Tim 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.
What in your experience is the churches attitude towards the primal, the healing arts and the shamanic?
Reactive or dismissive rather than proactive and engaging. We’re all western people who discover Christ and/or Christianity. Christians usually inherit the western suspicion of all things that aren’t western as well as the tendency to be closed to spiritual experience. This usually results in novel ways of explaining away the activity of spiritual beings and the experience of Godde.
I often experience Christians as trying to explain away the primal, the healing arts and the shamanic. The Christian view on Godde – Father-Mother, Son/Risen LORD, and Spirit – adds another reason to actively ignore and reject the primal, healing arts and shamanic – faithfulness to Godde.
Are there existing Christian ministries you are aware of that you might term shamanic?
I’d have to abuse the term shaman a bit and create a loose definition but I think the answer is yes. The shamanic involves altered states of consciousness, which is achieved through various means, as well as contact with the spirit world. I’d say movements like the Vineyard, New Wine, Partners in Harvest, the Pentecostals, Quakers, the various Christian mystics are shamanic along with many I haven’t mentioned.
There are also a host of counselling practices and healing centres like the Healing Rooms, the practice of Inner Healing, the Theophostic Prayer model, the Vineyard Model of Ministry, etc. which can all be loosely classified as shamanic. The spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer, worship, meditation, etc. are also related to altered states of consciousness and communication with the “spirit world”, as are things like speaking in tongues, receiving visions and dreams, and prophesying, which and may also be termed shamanistic.
From this point of view the shamanistic thread continues throughout Christian history and is closely related to the core of Christian spirituality – connecting with the Spirit of Christ.
In any community that you create, what might you see the role of the shaman to be?
I think the notion of the shaman can definitely reflavour and revitalise the role of the pastor. The pastor has generally been a community leader most recently redefined around the practice of a counsellor along with the skills of the businessman. He (usually a he) also has to be a skilled orator.
I think the time of the shaman-pastor is dawning, as the curator of sacred space and sacred experiences. Here the central role becomes one of representation and facilitation, showing the path and enabling others to walk the path of spiritual experience as part and parcel of everyday living. I guess this is kind of like spiritual direction but involving communities and facilitating the encounter between Godde and the community.
Besides the pastor, what other roles might be enhanced?
I think we’re seeing a general redefining of roles as the necessary functions in community shifts. Hopefully the focus on “spiritual experience” will be part and parcel of the whole community.
Do you think Christians should be experimenting with things like altered states and plant medicines?
Christians already experience altered states of consciousness. The experience of Godde is itself an altered state. Manifestations of the Spirit like shaking, rapid eye movement, falling into trances along with receiving “words” and “visions” are also altered states. A number of spiritual practices like fasting, prayer, waiting on Godde, developing a constant mindful awareness of Godde’s presence and voice at all times are all altered states to our ordinary state of consciousness.
Plant medicines in a shamanic context refer to “psychedelics”. These “medicines” induce spiritual experience. The person and work of Christ Jesus removes the barriers between us and Godde. This removes the need for elaborate rituals and drugs. We can easily enter into an experience of Godde as S/He likewise wants intimate experience with us.
I think our practice of spirituality is linked to who and what we encounter when we have meaningful spiritual experience. Psychedelics may have benefits in many other contexts but I don’t see their use meaningfully contributing to encountering the Spirit. I believe that a natural spiritual experience remains primary.
What do you mean by a “natural spiritual experience”?
When you have a natural experience you are who you are and can meaningfully share an experience with others. When you induce an experience in a person there’s randomness and altered perception. How can you tell what is real and what isn’t when you’re perceptions are being altered? How can you meaningfully share an experience when people are heading off into different directions? If that’s the purpose of the encounter that’s fine but the point is for everyone to meaningfully connect with Godde then natural experience is necessary.
What might the dangers be of accepting or experimenting with the shamanic with Christian or western community?
The territory of shamanism is a new one requiring a bit of pre-thinking before entering in. If I took up diving I would need to do some research and learn the basics. Then I’d have to step out of my comfort zone into an unsafe experience and reorientate myself. I’d be introduced through someone qualified to do so. In short, there are safe and wise and practical ways to start diving but where is the parallel with shamanism? More to the point, where is the parallel with Christian Shamanism?
I think it’s very dangerous for people to throw themselves into something like shamanism without some pre-thinking and without hooking up with those who are “qualified” to introduce others. One of the core concepts behind shamanism is openness to the spirit world. There are very real and very personal spiritual beings out there with their own agendas. Part of the safety aspect includes who we’re becoming introduced to and how.
One of the other dangers relates to our living and being in the world. There is a degree to which shamanism threatens western civilisation. Shamanism integrates humans with their environment and focuses on relationships. This means that shamanism essentially critiques the west. Our civilisation, which means Western and Christian complicity via participation in systemic evil in raping and pillaging cultures and the environment, is likely to find it a threat.
In the interchange what might western spirituality have to give to primal cultures?
Primal cultures are going extinct. This is a harsh reality. By hearing them out and integrating them we give them a new people group to be a part of. We can contribute to the longevity of their wisdom for living by integrating it into our spirituality.
Western spirituality is quite broad and so I will speak of Christ Jesus’ contribution. I think the major contribution Christ brings is wholeness and healing. Jesus’ people group, His sacred tribe, consists of “every tribe and tongue and nation”. As such, He affirms primal cultures. He says “you are valuable and meaningful and I want you as part of my people”.
This differs starkly from the west that says let’s remake you in our own image, your invaluable and we’re here to plunder you for all we want. There’s also a prophetic vision here. Christ’s country will have space for primal cultures just as it will have space for our culture. This affirms that He is Godde over all, including us. There is hope and a future for primal cultures. We may not see how now, but when His kingdom is the only kingdom this will be the case.
Western spirituality is informed by the contributions of the sciences. Education can bring freedom from charlatans and superstition. In relation to spirituality, people are often powerless before spiritual beings along with sickness and disease and deformity. Primal people often don’t have access to western methods of healing and so suffer from conditions that there’s no hope for. Jesus brings healing. To illustrate, I know a man who has seen a person born without eyes grow a set of eye when Christ instructed him to lay hands on the person and command them to grow. There are many accounts like this.
Jesus sets people free from evil spirits. I’ve seen a person sliding around like a snake and heard other voices shouting through people in response to the presence of Godde. Having seen evil spirits release people through a command, empowered and authoritative through Christ Jesus, is simply amazing. Many primal people know about Godde but only interact with intermediaries. Christ comes to fulfil primal cultures too.