Disaster Shamanism, Addendum: Bringing Water to the Wasteland

 “To unpathed waters, undreamed shores.” ~ William Shakespeare

In Six Signs You May Be a Disaster Shaman, I wrote about the various characteristics and what may be considered the lighter, greener side of disaster shamanism. In this article I mean to dive into the more ruthless side of disaster shamanism. After all, I chose the word “disaster” for a reason.

Disaster shamanism is not for the faint of heart. It requires a particular flavor of ruthlessness akin to Castaneda’s Yaqui Indian sorcerer, Don Juan Matus. It requires a peaceful warriorship of the heart and a non-violent disregard for authority; all while making it absolutely clear that peace does not imply pacifism and non-violence does not imply peace.

When a disaster shaman comes to town, a rude awakening is at hand. Whether the town (village, society, state, or country) has become too big, or too obese, or too greedy, or some other unhealthy excess, the disaster shaman has arrived to set the record straight, to plant a seed of overt moderation within the covert immoderation.

When a disaster shaman comes to town, he/she is a New Oracle who has come to inform the old oracles that they have failed. The “town” has been declared a wasteland, and the unhealthy surroundings is dubbed unworthy for healthy humans attempting to evolve into a more robust species.

But the disaster shaman has water (wisdom) in tow, knowing that the majority of people will not like the taste, since it’s the “pill” everyone wants but can’t seem to swallow, but presenting it anyway as a healthy alternative to unnecessary thirst.

Here are three ways in particular that disaster shamans can bring water to the wasteland.

Chaotic Reordering

“An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There’s a punishment for it, and it’s usually crucifixion.” ~ John Steinbeck

If, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” then it stands to reason that our lives begin the day we gain a voice and speak the truth about things that matter. This means slapping people with the truth. This means not sugarcoating atrocity. This means sentimentality be damned. This means tough love, especially in the face of comfort and security.

But first it means discerning what matters and what doesn’t. Disaster shamans learn this by listening to nature in order to learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy. Then they return to the people to teach the truth of the healthy.

What they learn out there in the wild places, seeing with over-eyes, between worlds, is a method of adaptability, a threshing of thresholds, so to speak: The ability to take a bird’s-eye view over the human condition. The ability to transform boundaries into horizons.

What prevailing boundaries need to be transformed into horizons? All of them. From stateliness to borders, from codependence to independence, between the fringes of civilization and the peripheries of the biosphere, between psyche and cosmos, between nature and the human soul.

These are not boundaries, these are thresholds to the realization that it’s all one giant interconnected, interdependent horizon. The job of the disaster shaman is to blur all borders and to point toward that horizon, to divert the typical codependent dead-mackerel stare of the people into an interdependent enchanted gaze toward an exciting new horizon.

Disaster shamans realize that domesticated humans are nothing more than soft animals in a hard desert –The Desert of the Real. But these shamans are bringing the necessary tools, the soulcraft, and the rewilding techniques, which the people can use to break the spell of codependent hyper-realism and break through the self-imposed boundaries toward self-actualized horizons. This is the essence of chaotic reordering.

The ability to use eternal wisdom to breach the comfort zone, to crush the all-too-orderly egg of security with chaotic insecurity so as to smooth out the rigidness, balance out the strictness, question the all-too-precious answers, transform the dogmatic into the enigmatic, and to help others realize that remaining enchanted, maintaining our awe in regards to the Great Mystery, is always the truer providence.

The Shaman in the Metalwork

“The Tree of Life is dying. Prune the top 1% and feed the roots.” ~ Unknown

When a disaster shaman comes to town, the powers that be are put on high alert. The words of Maximus in the movie Gladiator are thick in their ears, “The time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end… Highness!” Indeed. The lines dividing the haves and the have-nots become blurred. Smoke and mirrors are revealed.

The mask of democracy is pulled away to uncover a mask of plutocracy which is in turn pulled away to disclose the blindfolded face of a scared-shitless naked ape. Who is this naked ape? He is us, and we are him, trembling in an abyss of existential angst and spiritual despair.

We are him, shuddering beneath pathetic stopgap religions and makeshift laws that mock cosmic law. We are him, terrified of questioning ourselves, each other, our country, and especially our worldviews.

But when fear is fed wisdom, it becomes enlightenment.

When a disaster shaman comes to town, revolution is sown. It is scattered, disseminated and planted into fertile minds so that evolution can eventually be reaped. When a disaster shaman comes to town, fear-filled blue pills are swapped with wisdom-filled red pills. Fear is fed wisdom and the courage to seek out enlightenment emerges.

Where fertile minds cannot be found, where fear is paramount and closed off to wisdom, disaster shamans are adept at planting seeds of dissent; especially against the most fearful of them all: the greedy, monopolizing, money-hoarding 1%.

But more as a promise than as a threat. More as a warning, as a declaration: the time for honoring yourself, worshiping yourself, and glorifying yourself will soon be at an end. The time of interdependent-independence is fast approaching, and Disaster shamans are the tip of the spear.

disaster3 The way a disaster shaman disseminates the seeds of revolution is twofold: through wise art and through intelligent civil disobedience, and sometimes even a blend of each. Through hacking big banks, planting strategic memes in cyberspace, writing articles that arouse dissent, political graffiti, guerrilla gardening, and even replacing unsustainable infrastructure with sustainable art.

A disaster shaman is neither scientist nor priest, neither philosopher nor medicine man, but an artist subsuming all titles. This is the sacred dance of a shaman in the metalwork. Metalwork is a metaphor for the unthinking man-machine.

A shaman is its counterpoint: a thinking human. A shaman in the metalwork is an artist toppling unsustainable infrastructures and replacing it with paradoxical wisdom.

This is the epitome of disaster shamanism. Where unhealthy people are certain about themselves, disaster shamans plant seeds of doubt through intelligent art, poetic words, and high humor. But most of all their art is a beacon for those of a similar ilk.

It’s a bullhorn amidst the bullshit. It’s a call to action, a call to non-violent arms in a hyper-violent world. As Charles Simic said, “He who cannot howl, will not find his pack.” Disaster shamans howl loudest of all.

The Sacred Reach of Myth-making

“Fortunately, some are born with spiritual immune systems that sooner or later give rejection to the illusory worldview grafted upon them from birth through social conditioning. They begin sensing that something is amiss, and start looking for answers. Inner knowledge and anomalous outer experiences show them a side of reality others are oblivious to, and so begins their journey of awakening. Each step of the journey is made by following the heart instead of following the crowd and by choosing knowledge over the veils of ignorance.” ~ Henri Bergson

What illusory worldview has been grafted upon you through social conditioning? Tough question to answer. What seems to be amiss? That question is a little easier to feel our way through, but still difficult to answer. And that’s precisely where our journey should begin.

What is amiss? Where did things go wrong? How do we evolve as a healthier more robust species? And what happens when we attempt to answer such questions by following our hearts instead of the crowd, as Bergson suggests?

disaster2It leads us between worlds, away from the outdated opinions of men. It leads us to a sacred space where we can create healthier more sustainable stories. It leads us to the source, to the cradle of cosmos, to the womb of earth, where we are able to transcend society and culture. Where we can question the roots. Where we are free to tap the cornerstone and choose knowledge over the veils of ignorance.

Where we are able to shred those veils of ignorance, to reveal the primordial sacred wisdom hiding behind it. With this sacred wisdom, we can create realms unlimited in scope and imagination. We are liberated from all suffocating social boundaries, all threats, slavery, and intimidation. We are free to create beyond good and evil. And creating beyond good and evil is the essence of myth-making.

Disaster shamans understand that we need a new story, one that leads to human flourishing, one that bridges gaps, one that reconnects and transforms apathetic indifference into empathic compassion.

Myth-making is a way of retelling our human story, of realigning our story with the global story with the cosmic story. It’s a seeking for the Mecca of creative flourishing: the all-too-elusive philosopher’s stone.

But in order to gain the wisdom of the philosopher’s stone one must first tap the cornerstone. Which is why shamans since time immemorial have sought out the “bones of the universe” (cornerstone) before climbing the “ropes to god” (the way to the philosopher’s stone). Disaster shamans teach the importance of tapping the cornerstone.

They are walking, talking cornerstones, carrying the bones of the universe like a ladder and encouraging others to climb, to seek out the ropes to god, and to discover their own unique creative voice.

As Anthony de Mello said, “You have to understand, my dears, that the shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story.”

We are as much social creatures as we are mythological creatures. Stories give us something our inner wonder-junkie can hang its hat on.

Disaster shamans are cornerstones first, philosopher’s stones second. Just as they are a force of nature first and humans second. They carry the boons of their myth-making into the ghettos of our outdated myths. They are catalysts for a particular flavor of storytelling that has shriveled and dried up: eco-conscious interdependence.

Myth-making is the sacred reach of disaster shamans because they are alchemical storytellers who have not only learned how to transform darkness into gold, but, conversely, how to transform too-much-gold into melted down darkness. They have not only learned how to transform the worst-in-us into the best-in-us, but also how to transform paranoid morality into amoral courage.

Their myth-making is as much world-destroying (outdated myths torn down into building blocks) as it is world-building (updated myths built out of the building blocks of deconstructed myths). They have learned how to transform the ashes of their destruction into the Phoenix of their art.disaster1

With a cornerstone in one hand, a philosopher’s stone in the other, disaster shamans are the personification of a hurricane. Their powerful winds destroy outdated machinery. Their sustainable debris clogs up unsustainable clockwork.

They blow into town to physically, mentally, and spiritually dismantle the false world hanging over us all, the hyper-real canopy built by myopic past generations, erected without our consideration.

They have come to raise us to the consciousness of our slavery by tearing down the illusion of our prison bars. They’ve come to kill the infantile codependence within us by planting the seed of interdependent rebirth. They bring the power of myth-making to a world drowning in outdated myths. They bring much needed wisdom to an ignorant world. And of course, they are bringing water to the wasteland.

Disaster shamans are the ones willing to, as Shane Koyczan poetically said, “Rise. As if the sun has taken the day off and hired you as its substitute, leaving behind its lesson plan in a world full of students who can see no practical value in what you are teaching. Teach them anyway. Today’s lesson is the same as every day before it. Because the class has been struggling with this assignment, shine. You must teach this by example. So hand out sunglasses. And do not dim yourself for the sake of their comfort… Remember, some people require more light than others. So make extra.”

Image source:

Fire in the metalwork
Doors of perception
Campbell quote

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Gary Z McGee
Gary Z McGee
Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
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