Today I’m going to discuss Integral Spirituality. That term might be unfamiliar but it is very close to what us as pagans believe.
What is Integral Spirituality? And what does it have to do with Shamanism? I am coming in the back door with this, so please read the whole paragraph before you start scratching your head and asking, “What is she talking about?!” Integral Spirituality is just a phrase we use to define the concept that there is a universal interconnected web of life and all things must somehow “fit” together without excluding anything in our perspective of what has a spirit or a soul. Certainly the interconnected web is part of it, but it goes beyond those beings which most people “consider to have a soul”. Knowing, in fact, that “everything” does possess a soul and that whatever you do affects everything else on the planet is the way of thinking of the shamans. We have to keep in mind when we react to things that it is affecting everything else including plants, animals, and manufactured goods, not just ourselves. Everything is “in-spirited” and there is just a different arrangement of holons, atoms, and molecules separating one item from another. That is why a chair doesn’t simply melt into the floor, and why a pencil doesn’t turn into a worm and wriggle off.
In his book No Boundary, the eminent American philosopher Ken Wilber talks about the concept of the universal web of Life in terms of there being no boundary lines between where you end, and for example, where the chair you are sitting on begins. And he’s right. In terms of every shamanic practitioner on Earth, both now and in ancient times, he’s right. They all believe in an interwoven connection between your spirit and the spirits found in the rocks, trees, caterpillars, plastic baggies, computer chips, and anything else manufactured or naturally occurring. That is why people can be ‘possessed’ by spirits or shapeshift into other forms. Those shapeshifters are just “re-arranging the holons, atoms, and molecules” of themselves into a different pattern. They can do that because they are, in some sense, also that other thing, animal, plant, techno-gadget, etc., that they are shifting into. Please understand that we ARE saying that glue guns and high def Televisions have souls. That is what the shaman thinks. It’s essentially what he KNOWS. Because he can talk to and interact with that spirit.
Integral spirituality is a difficult mental concept to truly apply, although it is relatively easy to say out of your mouth. Lots of people claim they ‘believe’ in an interconnected web of life, but then they see their way clear to be unkind to a stranger or lazy about cleaning up their living space. That is not how it works. If you see it all as interconnected, then every negative thought, sarcastic word, and selfish action — or inaction, becomes a bit of negative energy in your living space. It ripples outward in all directions from there. You disrespect the plants on your windowsill by not watering them properly or by overwatering. You disrespect the rug on the floor with failing to vacuum it when it needs to be. You disrespect the car by kicking the tires when you are frustrated with its performance. You disrespect your friend who wants to help pay for the restaurant tab by saying, “Oh, just forget about it! Put your money away! Your money’s no good here!” or some other silly thing meant to suggest that you are the one doing the paying. It is, like it or not, a show of force on your part. You are denying him or her the chance to be useful and helpful. Why not just smile, say thank you, and let them feel like they contributed to your joy?
We fail to do many kindnesses by behaving mindlessly or without thinking deeply about our motives, and we do not ever consider it ‘wrong’. But in its most basic form, the lack of kindness is an opening, a gap for the energy to be used by a more aggressive negative person. The way the web works is subtle. The ripples we make on the pond do come back on us, sometimes as giant waves of the sea. This is a crucial idea to shamanic philosophy and practice. It is difficult to attain a right understanding of it. More so, a right practice.
There is no … boundary… to how to apply this concept either, you see. It works for everything. And the idea that you “try to include everything in it” is why it is called integral spirituality. The idea is you are trying to integrate everything into a single understanding of All Things Having Spirit, thus you arrive at an integrated or integral spiritual concept. This concept is also elaborated on beautifully by Steve Blamires in his book Glamoury: The Magic of the Celtic Green World, which I highly recommend to you. He calls it the belief that All Things are Equal (pp. 66 – 69). It is taught that way also by practitioners of Native American Shamanism (Fionnula & Spirit Helpers)
When I thought about this something really struck me. I’d never considered manufactured goods like TV’s and tables etc as having a spirit but when you think about it of course they must have. If you agree that everything is made up of the same energy, just arranged in different ways, then everything is interconnected in the Web of Life. A TV is made up of plastic, glass, metal etc but all those substances are made from something natural aren’t they, originally they were. So if we hold that minerals, trees, plants etc have spirits then so must TV’s. This is a really profound thought and actually the challenge here is to be mindful and reverent with ALL things, not just things we see as ‘natural’. All is interconnected, all is One.