Sound and Silence

when necessary, use words


January 2008

The shamanic shadow in the 3rd millennium

” … Rather than viewing the shaman as sort of a vestige of some savage and primitive world view … they’re harbingers of the future evolution of humanity.” (Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove in conversation with Alberto Villoldo

baptism from mattstone.blogs.comThis is the concluding part of my series “The shamanic shadow“, an enquiry into primal spirituality from a contemporary christian viewpoint.

After a brief survey of shamanic practice, relying chiefly on accounts garnered over the last 150 years (but looking at the topic somewhat generally and globally), and emphasising the commonality of shamanic practice across continents, I looked for these same urges in the narratives of the Old testament, and then the New. I concluded from this that much of what Christ represented had deep resonances with the “pan-shamanic” traditions (if such a thing does in fact exist). Continue reading “The shamanic shadow in the 3rd millennium”


Shamanism, interview 3: Tim Victor

Tim VictorTim Victor has worked as a youth pastor and spiritual consultant in urban missions. His aim has been to teach people how to hear from Godde and exercise spiritual gifts like prophecy and healing, announcing and demonstrating Godde outside of Christian environments and also mentoring Christians to work missionally.

Tim Victor is “a follower of Jesus intentionally growing as an envoy to postmodern spiritual seekers”. He is also trying to figure out how to grow as a husband, a father and a small-business owner. Note: Tim has committed to rendering all references to “God” as “Godde”,  in blithe disregard for patriarchal norms, as an amalgam of the Male and Female aspects of the Divine.

Do you as a Christian find the shamanic metaphor irrelevant, threatening or promising?
Promising, without a doubt. The concept of shamanism lends expression to much Christian practice while offering a framework for understanding and enabling people to enter into the practice of spiritual encounter, including revelation, healing and guidance.

Continue reading “Shamanism, interview 3: Tim Victor”

The tag of gareth – I’ve been bookblogged!

Conspiracy ahoy … Gareth B has “tagged” me virtually at the same time I responded to Roger’s question “What book are you reading?”.

So here goes:

1. One book that changed your life
“The meaning of the creative act” (1917?) by Nikolai Berdyaev. I read this while recovering from Bible college, 1983. Or, Thomas Moore’s “Care of the Soul”.

2. One book you’ve read more than once
“Weaveworld” by Clive Barker. Barker is possibly this age’s greatest mythmaker; his knowledge of the esoteric and the exotic is simply awesome, and his imagination is unparalleled.

Continue reading “The tag of gareth – I’ve been bookblogged!”

The shamanic shadow in the new testament.

In “The shamanic shadow in the old testament“, I did a lightweight survey of shamanic myths and practices throughout the Pentateuch, poetry and prophets, moving in a more or less linear way through time.

I now want to continue to examine the rest of the canonical bible. This time however, I’d like to start at the “end” and move towards the “centre”, ending up at the crux of the matter – Jesus Christ.

John of the Revelation
Lakota trinity from
The Revelation was written by John (not necessarily the same John as author of the Gospel or disciple of Jesus) while in a state of exile on the isle of Patmos. It is possibly the most controversial book of the 66 and its inclusion in the canon was not unanimous.

Revelation has been open to misinterpretations by readers (with an underdeveloped sense of the metaphorical) confused by the relationship between the literal and metaphor. This includes looking for inappropriate meanings in its rich set of symbols and reading chronological events into its structure.

Aside from fitting Revelations into one or another agenda, one of the reasons for this wildly varied speculation is no doubt as a result of ignorance of its literary genre, known as Apocalyptic. (Daniel is another example of this). One feature of Apocalyptic literature is an abundance of highly symbolic imagery.

Continue reading “The shamanic shadow in the new testament.”

Shamanism, interview 2: Gavin Marshall

Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall looks a bit like ‘The Dude’ in the Big Lebowsky. He is a musician, a magician and a bit of an explorer when it comes to the mind and spirituality. A former evangelical pastor, he recently attended a guided retreat under the auspices of a Peruvian Shaman.

Tell us about how you moved from being an evangelical pastor to becoming interested in shamanism?
It was a long journey. I grew disillusioned with the church and decided to take a break. The break then became a bit more permanent and I found that I now had the freedom to explore what I really believed. The exploration involved studying different religions, magic, guys like Jung and Joseph Campbell and so-on.

Continue reading “Shamanism, interview 2: Gavin Marshall”

The shamanic shadow in the old testament.

Jonah in the Whale, by Caroline MackenzieI have tried to immerse myself in the question “What is shamanism?” for long enough to develop an unbiased view. If I had simply done “a christian critique of shamanism” or something that hadn’t got sufficiently out of the gravitational pull of orthodoxy, I think the quest would have been less fruitful. Doing critiques based on ones already held point of view is natural, but may not afford one enough objectivity to make it a useful investigation that ultimately leads to transformation.

So after summarising (albeit in western-style bullet form) some features of shamanism, I gave the good old testament a scan to see if I could identify the “shadow of the shaman” on the landscape of those 66 books.

Continue reading “The shamanic shadow in the old testament.”

Shamanism, interview 1: Anthony Paton

Anthony Paton, a “materialist fundamentalist with and interest in alternative perspectives”, works for the Cradle of Humankind world heritage site. Besides being my brother, he in a intrepid bipedal student of all things natural: Birds, Reptiles, Rocks, People, and Natural Selection, and is not known to pass an opportunity to opine. So I asked him for his views on Shamanism.

Where does shamanism fit into the picture we now have of mans social and spiritual evolution?

Chief SeattleShamanism seems to have a long history- tens of thousands of years and is prevalent in many pre-agrarian societies, and is possibly associated with hunter-gatherer culture.  That would make it possibly a 250 000 year old tradition. There is a strong argument to suggest that shamanism is associated with traditional medicine- that since people discovered that plants can be harvested and consumed in various forms- through eating, smoking, steaming etc. and some of these plants contained chemicals which sent people on a mind journey which they interpreted through their own animistic (or other) beliefs.  Seeing that people already had a notion of deities and a spiritual world, it made a lot of sense to them to interpret these trips as informing them of the contents of these worlds, and receiving messages from them.

What is the role of the shaman in the Bushman culture of the Kalahari?

Continue reading “Shamanism, interview 1: Anthony Paton”

The shamanic shadow

Ah conquistador is it only gold you’re looking for
Or may you still yet see the treasure long concealed within thee?
Ah conquistador campaigns you waged to win the war
To gain the world and lose your soul
What were you fighting for? – The Shamen, “Conquistador”

The shaman as visionary, prophet, healer, ceremonialist, psychotherapist & often herbal doctor is the ‘doctor of the soul’ for both the community and individuals.
– Leo Rutherford “Contemporary Shamanism”

Unknown artist's replication of ancient pictograph found in the Tien Shan Mountains of Central AsiaI have been broadly exploring new approaches to spirituality in posts such as
Ecclesia as Sacred Tribe and A Pagan conversation. Once one opens the imagination to ideas outside of the western modern norm, (such as “Tribe”), we inevitably meet, in premodern and ancient cultures, the shaman .

The shaman is a shadowy figure, dimly understood, and widely viewed by moderns as a purveyor of superstition, a dangerous magician or a charlatan praying on the fears of simple people. But in fact, in most accounts I have read, shamans are tough  mystics who has overcome their fear of death and so earned a reputation as powerful guides, seers and healers.

Continue reading “The shamanic shadow”

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