Shamanism and Spirituality
Part 1: Finding your Soul through Shamanic Spirituality
There are no short cuts on the way leading to spirituality and better avoiding eagerness when searching it.
This way is easy to describe in few words that provide the great principles of this research, though it does not really guide at the beginning.
It is ‘enough’ for you to
- respect and strengthen your body,
- exercise and refine your intellect,
- love and enrich your soul.
Body, intellect and soul
Many years of evolution led our intellect to create a system enabling us to know where our body stands. Modern science recently managed to account for the stunning complexity of the intellectual mechanism by which we make the difference between our body and our surroundings, even though this seems so natural to us.
We know what our intellect is or, more precisely, it believes it does. Note that our way of speech itself carries a confusion:we often call ‘spirit’ our intellect whereas spirit covers, among other meanings, both intellect and soul.
As for the soul, we do not know much more than what the religions say about it. Besides accepting their creed, they tend to reluctantly offer personal means to discover what it is. The special religion called ‘atheism’ even states that the soul does not exist at all, which reflects the confusion between ‘spirit’ and ‘intellect’. These religions however provide us many examples of people endowed of a great spirituality who thus should know what is their soul. We however notice that these people are in general living an exceptional life such as monks or priests, i. e., once again, people who accepted the dogmas of their religion. But we are interested here in ‘ordinary’ people who earn their life by having a job within a secular context, such are, say, window cleaners, brain surgeons and senators. They have a hard life, a stressing one, which leaves little time to spirituality. Yet most of them feel a need for filling up a kind of emptiness, and they would like to live a better spiritual life.
My main sources
My main source is the whole of my shamanic experiments, including my small achievements and my great failures…Even all these who attended a séance or two, “just to see,” brought to me more than they might believe. I deeply thank those who became my ‘students’ in shamanism and who agreed to make an effort for unifying their soul in their body. A surprise has been that they taught me that spirituality is more a business of sincerity in the search for our soul than of any other kind of ‘success’.
I received a teaching from four different teachers belonging to the Foundation for the Shamanic Studies. Most important has been the one delivered by Sandra Ingerman and her first book.
I was lucky enough to practice a few hours with two Siberian shamans: their enthusiasm, their dynamism, their sincerity subtly influenced me in a lasting way. They brought in me the need to dance and to sing the spirits.
I also got quite a lot from books, mainly from
- traditions and behaviors described by various mythologies, over all Germanic and Scandinavian mythologies such as Eddas, Sagas and Skaldic poetry tells them. Another unhoped-for meeting was the discovery of Sumerian mythology in its pure version, that is, free of Akkadian mythology.
- Descriptions of the behavior of the Siberian shamans and especially Maria Antonina Czaplicka’s ones.
- Descriptions of the magicians of old Iceland by Dillmann, Dogon cosmogony by Griaule, the religious system of pagan Georgia by Charachidzé, Inuit spirituality by Saladin d’Anglure.
To feel our soul
Answering the atheistic objection of the inexistence of the soul will actually help us to better understand how to find our soul. This objection is indeed reasonable:if you do not feel the existence of your soul, it is rather naive to give any kind of importance to it. How to feel its existence?
The principal problem is that, just like basic good sense teaches us, what we sincerely ‘feel’ must necessarily occur in our body before being ‘acknowledged’ by our brain. Many people try to behave the other way round, they do not content themselves with only ‘feeling’ they want ‘to see’, ‘to visualize’, or even ‘imagine’ before accepting to ‘feel’ anything. The intellectual process of visualization indeed often renders possible to feel something, but certainly not your own soul. For instance, many persons point out in good faith that they “do nothing but imaging it all” and they cannot grant their confidence to visualization techniques.
This being said, we must acknowledge that learning to feel our soul in our body is a complex process. It is all the more complex because most persons’ soul is fragmented, some parts of it disappeared or have been ‘stolen’ during their life. Mostly, however, the point is that our ability to feel such subtle feelings has been blunted by the habit of strong feelings, which our body more easily provides. Experiment showed me also that the first time we feel the presence of our soul somewhere in our body is a rather unpleasant feeling, not one peace and of harmony as it is believed. These who meditate in order to feel their soul will thus seek to reach serenity. This is a false start to find our soul, although the serenity feeling becomes, later, constant for who are well engaged on the way of spirituality.
The work to be carried out is not the acquisition of a ‘trick’ that brings an easy solution. Claiming it would be a lie. It looks more like slowly becoming aware of such tenuous body sensations that, at first, we hardly believe we did feel them. Reaching this goal is some toil and we do not have fixed rules to help someone on the way of spirituality [though my failures taught me something on this topic!]. We can however present a few behaviors that may help in discovering our soul and building a spiritual life. Inversely, we are quite sure that shunning these behaviors is bound to destroy any kind of spirituality. Here are the two most significant couples of such opposite behaviors. One is ‘self-sincerity’ versus ‘internal deceit’. The other one is the couple ‘internal approval’ versus ‘external approval’. We will also insist on a third couple, which does not oppose but complement each other: the one of respect for our body that complements love for our soul.
The opposition between self-sincerity [a possibly pernickety but not obsessional one] and internal deceit
We do not consider here sincerity, or lack of it, in other people. We concentrate on the one with which we should never compromise, sincerity with our self. In the topic of interest here, we will primarily regard sincerity towards the others as an excellent exercise, a relatively easy one, to get some training in sincerity towards ourselves.
There are no other judges of our self-sincerity but ourselves, and especially our intellect. Moreover, the introspection work by which we will evaluate ourselves is really refined. One other problem is that we may go up to being pernickety, though without becoming obsessive: Being obsessive for any problem, including the one of the search for our soul, moves us away from our soul. Here, a small push may become necessary to help you to see more clearly in you. This raises another problem: finding such help will request that you need to “open your soul,” as we say, to whom will help you. You thus become at risk of being ‘guru-ed’. It is very important to rely on you alone (mostly) instead of on someone else who may become a guru. As we see, so many problems to handle are contradictory among themselves that speaking of a “refined evaluation” is no bragging.
[Being able to open our soul with very little danger, and also to insulate it in case of danger, belongs to standard shamanic training, such as I conceive it. Opening and closing your soul asks for a good knowledge of it. Work at first on your sincerity towards yourselves!]
The same intellect is able to ‘mis-lead’ you as well as to safely ‘pro-lead’ you. When using your intellect, do not follow the classical image of a ‘left’ and ‘right’ brain. Try to appreciate the in-depth of the images that appear to you. The surface images are intellectually built while the in-depth ones reflect your feelings or your emotions. This training will, in good time, also teach you to make the difference between images that mislead you from those that reflect your truth.
In this way, you will be able to become perfectly sincere in differentiating your daydreams from your feelings. Beware of yet another contradiction: the solution is not prohibiting any daydream and to rebuff the pleasure of imagination. Once you have learned how to recognize imagination at work and how to take it as mere entertainment, you will easily avoid granting it the status of a real thing. Let this daydream slip along your body, it is nothing but a sign that your intellect is seeking to seize power on your body and your soul. Do not fight, do not seek to block your intellect, it will be stronger than ‘you’. But you will experiment that, by sincerely giving to it the status of daydream, this beautiful story will stop haunting you and you will be able to quietly come back to the study of body feelings.
This fear to see the human brain starting to bolt is easy to spot in science fiction films. One of their leitmotiv describes how an artificial brain, the computer, seizes power on the humans supposed to control it. Scriptwriters hidden fears relative to their own brain are thus displayed.
The source of our intellect, the brain, typically behaves in an ambiguous way. As any other body part and it reflects our body. This part of it, though, is also able of an independent life through imagination.
It is up to you to use the self-control of your intellect instead of using its capacity to bolt. Intellect is a double edged weapon. An edge cuts down our folly. The other one cuts down our good sense.
The opposition between ‘internal approval’ and ‘external approval’
Internal versus external motivation are well-known concepts in pedagogy. They oppose an intrinsic wish to succeed in learning to an extrinsic motivation by gifts or rewards.
Internal or external approvals do not deal with your motivations but with the way you self-evaluate your worth. It opposes to the way you are evaluated as worthy or not by other people.
A useful exercise of sincerity consists in pondering if each one of your actions is motivated by an internal need of your being. Do you evaluate your actions worth through your own judgment or through the one of your social relationships? We rather easily notice when other people are posturing to show their worth, which might lead us to believe that we also able to notice our own posturing, provided we try to be sincere.
Social life, however, since our earliest childhood, conditioned us to react to external approval. Adolescence is, to some extent, the period of life during which we turn down this external approval. This refusal tends to occurs together with so much anger that it shows little efficiency in the long term. Most of the conditioning teenagers underwent during childhood will simply become unconscious.
In addition, when reaching adulthood, we meet a social hierarchy that imposes its rules of life, something we cannot avoid when we stay a social being. As a less commonplace example, see how the social condition of artists imposes them unusual clothing or unexpected behaviors.
We are thus crammed in between two walls of external approvals: the childhood unconscious one, and the social assessments, of which we are painfully conscious. This leaves us little place to practice internal approval.
It follows that we are left with two ways only for discovering what our soul is. One consists in getting apart of humankind, and living in the loneliness of misanthropy. This behavior totally rejects all kind of social influence on us. The other way consists in seeing us as belonging to humankind instead of fleeing from it. In this case, we accept the existence of its external (social) approval. There is no need to like it, we should even look at this external influence on our self-approval as an unpleasant need, and practice it with more reluctance than eagerness.
Our shamanic approach differs from the one of the great religions by patently advising for the second approach and advising against the first one. Accept the need for social relations and look at those who live by external rules as mistaken persons, not as guilty ones. Smile without condescension to their errors because they are our human brothers. Do not forget as well that contempt for others is also a very effective way of forgetting our soul. Yourself, though, grumble at the need to be imposed a ‘looking like’ instead of a ‘being’ and unite the strength of your body to the one of your intellect in order to isolate this ‘looking like’ from your inner feelings.
You need both: Respect your body and love your soul
Your soul belongs to you, to your ego, want it or not. This is why we insist here on these two features of your ego. Instead of trying to suppress your ego, assert it … in the respect for your body and the love for your soul.
Your body has its forces and its weaknesses. To be conscious of one strong point does not mean being proud of it, which would be a spiritual catastrophe. To be conscious of one strong point indicates that we harmlessly may interact with another person when this strength is brought into play. Symmetrically, being conscious of one of our weaknesses does not mean being ashamed, shame is yet another spiritual catastrophe. To be conscious of one weak point means that it is necessary to be cautious while interacting with another person when this weakness is brought into play.
To respect our body means to keep the best possible balance between our strengths and our weaknesses. In fact, as during a walk, constantly failing to maintain balance - in order to keep it - is how we can walk towards spirituality.
As for loving our body without respecting it, well, this leads to the very lack of control upon which religions base their distrust and from which stems their multiple prohibitions.
Many of their so-called sins are not such a big deal by themselves. The big problem is their common root, i.e., lack of respect for our own body.
If you are seeking spirituality, it is probably because your soul became a remote unknown factor. We already said that it is often incomplete and is fragmented all over your body. Here also, a small external help in re-building it might be useful. Do not believe that in blind faith: you are the primary force at play to achieve this work. A friendly push in the good direction may help, it cannot become a final solution.
You also know that love [while respecting your body!] brings inside you feelings of an infinite subtlety. If you try to love your soul [with the pernickety sincerity described above!] and if you have trained in appreciating your internal approval and in reluctance for the external one [another theme we already met] then, despite all your past errors and all your weaknesses, be sure to be on a good way to start seeking your soul. The power of love and - and I insist - love for your self, must lead you in this research. It will obviously follow that your behavior towards other people will change as well, but loving others without loving yourself amounts to water them from a dried up fountain. Let your own source gush again before trying to soothe someone else’s thirst!
A shamanic illustration of the three points above
To illustrate these remarks, let us study how someone might meet what I call a Spirit-Animal (often called a “Power Animal” – a wording that evokes power instead of spirituality). Let us suppose that this person is reasonable and humble enough to avoid trying to find this animal. A proper behavior is the one of being prepared to accommodate a Spirit-Animal who wants to find you. The traditional procedure in teaching shamanism consists in beginning the ceremony by calling the Spirits, followed by a walk during which the apprentice awaits the arrival of a Spirit. This walk can last long enough and the apprentice feels nothing. After a while, he or she should start to feel bored. This boredom may sour into anger and the séance will be useless. Fortunately, it may also increase our sensitivity for our feelings and we recognize a tiny change in our internal state. The name given to this part of the séance: Dance of the Animals, already suggests to the apprentice that this change is related to a Spirit-Animal. He or she thus will tend to interpret this feeling in terms of presence of an animal. The person in charge of the ceremony recommended them to accept body moves that agree with this ‘tiny change’ and the presence of an animal. By carrying out these movements, they generate new sensations that often reinforce the ‘tiny change’. They thus begin a serious work on shamanism. Let a smile win the last word: Some would state that they plunge into this nonsense which is shamanism.
The search for your soul is not achieved at the price of a fight between parts of your personality. On the contrary, the concept of ‘parts’ has been used here only as a way of speech enabling us to speak of the interactions between these pseudo-parts. In fact, the existence of several distinct parts in a person is a sign of a disease of the personality, which artificially breaks into parts. Harmony between these ‘parts’ manifests, on the contrary, a good health of the personality as a whole. Your self is in fact indivisible even if sometimes it manifests itself more through the body, or more through the intellect, or more through the soul.
Part 2 coming soon