An American Shaman in the Modern World

Initiated Shaman and Teacher Marti Spiegelman discusses the primacy to modern civilization of some time-honored principles of Consciousness.

A roomful of Futures and Forex traders ~ rather unexpected place to meet a Shaman, but there was Marti Spiegelman, speaking about how to apply ancient principles of human consciousness to trading. Most the attendees, except for me, were buttoned down traders. Yet with her lean frame, silver crew cut, and piercing blue eyes Marti proceeded to captivate us all as she spoke about creating the ideal mental, emotional and pyschic state for trading.  I was attracted not only by her material, but as well by the almost evanescent certitude which which she presented it. She possesses a remarkable grasp of what are clearly some very deep principles of human consciousness.  At a roundtable lunch later, I sat next to Marti as we all discussed various transcendental ideas with applications to the real world. I knew I had to interview her!

I’m fascinated by the fact that you’re a shaman. A lot of people have a very fuzzy notion of what a shaman is...

I’ll give you an indigenous definition or three. The word ‘shaman’ is originally from the Tungus tribe in Siberia. For the Tungus people, ‘shaman’ is a title of respect for the elders of the tribe who were holders of the wisdom of their own culture, and for the people who were the masters of consciousness – the kind of consciousness that kept the culture in a thriving state.

Modern anthropologists have borrowed the term, and it has now spread around the world. So here is what’s happened, and one of the reasons we don’t clearly understand the word: indigenous people are very inclusive, so when we show up and see an indigenous person who looks like one of those masterful elders, we’re likely to say, “You’re a shaman.” they agree. Their way is to be inclusive and essentially they are saying okay, that’s the word our visitor is using, and in honor of inclusivity we’ll use their word. 

But a shaman could be a yachaq (Ecuador), a phau (Tibet), a bombo (Tamang - in the Himalayan foothills), a pampamesayoq or an altomesayoq (Peru and other areas of the Andes.) There are as many words for ‘wisdom keeper’ and ‘keeper of the principles of consciousness’ as there are cultures. Basically, the so-called shaman in a culture is first and foremost the expert in consciousness – in particular in the levels and dimensions of consciousness in which those people live. 

And secondly, the shaman is the keeper and the transmitter of the wisdom that his people live by, and the principles through which his people evolve themselves.

So would a shaman in these communities be a de facto leader? Or is there a village leader with the shaman acting as spiritual leader?

It depends on the culture. In the Andes there would be what we call a spiritual leader – a leading keeper of the indigenous wisdom base. And there might also a mayor of a community, or a president. The Q’ero nation in the Andes will elect a president, and it won’t always be the high level shaman. In other cultures those two roles may be combined.

So in some cultures there’s a separation of church and state.

Through a western lens you could perhaps say that.

Well, it’s a limited lens, I know . . .  So what actually led you to become a shaman? Can you describe your experience and perhaps something about your initiation process?

What happened with me is really classic. It’s not the sort of thing you decide to do and plan.

There’s no strategic map for it. I was in science for a while, at Harvard in biochemistry. Then I decided I didn’t like biochemistry so I tried out graphic design at the Yale school of Art and Architecture. I was bouncing around between what ever looked good and ended up building, over a couple of decades, a very beautiful career in design and business.

Toward the mid 80’s, just as the economy was beginning to tank, I had hit a pinnacle in my design work, but the design profession was taking a hit with the economy. I got tired of dealing with the challenges, so I walked away from it. I had some had time to putter around, and during this period I started to receive unsolicited invitations in my mail box; one was to work with poet David Whyte in a small study group, which I did for a couple of years. That led to my developing my ability to work with language and metaphor, which is key to shamanic work.

There were other invitations from indigenous elders to study with them directly and become initiated. And so, very quickly after I gave up my design business I started to get involved in shamanic work. I didn’t plan it; it was delivered to me and all I had to do was say yes. Within a year, I was in my first levels of initiation and beginning to teach the things that were being transmitted to me in my initiatory process. And it’s grown from there.

How long have you been studying, and when did you actually decide you could call yourself a shaman?

Well, I tend not to call myself a shaman. I object to modern people using that word so freely. 

The work I do now has been a very long time in the making. I can only see this in retrospect, that considering what I do now with my initiations, I needed to be in science for awhile; I needed to be a designer for a while; I needed to be in business, and I needed to enter the financial world, which also happened in that transitional period. I needed to study anthropology and psychology, which I’ve done as side courses. All this had to happen first before I could be available to being initiated so quickly and so deeply. This was the only way I could come out the other side realizing that my job is really is to teach modern people about consciousness – about how human consciousness actually produces abundance.

Wow. That’s some serious stuff.

Yes, it’s serious, and it’s also fun.

The Yaqui elders in central Mexico say it very succinctly. They say that shamanism is a state of consciousness...

What they mean by that is that shamanism is a state of full human consciousness, totally full.  And in full human consciousness what we do is pay attention to energy first and form second. We’re in a very different engagement with the world, and our goal – the whole focus of our collective consciousness - is to create new meaning, well-being, and abundance – nothing else.

So how are you translating this mission into your life? What kind of people are coming to you? I know you’re working in the business community somewhat.

My mission is to help people learn to embody and use the technologies of consciousness as they are encoded in original human cultures. So it’s not really a translation process – it’s direct education and mentoring. 

In the Andean culture, for example, they have encoded the organizing principles of consciousness in a beautifully interwoven body of knowledge. And really, when you get into it and start to learn it, you realize that these organizing principles of consciousness are probably the first and most elegant human description of the physics of the whole universe, one in which human consciousness plays a specific, critical role. The whole goal in culture – I think we can say this fairly safely – is to master, and embody, and become an expression of those organizing principles. Those principles help us organize our consciousness into a state of full presence and connectivity, while activating our capacity to create abundance and evolve while still maintaining cultural continuity. For every thing or solution or state of being that modern people are seeking, I can point to a piece of this technology and say “Embody that and you’ll have it.”

You refer to technology. But by the term technology we usually mean something mechanical or electronic or formulaic. . .  so do you mean a form of technique? 

Technology - it’s a very interesting thing; if we look in our own dictionary, the word technology is defined as a body of knowledge that is applied to a problem or an inquiry to either solve the problem or further the inquiry. I’ve been initiated in West Africa, South America, and the Himalayas, and speaking with all of the elders I know in these traditions and others I’ve worked in, every one of them will talk to you about the technologies of consciousness . . . They will tell you that there is a shamanic technology that is much more efficient than any modern technology, because shamanic technology works with energy, with direct knowing, and it works through the application of precise principles that describe the behaviors of energy. Modern people think of technology as a gadget because the kind of consciousness we’ve ended up with is focused on form. And if it isn’t in visible form, we don’t think it exists. So one of the things I do is remind people of this original definition of technology that comes out of our own dictionary.

I’ve always blamed Descartes for a lot of the ills of the Western World, but Plato seemed to have preceded him quite handsomely. And of course technos is a Greek word . . .  But, having studied all these traditions, would you say there are more similarities than differences between them all? And what you are presenting in your workshops, is it an amalgamation of all these technologies?

Joseph Campbell said, and I’m paraphrasing – the form is not the relevant thing.

It’s the principle that expresses the form that is the relevant thing. People ask me all the time, “How can you carry all these traditions?” Every tradition, every human culture, rises from the same network or weaving of organizing principles. They may use different ways of languaging the principles from one culture to the next; they may have a different way of imagining the principles, or they may create different forms out of these same principles, but that’s the multiplicity of the human imagination at work. The underlying principles are the same, always the same.

So can you elaborate on some of these principles?

Shamanic knowledge is a body of interwoven principles. The very core principle – the word in Quechua, which is a very beautiful language from the Andes – is Pacha.  If you just sit and feel the room around you, feel the energy, not things, just energy , you might catch for just a little moment that there is nothing other than what is here. It’s all here in the Now. There is no past, there is no carrot on a stick that you’re chasing after . . . Everything is here now. Experiencing this is the outcome of being organized in consciousness beyond the ego structure; it’s a state of awareness beyond space-time. It is limitless; it is infinite. And this is where we need to be to solve the world’s problems and start thriving again.

Joy is another organizing principle of consciousness. Enrique Peñalosa is redesigning cities in South America so people can feel joy. Joy! There is a way to experience and engage energy so you literally create joy.

There is another key principle – called Ayni in Quechua – it means, very simply, reciprocity; the bringing together of complementary opposites is one expression of ayni. But let me tell you a deeper expression – imagine two little magnets, the plus and minus poles drawn together... if you turn one magnet around and try to put like poles of the magnet together, you suddenly get that resistance, that little pillow of energy forcing them apart. That’s what we’re like in this culture; we seek sameness, and we push away difference. We don’t notice how the magnets behave, we don’t notice that pillow of energy pushing the similar poles of the magnet apart. How in the world are you going to make a molecule, let alone create anything else, if you only seek sameness? So here we are, seeking sameness, Yes, we’re all together, we believe we’re global, and yet we’re ignoring this wild energy sitting between us – wild energy that an indigenous person could train us to grab. We can learn to grab that wild energy and fuel creative processes that are UNimaginable in the kind of consciousness we’re currently sitting in.

We seem to have a lot of irreconcilable differences in the world today. Imagine you could sit in awareness and hold two irreconcilable ideologies, ideas, products – whatever you struggle with – and simply articulate the differences. Acknowledge in consciousness that this is this way, and that is that way, and then don’t do anything. Let it all be what it is! This is the technology of harmonization. When it comes to irreconcilable matters in the modern world, our question is always “What do I do?”  “Nothing,” is the indigenous answer. Let it be. When we speak of global consciousness, we’re speaking about a collective state of being. Being collective does NOT mean that everything becomes the same, or that everything is harmonious in the modern sense. Oil is not intended to mix with water. If we could harmonize the world there would be no wars, collectives and economies would be completely different, people would be happy. So we’re talking about a state of being: one is which opposites are honored and ayni [reciprocity with a multiplicity of return to everyone] is created over and over.

There was a quote on your website that intrigued me, “With each journey we weave another thread into the global fabric of rising human consciousness.”  And I’m curious – are you generally optimistic about this rising level of human consciousness actually interweaving so successfully that what seem to be forces of destruction at work on earth get quelled, abated?

I mostly have good days on this topic, and I have a few bad days, too.

Much of the meaning and value that drive our current choices lie beyond the boundaries of modern awareness. This leaves us in a difficult position. Without awareness flowing into deeper levels of human consciousness, where meaning and value are generated, we don't know as much as we think we do about the choices we make.

Humans are wired for thriving. Yet the wiring for thriving in the modern world is tangled...

and we've lost the flow of awareness that highlights interconnectivities, leaving us unable to forecast certain types of consequences. We aren't able to evolve new types of meaning and value properly. We're left dependent on linear consciousness, which, by itself, lacks visionary skill. This is why we see so many unintended and unfortunate consequences emerging in the world, especially in organizations and complex systems. And this is why we're having such a hard time taking new actions that produce innovative outcomes. We're not awake at the level of consciousness where meaning and value are created.

But the miraculous thing about consciousness is that it is a universal force – it’s not something that human beings own – and this universal force is on the move. I love this story that Max Planck tells. He was the theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory. He speaks of sitting one day staring at a model of an atom, and [if I may paraphrase] he said “I looked at this model of an atom long enough and I really understood; I could feel that there were forces that keep those electrons in orbit. And I had a sense that this model of the atom looks like a model of the solar system.”

And he stayed with it because he thought this was really interesting. It’s small and yet it’s big, and the more he felt what he was looking at, he finally realized that there is ‘an intelligence that moves the forces that keep those electrons in their orbits’. That intelligence, the very one that Max Planck experienced, is, and has been, recognized by every indigenous culture in the world; and that intelligence in this day and age we can call ‘Consciousness’, with a capital ‘C’.

We also call it Allah, Yahweh, God – whatever one’s word is. The Yaqui Masters would say that intelligence is an immeasurable, indefinable, yet totally present force in the universe, and all indigenous cultures recognize in some way that it speaks us into being. They also recognize that intelligence is clearly on the move. One of my favorite examples of this is a beautiful book called Firms of Endearment by Raj Sisodia and his colleagues. It describes medium to large-scale businesses that are becoming conscious. Now where do these ‘conscious business’ ideas come from? In the modern world no one is actually figuring this out logically. These ideas are coming because Consciousness moves into a human’s awareness and deposits an idea, and if somebody is open enough and free enough they’ll take the idea and run with it. They may later trademark it, which is kind of a mistake, because it hampers the collectivity we’re seeking. But this rise in consciousness is happening. I found another example of consciousness rising, this time in the financial world – this is one you can experience at the now-frequent conferences on wealth building. The speakers and trainers at the conference I attended were all experienced in business and finance, and they had all learned through experience what money means, how to make it, put it to good use, and not waste it. To my surprise, these speakers were all talking about the importance of love, community, presence and authenticity, reciprocity, and more – one by one every organizing principle of the technologies of consciousness was named as a vital factor in creating and distributing abundance. The speakers didn’t realize that they were guided by the technologies of consciousness, but in the moment it didn’t matter. They were being fully conscious because Consciousness is on the move.

Let’s go back to Firms of Endearment. Can you tell me which of the firms the author was talking about?

My favorite example is Southwest Airlines. CEO Herb Kelleher’s realized when he had the opportunity of pulling Southwest out of its economic troubles that he didn’t have to model the company after other airline companies. Instead he looked at what they actually offered in terms of service and how they actually moved people and freight around. Instead of seeing an airline company model, he realized that Southwest Airlines offered services much more similar to buses and trains, not airlines. Based on this he completely changed the framework of the business, because he was allowing creative thought to flow. He let fluidity take primacy and that fluidity – that insight – presented him with a new framework for a business. As he was doing this he realized that the only way he could implement such a radical change was to really care about his people, and teach them to care about their customers at that same level. Through caring – the organizing principle of universal love – he was able to create the business in a way that it worked for the customers, as opposed to the usual way, which is to shape a business to a preconceived plan. This is consciousness opening up – no one took him to Peru and initiated him – he was available to Consciousness on the move. It’s a big thing. 

So here is another quote of yours I’d like to ask you about: 

“Shamanic work of its nature is luminous – it must be carried out in luminous awareness. The actual technology underlying all shamanic work is based on this conscious, direct awareness of the behaviors of all energies. If we were to take a stroll through the great traditions of conscious human development and evolution we would find, over and over, references to light, to the light of consciousness, the light of insight, the light of awareness and creation.” 

Can you talk about that light? I understand that light is a huge part of the human body...

Light is everything, and humans have always known that. You can go back through all the shamanic traditions, through the contemplative traditions, and you’ll find that everybody is talking about the principles of light, the light of insight, the light of Christ Consciousness, the light of the 3rd eye. It’s not just indigenous cultures that have this awareness. Every culture understands light – light is understood to be the source of everything. In the Andes they have a teaching about this world we live in, this world of form – the definition of our world is ‘what light strikes’. They say it this way because light arrives here, and this world happens. You know what it takes for a seed to sprout – it has to get hit by a couple of photons – this world IS what light strikes. And we emit light. Everything that’s alive has an energetic architecture – a highly organized energetic body that is made of light – basically, highly organized photons – and emits light [photons]. Human beings have a very specific light architecture; when it’s initiated we call it the medicine body. 

Is that something we see in Kirlian photography? Is that the aura?

I think Kirlian photography is humankind’s best shot at recording two dimensions of what’s actually there. A Kirlian image is a photographic record of the luminous architecture, but we can only capture two dimensions because our awareness is only awake in two, maybe three dimensions. The aura is something different. And I don’t mean to diminish anyone’s expertise, because people do skillful work with auras, but the aura is essentially the energy that’s coming off the specific structure. It’s a little like heat off a hot asphalt road. And yes, you can learn to see the auras, all the wavelengths and colors, and it’s diagnostic, but that’s not the actual architecture.

 So is that then what an M-field is? Where a seed, for instance, actually projects outside of itself as it’s growing – a kind of blueprint in light of itself?

What I’m suggesting is that the blueprint already exists. So the seed doesn’t project it; it’s already there. The seed is there because the map of the seed is in that blueprint. Form is secondary. Energetic mapping and framework are primary.

Well, not to get back to Plato again, but it does sound like his concept of the ideal form, which precedes the earthly form.

Well that’s interesting, because the space and time of Plato’s culture is so close to the source of our modern cultural stream. At that time, human beings were actually shifting away from nature and toward thinking and introspection, trying to figure things out and explain things. We were shifting away from relational consciousness, where our real genius lies, toward reason and linearity and rationality.  

And abstraction. 

Yes, God help us. If you read Plato carefully, you’ll find a little a mix – a little bit of memory of how things actually are in the full dimensions of the world. But then you’ll find that lapse into isolated rational thinking – everything defined via causality – if this then that – everything pinned down in some way, proven in some way. And then the thinkers of that time lose their awareness of and connection to the dimensions of energy that speak our world into being.

Yes, well I think Heraclitus did still had his finger on it, 100 years before Plato – “can’t step in the same river twice... all is flux.”  But let’s get down to terra firma again; could you speak about your workshops in Peru?

I’ve actually never done workshops per se. What I do is very hardcore; you have to commit to the long-term, initiation program. For a long time I was running the Shaman’s Light™ training program, and I would take people into that program who were interested in shamanism and indigenous cultures. In the first few years of training people, my interest was solely in initiating people so I could transmit that information to them. After a while, I began to notice that people who were interested in shamanic information, at least in that day and age, weren’t very well educated when it came to issues of value, and their own value, or how to invest in their own growth – these are all shamanic principles I’ve just mentioned. These are principles of consciousness. Every one of us is priceless, and we have to invest in our own blossoming, and so many of the people who flocked to shamanism were terrible at that process of blossoming themselves. They were generally not skilled at making money, and often unable to keep financial commitments. And so I got really interested in money, and how to teach people about money and value creation.

I went off to one of these conferences where you learn from millionaires how to make a million dollars. As I said earlier that’s where I first noticed that people who were experts in money – experts in making money and investing – were actually starting to talk about the principles of consciousness. I knew they didn’t realize this, because I knew none of them had been initiated. Yet I was hearing them speak most often about the principle of universal or collective love, a deeper aspect of love than we usually engage in modern culture. I heard statements about relationships and presence, which were also expressions of organizing principles of consciousness; and I thought. “That’s very interesting. I know all about those principles, so why don’t I start working with these people who are teaching people about money. Let me help them be fully conscious, and then we can really teach people how to make money.” 


This led me to develop some new programs. I ended up getting trained in trading by Courtney Smith, the founder of the Investment Mentoring Institute and WealthBuilders LLC. He taught me one-on-one for many years. Then I became a mentor for his students and began to develop training programs for his students, to teach them the organizing principles of consciousness and precisely how they relate to being a good trader. All the principles lead to being a great trader. You know we always say in trading that you have to keep your emotions out of the picture. It turns out the emotional self is related to a particular aspect of human consciousness, and when you train yourself in the technologies of consciousness, you can move your awareness away from emotions into a more powerful aspect of consciousness and become a really great trader.

I need to take this course with you!

I would love to have you take the course. It would be spectacular.

You’re heading off to Peru again. Will you discuss what you’ll be doing down there?

I go to Peru several times a year. I go, usually in the spring, with my students, and they work with the same elders who initiate me. Then in the summer I go with my colleagues for further research and initiation. I’d like to honor my colleague José Luis Herrera, who I think single-handedly has kept the doorway open for us to have contact with the shamans holding the highest level of wisdom in the Andes. I am forever grateful to him.

So we travel to work with the pampamesayoqs and altomesayoqs in the Peruvian Andes, receiving an on-going stream of Information about consciousness, and the meaning and powers of the organizing principles. Some of the information we’re being given has not spoken of in hundreds of years – it is being brought forward for us because of our dedication to the engagement with our brothers and sisters in the Andean cultures. Some of the information is totally new, never before delivered into our world, but delivered now because humankind needs it – and this means we are also being initiated in new ways. The keepers of this wisdom, these masters of consciousness, are asking us to embody their knowledge and bring it home; they are asking us to put the wisdom to work to awaken our culture before it’s too late. This is the most extraordinary cultural exchange I have ever been gifted.

I’m getting goosebumps. And yes, Western culture has strayed. And it does seem a beautiful move to turn back to these cultures, and give them a chance to speak and open our hearts and minds again. Why don’t you talk a bit about your programs? 

I have three aspects of training right now. One is the Shaman’s Light™ program, which is the hardcore initiation program, and that’s a long-term commitment. I take about 10 students per training group and we spend the first year just learning the state of full consciousness, which I call luminous awareness. That’s a term that, as we say in the shamanic biz, was downloaded to me from the spirits at the time they were transmitting the technologies of luminous awareness to me. After learning the state of full consciousness, the students spend the next two years in several phases of initiation. I always initiate students first into the Andean lineages that I carry, and then I will take them into some of the other lineages that I carry. Once everyone is initiated, we proceed into a three-year mentoring program, where people apply the technologies of consciousness to bringing their own passion forward and putting themselves out in the world in a way that actually starts to create a legacy. Because one of the things we really want and need – and this is embedded in human cultures – is to recognize that everyone’s experience in life has incredible value. Everyone needs to blossom in order to add their own experiential knowledge to the full data base of human experiential knowledge. In this way we add to the beauty of the world, to the mystery of the universe, and we evolve everything.     


I have people who have been with me 10 to 11 years. The basic part of the training program is the first three-year segment, during which initiation occurs. This is followed by the Mentoring program and graduate level work. First you get the Maserati GranTurismo, then you have to learn how to drive it. The whole program is described on the website – and people are welcome to contact me if they have questions or are interested in participating.

I know you actually relate all this to your practice as an investor, another aspect of your endeavor. Could you expand on that and your work with the business community? 

Business is nothing more or less than the center for the creation, exchange, and distribution of value.  this is exactly what business does.

As far as global consciousness is concerned, the only thing that’s valuable is that which supports thriving, and as businesses ‘go global’ they need more than ever to understand the principles of consciousness that will not just sustain them but produce the power to flourish through time.

Most recently I’ve been working with business consultants and leading edge thinkers in the business world. I’ve been developing very concentrated programs in the technologies of consciousness for business leaders – programs that don’t require the long-term initiation and can be implemented more rapidly in a business or financial environment. These programs are offered through my business Awakening Value™.

The programs I’ve developed for the awakening of consciousness in business and finance constitute a call for courageous leaders and senior advisors, those who seek better ways to create, manage, govern, and live in co-emerging resonance. 

As I mentioned, these leadership programs don’t involve initiation, but I am looking to find some CEOs who are ready for full initiation, because that would be much more powerful. However, we can bring the technologies of consciousness into corporations where the CEOs and leadership teams of the company are available and fluid enough in their learning skills to absorb new material and do business really differently. And so we’re focused on business first, because business runs the world, second on our list is government – any government agency that we can affect – and third on our list is education. 

I think you need to hit the bankers too.

Yes, I think that finance and government are tied for second place on that list.

There’s a crossover between the work I do in the financial arena and the business arena. There are people who are designing alternative currencies and remapping global finance, which are beautiful expressions of consciousness on the move, and great places for the technologies to focus and empower the results. So there’s a lot of beautiful conversation going on now, and we’re implementing new, very intensive programs for both business and financial leaders at this time.

Well I must say, your Shamanic friends in the Andes must be very very proud of you!  Keeping their traditions alive and making them accessible to modern society, its leaders and its visionaries.  Thanks so much, Marti. Keep up the great work.  By the way, I’ve been thinking it might be time for a new car, but perhaps what I really need is one of those Maserati’s!

 You're welcome Ellary – and thank you for this opportunity to share the wisdom.



Marti Spiegelman’s work is devoted to raising consciousness – to helping leaders in the modern world master the original technologies of consciousness in order to restore their businesses and organizations as centers for the innovative creation, exchange, and distribution of value for the greater good.