Many systems of esoteric, spiritual or religious study require us to simply have faith in concepts that we do not yet understand. We are told that in time we will come to understand these concepts. While faith is certainly an essential component of many spiritual systems, faith alone has no place on the shamanic path. Since shamans are original researchers in spiritual realms, also referred to as “technicians of the sacred,” faith is not of much value. You wouldn’t expect a PhD candidate in electrical engineering to simply have faith that the power company will keep electricity moving through the system, would you? In the same way, no shaman or shaman’s apprentice would consider relying on faith to eventually understand the ideas presented for study. Rather, to a shaman, everything (and we do mean everything) is a subject for research, an open experiment.

On the shamanic path, we are required to struggle to understand the workings of our Universe (not to mention Universes beyond our own). A shaman does research in all the usual methods such as reading the work of others, and communicating with wiser deities and lesser beings. However, a shaman takes nothing as “truth” unless verified by his or her own observation and experience. Nothing is taken on faith. For instance, suppose you invoke various beings to conduct research on the history of our Universe. Different beings will give you different stories, some based on actual experience and others based on tradition. Still others will present sheer fiction. The shaman’s job is to determine the reliability of each of the sources, then seek to verify the data received experientially. We might verify the data by journeying through the black mirror or doing some form of “scan and locate” divination via waterbowl, chalice or firebowl. We may also verify our data with other shamans on the path, gathering a whole picture from which certain conclusions can be drawn.

If you decide to follow a shamanic or esoteric path of study, be aware that you have joined a group of original researchers of the sacred and spiritual. You have become an active participant in a path that relies not on faith, but experiential verification. Whatever information you find on this path, ask questions and seek to verify the teachings in your own world, through direct observation and experience. Earth is a school of individual learning – a teacher may offer you guidance and direction, but no one can give you the actual defining experience that forms real knowledge. If you want to know, you’ll get to roll you sleeves up and dig around in the dirt for yourself. On Earth, it’s the only way. So don’t throw faith out the window, just don’t think it’s the only tool in your kit. Faith will take you some places that you would never get to otherwise, but you’ll need your observation and experience to discover more about where you are. Many happy trails!