the field of the lesser intensity of charge. Think of two batteries, one fully dead, the other fully charged. Put their poles together and the energy within the fully charged battery will flow into the lesser charged battery until both are half-charged. Once an equilibrium of charge is reached, stasis occurs, and the flow of energy ceases. This is apparent in the dynamic of acupuncture, polarity therapy, or reiki.
Shamanism is a Path of Power. Power is life force, collected, concentrated, life force. Similar to water, which can undergo a change of state (from steam-vapor to liquid-water, to solid-ice) life force, when concentrated, undergoes a change of state from randomly moving bits of life force to unified life force to concentrated life force, ie, Power. Importantly, unless one comprehends and is intimately familiar with Power and its own set of natural laws that govern its movement and flow, one cannot be said to be practicing Shamanism at all. Shamanism is the Art of Power. Energy flows from more intensely charged fields to lesser intensely charged fields. Power moves from less intensely charged fields to more intensely charged fields of Power. This is 180º from the way that energy flows. Again, without this basic understanding and the training and ability to utilize Power intentionally, one defaults to doing Energy Work. Energy Work is valuable. It just ain’t Shamanism!
+ 𝐑𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬. A religious person believes in the presence of a Deity that orchestrates, regulates, and provides order to us humans, whether they have faith in that Deity (let’s call it what it is: God) or not. They believe in their God. That God might be outside, choreographing the divine play, or it might be evident inside every one, even everything. God is engaged through petition and prayers to provide blessings, peace, rewards… or punishments for the wicked or the Enemy.
Shamanism is not religious. While an individual Shaman might practice the religion of their culture, that is a personal affair, not a tenet of Shamanism. In the Shamanic way of being, we do not pray “to” any Deity. It is, instead, recognized that you, and I, and all of us, do not “have” a Spirit, rather we “are” Spirit, Spirit in manifest form! So is Creation the manifest expression of Creator? And what is the form of Creation? Why, the Earth, the Sun, Moon, planets, the stars, the universe, and multiverses? And what do we call these? Nature. Nature/Creation is Creator in manifest form. There is no Creator inside of everything, or outside dictating the machinations of the world. For if there were, then that which is inside could withdraw and no longer be present in the form. As Creation is the manifest expression of Creator, there can never be a within or without dichotomy. When, Shamanically, we pray, it is not “to” Creator, but a commune “with” Creation/Creator. Prayer is, in the Shamanic paradigm, an intimate conversation with the forces of Nature. We hold these distinct forces of Nature to be our Relatives, and so we commune with their Awareness as Grandmother, Grandfather, Uncle, Aunt, Mother (Earth), Father (Sky), etc. We do not petition them, nor seek to curry favor, or ask them to punish those with whom we have difficulty. We are but their Children, and so we let our needs be known, then leave it to our Relatives to respond as they see fit, as we trust the essential expression of Nature as being one of balance and harmony.
+ 𝐌𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐖𝐚𝐲𝐬. Native American indigenous tribal peoples practice Medicine Ways. No one else, of whom I am familiar, can lay claim to being Medicine Men or Medicine Women. If you wish to know of Medicine Ways, speak with those folks. I am not Native American, so cannot speak on their behalf.
Shamanic Ways are, some would say, solely the practices of the indigenous peoples of Central Asia and Siberia. That is akin to saying that only pizzas made by Italians are real pizzas. As my Grampa Peña, the Old Man who was my predecessor and mentor in these Ways, was insistent on declaring “Grandson, we Tewa Ké (literally, Bear Shaman, but generally meant as Shaman) belong to no people! We belong to all people!” Being Shaman is not a label or tag of identification associated with any culture or people. The word “Shaman” is recognized as being of the Tungusic tribal peoples of Siberia. However, the etymology of the word has origins in ancient Sumer. The “secret language” of Central Asian Shamans, spoken only between the Shaman and the Ancestors, is Sumerian in origin. In Sumerian, “sham” is “eagle”. “An” is “heaven”. So, a Shaman is “an Eagle of Heaven”, one who flies to heaven as an Eagle, or, simply put, a Shaman is one who is capable of spiritual flight into the Other Worlds.
+ 𝐋𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐫𝐬. New Agers are Lightworkers. As such they tend to be Light polarized, eschewing the Dark, or deep, fecund, feminine realms of Power.
As Shamans we eschew the segregation of Light and Dark. We seek to integrate the Light and the Dark in embodiment in the here-and-now. The Dark (that is, the realms of the Soul, of Dream) are referred to as Dark simply because the light of consciousness is incapable of shining into those realms. The realms of the Soul are non-logical, non-rational, and non-temporal. Consciousness is, on the other hand, analytical, judgmental, and reactive. Nothing wrong with that. We need the rational, linear processes of Consciousness to get by in the 3D world. Rational Consciousness is simply an inappropriate vehicle for the embrace of the non-logical realms of the Soul, ie, Dream. As Shamans we engage the realms of Light and Dark from the place of Spirit, that is, Awareness. Awareness experiences only the IS-ness of the Everything-That-Is.
Shamanism is not something one performs at. It is not something one does. It is a way of being in the world, a way of living. Shamanism is an experience of Creation perceived from the principles and practices of Power. As Power is life force, collected and concentrated, it is appropriate to say, then, that Shamanism is a finely tuned system of working with life force. Simply said, Shamanism is the Path of Life.