Invention, Creativity and the Shaman

We are meditating with Thomas Berry on how “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.”  We have considered the first three of these layers of shamanhood.

Indigenous Elder praying through traditional dance in Barrow, Alaska. Photo by Zeke Tucker on Unsplash.

Let us now consider the fourth layer to what Berry identifies in the shaman as distinct from the prophet: That the shaman is “personally more inventive in the source of his or her insight and his or her power.”  Notice first that Berry is naming power as a part of the shaman’s work.  The shaman has tapped into a place of power, a source of power.  

Meister Eckhart talks about God as “an underground river” from whom we derive our power.  And Aquinas just before him talked of God as “a source without a source.”  

These namings certainly complement one another.  A return to the source is a return to the source of creativity and power and, as Berry names it, insight.  Insight is power and power is insight.  With the shaman such power emerges as a desire to serve and to heal.  

This very much echoes Julian’s teachings on the “motherhood of God” for in her words, compassion “belongs to the motherhood in tender grace” and compassion “protects, increases our sensitivity, gives life and heals.”  Indeed, this work “keeps us in love.”  She calls this work motherly because “a mother’s service is nearest, readiest and surest.” 

Mother Goddess, Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, India, 6th – 7th cents., National Museum of Korea, Seoul. Photo by Richard Mortel. Wikimedia Commons.

Berry is very poetic when he writes, that it to say, he chooses his words very carefully and sensitively.  Here he has chosen the word inventive to speak to the Shaman’s power and insight.  Creativity or Inventiveness is key to the unleashing of the shaman’s power—his or her power is the power of creativity.  This is one reason why the world wild appears when Berry is talking about the shaman and citing David Thoreau on the topic of wildness. 

Berry talks about how our tapping into the wild in us constitutes the very “wellspring of creativity” of all creatures.  Not just the human.  I happily cite this passage in the chapter “Where does creativity come from?” in my book, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet. This wellspring energizes “all living beings” including especially human artists and shamans.  

Circle chant, “Rise with the Fire” composed by the Reclaiming Movement/Community. Found on the Chants: Ritual Music CD.

Berry recognizes that at the heart of the earth community there lies a creativity that is nothing short of wild.  “The community itself and each of its members has ultimately a wild component, a creative spontaneity that is its deepest reality, its most profound mystery.”  This wildness is found in the human imagination as well.  

All artists undergo it.  The quest for survival and the quest for food arise in all creatures and elicit their wildness.  Surely New York City, a human creation, is a wild habitat.  Spirit is everywhere.  One needs to be alert not to miss the action and one needs to be able to withdraw and turn off the senses, too, in order to return with energy to the streets each day.  Wisdom and compassion are not enemies.  They are poles of a common axis.  We need, the artist needs, the shaman needs, both.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, p. 103;

and Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, pp. 41f.

Banner Image: “Rainbow Eyes” Photo by Sharon McCutcheo from Pexels

Do you feel a call to stay tuned in to your wildness and spontaneity as a wellspring for your creativity and inventiveness?  How do you best do that?

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

Upcoming Events

Join us in marking a day for Mother Earth and all other mothers with two powerhouse women mystic-shamans eager to awaken and heal! Tuesday 5/11 at 4:00 PT (GMT/UTC-7).
This free event is a fundraiser for the Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox, which marks its third anniversary on Mother’s Day 2021. Learn more HERE.

Join Matthew Fox as he speaks on issues around social justice, activism, the dismantling of collective grids, embodying our true essence, collaborating with nature, and how we can be the light bearers of hope, healing and radical change, so needed right now. Friday, 5/12, at the Inner Illuminations Summit, a multi-day series of influencers, social justice activists, leaders, teachers, mystics and healers, airing May 3-17. Learn more HERE.

Matthew Fox speaks on “Teilhard de Chardin & Carl Jung: A Convergence” for the Omega Center – Center for Christogenesis. Thursday, 5/13, 4-5:30 pm PT (GMT/UTC-7). Learn more HERE.

Matthew Fox offers the webinar, “Meeting the Mystics: The Wisdom of Julian of Norwich and the Tao of Thomas Aquinas and the Future of Earth and Humanity” for the East West Bookshop. May 15, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. PDT (GMT/UTC-7). Register HERE.

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14 thoughts on “Invention, Creativity and the Shaman”

  1. Avatar
    David Joseph Jackson

    Matthew’s book on creativity has powerfully spoken to me. I have come back to this passage, p. 5 often: “We might say that Divine intimacy is experienced as creativity and New Creation, which is accompanied by risk, surprise, and the courage needed for both. New Creation brings renewal, resurrection and forgiveness with it.”

  2. Avatar

    Shamanism like other religious pursuits can easily fall prey to temptations of greed and/or a need to “perform”. The true shaman lives in every one of us when we simply surrender to LOVE in the daily practice of Mitákuye oyàsin, hozho naasha doo, beannacht. }:- a.m.

    Translation: All are my relatives (Lakota), therefore I will walk in harmony/beauty (Navajo/Diné), blessed to be blessing (Irish Gaelic).

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Patrick, you are right, “Shamanism like other religious pursuits can easily fall prey to temptations of greed and /or a need to “perform,” but that is true of any individual, institution or spiritual path. To me it is such a truism, for we ALL can fall prey to temptations of greed and/or a need to perform. And since we can control no one but ourselves, therefore it is up to us to not do these things…

      1. Avatar
        Lynne Newington

        Especially those believing they’ve been ontologically changed at ordination then carrying out heinous atrocities against men, women and children……..and protected by their bishops who are shamans themselves.

        1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
          Richard Reich-Kuykendall

          Lynne, I would not necessarily consider ordained people or their bishops to be shamans. Just as there are “varieties of religious experience,” there are varieties of spiritual workers, good and bad. A bishop or even a Pope is represented in the tarot now as the “Hierophant”–a spiritual guide, but I have never heard of a bishop of pope as a shaman–not that they couldn’t be, it’s just that their place in the Hierarchy would seem to me, make it very hard–if not impossible–to act like a shaman. I have studied and taught shamanism for over 30 years and the only one I have ever come across that was considered a a bad or evil shaman was clearly labeled “Witch Doctor,” or one who used “shape-shifting” or making curses for malevolent ends. Their main roles in the community was to do initiations and to do “soul retrievals.”

          1. Avatar
            Lynne Newington

            Oh Lord Richard, a bishop and a Pope are represented as a spirituals guide in the tarot cards?
            I sincerely hope it’s not taken seriously by Catholics at least.
            We have enough problems with visions and apparitions recalling farcical Medjugorje supported by certain bishops and in particularly with the Franciscans.
            Miracles abounding , Rosary beads turning to gold, Mary blowing kisses to friars…..
            Such was the state of mind of one it practically sent him over the top, brought back from the brink by secular influence.
            A huge money making racket at the expense of the vulnerable.
            I guess that could be labelled as witchcraft………

            Thanks for the enlightenment.

          2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
            Richard Reich-Kuykendall

            Lynne, I perceive that you have anger towards the Catholic Church. And you also don’t like my comparisons to the tarot… then all I am saying is Catholic bishops are not shamans. Try reading Mircea Eliade’s book SHAMANISM: ARCHAIC TECHNIQUEES OF ECSTASY–who was the worlds leading authority on the subject. Then you will understand why I say that it is not accurate to suggest that Bishops are Shamans. After all, I seriously doubt that Shamanism is taught in Catholic seminaries. But Lynne, I thank you for the opportunity to discuss this with you…

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The shaman like the mystic speaks in the language of images, symbols, metaphors and analogies intuited. This is also the language of Lady Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, the Great Spirit. The messages revealed offer often the guidance, the direction, the wise counsel, the comfort and consolation we need in order to become and be the best version of whom we truly are. This language is universal for it is founded and rooted in the Oneness of Divine Love. When meditated and contemplated upon, these symbols, and images expand not only our consciousness, but also our hearts that are pierced by the light of eternal truths. Many of the mystics, like Julian of Norwhich and Hildegard new of this language and they have become a prophetic voice speaking to our generation today. Thanks to people like Mathew Fox and Mirabia Star and their meditation and contemplation on these mystics, we too can learn to understand this language.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, I remember dream worker, Jeremy Taylor who taught at Matthew’s school use to always say that “dreams come to us in a language of symbols,” and indeed as you say, “The shaman like the mystic speaks in the language of images, symbols, metaphors and analogies intuited.” It seems that you have a firm grasp on the meaning of these things. May God continue to bless you on your spiritual path.

  4. Avatar
    Lynne Newington

    Please don’t take my reference to tarot cards personally, it’s just that the church teachers it’s a divination tool and like all superstition dangerous to spiritual well being.
    Your perception is quite valid when considering the harm it’s done to the lives of so many of the faithful [in my name] and make no apology for it.
    *I shall take the time look up the reference given so I will be better informed next time.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Lynne, I am sorry for all of the harm that you have experienced from the church, and thank you for following up on Eliade’s book…

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