Safety, Trust and Discernment
Part Six of the Second Interview with Craig Berry on Modern Shamanism and it's Foundations
Since we are discussing safety and such, can you elaborate on how safe this work is?
A great next topic! Discernment is always the first and most important thing in any shamanic work, or in life for that matter. In broad terms, discernment is a nice way of referring to your 'bullshit detector'. A lot of folks tend to think that anything or anyone they meet or perceive in a journey is a positive and truthful thing. This flies in the face of every day observation and common sense.
What do you mean?
Shamanism is first and most importantly an art of observation. The shaman learns by observing, interpreting and emulating until arriving at innovating if that way inclined. As objective an observation as is possible is a necessity to effective shamanic learning. We learn from the world around us. If you watch any eco-system, pretty much everything is predator or consumer of some things and prey to other things. Go to any gathering of more than few trusted folks, and you will find self interest, ego, self aggrandizement and intentful deception are a common and everyday feature of life.
How silly is it to understand that the energetic worlds which mirror, make and results from our own physical reality are without predation and deception, believing instead that these qualities are exclusive to our physical world?
When you encounter any new entity, personality or spirit, their motives and reliability must be discerned and trust gained, not automatically given.
Is that paranoid?
A little paranoia is good for you. How long do you think a non-paranoid antelope is going to last with predators around? Skeptical and critical thinking is needed, both in life and during shamanic journey. A large part of shamanic training is developing a healthy facility for discernment. Learning what to trust, what to distrust and what to avoid.
When I first met a spirit guide who has been a true and reliable feature in my life, it took a long time to fully trust each other. My mentor also had very able group of trusted guides who helped in the process. He counted his spirits continual reliability for well over sixteen generations (but the recall became a little fuzzy at that point and I never learnt a hard number.) His ability and guides kept me safe whilst I developed my own relationships. This is a big part of the training process and the necessary master-apprentice arrangement. This is also why following a calling is important. If ego is pushing you, your discernment is going to be anywhere from nonexistent to less-than-reliable. It is either heeding a call or gratifying ego. This is a binary solution, one or the other. Some so-called wiccan practices (popular witchcraft) are ego driven as they center on the use and exertion of power. True Wiccans (best understood as White Witches) approach the same goals via a different route to shamanism, but each are founded on highly complementary principles of clean practice and benefit for all.
Can you describe your trusted guides for us?
[Squirms a bit] You will find most practitioners less than comfortable discussing their guides in detail, not for some secret society or elitist thing; more for the reason that it is a very personal subject. The closest I can describe the feeling would be for a shy person to have to describe themselves in a sexual encounter in great detail. One of my most trusted is one who is intimately attached to Australia and has a fantastic sense of humor great integrity and little time for chatter. It was this guide who took me to my mentor. Since his passing, I have found one of those who helped him willing to help me when needed; something I am truly grateful for because I get to see Australia and the earth through a different set of filters. I might want to discuss something, and only get a look or a gesture in response. Having dealt with a mentor [walking in the next world] of similar background, I can only say that it is typical of the old bugger indeed [an Australian endearment (familiar)].
He is a shaman then?
Not that he would call himself that, but something along those lines, as you mean it.
So was he your first assistant?
No. I was first joined by a power animal. An omnivorous hunter. It took a long time to fully trust each other.
What was the animal?
I can feel your curiosity! No clean practitioner is going to list their power animals and guides like some cosmic inventory or egotistical arsenal. I will often be assisted by a specific animal for a specific task, but this is a temporary thing. For instance, searching for a soul fragment for a client recently, they had a fox associated with their being, and I used their fox's help and knowledge of her [client] to seek the fragment and bring it back, as foxes do. If it were a different animal, I might not have been so ready to use them as the nature of the form has to be remembered and considered. A rhino would be unlikely to help in finding a soul fragment, although they are very good at 'negotiating' a release if it is held by something.
So back to safety?
Thank you. Safety happens when working within your calling and assisted by trusted guides and assistants; when recognizing that motivations and intents have to be considered in every case. I stay safe by enlisting those who I trust to help see the motivations and intents, but the ultimate decision in every case is mine. If I am working from outside a calling, I am vulnerable to ego and am no longer safe. It is that simple. It is a repetitive theme and can't be said much more plainly than that.