Spirituality And Shamanism

Tom Wright

Spiritual is defined as:

1. of the spirit or the soul as distinguished from the body or material matters

2. of, from, or concerned with the intellect; intellectual

3. of or consisting of spirit; not corporeal

4. characterized by the ascendancy of the spirit; showing much refinement of thought

5. spiritualistic or supernatural.

1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.

2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.

3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific.

4. Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred.

5. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.

If we extrapolate from these definitions, there is an "intangible" quality that points to our customary definition of spirituality. In the above sentences, this implication is one of that which is not corporeal. And yet everything is corporeal. If something exists, and it has an effect in the world that we can be aware of, then that thing has some corporealness to it. Not necessarily very much physical mass, but certainly a corporeal existence. Even non-physical entities have corporealness to them, as they can be seen and heard. And just because something is "intangible" does not mean that it is supernatural, that is, unless you define anything that your senses have not yet been trained to be aware of as spiritual. Case in point are radio waves. Millions of them exist all around us, and pass through our bodies undetected all the time, but are they "non-corporeal?" Are they "supernatural?" "Spiritual?" Whatever you believe, and I honor all beliefs as beliefs, certainly their effect when hooked up to a stereo on full volume, is hardly non-corporeal! I should know. I have a teenage daughter!

The point here is to avoid making the "usual" distinction between the material world and the spiritual world, only because our standard definitions are aligned with so many misaligned thoughts and beliefs as it is. For instance, we define spirituality with the church, and yet the church is no more or less "non-corporeal" than radio waves. The intention here is to not step on anyone's toes, but if you think about it, the church certainly exists in the material world, and has a heavy hand in everyday life, very corporeal. So does that mean that the church is not spiritual? That answer depends upon who you ask. So to avoid the religious conversation here, and not delve into a treatise that cannot be successfully debated to any satisfying conclusion, for this conversation the word "spirituality" will be defined only in terms of "that which exists, sometimes to our awareness only as effect, and so isn't necessarily accessible to our customarily trained senses."

The awareness of these spiritual existences in the world of shamanism are legion. Non-physical entities, former living spirits we can talk to, non-organic life, plant spirits, animal spirits, wind, air, earth, fire, and water spirits that all can be communicated successfully with, can be defined as that which lacks enough corporealness as to be inaccessible to our everyday trained senses. Hence, within the confines of the definition of intangibility, we are here defining these things as having the essence of spirituality. But that's where the definition of spirituality ends. At least, that's where it ends in A Course In Shamanism. Why? Because we have been so ingrained to think that something spiritual is "better than" or "purer than" that which is material, that our prejudices completely blind us to becoming aware of even a small part of the infinite possibilites of The All That Is. Look at the conversations about religion in the course of history that have ended up in literal wars. How can you explain "purity" or "spirituality" in those terms, especially with such an effect?

So what, then, is something that is "spiritual?" Again, the definition that will be addressed here, is non-religious and as follows: that which is inaccessible within the ranges of our customarily trained awareness. And make no mistake about it, our awareness is deliberately trained to be held within the strict confines of what our "science" tells us is possible for us to become aware of. Just look up the hearing range of human beings, or the light spectrum possibilities of humans, and you will see in black and white numerical terms, just what is believed to be the limits to what we can do strictly from a physical standpoint of possibility. I would say those are great figures for the bare beginnings of what it is physically possible to become aware of as a human being, and I thank science for getting us off on the right foot. Now it's up to our spirituality or our practice of delving into the cracking open of our awareness of less corporeal existences of things, including that energy which allows us to hear or see far beyond the "normal" ranges of what it is believed to be our limits, to indeed get us to the ever-expanding awareness we desire to be living at.

Why do this? Okay, you are possessed of an incredible awareness, whose depths you are barely aware of, and a totality of self that goes so far beyond your everyday experience as to really be unbelievable. That is to say, given our training, it's entirely reasonable for you to doubt the existence of subtle energies, or spirituality, and to not be able to be aware of it. Yet that inability, which is just temporary by the way, even if it lasts your whole lifetime, does not take one iota of reality away from the fact that you are riding in your body like cruising in a Ferrari at five miles per hour. And you say you don't want to step on the gas and see what this baby can do? I don't know, I guess I've just been curious all my life!

Back to spirituality. Spirituality, or the awareness of the more subtle energies in the Universe, through the tool of our human bodies, can be greatly enhanced. But if you think about it, if we are so full of beliefs of what can't be done, how can we allow in what can be done? Often the question regarding spirituality is one of asking "well, just prove it to me." It's a question that invariably makes me cringe. Okay, you are asking someone from a point of view of absolute certainty in the strict limits of awareness set out by science, fully trained to only see things within those limits, to then prove something which will go against all you believe, all you want to believe, and even more importantly, what you have as your greatest fear? To actually allow in that you just might be simply wrong about those limits? What do I have to do? Hit you over the head with a two by four in order to shake your awareness into perceiving the most subtle and intense energies in the Universe? When you have so many huge, thick, and adamantly stubborn shields to get through? Shields that are always, by the way, connected to the massive material world? And you want me to break through them with a demonstration of subtle energies that most people are not accessing now? Good luck with that one.

Spirituality can't come to you, you have to go to it. Every television demonstration that has failed to come up with the "proof" of psychic ability, or a verifiable event of a spiritual or non-corporeal nature, has failed and with this good reason! And I won't be trying any of those demonstrations of spirituality myself any time soon, either!

So what if you desire out of your high intentions, to access the more non-tangible, or spiritual world? Again, it is you who will have to let down your defenses, and open up to new possibilities. And to the extent that you are willing to allow in the new, is to the extent that you will become aware of spiritual phenomenon. It's as simple, and as hard as that. Simple, because it's a purely straightforward process, hard, in that as humans, with all our defenses and shields up, we are arrogant beyond reason, and stubborn beyond belief. Even our own beliefs! That is both the bad news and the good news, for us as practitioners of A Course In Shamanism.

The bad news in that it takes a rebel spirit, a true rogue, to overcome the sheer mass of societal belief, and the enormous energy given over to the protection of those beliefs, in order to simply experience something different. It takes a high intention, a consistent practice, and an unwavering persistence, to go from what is believed is possible, to what is actually possible. This is why even when accessing hugely powerful and amazingly encompassing spiritual phenomenon, we so often drop right back into the self-questioning of "hey, that was neat, but did I really do that?" Yes, you did, and yes, it was "real." As real as peeling apples, eating lemons, or downing lobster, no more and certainly not less real. Exactly so, in fact.

So what's all the fuss about spirituality? About whether this exists, or this is real, or this is not? All that fuss is the ego, determined to be right about just about everything. It is the world of the tonal, which is whole, complete, and entirely self-inclusive, but hardly all that is. It is part of The All That Is, but not all of The All That Is. And that "not being all of" would include all the hugely rich experiences of spirituality that we can summon through our high intentions and consistent persistence, such as the one most powerful experience of all, that of total connection as The All That Is, instead of being separate from it. The feeling is rich, oceanic, powerful beyond belief, and totally life transforming. Once this level of spirituality is experienced, and we drop back into the daily life of the tonal, regardless of what we do after that, we will never be the same again. Life then becomes a dedication to sharing such experience with others, I suppose, in deference to the tonal, or the ego, because that's what we as humans do. If we didn't have an ego, and I certainly do, than why would I want to share anything with anyone, especially something that personal? I don't think I would. Instead, I'd be living totally in that spiritual world of subtle energy, without a care in the world. And that life is possible, but I'm not ready for it yet, only glimpses of it.

True spirituality then, or the total awareness of what it is possible to become aware of as a human encapsulated within a human body, even being capable of out of body experiences, means to live with the experience and knowledge of the totality of our energy envelope, not only what the ego tells us is there. The ego will certainly inform us of what it thinks we should believe is there, but in truth, it is not even capable of experiencing our totality of spirituality. That fact is understandable because even its defense systems are so heavily guarded. But just because our true treasure of spirituality, or the totality of ourselves is guarded, denied, hidden, hard as hell to access, and wholly subtle to our everyday senses, does not mean in any way, shape, or form, that to actually access it, if only for a brief moment, will not be the most incredible experience you have ever had in your entire life, bar none. And the most salient point in A Course In Shamanism is to not "get hooked" into that experience either, but to remember how you got to experiencing that much spirituality in the first place; the process that brought you to become aware of the totality of yourself, not the totality of yourself.

Just know that no one can live in that experience all the time, at least, not in this lifetime of the tonal. But with certainty, we can visit, and then come back to this world of everyday life. And when we do? That's when we realize the most daring and profound wisdom of all, that this daily life we live in the world of the tonal, where we breathe, and have to learn how to tie our shoes so we don't trip over our own two feet, is no less miraculous, powerful, all encompassing, and spiritual, as any other life we can live, anywhere, bar none. That experience, which I call awe, is the defining condition as practitioners of A Course In Shamanism, that we strive to live at and within, as much of our time on this planet earth as we can live within it. Now that's true spirituality for you! For all of us, bar none.