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The Shamanic Scientist

“Mummy, the birds are talking to us…”
Thoughts on the Shamanic Scientist



"Mummy, the birds are talking to us!" This is exactly what a two-year-old said to her practitioner mother, as they both sat in front of a chattering flock. It was as if the child spoke aloud the thoughts of her mother, and it cut into the practitioner like an illumination from ‘on high!’ It is amazing what our children can show us, for they recognize easily what we may have come to overlook…

A practitioner in Australia, tells us what happened:


“I have a question… I have been sitting outside for the past couple of hours as I always do in the mornings for tea and breakfast with the kids. Although living in suburbia we have a vast array of birdlife, I've always heard them and gained messages, but this morning there has been an abundance of them all calling and I feel that they are here for me. I then wonder if it is ego based… How do you determine the difference? I realize when I'm on my path things unfold really quickly but then the doubt settles in and I fear that's its ego talking."

“…The questions coming through thick, from the pit of my stomach – why would the birds each have so much to tell me? Why would that tree over there be providing me with insight as to where I needed to delve into my subconscious to clear negative patterns?  I am not that special that I am privy to such an amazing life to be able to be a part of something so much bigger…”

“… the experience of the birds in the morning as I was seeing in the sun rise with my children – it was amazing they all had so much to give, pure love and courage, their songs were beautiful and they were so close, there were no boundaries,  I accepted this in and then all of the sudden the questions began… the answers came flooding through, through the innocent eyes of my two year old – “Mummy, the birds are talking to us!” that really made me look at the difference of the innocence of child (who I once was) and then an adult who is contaminated with the negative influences of society.“

“The realization came - I have to transform so many preconceived ideas to connect back into the innocence that was once a part of me, the true self that knew that each and every thing has wisdom, is alive with a wealth of knowledge to teach and to guide each and every person who is willing to listen, this was once all there but has been polluted with so much negative conditioning that the glimmer deep down inside is hard to find.”
“This was a huge lesson for me and provided me with the opportunity to really take that leap – the leap that only one who is really ready to be true and honest with themselves and those around them can take.”


This practitioner brings up an important issue that eventually – often at the onset – faces nearly every practitioner: What’s real? More specifically, in this case, how can we determine whether the birds, or any messengers, are speaking to us, or whether they are ‘just birds’, yakking, cawing and chirping?

The answer is simple. Just begin by accepting whatever is in front of you for what it is, right there in front of you, and let the consequences ‘speak’ for themselves. I guess in a philosophical way of talking about it, it would be to treat our shamanic experiences as ‘phenomenological research’. By this, I mean that we ‘bracket’ our current experience as something in and of itself, and set – even if for a while - our former ways of determining truth or reality as if these had no place in trying to make sense of the phenomena we are now seeing and hearing.

In other words, treat it without bias!

The object is to just go ahead and work with what we are seeing and hearing as if we already knew it was real and true, and that all that stood in the way was that we just didn’t understand, yet, how it all 'worked'. Then, with more and more experiences, the pieces start coming together, over time, like parts of a puzzle. This is actually the scientific way: gathering information, sorting, hypothesizing, testing, and looking for consistency and repeated results… That was essentially how anything was first discovered. The human race didn't start with textbooks; they just began looking for clues, and slowly one or another paradigm of ‘how it worked’ took shape.

That's how shamanism took shape.

This ‘how it worked’ is called a 'paradigm'. There are and have been many, many paradigms throughout history that explained for a culture or epoch how things were determined as being ‘real’ or not. Contemporary physics describes a universe that is chock full of things we can’t see with our naked eyes or touch with our skin. Elaborate gadgets are constructed upon which the tracing and weaving of such things as subatomic phenomena are translated into images that we can then observe. We don't see what made the images, just the images themselves. In the shamanic paradigm, the mind is just such a ‘gadget’. The shaman's mind is the instrument upon which the nonordinary world leaves 'traces' of the information that the shaman can then observe.

When you try to understand the shamanic paradigm, you can’t apply positivist science, which is the ‘old’ science that got ‘solid’ and ‘real’ mistaken for the same thing.

New practitioners are confronted with a paradigm leap over what seems to be an abyss between the general contemporary way of perceiving things, to that which is shamanic. They proceed with what any scientist would: a ‘working hypothesis’ that there already is an internal consistency to be discovered, and then head out, collecting data. This leap between paradigms affects everyone differently, as everyone rubs up against shamanism differently, and has to work through it in their own way.

This practitioner’s doubts would be different - very different - if perhaps, she had been raised in a completely indigenous way… She is like anyone else born into a non-shamanic culture: if she began from an understanding that was not already deeply infused with contemporary western biases, then seeing, hearing, understanding and then working with a shamanic world would probably be the most natural thing ever, and what would be unnatural, would be the very part that was casting doubt.