Q&A – Jamaican Kabbalist Shaman – 50
FOR INTRO: Lives in Miami… left Jamaica when he was about 16/17 went back and reconnected for a short time by self. My training has been started with Bredda Man and I went to England and I studied with kabbalists over there and I came back here and I studied with Native American teachers (shamans) here. He started me there and gave me a foundation that opened me up in that way.
You have an interesting religious background. Would you explain it for us?
I am Jewish but I wasn’t raised Jewish. I found out when I was in my twenties that all my ancestors up to my grandparents were Jewish from Portugal. They were moranos, secret Jews.
Did you convert back to Judaism?
Through my studies I found out my great grandfathers on both sides were Jewish and when their wives died, they married out of the religion. I converted back to Judaism when I was about 26.
You're the first white person with a Jamaican accent I've ever met.
Oh there are a few. If you go to Jamaica you’ll meet more.
What was it like growing up white in Jamaica?
When you grow up with a lot of privilege, because you’re young and don't understand, you feel bad because of other poor people who are suffering. So at first if your parents have a conscience and are moral people they teach you about service and they teach you about giving back. My parents taught me to have good morals and they cared about the community that we lived in. They were always teaching us, like a lot of Jewish families, to give back to our community. But it’s the same thing for some poor families; they learn the same things, because their parents have a good morality and good conscience. To make a family have integrity and heartfelt compassion for their community--whether they’re rich or poor--that is like creating the most beautiful building in the world when you create a family like that. It doesn’t matter what their problems and little things are, but if you create a family that does that and cares about their community and their environment and bringing up their family in the right way, that is the most powerful work that you can do in this world.
You've developed a philosophy called "kabbalistic shamanism?" How would you describe it?
Today, kabbalah and shamanism are considered totally different, but historically kabbalah—like shamanism--was connected to the land. Jacob went out into the wilderness, put his head in the rock, and had a vision of the Tree of Life; Abraham went into the wilderness to meet God; it was never something you went into a temple to do. The wilderness was always a source for inspiration or devotion. That was in the old days. I reformulated the Tree of Life, a kabbalistic map of the human soul. The map is a linear diagram that places God at the top and humanity or earth at the bottom. But what happens below that and what happens above that? You’ve established two poles that are totally isolated and what I did was I took the two and I joined them together and made them into a circle.
So I said that the highest form of God is in the earth, it’s in our physical being, it’s not separate. That’s why kabbalah and shamanism come together because kabbalah teaches people how to access the divine in a very intellectual way, and shamanism says, "Go through the wilderness, learn from the animals, respect all of life!" It’s a circle so I put the two together and I’ve made it into a working tradition. It took me seven years to formulate it because my teachers are very serious people and I didn’t want to present something stupid; I wanted to work and present something that was worth the time and effort they put in with me.
Would you consider kabbalistic shamanism a religion?
No, it’s a philosophy. I teach through experience. Most people stick to what they know so in order for them to trust or know anything different; they have to have an experience of it. I want people to have an experience they can base their own authority on, not parrot what I say.
Your book is called "John Crow Speaks." Who is John Crow?
John Crow is a turkey vulture; they’re considered the Jamaican air force. Their job is to eat carryon--dead things like dogs that get hit on the road– so that the earth can be clean. In our way of looking at things, all of the earth is an aspect of us. Everything on the earth is a part of us –the stars, the rocks, the rivers—everything is connected to us. So garbage is our negative thoughts, our fears, all the things that pollute us and our heart. What removes the garbage in us is our courage and our honesty. John Crow, the bird, represents the qualities that move the garbage and decay from our heart. It’s a connection, a living symbol that is rooted in the human heart, that capability to transform what is dead and give them a living function.