This blog started out to be a simple feature about an amazing speech that Martin Prechtel documented in one of his autobiographical books. The speech was made directly to him (Prechtel) by a spiritual advisor and mentor (A Sisay) in the Guatemalan village where Prechtel learned how to be a shaman and, by his own account, a “true village man”. The speech was made at a moment of crisis, which is often when we do our best learning.
I think we also do good learning when we hear the same thing from different people or similar things in different words. This is why I love anthologies. Once I got A Sisay’s speech ready to post, related teachings started showing up. So here is a short anthology of spiritual gifts from four contemporary shamans. As Winnie-the-Pooh said about poetry writing, “they wanted to come”.
MARTIN PRECHTEL: New Mexico Shaman
From Long Life, Honey in the Heart
A Story of Initiation and Eloquence from the Shores of a Mayan Lake
by Martin Prechtel, 1999
From Prechtel’s introduction to A Sisay’s speech:
“It is too much to ask, I know. After all, modern culture refuses to spend any of its vast resources to crown the queen of our souls, much less initiate its youth or dig out the concrete it poured into that sacred Hole. Like uninitiated children, modern people like depression better. Depression doesn’t take any effort and you don’t owe anybody anything. But what modern people do not understand anymore is that by making gifts for the Spirit from their personal resources and by sharing with one another, they can feed life and keep their hearts alive.”
More context, more from Prechtel’s “introduction”, and the complete speech, which I have named:
Long Life, Honey in the Heart: a spiritual teaching by A Sisay
“ALYA”: Anonymous Siberian Shaman
“The majority of people that come visit me, I tell them: Your trouble is that you do not live your own life. If you lived your own life then why would you get into someone else’s life? To allow yourself to diagnose things, to give advices when you were not asked for them. That’s when you cease living for yourself and start living someone else’s life. To begin to interfere with others. And conflicts begin. You have to learn to live first, and become such so that you can give yourself to the world. To become a gift. It’s the state when you give yourself as a blessing.”
—Sept. 2018 Interview with the Siberian shaman Alya, who wished to stay anonymous. Filmed by the TV Channel Russia-Culture in cooperation with Ethno Taiga. Translated into English by ©Excellence Reporter.
ANGAANGAQ: Shaman from Greenland
His primary teaching, as displayed on his Ice Wisdom website, has been: “It is easy to melt the ice on the ground. The hardest thing to be melted is the ice in the heart of Man. Only by melting the ice in the heart of Man, does Man have a chance to change and begin using his knowledge wisely.”
During the pandemic he has been especially active on-line. This short video (4 minutes) was just posted, part of a 2-day workshop on life and death.
From Preparing for the last breath of life YouTube Video (Oct. 17, 2020)
“My work is to prepare this soul of mine, to somehow enlighten my soul so I will be able to look into my own eyes without shame, without guilt. Accepting myself the way I am. Most importantly, loving myself. That is my preparation for the day I leave my body.”
JOHN CUSACK: Actor and Activist
John Cusack was politically active before Donald Trump was elected, but he has been an absolute Twitter force since. Important to his activism has been his clarity on the “neoliberal establishment” that created Trump and his criticism of “corporate” Democrats for still wanting to use “Rahm Emanuel’s playbook”. Cusack is a Chicago boy (Evanston, IL actually) so he knows what he’s talking about.
Although I don’t agree with all of his framing (the greatest generation, separation of church & state), in this recent interview, he shares some spiritual insights.
INTERVIEW with John Cusack: ‘You vote out Trump and then fight’
by John Nichols, in Progressive Magazine
Oct. 14, 2020
CUSACK: The neoliberal establishment threw the working class under the bus thirty fucking years ago.
Q: You have been raging about Donald Trump since he came on the political scene. A lot of people treated him as a fool, but you took the threat he posed seriously from the beginning.
CUSACK: In essence, I think that the pre-Trump landscape, neoliberalism, is the landscape that gave us Trump. So he is the logical kind of dark absurdist extension of that kind of savage, unchecked capitalism run amok.
We knew that this person had kind of a mobster or a gangster instinct in all these things, and he clearly doesn’t have the temperament or any principles at all. He can’t even understand the concept of service to other people. The idea of service in any way is something that confuses him. He doesn’t understand anything that isn’t just completely transactional.
Trump is a con man, but he’s a bad one. I think he’s more of a sociopath. He’s decided it doesn’t matter what he lies about or how much he lies about. If it gives him satisfaction in the moment or if it gets more people excited about him, he doesn’t care. He’s beyond shame
Trump is the kind of person who isn’t aware that he has a soul. I don’t think there’s any empathy, [or] sympathy, I don’t think there’s anything there.
So I don’t see him as a Henry Gondorff in The Sting. I don’t see him as a grifter. I see him as a sociopath.
Q: How did we get to this place, where somebody like Donald Trump is the President of the United States?
CUSACK: Do you remember when Bernie Sanders went to meet The New York Times editorial board? This is, you know, The New York Times, right? They’re supposed to be above all this depravity, chasing ratings from the gutters.
They cut like a reality-TV show. As Bernie said, “Hey, you know, I’m not your usual friendly guy. I’m not going to call you on Thursday and tell you I love you.” They cut to the very uncomfortable faces of the editorial board, and they had kind of reality show music.
I thought, “That’s what it is, the whole culture. It’s all show. There’s no more sense of professional ethics, fiduciary responsibility, or responsibility to other people on the highest level.”
Day to day, on the streets, in communities, you see that everywhere. I think things have been transactional for so long that everybody just feels like, as long as they get theirs, what do they care?
It seems like there’s been a sort of slow descent into this kind of madness.
Q: How do we get out of this mess?
CUSACK: Usually everybody tells you you have to separate church and state. But I think the question we have to ask ourselves is: “Do you believe you have a soul?”
If you do believe you have a soul, then other people have a soul, then you have to start looking at being a different way. You have to start by not worshipping capitalism. You have to start to have different values.
The guy that I read and study, Rudolf Steiner, says that we live in an age of materialism, and our thinking is even materialistic, and we need to know spiritual truths and spiritual laws, and if we don’t learn them or embrace them out of our own free will, we will have cataclysms.
Right now, we need to be shaken out of our materialistic, self-centered view of the world, where people are either customers or marks. Capitalism will sell you the rope to hang yourself with and then make you pay for the coffin and pass the debt onto your kids.
So people need to awaken to the fact that human beings have souls, and we have to treat each other with compassion and grace.