Dialogue on Shamanism, Cont...

John Pastore (venture@CANCUN.RCE.COM.MX)
Mon, 20 May 1996 10:59:23 +0000

Clyde Davenport said:

"Monotheism may perhaps only be contrasted to animism in that
monotheism seeks to replace animism. This is quite clear in the Old
Testament. Yahweh conquers/subdues the other gods and goddesses
leaving only himself."

True enough, although I would think Dan Floss might have some light
to shed on this idea, but, whether monotheism was to replace animism
or not, the contrast to animism would seem more like the "God(s) is
Dead" theories made popular back in the late '60's.


CD: " About the delivery of a message, I think of the Buddhist idea
of skillful means (upaya). They go out into a different world, but
then they must be able to bring it back home again."

JP: Bring what back home with them? What is the "it" you refer to?

CD: The "it" is their insight, the knowledge they have gained in
non-ordinary reality. In Buddhist terms this would be their wisdom.

JP: I think it's time to differentiate between 'belief' systems, no
matter how originally based in animism (or not), from 'shamansim'
which does not requiere 'belief' or 'creed' (systemitized or not).
Whether a shaman might be 'Buddist', 'Confusiast', or simply 'Mayan',
the shaman can practice his or her abilities, not because of any
'belief' system, or, even, despite any 'belief' system. For one,
shamanism is a function, not a system, that can operate within or
without any 'belief' system --though less likely proportional to the
removal from animism the 'belief' system might be. For two, the
'enlightenment' sought by a practicioner of zen or yoga, is not the
equivelent of the 'non-ordinary reality' seen, and participated in,
by a shaman. A shaman does not return with knowledge for its own
sake, but with power: the power to heal or maim, induce nature to
cooperate, or not. A shaman does this by entering into
'non-oridinary reality' and there, hopefully, communing and allying
him or herself to the powers of nature individualized as spirits
--whether those spirits be "Mezquilito" the spirit of mezquilin, for
example, or a mountain animized. Whether the shaman also practiced a
conventional religion (though unlikely) also, would not make it
impossible for a shaman to function thusly. "Wisdom" is not required
by a shaman, only power --possibly for the wiser, but not necessary.


CD: "You misunderstand my point. If shamans have anything of
the superhuman about them it is in the context of non-ordinary
reality. But when they return to ordinary reality they are
merely human. Yet why do they return to non-ordinary reality?
One reason is to train other shamans. And they can do this
because everyone does have the potential."

JP: No, you are still missing mine. A shaman is human even in
'non-oridinary reality', and not "merely" when returned to 'ordinary
reality'. People can go to 'non-ordinary reality', be the same people
they are when returned, and when there be only as different as the
'non-oridinary reality' would have them seem.


JP: ...Moreover, shamans play out their roles whether a scientized
society is existing or not --at least within the enclaves of
animistic societies. I don't buy faith healing in organized churches
as shamanism. Shamans, are not operating on faith; and I think they
would buy LSD before they would buy LDS.

CD: Wouldn't they really buy neither? A person I know quite
well saw deer, real ones, when they did peyote, but when they
did LSD they only looked at dreams, and plastic ones at that.

JP: Maybe. You're a real naturalist Clyde.

CD: Here, I have difficulty deciphering the reasons for the
irony/sarcasm. Peyote is considered to be a spirit as well as a
plant. It is also associated with the deer among the Yaqui.
Thus when the individual in question saw deer while doing peyote
they thought it might have been because of the magical
connection between deer and peyote. The individual in question
had said that he had never had a similar kind of experience when
he had done LSD. Is this merely because of the chemical
differences in the "drugs" or is there actually some kind of
spirit associated with peyote?

JP: Apparently you did misunderstand the "irony/sarcasm", as there
was none. I was presuming you might know of the history of drugs in
the States during the late 60's and 70's when the introduction of
'horse tranquilizers' supposedly as LSD, cooinciding with a movement
toward vegetarianism and herabal teas, convinced alot of people not
to take any drugs unless they were in their 'natural' form. There
is, according to your freind's experience, truth in the notion that
natural forms, as opposed to manufactured or artificial forms,
contain a different quality of vision, not unlike a real deer from,
perhaps, a plastic, garden adornment. Nevertheless, in a pinch, a
shaman would prefer LSD to LDS. Faith healing is not shamanism, if
for no other reason that a shaman can heal, or maim, whether the
patient, or victim, knows what's going on, much less have faith in

More later...

Ka Xiik Keech Ya Utzil,

John Pastore
Writer/Guide in 'El Mayab'
("The Mayan Homeland")