Part Four of the Second Interview with Craig Berry on Modern Shamanism and it's Foundations
The 'Floor' is yours, you wanted to say something about shamanic training?
Yes please. There is a continual and consistent stream of discussions on forums and with those seeking to legitimise their knowledge and beliefs regarding the necessity of training with indigenous practitioners to be legitimate.
For the record, I do not believe that one people, person or race has more or less spiritual potential than another. To say that to be a good shamanic practitioner in our modern world, you had to study with natives in the bush for years is a bit like saying that to be able to work on aircraft as a mechanic, you need to know how to build a house. At best, it might help, but the skills and terms of reference are pretty far removed.
I am spotting a contradiction here!
(Laughs) Life is full of them! OK, let's try that again. I am an industrialized citizen. I use computers, electricity and machines I have not got the resources and experience to make from scratch; from the raw materials. Very few could even start to smelt a basic chunk of steel, yet we drive cars made of the stuff. As an industrialized citizen, I have not been raised with the lore, the medicine stories, that goes with a tribal understanding of shamanism from an indigenous point of view.
I do, however, have an incredibly strong tradition bred into my bones and psyche of reductionist learning and constructionist thinking. Talking of the Rainbow Serpent to me is talking of mythology as I have not been raised with a clear understanding of its inherent significance and family to me and mine. Does that mean I do not 'believe' in the Rainbow Serpent? It is a thought form which is real and kin to many. Do I think it was an actual serpent which made mountains and valleys though? No.
My cultural heritage tells me that the mountains were formed by tectonic and volcanic dynamics. Processes of geology. For me to become effective in my understanding, I must honor the practices and traditions of my heritage, that which I understand to be real. If I were to do otherwise, I would be just another poor example of a plastic shaman who espouses dogma and belief for the sake of sounding evolved and spiritual – an ego trip at best and self-delusion at worst.
I know of a person from a major city claiming to now be part of a native clan who never set foot outside of a city until in his twenties, but now claims an American First Nation name and claims to be 'an Indian'. Only one born and raised in a culture and of a people is of that culture and people. This is not to say that valuable learning can't happen. I am just asking for a little reality check.'Shamanic' practice has to honor the journey of the individual.
One from the city can live with the Black Fellas for a while, but no length of time as a guest will make a White Fella a Black Fella. [Ed. – The terms white fella and black fella are used freely by the Australian Aboriginal communities in the bush and are considered observationally honest, not racial in any way.] Only those born and raised within a culture are of that culture. I could be inducted and accepted into a mob or clan, but that will never, ever, make me a black fella; to think it could would be the height of self-delusion.
You see, I could spend years studying under a Matis curandero and doing solo trials in the Amazon Jungle, even maybe becoming considered a curandero myself amongst the Matis, but that still does not make me Matis. I am Australian.
Learning comes from heeding a call and finding the right teacher, regardless of setting.
Isn't that a little open?
Of course it is. When one finds themselves in the presence of a shaman, it is not something that needs a piece of paper on the wall legitimizing that person's knowledge. It is something that is known, felt and understood at a base level, in one's bones, so to speak. When one finds a teacher, it simply feels like you are in the right place at the right time. Sometimes the time is not right, and you can feel that too.
If you are truly following a calling, the teacher will be revealed. Sometimes not in the form you might expect though. I do not know any honest shamans who walk around in long flowing robes spouting spiritual sound-bites and looking 'constipatedly serene'. The shaman I know are regular people, with wives, husbands, stresses and pressures, just like any honest human does in any society. They are people. They have a band of knowledge just like any other specialist in any other field does. Enlightenment is not a pre-requisite for an effective shaman; but a good sense of humor and understanding of the nature of reality and nuance is.
In indigenous cultures, the shaman is easier to identify as their role is defined by their society. In industrialized society, they are harder to spot.
So how do you find a shaman in a city?
First, don't look for shaman in the yellow pages. Ask around for those who seem to get great results helping people; those who do not take personal credit for that help; and those who share openly their foundations and philosophies. When you hear the same name popping up, talk to that person. Tell them you are heeding a call towards a particular path and see if they offer assistance on that path. If they do not, keep your ears open, they might offer alternative names that can be missed in disappointment.
A shaman will not speak in untruths, but also will not offer information on what is not asked directly about. Be precise and respectful in your questions. I will sometimes meet one who makes claims and demands more respect that is due. If that quasi-diefication is a part of that person's persona, I have found a plastic shaman.
A clean practitioner will not accept undue praise or responsibility for an outcome. A clean practitioner understands their role as assistant. The effective shaman is always the fulcrum, the pivot point for forces to move around. A shaman is never, ever the lever or the force applied to a problem. Effective practise is not about marshalling forces to do battle; it is about finding solutions where all involved find a higher level of peace and happiness.
Clean practise comes in many forms, but the intent is always the same, peace and balance is the only outcome which is clean.
So have you studied with indigenous people yourself?
We have already covered this. I am not going to discuss my training or experience. This is to avoid preconceptions clouding what I say. If someone reading this is influenced by the logic of the words posted on this site, and has applied rationality and intuition to them, they have decided on their own truth. If I claim years in the bush, they may weigh my words differently. If I said I have never set foot in the bush, this too might influence them.
I will simply say that here, in this interview, I present my knowledge and understandings, to be considered by the reader. If my words do not sound true, this is to be the result of judicious thought. I don't want dogma coming from this site, just understanding and consideration of what is said. It is my practise which speaks to my truth, not my training. When my clients find my practise effective, they never ask about my training. Results speak far louder than false legitimisations.
Now sounds like a good time to define some of those terms like light and shadow work?