Shamans are Ubiquitous

Shamanism is the ‘technique of ecstasy’, involving the purposeful invocation and use of dreams and visions to solve problems.

Every tribal culture – alive or dead – has some broker of spiritual capital. The Indonesian Mentawai have their sikerei. The Inuit have their angakok. The Columbian Desana have their paye. The Mongolian Buryat have their böö. The American Sioux have their heyoka.

Here is an interesting and informative article about shamanism that takes the anthropologist’s approach, looking for sociological and evolutionary explanations but never considering the possibility that the realm into which shamans are tapping might be real, and the forecasts that they provide might be accurate.

When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunderstorm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier… You have noticed truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping … as lightning illuminates the dark, for it is the power of lightning that heyokas have.


The Internet of Trees

Mycelium is the neurological network of nature.  Interlacing networks of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes.  These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind.  The mycelium stays in constant molecular communication with its environment devising diverse chemical responses to complex challenges.  They can spread enormous cellular mats over thousands of acres of forest.  They not only provide channels by which individual trees (not necessarily of the same species) help one another in the forest, and they provide the intelligence that enables the forest to respond in a coordinated way to challenges of pest infestations, and even to shape their own climate.

I wonder what would happen if there were a United Organization of Organisms, where each species got one vote.  Would we be voted off the planet?

Mycelium Running, by Paul Stamets

Richard Stoker

Richard Stoker is what in the old days would have been called a polymath. Not only is he an accomplished musician involved in composing, teaching, playing and musicology, he also writes poetry, novels, short stories, articles, and reviews, and is an activist for human rights. Furthermore Stoker is an accomplished artist – his works can be seen on the sleeves of some of his CD recordings.    Read more

Today is his 80th birthday.

what’s a poem? a dream no less
not a verse? yet it’s more…
a soufflé turned out well?
a thrown honed pot? glazed and
fired to perfection not a ‘second’?
a new experience? a shattering blow?
a chilling cold that runs you
through and through? yet it’s more…
a coming together in the readers’ mind?
some say it’s a gift the first line
perhaps? yet it’s more…
a poem is a pearl? … but it’s more … it’s more

— Richard Stoker

Measure me, Sky

Measure me, sky!
Tell me I reach by a song
Nearer the stars;
I have been little so long!

Weigh me, high wind!
What will your wild scales record?
Profit of pain,
Joy by the weight of a word!

Horizon, reach out!
Catch at my hands, stretch me taut,
Rim of the world;
Widen my eyes by a thought!

Sky, be my depth,
Wind, be my width and my height,
World, my heart’s span;
Loneliness, wings for my flight!

— Leonora Speyer, born this day in 1872

Lady Speyer by John Singer Sargent.jpg

Re-enchanting Nature and Ourselves

Isaac Newton was the father of modern, quantitative physics, but it would never have occurred to him that this precluded magic or spirits in nature.  He spent much of his experimentation with alchemy and astrology.

In the 1880s, Arthur Conan Doyle went to seances and communed with the dead, but his alter-ego Sherlock Holmes was a hard-headed scientist who sought and found a mechanical explanation for every mystery that seemed supernatural.  He read the spirit of the times.

In the early 20th Century, Sigmund Freud found abundant evidence for telepathy and extraordinary knowing among his case studies, but he wrote about this only in private letters and denied it in public.  He knew that establishing the new field of psychology as a legitimate science would be hard enough without taking on prejudice of the intelligentsia against things supernatural.

William James, his older contemporary, was much more explicit about believing in a non-material soul that survives the body and in telepathic communication.  And Freud’s student, Karl Jung, broke with Freud over his explicit embracing of mystical transpersonal connections.

The prejudice that says “Science Knows Better” is alive and well today, fueled by all of the technical successes of the science establishment.  The spirit of our times is no spirit.  We believe in the religion of no religion.  We think we know better than the Greeks who associated personalities with the sun and the wind, and we smile condescendingly at the Native American beliefs in spirits of nature.  The shamanism that is our heritage in every indigenous culture is explained away as an interesting anthropological phenomenon.

But the truth is that we have been robbed of a great deal of the beauty and mystery in life.  The community of scientists has denied the overwhelming evidence for telepathy and precognition and psychokinesis, even after classical mechanics (which is inhospitable to souls and spirits) was replaced with quantum mechanics (in which there is a natural place for the supernatural).

The result is the nihilism that dominated philosophy in the 20th Century, existential angst, anomie, whole generations of people who don’t know who they are or why they are alive, an epidemic of suicide in the most prosperous countries in the world.

Each of us has within us our dreams, intuitions and presentiments, communications from nature and from the divine.  We have learned to look past them.  We have learned to attend to the five senses and the material world, to the exclusion of half of ourselves.  We routinely suppress the very parts of ourselves that know why we are alive.

The natural world is alive and ensouled and enchanted.  We can re-sensitize ourselves to a living spirit, and listen to what the voices of the trees and the ocean.  In fact, the dominant intellectual culture of physicalism is melting in our lifetimes.