The author is a sincere person who has studied with native peoples and shamans of different cultures. He is a prolific author and founder of the Four Winds Society and the training programs it offers. The Munay-Ki ceremonies/rites that are taught there are partially based on a diverse set of rites from a subset of Q'ero medicine people of the Andes. The authors ability to have conveyed, with adaptation, information from his indigineious teachers, is generally an important contribution to modern understanding of ancient ways.
This books synthesis, and title, revolves around a concept called 'One Spirit Medicine'. Not to be confused with Spirit Medicine
by Hank Wesselman or Medicine Of One: The Path Of The Circle
by Lomakayu. Both of these other titles may also be of interest.
'One Spirit Medicine' claims to convey the 'ancient' teachings from the 'shamans' and to integrate this with nutritional research from modern medicine. The book wants you to know that the 'shamans' have the superior knowledge, and their ancient way of 'One Spirit Medicine', is ultimately superior to modern medicine. These two approaches, the modern and the ancient, are sometimes held in harmony. But more often the books tone is that allopathic medicine is inferior. The book also claims very early that its content and method is based on shamanic process, especially the vision quest. But during the nutritional part of the book it's very hard to feel much connection to shamanic process.
The first part of the book starts with an overview of this fantastique program of 'One Spirit Medicine' and some background on shamanism and spirit. If you have watched Yoda talking about the force in Star Wars, or the Navi people from Pandora talking about Ewa, you've got the same vibe. If you grove on this way of looking at the world then you should check out videos from the Bioneers. Folks like Paul Stamets and Jeremy Narby (The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge
) are all over this.
The core vision that I think the book is trying to go is not described adequately enough before delving into the nutrition aspects. What should have been said is that 'One Spirit Medicine' is the internal alignment of your metabolic processes with the larger luminous field manifesting upon and within the biosphere. That if you can imagine and tap into that noosphere of light, and then imagine aligning your lifestyle with that, starting from your food, then you bring your entire biology into harmony with light, that you can surf the great transformation into a luminuous civilization that is forming right now. This feels like the core message to me. But it also feels like the text often leads away from this vision by spouting too many facts and left-brain analysis which is the pathology of western civilization. There was great potential in this book. The nuggets are still here. But the core message is buried by facts when more visionary metaphor and poetry, to bring the right-brain into play, and both hemispheres into balance, is missing for much of the book. This visionary aspect I am bringing up is a core theme within Alberto's work, especially around the 'Munay-Ki' teachings. This vision is diluted by facts in this book.
"To the shamans, eternity is available to anyone who upgrades their brain and grows a new, improved body through One Spirit Medicine."
That sentence is a hologram to the entire book and gives you a clear idea of the books synthesis. The hyperbole around 'One Spirit Medicine' is as deep as it is frequent. You would have to keep your wits about you to make it through this book holding many disparate concepts together. Ultimately it does not matter if such claims around brain upgrades and new bodies is based on fact or anything any shaman or medicine person ever originally said or taught.
The books use of the word 'shaman' (a Siberian/Mongolian word only truly applicable in that part of the world), is very general. This phrase is also nebulous to anyone who has been in ceremonies with medicine people, especially in Peru and Bolivia. In South America there are specific disciplines for medicine people like a paqo, altomesayok, ayahuascero, tabaquero, huachumero, etc. Hard-core medicine people and healers in the Americas, specialists, do not typically go around using a general term like 'shaman'. Outside of Siberia and Mongolia, the claim 'I am a shaman' is not common among medicine people. This term shaman is being used colloquially in the West as a blanket term for a spiritual person typically in the Harner/Ingerman lines, though it now has a much wider & vague connotation.
Much of the first part of the book is about detoxification and dietary changes. Certainly this information is important, especially the use of fasting. But most of the content here makes this a nutrition and dieting book for the alternative-minded. We get so far into an epiphany of phytonutrients and superfood that Spirit exits the show for many scenes. What happened to the vision quest and the shamanic process? Any magic of Spirit or of shamanic quest the book had at the start is now diluted, never fully coming back through the very last detours at the end of the tome.
By the time you get into the core of the book you realize some turbulence of themes. The book tries to market an ancient and aboriginal 'One Spirit Medicine' while spooning Western science. The book promotes the concept literally that "our ancestors came from the north". This is stated in reference to the theory that the Americas were populated only via migration through the Bering Straight, etc. Do people in Africa think their ancestors came from the North? There are many subtle Euro-centric undertones in this book, either through kowtowing western science and it's philosophical/mythic memes, or by doing a sometimes hard sell to North American New Agers. It's really hard to get a clean message of ancient wisdom that 'One Spirit Medicine' may hold when you keep banging pots and pans in the name of the West.
Eventually the 'One Spirit Medicine' program moves from body into mind and emotions. Hard selling you the notion that if you can just be clean enough in body and mind, you can turn off the death process of your body and become an immortal. (Should you be unable to do this from reading the book you can take a retreat with Four Winds on how to 'grow a new body'. Prices for previous retreats starting from fourwinds.com have ranged from $6,600-$7,900 for "Grow a new body - January 19-26 2015" [/grow-new-body-3/] to the more serious $11.5K-$14K for "GROW A NEW BODY INTENSIVE - January 5-12 2015" [/grow-new-body/].)
Within this book you also hear about an odd association of power animals to the four directions. This is concept old territory from the authors earlier books called the 'Inka Medicine Wheel'. This is the template of the North American tribes 'medicine wheel' mind-melded to South American power animals. (cf footnote 1) But the book overreaches in it's claim to define a standard set of power animals for all tribes in the Americas, North, Central, and South American. The book says that the tribes of the Americas recognize the Eagle as the spirit animal of the East. Not so. Just like the colors of the four directions, which varied by tribe, there is no canonical standard of totem animals for the four directions. West is commonly Bear, or the Thunderbeings. North is commonly Tatanka/Buffalo/Bison. The Chippewa medicine person Sun Bear in Dancing with the Wheel: The Medicine Wheel Workbook
presents a more common medicine wheel but even that is not universal among the 500 nations of turtle island (North America). 'One Spirit Medicine' encores a homebrew of Hummingbird, Jaguar, Serpent, and Eagle. But even the concept of the medicine wheel is not free from Western memes that we earlier thought we were trying to overcome. Frequently in this book Greek myths crash the native camp. During talk of the direction of the West the Greek character Psyche and her inner journey are used. If Western society and medicine is so messed up, then why do we keep bringing up Psyche in this book when we are trying to discover 'One Spirit Medicine'? This is the same author who said "The Mythology of the West has gone bankrupt." [video: "It's up to you" - youtube - 18:40 & 19:42].
Starting from chapter 10 (The Journey to the Divine Feminine), it felt like the book became unfocused. There are associations here be made to Jaguar which seem to lack any logical or aboriginal backing at all. We hear that jaguar teaches how you get what you want (makes sense, catching prey). But we hear that jaguar also teaches acceptance because the jaguar will die and it's body will feed the forest. Huh? What animals do not die and decay? This is an example of something that should have been left on the editing floor because it has no authentic tie to any native tradition. And the Greek memes keep appearing awkwardly. Jaguar in one breath and then Hercules and Cerberus in the next. The books says the awakening of the (Mayan) Jaguar body is the same as the Buddhist rainbow body. ???? There is nothing across these cultures to tie the two concepts together. You would be much better to seek out Ted Andrews in Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small
for your advise on what the animals symbolize.
By the time we come to chapter 12, we are thrust back into the vision quest as if shaken and startled from a dream. We abruptly leave behind our phytonutrients and earlier health consciousness of the body in order to talk about these directional animals and the process of transformation. Now we are back somewhere else. The conceptual shifts from section to section are rapid and not often smooth.
Before we leave the story we again hear about associating the West with finding the Divine Feminine. This is very strange as any goddess song clearly declares that the sacred mother is everywhere or all around. And don't ask me why we are taking a big paragraph to talk about minecraft near the end. What the? Even into the last few paragraphs we take a quick jaunt into Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism for another set of points which do not fit well either into the overall theme of 'One Spirit Medicine'.
Overall this is not the authors best title. The audience seems to be those interested in a combination of shamanism (with filters on), nutrition, and general New Age tendencies. If you know anything about nutrition or shamanism, or ever been in native ceremonies, then this is likely a skip.
Looking for a serious medicine teacher to spend time with? Get yourself to the Amazon and/or Cuzco. I hear good things about The Temple of the Way of Light and Ayahuasca Foundation.
If you are interested in Andean mysticism/'shamanism' here are some of the best titles:Gate of Paradise: Secrets of Andean ShamanismAndean Awakening: An Inca Guide to Mystical PeruThe Fourth Level: Nature Wisdom Teachings of the InkaMasters of the Living Energy: The Mystical World of the Q'ero of Peru
If you want a very good overview of the medicine path ('shamanism') this is a great book:Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of a Shamanic Life
This allegedly was told by Don Jicaram, a single Q'ero teacher, to the author. There is no readily available biographical data on Don Jicaram. There are no records of any other Q'ero priest giving this teaching nor is this a commonly documented teaching among the Q'ero. Generally the Q'ero chumpi rites do not associate the energy belts with power animals or archetypes. The standard association in Andean spirituality using animals is in the association between the levels of reality/consciousness as expressed in the Chakana. These power animals are well known across the Andes as being the snake, the puma of the mountains (not Jaguar of the Amazon jungle), and the Kondor (not the Eagle). Neither the Q'ero nation, nor major practicitioners of Andean spirituality in various groups, have ever been documented to talk about their power animals as being in the form of a North American 'medicine wheel'. The Four Winds website itself does not list any animal visualizations in it's description of the Chumpi ceremonies as part of the South Illumination program. See Paul M Sivert as having an accessible description in English of the chumpi ceremony.
The following is an excerpt from The Latin American Anthropology Review - 1992:15-16 by Donald Joralemon, Smith College, in a review of The Four Winds:
"...where is the precedent for an Andean concept of the medicine wheel, which is usually associated with native North Americans? Why are the symbolic associations of the four cardinal directions that Villoldo says he was taught so different from those documented in the anthropological literature on South American shamanism? What evidence is there that Machu Picchu ever played the central role in Andean shamanism attributed to the site by Villoldo? ... If you believe his story, Villoldo has earned the distinction of being psychopomp to the Western world. The problem is, there is so very much not to be believed. Put simply, there is more self-promotion than self-enlightenment to be found in this book."