Man is a spiritual creature, always searching for meaning. But for many people in the so-called “western world,” there is a feeling of disenchantment with the world as it is: Wake up, do your job, get a mortgage, buy a house, pay your taxes and eagerly await the weekend. Perhaps you’re one of these people.
Traditional religions don’t fill the gap. People become exasperated. They start drinking alcohol or using drugs. They see no meaning in their routine days of drudgery.
Watching some documentaries about shamanism over the last few months has gotten me thinking. A lot of these so-called “primitive” peoples appear happier than we “westerners” are. They have a sense of community, a sense of belonging and a sense of responsibility to those around them.
Spiritually, they don’t seek to find a “god” outside of themselves. They don’t have rigid religious doctrines that attack all non-believers.
In traditional cultures all over the world, and in places as diverse as Siberia and the Amazon jungle, shamanic mysticism is integrated into the culture. Spirituality is integrated within each individual, and every day is considered a spiritual day. Spirit is everywhere. It is not something they do once every week on a Saturday or Sunday when the kids are out of school.
Their spirituality is experiential and visceral. They live it.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in their use of psychotropic (mind-altering) plants to affect changes in themselves. These “primitives” actually have very sophisticated ways of inducing psychological changes. Using various mushrooms, green leafy plants and plant mixtures that affect the brain, and rituals that include dance and music to affect a trance on the participants, their spiritual practices are designed to help people discover and face their dark sides, their fears and their anxieties.
Researchers who have a lot of experience studying shamanism and participating in the rituals, such as Terence McKenna, have found that this attempt to communicate directly with the spirit and emotions can transform people’s lives. Through these rituals, nature, spirit and life become unified. People become more free to express themselves. Substances are essential parts of a ritual and are not used as recreational drugs or as substitutes for television, as they are in many industrialized countries. Drug addiction is unknown in these ancient and traditional societies.
As with the sufi poets, shamans compose poetry, which they later chant. Here is a poem by the Peruvian shaman Kestenbetsa, which I have translated from French:
I will open, I will open your thoughts
by opening them, I will fill you with joy
by filling you with joy, I will straighten your thoughts
straightening them, I will do it joyously
I will straighten your body
now, I will heal you
to the depths of your heart
opening your heart, I will give you an immense feeling of joy
in this way, I will return life to you
I will return life to your body
I will return life to your thoughts
I will heal your being, I will heal your body
with the powerful scent of the trees
and with the faultless scent of the universe
in thought… for you to be joyous
remember my words
so that you may remember them, I chant them to you
although I am unimportant, I have made you shine
I have made your thoughts shine
the universe harmonizes
my words have fulfilled their promise
and that, ’till infinity.
To me it’s obvious that there is a way to be spiritual without being religious and without following a strict, dogmatic code of conduct.
After all, research in biochemistry and biophysics has shown that the world is not nearly as simple as most “scientists” have thought: DNA has electromagnetic qualities. It is not merely a chemical-reaction-generator. There are snake-like bodies inside of cells that nobody understands and whose function nobody knows. Most of the “stuff” of the universe is theorized to be “dark energy,” an energy that nobody knows anything about.
Could coming back to living a more natural life actually be a way out of our modern-society-induced disenchantment?