For a week or so we have been discussing shamanism in our DM’s. I rarely choose to insert myself explicitly into my teachings, but given the importance of Thomas Berry’s teaching today that we need “fewer priests, fewer professors and more shamans,” I am going to share with you today his insight about myself as shaman. Dr. Thomas Berry is author of The Great Work and The Dream of the Earth. He wrote this twenty years ago, but now, at 80 years old, its meaning is beginning to sink in on me and helps to explain for me a lot of my life journey and spiritual journey including the great gifts I have received from indigenous teachers and ceremonial leaders. Here is what Thomas Berry has written.
“When I think of Matt Fox I recall a passage written by Henry David Thoreau in his essay on Walking: ‘In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.’ For there is something wild in Matt, something primordial, a realization that humans are not here to control but to participate in the wonders of those vast cosmic phenomena beyond all human understanding. These experiences evoke within us an overwhelming delight and thoughts so profound that their meaning is revealed to us only in our dreams.
Matt has a vivid awareness of the fragility and ultimately the lack of fulfillment in any cultural tradition that has lost its experience of those unmeasured forces that inspire and bring fulfillment to the human mind and imagination. Forces that find expression in the vast range of natural phenomena in the heavens and on the Earth. In the full range of their ever-evolving sequence these phenomena constitute a cosmic liturgy. Indigenous peoples and the classical civilization in the vital periods of their creativity situate themselves deep within this sacred order of the universe….
In identifying the over-all context of his work, Matt is sometimes considered to be fulfilling a prophetic role and this designation does indicate an aspect of the work of Matt. Indeed he has critiqued the church in the light of its own most relevant intellectual, spiritual and social exponents in the past. Yet there is, I believe, a more critical role that Matt is fulfilling within the Christian community, the role of Shaman. While both Prophet and Shaman have special roles in their relation to the human community, the Shaman is more comprehensive in his field of consciousness. The prophet speaks somewhat directly in the name of God, the prophet is a message bearer, the prophet is interpreter of historical situations and the prophet critiques the ruling powers.
The Shaman functions in a less personal relationship with the divine. He is more cosmological, more primordial, personally more inventive in the source of his insight and his power. Matt speaks of his teaching as Creation Spirituality, it seems to me, because he feels the need to understand the deep experience of the human soul within the sacred dimension of the universe itself. That Matt has consistently used the word ‘Creation’ in identifying his work indicates the cosmic orientation of his thinking. By the term ‘creation spirituality’ he turns the western mind away from its exclusive redemption fixation to the more primordial experience available for the Western soul in the universe itself….*
*Thomas Berry in Mary Ford Grabowsky, ed., The Unfolding of a Prophet: Matthew Fox at Sixty (Berkeley, CA: 2000), pp. 59, 60, 68.
See Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 363-376
Banner Image: Participants in ecstatic dance at a Cosmic Mass.
What is your understanding of shamanism? Do you agree that it is more cosmological and primordial and inventive than many other spiritual modalities? Do you recognize an important role for it today in our struggle to preserve Mother Earth’s health?