“We Are Not Alone” The Shamans Of The World Tell Us
To disregard the problems facing the Earth and to proceed with business as usual in education would be a betrayal of trust. Our students want to know how to make a difference. They need hope. And it won’t come if all we can offer is another scientific theory or technological fix. We must expand our vision to seek non-scientific alternatives. To make a difference, we must search for different understandings. Let us look to the wisdom of our ancestors. They believed that intelligence is not restricted to humans but is possessed by all creatures – plants as well as animals — and by the Earth itself.
They also believed in spirits. Human welfare was understood to depend on tapping into these wellsprings of wisdom, and all ancient societies (just like indigenous peoples today) had specialists skilled in communication with the natural world and with spirits. These people we now call shamans, and this article argues for the inclusion of shamanic practice in the educational curriculum. Shamanism gives working access to an alternative technique of acquiring knowledge. Although a pragmatic, time-tested system, it makes no claim to be science. Its strengths and limitations are different from those of the sciences and thus complement them. Being affective and subjective, shamanism offers another way of knowing.
Reason sets the boundaries far too narrowly for us, and would have us accept only the known – and that too with limitations – and live in a known framework, just as if we were sure how far life actually extends. . . . The more the critical reason dominates, the more impoverished life becomes. . . . Overvalued reason has this in common with political absolutism: under its dominion the individual is pauperised. – Carl Jung
Of course science will offer some valuable new directions, but at the same time we must expand our vision to seek non-scientific alternatives. To make a difference, we must search for different understandings. I am fortunate to live in a country, New Zealand, where many of my compatriots have an understanding of past and future that is fundamentally different from the prevailing ‘Western’ view. Most in our civilisation consider it self-evident that we stand facing the future with the past behind us, but traditionally for New Zealand Maori it is the future that is behind them.