It isn’t that a warrior learns shamanism as time goes by; rather, what he learns as time goes by is to save energy. This energy will enable him to handle some of the energy fields which are ordinarily inaccessible to him. Shamanism is a state of awareness, the ability to use energy fields that are not employed in perceiving the everyday-life world that we know. ~ Carlos Castaneda
When Carlos Castaneda wrote his books he was trying very hard to find a word that would embody a multitude of modalities from the Shamanic realm. He chose sorcerer because it exemplified knowledge, man of knowledge or one who knows and who was capable at accomplishing extraordinary feats. He also lived completely outside of the box and steered clear of derivatives.
Carlos Castaneda was a genius. The coolest thing about Carlos’ books is that he was generous enough to write them in a way that allows people to connect with intent and find their own “inner shaman”. He not only shared his experiences, he provided the tools and practices through his wonderful stories that provide one with absolutely everything necessary in order to evolve from an ordinary man of the dominant paradigm and into a man of freedom in non-ordinary reality. What is necessary in understanding his writing is to get out of your head and to “connect to the energy behind the words” because as he has stated, he wrote from second attention. He literally connected with intent and as a result was able to put his experiential understanding of the nature of things on paper.
Carlos was, indeed, a man of knowledge and understood that knowledge is free and available to all who would seek it. He was also a man of freedom and did not capitalize upon shamanism, like so many others do, by turning them into workshops for a fee and then providing “certification”. Yeah, let’s talk about this for a moment. There are shamanic practitioners in the world who will charge you a hefty fee and provide you with a certificate suitable for framing upon completion of your course work.
The majority of shamanic practitioners are by-products of Michael Harner who started the Foundation for Shamanic Studies in 1979. For over 30 years Harner and his devotees have been pumping out a certified shaman-a-minute and the majority of these shaman are merely talking heads. They paid their workshop fees, have read the books, listened to the tapes, attended prerequisite drum circles to learn how to “journey” and became certified shaman. Sorry but it isn’t a matter of how many tools and power objects you have in your box of tricks, it’s about being empty.
I have met a great number of these so-called shaman. Most of them have little, if any, actual experience other than their own process shared with their peers as part of a weekend retreat or monthly meeting. They will tell you what they know through the experience they had based on the book that someone else wrote based on the experience someone else had and they will expect you to adopt it as your truth and to utilize it as a practice, because it is the right way to do it. This is not shamanism, it is memorization headed towards becoming shamanic fundamentalism. In the end it becomes just another attempt at providing salvation and mainstreaming the masses.
As more and more people are returning to shamanistic consciousness, be wary of the ones who say they know it and will sell it to you. You must, absolutely must have your own experiences. And from the power of silence you will have your own experiences. Your experience may be meditation, making a pilgrimage or traveling to the jungles of Peru, ingesting sacred plant medicine with an experienced guide, trance dancing, drumming, sitting quietly at the beach, on the mountains, in the forest or in your own backyard garden. Connect to the Earth and plants and animals, to the sky and stars and planets, to the oceans and rivers and lakes, and trust yourself to be open to receive. In so doing you will experience the truth. Your truth. And from it you can do amazing things and engage in a creative and original journey of discovery and personal power.
In The Power of Silence don Juan said, You must understand that knowledge cannot be turned into words. That knowledge is there for everyone. It is there to be felt, to be used, but not to be explained. One can come into it by changing levels of awareness, therefore, heightened awareness is an entrance. But even the entrance cannot be explained. One can only make use of it.
To become a shaman all you have to do is fully become yourself. No one can teach you how to be a shaman just as no one can teach you how to become yourself, all you have to do is remember. Utilize the tools Carlos offers of recapitulation, erasing personal history and connecting with intent. Seek out like-minded people with whom you can deepen your knowledge and have meaningful conversation filled with ideas, experiences and possibility. Michael Harner’s shamanism is one way, the natural world, plants, and elders present all of the others.