David Paladin, Shaman and Spiritual Artist

I am grateful to Lynda Paladin’s for reminding me that I had written a Foreword to a second edition of David Paladin’s book, Painting the Dream. 

Painting the Dream by David Paladin.

A Spiritual artist speaks to the spirits, that is, to the depths of human experience.  Such an artist brings in more than just the human spirit; the spirits of the ancestors, the spirits of the other-than-human ones, the Spirit that is the Great Spirit arrive through his or her work.

For David Paladin, his art was his life as well as his paintings. Choices he made to live outside the box of the professional art world give testimony to this truth.  His decision to become a Unitarian minister and to work in prisons and as a police chaplain bear witness to his desire to serve, to heal, to make compassion happen, to walk the Navajo way of beauty.

Paladin’s search for his spiritual roots as a Native American, and as a western American whose mother was Navajo and his father European American and Christian, and as a human being, finds expression in the tradition of creation spirituality. 

“And the Word Became Flesh” by David Paladin. On DavidPaladin.com. Used with permission.

In that tradition, which is found among indigenous peoples everywhere — Native Americans, Africans, Celts — as well as in the Bible and in the wisdom tradition of the historical Jesus, our spiritual journeys are named in Four Paths: the Via Positiva (joy and wonder); the Via Negativa (silence, darkness suffering); the Via Creativa (creativity); and the Via Transformativa (compassion, healing, justice). 

Paladin is nothing if not a light-bearer and a truth-bringer, an original thinker and spiritual warrior who users in new light that allows all of us to see our world with new eyes.

“Blue Rain Spirits” by David Paladin. On DavidPaladin.com. Used with permission.

Of the Via Positiva: Look in Paladin’s paintings for what he called “slight wisps of color that were the first sounds of creation.”  Look for his—and your own—oneness with everything and for the joy and wonder that come with that realization.

Of the VN: There was no lack of suffering in Paladin’s life.  His torture in Nazi concentration camps left him crippled and in a coma for 2.5 years.  From that he learned what shamans need to learn: “A wounded healer and a wounded warrior are one.”

Of the VC: Paladin talks about the “joy of unbridled exploration, an unlimited source of inspiration” and a “sense of amazement” when he looks at a piece he has completed.  But he also insists that we are all creative and can have these experiences, even if our creativity is merely our ability to speak. “If you re talking, you are being creative…You’re more creative than you think you are.”

“Badger Clan’s Altar” by David Paladin. On DavidPaladin.com. Used with permission.

Of the VT: Paladin took his creativity not only to the canvas but to the community.  As a police chaplain, he says:

I use a lot of creativity.  I become an actor because I try to sense what they need and fulfill it.  This is the role of the artist the shaman, the minister.

He tells us:

Look at yourself as magicians, as healers, as lovers of humanity, as givers and sharers.  From that perspective living becomes an art in itself.  Then everything you do becomes magic!

*Resources re. David Paladin:  his book,Painting the Dream; davidpaladin.com; #the.vision.of.David.Paladin

Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Foreword,” in David Paladin, Painting the Dream, pp. vii, viii.

Banner Image: “Altar of the First Gods,” by David Paladin. On DavidPaladin.com. Used with permission.

Do you see yourself in these experiences of deep spiritual experience that David is talking about?  As an artist, shaman, minister serving and sensing a need and fulfilling it?  Is your life an art with “everything you do becoming magic”?

Painting the Dream: The Shamanic Life and Art of David Chethlahe Paladin

By David Chethlahe Paladin, Foreword by Matthew Fox
A glimpse into the remarkable life and visionary artwork of spiritual artist and activist David Chethlahe Paladin. Looks at the spiritual traditions surrounding the images that Paladin features in his art. Discusses the importance of Paladin’s shamanic history in the creation of his artwork. Features commentaries by Matthew Fox and others on Paladin’s life and art.

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3 thoughts on “David Paladin, Shaman and Spiritual Artist”

  1. Avatar

    David Paladin as a mixed race shaman warrior reminds me of Juliano Mer Khamis, mixed blood Israeli-Palestinian who gave his life to mediate the divide between Israelis and Palestinians. I think Juliano fits the description of shaman/warrior, something especially relevant today as a war between Israelis and Palestinians escalates. Juliano described himself as 100% Jewish and 100% Arab:

    From The Guardian Newspaper Obituary 11-April-2011:

    “The Palestinian-Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis, who has been shot dead at the age of 52, was a successful stage and screen performer, film-maker and activist, widely known for his work as the artistic director of the Freedom theatre in the refugee camp in the West Bank town of Jenin. Dedicated to equipping young Palestinians with the potent powers of art and self-expression, Juliano carved out a stage on which children could find their feet – and voice. The theatre’s achievements have resonated around the world as a focal point of creativity against the odds….

    In Israel, Juliano was a stage and television star. He was known abroad as a film actor, making his debut in the 1984 adaptation of John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl, starring Diane Keaton, and his last role was in Julian Schnabel’s Miral (2010), based on Rula Jebreal’s autobiographical account of growing up as an orphaned Palestinian girl….

    Juliano spoke of the “racial lunacy” into which he was born – he said that his mother nearly bled to death when she gave birth to him in an Israeli hospital, because doctors knew of her Palestinian husband and refused to treat her…

    “Juliano was killed by a masked gunman outside the Freedom theatre – an end he had predicted three years ago on Israeli television…”

  2. Avatar

    What a powerful story–and tragic one–and, as you say, so pertinent to what is happening now in the “Holy Land.” Thank you for sharing this and for your insights on this “mixed race shaman warrior” and his life and teachings and sacrifice. Truly living a life of “deep ecumenism,” a taste of the future if there is to be a future for our species.

    M. Fox

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