“Culture clubbed” (Lynn Andrews)

ANDREWSPICWhen I visit my wife’s hometown in the rural Philippines, I encounter a culture different from the one I grew up in. The religion is a Catholicism-witch doctor mix that includes a belief in a quasi-reincarnation which enables deceased relatives to sojourn in spirit or butterfly form. Neighborhoods are not quite tribal, but they feature a much stronger sense of identity than what is found in the United States. Most families grow at least some of their own food, usually rice and coconuts. While I’ve been warmly received in my handful of trips, it is unlikely that an outsider such as myself would ever be accorded access to the area’s deepest secrets and beliefs, even though I married into the culture. And it is much less likely that this scenario would happen six times to an interloper visiting disparate locations that prize tradition and secrecy.

But that is the claim of Lynn Andrews, who says she has been trained and mentored by shamans from various cultures, all of whom make up a highly-select group called the Sisterhood of the Shields.  

Her story of where these ideas and practices come from is almost certainly fabricated. Not that it matters much. Whether she came up with it on her own, or if she is heir to a multi-cultural conglomerate has no bearing on the legitimacy of what she’s peddling. And that is the notion that there is a magic emotional healing available through all of nature, and which has been used by every ancient culture and it still bursting through everyone’s chakra. Despite this ubiquity, it can only be accessed by purchasing it from Andrews.

Most of her writing features undefined New Age terms, but she is adaptable enough to throw in a dash of pseudoscience, such as, “Quantum physics, along with discovering the different ways the right and left hemispheres of the brain process information and function, are giving modern societies a greater understanding of the energy waves of life that bind us together and sometimes pull us apart when we are out of sync with the rhythms of our lives.”

In this sentence, she uses science terms, but tosses them into a gibberish gumbo. Quantum physics is the study of the behavior of matter at the molecular, atomic, and smaller levels. It is unrelated to society’s understanding of energy. As it happens, society’s understanding of energy is somewhat limited, as evidenced by the fact that Andrews and those like her get away with misusing the word. Her writing wows those who don’t know she is mangling terms, and the reader is left impressed, or at least confused and looking to Andrews to explain further. She also gets away with claiming to be on the cutting edge since her verbiage is unfamiliar.

While appealing to the future, she still makes the standard alternative medicine appeal to antiquity, writing, “These are the natural energies of the universe that Shamans have practiced for millenniums.” Of course, how long something has been used has nothing to do with its effectiveness.

Andrews excitedly reports that we are nearing the end of a 5,200-year Mayan cycle, a 1,000-year Incan cycle, and are entering a new Chinese cycle. In each case, this will lead to increased “cosmic wisdom, peace, harmony, and tranquility.” There have been multiple waits of 1,000 years or more, but they all happen to end in time for Andrews to take commercial advantage of it. Her energy waves do seem quite in synch after all. Even more, “new feminine energies” will use Lake Titicaca as a conduit, and pilgrims can soak these up by signing on for Andrews’ spiritual journey to Peru.  

With regard to this feminist energy, Andrews writes briefly about the “millenniums- long patriarchal oppression,” but never encourages voting, blogging, dialoging, campaigning, or organizing. Rather, the solution is to dress in natural fiber clothes, adorn sun jewelry, bang drums, and dance about a fire. Or more specifically, participate in these liberating activities at Andrews’ $800 retreats. There is also the option of paying $150 to talk with her by telephone for an hour. Or you can call me instead. Your cosmic energy won’t be any more attuned with Neptune or elk, but the chat is free and I will have Iron Maiden playing in the background.

If purchasing her phone services, seminar seats, or study programs, Andrews says students will be privy to knowledge she gained while apprenticing under shamans on four continents. Locales for these spiritual awakenings included the Yukon, the Yucatan, the Australian outback, the Himalayan foothills, the Pyramids, and Hawaiian shores. She never made it to Moline, Schenectady, or Tulsa. She knows the more exotic the locale, the more mystic it will seem to her followers. At some point in this spiritual journey, she claims to have been enshrined into the highly-secretive Sisterhood of the Shields, which numbers just 44 members. Furthermore, they appointed her as their spokesperson.

It is highly unlikely that Andrews gained access to folk medicine women from each of these cultures, and was encouraged to publicize what had been secretive methods. There is no indication of the Sisterhood’s existence separate from Andrews’ claims. These women from all parts of the world would had to have organized into an extremely tight group, then tapped an interloper to the spread cultural secrets of proud peoples. There is no good answer for how women raised in disparate cultures and religions would have sown together a seamless spiritual tapestry. In one case, Andrews  claims to be quoting a Lakota while using Cree terms.

Furthermore, she has cited Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs as two of her mentors, but  has never provided even a photo to document their existence. She did, however, relate that they had visited her again in 2014 and told her of a new vortex near Sedona that will open DNA doorways and provide energies from Mother Earth. Best of all, this new vortex coincided with the location of Andrews’ spring gathering that year. For several hundred dollars you get it all: Love, tranquility, and a previously unknown dimensional doorway.

Usually for my accompanying photo, I try to dig up something that highlights the ridiculous nature of the subject and maybe add some lazy Photoshopping. In this case I’m just using a picture from Andrews’ website because it accomplishes both of those goals nicely.

As to the words on that website, check this out: “Discover the ancient teachings of the Feminine Divine and learn how to heal and integrate your Sacred Feminine Energy Shield into wholeness. Through sound, action and intention, you heal the energy centers of your body – your heart, solar plexus and chakras. Move into Oneness and harmony with Mother Earth and the world around you as she shows you how to heal your life. This is the Way of the Wolf.”

In the end, is matters not whether these ideas are from Andrews alone or something cobbled together by herself and 43 other shamans. In either case, the result is pseudoscientific psychobabble that appeals to those comforted by platitudes, myths, tales, mysticism, and the appeal to nature fallacy, all wrapped in a bow of bastardized feminism.


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