Re: Dialogue on Shamanism, Cont... (Let's go flying!)

John Pastore (venture@CANCUN.RCE.COM.MX)
Wed, 22 May 1996 12:21:09 +0000

On 23 May 96 at 12:29, Clyde Davenport wrote:

> Continuation of Dialogue on Shamanism: 23 May 96, John
> Pastore/Clyde Davenport

> >
> > CD: I'm a little unclear on your point. Do you mean that "God is
> > Dead" theories were meant to be a replacement for standard
> > (Christian) monotheism (but a replacement which by its very nature
> > undercut the foundation of the other)?
> >
> JP: No, I'm not talking about any kind of replacements. I'm using
> the "God is Dead" idea in that it may exemplify the opposite of
> animate as a verb, as in inanimate as a verb --the opposite of
> putting life into something.

JP: Just to expand on this point for a moment, and perhaps satisfy
your need for an ethical slant (or lack of ethics): an evil sort of
animating may, in fact, exist in shamanism as in the animating of
zombies in Voo-Dooism. I do not know if Voo-Dooism, though, is


> JP: ... though the ambience animism provides would better foster
> the practice of shamanism, which has an animistic world-view,
> shamanism in itself is not dependent on, or limited to, any
> attached belief systems or creeds.
> CD: Still, though, I wonder how shamanism can have an animistic
> world-view yet at the same time not be dependent on it.

JP: Shamanism can't be independent of animism as a reality, but can
be of " any belief system or creed" attached to it as in the dogmas (if
any), or belief system of Shintoism for example.


> >JP: ...For two, the 'enlightenment' sought by a practicioner of zen
> >or yoga, is not the equivelent of the 'non-ordinary reality' seen,
> >participated in, by a shaman.
> >
> > CD: In what way?
> >


To expand on this point too: "insight" is not the goal of a shaman
--quite the opposite. A shaman is always on the lookout for a vision
of 'non-ordinary' reality, as when seeing between the light rays.
Call it outsight, if you will.

> > I (CD) tend to feel that shamanism is a system of knowledge of
> > alternative realities. Through this knowledge various powers are
> > possible. But the motivation of the shaman I feel is not defined
> > by power but rather the attraction of the other as something in
> > itself. And part of this attraction is a desire to "know" the
> > other, in the various senses the "know" has.
> >
> JP: Shamanism isn't a system of knowledge of alternate realities
> anymore than seeing that the sky is blue requries a system of
> knowledge to perceive the sky as blue. I don't even think a shaman
> needs to know the why of a non-ordinary reality to perceive and
> participate in that reality, anymore than a non-shaman needs to know
> the why of ordinary reality to percieve and participate in that
> reality --though it would help.
> CD: Here, although I see the point you are trying to make and even
> partially agree with it, I also think that there is another side to
> this. If in some ways our participation in ordinary reality seems
> effortless, this is only because we have forgotten all the efforts
> we made as infants and young children to master participation in the
> world. It's like riding a bike. It's pretty difficult to learn how
> to do, but once you learn how it becomes effortless. There's a
> whole complex of physical skills, combined linguistic/physical
> skills (the way we map our actions onto the world, the way we
> construct cognitive event schemas), combined social/linguistic
> skills (how we map out social relations of giving and taking, etc.),
> and purely linguistic skills (metalinguistic evaluations, etc.)
> which take a lot of effort to learn (albeit we do have some sort of
> biological predisposition to this kind of learning, but the point is
> that even with this predisposition the process is not automatic).
> And from the other end of things, I (CD) would expect that a shaman
> would have to go to a lot of effort to learn the rules of the game
> in non-ordinary reality.

JP: Yes, a shaman would --especially if having to contend with
another shaman, but that knowledge, no matter the cultural
accoutrements of the language a shaman would have to express him or
herself in, I think would be learned from the experiences within a
'non-ordinary' reality common to all cultures, despite the variations
among shamans as when the Yaquis might employ peyote, while a Mayan
might use balche, or a Tibetan Cave Hermit controlled dreaming. Same
for the varying kinds and associations shamans may make for charms
which can elicit patron spirits from 'non-ordinary' reality.

> CD: My point in saying the above was to imply that our tendency to
> identify or "individualize" things as having some unitary essence or
> thingness such that a rock is always merely a rock, a piece of
> stone, that peyote is merely the cactus thingie we see before our
> eyes with its circular shape, its green color, and the fuzzy stuff
> on top, is what makes for ordinary (i.e. tangible, in the naive
> sense of tangible as somehow right at hand--forgetting that we have
> learned complex ways of relating tactile manipulation to visual
> perception and linguistic description in our childhoods, and it is
> through these matrices of understanding that we evaluate the
> "things" in the world) reality. Thus one way of seeing the
> shamanistic venture into non-ordinary reality is that it is a kind
> of epoche of bracketing of the *singularity* of our experience of
> things in the world. They lose their identity as single, tangible
> things and take on many shapes/forms/realities at the same time.

JP: Apparently you meant superficializing when saying
individualizing. Learning to see between the light rays would then be
simply adding another sensory perception to the arsenal; and learning
astro-projection would be simply be adding another capability for
investigation. * see end.

> CD: Yes, I agree that shamanism is independent of ethics. I still,
> though, have doubts about whether it can be totally separated from
> the animistic world-view.

JP: Never meant to imply that shamanism could or should be separated
from an animistic world-view --just whatever belief systems or creeds
that might attach themselves to such world-views.

... I think, though, that here we are talking
> around the same issue. You stress the independece of the two (while
> at the same time granting that shamanism tends to flourish to the
> degree that it exists within an animistic culture) to emphasize that
> it cannot be reduced to a belief system, a framework of knowledge,
> etc. while I want to say that animism and shamanism are not separate
> (albeit while admitting that shamanism is essentially a body of
> practices) in order to illuminate its historical and cultural
> context. In regard to power, if the word is defined as you define
> it here then I have no problem with seeing shamanism as concerned
> with power, the experience of a non-ordinary power. On the other
> hand, when you talked about the power of shamans before, it was in
> the context of "the power to heal or maim, induce nature to
> cooperate, or not." To me the choices represented by the
> dichotomies of heal/main, or induce to cooperate/leave as is, are
> dependent on a cultural framework of value, and a cultural
> definition of power as power over something, or someone.

JP: Well, I was speaking before of a shaman's "ability", not power,
to heal or maim, etc. However, how ethics might be involved in the
application of such abilities, if they exist, seem private between
the shaman and his or her client.


> JP: I don't think so. Both ordinary and non-ordinary reality would
> exist whether people and their cultures existed or not.
> CD: To me, ordinary reality is by definition our perception of the
> world, our shared agreement on what the world is or is not.
> Ordinary reality is, thus, a cultural creation. Without people it
> would not exist. Non-ordinary reality encompasses the various
> potentialities of the world outside the framework of culture.

JP: I think ordinary reality would exist, just as it did for the
dinosaurs before the appearance of humanity --likewise for
non-ordinary reality. We can check it out if you like.



> CD: Actually, looking back at my previous comment I see that I more
> or less sidestepped the issue of whether faith healing was shamanism
> or not in order to talk about the issue of deception in performances
> (as well as to be able to make a pun). Concerning the connection,
> we would have to note that in at least some kinds of Protestant
> faith-healing, the healing is considered to be the work of the holy
> spirit. I am not sure of the exact kind of mechanism involved,
> whether the holy spirit goes from one body of a believer to another,
> or whether it is called down from the heavens, but clearly some form
> of animism is involved here: as you mentioned before the concept of
> the Holy Spirit in Christianity is indeed an animistic notion.

JP: I think there is a great difference between the allying of
spirits from nature (whose totality may be God), and God himself
--your pun: "sham-anizing" was apt, though there must be some
psychosomatic incidents which might put some sort of stamp of
validity on it for some.

... The
> question, here, is then whether or not an animist world view can be
> related to shamanism or not. You see no connection...

JP: Of course there is a connection. There would be no shamanism if
there were no animism. I see no connection as to any belief systems
or creeds that might attach themselves as being required for
shamanism --though, as you have mentioned, there may be some help for
a shaman in that a belief system might embody knowledge on the
"rules" of the game so to speak.

... so you can keep
> faith healing as separate (and also you point out the whole
> phenomenology of belief in fundamentalist Christian faith healing:
> if you believe in Jesus, you will be saved/healed!). I on the other
> hand do not see such a clear separation. Thus, I tend to interpret
> faith healing as a variant of the mediumistic kind of shamanism
> where spirits are called down into the body.

JP: Yet, shamanism requires no faith.


* Clyde, I'm going to invite a couple of people who I think might be
interested in learning how to astroproject --Tibetan Cave Hermit
style (no drugs required). I want to do an experiment: go flying
with some girl. Are you game?

Ka Xiik Keech Ya Utzil,

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

"A teepee is a pyramid, isn't it?"