©2021 Michael Raven
I’m reading through the second of three (currently published) books about shamanistic practice by Paul Francis, Rewilding Yourself: Discovering Your Soul’s Deep Roots Through Shamanic Practices. I’m about a third of the way through and I have to say that I’m increasingly disappointed in the messaging after such a strong start with the first book.
My disappointment stems from the fact that, thus far, much of the book has been clarification or repetition of what was said in the first book, doubling down on this fetish with what Francis calls “The Fall”, e.g. the movement of homo sapiens from a hunter/gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural lifestyle and how this movement away from a more utopian (my word, not his) social engagement has severed the connection between spirit, soul and everyday living. According to Francis, the Fall is responsible for all of the world’s ailments: religious persecution (religion itself, actually), dualistic thinking, hierarchies (socioeconomic), taker mentality versus leaver mentality, sun god worship, etc. And while he does have some valid observations, I am reaching the saturation point with the argument. I get it — things (in his worldview) were better before we started domesticating plants and animals.
But this fetish with some unprovable past starts to sound patronizing and ego-driven after a point. What I dislike tremendously is when someone takes an unproven idea and uses it to bludgeon those people who disagree — including people who otherwise share some of the same values. Francis has started to confuse his way as being the right way, which begins to smack a bit of guru ideation — although he makes a point to counter this perception throughout the series by stating that shamanic practice is experiential, not driven by dogma. However, in the same chapter, he tells you what he perceives to be the correct way of going about your practice, while pointing out the flawed practice (and thinking!) of other practitioners. In my opinion, if you have the right of the understanding, you are so correct as to not need to counter the other arguments when it comes to these matters — evidence of your right-ness will be self-evident, either as people confirm it in their own practice, or that the logic of your assertions are so concrete as to make it obvious that what you say is true.
If you haven’t guessed by the above paragraph, I really get turned off by people saying the linguistic equivalent of “there is no right way to do things, but mine is more right than theirs”. It was what turned me off from the local Gardnerians when I went to an informational presentation back when I was 18 or 19 years old: they’d said something along those lines and I was fed up to my eyeballs with people putting down the value of someone else’s practice, however it might work (and it was hardly true, considering Wicca is a reconstructed religion with no evidence as to who is more correct than any other branch). If it works for the individual, there is no need to elevate yourself above them; doing so is a continuation of the dispute between the Abrahamic religions that has done nothing but end up in the killing and injuring of millions over the centuries because of a theological argument.
I am also bothered a bit by the rejection of dualistic thinking in this book, which is quickly forgotten when Francis begins to discuss the “evils” and dangers of the middle world (most people’s current perception of the world), while elevating safety and serenity of the lower and upper worlds (earthy underground and airy heavens). This is another dualism disguised as a tryptic. There is the “hell” of the world that people reside within and the paradise of the otherworld, both upper and lower. Francis begins to ignore his own biases (as should have been evident with the choice to call the advent of domestication “The Fall”, which sounds terribly biblical, which itself is an example of extreme dualistic thinking).
Am I refuting any of his understanding? Certainly not. But I am pointing out the logical gymnastics Paul Francis has to take on to stick with all of his arguments. While logic doesn’t always have a place in spiritual matters relative to mundane matters, it is important to still be internally consistent with your logic. You can’t have things both ways. So, no, I don’t disagree with his core sentiments, but I do find the inconsistencies and bias blindness to be disappointing, if not frustrating. I had hoped to learn more from outside my own practice, but I find it increasingly difficult to take what the author says at face value when there is so much that seems to be motivated by something outside of shamanic practice. In my opinion, the whole “Fall” discussion should have been trimmed to a very short chapter instead of a sprawling theme of the book, especially after the first book covered the core concept of “The Fall” already. As it is, so far, much of the book is rewording of sections of the first book — if not direct a copy/paste of several sections in the introductory chapter.
I’ll keep reading it, but I am finding it less valuable as a resource that I found the first book. I definitely have reservations now about any coursework conducted under his banner, but will reserve final judgment until I’ve finished this book.