Shape of Things To Come: Shapeshifting With John Perkins
An interview by Carol
past two decades John Perkins has visited, lived with and learned about
indigenous culture from several tribes in the rainforests of the Amazon
and Andes. In his three books detailing his experiences—The World Is As You Dream It, Psychonavigation and
most recently, Shapeshifting (Destiny Books)—John has shared much
of the wisdom he has learned from tribal people in hopes of creating a
"dreamchange" that can move us away from the industrial world's
dream of dominating and harnessing nature. These shamanic teachings have
sparked a revolution in modem concepts about healing, the subconscious,
and the powers each of us has to alter individual and communal reality. An
ecologist, author and founder of Dream Change Coalition, John also works
with business and governmental organizations in the preservation of tribal
wisdom and the natural environment. He is currently working with several
major corporations to introduce the concepts of shapeshifting and tribal
wisdom into the highest levels of executive thinking.
Spirit of Change: What is
John Perkins: From my perspective,
shapeshifting can be divided into three levels although it's actually more
of a continuum. First is the cellular shapeshift which is when a shaman
actually shapes into a jaguar or a warrior hunter shapeshifts into a tree
or animal of any kind.
SOC: This happens on a physical
JP: Yes, it happens on a physical
SOC: Would you be able to see this
JP: You can definitely see it. As I
read a lot of the literature and research in writing the book Shapeshifting, I kept coming across people who would say "well this
sort of thing used to be done, but it can't really be done anymore and it
doesn't need to be done." I take strong exception to that because
I've seen it done, I've done it myself and I think right now is a very
important time to experience it.
Shapeshifting is really about recognizing
our true oneness with everything else. Separateness is just an illusion.
When you shapeshift into what we call "the other," you are
manifesting that philosophy of oneness on a physical plane. Once you've
done it, you never have any doubts again about our true nature as one with
everything. It's hard for people coming from other cultural and
educational backgrounds to accept the fact that people become jaguars or
trees, but in another sense it is very easy for us to accept the fact that
we have an incredible cellular shapeshifting capacity.
Look at all of the people who get cancer.
People in the Amazon don't know what cancer is and they can't believe it.
When I first started bringing people with cancer to the shaman for
healing, the shaman would look inside them as they do using what they call
pentsak, which is a technique for actually looking inside a
person's body. They would look inside these North Americans' bodies and
see these outrageous growths that they'd never seen anything like before.
Now that's a very strong cellular shapeshift.
The shamans have dissolved a number of
those cells. We've had people come with bad tumors and cancer, have
healings and go home, and then go to the doctor's and the tumors are gone.
We've all heard of miraculous healings of cancer; well that's a cellular
shapeshift. In our culture we don't have a problem accepting that cancer
can grow in a person very, very quickly; it can also be gotten rid of just
SOC: So cancer and spontaneous
healings are actually forms of shapeshifting on the physical level in the
JP: And we pretty readily accept
that. We have a much more difficult time accepting that people can
shapeshift into a jaguar. The Shuar in the Amazon is a tribe that I work
with a lot. From one perspective, it is very hard for them to understand
how a person can get a cancer and E. coli for example. But it is very easy
for them to accept how a person can shapeshift into a tree or animal. It
is a matter of what tradition we are brought up in and both are very
Incidentally, we also had a woman recently who is now one of our
trip leaders. She is a psychologist from Baltimore who for 10 years tried
to loose 50 pounds. She was quite overweight. She tried every diet
possible. Then she went to one of the shamans and asked him to help.
Within 2 months, she lost the 50 pounds without dieting, without doing
anything. That was a cellular shapeshift.
SOC: But that also has to involve a
mental shapeshift in our attitude to accept that such shifting is
JP: In in my opinion, shapeshifting
has to do with intent and it has to do with energy. You have to drop areas
of fear, drop areas of doubt in order to let it happen. We've got a number
of medical doctors who are very deeply involved with this program. The
woman from Baltimore is a plastic surgeon with an extremely successful and
lucrative practice. She is using shapeshifting extensively in her work and
in fact, is teaching courses. She takes tremendous amounts of time out to
do dreamchange work and teach shapeshifting to other MD's.
SOC: Are we too late to be learning
about and sharing this work? For a long time there were a lot of people
saying that if we think positively for enough years we can avert some big
cataclysmic changes on the planet. But I'm not sure that we can at this
JP: Cataclysmic changes on the
planet are messages. We're not destroying the Earth. The thought of saving
the Earth is totally absurd. Human beings don't have the power to destroy
Pachamama or the Earth. If we get to be too much of a nuisance here,
Pachamama will just shake us off like so many fleas. And we'll take a lot
of other life forms with us—the ones that are very closely tied to us in
terms of breathing the same types of air and needing the same types of
plants to survive and so on and so forth.
But this isn't a question of saving the
Earth. It's a question of saving ourselves. And even that is not really a
big problem because we just keep manifesting in different life forms so we
won't actually disappear. The physical manifestation of the human species
could disappear but it would be nice to avoid that because we have
children and grandchildren.
Since we are here we ought to do everything
we can to avoid having that happen. Right now. Mother Earth is sending us
a lot of messages. The tremendous smog and pollution around many of our
cities, the polluted rivers—we've been told for decades now to clean it
up. We haven't really listened very well and so the messages are getting
This reminds me of a time several years ago
when I'd been hiking for four or five days with a couple of Shuar warriors
in the Amazon. We'd been up to the sacred waterfalls and after several
days we were coming back. When we were about two hours outside of the
Shuar community, all of a sudden the Shuar men stopped and bent down to
examine this small plant that seemed rather insignificant beside the
trail. When I asked them what was going on they said, "This plant is
very sick and when we came up here four days ago it wasn't sick. We feel
that there is a message here for us and we should listen to this plant and
hear its words." I think we are in the process of learning that, with
our concern for global warming and the greenhouse effect. It is beginning
to get through to a lot of people. There is still a lot of resistance, but
I think its having an effect.
SOC: Is it enough of an effect that
we could divert being shaken off Pachamama?
JP: Well, that remains to be seen.
There are specific trails we can take. We can either do something about it
and change the way we are to be more Earth honoring or we don't do that
and Mother Earth takes care of the problem.
Even the planet is a very insignificant
part of Pachamama. In the Quechua language, pacha means Earth, universe,
and time. They don't really have a word for Mother Earth. Its Mother
Universe, Mother Earth and Mother Time—its all one. We're just one
little part of everything else and probably an insignificant part.
SOC: What is the Quechua language?
JP: The language that is spoken by
roughly 20 million people in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. It is a very
spiritual language. The Quechua people are made up of different tribes
that are part of that linguistic group. Even their language acknowledges
the oneness of our nature with everything around us.
SOC: Which is why they might be more
attuned to a shapeshifting way of life than non-indigenous people. You
were talking about the different levels of shapeshifting...
JP: Yes, the second level is
personal shapeshifting where we bring out in ourselves more of what we
really respect in ourselves. Or maybe we get rid of things that we don't
really respect in ourselves. A good example of that is an addiction. Both
developing and getting rid of an addiction are personal shapeshifts. It's
changing ourselves within this manifestation. The third level is
institutional shapeshifting, changing the manifestations of our
organizations, our government, our communities, our corporations. That is
the one that I am very interested in right now having come our of a
business background myself. I can see tremendous opportunity here to
shapeshift the corporation.
SOC: Is that possible?
JP: It's definitely happening and it
needs to happen a lot more. The corporations can't take over unless we
allow them to.
SOC: And we are so addicted to the
consumer lifestyle—it's always we want more, cheaper and more
convenient. We support those corporations with our purchases and the
destruction they cause.
JP: Yes, we all make those
decisions. On the other hand, if there is a large business (let's take a
Walmart) and you can really create a shapeshift within that organization,
you can have a tremendous effect in the larger picture. I will say from
the shapeshifting standpoint you can deal with the bigger organizations
just as well as the small.
The oil companies are one of my greatest
enemies because they do a lot of destruction in the Amazon and hurt a lot
of the people that I've spent the last 30 years living and working with.
Yet I've seen British Petroleum has had an incredible turn around in the
past couple of years. They've gone through an amazing shapeshift. It is
The whole idea is that we're here on earth
to be ecstatic every minute. When we feel that deep oneness we are
ecstatic. Ecstasy doesn't necessarily mean joy or bliss. It's the feeling
of oneness. For example, my mother died a couple of years ago and I was
very close to her. She died a very painful death. It was not a joyous
time, but it was ecstatic in terms that I bonded with her as I had never
bonded before. Medical doctors tell us that we are 99% air and that every
atom in our body is as old as the big bang. No atom stays in our body for
more than a year. They are constantly moving into other things so that
when you are holding the telephone right now, your atoms are intermingling
with the telephone and some of them are going into the telephone forever
or for the next year, anyway. Some of the telephone's are actually coming
into you. You and the telephone are one.
SOC: So how is it that someone still
retains that extra 50 unwanted pounds? Why doesn't it just slip away?
JP: Perception of it. The world is
as we dream it and recognizing that gives us the opportunity to shapeshift
any way we want.
SOC: How do you shapeshift?
JP: In our culture one of the first
things that we have to do is to drop the barriers that prevent us from
believing in shapeshifting. To begin with, you cannot believe in
hierarchy. If you believe that a human being is superior in any way to a
plant you can't shapeshift into that plant because you have too much fear
that you may not be able to come back into the superior form of the human
being. In fact, sometimes shapeshifters don't return because they choose
not to. So the first thing is to drop the fear and the denial.
SOC: And basically that would be
developing a trust in the process of life, that you are safe in the hands
JP: What is there to fear? If you
don't believe in death, that solves a lot of fears but it doesn't solve
all of them.
SOC: And you have brought this work
into the corporate world?
JP: Yes. I've spent ten years myself
as an executive management advisor to the World Bank and the United
Nations and many Fortune 500 companies and I was the Chief Executive
Officer of a large utility energy company for another eight years. In that
work with the energy company, which is a very successful alternative
energy company, every major decision we made was made shamanically and we
did a great deal of shapeshifting. The business community is not going to
be able to continue the way its been going. The model for success that
we've developed here in the United States and in Europe cannot be applied
to India and China and Indonesia because there's too many people. Slowly,
we are realizing it can't even work here any longer.
We are at a phenomenal point in history
right now because we've developed amazing technology. We've also still got
the indigenous knowledge and we're opening up to that like we've never
opened up to it before. One of the reasons the stock market is going up so
much is because there are technologies out there like the Internet. Today
telephones are starting to go into the Amazon for the first time. But
there are no telephone lines and they're not needed anymore. What a
tremendous savings that is to the forest. No more cutting down lots of
trees and putting in copper wire. But that's not really a justification
for sitting back and saying, "well it's all happening anyway."
It's really important that we all go out there and work toward it. True
shapeshifting means feeling your oneness with everything else.
is the Publisher and Editor of Spirit of Change Magazine which is
located in Grafton, MA. To contact Carol call 508-839-2228, fax
508-839-1173 or email her at SpiritPub@aol.com.
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