Art by Norman E. Masters

Shamanism And Cultural Imperialism

by Gaia

The very attitude of "i have a *right* to your religion" or spiritual practices strikes me as troublesome. Would you say to a Catholic or Muslim or Jew, "I have a RIGHT to your religion"?

There are many Indigenous folks who are very troubled by this effort on the part of whites to claim, adopt and in a sense, "colonize" their indigenous Spirituality.

Why? Would they mind?

These are practices which are mostly regarded by most whites with a kind of naive but romantic idealism, but with little regard for the very real Cultures and *contexts* in and from which those practices developed, the history behind it all, let alone the challenges faced by those cultures.

Why would they mind?

It is a kind of cultural Imperialism and colonialism -- a spiritual version of the economic imperialism and colonialism imposed on indigeneous peoples by privileged, white, middle and upper class folks of the 18th - 20th Centuries. Then, we wanted their gold, silver, oil, rubber, pineapples, sugar, coffee, and such -- and went after it all, with the kind of ruthless self-interest couched in altruistic "save the savage heathens" rhetoric that self-righteous, arrogant, privileged whites have perfected over centuries of imperialistic abuse.

So now, having raped those cultures of their physical, mineral wealth, and having labelled them as "ignorant savages", having even outlawed the very spiritual practices we now begin to appreciate -- and in many cases, murdering them for practicing -- we now have finally begun to realize what spiritual wealth we then labelled "ignorance", and now we want it. And of course, what we want, we feel entitled to.

Why would they mind?

Oh, we don't want to have to go through the messy, difficult, time-consuming EFFORT it took THEM to develop their spiritual wisdom and strength... no, we don't work that way. We just want the "instant" or easy version -- so we pay somebody to write "eveything you ever wanted to know about Shamanism in ten easy lessons" and "Shamanism for Dummies"; and somebody else to give us a weekend "intensive" or a "Sweatlodge weekend" -- "Just the facts--"

And then we adopt some very native-sounding name like Eagle Thunderlightningrunningdeerjumpingkangarooleapingsalmonflyinghawk and Hey! We're a Shaman.

No painful YEARS of self-discipline, or struggling with profound Spiritual principles, or uncomfortable, humiliating personal examinations or struggling with one's Shadow; no profound, terrifying confrontations with (or even brief contemplations of) the Sacred Numinous; none of the Spiritual, emotional, psychological or social prices THEY had to pay to acquire their wisdom.

And we *certainly* don't want to have to face any of the very real spiritual, economic, cultural, social or political consequences those indigenous peoples encountered as a result of our several hundred years of oppression. We don't want to know how we damaged the very Spirituality that we now feel a "right" to raid.

And neither are we interested in any of the very real economic, social, political or cultural challenges these indigeous peoples face in the "civilized" world we've dragged them into.

Nah, we just want their secrets -- yknow, the ones they worked and studied and practiced hard for lifetimes to comprehend, develop, acquire; the ones they cherished, protected with their lives, and passed down through hundreds of generations; the ones they had to *hide* from us lest we ridicule, blaspheme, misunderstand and trivialize or misuse them -- or horrifically torture and murder them for practicing "evil, heathen witchcraft".

It's as simple as this: we want their Spirituality. If they are "enlightened" enough to share it, fine. We may even credit them for it. If not, we'll take it anyway, like we always do -- and then market it to KMart as "cute Dreamcatchers" and profitable "NewAge" Seminars.

Now why on earth would they mind that?????????????

Out Of The Darkness

Out Of The Darkness
Art by Norman E. Masters

By Way Of Clarification

I'm sorry, i mean no offense, but to reduce Shamanism to "spiritual leadership" is an over-simplification and even trivialization.

Real Shamanism involves profound understanding and implementation of many various altered states of consciousness; journeys to Other levels/realms of reality; making and maintaining battles and alliances with the Beings encountered in those Other realms (who may have very different intentions and attitudes toward mere humans); reclaiming and battling for spiritual substance and Soul matter that has been "split off" from the personality; and physical, spiritual, emotional, psychic and psychological healing.

~~ Gaia

[From two posts to the SOPHIA -- Divine Feminine, Earth, and Wisdom Centered Spirituality List,, Dec. 2002, added to *Freedom Voices* with Gaia's permission.]

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