KOYASAN, JAPAN, 2021

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK "SPIRITUS MUNDI"

PUBLISHED IN 2005 BY DBA EDITORA AND RE-EDITED IN 2021

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y journey began thousands of years ago. It shall continue long into the future. This is where my spirit dwells — the forest, the mountain, the sky — where I wander, where every part of me has always belonged. Our passage through 

life is a hectic temporal journey shadowed by the tick tock of a clock until we return once more to our source. Life begins and ends in the same place, and all that exists in between is a space to learn and evolve. We can float through this borrowed space, forgetting the transient nature of our existence, or we can dive deeper by recognizing that all of humanity influences and is influenced by a collective consciousness: the Spiritus Mundi

 

Spiritus Mundi is the Latin name for the World Spirit or quintessence, the fifth element that is active everywhere as a spirit suffusing the four elements of the material world: earth, water, fire and air. It is an archetypal concept, which, throughout the history of mankind, has symbolized a deeply rooted yet mysterious force that not only connects all living things, but also justifies the order and purpose of all elements in nature. 

For thousands of years, indigenous cultures revered nature as the very breath and spirit of the world. Etched in their psyche was a primordial belief that the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees and the whole cosmic process follow a cyclic pattern: creation out of destruction, life out of death, and the eternal cycle of renewal and rebirth. Native American medicine wheels depict the universe in this fashion as a circle beginning with conception, life, change and learning, followed by the end of physical life and ultimately closing the circle with the return to ancestry. My work follows a similar logic and is about origins and endings, about people, about faces that haunt, about the passing of time and nostalgia for an innocence lost, about mortality and return. It is about humanity as a whole as much as it is about my own evolution as a human being.

Sacha Dean Biyan | Shaman, Indonesia

SHAMAN, INDONESIA, 2015

BREAKDOWN, BOLIVIA, 2002

next day would bring. I set off into the unknown to fill a void in my own space, to discover what lies hidden behind the framework of what we all cling to in our society. What began as a yearning for adventure and exploration evolved into a spiritual journey for me, taking me around the globe and back to the very root of humanity. 

 

I roamed the earth for seven years, back and forth between four continents, in search of something intangible. I lived out of Jeeps and improvised tents and spent days on end traveling by foot or in dugout canoes to some of the most remote and inhospitable corners of the planet. I followed the rhythm of nature and the movement of the tribes through extreme landscapes and unpredictable climates. My days had no plan, no schedule, no routine, except that which nature imposed on me for eating and sleeping. 

At times the heat was suffocating and the rains torrential. At other times the cold was numbing and the winds punishing. Once, our canoe capsized during a storm, and all of my film and thousands of dollars worth of photo gear were swallowed into the abyss of the Amazon River. Another time, I spent four sleepless nights camped out in sub-zero temperatures in the high, windswept, vast and desolate salt flats of southern Bolivia when our Jeep sunk into three feet of mud. Then, along the perilous winding roads that climb up into the Andes, on several occasions our car narrowly escaped head-on collisions with oncoming buses and trucks by veering to the edge of a sheer 12,000-foot drop. We even avoided an avalanche one time by mere minutes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my fieldwork, I faced these and other risks like malaria, dysentery and frostbite on a regular basis. I pushed my body and mind to their limits and became immune to the discomforts and isolation, eventually relinquishing my will to a higher force. The real spirit of adventure is the cry of man against nature, or rather even the whisper of a higher force exposing man to himself. In the silence of the mountains, through the darkness of the jungle, in the absence of words and thoughts, with each step into the unknown, we move toward a new discovery, an inner discovery. And in these discoveries lies dormant a powerful awareness.

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or some time, I felt a restless need to distance myself from the trappings of the Western world, to shake off some of my material bonds to civilization and to remember what it felt like to not be in control of anything — to not know what the

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testament of the indomitable spirit that exists within us all that remarkable, divine strength driven by faith that allows us to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.

 

In the focus upon the landscapes and its native peoples, my camera became an instrument to see into the shadows of the soul. Humanity in all its beauty, strength, weakness, shyness and exhibitionism is depicted through the eyes, the smiles, the emotions, gestures, costumes, and personalities of the people who allowed me into their lives, if even for a brief instant. Each image, each captured moment, is a celebration of the cultural and geographical diversity of our world, and of the parallels and connections that exist within the human race.

From the dark womb of the Amazon jungle to the lonely plateaus of the Himalayas, from the vast dunes of the Sahara Desert to the mean streets of Calcutta, despite the differences in climate, geography, language and beliefs, the thread of life is the same. I went to these places, unconsciously expecting their inhabitants to have the answers to all my questions, but I found no romantic savages or gurus with mystic powers or secrets. All I found were simple people with a distinctive culture living one day at a time like the rest of us. Every single one was fascinating and inspiring. Everyone had a story of love and heartbreak, of joy and tragedy, hope and despair. Everyone shared similar dreams and aspirations. And every one of them makes the world a richer place. 

 

Regardless of the spirits they revere or the legends they believe, regardless of the rituals they practice or the costumes they wear, these people across the globe only reinforced my view of how very much we're all alike, separated only by a thin veil of culture. My work is a celebration of them — the ditch digger, the miner, the shaman, the street sweeper, the mother, the fisherman, the teacher — all people who deserve the recognition of being worthy. They have shown me that humanity is an opus of ingenuity, awe-inspiring in its foundation and limitless in its creativity. We're all a part of it, connected by our sameness despite our differences; thus each one of us, in our own unique way, has the potential to affect the world at large.▪️

y journey thus far has encompassed more than my encounters with vanishing cultures, more than a return to the origin of human consciousness — more, even than a venture into a world of incomparable beauty and mystery. It is a

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Sacha Dean Biyan | Indonesia

INDONESIA, 1995

Sacha Dean Biyan | Indonesia

MALAYSIA, 1998

SPIRITUS MUNDI

Spiritus

Mundi

The real spirit of adventure is the cry of man against nature, or rather even — the whisper of a higher force exposing man to himself.