Can the Classical Scientific Universe Encapsulated by Newtonian Mechanics co-exist with the Beliefs and Practices of Shamanism?
The advent of quantum theory during the early 20th Century sparked a fierce debate: Can the deterministic principles of classical science co-exist with the bizarre, irrational phenomena observed in the quantum (subatomic) realm? Classical science in essence describes reality as a collection of closed systems. If you know the physical laws governing the behavior of a system, then you can effectively predict past, present and future.
Newton’s gravity, Einstein’s relativity and Darwin’s evolution all fall within this category and can to some extent be used to describe many wonders of nature (throwing an occasional cosmic spanner in the works described in chaos theory). Newton’s equations for example have been sufficient to get man on the moon. But Einstein’s subsequent theory of general relativity gave an even more accurate description for the cause and effects of gravity: Einstein’s equations of general relativity being the second most accurately tested in all of science (second only to quantum electrodynamics). Indeed relativity has been proven to be accurate to 10 significant figures. From the ticking of an atomic clock moving at different speeds to the perihelion precession of the planet Mercury. Einstein’s theories through experimental observation appear to be fundamentally flawless. However, there does appear to be a major disparity as the fundementals of relativity do not agree, by any stretch of the imagination, with laws stated in quantum theory.
Quantum theory seems to turn all prior scientific knowledge and understanding on its head. How can a particle also act as a wave of potential which occupies all possible permutations and then collapses back into a point particle upon viewing by a conscious observer? How can particles interact by transferring information greater than light speed and thus violate Einsteins special relativity? Indeed they appear to communicate instantaneously, regardless of the distance that separates them, even if this distance spans our known universe. This suggests that there are other dimensions beyond our familiar material realm in which such particles interact. A reality that seems to evade our current scientific detection methods and is not restricted by the boundaries of space and time. How can particles appear to make decisions which depend upon knowledge of future events? Such phenomena are well demonstrated through thousands of experiments but seem to directly contradict classical science and common sense!
Shamanism, is a mystical approach to healing and acquiring wisdom from dimensions which exist beyond the every-day material universe. It extends far beyond the confines of Einstein’s space-time continuum to the domain of dreams, where there are no rigid pshysical laws. The only limiting factors being the cryptic, often undecipherable nature of the metaphysical information encountered.
Virtually all civilizations past and present had elements of shamanism. In many ancient cultures, shamanism was at the epicenter of the decision making of a tribe or entire civilization. The Aztecs and ancient Chinese were governed by shamanic emperors. Who were gifted visionaries. Shamanism has been ostracized in more recent times to a fringe practice, scorned upon by science and the conditioned western mindset.
Christianity played a huge part in curtailing shamanic practices. Sanctioning the death penalty via a multitude of horrific ordeals to those convicted of practicing such treasonable rituals. Do shamanic methods actually work? It has been scientifically proven that the placebo effect is one third as effective as the real drug in combatting an ailment. Given a choice, who would not rather go for the placebo than undergo the cost and physical side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, not to mention run the risk of becoming addicted. Many shamanic practices involve inducing a near death experience; often using plant/fungal entheogens to invoke such a state. Ayahuasca, Ibogaine, psilocybin mushrooms and Mescaline are classic examples of entheogens used originally by tribes in the amazon basin, Africa, central America and North America respectively.
Ayahuasca, the visionary potion made by combining DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) containing leaves of one species of plant with a vine containing MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor) elicits powerful hallucinations. Not unlike those induced during a severe fever. A simple inference for the profound, life changing effects of such experiences are that they bring one close to death for a few hours and as a result one has a far greater appreciation of life. They are powerful tools for freeing one from the constant pummeling cascade of egoic introspection. The result being that one is far more present, as the mental constructs which most people spend the majority of their waking life dwelling in become shattered for periods lasting from hours to weeks.
When staring death in the face, all other problems are but a farce. What really matters in life thereby emerges to the forefront of the psyche. During my 2 years spent working in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in London. It became clear that the government backed methods are far from effective or reliable means to cure addicts from their destructive relationships with their substance of choice. Clients would seemingly appear cured after a lenghthy period of rehab, only to turn up several months later having reached rock bottom once more and fully in the grip of their addictions, with all the social, emotional, economic and health impairments accompanying in full flow. Fact: the average person that seeks NHS (UK national health service) help for substance misuse problem requires 2.5 cycles through treatment programs. One treatment program comprises 3 months primary (board and lodge), 3 months secondary (board and lodge), 6 months tertiary (outpatient visits). Primary and secondary treatment costs ranged from £500-£900 per week. For one whole year of treatment end to end costs are in the ball park range of £25,000-50,000. During my stint working in the rehab clinic, there were several clients who reported successful use of Ayahuasca and Ibogaine to cure their afflictions. Only a handful of experiences with one of the aforementioned entheogens appeared to make leaps and bounds towards curing them of addiction. Often all it took was one ceremony to sever the addiction. Such methods offer huge gains to be made by sufferers of substance addition, but offer such poor potential economic gains to pharmaceutical companies, governments and health care establishments. What would these institutions be set to gain from a one time cure? Do such experiences open our minds to realities that for the most part remain invisible to our perceptions? It is very difficult for a mind conditioned by western ideals to envisage alternative realities to co-exist. Our minds are bombarded by materialism. Many among us have a mind subjected to lifelong abuse via TV, advertising, western gluttony, quick fixes, materialistic indulgences and the whole rigid rigmarole enforced by the education system and working a 40+ hour per week job. It is therefore unsurprising that the ego seems to be the dominant force in conjuring our desires and manipulating our thoughts and actions.