Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leonardo Boff On The Shamanic Dimension

This short video is well worth watching because in it the Dalai Lama gives Leonardo Boff a lesson in          shamanic wisdom.

The following article was posted on  It describes far better than I could, what my own path has been about for the last thirty five years.  For those who don't know, Boff was one of the original Liberation Theologians targeted by Ratzinger's CDF.  He was silenced in 1985 for his book:  Church: Charism and Power, and threatened again in 1992 for his participation in the Eco Summit in Rio de Janeiro.  At that point he left his Franciscan order and the Roman Catholic Church. He was highly involved in the Base Christian Community movement in Brazil and other parts of Latin America.  The BCC movement had over one million communities in Latin America, the Philippines, and Africa and was a huge inspiration for Liberation Theologians.  BCC's are still a vibrant part of the Church in some parts of the Catholic world, but their autonomy was seriously impacted by JPII through the appointment of more conservative bishops.  The Vatican was not particularly enamored of the blurring of the roles between priest and laity and the potential for 'Marxism' which was seen to be a major issue with these lay led communities. I've often thought the BCC movement was and is a precursor to what a reformed Catholicism will eventually look like.

In this article Boff describes the shaman dimension in it's ability to make intuitive connections, to see wholeness where others see division, and to foster the sense we are all one and part of something much bigger than just us human types.  If humanity is ever going to get off the continual path of self destruction, more of us need to see the world through shamanic eyes.  Jesus certainly did.

06/12/2011 - Leonardo Boff
The concept of sustainability, considered in its widest sense and not reduced just to development, embraces all actions focused on maintaining the existence of other beings, because they have the right to coexist with us. And only starting from this premise of coexistence do we utilize, with sobriety and respect, a part of them to satisfy our needs, while also preserving them for future generations. (The Shamanic mind always factors in future generations--always.)

The universe also fits within this concept. From the new cosmology, we now know that we are made of the dust of stars and that passing through us is the mysterious Basic Energy that nourishes everything and which unfolds into the four forces –gravitational, electromagnetic, nuclear strong and weak– that, by always acting together, maintain us as we are.

As conscious and intelligent beings, we have our place and our function within the cosmologic process. Although we are not the center of everything, we certainly are one of those forward points through which the universe turns into itself, that is to say, the universe becomes conscious. The weak anthropological principle allows us say that, for us to be what we are, all the energies and processes of evolution had to organize themselves in such an articulated and subtle manner that our appearance was possible. Otherwise, I would not be writing here.

Through us, the universe and the Earth look at and contemplate themselves. The capacity to see appeared 600 million years ago. Until then, the Earth was blind. The profound and starry sky, the Iguaçu Falls, where I am now, the green of the nearby jungles, could not be seen. Through our sight, the Earth and the universe can see all of this indescribable beauty.

The original peoples, from the Andean to the samis of the Arctic, felt one with the universe, as brothers and sisters of the stars, making a great cosmic family. We have lost that feeling of mutual belonging. They felt that the cosmic forces balanced the paths of all beings and acted within them. To live in consonance with these fundamental energies was to have a sustainable life, filled with meaning.

We know from quantum physics that consciousness and the material world are connected and that the manner a scientist chooses to make his observation affects the observed object. Observer and observed object are inseparably linked. Hence the inclusion of consciousness in scientific theories and in the very cosmic reality is a fact that has already been assimilated by a large part of the scientific community. We form, in effect, a complex and diversified whole. (Unfortunately I'm not sure Roman Catholic teaching authority knows how to handle this basic fact that human consciousness does in fact have a great deal to do with creating reality--both personal and collective.)

The figures of the shamans are well- known. They were always present in the ancient world and are now retuning with renewed vigor, as quantum physicist P. Drouot has shown in his book, The shaman, the physicist and the mystic (El chamán, el físico y el místico, Vergara, 2001) for which I was honored to prepare a prologue. The shaman lives a singular state of consciousness that allows him to enter into intimate contact with the cosmic energies. The shaman understands the call of the mountains, the lakes, the woods and the jungles, the call of the animals and of human beings. The shaman knows how to direct such energies towards healing ends and to harmonize them with the whole.

Inside each of us lies the shaman dimension. That shaman energy causes us to stand speechless in the face of the immensity of the sea, to sense the eyes of another person, to be entranced on seeing a newborn child. We need to liberate the shaman dimension within us, so as to enter into harmony with all around us, and to feel at peace. (And to take responsibility for the world we are creating.)

Could not our desire to travel with the spacecrafts in cosmic space perhaps be the archetypical desire to search for our stellar origins, and the desire to return to our place of birth? Several astronauts have expressed similar ideas. This unstoppable search for equilibrium with the entire universe and to feel that we are part of the universe pertains to the intelligible notion of sustainability.

Sustainability includes valuation of this human and spiritual capital. Its effect is to generate within us respect, and a sense of sacredness, before all realities, values that nourish the profound ecology and which help us to respect and live in symbiosis with Mother Earth. This attitude is urgently needed, to moderate the destructive forces that have overtaken us in recent decades.


  1. Do not know if this is relevant. But I have stated that Western Culture is based on the Roman Empire and the Roman Empire in its practices were hostile to nature and not it’s friend. That the Romans plowed straight roads through swamps and forests without regard to their natural beauty or nature's function of those swamps and forests. The environment was the servant of the road and the road was the function of commerce and the army.

    So too, the adoption of a numeric calendar for military purposes started the break away from nature, the lunar calendar in so many ways was a sign of the feminine and this act broke away from the male female balance of all things perceived by the Druids etc. before Rome.

    It is said that the western half of the Roman empire died for lack of fuel, wood.

    That this multi-layered anti-nature cultural perception is engrained in the Constantine adoption or hijacking of the teachings of Jesus to this day.

    That’s the west’s present ignoring of global, climatic matters is from an ancient male army mindset.

    Mr. Boff’s approach to the ALL is perhaps on the right track.

  2. It does not matter what religious rules you follow. What matters is a purity of heart. The wish to do what is a better action or lack of action. Gets back to not ignoring the capital sins of envy, greed, avarice and sloth. Purity is more about purity of heart than it is about weather a person follows the ideas of others. Shame is not a helpful emotion. Guilt, yes because guilt might lead to change but shame only means we can not live up to others expectations of us. The society is so caught up in false definitions of physical purity that people seem at times to lack the ability to understand that purity has less to do with sex than it does with goodness of all thought and action or inaction.

    In the west we are filled with a greed for achievement, of resources of money that we forget that these things lack a the simple purity to produce any inner peace. They in fact are Godless and people who use their talents to mostly obtain things are Godless and this is one of the greatest problems of our culture and society. We follow the teachings not of Jesus Christ or other great prophets, but we follow the god of mammon. Our preachers follow the God of Mammon. Why not tax them and the Churches? Take mammon out of their strivings!

    The worship of Mammon is the reason that we have the marches on wall street and so many others in the streets! It comes down to greed and produces envy. Envy will prove to be murderous. We need to get back to the idea of allowing full opportunity to all humans. Of course some will achieve more than others, this is not bad but when some begin to worship and work mostly for monetary results, we produce a society that will not support the young and weak amongst us. Thus it fights against health care for our children and elderly. This is a result of teaching only achievement is important. We see it so much in the "builders" of churches and other edifices. What is most important, the beauty of our church or hospital or insurance company or the jobs that they accomplish?

    The Dali Lama is a selfless spiritual leader to whom we we all should listen. There is a good Documentary that you can down load from I Tunes entitled, 10 Questions for the Dali Lama.


  3. Colleen
    Please just wanted all to know that Dec. 7 is Fr Geoff Farrow's birthday.

    Vince Morton

  4. If it does not matter what religious rules or religion one follows or espouses or not, then why bother with any religion at all? Religion has served mostly to alienate people or have them warring with one another, or some other type of control mechanisms in a hierarchical system of power over others.

    Granted that I see the connections and necessity to learn from other religions, however, there is also a bitter condemnation of all that is Western with a preference for Eastern religions dominating progressive catholicism instead of a healthy unifying force existing it has been propagating confusion. Perhaps this is so because inter-religious dialogue is a new concept, so far as within our current time-frame post-VII supporting such a notion of the Church spreading its wings into new dimensions of thought and being. Too oft religion nurtures bullies and tactics that do not support compassion, but do tend enormously so to increasing fear. This tendency continues in progressive catholicism.

    The "shamanic dimension" is really what? If it is just another hierarchal system of beliefs one must adhere to in religion, it will fail like catholicism has truly failed the faithful.

  5. What is "new cosmology?" Do you have any books to recommend on the subject?

    When I was growing up I had the sense we were all connected. I always believed I was a part of something bigger than myself or my nationality that I was born into. Especially at Christmas I felt at one with people around the world and wished only good for everyone. It seemed the rest of the world agreed, at least on the surface.

    As I got older I realized that the world did not operate on the basis of nurturing concepts and creating a world of peace and love. I saw war after war and church people bickering and arguing and I was dragged into the fight of it all, believing one should not be silent or silenced for their views.

    The times are dark and regressive and yet at the same time I can see the light that the shepherd's followed to the nativity scene still shines in the world and beckons for us to have faith and follow that star.

  6. "then why bother with any religion at all? Religion has served mostly to alienate people or have them warring with one another, or some other type of control mechanisms in a hierarchical system of power over others. " The religious myths are what people live and have lived by. The problems begin to occur when we take them as historical of infallible. For instance the Mesopotamians had a story of the flood and Noah before the Bible was ever printed. There are many stories in various belief systems of the virgin birth. What metaphors does each group use. The meanings in each group may be a little different

    I do not agree that Shamanism is necessary a hierarchal system of belief. Depends on how authoritarian the shamanistic system is. Some are more in a sense seekers of what nature is telling us rather than giving an authoritarian dimensions.

    Some Boarder Line personalities do better when they have an authoritarian hierarchal system than when they are left free to choose on their own. Many, personalities that have not fully developed, and without strict rules and regulations end up using drugs or get into other slavish behavior to their own detriment and to the detriment of others around them.

    However when a religion begins to define itself as having The Truth and being The only real religion, the institution crosses a line into that of an authoritarian cult as are the leadership of the RCC and some other groups that call themselves Christian.

    I personally have no preference for Eastern Religion and I certainly am a cradle catholic who knows much more of Christianity than Eastern Religion. However, like the life John XXIII, the Dali Lama has shown himself to have extraordinary spiritual thought and actions. He is a teacher far beyond many alive today. He has learned that poverty is not poorness of spirit. I take my hat off to him and have read much that he writes.

  7. @Anonymous
    I'm going to second the interest in new cosmology. Things really have changed so much in the past 75 years that older notions of cosmology are unconvincing, if not obsolete.

    The term "anthropocene" describes a change in society and consciousness on a drastic scale. A Christianity that doesn't come to terms with it will end up part of history.

    The regrowth of the authoritarian streak in institutional Catholicism is a response to its growing irrelevance to a drastically changed world.

  8. Patrick, agreed the leadership have imploded and made their moral pronouncements more irrelevant with each uttering. The real question is how do people now operate as a community.

  9. Thanks Bronxirishcatholic. Indeed, things have changed drastically. I did not realize what the term "new cosmology" meant. Thanks for the clarification. I might have made the connection if the words "new ecology" were used instead. I will get used to this new term though.

    I found this link with a lot of information regarding "anthropocene." I'll be taking a look into it.;2

    I've noticed that sometimes the experts and/or scholars forget that certain words or concepts are new to people and that many are unfamiliar with the new lingo. I suppose that can happen when things are happening very rapidly.

  10. Personally, I find the Lama's answer very inadequate -- for this still
    begs the question, "Is there a religion that would qualify as the 'best
    religion' or 'better than some other religions'?". I wonder how the Lama
    would have answered to THIS question!

    No one will disagree that the "best religion must make me a better
    person"! The moot question is if there is ANY religion that leads
    adherents to this goal -- with a higher probability than would other religions! If the answer is in the affirmative, that would justify theocracy, based on THAT religion!

    I would thus say that Narayana Guru's answer, "Whatever the
    religion, it is sufficient if man becomes better" is more happily worded
    than Dalai's response!

    The stand on "morality" by modern Evolutionary Biology is different, and more relevant, according to me.

    According to this, we have evolved to act morally and selflessly
    (under some circumstances) and to act immorally and selfishly (in other
    circumstances). We see this mixed tendency even among animals in the

    The above "good/ bad combination" evolved in biology because this best
    helped survival of our ancestors (and thus to pass on the genes that led
    to this behaviour to get to future lineages). It is to put a check on
    our "natural" tendency to be "anti-social" (under some circumstances)
    that modern societies have elaborate mechanisms for criminal
    jurisprudence. There is no evidence that any religion can replace the
    "secular rule of law" that imposes a deterrent "minimal cost" on
    certain types of misconduct.

    I feel that it is the above that makes all religions equally
    redundant -- for the purpose of "making you better". Our natural
    instincts (to be good) along with laws that imposes minimal cost (on
    instinctive bad conduct) are more than sufficient. That, I suppose is
    the basis of modern secularism, as emerged during European Renaissance!

  11. This is an excellent comment. Your question about one religion producing more moral people with more consistency is one I've often thought about. The problem would be how one designed the criteria to determine the answer. Spirituality is like intelligence and emotion, it's on a bell curve continuum. What we'd probably find is some religions do better with one part of the curve than with others. The trouble we have now is religions tend to want to jam everybody into the same percentile range. That just doesn't work.