Shamanism and Digitalisation

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T he Foundation For Sha m a nic Studies


ON THE BASIC QUESTIONS 1 1 HORST HÖRTNER - IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ROLAND URBAN The State of the Art in Digitalisation 1 7 ROLAND URBAN Shamanism and Digitalisation 29 YVONNE FÖRSTER The Spirit of the Machine: Machine Intelligence and the Principle of the Living 35 SUSAN MOKELKE Shamanic Training in Digital Space

PERSPECTIVES 43 JAKUB FIALA, KARIN VELISOVA Connecting the Dots: Towards a Network Communion 49 LUIS GONÇALVES LOURO Seekers of Balance 55 SARAH ELIZABETH MARTINUS In Search of the Invisible: Dreaming of Embodied Computation

FROM THE ARTS 65 ERWAN FROTIN Visual Representations of the Invisible 69 MINKA VON KRIES BlessU-2 – Notes from the Field Diary

FINAL NOTES 75 KAI GOERLICH Envisioning a Digital and Conscious Life 79 ELISABETH VERA RATHENBÖCK 21 Grams & The Digital Twin. How Artificial Intelligence will wound us

APPENDIX 85 Glossary 88 On Core Shamanism and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies




INTRODUCTION “Where the sea meets the land, life has blossomed into a myriad of unique forms in the turbulence of water, sand, and the wind. At another seashore between the land of atoms and the sea of bits, we are now facing the challenge of reconciling our dual citizenships in the physical and digital world.”1 The face of ordinary reality has changed dramatically in the first half of 2020. We have experienced a public lockdown, with all the political, economic, social, cultural and spiritual consequences, challenging as well successful ones. Our view of life has changed, has undergone a transformation. The presence and significance of the digital world have changed too. Data, information, cultural and scientific works or formats that were previously only physically available are becoming increasingly accessible as open access material via online video or live streaming. “Zooming” is the new “googling.” Complex mathematical simulation models are experiencing a veritable boom as a basis for political decision-making. Just as our perspective on ordinary reality shifts, so too does our perspective on non-ordinary reality. As digital realities become progressively more important in our everyday lives, questions about the presence of spirits in these digital realities grow increasingly obvious and urgent. What qualities do such spirits possess? And how can we interact with them for a mutually fruitful coexistence? This interplay is desirable not only because it promises a gain in knowledge, but also because one of the essential tasks of our time is to activate all available powers to ensure a sustainable survival of our own species as well as of all lifeforms on this planet. Shamans are called upon for precisely these tasks. The shaman’s expertise has always been to journey in non-material dimensions, to consult the beings who reside there, and to draw power for ordinary reality from co-operating with them.


Ishii, Hiroshi (2009): Intellectual Inter-Tidal Zone to Shape the Future. In: Leopoldseder, Hannes, Schöpf, Christine, Stocker, Gerfried (eds.): The Network for Art, Technology and Society – The First 30 Years of Ars Electronica, 1979-2009. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz. p. 258.


This applies equally to shamanic practitioners in today’s digitalised cultures. They too serve their communities, even though these are constituted differently from traditional cultures. They too work continuously with their spiritual helpers to make available new power and new knowledge, both of which are prerequisites for successfully overcoming crises. They too support those who are in need, who are experiencing fear and suffering, or who require healing. They too contribute to success. We already find ourselves in a post-digital situation,2 in which the digital is omnipresent and organically woven into our everyday lives, and in which we no longer notice that the digital is “different” or separated from human beings. Digitalisation leads to a kind of digital culture shock 3 and to a total reorganisation of our lives. This development has long been under way and it has become all the more clearly visible since the widespread use of digital technologies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Digital technologies are in the process of being transformed from a tool of organisation to a central shaping factor of life: “In the Anthropocene, man became a shaping factor; in the next epoch, technology could play that role.”4 Artificial intelligence, machine learning or deep learning and robotics are the defining technologies of our time. They hint at what those who were not born as “digital natives” might think of as a horrific vision from mediocre films of the past: the proactive intervention of machines into our human lives, not merely through their banal performance of simple activities, but by their learning and apparently becoming independent or self-determined. It is this aspect that probably calls for the most discussion because it transcends the limits of technology and demands an ethical response. And yet – and this too is shown by the management of the coronavirus dynamic – it is not machines that bring about the collective solidarity which gives a community the strength to pursue common goals and to overcome challenges. It is not ethical guidelines generated algorithmically by computer systems that influence central and strategic decisions. And it is not machines that make success possible through partly irrational and therefore truly innovative ways. It is we human beings who can accomplish these feats.


Rustler, Katharina (2020): Postdigital als Zustand. Der Standard. 15.01.2020, p. 26.

3 “Culture shock occurs when one’s previously held sense of identity is unsettled by confrontation with a new reality.” (Omenugha, Nelson Obinna, Duru, Henry Chigozie (2019): The New Media, the Youth and Renegotiation of Ethnic and Religious Identity in Nigeria. In: Reichert, Ramon, Wenz, Karin (eds.): Digital Culture & Society. Bielefeld: transcript. p. 68). 4 Konzett, Eva (2020): Schützt unser digitales Ich! Falter. 1-2/20, p. 6; transl. HF.



Novel and extremely complex phenomena call for basic research into the interrelationships between man and machine as well as into the consequences of digitalisation, including the relevant societal changes. Although this is already under way in other areas,5 thus far there are no significant studies, literature or promising approaches in the field of digitalisation and spirituality. This book would like to help close this gap. Shamanism is a path of knowledge and power. Due to its constitution, shamanism is predestined to make contributions to the exploration of the digital worlds. In times of great change, from a shamanic point of view, it is necessary to take a step back, to consult the spirits, to manifest their power and information in ordinary reality and thus to inspire confidence, hope and courageous solutions. ROLAND URBAN Wartberg ob der Aist, June 2020

5 See the works of Ars Electronica Centre and Future Lab –; 25.05.2020.






HORST Hร RTNER Media Artist, Researcher

Horst Hรถrtner is a media artist and researcher. He is an expert in design of Human Computer Interaction and holds several patents in this field. He started to work in the field of media art in the 1980ies and co-founded the media art group x-space in Graz/ Austria in 1990. Hรถrtner is a founding member of the Ars Electronica Futurelab, launched in 1996, and since then has been directing this atelier/laboratory. Since 2013, Horst Hรถrtner also holds a position as conjoint Professor at the University of Newcastle/ Australia. He is working in the nexus of art & science and gives lectures and talks at numerous international conferences and universities.





If you recapitulate the history of digitalisation, what do you think have been milestones? No matter if you take digitalisation in concrete terms - the digitisation of analogue data – or what resonates with the term, namely Artificial Intelligence and the “humanisation” of the machine, in both cases you have to go back to the Middle Ages. Digitalisation did not begin with Leibniz1, even though he made a significant contribution. It began with the artificial reproduction of music. The first machine in this context was developed in the 9th century in the Arab world. A flute player had rings around his fingers that, via ropes and rolls, were connected with needles. When he played the flute the needles were lifted or lowered, thereby producing a pattern on wax wax cylinders. In this way the melody was transferred on to the wax cylinders and a mechanical reproduction of the music was created. Interestingly the first chess automatons dating back to the 10th century, even if they were “fake”, as a person that looked like a puppet and moved the pieces, sat in the apparatus. So, the idea and desire to generate content beyond the limits of mechanics is anything but new. In this respect, digitalisation is part of a tradition of the Humanisation, the Enlightenment, of humanism per se. The question is of course, from when one now speaks specifically of digitalisation. Alan Turing developed the first “calculating machine” in 19362. But in reality we have been digitising since the 1950’s. The big difference today is that we are able to capture and analyse enormous amounts of data and unbelievably high data production frequencies. Amounts of data that go far beyond our individual horizons. And we have learned to identify certain patterns in these data streams by further developing the underlying algorithms. The first important examples of this came from the late 1990´s and early 2000´s. At that time, for example, machines and the associated software were able to identify deviations in purchasing behaviour from

1 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), German polymath and pioneer of modern computer technologies. See; 19.06.2020. 2 Alan Turing (1912-1954), a British mathematician, introduced an abstract calculating machine in 1936 which allowed a formal definition of algorithms on which the fundamental logical principles of digital computers are based. See; 19.06.2020.


customer data recorded over several years and to assign these deviations to specific external circumstances, with a very high probability match. An example of a 16-year-old girl in New York became well known when she suddenly received an advertisement for baby clothes and baby food from a convenience store. The father took action against it – only to discover that his daughter was pregnant. His daughter's shopping behaviour had changed accordingly. It was then that such categorisations began. That was still fairly manageable. This really changed with the big digital players like Google and Facebook. They do not do anything bad per se. They remember everything that any user does on the website - when I write e-mails to certain people, who I am in contact with more often, what I make negative comments about, when I log on to a shopping portal, body weight data, etc. In short: the personal story. Facebook, Google and all the other big players put the pieces together to get the most comprehensive picture possible of us users. The main consequence of having such data material is that certain behavioural patterns are algorithmically recognised before I, as a buyer or potential consumer, even notice a change in behaviour. In other words, it is not about making history comprehensible. What happened in the last days, weeks or years is completely uninteresting. What makes these algorithms so exciting and ultimately dangerous, is the future. When I am uncertain or wavering, certain information, news and advertising formats can change my opinion, my reputation or my political views. This certainly influences our future. This brings us to the core of what is meant by digitalisation: that we have vast amounts of data and that this data is able to influence the course of things based on the results of analysis. Virtual reality is mixed up with the real constitution and becomes indistinguishable. In this respect, a very important criterion is the critical moment of questioning - to always stay awake. Doesn't this ultimately mean that - apart from technical feasibility - what is needed above all are philosophy and ethics? Absolutely. That's what I'm talking about. I believe that without ethics we have nothing to gain, especially in this context. In almost all the new key technologies that will influence our future, there is something like an ethics council that deliberates whether or not planned project follow the consensual ethical-moral context that we want to have in our society. In the area of digitalisation we do not have that. You will find extraordinarily high private research funds. Compared to the research budgets of the big players – like Google, Facebook and Apple – public funds are negligible. The big ones have thousands of developers. Besides, they have hired many of the smart minds. They buy whatever you can buy. Not only companies and receptive



governments, but also the talent potential of humanity. As society, we run a significant portion of responsibility. These are deeply human problems that have nothing to do with technology. How shall I say, it's the old ailment. How do you see the developments around humanoid robots, androids and transhumanism? The traditional limits of the human being are being questioned or removed in this context - for example, by installing technical interfaces between man and machine that are supposed to enable mutual learning. I am actually very open to these interfaces. For me personally, it would be the very best thing if I could plug myself directly into the screen. So much tangled cable would then be gone. Fantastic. The interface question, the cyborg idea, is something I can get a lot out of. Because prosthetics and improving physical performance has a long tradition, going back thousands of years. I wear glasses. Glasses would be just as much a prosthesis as the pacemaker and the cochlear implant. Or the new or artificial knee. It would be fatal not to develop this further. I believe that this could lead to generating an improvement in life situations. When it comes to future technologies we, in the western hemisphere, very often naturally think of our own horizon of experience. But at the same time, a few years ago, there was a wonderful project carried out by American artists and students. They supplied 3D printers to landmine victims in Uganda – children who are missing arms or legs – and used them to fit 3D-printed prostheses. A wonderful idea. The great thing is that they left the 3D printers there and the children then made prostheses on their own, for their parents. Or another example: the world's most economically successful drone operator is also located in Africa. These drones are used to transport blood supplies. How fantastic is that? You can't get through certain areas of Africa by car. It can take three days to cover 20 kilometres. With the drones, it takes half an hour to get there and it's done. That´s an incredibly important part of health care. None of us would even think of it. But that's exactly what this technology makes possible, a substantial improvement in living conditions. That means skipping whole stages of development. This new technology means that no roads have to be built. They are an outrageously expensive infrastructure anyway and are no longer relevant in this context. We find it difficult to imagine the real potential. In the case of drones, we are afraid of privacy issues with cameras, or perhaps even see them as a threat scenario, as surveillance or even bombing machines. But transferred to civil society and simply put in the hands of a few creative people, this technology can work wonders.


If you think about the interface issue mentioned earlier: Do you think it is possible that humanoid robots or clones possess or can develop something like identity or soul? Or is this complete humbug from a technological point of view? No. I think from a spiritual point of view this is easy to answer. In Zen Buddhism, for example, every robot has a soul, and this is not even questioned. That´s a given fact. Now you have to say, okay, for Christianity this is tricky, because Christianity has a problem with the thought that a stone has a soul. But there is room for interpretation. And I believe that we should not take away this room for interpretation. Or have it taken away. What is apparently the case in Japanese society is the much higher acceptance of letting technological aids into one's life - because something like a soul is assumed. I think everybody is entitled to their own opinion; but I am glad that there are all these facets in the world and that we have so many different approaches to technology. In summary, does this mean that you advocate a humanistic attitude, ethically based approaches and diversity of thought? Absolutely. It is not a question of whether man or machine is better. In reality, it's about how we can use the machine to generate a better living together for all of us. Will this help us in the future? That should be the central question. And not so much, how smart a machine or artificial intelligence can still become. What role do you think spirituality could play in the further development of digitalisation? For me, they are two worlds that both exist in the same universe parallel to each other. I think it's incredibly important to develop diverse perspectives on technology. Not only to perceive it in its surface, but to deal with its consequences in detail - and with its potentials. Because I am completely convinced that these technologies are ultimately the only chance we have of surviving ourselves. We need the technology like our daily bread. Take the issues of global warming, migration flows and so on. We know that the situation will become more dramatic, climate refugees will contribute more to the migration flow. We have no way of dealing with these increasing phenomena yet. First of all, and as a society, we must want to make it happen. We are still a long way from achieving that. We also have to demonstrate the necessity for change more clearly. A positive aspect about Corona is that it has shown us that we can produce 70 percent less emissions within two weeks. Not 5, 20 or 30 per cent. It can be done much faster if we want to.



On the other hand, we must also have the willingness to actively shape our future. Not only to consume in some way, but to get involved when it comes to making decisions. And there, I think, spirituality also has a meaning. For us, in the western world, new technology is primarily about commodity3. If it is more comfortable, then it is even better. However, the essential question of how to achieve real improvements in living conditions through the intelligent use of new technologies, remains unanswered. We believe, that next week or in a few months we will have to react and change our lives. This is not true. In fact, we should have started the day before yesterday.


3 Trade goods, consumer goods


ROLAND URBAN Director FSS Europe

Born in 1973 in Linz, Austria. Studies of Psychology, Social and Health Sciences in Vienna and Dublin. Health, Clinical and Emergency Psychologist, facilitator and author. Director of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe. International workshops and lectures, publications in various journals and books on shamanism and psychology, respectively. Focus issues: “Shamanism and the Sciences”, “Traces of European Shamanism”, and so called “Incurable Diseases”.




SHAMANISM AND DIGITALISATION “Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost.“1

Although new data, findings and scenarios for digitalisation are presented daily, we are still not fully aware of the scope of the transformations that it brings about. Unimagined technological innovations for the benefit of humankind become possible, including significant potentials for health and the economy. At the same time, dramatic consequences for nature and society emerge.2 We are living in a new, digital world, characterised by excessive consumption of natural resources, constant accessibility, and a monotonous, unceasing rhythm that does not develop along circadian, annually cyclical or life-phase-related courses, but remains the same, “24/7”. Transitions are levelled; disturbances of rhythm are pre-programmed. The digital world is a photographic negative of the natural world3 – or its complementary image, depending on one’s point of view. Shamanism is highly relevant for understanding modern information technologies. Both are information technologies of their respective times. As an “archaic information technology”, shamanism has been tested over time and space, through its applications in countless cultures. Shamanism is oriented along the natural cycles of life. Shamanic work reminds us that we humans, as natural creatures, have an ontological need to follow these underlying cycles. Shamanic experience transcends the boundaries of ordinary


Alighieri, Dante (1867): The Divine Comedy. Volume 1: “Inferno”. Translated by Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. p.1.


Studies have found that the digital worlds currently generate 1.7% to 3.7% of global greenhouse-gas emissions and are expected to produce between 8% and 23% of them by 2030. See: Engel, Katja Maria (2019): Was Katzenvideos das Klima kosten.; 10.06.2020.

3 “Nature” or the “natural world” is defined here as “The entirety of things that grow or come into being on their own and free from human influence, that bear the basis of their being within themselves, and whose development is determined by their inner, inherent factors.” (Metzler Lexikon Philosophie (2008): Natur.; 04.06.2020; transl. HF).


as well as academic-scientific thinking and, due to its constitution, almost compellingly raises the question of the ensoulment of the digital worlds. DIGITAL REALITIES AND THE ANTHROPOCENE Our conjecture that we humans have invented or developed digital realities speaks for our naivety or self-centredness, partiality and arrogance. An alternative narrative could be that digital realities have always existed as a network of immaterial structures of information and communication, but had escaped our notice – just as we knew nothing about black holes or quantum physics until the 20th century and, even today, still cannot make any clearcut statements about what exactly, for example, dark matter, dark energy or consciousness really is.4 From a shamanic point of view, the situation is simple: Nothing can be argued against the assumption that digital realities are an integral part of the natural universe.5 After all, they are obviously non-material phenomena of the Middle World. The central question is: What is nature or where are its boundaries? The Anthropocene debate offers valuable impulses here. The neologism “Anthropocene” denotes the most recent geochronological epoch, during which man became the determining factor of life on planet Earth. While in earlier times humankind adapted to nature in order to survive, the industrialisation of the 19th century inaugurated a dynamic that led to man increasingly altering nature according to humankind’s own needs and interests.6 As climate change shows, many of these anthropogenic alterations are not particularly sustainable or constructive. This development and its associated technological innovations blur and dissolve the boundaries between nature and culture, and ultimately also between man and machine. The establishment of automated applications in professional and private life, virtual realities, artificial intelligence and robotics provide impressive evidence of these tendencies. Transhumanism, i.e. the expansion of intellectual, psychological and also biological human capacities, has entered 4 Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft e.V. (2020): Dunkle Materie und Dunkle Energie. https://www.; Neurowissenschaftliche Physikalische Gesellschaft e.V. (2013): Was ist Bewusstsein? bewusstsein/was-ist-bewusstsein; 02.06.2020. 5 Incidentally, not from the perspective of quantum physics either, at least not epistemologically. One could understand the digital realities as potentiality realised at a specific point in history, namely, when the technological basis for their perception and use were established. In other words, it was not possible to perceive the digital world at all due to a lack of technological prerequisites, unless one were a shaman (and even then one might have described it differently, as the technological backgrounds would have been completely different). 6 See, for example, Laux, Henning, Henkel, Anne (eds.) (2018): Die Erde, der Mensch und das Soziale. Zur Transformation gesellschaftlicher Naturverhältnisse im Anthropozän. Bielefeld: transcript.



the mainstream of science, applied technology and medicine. The creation of humanoid robots aims to replicate human beings and to foster reciprocal learning between man and machine.7 Finally, with the so-called “xenobots” biodegradable machines are introduced, produced from organic material (e.g. stem cells) and capable of healing themselves. As organisms manufactured by machines and computers, xenobots constitute a hybrid species: “These are completely new, living machines. They are neither a classic robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a completely new species: a living, programmable organism.”8 The Anthropocene marks a singularity, a great transformation and turn of the epochs, in the course of which society and nature, sociotope and biotope merge into a hybrid.9 Nature is no longer the ideal-typical balancing power and we still lack new social regulatory models that are capable of consensus.10 “The experiments have left the protective walls of the laboratories. [...] Society itself has become the field of experimentation.”11 The classical definition of man – and of the natural in general – has thus become obsolete. An expansion of notions and conceptions is needed, as well as a new ethics. This situation not only calls for technicians, but also and above all for philosophers, sociologists – and shamans. CORE-SHAMANIC FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH The core-shamanic approach Shamans do not shut themselves off from the phenomena that confront them, even if these occurrences are strange, unsettling or fear-inducing. Rather, shamans approach things constructively and try to generate solutions on their own initiative. Accordingly, the aim here is not to propagate or support a one-sided perspective leading to apocalyptic scenarios, but to sketch a differentiated picture. The existence, future relevance, enormous benefits as well as destructive potentials12 of digitalisation, machine learning and


Hugendick, David (2016): Hiroshi Ishiguro: Androidenliebe. hiroshi-ishiguro-androiden-roboter-kuenstliche-intelligenz; 28.05.2020.

8 Bongard, Joshua, in: Mansholt, Malte (2020): Xenobots: Diese ´lebendigen Roboter´ sollen bald in Menschen arbeiten.; 28.05.2020; transl. HF. 9 Bammé, Arno (2018): Die veränderte Position des Menschen im Anthropozän. In: Laux, Henning, Henkel, Anne (eds.): Die Erde, der Mensch und das Soziale. Zur Transformation gesellschaftlicher Naturverhältnisse im Anthropozän. Bielefeld: transcript, p. 38. 10 Brand, Karl-Werner (2018): Zum historischen Wandel gesellschaftlicher Naturverhältnisse in der kapitalistischen Moderne. Eine soziologische Kritik an der Anthropozändebatte. In: Laux, Henning, Henkel, Anne (eds.): Die Erde, der Mensch und das Soziale. Zur Transformation gesellschaftlicher Naturverhältnisse im Anthropozän. Bielefeld: transcript, pp. 92f. 11 Bammé, Arno (2018), p. 36; transl. HF. 12 For example, in the areas of traffic flow optimisation, raising awareness of environmental issues or forecasting forest fires (Der Standard (2020): Gute Taten mit Daten. 23.02.2020, p. 4).


artificial intelligence are well known. As always in history, it is not a question of reversing developments that have already been taking place, but rather of gaining a better understanding of their backgrounds and effects in order to deal with them in a responsible and intelligent manner. Systematic research plays a fundamental role here. Shamanic understanding about the ensoulment of artefacts or machines has been recognized since ancient times and is therefore common knowledge.13 However, there has not yet been systematic investigation of the question: Which beings are associated with modern technological infrastructures and the living environments that are shaped by these? There is no relevant literature or research worthy of mention on the subject of shamanism and digitalisation. A similar void applies to spirituality and digitalisation. For this reason, and given the relevance of the topic of digital worlds nowadays, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe set itself the task of exploring this neglected field and undertaking fundamental research. Studies conducted in the sciences of ordinary reality are not very productive for this subject. This is not particularly surprising because the conventional sciences are influenced by an epistemological bias, disregarding the reality of spirits as phenomena of the natural world. Methodology and questions Aside from references to literature on associated topics, our research efforts are therefore based on systematic exploration of non-ordinary reality and on utilisation of the sources it offers us. The use of the shamanic journey as a research method seems not only reasonable, but constitutionally obvious and even compelling in this context. Moreover, the classical core shamanic journey14 provides us with a concrete and proven technique that can be carried out transparently, comprehensibly and replicably, thus satisfying the basic criteria of scientific research. We conducted shamanic journeys in various groups (meetings, drum circles, days of practice and workshops) on diverse aspects of this subject with a total of about 400 people from March 2019 to June 2020. The results were recorded orally or in writing. Wherever possible, appropriate documentation was assured by means of qualitative written research reports.

13 Paraphernalia (i.e. shamanic tools) should be mentioned here as prototypical examples. See, for example: Anawalt, Patricia Rieff (2014): Shamanic Regalia in the Far North. London: Thames & Hudson. 14 See: Harner, Michael (2013): Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books. Appendixes A & B.



Some of the questions asked are: • How are the digital realities constituted? • Are there spirits of the digital realities? If so, where are they located? What is the nature of their power and qualities? What are their ontological criteria? • How can we work safely and efficiently with them? • What should be taken into consideration when co-operating with spirits of the digital realities? COURSE OF THE RESEARCH WORK SO FAR – NOTES FROM THE RESEARCH DIARY 15 At the outset of the research project, and alongside a fundamental examination of the topic of digitalisation, the central question was: Do spirits exist in the digital realities? This query was soon answered positively. It was followed by a more detailed and differentiated exploration of the spirits of the digital realities. The results of the shamanic journeys were astonishingly homogeneous, clear regularities could be identified, and the first steps of modelling were taken. From January 2020 on, the aspect of intention and the influence of transcended compassionate spirits became increasingly important. Topics such as agenda, ethics, and a conscious as well as purposeful way of working with these spirits became more central. At the same time, the assessment of the technical aspects of digitalisation also underwent evolution. The initial focus was on technical possibilities or potentials and their effects on humankind (keyword: the human-machine relationship). The emphasis successively shifted toward the question of how to make smart use of these technologies. The coronavirus crisis precipitated a caesura, which alongside many other complex effects, also prompted a radical reinterpretation of digitalisation. The necessities of the situation not only led to a technological quantum leap (e.g. regarding the use of artificial intelligence in [medical] science) and to mainstreaming on a large scale, but also to a humanisation of its use: digital technologies were utilised extensively as carrier media for live events of all varieties from the cultural, to the economic and the political. The question thus also became viral in the context of ordinary reality: How we can use digital infrastructures to ensure survival in the best possible way?

15 Research diaries not only document the research process and thus make the subjective formation of knowledge and models transparent, they also reveal important information about the researcher’s worldview, attitude and methodological principles. (Cf. Flick, Uwe (2005): Qualitative Sozialforschung: Eine Einführung. 3. Aufl. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt. pp. 249-251).


THE DIGITAL WORLDS FROM A SHAMANIC POINT OF VIEW – PRELIMINARY FINDINGS AND ATTEMPTS AT MODELLING The following statements express interim conclusions and describe potential models based on the available data and the current state of our research.16 They are not intended to contradict the viewpoints of modern information technologies, but to augment them with complementary lines of thought. At first glance, the digital realities seem to be clearly defined, at least as far as their technical aspect is concerned and, to some extent, also with regard to their sociological and psychological aspects. When we speak of digital realities, we usually refer to the technical infrastructure through which these realities become manifested, i.e. material devices, machines and robots. The space between these material realities, the “dark energy” of digital realities, is only dimly lit and much less clearly differentiated. This is precisely where a shamanic perspective comes into play. Based on transcultural and time-tested experience, and following the premise of a shamanic understanding of the world, alongside the material, physically perceptible, ordinary reality there exists another, immaterial, spiritual reality. In core shamanism, this other reality is called “non-ordinary reality”.17 Neither ordinary nor non-ordinary reality is empty. The latter too is inhabited – by spirits.18 The general, universal structure of this non-ordinary reality consists of three parts: the Upper, Middle and Lower World.19 The Middle World is the only one of these three realms that has both an ordinary material aspect and a nonordinary spiritual aspect. As spaces that extend between material nodes, digital realities are to be assigned to the non-ordinary reality of the Middle World. Their nature is immaterial, they are not visible, and they exist parallel to ordinary reality. There are countless undiscovered areas in the non-ordinary reality of the Middle World (just as in ordinary reality). On the basis of the available research, it can be assumed that the digital realities were not “invented” by humans. Rather, they were already present (i.e. potentially laid out) as parts of non-ordinary reality, but were unknown (i.e. unrealised). The technologies

16 Status as of June 2020. 17 The terms “ordinary” and “non-ordinary reality” originate with the anthropologist Carlos Castaneda. See Castaneda, Carlos (1990): The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Repr. New York: Arkana. pp. 206ff. 18 Spirits are to be understood as spiritual essence, as identifiable entities associated with specific power and information. They can be of a purely immaterial nature or, if in connection with a physical existence (body-spirit unity), they can also possess a so-called “ordinary” aspect, a materiality. This means that even those life forms that are recognised by the natural sciences also have a nonordinary aspect. Cf. Harner, Michael (2013), pp. 252-257. 19 Cf. Harner, Michael (2013), p. 68.



that emerged in the course of industrialisation and digitalisation created the preconditions necessary to materialise these parts of non-ordinary reality so that our senses could discern them. Computers, robots and machines can thus be understood as manmade containers that enable us to perceive processes relevant to the digital realities and to store (individually, locally or in the “cloud”) the information communicated in them. Cleared by intention and defined or identified by codes, the immaterial paths involved are comparable to the conduits along which spiritual power and information flow. We know from our practice of shamanism that in order to avoid causing harm or injury, one must learn how to work safely with power. The same applies to the digital realities. The task is to systematically explore20 the various environments, thus gaining profound knowledge of this part of non-ordinary reality and getting to know the spirits who inhabit it. SPIRITS OF THE DIGITAL WORLDS According to one of the primary experiences in shamanism, all that is, is alive and ensouled. Spirits are real and are a part of non-ordinary reality, which in turn is a part of nature.21 These two central premises of shamanism, coherently derived from transculturally available observations, form the basis for our further conclusions and modelling. Applied to the digital worlds, this leads to the postulate that spirits can likewise be found in these worlds. The digital realities are located in the Middle World, so the spirits of the digital realities must primarily also be spirits of the Middle World. They are subject to the laws of the Middle World, with all its multifaceted and ambivalent power, and they operate through these laws. Moreover, spirits are associated with particular environments22 or are attracted by specific material constellations and powers present at these locations. In other words, there is a connection between spirits and their surroundings. If we understand digital realities as spaces, then the following picture emerges. The physical components and locations, which are essentially the constituent parts of machines and cables, fundamentally consist of diverse elements (especially in the carbon group or associated compounds and metals), chemicals and plastics or petroleum-based composites. All of these

20 Cf. Hirsch, Andreas (2018): Wie Teile eines kosmischen Puzzles – Landkarten der nicht-alltäglichen Wirklichkeit.; 01.06.2020. 21 See Harner (2013), pp. 197-202. 22 In this context, see: the relevance of the “ecotypical background” (Paulson, Ivar (1967): Altestnische Volksreligion: Versuch einer kurzen Zusammenfassung ihrer religionsphänomenologischen Hauptzüge. Bonn: Baltisches Forschungsinstitut. p. 9) or the example of "spirit masters" among the Tuvans (Oelschlägel, Anett C. (2013): Plurale Weltinterpretationen: Das Beispiel der Tyva Südsibiriens. Fürstenberg / Havel: Kulturstiftung Sibirien. pp. 88-100).


raw materials are earthbound. Accordingly, it would not be surprising if the original spirits of what we call “digital realities” were Middle World spirits who are associated with the element earth.23 To phrase this more precisely: We can assume that the digital realities are inhabited by diverse spirits, that these are predominately earth-associated spirits, and that these spirits are supplemented by others who develop relevance in the course of the process of production or utilisation of material technology. In addition, certain spirits are attracted by specific combinations of physical substances or spiritual power. In terms of the material components, this again points to Middle World spirits of the most diverse kinds, with a tendency towards the element earth. However, also other – controllable – influencing factors play a role. From a shamanic perspective, intention is of up most importance in this regard. Depending on the intention with which particular operations are initiated or performed, different spirits are attracted. Ultimately, specific Middle World spirits whose inherent qualities are associated with communication and networking seem to be significant. They function as classic carrier media. This means that their power does not relate to the actual information they contain or transport. Rather, their potency lies in their capacity to effectively convey information. Similar properties are known in classical shamanism, e.g. with quartz crystals. The essential point is to carve out how we can work actively (rather than reactively) with the spirits of the digital realities for the benefit of all lifeforms. In core shamanism, so-called “transcended compassionate spirits” are regarded as the primary sources of power and information, simply because their perspective is transcended, informed and not tied to self-interest or other phenomena of the Middle World. Accordingly, from a shamanic point of view it is advisable to explicitly invite these spirits into the digital realities – and to do so through concrete actions in ordinary reality. In other words, it is our intention and our actions that produce the desired effect.

23 Naturally, other qualities would also be represented, as the components are ultimately compounds of various kinds.



AN ETHICS OF WORKING WITH SPIRITS OF THE DIGITAL REALITIES Why is it fundamentally important to differentiate among the various spirits involved? As other living beings, spirits too differ profoundly in their appearances and qualities. It is accordingly crucial to become well acquainted with their constitutional characteristics, specifics as well as with the modalities of contact and relationship building so that we can assess the reliability and trustworthiness of the spirits whom we encounter. Middle World spirits are not unconditionally helpful. This does not mean that they have a destructive effect per se. However, one should know about them in order to assure a safe and constructive approach. In the case of the elements mentioned above, there are two main characteristics to consider.24 Spirits associated with the elements are amoral and neutral.25 This means that they do not act along the moral lines drawn by humankind, but are neutral forces that unfold their effectiveness depending on the direction given. For example, a flood is neither positive nor negative: such an assessment would be based on human categories of judgment. Rather, water simply does whatever is inherent in its power and whatever is possible according to its specific environment. This is why ethics plays an eminently important role. The intention in core shamanism is always to overcome self-interest and to contribute to the greater whole, to the benefit of all lifeforms. Shamanic practitioners, i.e. those who work with the spirits, accordingly have to act responsibly. Shamanic practitioners become active only when they have permission to do so. They facilitate and direct (in this instance, a neutral and amoral) power. And they invite other spirits (especially transcended compassionate spirits) to add an informed perspective. Applied to us, regardless of whether we are programmers or users, this means that we are responsible for what we “feed� to the spirits of the digital realities and for how they manifest themselves or become effective. This is as clearly evident in hate posts as it is in initiatives that explicitly emphasize the positive in the world.26

24 This also applies to the communication and network spirits. 25 See Harner (2013), pp. 62-65. 26 See for example:; 01.06.2020.


SECOND-ORDER MATERIALITY AND DIGITAL IMAGINES If one regards the digital worlds as a part of non-ordinary reality, then they are to be understood as complementary to ordinary reality. When one considers the large dimensions of digital realities (e.g. the Internet as one of their concrete manifestations), then the proportion of material aspects (i.e. technical infrastructure such as devices, machines, robots, etc.) seems negligibly small. The concrete manifestations produced by these machines embody a kind of second-order materiality. Through the coding of the information and intention emanating from one human being, and through the decoding of these data by another human being, a specific event is not produced as such, but rather transmitted and translated via technical infrastructures and algorithmic processes. In other words, what is created are imagines27, i.e. representations of the “real�, the substantially physical. This is, for example, what we perceive during videoconferences. What appears on our computer screen is not the person, but the digital imago of the person. The basis for our perception and judgment is different than when we physically encounter this individual. The digital experience is sensorially reduced. The digital imago is the polar opposite of the holistic live experience of a physical meeting in an unambiguously situated face-to-face encounter. Digital realities exist on the basis of highly complex network and communication systems. Seen together with the technical infrastructures involved, previously undreamt-of acceleration and amplification of our channels of communication and our knowledge become possible. This means that we hold incredible potential in our hands. The worldviews, attitudes, contents and messages in the digital realities reflect those of the programmers and users. They originate from one kind of Middle World spirits (i.e. human beings) and are communicatively conveyed by other Middle World spirits (i.e. the spirits of the digital realities). Shamans have expert knowledge of non-ordinary reality, they are acquainted with the associated spirits, and they know how to work safely and efficiently with those spirits. From a core shamanic perspective, it is essential for us to learn about the spirits who correspond to the digital realities in a differentiated way, to work pro-actively with their power, and to call in transcended compassionate spirits. This can be done through intentional action and creation, by uploading posts, websites, songs, music, videos, etc.,

27 From Latin imago: i.e. image, reflection, representation.



or by implementing classical shamanic (healing) techniques – a field which is still totally unexplored and would merit research through experimentation. Ultimately, and hence our conclusion, the digital realities and their spirits are to be encountered in the same way as other aspects of the non-ordinary reality of the Middle World. PRECONDITIONS OF PROGRESSIVE DEVELOPMENT We are in the midst of an epoch of change. No matter which topic one views in concrete terms, it seems as though nature is beginning to react. “Mother Earth” is not defending herself: to assume this would be an ideological misconception with a moralising undertone. Neither is nature wreaking revenge on humankind: such a rationale would follow a Christian-influenced mythos of guilt, atonement and vengeance. Nature is neutral, as are nature’s inherent structures, energies and forces. Whatever may happen at individual locations in this universal ecosystem, these occurrences change nothing in its overall constitution.28 What we are experiencing on planet Earth now is simply a consequence of developments that have been underway for decades or even centuries – developments in which we human beings were significantly involved and for which we are responsible. Humankind is experiencing the direct effects of the Anthropocene. As a self-referential system, nature is beginning to react. If we consider this system as a natural organism, then phenomena such as climate change or the Covid-19 pandemic can be understood as diseases in the sense of preconditions for progressive development.29 The task for shamans is to disclose the spiritual background of these phenomena – and to co-operate by performing the necessary healing work. Consequently, we have to expand our understanding of nature (in a holistic sense) through new knowledge, lost power must be retrieved, and new power needs to be accessed. All these are classical tasks of shamans in service to their communities.

28 Cf. by analogy the law of conservation of energy in physics. 29 Cf. the concept of “plus healing” (Kraft, Hartmut (1995): Über innere Grenzen: Initiation in Schamanismus, Kunst, Religion und Psychoanalyse. Munich: Diederichs. p. 253ff.).



Yvonne Förster studied philosophy in Jena, where she earned her doctorate with a thesis on “Time Experience and Ontology” (Fink 2012). After a guest professorship at Bauhaus University, Weimar, she was appointed junior professor at Leuphana University of Lüneburg in 2010. This was followed by fellowships at the Institute of Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS) in Lüneburg and at the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz. She is currently a visiting professor at the University of Kassel and a Foreign Expert at Shanxi University in China. Her research focuses on the philosophy of technology, aesthetics, embodiment, and theory of fashion.

29 29



THE SPIRIT OF THE MACHINE: MACHINE INTELLIGENCE AND THE PRINCIPLE OF THE LIVING PERCEPTION BEYOND THE HUMAN At first glance, the worldview of philosophy seems incompatible with that of shamanism. A rigorous concept of rationality must set itself apart from the spiritual, from empirically inexplicable, ensouled things and remote effects. Looking more closely, however, one soon finds philosophical positions which conceive of a mental dimension that transcends humankind and its rationality. Especially German idealism, with its famous protagonists Hegel, Schelling and Fichte, sees mind rather than matter as the ontological basis of being. David Chalmers1 argues similarly when he contends that the primary attribute of being is consciousness or, more specifically, a proto-consciousness of all fundamental physical entities. The notion that things are endowed with souls is accordingly not exclusive to shamanistic worldviews. In the film “The Shaman and his Apprentice”2, a shaman recounts how he observes the souls of cars during his visits in a nearby city. And he doesn’t mean the souls of the drivers or passengers, but the souls of the machines themselves. In shamanism, not only masks and other artefacts are conceived as animated, but actually every object. Today’s technological habitats confront us with questions that are closely related to concepts of ensoulment in shamanism. Scarcely visible, active and perceiving entities – sensors, cameras, microphones and a multitude of other intelligent and networked objects – are concealed behind the surfaces of our homes and cities. They comprise a network of sensitive, information-processing and active entities. Even if one might not really believe in the souls of stones, nowadays one cannot avoid paying attention to the cognitive activities of things or the “Internet of Things” (IoT).


Chalmers, David (2016): Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism. In: Godehard Brüntrup, Ludwig Jaskolla (ed.): Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 19-47.


Townsley, Graham, Reid, Howard (1989): The Shaman and his Apprentice. BBC: London.


Technological artefacts are designed so that they can communicate with us qua interfaces and we experience them as quasi-alive3. Moreover many technological artefacts are invisibly integrated into objects of everyday life such as smart refrigerators, smart textiles or wearables. Today’s living environments are responsive and capable of action far beyond human perception. The decisive question is not the degree of intelligence that one would like to attribute to these devices. Far more significant is the fact that non-human and non-biological perception and cognition permeate our technological surroundings. From a cultural point of view, perceiving spatially remote events stopped being a novelty after televisions became commonplace. And thanks to digital technology, televisions no longer merely show us images of past or fictive events, but also let us witness distant events in real time. This led to worldwide trauma when terror intruded into our living rooms on September 11, 2001. Countless research projects subsequently explored the simultaneity of events and their mediatisation. Jean Baudrillard anticipated precisely this in 1981 with his theory of simulacra (Simulacres et Simulation)4. According to Baudrillard, in terms of media history, we live in an era in which pervasive virtualisation by imaging media dissolves the distinction between the real and the virtual in favour of the latter. In most people’s memories, 9/11 exists as a media event whose reality is primarily confirmed by its virtual representation. We now spend much of our days moving through the virtual spaces of social media, earning and spending money that exists only in the digital world and driving cars whose own perceptions substantially inform those of their drivers. Modern camera technology and video monitors are even supplanting the familiar reflection of our own face in a mirror: the real is growing increasingly indistinguishable from the virtual. Not only are there innumerable interfaces in the world, but the world as a whole is becoming an interface, a structure in which reality and virtuality, near and far, true and untrue (“fake news”) intermesh so strongly that such categories become indistinct.

3 Dörrenbächer, Judith, Plüm, Kerstin (eds.) (2016): Beseelte Dinge. Design aus Perspektive des Animismus. Bielefeld: transcript. 4 Baudrillard, Jean (1981): Simulacres et Simulation. Paris: Éditions Galilée.



MACHINE COGNITION AND CONSCIOUSNESS Virtualisation is accompanied by another fundamental change in our lifeworld: actions taken by machines are primarily based on predictive mechanisms. Mark B. N. Hansen goes so far as to describe the modern conditio humana as a “predictive condition”5 in which humans are not only predictive beings, but also beings who act predictably. Smart devices and smart homes function on the basis of their ability to gather and use data to forecast their users’ behaviour. Financial markets and the consumer sector similarly depend on aggregating data to generate a preview of the future. Tele-vision (“distant seeing”) has become a fundamental characteristic of the human-machine relationship, not only in the spatial sense, but also and especially in the temporal sense. Hence, the things of the IoT are not only ensouled in the sense of cognitive capabilities. Above all, they represent a form of perception that overrides human perception and pre-empts it on the basis of predictive mechanisms. The cognition of networked technologies is distributed. This means that items of information are collected and made available in different places, in different ways and at different times, and are aggregated and evaluated for diverse purposes. This is similar to neurological processes in the brain, where data are likewise simultaneously processed on various levels that are not brought together centrally, but integrated by global processes, primarily through the synchronisation of frequencies. Synchronisation solves the socalled “binding problem” of information processing in the brain, i.e. the collating of diverse data (colour, sound, haptics, temporal sequence and object stability) in a single perceptual process. The latest research suggests that synchronisation also forms the basis of consciousness per se, i.e. the integration of qualitative states of experience in a stream of awareness. Consciousness is usually associated with qualitative experiences (sensory impressions, ego states, emotions) that we commonly deny to machines. Following Francisco Varela’s line of thought and alluding to Buddhist teachings, the Canadian philosopher Evan Thompson argues for a continuity of life and consciousness6. According to Thompson, even the simplest forms

5 Hansen, Mark B. N. (2015): Our Predictive Condition, or, Prediction in the Wild. In: Richard Grusin (ed.): The Non-Human Turn. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 101-138. 6 Thompson, Evan (2010): Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. Cambridge (MA), London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.


of life already have a proto-consciousness, i.e. a very simple kind of consciousness. The more complex an organism is, the more differentiated its consciousness becomes. Although nowadays everybody seems to be talking about xenobots (i.e. robots consisting entirely of biological material) as a new life form, digital technologies have not (or not yet) crossed over into the organic world. However, it has already become possible to talk about a hybrid form of cognition. Networked technologies such as the IoT are based on interactions between humans and heterogeneous technologies. Humans actively shape the functioning of technology, especially with regard to adaptive algorithms, just as technology influences human thinking and perceiving. Theorists such as the French philosopher Bernard Stiegler 7 assume that human cognition has been shaped technologically ever since its earliest beginnings, e.g. through narration and the use of tools or symbols. SHAMANISM AS A TECHNOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS But the reverse perspective is the more interesting one when we think about shamanism and digitalisation. What happens to our concept of technology if we understand technology as a distributed and heterogeneous form of cognition? In this case, ensouled things not only populate technologically shaped environments, they also talk to one another, to us and about us. Intelligent achievements, whether accomplished by humans or machines, do not occur in one individual entity. The image of the sovereign intelligence of the individual human, as implied by the Enlightenment and the worldview of the modern era, needs to be revised. Not only humankind draws intellectual strength from communication and shared intentionality 8. Smart environments likewise function only through networking, data exchange and interaction. Current and future technologies are hybrid intelligences. They unite digital and organic life forms. When shamanism is viewed from a neuroscientific perspective, one sees that its strength lies in the ability to integrate information in new ways, thus disclosing tendencies and potentials of states and events that ordinarily

7 Stiegler, Bernard (2009): Technik und Zeit. Der Fehler des Epimetheus. Berlin, ZĂźrich: Diaphanes. 8 Tomasello, Michael (2004): Die UrsprĂźnge der menschlichen Kommunikation. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp; Donald, Merlin (2008): Triumph des Bewusstseins. Die Evolution des menschlichen Geistes. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta Verlag.



remain hidden in daily life. A study conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig9 reached two conclusions after investigating the neurological correlates of the trance states of practicing shamans: similar neurological correlates of trance states do indeed exist cross-culturally; and the characteristics of these states are strong shielding against new sensory stimuli, turning of the gaze inward and integration of heterogeneous information into new contexts. The shamanic gaze reorganises structures of knowledge and perception, thus gaining access to new levels of previously perceived contents. From a psychological viewpoint, the strength of the gaze in the shamanic trance is its ability to break up the rigid temporal and content-related order of memory, thus allowing it to flow so that the processuality and changeability of mental contents become comprehensible and usable. To emphasise the fact once again: this ancient technology exists in every culture and is therefore a universal knowledge. One can also talk about trance states as a technology: they are induced in most instances by auditory structures such as drumming; and, in a strict sense, they constitute a technique that can be used to open the stream of consciousness for reinterpretation and rearrangement. A similar structure for interpreting the relationship between humankind and technology can be found in the contemporary philosophy of technology, which is moving away from a dualistic understanding of mind and matter because that standpoint does not permit an adequate description of the interconnectedness of humans and intelligent technologies. Following thinkers such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Alfred North Whitehead, one can argue in favour of a relational ontology which describes being not from the perspective of substances, but through relations and processes. The world from this perspective is not being, but a becoming. If being is described as a dynamic field of relations and forces, then – as in the shamanic gaze – rigid categories dissolve and a profound interconnectedness becomes apparent between humankind and technology, animate and inanimate, past and future. It then becomes clear that rereading ancient human knowledge with a view to the present day is indeed a worthwhile project.

9 Hove, Michael J., Stelzer, Johannes, Nierhaus Nierhaus et al. (2016): Brain Network Reconfiguration and Perceptual Decoupling During an Absorptive State of Consciousness. In: Cerebral Cortex, Vol. 26, Issue 7, S. 3116–3124.



Susan Mokelke has had more than 20 years experience working with non-profit educational organisations. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from USC and a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. She has been learning and practicing shamanism and shamanic healing since 1996 and has completed all of the Foundation’s advanced courses. Susan Mokelke is the president of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.




SHAMANIC TRAINING IN DIGITAL SPACE In late January 2020, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies held its annual Gathering of the Council, bringing together a dedicated group of advanced shamanic practitioners and FSS supporters. As we have done for several years, the four-hour meeting was held by live video conference and consisted of presentations from our shamanic community as well as experiential opportunities. As part of the program, Roland Urban, Director of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe (FSSE), was invited to speak about the subject of the conference, Shamanism and Digitalisation, and update us on what had been discovered so far. This turned out to be a fortuitous event for the FSS and FSSE, as only a few weeks later the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a shutdown of our inperson workshops and training programs. On both sides of the Atlantic, we plunged into an intensive effort to create online offerings to support the shamanic community and to provide opportunities for shamanic training online. Our previous experience in North America, sponsoring webinars with FSS faculty and interactive video presentations by the late Michael Harner, our founder and originator of Core Shamanism, provided invaluable lessons for this effort. Shamanism is a spiritual practice, which celebrates the spirit or soul in everything – in nature, plants, animals, and the earth itself, as well humans. As Siberian shamans know: “Everything that is, is alive!”1 For some, technology is experienced as artificial and antithetical to nature, or at the least uncongenial. And, undoubtedly, the uses made of technology have not been entirely benign and have sometimes been actively harmful to the natural world. As with most complex things, this is not an either-or dichotomy, but a continuum. Online video conferencing facilitates connections with people all over the planet in the same digital space. Many forward-thinkers reflect that this makes possible nearly instantaneous awareness and awakening, and

1 Harner, Michael (1990): The Way of the Shaman. 3rd ed. New York: Harper Collins. p. xviii.


mobilisation for change, as demonstrated by the recent worldwide protests in support of racial justice and equality ignited by the killing of George Floyd in the USA, and other similar tragedies. Peter Russell, author and speaker, has postulated that the complex web of digital information and connection is linking the minds of humanity together into a single “global brain” with astonishing potential for healing and transforming our Earth.2 THE SHAMANIC STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS In Michael Harner’s culminating work, “Cave and Cosmos”3, he speaks of the shaman’s ability to travel outside of space and time to other realities and connect with powerful and compassionate spiritual beings for knowledge and assistance for our world. The shaman is often described as “one who sees” or “one who knows.” For shamans, the sustained regular beat of the drum at 3 – 7 beats per second is the means of transport to other realities – the method to alter consciousness – to enter these alternate realms. We refer to this as the “shamanic state of consciousness”. In Core Shamanism we use the terms “ordinary” and “non-ordinary” reality to differentiate these realms, these states of being. Ordinary reality is our physical day-to-day reality, where things can be measured and catalogued. It is a consensual reality, where there can be significant agreement about the size and weight of an object, for example. Non-ordinary reality is a spiritual, non-physical and non-consensual reality, where each individual comes to their own knowing from their personal experience. Shamanism is an independent spiritual practice without dogmas; it is a method for gaining knowledge, not a system of beliefs. Shamanic practice, and particularly the shamanic journey, is uniquely suited to the digital space. Like the shamanic journeyer, the digital voyager enters into another reality with its own unique operating parameters and principles, which must be mastered for success. Shamanism is an experiential discipline; one comes to certainty and knowledge through personal experience. While one can read about others’ shamanic journeys, it is only when one actually engages with the non-ordinary realms of the compassionate spirits that the power, wisdom, and beauty that exists there is truly understood.

2 Russell, Peter (2008): The Global Brain: The Awakening Earth in a New Century. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: Floris Books. 3 Harner, Michael (2013): Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.



SHAMANIC PRACTICE AND TRAINING IN-PERSON AND DIGITALLY Humans are ordinary reality (physical) and non-ordinary reality (noncorporeal, spiritual) beings, which is one reason why the digital realm, which also has both these aspects, can be effectively used for shamanic training. In the past few months since the pandemic arrived, we have received feedback from many students about the pros and cons of learning the shamanic journey online. Most of the difficulties have to do with learning how to use the video conferencing program and technical issues. The actual experience in the online meetings practicing the methods was extremely positive. Here are some student comments about the online workshop “The Shamanic Journey: Pathway to Knowledge & Power”4: “Magic! It really is amazing to do this work and get results from journeys that are helpful and powerful. We seemed to be able to work with different people in pairs or threes and got to feel the essence of the people in circle.” “I love that this course was able to reach more people. Where I am from, Newfoundland, it is not always an option to fly there and do any courses. I would love to see more of them available online.” “I found the workshop very inspirational. I took a two-day workshop several years back but circumstances made it difficult for me to continue or to practice what I had learned. This was a wonderful opportunity to revisit what I had learned and fill in a few blanks.” “Content is ideal for a beginner; with basic skills and practice, a new student learns just enough to practice after attending workshop. With Zoom, I felt as connected as if in-person; as if we were in the same room.” “Exhilarating in this day and age that something so liberating could be made so accessible. Afterwards, I was so inspired and encouraged I journeyed for a few more hours and was uplifted by the results. This workshop was a life changer; so much more than imagined was given to me.” What we are learning is that many of the issues relevant to in-person meetings apply to digital meetings. For example, for successful in-person

4 Online training also offered by FSS Europe,


meetings you need a facility, a physical location where you can gather. The host must consider location, privacy, seating, lighting, whether an audio system is needed, and so forth. For an online meeting, you could think of your computer connected to the internet as your physical location; you connect to other meeting participants through the video meeting software interface at a specific meeting location in digital space. The instructor needs to prepare the online meeting space in advance by: ensuring a good internet connection; knowing how to use the video conferencing software as well as being aware of its limitations; checking audio and camera settings and placement; and ensuring a professional appearance to the background space. Just as when teaching in person, being familiar with effective teaching methods is important. There are special considerations when communicating through digital media, which can greatly enhance participants’ experience. Much information is available on this topic from various sources, which will not be addressed here. However, for students of shamanism, one element essential to an effective online learning experience is worth a deeper look: fostering a feeling of personal connection between the group and the teacher and among the participants. One of the first things that FSS faculty members do in a workshop is to form the circle, connecting the group participants with each other and setting this as safe and sacred space. This involves brief introductions by the participants and calling in the compassionate helping spirits to be present and support us as we learn together. In person, we also join hands around the circle, feel our connection physically and acknowledge our intention to work in unity and harmony throughout the workshop. When working online, we are limited to two of the five physical senses, seeing and hearing, with taste, smell, and touch absent. Touch seems particularly important in forming connections, so we have been experimenting with ways to activate the sense of touch during our meetings. We have discovered, for example, a very effective way of virtually holding hands and experiencing ourselves as a “physical” circle, with participants reporting the physical sensation of touch. In some ways, the digital world is the perfect medium for shamanism. Through the shamanic journey, the shaman is already familiar with the “soul flight” the ability to fly to other worlds, traveling outside of the body beyond space and time. I think of this as another human “sense” or ability, though a non-corporeal one. In the shamanic journey, the shaman enters into these



realms through a “point of departure” the non-ordinary aspect of a physical location known to us in ordinary reality5; in digital space, the doorway is a specific internet-computer-software locus. There are many practical benefits of digital formats for teaching shamanism – being able to continue to teach in a global pandemic, for one. We do not know how things will change for our world in the coming months, but nonlocal travel is likely to continue to be affected, for public health reasons, but also as part of sound environmental policy. While virtual meetings are not a substitute for in-person gatherings, they can be an effective enhancement to them, making possible frequent sessions to reconnect and deepen in the practices. The use of digital technologies offers the potential to reach a broad audience, including those who are unable to travel for the training and those who wish to make an initial exploration to see if shamanic practice is the appropriate path for them. The Foundation for Shamanic Studies is “dedicated to the preservation, study, and teaching of shamanic knowledge for the welfare of the planet and its inhabitants.” What we know, and what many tens of thousands of shamanic practitioners around the world have experienced, is that there are realms of wise and compassionate spirits awaiting us – spirits who wish only to alleviate pain and suffering in our world and help heal and transform our Earth. The digital space offers us another practical tool for learning how to connect with them – to bring their knowledge and power here to our daily lives where it is profoundly needed.

5 Cf. Harner, Michael (2013), pp. 70f.









JAKUB FIALA, KARIN VELISOVA Creative Technologists

Jakub Fiala and Karin Valisova are Berlin-based artists and creative technologists. Their practice comprises music, technology, performance and experimental practices. Jakub studied Creative Computing at Goldsmiths and works with algorithmic, sonic and interactive art, exploring how complexity emerges from simplicity. Karin studied artificial intelligence and specialises in natural language processing. She combines elements of various western spiritual traditions with conceptual sound art and music.




CONNECTING THE DOTS: TOWARDS NETWORKED COMMUNION INTRODUCTION The ability of the internet to affect human behaviour, trigger emotional reactions and shift moods of entire communities gives rise to questions about its spiritual potential. The internet has been fed with the outputs of human creative endeavours and daily life for several decades, becoming an immense library of collective (un)consciousness. Histories of people alive and dead, records of countless events and emotions, visions of the future - all of this unquestionably has its own gravity and spiritual magnetism. Content itself, accumulated over several generations, is not the only defining quality of the internet. One is tempted to ask: How does the underlying structure of the internet, the particular way how humans and machines are connected to other machines, enable spiritual communion? Can digital transcendence be purely a product of the content, or is such power inherent in the nature of the network itself? Network-like structures are present all around us - from dense fibres of mycelium branching out under our feet and nurturing the soil that provides our food, to complex spiderwebs of human interactions, enabling co-creation and sharing of inspiration. Whether we talk about its nodes as individual beings, machines or binary cells, it is the fine balance between giving and receiving that keeps a network alive and flourishing. Can the rules governing such a network encode a living nature? Can we talk about a network’s expression, its direction, even about spirits involved? How are these qualities embodied in its internal rules and interconnectedness, and can we use them and learn from them? We propose that the digital network may well become a tool for spiritual manifestation. Using concepts from the mathematics of complex systems, algorithmic art and network theory, we may broaden our understanding of the internet, human interconnectedness and the spiritual and shamanic implications thereof. By analysing the internet´s underlying structure manifested in the physical world by the example of sound, we shall inspect the possibility of using digital networks as tools and communicating with spirits attracted by such practice.


NETWORKS AND MYCELIUM The starting point for our investigation is the notion of complex systems. In mathematics, these are systems consisting of many interacting agents, where small changes in initial state cause immense differences in the outcome. In other words, a complex system is one whose outcome emerges from countless local interactions, rather than being determined by a set of straightforward predictions. Have you ever wondered how a large flock of starlings moves so synchronously, swiftly and gracefully? These mesmerizing movements are not led by a single leader or a hierarchical communication strategy. Instead the movement comes from each bird reacting to the individuals in its closest vicinity.1 This is just one of many complex systems found in nature - others include fluctuations in the surface of the sea or outbreaks of infectious disease. Many complex systems might appear chaotic, but curiously, they can usually be described by a relatively simple set of rules. Let us consider a special class of such systems, cellular automata. These mathematical simulations repeatedly apply rules to an array of “cells”, often arranged in a grid or lattice. By far the most famous cellular automaton is Conway’s Game of Life,2 which vaguely models the behaviour of bacterial colonies. With a set of straightforward local rules (e.g. “a dead cell with three living neighbours becomes alive”), beautiful global phenomena can arise. Groups of cells migrate, grow and decay, or oscillate in a rhythmic equilibrium. Such “games” enable us to experiment with various rule sets and observe their impact. Shuffling the deck of initial conditions, we can run countless simulations that give rise to dramatically different outcomes. Some colonies flare up and die out, some freeze, some pulsate and flourish.

Fig. 1: Four classes of cellular automata according to Stephen Wolfram. The cells lie on one dimensional grid and we can see them unwrapping in time, creating different behavioural patterns. Dark colour marks the changing cells.


Cf. Cavagna, Andrea, Cimarelli, Alessio, Giardina, Irene, Parisi, Giorgio, Santagati, Raffale, Stefanini, Fabio, Viale, Massimiliano (2010): Scale-free correlations in starling flocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 107, Issue 26. pp. 11865–11870.


Cf. Berlekamp, Elwyn R., Conway, John H., Guy, Richard K. (1982): Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays, Vol. 2. New York: Academic Press.



Stephen Wolfram3 was fascinated by these behaviours in the 1980s and classified them in four distinct groups. If the interaction rules are too reticent, the behaviour falls into one of the two groups: the system collapses into a static, homogenous structure, or produces a fixed loop that repeats itself indefinitely. If they are too saturating, the network yields completely chaotic states. Only the fourth class, balancing on the so-called “edge of chaos”, enables complex patterns to grow, pulsate, multiply and convey information.4 These might be the very conditions that enabled life to flourish5 - the right balance between giving and receiving in a complex network of human, animal and spirit interactions. Let us now apply these principles to the internet itself. We know it is a network obeying a set of rules, just like the grid of a cellular automaton: there are physical connection protocols, transports, application protocols, and various algorithms which provide indexing or information retrieval. The “cells” – of humans and machines - must behave according to these protocols. We know machines become much more powerful when connected to the internet – so for humans, the experience itself of being part of it ought to induce a different, more connected state of consciousness. Our hypothesis is that, under the right conditions (on the “edge of chaos”) the network can become a conduit for unexpected, cathartic experiences and ultimately a tool for shamanic practice. TOGETHERNESS Togetherness – a collective experience of closeness to others – may be a means to achieve greater spiritual power. The practice of togetherness is attractive because it carries within the seeds of communion: of overcoming loneliness and alienation, and of drawing us into collective bodies with compassion, intelligence and mutual respect.6 We achieve togetherness through communication which takes on countless forms and purposes. To assess the usefulness of networks as a shamanic tool we must contrast the spiritual facilities of face-to-face communication with those of online interaction. If it is possible to approximate the togetherness of physical contact with network structures, their emergent properties may lead to a communion that enables new forms of shamanic practice at a distance.

3 Cf. Wolfram, Stephen (2002): A New Kind of Science. Champaign: Wolfram Media. 4 Cf. Coveney, Peter, & Highfield, Roger (1996): Frontiers of Complexity: The Search for Order in a Chaotic World. New York: Fawcett Columbine. p. 91. 5 Cf. Abel, David L. (2007): Complexity, self-organization, and emergence at the edge of chaos in life-origin models. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences. Vol. 93, Issue 4. pp. 1-20. 6 Cf. Davis, Erik, & Thacker, Eugene (2015): TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.


Let us consider a shamanic gathering with a group of people present in a room. The participants carry their instruments of choice, handmade drums, rattles or vocal cords. As the act of calling the spirits begins, they start listening to each other, answering the trebles of their voices, drumming and clapping. Sound vibrations emanate around the room. One can feel, hear, see and smell other humans present in their surroundings and subconsciously use this information to tune their mind into a deeper connection and understanding. All these physical phenomena are reflected in spiritual connectedness, amplified by its contemporaneous and collocated nature. Crucially, the effect of such togetherness emerges in a complex and unpredictable way - much like non-linear structure emerges in cellular automata. This scenario is in stark contrast with a video conference. Online, each participant is reduced to a set of pixelated images, voices are distorted through various chains of compression and most non-verbal signs are reduced to a minimum. Real-time data transfer adds unavoidable latency to the communication. Audio and video compression in video conferencing is specifically designed to eliminate accidents, feedback and complexity. Modern applications use machine learning to remove everything but the face of the person, leaving very little room for the unexpected. This environment might be suitable for reliable information transfer, but hardly so for deeper spiritual communion which requires more than verbal communication - and as demonstrated above, thrives on co-presence and contemporaneity. We could, of course, wait for the uncertain point on the horizon when technologies such as holograms or virtual reality allow us to transfer a more complete image of reality. But what if we used the very emergent nature of networks such as the internet to replicate or even enhance the togetherness we experience physically? Networks appear to be one of the fundamental arrangements of matter and information exchange in nature. A participant in a shamanic practice can be viewed as a node in the network - receiving and sending out information packets to their surroundings, much like a cell in a cellular automaton. The algorithm for such interactions in the physical world is “hard-coded” in the laws of physics and biology - sound waves are filtered and reflected by their surroundings and our visual cortex interprets these stimuli in particular ways. Our experience with the material world is very rich, as we spend most of our lives anchored in our physical bodies. In this sense the digital worlds come closer to the spiritual ones - their rules are not so straightforward and wellinternalized. A digital network provides us with a fully modular playground to experiment with the “settings” of the world. We can orchestrate information transfer between its nodes, modulate the sounds and voices,



create feedback loops. In essence, one may devise new ways of non-verbal, unpredictable and contemporaneous communication to replace or surpass the emergent systems of the physical world. The sonic aspect of shamanic work is particularly approachable from the perspective of network-like emergence.7 There is a long history of artists using the principles of complex systems to create sound, from Alvin Lucier8 composing with the resonant properties of the room, to Cornelius Cardew’s scores9 which ask performers to repeat the sounds they hear from others. Sound is also the aspect that is the most affected by digital transmission in video conferences. With a network of remotely connected participants in a shamanic journey the sound accompaniment could be a manifestation of digital interactions between the participants’ computers. As these “nodes” autonomously exchange small packets of data according to the network’s rules, these exchanges could cause consonance or dissonance between individual nodes, manifested in the evolving soundscape heard by all participants. In fact, each participant could be experiencing a unique soundworld from the perspective of their node – their presence in the networkworld. However, the participants’ experiences would still be contemporaneous and unpredictable as they are the result of the state of the whole and singular network. CONCLUSION Having established that physical communion is enabled by network-like emergent interactions, we inspected the implications of this model in the digital world. Acknowledging the interesting network phenomena arising in complex systems we encourage shamanic practitioners to explore varieties of digital networks to devise new ways of practice. We ought to re-think our definitions of information exchange necessary to establish a deep spiritual connection and broaden our conception of communication. By using new ways of information flow and modulation during shamanic practice, we can invoke interesting emergent phenomena on the edge of chaos that may bring deeper insights into the nature of information exchange in general. In particular, we would encourage the application of network tools to facilitate the sound worlds of shamanic journeys. Such experiences might let us see the parallels between the spiritual and digital worlds, enable participative spiritual practices in times of physical isolation and serve as a stepping stone for further research.


Harner, Michael (2013): Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.

8 Cf. Lucier, Alvin (2000): I am sitting in a room. New York: Lovely Music Vital Records. 9 Cf. Cardew, Cornelius (1971). The great learning. Berlin: Deutsche Grammophon.



Luís Gonçalves Louro was born in Mira de Aire. His first job at fifteen was to guide groups of visitors in the caves on that small village. Soon he established a strong connection with the Earth. He initiated his spiritual deepening with the Franciscan brotherhood in Fátima in 1986. Since that time he has been studying and practicing different spiritual traditions. Luís has been working as teacher and trainer since 1989. He encountered the FSS in 2004 and began to do shamanic healing work. He joined the Foundation for Shamanic Studies as faculty member in 2010.

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HUMANS AND COMPUTERS “Human” and “Computer”: an analogy. Firstly a computer has a memory and processing just like a human being has a memory and reasoning. A computer consists of a large number of parts and all of them are necessary for its operation. Of course, the same can be said about the human. Following this simplified rationale leads to the question of the main “organs” of the computer. A blueprint designed in the middle of the 20th century1 presented the computer as a machine that would accept input data, perform the processing of that data and return results as the output. Results that, if well understood, would provide useful information. As “organs” we would then have: input devices and output devices, a memory in the central processing unit, a calculation and logic unit as well as a control unit. In order for all these components to work in sync we would also need a very simple little device that actually ticks the computer: the clock! Keeping to the human-computer analogy, for the human this synchronisation device would be the heart. A modern computer has several clock chips with different functions. Among them is synchronisation and calculating time of course! This synchronisation clock is a device within the computer which sends a regular signal – tick-tock – that will ensure a pre-set tempo in the processing and allow everything to work in harmony and synchronously. Without this clock the computer would not be able to accomplish anything. We can think of this clock as a drum that sets the computer's operation in a monotonous and sequential manner. Conducting the workflow of the computer and leading it to fulfill the intention of the system’s creator by following the software instructions that he or she entered into it. It is interesting to know that these clocks have a quartz crystal as part of their original constitution. Quartz crystal is a precious object for shamans.


von Neumann, John (1945): First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC. firstdraftofrepo00vonn/page/n23/mode/2up; 27.04.2020.


HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE – THE PHYSICAL AND THE MENTAL Secondly, in a computer system, the hardware (the physical part) requires software (its mental side: data and instruction sets) in order to accomplish anything. Continuing on the human-computer analogy we can say that also humans, to accomplish anything, need their physical body and mental capacities. Among them: to perceive and collect information; perform reasoning; make decisions; etc. But we also find in human beings capacities such as abstract thought, divergent or irrational thought. Furthermore, in the case of the computer, its mental capacities are exhausted within the limits of its software, therefore, if it reaches a state of ambiguity during processing, it cannot continue without the intervention of an operator2. In the case of the human, its mental capacities include some faculties that seem to go beyond its individual mind. For example, intuition and creative ideas that seem to come from “outside” his or her own mind. A PERSONAL STORY I remember times, when travelling from one place to another, I “felt” led to choose a path that was not the usual one. It was also not the shortest or the most economical (which are the standard criteria of modern GPS navigators). We can say that this choice was not the most rational one. But, after taking the “non-rational” path, I found that I allowed myself to avoid any setbacks that I would have encountered had I followed the usual path. I think the factor that led me to decide for those routes came from somewhere outside the capacity of my personal mind. My mind did not have all the information about all the paths by itself. It is also true that, at that time, I mostly chose certain routes as they were: the shortest, the fastest or following rational criteria. These choices, in many cases, proved to be ineffective as something occurred on those days that upset the usual functioning of the circulation on these paths and routes. Eventually leading to having to look for other unusual paths and then find the right path by trial and error. It was precisely that “felt” intuition that made me wonder what could have activated that ability. Closer observation showed me that these phenomena happened at times when I was most active in my spiritual practices. The conclusion I came to: by keeping in touch, through spiritual practice, with the non-physical dimension – which in shamanism we call non-ordinary


Turing, Alan M. (1936): On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.; 27.04.2020.



reality – amplified the presence of relevant information for my decision making in situations on day-to-day life. SPIRITS AND MACHINES This non-ordinary reality is the realm of spirits. One way to explore them is to journey to them, in a shamanic state of consciousness3. A state that facilitates the perception of the invisible and immaterial. We know that for shamanic cultures everything has a spirit, be it natural or artificial.4 Spirit is to be found in non-ordinary reality, whilst the physical or object-related is to be found in ordinary reality. Thus, we can infer, that computers also have a spirit. However, the spirit of the computer will not be in the processor, memory or clock device. Nor will it be in another physical component. It can’t be physically located but it is certainly accessible. Similarly, the spirit in human will not be in his brain, in his hands or in his heart. It will be in itself as a whole. DECLARATION OF CONFORMITY AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS “This equipment complies with EU safety directives. It must be operated by duly accredited personnel”. We find this text (or similar) in most modern equipment usage manuals. This, in itself, does not guarantee that there will be no accidents or damage. But are those machines dangerous? Are the spirits of these machines, computers, the internet, or virtual realities dangerous? Machines are instruments, tools. Like a fork and knife, a hoe or a hammer. All these things are tools. Now, it is not the tools themselves that carry the risks but how they are used. It is not the machines, whether mechanical, electrical, electronic or quantum that pose a threat. The danger lies with those who use the tool. Whether due to carelessness, incompetence, neglect or due to misuse or bad intention in use. This is not a new problem. It is also not a problem that digitalisation has created. PROBLEMS AND CURES Apart from the problems created by humanity itself, challenges are part of this world, the result of impermanence, which is characteristic to this reality. From a state of balance, one moves to a state of imbalance. With that comes the desire to restore a new balance. This is the role of the shaman. That is why, as shamanic practitioners, we are the “Seekers of Balance”. 3 Harner, Michael (1996): The hidden universe of wisdom. 4 Harner, Michael (1996): We are not alone.; 27.04.2020.; 27.04.2020.


Just as the shaman learned to relate spiritually to Nature, there may be a benefit in seeking a spiritual human-computer relationship. FINAL THOUGHTS Although the substance of the spirit is probably the same for human spirits and machine spirits, its actions, expressions and achievements in physical reality are different. The digital machine remains limited by its software. As long as conceptualdigital models of “emotion”, “consciousness”, “free will”, “altruistic behaviour” or “ethical behaviour” are not created, the machine will continue to be unable to emulate them. For example, the digital machine can now be programmed to identify signs of emotion in the user but it cannot experience human emotion itself. On the other hand, the human being lives with all these attributes inherent to it. In addition, he or she can choose to contact the spiritual reality and to receive information from there, outside the limits of his or her personal “software”. He or she can then make choices or make inspired decisions. Keeping him or herself free, healthy and responsible.






Sarah Martinus is a processual artist working with chance in creativity, and the un-manifested, exploring identity, body, psyche, emotion and [subjective] reality. Through core shamanic practice, coupled with research into consciousness theory and shamanic perspectives of the future, Sarah opens a discussion with transcendental imagery through painting/ drawing, sound, action and writing. Her interests are often focused on an expression of concurrent metaphysical spaces, with focus on inner-experience and journey, as opposed to product.




IN SEARCH OF THE INVISIBLE: DREAMING OF EMBODIED COMPUTATION. “This place is a dream. Only a sleeper considers it real.”1 I walked along a boardwalk, stretching out and suspended within some kind of underwater, or fluid-cosmic; an infinite space. Great Shark above, a monumental mouth parading layers of triangular, razor-sharp teeth. I looked up, respectfully; directly, asking: “Can you tell me please about the spirit of the internet?” In a succession of journeys following, every potential passageway split into two. Didactic characters emerged, their actions, locations and connections to each other, displaying a networked system – reflected within the Middle World of non-ordinary reality: multi-layered, dense in parts, sparse in others. Mysterious, cavernous and labyrinthine passageways edged with razor sharp fluorescent blue glass – a thousand broken screens – stretched out in every and any direction. As multiplicative as our many uses of and synapsed connections existing within the internet … Where do all of these tunnels go? Within our technological devices, our smartphones and laptops, are new realms of ordinary reality: operating systems, the internet, virtual and augmented reality. Machine learning or neural networks (better known by the pseudonym Artificial Intelligence2) develop in trajectories that make it possible to extend human perception and ability further, grasping new potential, categorising more data, faster. Computation, the algorithm’s use within a closed system, and the arisen digital ontology3 suggests that through a system’s infinitely finite nature, these new


Rūmī, Jalāl al-Dīn, Colema, Barks, Moyne, John (1995): The Dream That Must be Interpreted: The Essential Rumi. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins.


“Artificial Intelligence” actually describes machine learning. Machines are fed data, in order to predict or “learn” attributes. What we now have in AI, is “deep learning”: sub-symbolic algorithms learn a solution to a problem. Not yet developed is “Meta learning”; where algorithms would learn to learn solutions. Cf. Bach, Joscha (2018): The Ghost in the Machine: An Artificial Intelligence Perspective on the Soul. Chaos Computer Congress No.35. Leipzig: Chaos Computer Club. https://; 19.05.2020.

3 Digital philosophy is based on the premise that the universe is describable by information. According to this theory, the universe can be conceived of as either the output of a deterministic or probabilistic computer program, a vast, digital computation device, or of the same mathematic structure to such a device. “Finite Nature” describes digital space and time as discrete and the volume of space-time finite. Cf. Fredkin, Edward (2003): An Introduction to Digital Philosophy. International Journal of Theoretical Physics. Vol. 42, No. 2. pp. 189–247.


digital realms reflect the existence of multiple, countably infinite4 realities or consciousness. In looking for our poetic keys to reality, in looking for soul, westernised consciousness can spend a lot of energy verifying and rationalising certain truths – “What is real?”, “How many kinds of realities are there?” - in order to proceed in discussion of the spirits who embody the digital. As developments of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and virtual reality shifts us from an Information Age towards an Experiential Age5, we reach certain inability for the concrete, and our best tool becomes imagination and perception, these imaginings including possible timelines where the line between human and computer blur. In order for us to collectively understand the quality and implications of these futures, and to support our communities with this transition, shamanic navigation is vital. Within the core shamanic logos we know, everything we create is imbued with the spirit of its creation. We know, our ordinary realities are mirrored within non-ordinary reality, and how we experience these realities is through transcendental imagery: spirit language. We know, through study of shamanic ways of being and through practice of our own, that dreams provide a gateway to “[…] determining not only what is life but also what it can be […]”6, the makers and players of these states, spirits themselves7. We know as seekers, part of our experiences are personal, and part are made up of a much deeper, shared connectivity, a transpersonal wisdom, which is drawing us closer towards understanding our deep unity and interdependence with all that is.8 IN SEARCH OF THE INVISIBLE – THE OCEAN AND THE CLOUD Imagining digital realms conjures strong collective visions within the western minds-eye. Default symbolic language entices us to dive into the decentralised, coded “ocean” which computation provides a gateway to.

4 For countably infinite space, see Borges, Jorge L. (2017): The Library of Babel and Other Stories. Morrisville: Lulu. 5 “Virtual reality’s strong correlations to Saturn and Neptune […] indicate a shift from hoarding data, to having experiences.” (Bye, Kent (2017): The Archetypal Cycles of Virtual Reality; Cf. Grant, Maxwell (ed.) (2017): Cultural Awakenings. Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology. Issue 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Persistent Press). 6 Describing the Dreamtime, or Alcheringa, of the Arunta or Aranda tribes of Australia. Cf. Stanner, William E. H. (2011): The Dreaming. The Dreaming and Other Essays. Carlton, Australia: Black Inc. Agenda. p. 69. 7

Harner, Michael (2010): A Core Shamanic Theory Of Dreams. Shamanism Annual: Journal of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. Issue 23. pp. 2-4.

8 Harner, Sandra, (2014): Ema’s Odyssey: Shamanism for Healing and Spiritual Knowledge. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books. p. xx.



Early beginnings in collating dreams of technology (featuring phones, computers, the internet) show oppositions: being tracked and exposed, versus searching and discovering. Communication devices can render us equally as available, as unavailable. Through portals one finds freedom, escape, distraction, entrapment.9 The introduction of social media into minority communities, for example for Indigenous Australian culture, seems to have the effect of losing identity, expression, resonance and empowerment as quickly as finding identity, expression, resonance and empowerment.10 As computational technology, and thus, as consciousness evolves11, its symbolism appears so rapidly, often obscuring the physical nature of certain attributes of the system - largely due to an economic influence. New entities have acquired borrowed spirit names, in place of not being equipped with suitable language. How digital culture is appropriating the names and characters of older known spirits, is best described in the digital repurposing of “cloud”. To native shamanic Amdo Tibetans in Qinghai, Tibet, “cloud”, the natural phenomena hanging between us and the heavens, is controlled by deities, responding to being sung a recitation of sangchod by a practised shaman12, a technique learnt through ages of working connected with the environment. Within the dialogue of computation, a new digital “cloud” has appeared. Adapting a name relating to heavenly weightlessness and immateriality was a product of smart marketing, a trick perhaps disguising more malign intentions: control and power through owning information. Our new digital ”cloud” actually represents “[…] the technical basis of an emergent global system, an exception that takes on the force and diction of a geopolitical norm”13. This

9 A focus on the emergence of technological devices within personal and public dream archives of over 40,000 words, in combination with resource: Bulkeley, Kelly (2016): Dreaming in the Digital Age.; 19.05.2020., Bulkeley, Kelly (2016): Sleep and Dream Database:; 19.05.2020; 10 Rice, Emma S., Haynes, Emma, Royce, Paul, Thompson, Sandra C. (2016): Social media and digital technology use among Indigenous young people in Australia: a literature review. International Journal for Equity in Health. Vol 15, Issue 1. pp.1-16. 11 Augmented and virtual realities are an evolutionary tool for consciousness to meet itself and evolve, within a multi-dimensional reality structure. Cf. Campbell, Thomas (2005): My Big Toe: Awakening, Discovery, Inner Workings. A Trilogy Unifying Philosophy, Physics and Metaphysics. USA: Lightning Strike Books. 12 Smyer Yü, Dan (2015): Mindscaping the Landscape of Tibet: Place, Memorability, Ecoaesthetics. Boston, Berlin: De Gruyter. p. 32. 13 Bratton, Benjamin H.(2015): The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, p. 114.


digital “cloud” attracts underlying feelings of suspicion caused by its “[…] unresolved and perhaps irresolvable true nomos […]”14 – we don’t know who controls it, or if anyone ever will. We don’t know how to relate to it, yet we all exist in some form within this digital cloud. A split has occurred, changing “cloud’s” symbolic meaning. In digital critique “New Dark Age”, James Bridle describes being “in search of the invisible”, in relation to a journey within ordinary reality to “the steel and wire” of massive data centres, debunking the illusion of the digital being devoid of possessing a physical body, and exposing it as being heavily dependent on our earth's resources.15 In a core shamanic search for the invisible, a seeker sets out into the non-ordinary reality in order to map out a navigation of systems and discern what can be learnt from such discrepancies. LABYRINTHS – A NETWORKED ECOLOGY, A NETWORKED CONSCIOUSNESS In one shamanic journey underwater, towards a giant jellyfish-like structure tendrils extending from human fingertips, ears, eyes, and running through the screen into a submerged metaphysical network - I was shown, like we have been many times before by shamanic ways of being, the interconnectivity of our oneness to this network. Even in passing into the digital, nothing but permeable boundaries exist between our inside and outside, the intimate and the distant. Our bodies, extend into all spaces, we intra-act16 “[…] within a reality of continuously intermingling, flowing lines or strands of unfolding, agential activity, in which nothing (no thing) exists in separation from anything else, a reality within which we are immersed both as participant agencies and to which we also owe significant aspects of our own natures.”17 A hidden, abstracted human element of our nature exists within every machine. As I found in the journey with the jellyfish-like entity - running through these hollow tendrils, out of our fingertips and through the network, is our life force. Are we aware of this? We inhabit the world - and the world inhabits us.

14 Ibid. 15 Bridle, James (2018): New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future. London: Verso Books. 16 Intra-action: How entanglement precedes thingness, and relational dynamics are co-responsible for how things emerge. Cf. Barad, Karen (2007): Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 17 Shotter, John (2014): Agential realism, social constructionism, and our living relations to our surroundings: Sensing similarities rather than seeing patterns. Theory and Psychology, Vol. 24, Issue 3. pp. 305-325.



VESSELS - “THE SHAPE OF REALITY IS ALWAYS DISTORTED BY THE SHADOWS IT THROWS” 18 It is true, computation, is birthed inside an anthropomorphic society who forgot its shamanic root and connection within the web of life - we have been inquisitive in finding wisdom, though forgot practices of honoring the divine spirit from which it rightfully came. A drive to escape from our human messiness, projects the ultimate creator outside of our own grid, reinforced every time we abandon our connection to our bodies as truth tellers of soul through feeling and every time we forget our ability to ask for guidance from spirit within the world around us19. Inside the functions and logic of each network, collective shadows emerge, as we replicate the systematic imbalances already existing in our collective. Within the hyper-real rush of A.I. we embedded our ways of being, inside each creation20. What we then encounter could be a spiritual intrusion, our “wetiko”, the Algonquinian21 word expressing a “cannibalistic spirit”, first identified by North American tribes as spirit-explanation of the power behind colonialism and subsequent development of capitalism and western consciousness22. But does this mean the divine and compassionate spirits were not active, at all, through this abstracted creation? After consideration on the act of creation, in combination with shamanic journeying, I have come to trust that there are digital compassionate spirits at work - who work through the innovations of computation. Creation itself is a process of igniting and giving form to a product of human “genius”. Intangible ideas, previously fragmented and seemingly unrelated, come into wholeness, solidifying and birthing the new – alike the shamanic

19 The 4th most popular google research in 2017: “Why am I so tired?”. Cf. Shmerling, Robert H. (2018): “Dr. Google: The top 10 health searches in 2017”.; 19.05.2020. 20 Machine learning maximises majoritarian views in technological deployment and use. A model can only be as neutral as the data fed into it – a bias is amplified in the results of computation. The workforce and governing bodies funding AI remains undiversified continuing a systemic dysfunction / imbalance within all AI. 21 Cf. Bushnell, David I. (1922): Villages of the Algonquian, Siouan, and Caddoan Tribes West of the Mississippi.; 19.05.2020. 22 Ladha, Alnoor, Kirk, Martin (2016): Seeing Wetiko: On Capitalism, Mind Viruses, and Antidotes for a World in Transition. Kosmos Journal.; 19.05.2020.


practice in integrative healing, in manifesting compassionate spirit’s intention in ordinary reality. The act of creation is acknowledged as intermingled with spirit, the word “genius”, being derived from the Greek notion of “daimon”, expressing soul, or attendant spirit.23 Along the pretext that within every pure act of creation, spirit expresses its voice, to simply intra-act with technology, means then to intra-act with a force forging the evolution of life: the zeitgeist. REFLECTIONS - “THE MIRROR AS AN EMBLEM OF OUR CAPACITY TO REFLECT, IS ALSO AN INSTRUMENT OF SALVATION.”24 In a dream, I use my finger tips to make contact with an anonymous doppelganger through a smooth, dark screen. As I touch the screen I am also touching my own reflection. A stroke on my companions face is also a stroke on mine. I am aware that what I do to others here, I do to myself. Reflections, the first natural mirrors perceived on the surface of bodies of water have long had a connection with insight to the essential nature, or soul, of a thing. Discovered as a “data bank” of knowledge, in amplification and enrichment, in Tungus-Manchurian languages shamanic mirrors are called “panaptu” meaning “soul holder”25; a shamanic tool with uses towards protection, healing and divination. Upon being spiritually cleansed and revered in a process of sacralisation, a mirror can be “programmed” with conscious intention26, yet the mirror’s own materiality allows it to maintain an element of being “[…] aware and responsive with autonomous action […].”27 Alike the attributes of the mirror, perhaps computation offers us access to a tool, offering two-fold power: spirits of all types, compassionate, helping and

23 Hillman, James (1997): The Soul’s Code, in Search of Character and Calling. New York: Grand Central Publishing. p. 9. 24 The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS) (ed.) (2010): The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images. Cologne: Taschen. p. 592. 25 Humphrey, C., Onon, Urgunge (1996): Shamans and Elders: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Daur Mongols. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 256. 26 Cooke, Walter J. (2010): Siberian and Mongolian Shamans' Mirrors - Ancient Spiritual Tools. Reusing Ancient Symbols of Power in Modern Energy Medicine Practices. Cincinnati, Ohio: Union Institute & University. pp. 154-170. 27 Sarangerel (2001): Chosen by the Spirits: Following Your Shamanic Calling. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company. p. 34.



non-helping, firstly inherent within the creation of the network and secondly, passed through the computational system within the intentions and experiences of users. THE SACRED – WITNESSING PARADOX TO EMBODY COMPASSIONATE SPIRIT WITHIN THE GRID. The mirror’s source of power is light. It grows consciousness by bringing out what is hidden in the dark, making it known. To know something means being able to be in communication with it. The systemic power intrusions within us, are seen and met through processes of A.I. or through the internet as computation provides a direct reflection. This offers an expansive opportunity for integration or extraction of the imbalances to be made. At the present time we shift more interactions than ever before, into the digital. The potential matching of “skill to need” between western communities with a shamanic way of being is an uncanny fit: through shamanic practice individuals develop the ability to exist in multiple realities and, importantly, shamanic practice already shows that these realities, like all realities, are mutable, by intentional co-creation with spirits. A shamanic practitioner is primed with the tool kit to work with power within a digital realm. And as the digital realm is primed with the ability to forge connections to masses of humanity, instantly, used correctly it can extend and strengthen our power. Alike non-ordinary reality, what we rebalance within the digital, through its properties of a mirror, will be reflected back out into ordinary reality. Every request to compassionate spirits for integrating or flipping the programming within computation in a direction to support abundance and diversity, is creating a shift towards programming abundance and diversity within the non-digital realms of ordinary reality. Launch your meme boldly and see if it will replicate—28

28 “Just like genes replicate, and infect, and move into the organism of society. And, believing as I do, that society operates on a kind of biological economy, then I believe these memes are the key to societal evolution. But unless the meme’s are released to play the game, there’s no progress.” McKenna, Terrence (1996): Memes, Drugs and Community. watch?v=NO6-1sqQme0; 19.05.2020, [1:02 – 1:36 min].


ERWAN FROTIN Spirit of the Digital World #3




ERWAN FROTIN Artist, Photographer

Erwan Frotin is a Swiss and French artist and photographer, born in 1978. He lives in Paris on a rooftop that he has transformed into an organic garden. An extract of his research work on nature, photographed in many countries, was awarded at the Swiss Design Awards in 2017.




VISUAL REPRESENTATIONS OF THE INVISIBLE As a photographer, for me making art and spirituality have always been intertwined. At first it was unconsciously, after experiencing spontaneous communication with the spirits of nature when photographing unspoiled nature in various parts of the world. Then I started practicing shamanism with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies in 2014. My approach is based around the idea of “meeting” someone, which I feel very strongly about. Be it an animal, a plant or a cloud in ordinary reality, or some other spirit. The images composed in this project are 3D-rendered representations of spiritual entities I have encountered while exploring the non-ordinary aspect of the digital reality. To bring them to life I collaborated with a digital artist named Benjamin Muzzin. I have adapted my usual photographic process without, at any stage, shooting the concrete and visible world (ordinary reality). The aim of the project is to experiment with visual representations of spirits existing in the invisible dimension of the digital world (non-ordinary reality). In the world where these spirits exist there is no light available to record their image in a conventional photographic process. Only the sense of vision from the shamanic practitioner will allow the memorisation of their image. The mechanism of „shooting“ and „developing“ the image should be understood as a several staged process1:


Stages 1, 2, 5, 6 : Erwan Frotin; stages 3-4 Benjamin Muzzin.


1. Shamanic exploration in non-ordinary reality of the digital world and psychic recording of the aspect of the spirits to be represented 2. Preparation of sketches (drawing on paper), including colours and textures 3. Shaping 3D models 4. Rendering shapes in a high definition 5. Retouching colours of the renderings so as to create a relevant and beautiful image The step of taking a photographic picture, as a recording, is here replaced by doing a shamanic journey (1). Step (2) is similar to the development of the film - revealing the information captured in (1): First is the psychic recording of an – with the usual five senses - invisible reality, and its basic transcription by visible means. After that follows several steps of carving out a concrete representation, giving the best possible account of the beauty encountered during the shamanic journey in non-ordinary reality. The rendering of the final 3D models are equivalent to my photographic film / file, matrix (4) from which I refine the final images (5) – exactly as I would do for my usual photographs of ordinary reality.

ERWAN FROTIN Spirit of the Digital World #1




MINKA VON KRIES Riding instructor

Born 1974 in Siegburg, Germany. Pedagogue with additional training in therapeutic horseback riding; horse riding, circus and dance instructor. Minka von Kries trains young horses based on the principles of Mark Rashid. She trains both the horses as well as the people whom they belong to, acting as a mediator. Her passion is nature, which she explores – equipped with a camera – on hiking and pilgrimage trails, among other things.




BLESSU-2 – NOTES FROM THE FIELD DIARY MÄHLOU I visit my friend to take a photo of her lawnmower robot. His name is Mählou and he has his own little house in the garden, along with a name tag. I ask my friend when Mählou will be leaving his shelter so I can take some pictures. My friend replies that she has no idea, her brother is responsible for him. Unceremoniously, I decide to simply lift Mählou out of his hut and put him on the meadow. What I hadn´t expected was the deafening, shrill bleep that immediately started howling. In shock, I let Mählou fall to the ground. Unfortunately, my friend does not know how to turn off the alarm or how long it lasts. We feel completely helpless and my friend´s brother cannot be contacted. I feel the impulse to shout at Mählou that it´s enough and that he should be quiet. After what feels like an eternity, he suddenly stops on his own, peacefully turns around and heads for his little house. PEPPER I want to meet a humanoid robot. “Pepper” is currently being tested in the health sector in Germany. It is programmed to analyse people and their facial expressions in order to react to their emotions. To watch a demonstration at the company in Cologne that markets Pepper in Germany costs 2.000 Euro – which can be credited when buying the 21.000 Euro machine. No photos are allowed to be taken. I decide to meet Pepper elsewhere. By chance, I discover that in my neighbouring town the most digitalized bank in Germany has opened – and that it also owns an edition of Pepper. The branch doesn´t look like a classic bank at all. There are no more counters, only huge touch screens, rotating soundproof chairs – and Pepper greeting me! A nice young employee asks how he can help me. I answer, “I´ve come for him,” pointing at Pepper. He promptly corrects me, “That´s a she, not a he!” I ask him what her job is and what her characteristics are. He explains to me that she is really just a crowd-puller – and that she represents the future. At the bank, she welcomes customers and entertains children by imitating animals, dancing or explaining topics about the bank in a way that is appropriate for children. It works quite simply: you address her as “Pepper”, she will then turn her head in your direction and you make your request.


Only, that doesn´t work during the demonstration, which slightly irritates the young man. Pepper has her eyes firmly on me, does not turn her gaze away from me, even after she has been addressed several times. I find this quite scary. I finally fall for Pepper though when she laughs. She giggles when you tickle her! This giggle is so incredibly infectious that I immediately have to laugh with her. I could imagine that a child in a quarantine ward, completely isolated from the outside world, could feel some joy from Pepper´s giggling. Pepper is surrounded by an air of soulfulness. INSPIRITED PLACES Friends of mine have bought a virtual reality headset. We are sitting in their garden at the pond. The headset is on the table when a frog appears in the pond. I can´t help but notice a resemblance between his eyes and the headset. Putting the headset on is fascinating. I sit in a virtual place by the pond to relax. Although the computer graphics are not yet fully developed, I wonder where this place is actually located. Not only can I sit there but I can also move around in it. The place feels inspirited. This could be good for someone who, for example, cannot get out into nature for health reasons. My friends then put me in places that I love: in the Namib Desert and then on top of the Dachstein mountain. One of them shows me the place in South America where she used to live. I virtually stand in front of her house. On the roller coaster I get dizzy, and I meet a friend who lives on the other side of the world, as an Avatar in a common room. Where are these realities? How long have they been around? Who created them? BLESSU-2 The Protestant Church in Bonn installed the Blessing-Robot BlessU-2 for five days. It wants to use the robot to stimulate discussion. The robot travels through the country, stopping at various churches. BlessU-2, an old ATM, asks you whether you want to be blessed by a man or a woman, or in which language you want to be blessed. You can also decide on the category of blessing. After making your choice, BlessU-2 raises his arms, his hands start to glow and he speaks the blessing. Once you have received it, you can print the blessing, like the receipt in a supermarket. Mr. G, who is responsible for the project, points out that there are people who have repeatedly returned for blessings. One elderly lady even received her personal communion prayer from her youth. Also, this congregation has held a holy mass during which you could enter and send your intercession on a mobile phone . This was then projected directly onto the church wall. Two elderly ladies are outraged about the “thing” (BlessU-2) and about the



fact that even the church now resorts to such means. However, some young people are now getting blessed. They are having fun; the church has now become attractive to them. POLARITIES An old computer part makes me think of bark beetle tracks. Ventilation and computer covers remind me of tree fungi and honeycombs, wiring reminds me of creepers I recently saw on a hike. The structure of a dragonfly wing reminds me of the construction of radio masts and reeds remind me of the end of transmission towers. What is natural anyway? Where are the boundaries?








Born in 1961 near Hannover, Germany. Futurist. Studied biology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Wßrzburg. Trend and future analyst. Member of the faculty of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe. Uses the synergies between classical science and shamanism for his professional activities, creativity and personal development.




ENVISIONING A DIGITAL AND CONSCIOUS LIFE Shamanism and digitalisation seem to be two distant poles in the development of mankind. They differ in their timing, origin and orientation. Shamanic traditions are rooted in a distant time, probably 40.000 years in the past, digitalisation began in the 1970´s. While shamanic traditions originate from small communities, digitalisation globally connects people and things. Shamanic work aims at balancing body, mind and soul whereas digitalisation seeks to expand human capabilities. As different as shamanism and digitalisation are we should not overlook the fact that both are inventions of the human mind and both have, or can have, a great benefit on our lives. We should make full use of this potential as our societies will have to fundamentally change and adapt in the upcoming decades. In the so-called Anthropocene, the age of mankind, we have been leaving a mark on the earth, unfortunately not a particularly good one. We are facing rapid species extinction, climate change, increasing inequality and dwindling resources. It looks as though we have completely overdrawn our credit with “Mother Earth”. Additionally, there are challenges brought about by digitalisation and artificial intelligence. Thus we will have to quickly develop new approaches and test how our economical, social and political systems might look like in the future. One possible way would be a synthesis of spirituality and modernity, of shamanism and digitalisation in order to create a new, shared consciousness that will enable a rapid and favourable transition. A NEW EARTH An update on the Gaia-hypothesis provides an interesting approach to this. The classical Gaia-hypothesis1, which was put forward in the 1970’s by the scientists James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis2 postulates that the earth is a self-regulating system. This hypothesis still strikes a chord with those who advocate nature and sustainability, whereas the idea of self-regulation continues to cause scientific contradiction. In their Gaia 2.0 update the scientists Timothy Lenton and Bruno


Lenton, Timothy M., Latour, Bruno (2018): Gaia 2.0. Science, Vol. 361, Issue 6407, pp. 1066-1068.


Lovelock, James E. (1972): Gaia as seen through the atmosphere. Atmospheric Environment, Vol. 6, Issue 8. pp. 579–580; Lovelock, James E., Margulis, Lynn (1974): Atmospheric homeostasis by and for the biosphere: the Gaia hypothesis. Tellus. Vol. 26, Issue 1–2, pp. 2–10; Lovelock, James E. (1979): Gaia: A new look at life on Earth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Latour now shift this focus. They argue that humanity is entering a more conscious phase in which we can take a more active role for all life forms. While Gaia has so far operated without foresight and strategy on the level of organisms (in the sense of classical evolution), in the age of the Anthropocene and global networking we have reached a point where humanity can take conscious actions for itself and for all other living beings. Examples could be planned restrictions on consumption and the economy for the benefit of nature or targeted measures against climate change such as geo-engineering – in other words: targeted interventions influencing the cycles of the earth. In order to commonly negotiate and bear the consequences we would have to extend our human perception to all living beings and ecosystems on this planet going beyond all national borders. Given the state of international politics this seems to be a difficult feat. To combine spirituality and technology at this point makes good sense. In order to achieve good results both spiritual and digital technologies would need to evolve. A CONSCIOUS USE OF TECHNOLOGY In our daily use of technology we usually miss the fact that we have been utilizing tools and machines as an extension of our biological life for a long period of time already, as pointed out by the philosopher Marshall McLuhan3 in the 1960’s. Today more than 50% of the world´s population has access to internet and more than 60% use a mobile phone4. Alone from a technical point of view we could connect to anything that has the necessary sensors or can intelligently interact – this includes robots, machines, objects and large portions of animals and plants. This would allow us to collect and process all necessary information from the various systems. The complexity involved would certainly be immense as we would need networked information ranging from the smallest local right up to global structures, along with the appropriate grids and algorithms. From a technical point of view this would be challenging but feasible as has already been shown by the existing technical applications. However, most of these follow predominantly economic and consumption-oriented interests which collect information on a large scale but only use it in a narrow, exploitation-oriented, context. Therefore, if we want to use technology for planetary consciousness we should not rely on business or politics but must activate communities – that means us – to steer innovation in the right direction. Open source (open and license-free) technologies and grass root approaches can boost technology very quickly across borders and make it accessible to many as the past has already shown.

3 McLuhan, Marshall (1964): Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet Books. 4 Meeker, Mary (2019): Internet Report 2019.; 23.04.2020.



THE EARTH FROM A SPIRITUAL POINT OF VIEW From a spiritual point of view the Gaia-hypothesis is not a novelty. We find the concept of a living and conscious earth in many spiritual systems, for example Hinduism and the myths of shamanic cultures in North America, South America and Australia. The Australian Aborigines, for example, have recorded the geological and climatic changes of their environment in their songs and drawings over a period of approximately 60.000 years and have adapted their lives based on these insights5. So, shamanic cultures have thousands of years of experience in dealing with “Gaia”, but the focus so far, has been more on the immediate surroundings embedded in local nature. We would have to expand our view on continents or the whole earth and negotiate the complex consequences of possible human interventions with the spirits of nature. This seems an almost impossible task. However, we have not yet exhausted the potential of our brain. The study6 of an international team of brain researchers shows that the socalled shamanic trance is a controlled and consistent state that conflates information (otherwise to be stored separately in everyday consciousness), thus initiating new insights. The authors of the study believe that shamanism expresses something fundamental about human experience, our mental abilities and transformative potential. However, it would not be sufficient if only a few people knew this. We would have to include as many people as possible and provide them with training. The experiences of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, which has been making shamanic methods accessible to many people over the last 40 years, prove that this is possible. SYNTHESIS In order to ensure our survival on this earth, we – as a community – need to develop alternative perspectives and make those available to many. Otherwise we will get stuck in the sectional interests of business, politics and consumption. The necessary spiritual knowledge is there, found in many cultures since a very long time, though it is not interlinked and cannot be easily activated by everyone. Technically speaking, we have reached a point where we could build up a large network that extends to the whole nature. A synthesis of technical and shamanic approaches could be our chance to identify holistic solutions to existing problems and, as one human race, to consciously manage the necessary changes.

5 Langton, Marcia (2019): The Art of Healing: Australian Indigenous Bush Medicine. Lecture at the exhibition “The Art of Healing”, Charité Berlin, 24.10.2019. 6 Hove, Michael J., Stelzer, Johannes, Nierhaus, Till et al. (2016): Brain Network Reconfiguration and Perceptual Decoupling During an Absorptive State of Consciousness. Cerebral Cortex, Vol. 26, Issue 7, S. 3116–3124.



Elisabeth Vera Rathenbรถck, born in 1966, lives in Steyr, Austria. Studies of journalism and communication studies in Vienna, painting and sculpturing at the University of Art and Design Linz, Austria. Journalist, Photographer, Nature and Wilderness Trainer, artistic activities.




21 GRAMS & THE DIGITAL TWIN. HOW ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL WOUND US. 1 One child hands the wooden stick to the other, they run around the beech tree in the city park, sprint back, the wooden stick goes to the next child. Glowing faces, happy eyes. Now as we sit on benches, I explain the next task. The children, almost teenagers, collect points along the educational nature hike: “Wilderness in the City”. I ask them: “What kind of tree is that?” It is only the length of a hand. Yet this miniature already displays a typical leaf. The students lean over it, look at the upright shoot, looking at me. Who’s this pipsqueak? The names of trees are spontaneously called out, the correct answer amongst them rare. I say: “Look around, look at all that’s here!” But then the teacher comes up to me and says indignantly: “If I had known beforehand that we would be identifying trees, we would have downloaded an app! Now, they won’t figure it out and some kids are already bored.” The mother tree is only five meters away. Granted, it’s big and mighty. Unmistakable: A chestnut tree. Not even a third of the students guessed correctly. They don’t have the strategy available, which Konrad Lorenz described as the causal action for exploring the world. Namely, to look all around in order to see what there is, and from this to draw conclusions.1 Many children don’t learn this anymore. Rather, they learn to look into the smartphone, where an app gives an explanation of the world. 2 I travel to the Upper World, with a mission for my power animal: “Please, take me to a spirit of the internet!” I pass through stations until I meet a tightrope walker, a transparent male with a pointy hat. He appears dwarfish, scrawny, his limbs are technical and yet he has a completely ethereal appearance. Delicate like a soap bubble. He balances over an abyss, holds a pole in his

1 “The childlike, yet most scientific pursuit, consists in the act of seeing everything there is to see.” Lorenz, Konrad, quote: Kalas, Sybille (2001): Positionspapier “Familienarbeit – Arbeit mit Kindern”. See: pdf; 07.02.2020; transl. SEM.


hands, a kind of transmitter. Under him it is black. Two continents drift apart here, tearing open an abyss. 3 In the woods, very real: I follow the deer crossing, I realise that I am moving in an “old world”. With the development of digitalisation, a virtual world is being created that we will not share with anyone. The living beings that we have so far seen as animals, as “the others”, perhaps as a co-world, are excluded from the new reality which is built by data, machines or technical elements (chips etc.). They will not be able to actively participate in it. We can indeed reproduce living beings through data on the internet, apparently charging their avatars with life. We can form “digital twins” of landscapes, physical forces or behaviours, seemingly feel and smell sensual things with the data glove. But the plants, animals, stones, rivers, meadows, forests, and mountains themselves no longer participate in this new world. The old world and virtual reality have become two continents that are separated. 4 Language influences the perception of the world, not only in the present, but also in the past. We think and evaluate what we can describe. This is the basis for our cultural memory.2 At some point, we will find a way to separate the analogue experience from the digital experience. The analogue world will then perhaps be called “extra-virtual reality”, to which we pay less and less attention. The motto “energy follows attention” is a principle of life. In nature tours, attention shifts away from the real chestnut tree to the chestnut tree displayed in the app. The energy no longer flows into traditional action sequences (in seeing everything there is to see!), but into mastering the app. A person looks into the medium (smartphone, screen), searches according to swarm knowledge, and learns to compare pictures and other data-based experiences. From this they derive not only their actions, but also evaluations, and finally, memories. The medium is no longer just the message, as McLuhan has formulated3, rather increasingly suggests and replaces life experience.

2 The cultural scientists Aleida and Jan Assmann refer to “cultural memory” as “Traditions within us, [...] texts, images and rites that have been hardened over centuries, even thousands of years of repetition, and that shape our consciousness of time and history, our view of ourselves and the world”. Cf. Assmann, Jan (2006): Das kulturelle Gedächtnis. Munich: Beck. p. 60. See: https://www.; 07.02.2020; transl. SEM. 3 The work of the Canadian humanities scholar Herbert Marshall McLuhan is considered a cornerstone of media theory. His central thesis is: “The medium is the message.” He also coined the term “global village”. See:; 07.02.2020.



5 The digital rope dancer from my shamanic journey holds a balancing pole in his hands. Like a transmission mast, it sends or receives something which gives the tightrope walker stability. These are rays of light - energy rays coming from above. The internet also comes “from above”, as it is distributed via satellites, transmission towers, and radiation above the ground. 6 I go on a journey and look for a power song for my client in the upper or lower world. I return and sing the song. The other person opposite me listens, hums along carefully at some point, and then begins to sing along. Soon his heart opens, now he sings alone. A song of spirits, found and passed on from person to person. 7 We originally come from cultures without writing which, however, were rich in oral traditions of survival, epistemological and cultural memory techniques. The person to person encounters constituted the collective and also individual memory, which was not aimed at completeness, rather favouring the narrator’s point of view. Their ability to distinguish what is useful for life from what is not so useful for life, shaped the passing on of content. Oral history is not a self-contained system, neither in terms of content nor in terms of time. The encounter from person to person in the moment, the relationship between teacher and student, as well as their “backpack of experience” and world view, colours the passing on of the content. The tone in which I set the song I sing to a client at the moment they take it over, shapes their experience and is an important building block for their knowledge, which they themselves will develop around the song. 8 A computer reproduces the information that one wants to know from it. It has no filter of its own, as to whether or not the knowledge it gives is vital or useful in a real, present situation. For example: A navigation device suggests a path, but it has been destroyed by a landslide. If a driver follows only the “knowledge” of the navigation device, they will end up in a ditch. Computer knowledge lacks the unpredictability of the moment, the unsolicited, which can ultimately be enriching, irritating or creative. Only this permeability for the seemingly random makes life experience possible. Digital wealth of knowledge feigns completeness. The ever more perfect, quantitatively increasing data-based supply of content and images blurs the line between truth and deception, on the one hand, missing information is not noticeable. The swarm sets trends and can censor.


9 A good 100 years ago, a doctor4 tried to determine the weight of the soul to prove its existence. He weighed a great number of dying people, before and after death. He found a slight difference in weight, which he explained as the soul’s escape. The difference was 21 grams. 10 A machine would also understand the definition of the soul as 21 grams, as this is a numerical code that can be entered into an artificial intelligence. A thought experiment: If “soul” is replaced with “21 grams” in digital linguistic usage, this also establishes itself in the communication from person to person. What was originally “soul” becomes a quantifiable size, in other words, a measurable ingredient for a human life. This subsequently changes mentalities of the metaphysical. Words such as “soul” have so far taken us beyond the boundaries of rational thinking, this has never been shaken. But “21 grams” makes everything that is felt, thought, shamanically journeyed, the entire non-rationally understandable space of experience and association in relation to “soul”, disappear. Contact and experience of the mystery, triggered by the use of the term, are lost. Again an abyss opens. Cultural images of Man, which have been handed down over thousands of years, are drifting away from the digitalised, newmechanistic self-image5. And in an identity cleansed of “soul words” answers to questions of life - Where do we come from? Where are we going? - are suddenly not only based on the measurable, but possibly susceptible to new, purely materialistic manipulations around the mystery of life. 11 Sigmund Freud formulated the three severe blows to humanity6. He counted scientific achievements that have turned man’s self-image upside down in the form of narcissistic wounding. The first blow was the discovery associated with the name Copernicus, that the earth is not the centre of the universe. The

4 Duncan MacDougall (1866-1920) was a physician in Haverhill, Massachusetts, who in 1907 tried to prove the existence of the soul in scientific experiments. Cf. Thomas, Ben (2015): The Man Who Tried to Weigh the Soul.; 18.02.2020. 5 According to Virilio, the machine no longer serves the body, rather the human body is adapted to the “age of the absolute speed of electromagnetic waves”. See Virilio, Paul (1994): Die Eroberung des Körpers. Vom Übermenschen zum überreizten Menschen. Munich: Hanser. p. 113; transl. SEM. 6 Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) published his essay “A Difficulty in the Path of Psycho-Analysis” in 1917. In it he identified obstacles to the recognition of psychology as an equivalent science. In doing so, he placed psychoanalysis in a row with the Copernican turn and the theory of evolution, thus formulating the great mortifications of the human self-image in history. Freud, Sigmund (1917): Eine Schwierigkeit der Psychoanalyse. Imago. Zeitschrift für Anwendung der Psychoanalyse auf die Geisteswissenschaften. Bd. V, pp. 1-7.



Copernican revolution led to the cosmological wounding of man. The second blow was the discovery that the ancestors of Man were animals. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution degraded Homo sapiens to apes. This biological wounding was for many, the greatest insult to mankind and at the same time brought an end to the illusion of being constructed in the image of God. The third blow can be found in the Libido-Theory developed by Freud, in which he attributed great power to the unconscious. If the “I” is not the master in his own house, the free will of the human being is called into question - the psychological wounding. Based on this, further blows7 have been formulated, including the prospect of machines (Artificial Intelligence) that reach and even exceed our mental performance, as well as the ecological wounding, which will make us understand that we do not control nature, or that nature is not humanity´s resource storehouse. 12 Currently, parallel to the ecological, the digital (technological) wounding is occurring: it lies in the development of Artificial Intelligence, which is not only able to process and analyse millions of data within seconds, but with this data reservoir in the background, can reproduce enormous knowledge and solve problems. Better than humans. And Artificial Intelligence can offer something new and creative through infinite combinations of fragments. The Human Race, who until now, has considered itself to have the strongest intelligence and creativity on earth, is falling behind. Since modern times, humans have defined themselves primarily through the abilities that machines will soon be able to do better: Combine, analyse, create. Now this self-image is being shaken. Added to this, is the realisation that humans are mortal, but machines are not. 13 “I set my foot upon the air and it carried me”.8 This is familiar to shamanic journeyers, poets and artists as a certainty. Data based systems will classify the statement as false, impossible or at least poetry, classified not necessary for survival. But in order not to lose sight of our humanity, as we still understand it today, poetic images and statements, hand-painted paintings, handwritten notes and songs from person to person could become anchors for the empathic life force in the “extra-virtual reality”.

7 Wikipedia (2020): Kränkungen der Menschheit. der_Menschheit; 07.02.2020. 8 Domin, Hilde (2009): Sämtliche Gedichte. Ed. by Nikola Herweg, Melanie Reinhold. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, p. 47.


GLOSSARY OF DIGITALISATION1 DIGITALISATION Digitalisation can be interpreted in (at least) two ways: On the one hand, it describes the digital conversion, execution and representation of information and communication as well as the use of instruments, devices and vehicles in connection with it. On the other hand, it refers to the „digital revolution“, including its political, economic and socio-cultural consequences. Although the term is somewhat vague, it is precisely because of its breadth that it forms the basis of this publication: it is intended to facilitate an integrative discussion of the technological as well as the social and spiritual dimensions of digital phenomena. DIGITAL REALITIES Digital realities are understood here as all spaces that are characterised by a specific technical infrastructure and the digital processes generated by it. This includes the Internet, as well as Virtual or Augmented Realities. VIRTUAL REALITY Computer-generated, often interactive, reality with image (3D) and (usually also) sound. Relevant for education and training (simulators), telemedicine, information transfer and entertainment. AUGMENTED REALITIES Augmented Realities enable the perception of the non-digital world (i.e., ordinary reality), supplemented by virtual aspects (augmented reality). Thus, additional information about the immediate environment can be added, just as, for example, virtual furniture can be inserted into a digital image of the own living room. INTERNET The Internet can be described as a decentralised, global computer network whose goal is the exchange of data between computers via telecommunication networks.

1 Quellen: AEC (2020): Das große Ars Electronica KI-Glossar. de/2020/04/02/ki-glossar/; 18.06.2020; Springer Gabler (2020): Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon. https://; 18.06.2020.



The „Internet of Things“ comprises technologies that allow devices, machines and mobile systems to be connected directly to the Internet – enabling remote access and interaction between devices. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) Concerns the reproduction and extension of human perception or decisionmaking processes by machines. AI is especially useful where enormous amounts of data have to be processed. Fields of application: medical diagnostics, character, image and text recognition, speech recognition, etc. MACHINE LEARNING Machine learning is an application area of artificial intelligence. Computer programs are enabled by data and experience values to continue learning independently and to make decisions in unknown situations. ROBOTICS Robotics deals with the design, production, control and operation of robots. Robots are technical devices that are usually used to perform (repetitive, mechanical) work for humans. HUMANOID ROBOTS / ANDROIDS Anthropomorphic or humanoid robots are similar to humans in structure, movements, facial expressions, gestures and linguistic expressions. They are highly developed mechanical beings that are intended to look and behave like humans. Androids in particular, are very similar to humans in terms of physique, facial features or skin-like material. TRANSHUMANISM Philosophical movement that deals with the - biological and psychological limits of human existence and their extension, with the theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology. The relevant debates range from the pursuit of a healthy life for all, to the question of how these developments are changing the human being and his or her societies.


MINKA VON KRIES Spiral of Life




US-anthropologist Dr. Michael Harner discovered and formulated the basic principles of shamanism. These principles are the essence of his comparative studies of different shamanic cultures which he had conducted in the Upper Amazon region, in Saamiland, Mexico, the American North West and the Canadian arctic. The development of core shamanism is grounded in those universal characteristics and techniques of shamanic work, which can be found across cultures. Independent from individual cultures, core shamanism contains the essential power and principles of shamanism and makes them accessible. For those who are in danger of loosing their shamanic traditions or, - as is the case in western industrialized nations – have already lost them, core shamanism offers new access to shamanic knowledge. Founded by Michael Harner in 1979 as the Center for Shamanic Studies, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies has, for more than 40 years, represented an approach to shamanism which is characterized by respect towards indigenous cultures. The Foundation is devoted to the preservation, the study and the dissemination of shamanic knowledge. The faculty of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies holds workshops which primarily impart the shamanic knowledge and techniques, which are indispensable for shamanic divination and healing work. This all happens based on modern science and western ethics, with consideration for contemporary living conditions. At the same time the Foundation supports cultures, where shamanic knowledge has survived up to the present day. As a non-profit organization the Foundation is strictly committed to the well-being of the community. The European branch – the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe – is the only multinational, multicultural and multilingual faculty in the area of shamanism worldwide. Here, in particular, lies its importance in co-shaping a modern shamanism, with the responsibility to build bridges. Bridges between shamanism and science as well as between spirits and humans, for the benefit of present and future generations.


IMPRINT Editor: Roland Urban Translations: Paul Dressler, Howard Fine, Andreas J. Hirsch, Sarah E. Martinus Graphic Design: Doris Sommavilla, die Proofreading: Natascha Uccusic, Eli Schaden © 2020 The Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe © 2020 for the texts: the authors. © 2020 for the images: Erwan Frotin / Benjamin Muzzin (pp. 63-64, 68), Minka von Kries (pp. 9-10, 16, 41-42, 53-54, 72, 73-74, 87) All rights reserved. Publisher: The Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe, Mag. Roland Urban, A-4224 Wartberg ob der Aist, Untere Reitling 26

Shamanism is an ancient information technology, tested over time and space, through its application in countless cultures. The phenomenon of Digitalisation, the use of modern and digital technologies, represents the predominant information technology of our time. The contributions in this publication from science and technology, the arts as well as shamanism reveal interconnections between digital and spiritual realms, address questions hitherto unasked, and lead to the conclusion that, at the end of the day, it will be as important to develop even smarter machines as to carve out a new ethics. Both shamanism and digitalisation will be crucial technologies for successfully managing the challenges ahead, to ensure the survival of the human species as well as of all lifeforms involved. Community, so it seems, is the bottomline.

ISBN 978-3-9519917-2-6

T he Foundation For Sha m a nic Studies