Tony Samara: A Modern Shaman… And Beyond
By Nomi Sharron Anthony Rowe
This is a book whose author claims it will change readers' lives forever. Whether or not you are willing to embrace the teachings of Tony Samara ("a Spiritual Master for our age") will depend on how open you are to change. Or how sceptical. Personally, I felt that I had stepped back into a 1960s rant against Western civilisation. Whether Tony's peace, love and throw-away-the-antibiotics way of living is really the way forward, is at least open to question.
The first part of Sharron's book describes Tony's years learning the wisdom of several South American Shaman tribes, having dipped into Zen Buddhism en route to the Amazonian rain forest. Taking part in various initiation ceremonies, most of which appear to have involved drinking vile hallucinogenic potions, Tony vomits copiously, then "trips" on the effects of these drugs. Presumably, following these rituals opened his eyes to the Shamans' secrets as spiritual healers.
Trouble is, despite numerous references to Tony's abilities to heal, and Sharron's assertion that many cancer and Aids sufferers have turned to him for help, we don't actually find out how many people he has cured. And the sentence: "If, during a healing session, he felt a serious malfunction in an organ, he would also suggest that the person see a qualified medical doctor," is a bit of a giveaway. Shamanism is certainly no closer to curing major illnesses than is modern medicine.
I felt I had stepped back into a 1960s rant against the West
The latter part of the book is a guide to his teachings. There's a lot about detoxification rituals (isn't that why we have a liver?) plus instructions on how to "access our god/goddess energy and connect to our sexuality" (wiggle your hips, apparently). Child-rearing is touched upon, with a liberal and spontaneous agenda being favoured over traditional discipline. No naughty step, then.
Whether Tony is barking up the wrong tree, or just barking, is for the reader to decide. I'd rather get my '60s fix by trying to catch the current revival of Hair before it closes.
Joy Sable is editor at Jewish Care