Monday, December 12, 2011

Awakening the shamanic side

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Sustainability, taken in its broadest sense and not limited just to development, covers all actions aimed at keeping beings in existence, because they have the right to coexist with us, and only from this coexistence do we use, soberly and respectfully, some of them to meet our needs, while preserving them for future generations too.

The Universe also fits into this conception. Today we know through new cosmology that we are made of stardust and that a mysterious background energy sustains us and passes through us that fuels everything and that is split into four forces - gravitational, electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear - that, always acting together, keep us as we are.

As conscious and intelligent beings, we have our place and our role within the cosmogenic process. If we are not the center of everything, surely we are one of those advanced points through which the universe turns on itself, ie becomes aware. The weak anthropic principle allows us to say that to be what we are, all energy and evolutionary processes were organized in such a subtle and coordinated way that they made our appearance possible. Otherwise, I would not be writing here now.

Through us, the universe and Earth see and contemplate themselves. The ability to see emerged 600 million years ago. Until then the world was blind. The deep and starry sky, Iguaçu Falls, where I am now, the green of the forests next door, could not be seen. Through our sight, the Earth and the universe can see all this indescribable beauty.

The native peoples, from the Andeans to the Arctic Sami, were bound to the universe as brothers and sisters of the stars, forming a great cosmic family. We have lost that sense of mutual belonging. They felt that the cosmic forces balanced the course of all beings and acted within them. To live in harmony with this basic energy was to lead a sustainable and meaningful life.

We know from quantum physics that consciousness and the material world are connected and that the way a scientist chooses to make his observation affects what is being observed. The observer and the observed are inextricably linked. Hence the inclusion of consciousness in scientific theories and the reality of the cosmos itself is a fact already assimilated by much of the scientific community. We are indeed a complex and diversified whole.

Shamans are well-known, so present in the ancient world and now returning with renewed vigor, as shown by quantum physicist P. Drouot in his book Le Chaman, le physicien et le mystique ("The shaman, the physicist and the mystic" - Broché, 2003). I had the honor of writing the prologue [of the Portuguese edition]. The shaman experiences a unique state of consciousness that puts him in intimate contact with cosmic energy. He understands the call of the mountains, lakes, forests and jungles, animals and humans. He knows how to steer these energies for healing purposes and to harmonize them with the whole.

There's a shamanic side hidden in each one of us. That shamanic energy that makes us be silent before the grandeur of the sea, vibrate under the gaze of another person, tremble before a newborn. We need to free this shamanic dimension in us to get in tune with everything around us and feel at peace.

Might not our desire to travel in spacecraft through outer space perhaps be the archetypal desire to seek our stellar origins and the impetus to return to the place of our birth? Several astronauts have expressed similar ideas. This irrepressible search of ours for balance with the whole universe and to feel part of it belongs to the intelligible notion of sustainability.

Sustainability involves the assessment of this human and spiritual capital whose effect is to produce respect and a sense of sacredness before all realities, these values that nourish deep ecology and help us to respect and live in harmony with Mother Earth. Today this attitude is urgent to moderate the destructive force has taken hold of us in recent decades.

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