Spiritual Wisdom from the Altai Mountains

Aug 4th, 2012 | By | Category: Book Reviews

This is a fascinating insight into the spiritual and folk wisdom of the Altai people of southernSiberia, written by an author who has lived there all his life and knows his subject inside out. The translation is sensitive and nuanced, and it is clear that Joanna Dobson put a great deal of work into getting this just right.

Siberia is, of course, closely associated with Shamanism, and its influence is evident throughout. However, this book goes above and beyond this to portray Altai spiritual beliefs as they have changed and developed into a distinct and dynamic cosmological framework that draws from a number of sources without diluting the essence of its original teachings. Esoteric students will see echoes of the ancient wisdom here, such as the cosmic egg, the cyclic nature of all things, the above mirrored in the below, and the unity of opposites acting as a catalyst for the birth of something completely new.

There is a formidable amount of information contained within this slim volume. Most authors would have either made the book a lot longer or crammed the information in so tight that it would be unreadable. However, Shodoev is both concise and accessible. We don’t just get an idea of the history of the Altai people and its beliefs, however, we get all the detail of those beliefs too and a real familiarity of how all its different elements interact and interrelate. This is no mean feat without confusing the reader, yet the author always keeps us there with him.

As a concise grounding in the spiritual belief system of a specific indigenous population, this is second to none. The author really gets to the heart of his subject in all its facets and even in all its complexity, an extraordinary achievement in only a hundred pages. Shaun Johnson


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