Ancient ways for today

In the last of our articles on shamanic practices, Leo Rutherford summarizes the key points of shama

Shamanic practises, which have existed since the paleolithic period, are the oldest way which humanity sought connection with creation. The shamanic practise is shared by indigenous peoples the world over with an underlying cosmology that cuts across cultural differences and customs. All of us have evolved from shamanic cultures. Shamanism is not imported; it is our roots wherever we live. Today shamanism survives on all inhabited continents in less 'developed' regions, in spite of relentless western scientific materialism, the exploitation of the Earth and nature as something to be dominated, and dogmatic male-dominated religion.

Shamanism is a path to knowledge which is gained through experience of many facets of life. It is not a belief system, it is a way of knowledge, which is known from inside and stands up to the tests of time and experience. It is proven to work unlike beliefs which are taken on from outside and not personally tested in the laboratory of life.

In the past two to three millennia, a male ‘God’ in the image of man has been put into the minds of the people, rather like a Father Christmas figure. He is seen by many religious people as separate from the Universe and often sitting in judgment of it – and of us. This is totally at variance with the shamanic cultures who saw Creator and Creation as one and the same ‘God’ as the essence of existence of which we ourselves are an integral part. When we see ourselves as living within and as part of God, we don’t need complicated theology, we can go out to the trees, the animals, the sky and feel God present in nature.

The shamans say we are supposed to be the Caretakers of the Earth. We are the one species with the knowledge of Self, and thus the power of conscious choice. We are challenged to awaken to our Oneness with All Things, to our relationship to each other as cells in the body of Creator/Creation and to use our powers wisely. As the insatiable and unsustainable nature of Western style civilisation is becoming visible, more and more people are turning to the ancient indigenous cultures for help and guidance in finding a way back to living in greater harmony and balance with nature, with Planet Earth, and with themselves. Will we be in time? How can we do enough to change our polluting ways before our Planet ceases to be able to sustain us in the way to which we have become accustomed?

I was an engineer/business manager until mid-life crisis propelled me to seek deeper meaning in my existence. My odyssey into self-healing lead me, to my surprise, to the most ancient cultures. I have been involved in shamanism for nearly 30 years now and my world view and my life have changed beyond recognition. I am free of the guilt of Christianity and of the whole concept that belief/faith is necessary. My life quest is for knowledge.

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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.