Myths, Shamans and Seers: Phil Borges at TEDxRainier


Translator: Tanya Cushman
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Thank you. You know, one of the sayings
that the Tibetans have that I really love is that every one you meet, everyone you come in contact with, everyone that’s in your life at some time has been your mother. And they tell this story
to their children, and they use this story as a tool to deepen their compassion, and they tell this story in a way that allows them to widen their compassion so they expand their circle of compassion, as they call it, to include all sentient beings. And I was given the opportunity to look a little more deeply
into their culture when I was invited to go and watch the medium that is – the medium that channels –
how to explain this? – the medium that channels
the Dalai Lama’s oracle. And it was in this little monastery
very near the Dalai Lama’s house, near the Dalai Lama’s compound
in Dharamsala, India. They brought him into the room, and they put a hat on his head
that weighed about 80 pounds, and he started to go into trance, his eyes rolled back, the monks started chanting
and beating drums, and then he started talking
in this high-pitched voice. And as he was talking, the monks came up and
started writing everything he said. He talked for about ten minutes, and when he finished,
he sort of rolled back his eyes, the monks took off his hat,
and they carried him out of the room. As I watched this whole thing, it was so surreal and theatrical I almost thought
that a curtain could come down and the monks would come out and take a bow with the medium
at the end of it. But two days later,
I got to interview him. And his name was Thupten;
he’s 30 years old; he’s a monk – thirty years old at the time. He was very humble; he was very honest. I didn’t notice anything about him that would make me think
he was putting on an act. And I asked him,
“How did you get this job? (Laughter) How did you come into this?” And he said that when he was 12 years old, he started hearing voices
and he started feeling very sick. He didn’t know where the voices
were coming from; he was very frightened. And an older monk took him aside
and told him he had a gift. And he said, “This is the way
you handle this state.” The monk showed him
how to go into the trance, how to come out of the trance. He spent a year with him. And he ended up becoming the medium
for the Dalai Lama’s oracle, the Nechung Oracle. It was about a year after that
I heard the Dalai Lama interviewed. He said, “You know, you people in the West really don’t understand
what the Nechung Oracle is; you think it’s strange. But he actually gives us
very important information.” And he said, “He actually predicted
the invasion of our country; he let me know when it was time
for me to leave and go into exile, and so we get very important
information out of him.” So it was about two years after that that I was in Northern Kenya
visiting the Samburu people, doing a little piece
for Amnesty International, and my guide that I had with me,
who was Samburu, turned to me and said, “You know, these people have been told
that we are coming, by their predictor.” And he went on to say that the predictor said we
were going to be taking photographs, we were going to be interviewing, and he said, “The predictor also said that you hide when
you take your photographs.” And I do anything but hide
when I take my photographs. I’m about this close to the person,
in their face with my Hasselblad. And a little bit after that, I remembered
I brought a new camera with me. It was a panoramic camera, a view camera, and this is what I look like
when I’m taking those pictures. (Laughter) So I said, “Hmm.” So we tracked down the predictor, and she was a 37-year-old
woman named Sukulen; she had five kids. And she had the same story
as Thupten, the medium, only she was not only having
auditory hallucinations, she was having visual hallucinations. She felt very sick, and she had a grandmother that came to her and told her that she was gifted, told her she could be
of service to her community. So I decided I would start
seeking out these people and see what this was all about. So I went around the world; I went to Africa, Asia,
North and South America, Indonesia; I went up to Arctic village, interviewing these people. This is one of the people
I interviewed, Namid. She’s in Mongolia. She’s a healer, and she had the very same situation: hallucinations,
a mentor came and helped her. And so as I interviewed these people, the majority of them had this situation
usually in adolescence. I started thinking: you know,
if you’re a 13-year-old child, and you start hearing things
and seeing things and feeling sick, and you’re taken to the doctor, and if you’re leaving
the world of agreement, like this, which is very frightening, if you’re taken to a doctor here,
you’re not told you’re gifted; you’re usually told
that you have a mental problem. You either have depression,
you have bipolar, schizophrenia, your brain chemistry
isn’t quite in balance, so they’ll give you drugs
to balance that, so you’re drugged. And it’s a whole different experience. And you can imagine
the outcome is totally different. If you are told you that you
are of service to the community, that your talents
can be used, you’re gifted, that would give
a totally different outcome than if you told you’re diseased. Our culture has a hard time with nonrational states of consciousness, and that’s one of the things
I learned from this project. I heard that there was a 10-year-old boy that was in the process
of being mentored to be a shaman, and he was up on this border
of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in a little group of people
called the Kalash. So I booked a flight to Islamabad – I took my 16-year-old son Dax with me – and we headed for the Kalash territory. The Kalash are animists; they believe in the spirits
of the mountains, the spirits of the rivers, the spirits of the forests, and they’re completely
surrounded by Islam, and they hold onto their traditions. There’s about 3,000 of them. When I arrived and asked about the boy, they said, “There’s no boy here.” In fact, this 10-year-old boy turned out to be a 60-year-old
goat herder by the name of Janduli Kahn, and he was their shaman. So I got a guide, and we
went up the mountain to meet him, and I did my typical interview: “How did you get into this?” In his case, it was an older shaman
that mentored him. “And what do you do?” He was a seer as well as a healer. “And how do you induce these trances?” The trances in each culture
are induced in very different ways. In the Amazon, it’s psychoactive
plants like ayahuasca. In Siberia and in Mongolia, they’re beating a drum next to their head. In Pakistan, what they did
is they took some juniper branches, they sacrificed an animal, poured the blood of that animal
on those juniper branches, and then the shaman inhaled the smoke. So Janduli Kahn wanted
to do a ceremony for me. And I tried to talk him out of it because he would have to sacrifice
one of his animals; he had 60 goats,
and I didn’t want him to do that, but he said, “I have to do it. My spirits – I have to thank my spirits
for sending you here; you’ve come so far.” So there was no talking him out of it. So in the morning,
his sons started the ceremony. They started the fire
with the juniper branches, and then they started praying
to the mountain gods and started praying
for about five minutes. And then they sacrificed the animal, poured the blood
over the juniper branches, and he started inhaling the smoke,
and then he went into trance. And he was real quiet before this trance, and he hardly said anything after, and I was asking the sons, I said, “Did he say anything
after he came out of this trance?” And they said, “He only said that
your journey is going to be difficult, but you will be safe.” And so my son and I left the mountain, we got in the jeep with our driver
and headed up into the Hindu Kush, and he started getting ill. And he got more and more ill
as the days progressed, for about four days, and I was panicking. We were in the middle of nowhere
without a doctor, and a doctor miraculously appeared
and really saved him. People ask me, “What is it about shamans? What type of power do they have? How do they get their power?” And I have no idea. I know they tap into something. Maybe they’re tapping
into the collective unconscious that Carl Jung talked about; maybe they’re tapping
into a parallel universe that our astrophysicists
are starting to tell us about. I have no idea. The thing I do know
is their stories that they tell – their myths of the spirits of the land, the spirits of the forest,
the spirits of the rivers – those myths connect them to the earth in a way – in such a profound way
that I will never know; I will never be connected in that way. Joseph Campbell, who studied
myths and cultures all over the world, said, “Cultures are created,
maintained and transformed by stories we often refer to as myths.” And these myths, the myths have sort of
a negative connotation in our world; they’re really thought of as being untrue, but “Myths are neither true nor false,
but symbolic stories” – they’re metaphors – “that give us meaning
and teach us how to act.” So some of the myths we grew up with, that determine our relationship
with the earth over time, have not been the healthiest. You know, fill the earth,
subdue it, rule over the animals. These myths are talking
about domination and control versus the myths
of these indigenous cultures that have more reverence and respect. And these myths are starting to fray. Joseph Campbell said, you know, right now we don’t have
any myths that are governing us. We’re waiting for a new myth to be born. And that myth has to, number one, speak to the planet
and speak to everyone on it. I’m going to close with just one
of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein. He said, “We human beings
tend to experience ourselves as something separate
from the whole we call ‘The Universe.’ This is actually an optical illusion
of our consciousness. It’s like a prison for us. Our task is to free ourselves
from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures
and the whole of nature in its beauty. This is the only true foundation
for our inner peace and security.” Thank you very much. (Applause)

45 thoughts on “Myths, Shamans and Seers: Phil Borges at TEDxRainier

  1. There is sound at this end.
    Anyway Philip Borges is really an amazing guy. I am glad I was able to meet him in person

  2. A respectful and insightful observation of a beautiful sacred way. Thank you Philip.

  3. Unfortunately he keeps calling it "hallucinations", showing that he really does not believe in any of it, other wise he would call it "visions". He needs to wake up some more himself.

  4. Thank you for this eye opening, loving testimonial. It was a pleasure to watch. And the photography is breathtaking!

  5. i am a shaman in the west…. i've been told i am ill and have been given psychiatric drugs for years… i feel so ill from them 🙁

  6. ayahuasca is wonderful…. animal sacrifice is totally bunk shamanism

  7. He gives this talk but says he has no idea where they go or get their power from?  He should know this.  You can find out by reading any one of 75 books or more on Shamanism…  He does say they hallucinate.  He didnt look deep enough.  Not even a scratch of the surface.   :-/

  8. I don't really trust this. I feel like that Einstein quote isn't real either.

  9. You cannot excise a shaman from the culture he was born into. As a modern urban North American shaman, he almost nails it. But calling them "hallucinations" seems to downplay the giant sacrifice a shaman makes to serve his people. The shamanic death is no joke and is one of the most hideous things a human can go through since the spirits rip you apart. They rebuild you of course but he doesn't get into how shamans are made. Both today and for thousands of years.

  10. weow shaman told him "journey will be difficult but save" -> son got sick so must be true!

  11. I love this talk and Phil, your compassion and open-minded perspective is awesome xx

  12. For those of us who've used psychedelic drugs, this reminds me of set and setting. Yes, it can feel as though you're crazy when you're tripping (and sometimes you are), but the revelations can be extremely helpful in various ways. I believe some may be better off untreated, if that's what they prefer. That being said, some mental illness is very dangerous. It depends on the behavior and ideation of each person. If the "voices" are persistently encouraging suicide or something like that, anti-psychotic medication may save a life. Let's remain open minded and scientifically informed!

  13. "Do not believe madness to be a curse. For some, it is the greatest of blessings. A bitter mercy perhaps, but mercy nonetheless."

  14. Don't get lost in the word "hallucination(s) it a word. Listen to the rest of what he is saying. The fact that he is talking when so many aren't for whatever the reason says he is awake…just not the way you maybe.

  15. This is my story… four time involuntary commitment to psychiatric hospitals variety of diagnoses ranging from psychosis NOS to schizo affective. I was forced to take pills for years… i stopped taking the pills and left home in August 2017 right around the time of the total solar eclipse … I walked everywhere and began to lose weight. I fasted a lot and prayed and sought the only god I knew and became very close with “the spirit “ … I made my way to downtown Charleston where I felt compelled to use this energy I felt in my hand and around me… almost like a burnin fire at times and sometimes almost like a ring in my hand… I healed two people who could not walk well… one had sciatic nerve damage and the other… a homeless man with a similar back problem… when I healed them… it was like their pain came through me… and a blister formed on my foot… and when it popped I was healed and they were completely healed too… I know it sounds crazy but this is the truth… other strange things started happening too… I would walk and pray and listen to my music and this “fire like this tangible spirit fire feeling would come over me surrounding my body and twice I walked by a person walking their dog and the dog stopped dead in its tracks and the owner could not get them to move… this happened twice in the same day when I was experiencing this feeling… also I could make this warm feeling come on my hand and touch someone and they could feel it to… there was a groundskeeper at the college of Charleston with whom I struck up a conversation… we were talking about religion because i wanted his perspective on what was goin on and I told him about the fire sensation on my hands and I asked if I could touch his knee to show him … because he was sitting down… he said sure so i touched his knee and nothing happened … so I withdrew … frustrated I said hold on let me try again… and I touched it again and began to concentrate and pray and not give up… and sure enough this tangible fire sensation came upon my hand and into his knee and I withdrew and said did you feel that? He said yes! Wow! He was astonished and marveled. then he asked for my phone number so I gave it to him but have not heard from him maybe he typed it in wrong… I did the same thing to a Muslim girl in stern center and she was astonished , she asked me what it was and as I walked away I said it’s the Holy Spirit … not knowing what to say… and on her face I could see she was a little taken aback so I approached her and said ido what you believe but this is real this spirit is real and Muslims can channel it too , I said, ask Mohammad Ali, not knowing what else to say. Tears grew in her eyes and I could tell she was touched I knew that was what she needed… so, think this fire sensation is proof to others of the divine and it can also heal…

  16. 6: 16 all turkish people were once shamans. Islam made shamanism almost extinct. And i find "sufism" and alewi a good bridge between silam and shamanism. Both are hated so much in main stream selafi islam. What a waste of good spirited people.

  17. Some shamans are called at a much younger age. I almost died at birth and started seeing and interacting with spirits, had prophetic dreams when I was 3. Shortly after this started I was deaf for almost 2 years, before my hearing was restored.
    Some people sensationalize what shamans do, especially western media (TV & movies), but it can be really difficult, especially in our modern societies. I've been called weird, psychotic, a lair or any number of other negative descriptors. And even though my husband prayed for a red headed medicine woman, he wasn't comfortable at times with having to live with one.
    And then there's the "I just want to be normal" episode. Yeah, when spirit calls you to walk this path, you can walk it or you can roll along in a wheel chair. I tried normal – college to become a school teacher. A week after getting my degree, a drunk driver took me out – and I saw it coming. All the 1st responders were amazed that I was alive, but it turned out that I was really messed up. So no more "working" a regular job, but I raise herbs, minister to people who need me (and where Spirit sends me), and give spirit-filled messages and advice. Not rich, but we did manage to keep our home after the "Great Recession" because I listened to Spirit , and saved my hubby's life when he dropped with a heart attack ( I was forewarned by Spirit and told "don't leave him alone" when he came in from cutting down a tree).
    There are more of us hidden in our modern world and society than you may think. Witch, artist, composer, mother, mystic … what's in name when you bring healing and peace to a life and the world?

  18. I can't imagine the impact it would have on a young person who is scared of their own mind to be told that they would be helpers and essential to their community instead of becoming a pariah or feared. The West could stand to learn something from that, I think.

  19. I really enjoyed his other talks I've seen on YouTube but, I'm not totally sure what to make of them. I think maybe these are two separate ideas which are both partly true being taken to be related and mutually exclusive. I don't think mental illness should be seen as some hypersensitivity to ghosts and the spirit world but I also believe mental illness shouldn't be stigmatized. My assumption is that I don't have a body but that I am a body, and that there is no undetectable spirit in me that makes me human. The human experience of being able to feel mystical sensations despite them not being there is what makes me human. The fact that love feels like something magical and that with it 2 and 2 can equal 5.

  20. The Pakistan Government is trying to suppress and eradicate the indigenous Kalash people from their lands as their beliefs does not reconcile with that of Islam. How cruel? As if Islam is all scientific. In fact, it is often said that Mohammed was suffering from schizophrenia and was paedophile too. Just saying

  21. Any body can be a shaman. It's not just indigenous people. When you get picked your IT!!

  22. They are ill but are stuck in between life and death with their conciscious.

  23. Very similar circumstances happened to me between the ages of 8-13. I would get a stream or flow of thoughts, pictures, sounds etc that I used to write out throughout my teenage years. For a long time I thought I was going mad but kept it concealed to avoid being diagnosed with a mental disorder. Yesterday a friend I attended high school with sent me a poem I wrote in 1998. After rereading it I realised it was a word for word emotional account of my current divorce. There are so many of us who experience this in the western world and have to find our own ways of transcending and changing the western mythos.

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