1. Shamanism is perhaps the oldest religion in the world, yet many may be unaware of just exactly what it is. How do you personally define ‘shamanism?’
Shamanism is a tricky word to define. The indigenous shamanic communities that I have lived with all share one thing in common: the belief that the Earth is a living entity and that everything is alive with spirit. This worldview is born from the knowledge of people that depend directly on the land where they live and the plants, animals, and other beings that share the same psychic space. Where there are no stores, and therefore no landfills, everything in nature is so vitally important that a level of connection to the essences and energies that provide life is the most important thing imaginable.
A precise definition of the word “shaman” would then include an extraordinarily wide range of activities. Shamans are healers, visionaries, singers, dancers, psychologists, rain-makers, food-finders, and most importantly, intermediaries between the human and non-human (or more than human) world(s). They are also spiritual leaders, whose expertise is both in the cosmic and physical worlds and whose knowledge covers the ways of plants and animals as well as spirits and deities. These roles aside, shamans now function as intermediaries and even work as diplomats and politicians for the protection and well being of their communities' homelands.
2. Why is a connection with nature important for all people? What is the spiritual significance of the natural world?
We come from the Earth, we are not born into it. No matter what your beliefs are about creation, we are a part of, and completely dependent on, nature for our survival. In my book Ecoshamanism, one of the topics I focus on is how to reconnect with the forces of nature: water, air, fire, and soil. These are what sustain our lives. People sometimes ask me why I consider these natural elements to be “sacred” and be included in our “spiritual” lives. The answer is simple: we cannot survive without them! Try not breathing for about 30 seconds and then tell me what your priorities are, what is truly sacred to human beings?
3. The year 2012 has been cited, based on Mayan prophecy, to be the “end of the world as we know it.” On what is this prediction based?
According to scholars and my Mayan mentors, the Mayan “long count” calendar ends in 2012. This calendar is based on many things that seem to be a mystery even to modern Maya. But I would say that the most important element of this calendar is our sun’s alignment with the center of our galaxy. When this happens, consciousness changes and we enter the next “world.”
4. The prophecy indicates that 2012 will be only “the end of the world as we know it,” not necessarily “the end of the world.” What are the implications of the end of the world as we know it?
We are faced with two roads. The first road is that we continue down the path of ecological destruction of our planet, species extinction, soil depletion, terrorism, war, starving children, over population, etc. The second road is that we “wake up” and human beings act as co-creators with our planet and with each other.
5. Have there been any markers in our natural world to suggest that this prophecy may indeed be true?
Many of the crises I just mentioned are coming to the “tipping point” very soon. Some scientists are even calling it the “chaos” point, where life as we know it, even for people that live in “first world” countries like you and I will be changed forever. We simply cannot sustain the madness of never-ending “economic growth.” The major natural and man-made disasters I cited previously are the biggest markers we could ever imagine.
6. There have been many prophecies in the past that suggested the end of the world. Why were these prophecies inaccurate?
There could be many reasons. False prophets. Inaccurate translations of the words that the so-called prophets used. But also realize that many prophecies may not be wrong. For example, the Hopi people (some of the most peaceful and wise indigenous people I have ever met) have seen many of their prophecies fulfilled. The Hopi believe we are now living in the “Fourth World” as human beings and that the “Fifth World” (the final stage of purification) is coming fast. Their prophecies show that many signs leading to the end of the Fourth World have already come to pass: That the white man will bring wagons hooked together but pulled by something other than a horse was fulfilled by railroads, and that the white man would then make roads in the sky, cobwebs in the air, and great lines across the land was fulfilled by airline routes, vapor trails, and power lines.
Hopi prophesy also includes the invention of a “gourd full of ashes” that would burn the land, cause rivers to boil, spread an incurable disease, and prevent anything from growing in the soil for many years. The atomic bomb fulfilled this prophecy.
Finally, it is said that the white man would build his house in the sky and that this would mark the beginning of catastrophic earth changes. This would be the final sign that man has lost balance with nature and that widespread famine, plague, and wars were eminent. To many Hopi, the American space station Skylab is this “house in the sky.”
7. Is it possible for we as humans to alter the course nature is taking? If so, what can we do?
We need to evolve into conscious co-creators with our planet.
8. Why is it important for us to become “conscious co-creators?”
Right now you could say that human beings are actually “anti-creating” our home biosphere by extracting more natural resources faster than our planet can produce them. It is time for us to make wiser use of our technologies, become more tolerant and compassionate towards our fellow humans, and to get back into sync with the levels of creation on our planet or else our future as a species seems very bleak. I believe we can do it. Do you?