Spirit of the Shuar

Spirit of the Shuar: Wisdom from the Last Unconquered People of the Amazon, by John Perkins.

What can we learn from a people who can’t read, have no laws to speak of, who make a practice of shrinking the heads of their enemies, and let their children run around naked? In John Perkins’s eyes, plenty. The Shuar of the Amazon rainforest have lived in harmony with their surroundings for countless ages. Perkins came into contact with them while on a Peace Corps stint in the 1960s, and has sought to spread their philosophy of simplicity and balance ever since. Spirit of the Shuar intertwines transcribed tape recordings of Shuar voices with Perkins’s experiences. Unlike anthropological accounts, such as Philippe Descola’s more eloquent but detached Spears of Twilight, Perkins’s book is conversational and enthusiastic. He teaches us about a spirituality that arises from a deep connection with nature, one in which shamans use hallucinogens to go on spiritual journeys; the spirits of nature yield hidden knowledge about plants; and dreams can always be fulfilled.

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