McGregor describes the quintessential leader as a “fully integrated human being”. Greenleaf (1977) describes servant leaders as “people who put other people’s need, aspiration, and interests above their own”. Yet does this paradigm of self-sacrifice characterize the fullness of the “fully integrated human being” model which McGregor prescribes?
Native Americans view leadership as a tribal phenomenon, in which the leader is the servant and guide of the community. Organizations of all types can be viewed in this light. The Native American role of “Shaman” fits the prophetic image of “co-creator” that Greenleaf describes. In the seminal and groundbreaking work, “Black Elk Speaks” John Neihardt recounts the story of one of the most powerful Shaman in human history, Black Elk. Black Elk was called upon by the Great Grandfather Spirit to use his gifts of miraculous faith healing and prophetic witness to lead his people through the horrific trials of the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the Wounded Knee Massacre. Black Elk’s story is neither singular nor categorically unique, as there was another Shaman, 2000 years prior who God anointed to shake the very foundations of Creation itself and usher in an era of love, power, soundness of mind, faith, hope, and solidarity for the human family.
Throughout human existence, not just famous Shaman like Mother Theresa, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King but unsung and untold warriors of faith from every religious and spiritual tradition have fought against the forces of darkness for the benefit of Mother Earth and human kind. Even in Block’s notion of the stewardship contract, we see the image of individuals who rule themselves and thus are capable of leading through following and following through leading.
Bearing all of this in mind, I posit the following as steps that in my view, all individuals must experience to become fully integrated as “leaders” or “Shaman” in the Native American conception. This is only my view, and is not to be seen as normative in any way shape or form. This is also more of a theological than scholarly viewpoint and should be viewed as such:
Step 1 entails an awareness of God and the other. The infantile state of woman or man is a state of love accentuated by pronounced self-centeredness and self preservation. Though no one would argue that infants are not full of love, the love of the infant is ultimately self-absorbed as they are relatively unaware of the suffering, beauty, and courageous integrity of the beings around them. So step 1 of the Shamanic Journey entails obtaining an awareness that one is not alone in the world and that both a Supreme Being of love and other beings of light exist.
Step 2 entails a commitment to serve this Supreme Being of love and other human and non-human beings of light. Pronounced feelings of joy and transcendence often surround submission to step 2 of the process as one relinquishes the strangling decadence of self-sufficiency and commits oneself to a higher purpose of service.
Step 3 however is a tortuous and grueling sojourn which few Shaman can fully master in this human life. Step 3 entails learning to love oneself in the midst of serving God and others. This step requires almost super-human levels of self-control, self-discipline, and diligence as one must learn to balance the seemingly counterbalancing imperatives to love and Serve God and others, yet still love, serve, protect, and defend oneself. However, as the diligent Shaman learns to master this step she or he begins to operate in a kind of open hand Karma Yoga in which he or she accepts the things that he or she cannot change while raging in courage to usher forth God’s light into the human experience. Many Shaman commit suicide or turn to self-destructive behaviors due to the unmitigated pain and suffering of this stage. However, given the infinite grace and mercy of the Divine, ALL SHAMAN do make it through this rite of passage, though many must finish the process in the afterlife.
Once the committed Shaman masters step 3, she or he, must then learn to literally Co-Create with God. This is often through communication and imagination, akin to the kind of envisioning and empowerment to which Choi (2004) alludes. As the prologue of John intimates those who receive God, are given power to become sons and daughters of God, or in other words, little Gods. Consequently, step 4 is a passage toward paradoxical dependence on and independence from God in which the Shaman is literally able to hold depending on God and creating the elements of God such as Joy, happiness, and holiness in tension. This stage can be even more challenging and tortuous than stage 3 because it is often characterized by pronounced rejection and isolation. For how can one learn to create love, when one is surrounded by love? Rather one must learn to create love in the midst of its absence or at least its opposite.
Step 5 is the moment of full human integration that characterizes the master Shaman. This is the moment in which the Shaman experiences the sublime reality of oneness with God and all living creatures. Jesus, as the greatest and most profound of all Shaman experienced this moment in his resurrection at which point he literally became the center or omega point of all creation.
As I converse with Shamanic individuals of all religious and spiritual traditions, I am touched by a kind of Cryos moment in which the “icy cold” winds of the Holy Spirit, the great spirit have created a existential crossroads for humanity. America’s flirting with electing an African-American president and the much needed wake up call of our societies current economic crisis, alert one to the reality that God is speaking to God’s Shaman. In reality, all human beings are called and predestined to become Shaman. So the question is not one of destiny but rather chronology, for some have the gift of being the “first born of many”. It is to these “first born” to whom God is speaking. God is calling the first born of all Shaman, to a kind of accelerated transformation in which the Shamanic process is no longer linear but rather cyclical and synergistically reinforcing. In other words, Shaman are finding themselves in steps 3 and 4 simultaneously or finding themselves regressing from step 3 to step 1, etc. etc. Similarly, dark forces are capitalizing on this flux and are attempting to totally obliterate both the nascent and seasoned Shaman alike.
So what are we to do? What is God telling us?
As discussed in class, the critical error of Shaman throughout history has been delusion of the Atlas Complex. The Atlas Complex stems from Shaman believing that they are alone in their journey, mandates, call, and obligations. This creates the delusion that they must single handedly bear the weight of the world on their shoulders. In reality only one Shaman, Jesus, was asked to this, and because he did it, it is no longer necessary for the rest of us. What God is telling the Shaman of this historic era, is “You cannot do it by yourself!!” “YOU MUST UNITE TO COMPLETE THE PROCESS”. The secret that God is now revealing is that no Shaman can complete steps 1 through 5 through their relationship with God alone, but it is only through solidarity with others of similar calling that they can reach full maturity. Consequently, it is time for us. Those who have been called to the higher calling of God’s Kingdom and the Justice, Mercy, and Faith that it entails to unite. We have not been called to unite against anything in particular, but rather for each other!! When we unite for one another then we will win this war not against flesh and blood but against the spirits of selfishness, ignorance, hatred, and oppression that afflict us all.