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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Leader: Mourning in Manchester

Yet another attack shows we are going to have to get to used to the idea that our liberalism and our freedoms can only be preserved by a strong state.

Children are murdered and maimed by a suicide bomber as they are leaving a pop concert in Manchester. As a consequence, the government raises the terror threat to “critical”, which implies that another attack is imminent, and the army is sent out on to the streets of our cities in an attempt to reassure and encourage all good citizens to carry on as normal. The general election campaign is suspended. Islamic State gleefully denounces the murdered and wounded as “crusaders” and “polytheists”.

Meanwhile, the usual questions are asked, as they are after each new Islamist terrorist atrocity. Why do they hate us so much? Have they no conscience or pity or sense of fellow feeling? We hear, too, the same platitudes: there is more that unites us than divides us, and so on. And so we wait for the next attack on innocent civilians, the next assault on the free and open society, the next demonstration that Islamism is the world’s most malignant and dangerous ideology.

The truth of the matter is that the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Ramadan Abedi, was born and educated in Britain. He was 22 when he chose to end his own life. He had grown up among us: indeed, like the London bombers of 7 July 2005, you could call him, however reluctantly, one of us. The son of Libyan refugees, he supported Manchester United, studied business management at Salford University and worshipped at Didsbury Mosque. Yet he hated this country and its people so viscerally that he was prepared to blow himself up in an attempt to murder and wound as many of his fellow citizens as possible.

The Manchester massacre was an act of nihilism by a wicked man. It was also sadly inevitable. “The bomb was,” writes the Mancunian cultural commentator Stuart Maconie on page 26, “as far as we can guess, an attack on the fans of a young American woman and entertainer, on the frivolousness and foolishness and fun of young girlhood, on lipstick and dressing up and dancing, on ‘boyfs’ and ‘bezzies’ and all the other freedoms that so enrage the fanatics and contradict their idiot dogmas. Hatred of women is a smouldering core of their wider, deeper loathing for us. But to single out children feels like a new low of wickedness.”

We understand the geopolitical context for the atrocity. IS is under assault and in retreat in its former strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Instead of urging recruits to migrate to the “caliphate”, IS has been urging its sympathisers and operatives in Europe to carry out attacks in their countries of residence. As our contributing writer and terrorism expert, Shiraz Maher, explains on page 22, these attacks are considered to be acts of revenge by the foot soldiers and fellow-travellers of the caliphate. There have been Western interventions in Muslim lands and so, in their view, all civilians in Western countries are legitimate targets for retaliatory violence.

An ever-present threat of terrorism is the new reality of our lives in Europe. If these zealots can murder children at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, there is no action that they would not consider unconscionable. And in this country there are many thousands – perhaps even tens of thousands – who are in thrall to Islamist ideology. “Terror makes the new future possible,” the American Don DeLillo wrote in his novel Mao II, long before the al-Qaeda attacks of 11 September 2001. The main work of terrorists “involves mid-air explosions and crumbled buildings. This is the new tragic narrative.”

Immediately after the Paris attacks in November 2015, John Gray reminded us in these pages of how “peaceful coexistence is not the default condition of modern humankind”. We are going to have to get used to the idea that our liberalism and our freedoms can only be preserved by a strong state. “The progressive narrative in which freedom is advancing throughout the world has left liberal societies unaware of their fragility,” John Gray wrote. Liberals may not like it, but a strong state is the precondition of any civilised social order. Certain cherished freedoms may have to be compromised. This is the new tragic narrative.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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