Shamanic Attainment and Modernistic Evil
The History of Spiritual Loss and the New Shamanic Myth of Return
Copyright © 2006 by Robin Artisson
Good Day All:
In ancient times, both the pre-historic and pre-modern, animistic tribal peoples in all parts of the world had the entire record of their primordial experience contained within traditions of living shamanic practice. The actual mystical specialists of these many peoples, called by whatever names, from Wicasa Wakans in the Dakotas to the Drui and Ban Drui of Ireland, were living repositories of the group spiritual experience. Without them, the tribe of whatever country had no spiritual past, present, or future; these mystics were the keepers of memory, the maintainers and representatives of the tribe-identity to the powers of the Otherworld or the unseen world, and the teachers of the future mystics would would maintain the inner life of the people.
Few people alive today can understand the crucial position of these people to largely pre-literate societies, where remembrance of story (and, in the case of men like Skalds and Bards, the inspired composition of songs, poems, and stories) represent the only conscious connection that most people have with the ancestral past and the spiritual power of the group in the present.
Needless to say, people who would uphold the mantle of mystic didn't get their title from reading a book or two; they spent years engaged in learning, spiritual and actual travel, and direct experience of the inner realities that they would one day act as mediators for.
The Vagabonds of Spirit
Sadly, the Lakota Wicasa Wakans suffered the same fate as most Native American mystical specialists- near or total annhiliation at the hands of heartless invaders, invaders who had long ago forsaken their own animisitic bonds of kinship and spirituality- and become aimless vagabonds, spiritually dead murderers of other cultures and greedy materialists.
What made the tide of "White Greed" so terrible? Precisely what I just said- loss of their own animistic roots, as well as their own mystics. The European peoples have been wandering vagabonds of the spiritual world for many generations. Their lack of inner connection has been tragically reflected on the outer, as they have taken the time to embrace extreme politics, atheism, materialism and replaced spirituality with the materialistic sciences, capitalism, and many other destructive ways of thinking and acting.
The grim sweep of monotheism did to Europeans what the later European settlers would do to Native Americans- it destroyed (or attempted to destroy) their living spiritual connection to their inner reality as a people, replacing it with monstrous contrivances that offer no true spiritual nourishment.
The so-called "god" of Christianity was so weak and tasteless that he was not even missed when Europeans killed him off and dumped his body on the side of the metaphysical highway, during the so-called "enlightenment". To replace him, Europeans embraced the equally-as-false gods named "reason", "rationality", "skepticism", and "science". Like the "god" that came before them, these gods demand absolute obedience and will not have any "gods" before them; they will not allow for other "false gods" offering people any hope beyond the cold, hard facts that they claim to give. And like the "god" who came before them, their followers are every bit as dismissive of other faiths, and every bit as fanatical.
It is from this sad state of spiritual degeneracy that European people struck out at primal, animistic cultures that they met during the great eras of exploration and expansion. The cost in terms of human life and spirituality could not have been higher.
A New Urge
The Aztecs were a good example of a people that suffered the crushing evil of European conquest. Though the spanish conquistadores crossed the Atlantic ocean ostensibly for "god", only a great fool thinks that their true god- gold- wasn't the real reason for their expeditions.
We know practically nothing about the indigenous Aztec religion thanks to the wholesale destruction of their culture and religion by the Spanish. Only mute ruins of stone temples and pyramids stand rotting in Mexico today as a testament to the great spirit that was once there. We can be certain that the Aztecs had the same great animistic heritage as any people, and eons of primal experience, mediated to them through countless generations of shamans, priests, and mystics.
The very long age of empires finally came to an end, but financial and cultural imperialism easily replaced the military kind, resulting in a world that was still full of absuridty, injustice, and oppression.
And in the middle of this "new world", a new phenomenon arose: amid the spiritual void left in the souls of living people arose the urge to "return" to a saner way of being and thinking about the spiritual dimension of life. Where the "god" of monotheism failed, and the "reason" and "science" gods of the modern world had failed, it was hoped by many that perhaps their distant ancestors had access to some secret or lore that could help.
Overall, this is a good urge, a definite "calling" of an undying spirit hidden in the heart of people back to a time of conscious connection to the unseen world and the true powers that dwell within it. But this faery tale has one more dark turn before it ends; a simple urge to go "back" or seek a truth utilizing the ancestral truths native to our own souls is a fine start, but minefields of danger surround and fill the path to the goal, and these dangers are the monstrous children of generations of spiritual misdirection. They are the children of generations of lack of spiritual identity, and generations of materialistic culture.
And these monsters are shape-shifters; they can appear fair and beautiful and alluring if they choose. Like a true shamanic myth or epic, the lost children of the world have to find a way to defeat these monsters as they make their ascent out of the lost world and back to the Land of their Ancestors, back to the "green and good" country where they can live in peace again.
A New Enemy
These shape-shifting monsters appear to stop the progress of the souls who have heard the "call back" and who have found the few hints, passed-down secrets, and what few fragmentary clues still existed in what we have come to call "mythology" and "folklore", all clues to the healing of the modern world spiritual impasse, or to the "great return". The inner map was split into a thousand pieces and 950 of its pieces were lost, drifting into the deep Underworld and waiting for the hands of shamans and mystics to collect them and bring them back to the light... the same shamans and mystics who were largely killed or lost themselves ages ago.
As people try to find a way back to sanity, monsters rise up to stop them. The few mystics that remain or are born are rejected wholesale by a modern society that could care less about new religions or prophets; they are resisted by their supposed fellows on the mystical path, and they usually find their way to the depths of degeneracy in a dozen different ways, from drug abuse to the miasmic world of the under-appreciated modern "artists" and "spiritualists" of various types.
The monsters make their greatest killings on those who believe in the modern myth of "instant gratification". You may recall what I pointed out early in this essay, regarding the great dedication and long years of experience required on the part of cultural mystics before they came into their own, and could successfully mediate the inner life and world of their people. Such a "measure" of dedication and such an effort is important.
Even in the modern world, where our "cultures" are no longer organized into the tribal groupings we once had, we can still pay attention to the "markers" of genetics and language and see the distant faces of the people to whom we owe so much, and if we are true mystics, we can reach them and unseal hidden spaces of the timeless inner realities that are never really gone, only withdrawn onto another deeper level, symbolized by the Underworld.
But the modern world does not give us any free pass to ignore the requirement of dedication and effort over time, which is required before any true power arises in us, or before any power to heal our world can flow through us. The journey to the Underworld is still a long and perlious one, and where before culture and tribe were the sacred "bodies" that the mystic intended to represent, today their myths and remains have become repositories of lore that lead us further on the path to the future world that we intend to be the new spiritual pioneers and representatives of.
The monsters who block the way realize all this, and have a most brilliant plan to stop the journey: the spiritual laziness of most people is used against them, and the entire pseudo-spiritual movement that springs from this tactic has a name: "The New Age".
A New Age
What suffering people want the most is a quick end to their suffering. Speakers, groups, videos, or books offering "quick fixes" to the problems of the world are going to be hot sellers in a directionless world.
The wisdom of the ancient world didn't come quickly. Yet, we want quick wisdom. And no ancient culture is safe from the grip of the instant gratification monsters. Aztec shamans and priests, like their cousins in every primal culture, spent years learning to contact their "Nahualli" and their helping spirits, and they worked from within a genuine cultural context of animistic understanding. Without that context and devotion- a devotion that does not allow for concessions and "pick and choose" selections of modernistic comfort- Aztec spirituality or animistic religion cannot be reborn in any true form in any human being.
And yet, the modern spiritual "seeker" finds him or herself faced with products easily available online that tell them precisely the opposite. One such product of the new-age deception- a book and card set available from Amazon.com- claims to offer:
"...a means for contemporary spiritual seekers to identify their own nahualli and receive soul guidance from the Aztec wisdom tradition. Each of the 40 beautifully illustrated cards, which includes 31 nahualli animals and 9 Lords of the Night deities, represents an essential aspect of human life—such as joy, aggression, or sacrifice. The book shows how to invoke these powerful entities, through meditation and divination, to intervene in everyday affairs and provide insight into perplexing problems. The authors provide detailed guidelines for interpreting the significance of each nahualli animal or deity, along with an explanation of its mythological origins. Ancient Aztec religious symbolism is reflected in the divination spreads, such as The Five Directions, which is derived from the compass symbol at the center of the intricate Aztec calendar."
For 25 American dollars and a short shipping wait, you too can set out on the lost path of the "Aztec Wisdom Tradition." You can get to know the "9 Lords of Night" deities, neatly re-interpreted for you by three European-Americans who not only have no ancestral connection to the ancient Aztecs, but who also have no scholarly attainment in the field of Mesoamerican studies from any university; they have never lived in Mexico for longer than a tourist's stay, and yet, they are willing to tell the "seeker" how these ancient Aztec Spirits and "Lords of Night"
"...(each) represent an essential aspect of human life—such as joy, aggression, or sacrifice."
These authors are going to teach us how to
"...invoke these powerful entities, through meditation and divination, to intervene in everyday affairs and provide insight into perplexing problems."
Miraculously, they are going to give us
"...detailed guidelines for interpreting the significance of each nahualli animal or deity, along with an explanation of its mythological origins."
The forces of such wholesale destruction and desecration of the spirit of the past are common in the era of the "New Age". What you can be sure of is that such "quick fixes" are not paths to healing; they are the deceptions of the forces that resist human attempts to find their way back to spiritual sanity and wholeness. The sort of wisdom we need never comes from quick-fix, do-it-yourself books. Sadly, many of these authors (not all, but many) are as deceived as the rest of mankind, and truly think they are helping with their efforts. This is not usually the case, however.
Each of us has a treasure-house inside that still has the footprints of their own ancestry inside it. Even if you don't end there, it's the best place to start your journey. Whatever you do, and wherever you go, as is the case with most things, you must always be respectful, truthful, and polite.
The authors of the "Aztec" card set spoken of above are themselves victims of another monster- the monster of despair that makes people all over, east or west, look away from their own people to find answers "somewhere else"- the "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" they say; spiritually disillusioned westerners have long looked to the east for spiritual alternatives and solutions to their own spiritual problems, while steadfastly ignoring the fine foundation of spirituality that lives at their own core. To get back to the truths we want and need, we need look no further than where we are and who we are.
I talk a good bit about "going back". I am pleased to report that this is a paradox; what we are doing, while looking back and around us for clues, is actually going forward and creating a better future.