THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION IN SHAMANISM
Numerous debates took place amongst shamans on the importance of tradition in shamanism. All shamans consulted have this in common: they represent a continuous living ancient tradition despite the numerous persecutions and tendency of civilization to eradicate differences, with this standardization more and more present in modern globalization.
Why does this question arise?
The evolution of modern society has favored the emergence of new practitioners who call themselves shamans without being shamans and who are not connected to any tradition. They often refer to their practice as being neoshamanism. Amongst these practitioners are those who follow the Mikael Harner system. This man studied the practices of numerous shamans of various traditions and devised a system deprived of the traditional training shamans receive. These techniques seem rather popular, but are very controversial, especially to traditional shamans today.
What are we to think of these two different perspectives; which one will be more conducive to the emergence of the new world we so desperately need? Why is tradition so important when we speak about shamanism? Language is important and semantics is one of its essential aspects. All that is named by Man begins vibrating in the universe and any error or perversion of the name will create distortions in our material world. Thus, arises the importance of clarifying the current controversy and understanding its’ interactions and relationships with the subtle realms. Clarity, relationship, unity and harmony belong to the light, confusion, separation as well as discord favors the darkness we all hold within …
As a basis for the understanding of this subject we need to describe an important and essential aspect of shamanism. The shaman travels on non-corporeal, subtle plans of being and, often, his first journey in these realms will happen during a clinical death from which he returns after a few minutes, hours or even days (yes, days, this has been documented). Certain psychology and psychiatry circles call this NDE – Near Death Experience. Sometimes, also, when people are enduring intense sufferings their spirit may choose to leave the body rather than continue to experience pain coming back when the suffering have abated.
In all Native Aboriginal nations on all continents, there are always legends and an important mythology. These myths and legends often describe the beings who live in the subtle realms and describe the road on which the shaman travels; this codification is the same in all traditions and corresponds to a very precise “roadmap” established by ancient tradition and known by shamans of these lineages. It is for this reason that during the traveling experienced during NDE people from a shamanic tradition will recognize elements from the myths and legends of their culture. Upon returning from their “trip” they will be able to describe what they experienced to an experienced shaman, as is customary in such circumstances.
The shaman will then be able to “read” or interpret the symbols of the journey and evaluate if this person is right to assume a shaman’s role. If yes, that person will begin training. It is always easier to journey to the subtle realms when one has already experienced it.
When a person who experiences NDE does not belong to a shamanic tradition (all Native Aboriginal nations living in nature are shamanic societies, shamanism is universal everywhere on earth) then often that person has no recollection of their journey. Why? Because they do not know how to make sense what they see on their journey. The alternate realities experienced in the subtle realms are so different from that of the material world that the mental body does not know how to apprehend what it sees. Our understanding of the world is regulated by our beliefs. For example I’ve noticed several times extraordinary spiritual and physical phenomena happen and people near me see nothing of what has just occurred. Why? Because these occurrences are impossible in their belief system, so, their mental simply rejects it.
Belonging to an ancient tradition gives great strength as it anchors the person in an ancestral lineage. One of the biggest problems which people have today it is that they are lost, they have no way of making sense of the world in which they live. It’s one of the main causes for the growing number of suicides we see in modern society and especially those of young people, a new phenomenon that is a great affliction on civilized populations. Indeed, without a cultural roadmap that allows the person to understand what we see on the news, who could make sense of this modern world? This technocratic society has no logic, is destroying the natural world which gives life and is governed mainly by money and profit that are not logical ways of governing our societies as they breed conflict, corruption and injustice. Thus, people in modern society find it near impossible to make sense of the world in which they evolve. This is why stupidity, constant distractions and dependencies are rampant. Modern mythology is Stars Wars, Star trek and Avatar, but these stories are not anchored into any tradition and their symbolism has not been purified and enriched by generations of storytellers. On the contrary, they were conceived to make profit, main drive of all activities within technocratic society and the source of most modern problems.
The shaman evolves within a multidimensional world which contains ancestral wisdom and an understanding of the spiritual cogs of the world. He has an understanding of the psychological working that govern the internal, conjugal, domestic, community and spiritual life of the clans and communities he must care for. This multidimensional vision gives him a privileged access to many rituals, ceremonies, energies, concepts, stories, spirits and totems which gives him adequate tools to help those who come to him to resolve their problems. He knows also how to recognize what he cannot do… Every shaman knows other shamans and none of them are alike. Their Spirits are different and they have different specialties. That is why they are often called men and women of power. Shamans are often very powerful people, but in general rather humble. This is completely different from what we traditional shamans have noticed when observing those who refer to shamanism without tradition.
Tradition has the advantage of having codified rituals and etiquette that allows the community of those they serve to be in right relationship with the shaman. Shamans are generally very special people with sometimes very odd and special behavior patterns which are often different from the norm. The sacred craziness of the Heyoka or sacred clown would not be understood in modern society, but in traditional communities will provoke wild liberating laughter that produces joy and healing. Tradition also gives a very important role and place to the storyteller who is almost more important and valued than the shaman! To be in the presence of a traditional storyteller is always an honor in Native American communities of the central Canadian plains where Blue Eagle was born. He or she is always considered with great respect and is given a special place in all gatherings as he or she carries the ancestral wisdom of the people.
In the three year training he offers, Blue Eagle does not claim to form shamans, what would be impossible in such a context. He has chosen to call those who succeed the tests and initiations that conclude this training shamanic practitioners. These practitioners will use the same techniques, but will acquire these skills through intense and daily spiritual practice. After three years of practice, specific initiations confer the awakening of shamanic power. This training is immersed in context: legends, myths, stories, experiences which give the necessary basis for understanding what is being conveyed. He calls this approach the Priestcraft tradition, which exists in all Native American Nations that are mound builders or temple builders: amongst those are the Cherokee, Hopis, Apaches and Maya nations.
Did we answer the question of the importance of tradition in shamanism? Maybe not sufficiently; let us see what happens in nature.
Nature, for those who know how to observe it, gives us essential keys to answer this seemingly complex question. Nature has evolved without man for millions of years. First came the mineral kingdom, then the plant kingdom, then the animal kingdom and then, when all this was ready, Man was created. Nature possesses extremely elaborated structures which man has imitated for millennium when building temples based on the mathematical logic of nature. We are referring to sacred geometry which reflects the fundamental laws which govern nature.
Let us take a look at a law of nature that is used extensively in the building of pyramids and cathedrals and is seen everywhere in nature: the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio: 1,618. This number intervenes in the construction of the regular pentagon. Its’ algebraic properties connects it to the Fibonacci sequence and allows it to define its’ numerous mathematical demonstrations.
Observe the Fibonacci sequence:
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597 …
What do you notice? That every number is always the sum of the previous two numbers!
In the ancient Taoist teachings it is said that when the 1 arrived on earth and wanted to evolve the only possibility was to turn around and look back. Except by turning around there was nothing (zero) thus the following equation : 1 + 0 = 1. When this new 1 wanted to evolve he did the same, only by turning around he now saw himself thus : 1 + 1 = 2 . When 2 has wanted to evolve it did the same: 2 + 1 = 3 et cetera: 3 + 2 = 5, 5 + 3 = 8, 8 + 5 = 13, 13 + 8 = 21 …
The second law which ensues from the first one it is that if we divide two consecutive figures of the Fibonacci sequence we always find the golden ratio( 1,618 ).
Let us look closer still :
In a fruit, a flower or a seed: scales or stamens get organized in two sets of spirals: one which turns clockwise, the other one counter clockwise. It is perfectly visible in the sunflower, the marguerite, the pine cone, etc. These spirals are logarithmic and systematically the number of spirals clockwise is the successive terms of the Fibonacci sequence. The spiral which turns in the counter clockwise direction always corresponds to the highest figure of the sequence.
On the pine cone example below we have 8 spirals turning clockwise and 13 spirals turning in the other direction. 13: 8 = 1,618
For the Sunflower we have at the level of capitulums: 233 stamens in one direction, 144 in the other that correspond also to our Fibonacci sequence 233: 144 = 1,618 ( the golden ratio) because this law also repeats at the level of spirals: 34 spirals counter clockwise and 21 spirals clockwise and we have another two consecutive figures of the Fibonacci sequence 34: 21 = 1,618!
Here is a Marguerite: it has 21 spirals of stamens which turn in one direction and 13 in the other ; 21: 13 = 1,618
In trees we have the same mathematical process; first year there is one branch that grows, second year one other often connect in the continuation of the first one, third year 2 branches, then 3, then 5 et cetera. You indeed understand that if we cut a tree without being conscious of this dynamic, we are going to weaken it and it will develop then numerous diseases and eventually die …
In the light of this fundamental law which governs all evolution on earth it seems logical that it also governs the evolution of humanity. That is, if modern society wants to evolve it needs to do so according to the Fibonacci sequence; to turn around towards previous social models that are the former traditions as inspiration, before evolving into new ones The ancient wise men knew this; either we evolve together, or nobody evolves …
Until this process is completed it is imperative to maintain a living representation of the previous social system coming from ancestral tradition. If ancestral traditions disappear before the next stage of evolution, we will not complete the process and then fall into the law of involution, which is contrary to the universal laws of evolution, and that is dramatic for humanity …
In the light of this understanding neoshamans without tradition are representative of the modern tendency of society that has forged a consciousness of independence, while traditional shamans embody the consciousness of interdependence. At this level it is correct and logical that this debate go further still, indeed there is another important parameter to be taken into account and analyzed.
Let us get closer to that which is named: at the beginning was the word and all which is named begins vibrating in the infinity of creation.
The word allows the energies to crystallize into being, the subtle energies becoming the denser energies of embodiment. If the word is right, that is, in coherence with universal law, then manifestation will be harmonious, beautiful, radiant and unified. If, on the contrary, the word is not in harmony with universal law then there is a distortion at the moment of embodiment which engenders disharmony, conflict, confusion and the separateness; source of our modern problems on Earth.
The word shaman and what it represents in the collective unconscious today resonates with the concepts it carries over from ancient times, that is the capacity of a few people to travel to other non corporeal worlds and to other dimensions as well as converse with the spirits of places and elements. This is possible because there is coherence with the universal laws that were passed down through generations of shamans, thus the great importance of initiation, rites of passage and transmission of power.
The use of the same word by certain gifted people that have no fundamental definition of the word causes chaotic and perverse situations (even without their knowledge) because there is no correspondence with universal law that’s anchored in tradition. If the representatives of neoshamanism found or created a word that better defined them they would be able to re-connect to universal cosmic laws and could create a new lineage to stand straight and move ahead there where everything remains to be invented as there is no anteriority. This would also allow them to anchor in the world the changes they represent.
The need human beings have for recognition is such that they absolutely need to be identified with something that is known. It is much more difficult to create something new. The fundamental criterion of this capacity is the passage from the individualization to the level of individuation which was well defined by CG Jung as being a extension of the sphere of the conscious which does not lead to isolation, but to a more intense and universal collective cohesion.
The development of individuation consists in developing autonomy and its independence from any previous structures. Otherwise one is only copying the concepts and the teachings of others for their personal benefit.
Thus, its at the level of what is named that the problem lies and its creating confusionas much in the world of energies, as between shamans and neoshamans and in the general public.
By this message we invite in a brotherly fashion those who call themselves shamans but are not affiliated to any tradition to use another word than the word shaman. A new definition that could represent the new energies and innovations of which they are the bearers and that our world also needs today.
Light, Peace, Joy and Love
Blue Eagle and Didier Rauzy