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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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.