by Gilbert Ross
March 11, 2015
Shamanism is a topic that is still more prevalent in anthropologic
studies than in mainstream discussions of culture and society.
For the western psyche, shamanism is a
thing of the past, some type of sorcery used in relatively
'primitive' societies and cultures. The lack of understanding
inherent in this cultural bias or stereotype prevents us from
appreciating what shamanism is all about and more interestingly, how
it is relevant to today's society and to our future more than ever
Shamanic wisdom has been partly transmitted down through the eons
and fragments of it still survives in certain cultures that preserve
and honor their ancient heritage.
Interestingly, there are also
individuals coming outside this cultural lineage who have learned
and are practicing shamanism in 21st century society. These are the
modern day shamans who are contributing to what Terence McKenna
called the archaic revival.
I decided to find out more about what shamanism can tell us today
about ourselves and about our future.
I talked to Franco Santoro,
holistic counselor at the Findhorn Foundation Community in Scotland
and author of the book series Astroshamanism. I asked Franco
a few questions in my quest to dig deeper about the role of the
shaman and shamanism in our present day world.
What I learned was
astonishing and revealing.
I am quoting Franco's own words ad
verbatim below whenever I use the quote marks and his initials
The Role of
the 21st Century Shaman is Open to Everyone
"The role of a contemporary shaman,
as I see it, is to be a living testimony of the experiential
awareness of the unity of all aspects of life.
This implies contributing to the
release of separation, and promoting our human sense of purpose
through the acknowledgment of the wider reality in which we
exist. This reality also includes death and whatever lies beyond
our ordinary perception, which and can ultimately provide the
authentic understanding of who we truly are…
…In some way it is easy to play the shaman in nature or feel
great power by emulating the ritual practices of native shamanic
cultures. What is difficult is to keep this attitude in ordinary
social life and the contemporary settings, and these are the
places that need it most.
The world needs shamans able to function on the roads, among the
electronic equipment and engines, in the squares and markets of
our contemporary society.
Being a shaman, as I see it, is not about being a "shaman". It
is being whoever and whatever can serve for the purpose of
healing, no matter how contradictory or incompatible it seems to
be for narrow minded folks. Each identity is provisional, taken
for the purpose of connecting with other identities, healing
fragmentation and separation.
A shaman can shift from a "shaman" to a business man, an artist,
a devoted Catholic, Hindu, or Muslim, a doctor, an architect, a
gardener, you name it.
Yet once a shaman becomes only a "shaman"
you can be sure there is no shaman anymore."
Experience is key to Recovering our Original Unity
Memories by Asage
The primacy of experience lies at the heart of shamanism.
This means that direct experience should
come prior to dogma, culturally transmitted beliefs, preconceptions
and institutionalized knowledge. It is mostly the direct experience
of ourselves as multidimensional beings connected to an original
unity or source.
Our path is to use, Stan Grof's term 'Holotropic',
that is, moving towards the whole - towards unity.
"I believe what most people on a
quest seek today are not mere formalities, doctrines or creeds,
but paths of direct experience. They search for a first-hand
knowledge of their true self, their life purpose and ultimately
a direct encounter and communion with God.
This implies recovering our original
unity, becoming whole and at one with God, which is ultimately,
as I see it, the authentic essence of what shamanism pursues…"
We Need to
Bust the Myth of Separation
The shaman sees the malaise and dysfunction of the modern world as
arising from the disconnection from ourselves and the spiritual
dimension and the disenchantment with our world.
We have reinforced a perceived sense of
separateness between ourselves, others, nature and between things in
this world. This schism or sense of separation inherent in our
psyche, is according to the shaman, the source of physical or mental
imbalance that manifests both on an individual or collective level.
The shamanic healing practice, for
instance, addresses this energetic and psychic imbalance.
"…One of the basic experiential
assumptions of shamanism is that I am not a separated physical
being: I am an energy field or I am part of the whole.
from a more genuine shamanic perspective, the entire notion of
I, seen as separate from you and them, does not make any sense
Contemporary human beings have confined themselves almost
exclusively to the identification with the physical body and the
idea of being a fragmented unit. Shamanic experience is one way
in which it is possible to perceive others, the world and
ourselves in their original united forms again.
I believe we have become estranged from something of which we
were once aware, establishing a mythology of separation where
unity and ecstasy are the most rooted taboos.
As we consider
ourselves individuals severed from other people and the
environment, we tend to invest much energy to exploit our
fellows and the Earth."
It's Time to
Shift our Consciousness
Entering the Shamanic Trance State and Leaving
the Mass Trance of Consensual Reality
The most important aspect of shamanic practice is the most
misconceived as it is based on fear and lack of familiarity.
This is the trance or shamanic states of
consciousness which shamans use to journey between dimensions or
'walk between worlds' and get information from higher dimensional
entities or from the wisdom of the inner self.
What we refer to as
non-ordinary states of consciousness are ordinary, or let's say,
familiar territory for the shaman.
Surprisingly, it is also worth noting
that research in neuroscience is starting to understand
of mind under its own lens.
"A typical feature of shamans is
their familiarity with states of consciousness that allow
visions and explorations of other dimensions.
Their primary function is to
navigate from one reality to another in order to operate as
bridges and create healing connections. There are many
dimensions and worlds, which in our separate reality are totally
Trance and shamanic states of consciousness are part of the
genetic structure of mankind. Each one of us, in the past,
present or future, has an inner biological need for ecstatic
experience. The problem is that such experiences, in the
majority of contemporary human cultures they do not find space
in the official educational or scientific context and tend to be
As a consequence, this unmet need
often ends up being expressed through harmful addictions.
Shamanic states of consciousness represent the major taboo for
the ordinary perception of the world as they cause its deceptive
structure to vanish and expose to the secrets of our origin,
that is where we truly come from and how and why we got to be
here. In recent societies, perceptions beyond the physical body
have been generally ignored or disregarded.
The forms we see with our physical
eyes, identified with names and specific shapes, have been
extracted from their original unity and transformed into
They are seen as definite
configurations and separated from each other by areas termed as
nothing or void.
Most mankind seems to live in a symbolic reality where only what
is conventionally accepted is acknowledged as real, whereas
everything else disappears from sight and dwells in a dimension
surrounded by fear and mystery.
In the contemporary world what counts is the goal. To reconnect
with the Earth and the Sky what matters is the present, not the
destination. Trance or shamanic states of consciousness have to
do with the present and with getting out of the most dangerous
trance: our conditioning and daily conventions.
The fact is that on the Earth we are always in some kind of
trance and the actual work consists of learning to balance such
states and being aware that you cannot go into a new trance
without moving out of the one you are already in.
When there is unbalance we live in a
state of hallucination where we perceive pain, anger and all
kinds of grievances. When there is balance we choose consciously
to open only to the trance states that bring love, ecstasy,
peace and blessings to ourselves and others.
Opening up to shamanic states of consciousness means to truly
say yes to life and be fully responsible.
It means to accept
becoming a conscious part of the universe, choosing to trust a
divine purpose, identifying with the maximum expressions of our
being and moving further to project this potential on all that
Despite the strong oppositions and conditioning of the consensus
reality, shamanic states of consciousness are regularly
experienced by all human beings.
What is missed is solely the
willingness to acknowledge them or consider them significant."
The Shamanic Revolution and the Archaic Revival
"As we have separated from the
Earth, we have also disconnected with the dimension of the Sky.
Through a blind adherence to
religious and social conditionings, we have denied a direct
access to God, resigning ourselves to the power of
religious teachings or hierarchical structures to operate as
mediators between us and the Divine.
Through shamanism each one can obtain visions and spiritual
experiences without any mediation. Yet, shamanism, as I see it,
is not about mounting opposition to political and religious
authorities; this is what has been happened throughout history
and it has resulted only in even more grievances and separation.
According to shamanism, I believe the true revolution consists
of taking the courage to face the spiritual or inner world, for
it is from this world that all that seems to be outside
This does not mean that life should be limited to
shamanic journeys or states of consciousness. These experiences
are important, yet we also need to take physical actions.
The best physical actions are those which allow the ecstatic
experience of unity and love derived from shamanic states of
consciousness to be grounded on earth.
This can happen by promoting healing
relationships with ourselves and the environment, by creating
works of arts and doing whatever can make this world a better