ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
(Old Testament), still our oldest source having been composed in 200 B.C.E., the Hebrew term nabim is translated meaning prophet. The New Age channeler is in the same general category as the ancient prophets such as Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, or Zoroaster and Mohammed, but, of course, these latter were distinguished for the greatness, depth, and universality of their message, and for their exceptional talents as poets. It is important to recognize, however, that ancient oracles and prophets and present day mediums and channelers are all in the same stream.
Relevant to our discussion here is the fact that the Avestas (the sacred scriptures of the Zoroastrians), the prophetic books of the Bible, and the Koran all exemplify shamanic experience. The Hebrew nabim םב׳ or prophets such as Ezekiel were very much like shamans. Hence, for example:
. . . behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. . . Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings, And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. (KJV: 1:4-10)
There seems little doubt but that the prophets and reformers of the Axial Era were of the shamanic tradition in their specific cultures. A major difference between them is the ethical emphasis of the prophets, a factor by no means absent among shamans but not usually stressed. Jesus also played a shamanic role when he exorcised evil spirits and performed healing miracles. The Koran is the record of oracles received by Mohammed who also, in some respects, played a shamanic role. Some orthodox Christians, Jews, and Moslems object to such characterizations, but not when they understand what shamanic experience actually is.
Many New Agers have been drawn to the prophetic (e.g. shamanic) roles played by Jesus and the prophets of Israel. Those who continue to embrace Judaism and Christianity (and they are of the majority in the West) place particular emphasis on experiential religion, that is to say, personal enhancement of the visionary, psychic, and emotional aspects of religion. They are less concerned with discussing philosophical problems such as proofs for the existence of God than with cultivating their own inner spirituality. In this respect, they border on shamanism. The ecstatic Jewish movement called Hassidism is of this tradition, as is the contemporary charismatic movement among Roman Catholics and Protestants.