Quantum physicists tell us that the universe, that all matter, consists of information. Some physicists say that that information is intelligence. And some have described the universe as a great thought.
As one famous physicist wrote, "The universe looks less like a great machine, and more like a great thought."
Another said, "The stuff of the universe is mind stuff."
That is not so different from the belief of animists that everything in the universe has spirit, a form of awareness.
Modern science has also found that entropy (the tendency of matter and systems to break down into their component parts) does not apply to living things. Plants and animals, in fact, as long as they are alive, have the tendency to grow and become more complex. Species and ecological systems evolve into greater complexity.
Where am I going with this? Just that there is a pattern for harmonious growth. And we (scientists and lay people alike) consider that pattern to be harmonious and beautiful.
Biologists have discovered that the predominant growth pattern in the natural world is what mathematicians call fractals, an ever-increasing spiral. You can see fractal patterns in plants, sea shells, and many other places if you know how to look.
Fractal patterns are orderly, mathematical, and quite beautiful. Anything that disrupts that orderly growth, then, results in less beauty---or even in ugliness.
Indigenous people worldwide have long spoken of the importance of such harmony with natural ways, of walking in beauty, of going with the flow. Facilitating that harmonious interaction with spirit and nature is the purpose of shamanism.
Shamans serve spirit first, then their people. Shamans help the people harmonize themselves with the flow; not vice versa.
Our modern society has got things backwards. We are taught to serve ourselves first, at the expense of others, especially at the expense of those who are not human. We are taught to deny that anyone but humans count. We want to change nature for our convenience.
The result of that is massive disharmony: wars, suffering, disease, overpopulation, injustice, hatred, destruction of the environment---and death. We are breaking the harmonious patterns everywhere, in defiance of natural laws.
Modern people sometimes scoff at those who speak of such concepts as universal love. I think that is because they do not understand the meaning of the phrase. It means love and harmony with all things, going with the flow, honoring all of creation, all of the spirits.
As shamanic practitioners, we have a duty to go into the spirit world, retrieve the universal patterns of love and harmony, immerse ourselves in the flow, and get ourselves back into the pattern. Then we need to retrieve universal love (respect for all things, honoring the spirit world and all life) and bring it back into our world.
Retrieving universal love is more important than all the smaller projects we do to help individuals and groups. Our Earth is endangered now by the disharmony and ugliness that prevail. We must help the pattern heal itself.
That is why this Saturday, on February 13, the eve of St. Valentine's day, the Houston Shamanism Meetup group will journey to retrieve the spirit of universal love to heal ourselves and the Earth.
For more information on classic shamanic practices, see the list of links to shamanism-related web sites near the lower right corner of this page.
White Cranes has been studying and teaching shamanic practices for over 20 years. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/whitecranes and http://www.twitter.com/shamanista and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/whitecranes.
To learn to do shamanic practices in Houston, you are invited to join the Houston Shamanism Meetup group, http://www.meetup.com/houstonshamanism.