Weaving Stories betwixt Worlds
Scientism is not science. Scientism is an unwarranted extrapolation of scientific method, making the method into a worldview and an exclusivist canon of all-knowing.
It is somewhat difficult to translate the tenets of an archaic Indigenous Shamanism in South America to a Modern Western rationalist mindset. Even the use of the word Shaman is a misnomer, coming as it does from the Tungus language of the Evenki peoples of Northern Asia. It has entered the South American vernacular only with the advent of anthropological examination of the cultures there. The term used to describe a healer in South America is often curandero/a, from the verb "to cure"...and curing is indeed the object, and most often the outcome, of the exercise. For the curandera the cause of illness and disease is most often the result of a malefic spirit which has attached itself to the subtle body of the patient. Her role is to facilitate the removal or that energy with the assistance of various spirit allies. Obviously the most important of these allies are the Sacred Medicines who allow the curandera to share the vision of the patient's psycho-energetic system in order that the problem may be resolved.
Many popular religions in the West have a cosmology populated by spiritual assistants and adversaries. Tibetan and Japanese forms of Buddhism have their complement of demons, gods and angels and their forms decorate many a healing sanctuary, garden and loungeroom in Australia. The tales of Hinduism are rife with conflict between gods and demons and the practitioners of various of the mutliplicity of sects therein regularly elist the help of spiritual allies in order to win favour with prefered deities or hinder the action of malefic influences. Despite the wide dissemination of information about these religious and philosophical systems, it seems that the leap to the ancient, yet continually evolving cosmology of the Amazonian curandero is a little large for many to make.
The following excerpt from a book by Dale Pendell, humourously points to the similarities between the functions of plant based shamanism and popular meditative traditions...
A Dialogue on the Great World Systems
Simplicio, a practicioner of the poison path
Sagredo, a practitioner of a traditional meditative discipline, let’s say, Zen
Simplicio: We’re for doing it the easy way.
Sagredo: The same. What could be easier than the direct and immediate practice of ground state training?
Simplicio: True, if it works. But for how long do you have to do it? Years and years, I’ve heard. And some never get it.
Sagredo: It’s the same with your way. But even those who do not attain True Enlightenment find some peace and inner serenity through our way. Even their health generally improves. They are less predatory and more compassionate. They laugh more, and have more poise. Can the same be said of your way?
Simplicio: Yes... well, for some. For others, not I admit. I’ve seen some who have followed our way for thirty years emerge as Great Egocentric Assholes.
Sagredo: (Sigh.) It’s the same for us, I’m afraid. And they always feel so righteous about it! Maybe we should talk about our successes.
Simplicio: I’m for that. Some of our adepts are so advanced that they look like ordinary people. You would never know, unless you are an adept yourself. Like ordinary people, but maybe with an extra radiance. Otherwise they are like everyone else: a doctor, a mother, a professor, a contractor, a farmer. Like others, but probably with a double life—besides the day job they may have a life in the arts.
Sagredo: Or in a spiritual practice. Sounds like one of ours. We like to say, “in the world, but not of the world.”
Simplicio: Yes, the other world teaches us that.
Sagredo: Tell me, how would you characterize the difference between that world and this one?
Simplicio: In the other state one can experience the Unity, and the truth behind selfhood. Also, one can see beyond the perceptual mold that we, collectively, have reified. How would you state it?
Sagredo: What “other state”? It’s right here…You see the intrinsic problem with you approach?
Simplicio: You tricked me. You set me up. I’ll get back to you when it’s time to dance, instead of this Zen stuff, like being wise. But let me ask you, do you find that there are some who are so ensnared by the Illusion that they haven’t even glimpsed that there is anything else?
Sagredo: There are many such.
Simplicio: We have the edge, that way. Our poisons have the power to crack open the World. The experience shows people that there is more to the world than they could ever have imagined. And it works on almost everybody, even the deeply cynical. Is it not a good thing to crack open the world?
Sagredo: Yes. If it sticks.
Simplicio: We say that it is the sticking that is the problem! In our ordinary mind we forget, we say “it’s this” or “it’s that.” That is the frozen part, the ice cubes, the seeming.
Sagredo: Touché. You set me up.
I saw Sagredo bow, and Simplicio bow back. I blinked and they had merged back together, into Salviati, who was lounging at the base of a tree, just loafing, chewing on a spear of summer grass.