Shamanism is a dimension of human experience that can be found in every culture in any age. It can be observed in a variety of forms, ranging from a fundamental spontaneous experience, derivative culturally shared practices, or as veiled motifs of spiritual, medical, artistic, scientific, and psychotherapeutic interventions.

Paradoxically, as shamanism becomes more culturally shared, it may become less authentic—less culturally challenging—and degenerative. Provoked by an experience of everyday life as a sort of “half-truth,” shamanism is a method that focuses on the erroneous belief in a separation of human life from nature. Shamanism focuses specifically on remaining alert to the creatural dimensions of human life that can be overridden by cultural, socio-psychological dimensions of everyday life.

Shamanism is an expression of an enduring wild state to remain alert to the changing conditions of existence and integrate into the natural world that continues to design and express human life across the long run.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Now I Listen

Copyright Lance Kinseth, A Prayer Of Trees And Owls and Buttrflies, 36"x36

On river’s brim, willows divine vast draining news.

I apologize to wind and water and flora
That it took so very long to listen.

Still, it all comes inside as so much gabble
And yet, this gabble offers more than enough light.

No, it is not an explicit answer.
It is meaning-full and bright.

I am provoked to ask a question.
I am answered with a luminous, luxurious question.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Copyright Lance Kinseth, What Is This?, study on panel, 11”x13

With rattles of pebbles and hooves,
My being-ness outfolds into a winging.

Each of my breaths
Allows those who have preceded me to breathe.

Your uncle’s hands twitch in you hands,
Say my closest relations.

It has been said that
My skin tones and my height are souls.

It has been said that
My laughter and even my tears are souls.

It has been said that
Each of my hairs is a soul.

It has been said that
I am gathering clouds and wind-in-grass.

How many animal sounds have conspired
To make my voice tones?

When I become an opening wing,
I am not obliterated.

My soul-ness is polyfablulous:
Multifold multiplicities.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Copyright Lance Kinseth, Seeing In The Dark: Two Crows, 11"x14, 2012

I go down into the gaps in the world:

Across many years of returns,
I would go down into a gap alongside an obscure river.
There, I was drawn to the wide faces of sandstone cliffs.
After some passing of time, peering between fine grains,
I found myself ambling in compressed, lush forests,
Long before any of my kind had appeared in this Earthstream.
But still, I felt at home and comforted.
You and I were present there even before we had taken form.
We were forthcoming.

To give you a small taste
Perhaps you well allow me to try to convey some small glints from one such return:

Gazing into those sandstones then,
My shoulders gradually stilled and became two hillocks.
And that which had likely called me there on one occasion arrived:

My stillness was checked by a thunderous storm gathering over this gap.
Sky began to reach down and engulf me,
And in it I found a ladder of rain and began to climb.
My body filled with songs of lightning.
In my age, such sentences sound impossible or metaphorical
Or even grandiose and illusory,
But I am a child of this landscape.
I bow in humility and apologize for not having better words for it.

As the storm passed, I ascended out of the gap with a sense of completion.
The admonishments that were sung to me were received.
And yet, how to describe this comprehensive, integrated before-of-words?

Crow appeared overhead and then spiraled in arabesques down over the river.
I was not watching crow.
My eyes were the vista of hills and river and crow.
I was strung to crow.
The tail of wind that crow rode swept in across my tongue into my heart.
My heart swept into my hands.
My fingers became soft black wing tips, literally.
My fingers still do this,
Even in this quantum, post-industrialized cybernetic age.
My fingers still do this despite so much having been lost from us.
It is an obligation for at least some to act in such a way,
To allow our fingers to lead us where our thinking seems incapable of going.

In a very real way, it is remarkable that we have come to presume that we can no longer
act in such a manner or that it such actions are irrelevant.

Going down into the gaps,
Into hollows alongside rivers and even into tiny cracks in stone and wood,
It is a reach into no time at all, into a timeless eternal that continues to design us
And gradually leave us behind as our ancestry did to become you and I.

Penultimate home is something elastic,
As much coming and going as arrival
And so very much more than we have allowed ourselves to begin to imagine.
Having left home to go down into the gaps,
Only brings us more deeply homeward.
Ultimate home is a cosmic abyss in which we fly like an arrow
Never hitting a mark and stopping, deeply lost yet inseparable.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Body Without End

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Self Portrait, 2012

Words are still deeply feather and fire.
The body is without end, extending into every event and into infinities of smallness and largeness, and into the ancestral and the far future.

  Every experience—rain on the roof, a passing conversation, a stoplight, a candle’s flame, or the moon outside the window—offers an uncoiling, graced pathway. 

And every event offers a waking bell, and speaks in a luminous, sometimes wry, and accessible voice if we will only calm and listen.

  You or I, each water droplet, each grain of sand, a star putting on its mask of leaf is a turning in and out of form—a current expressed by an oceanus of infinite reach.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Repetition & Randomization: Core Seeing In The Dark

IN THE ARCTIC tundra, nearly an invisible speck in a vast terrain, a young adult, sits by a large boulder, leaning into the boulder, grinding another hand-held stone into the boulder in a circle.  Mid-continent, an elderly person walks about, picking up a stone that has attracted this person, then, listens to the stone.  Nearby, small stones are collected—a specific number—to be placed in a rattle.  Deeply south, another person gazes into the randomized surface of a fire-charred board, listening.  The drum beats with a pulse rather than a rhythm.

What is occurring here and how could it have meaning?

Pursued repetition and randomness is a response that aspires to re-open a door that seemed to describe reality.  It was likely provoked by a spontaneous experience that something valuable, even crucial for the long run of human life, was being overlooked.

Such experiences may be akin to toiling over the mathematics of molecules, and then, serendipitously, opening a heretofore, unseen structure that changes everything forever.  Where imagination can be more than fact (as Einstein as admonished us), the “emptiness” of the universe has a form, where, for Einstein, mass might roll like a ball bearing over hill and dale; and (beyond Einstein) this mass, that wears the appearance of being the bones of universe itself, may be nearly next to nothing in a universe of unseen dark matter, that is perhaps lost further in multiverses and/or parallel universes, and terrains yet to be imagined.

The blue sky is not blue.  The hard tabletop is moving at incredible speeds that give it its “hardness.”  The sun, rolling to the West and then settling there, is not rolling to the West, nor is it rising in the East and setting in the West.  Our eyes see the world upside down, but we perceive it as right side up.  The color of nearly anything is the color that it casts off rather than its true color.  Our “individual” acts tend to be rather universal archetypes dressed up in contemporary clothing.  And our most advanced technologies become archaic—still beautiful—yet crude, in next to no time at all.

This is the context that continues to drive shamanism to be vitally present in any era.  Yes, there is a “Romantic shamanism” that aspires to honor traditional expressions of shamanism, much in the manner of reenactments of the American civil war or Japanese samurai tradition.  But shamanism is a living dimension of human experience that challenges an everyday that seems to be distanced from the Earth and the larger landscape.  It says that which our most rational science keeps saying to us in increasingly explicit measures: that we are deeply lost in the universe, young in the Earth, and designed by it.

What if a tree was the sun on Earth, which is what it is?  We imaging the sun to be shining down on us, but we are inside the outer rim of the sun and an expression of its ongoing evolution, where macromolecules have a niche where they can occur.   It is a dream to presume that we are somehow on top of such terrain.

Shamanism gets co-opted into serving our needs.  But authentic shamanism, or authentic human life, is deeply naturalistic, and this changes the questions that we bring.  This is why we continue to be drawn to it, to try to align with a core dynamic that we require to both sustain across the long run and to optimize.

In my city, a child, age 12, remarkably writes in school,
            …. The silver-lined storm clouds
            Gather like old friends
            Then rumble, hesitant
            Water  dripping  from  their
            Then send a crackling
            Bolt of yellow fire
            Towards me

            My white fur freezes
            My body tenses
            Then lightning engulfs me
            My  bones  itch  with  raw
            I am a ball of glinting flames
            Sparks fly from my fur
            The rain does not touch me
            Even it is afraid

Such language is not science, but it evokes a sense of something profoundly real.  It attends to a critical process that we erroneously proscribe from our life in nearly any society, from the primal through the post-industrial.  The critical dynamic in human life is creatural, far more than cultural, social or psychological orientations that are remarkably biased and blind.  Our bicameral brain—young, and still in development—dissects experience more than integrates experience.  The core integration to optimize our perception is enduringly/eternally naturalistic, eco-inseparable, wild, and ongoing creationist. 

A rather rational repetition and randomization, far more than intoxication or hallucination or ecstasy, are the wild first steps to attend to overlooked and intentionally proscribed experiences.   The wildness of the mind, for at least small glints of time can peer into the dark, and become the landscape.  Then perhaps, the key dynamic of all “wildness”—that of remaining alert to the changing conditions of existence in a cosmos that is largely unknown to us—can be activated.   The success that our greatest rational discoveries have had likely comes from the enduring presence of core shamanic methodology that provoked a serendipitous turn in our understanding.   And those great turns always point toward the natural.  While shamanic motifs may be present in culture, authentic shamanism differs in its more intensive step out of culture to deeply taste the creatural [Homo sapiens, “Earth taster”].

Shamanism has been associated with irrationality, but, when authentic, it aspires to look deeply at experience, because of a sense that our view is biased and irrational.  Shamanism is popularly perceived as eccentric/extreme, archaic, and continuing as a set of spiritist beliefs primarily in “Third World/Fourth World” societies.  Shamanic motifs are present in many beliefs systems, but authentic shamanism is a methodology rather than a belief system.  Further, there is a popular association between shamanism and hallucinogens as methodology.  Plants that intoxicate may be functioning to disable organisms rather than “speak” to partakers.   In Shamanism, Mircea Eliade describes the use of intoxicants in shamanism as a late or “derivative” “corrupt” practice.  While intoxicants positively demonstrate that ordinary reality can be altered and that an everyday perspective may be biased that can open a latent spirituality, intoxicants may act more as a universal cultural “escape” or “release” rather than as direct entry into a deeper reality.

Fundamentally, shamanism is not about knowledge of the landscape being utilized for curing, healing, finding, or empowering, all of which are key elements in derivative practices that are popularly associated with shamanism.   Rather than being co-opted into practices as either an obscure or very explicit motif, shamanism sustains when it is totemic, serving the landscape rather than using the landscape, and this changes all of the questions and demands that people bring to shamanism.  Paradoxically, by serving the landscape and becoming fitted with it, human life is optimized.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Door Of Magic

Copyright Lance Kinseth, 20”x25, mixed media on stainless steel, 2006

For one who has long felt caged
I have been called to freedom.

I have found a door of magic at every turn in Earth.
There are gateways where there once were only walls.

Now I am free to put on my prancing shoes.
Now I will go about as a deer.

Today I will visit my relation mouse
Who tonight will become my relation owl.

I will become Yesterday where I quivered in wind—a grass blade.
I will become Tomorrow where I will dance as down-streaming water.

Now instead of nouns I will sing dune-shaped downy-soft verbs
So delicate    so luminous    and inexhaustible.

Now and then I will stop and sing alive the myriad voices of place
That the living and dead intone through me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Copyright Lance Kinseth, 2011

PERHAPS ON some occasion when we have some moments to give over, we decide to press a little further into landscape. 

Perhaps we bundle up and sit down into the landform, letting all of our senses be taken. 

Perhaps we stay up a little later and go out into the dark to gaze into the night sky that slo-turns worlds above us.

Perhaps we meander in some very common place, paying special attention to the small details—ants, pebbles, or to the eloquent rivering in the surface of leaves.

Perhaps we go further in our intention, and give up some food.  Perhaps we work muscles that we seldom use. 

Perhaps we lie down on our backs in wild grasses, walled by the tall culms. Disappearing, with the sky overhead opening up.  After a time, perhaps, grasshoppers begin to encircle us, and when we don’t move, the come down and bite us, and our sense of dominance is taken.

Perhaps we lie on our bellies on the front of a sandbar with eyes forward—level with the water—into the down streaming river that is coming toward us.   Our eyes dance with the flow of water and, in the summer, with the arabesques of swallows skimming the surface of the river.

Perhaps we amble about on the river’s edge, with eyes cast down into the cobble cast up by spring floods, looking for a particular stone—perhaps on this day, finding a blackened elk tooth—that seems to call out to us.

Perhaps we gaze into a small fire, its smoke shifting to wash over us as the wind shifts.

In these small things, we find our larger, enduring life, and perhaps sense that we have been spending too much of the currency of our time in routine on the fringe of the aliveness of the Earth.

And because of this, despite all the captivation of civility, perhaps we awaken and go farther, becoming shamanic:

Without nourishment
Listen to the wind, to the tree branches, to the birds.
Listen to the little herbs in the under story of the forest and to the ants.

Become a crow
Borrowing its wings and eyes.

Disrupt routine.
Have no explanation.
Apologize to plants.

Speak in the dark to animals.
Go to your heaven.
Sense the terror and wonder of being human.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Trees In Their Humanness

Copyright Lance Kinseth, 2011

…the fathomless gaze of all animals when they acknowledge us
 as being at one with them.
James Cowan, Letters From A Wild State

THE GAZE OF ANIMALS toward us acknowledges us as other animals rather than as something separate and above.  But when we return the gaze, the humanness, for example, of trees can seem to be such a disparate view for us, as if humanness is ours alone.  A phrase, such as Trees in their humanness [Lisel Mueller, from “Necessities,” Alive Together] may read as an oxymoron, as impossible.

Far more disparate than finding our humanness in trees, going even deeper, there is this very real way that

We walk about in the footsteps of birds. 
We sit down as pools of rain
And we stand up as uncoiling seeds.

There is within you and I this moon. 
There is within us a field of grass in wind. 
There is within us the walking of ants.

There is this way that, for example, we might rationally understand that we have been contrived from stone—star matter.  But going even further, there is more perplexing way in which
All the stones have been us
[W. S. Merwin, from “Eyes of Summer,”
Writings To An Unfinished Accompaniment].

How could this be, when stone predates us; we, who are so very young in the history of the Earth?  While such views can appear to be esoteric poetic musings, the writers intended them to be descriptive of an unseen reality.  Ultimately, such statements are offered because they are felt to be deeply practical and to have something important to say to us.  Our inability to envision events in such a manner might be lamentable as a measure of our limits, and perhaps even dangerous for survival across the long run of things.

The effusive body of the shaman is self-as-landscape.

Humanness is more than human beings. Events that can appear to be very distanced from us, such as rain and seed are, in fact, most intimate, even more intimate that we are to each other. 

The holy water that is rain and the seed that is grain—the dominant forces that continue to buoy up the most advanced post-industrial, cybernetic culture—are present daily, and are the core of our immanent survival.  Every inhalation is also flora’s exhalation.  And across the long run of things, the flora and waters out of which grain and drink and breath emerge continue to speak “humanely” to us with a wisdom that offers us an optimal way forward were we to awaken to it and listen.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Apprentice: A Possible First Gate

Copyright Lance Kinseth, 2012

I will set before you the following:
Lightning-struck oak,
Three feathers-eagle, owl, gull—
A smooth stone and a rough stone,
A drilled deer bone.

Your reactions to each,
Especially their meaningfulness, please;


Your hands held over my forearms:
Your intuitive sensations, please;


Your recollections of a favorite dream;


Your interface with a small cluster of stones,
Asking a yes/no question.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Becoming Rain: Seeing In The Dark

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Becoming Rain, 24"x30, 2002

My two arms are lightning bolts.
My legs outspread to down-flowing torrents of rain.

My eyes are sun and moon
My head is star-filled cobalt blue.

Today "Becoming Rain" will be my one of my true names.
Today, to say “I” will be to say “Earth.”
Today, to say “I” will open a gateway rather than build a wall.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

An Enduring Ancient Way

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Shaman Prayers For The Earth, 36”x36, 2003

Shamanism may be the oldest human healing art.  This ancient way offers the modern “peopled” Earth a primary healing resource rather than a secondary archaic remnant.  Fundamental shamanism aspires to “heal” by integration with cosmic forces that continue to design human life rather than by manipulation.

1. Fundamental Shamanism

IN THE REAL WORK [p.10], Gary Snyder defines the “modern” timeframe as the last two thousand years rather than by time frames such as “20th Century” or by concepts tied to material development such as “post-industrial” or by ideological concepts such as “post-modern” or “civilized.”  In fact, this paper finds an eternal enduring continuity, and posits an enduring “wild state” that continues rather unchanging from ancient times into the post-modern era that offers a resource for self and society.  This wild state emerges spontaneously as a state of alertness to the conditions of existence so that human life can bring itself into harmony with those conditions.  The “wild state” recognizes that we continue to be designed by and continue to be an expression of the larger Earth ecosystem no matter how distant we feel.  This state recognizes that we are both very young in the history of the Earth and that we are lost deeply in stellar evolution rather than separate.  This wild state is essentially creatural rather than psychological or cultural and involves experiences of events in the landscape, such as water and wind and plants, as being within one’s identity.  The term, “beingness,” describes a larger dimension beyond personality and society that contains the creatural or totemic nature of human life.  

Searching for “shamanism” in both “developed” and indigenous contemporary societies, the visible shamanism is likely to be cultural rather than creatural, and more homocentric than cosmic.  In Shamanism, Mircea Eliade argues that shamanism may “degenerate” or weaken as it becomes more culturally elaborated to serve cultural rather than creatural or cosmic needs.  The practices tend to be shared throughout the culture or subculture when they begin to address personal needs more than when they challenge personal and cultural interests.  In societies where shamanism a visible practice, Eliade notes that the contemporary shamanism may be described by societal members as being less powerful than the original shamanism of that society.

“Shamanic societies” may be more nature-oriented than other societies, but not necessarily nature-sensitive, especially when faced with population pressures and now-global interpenetration by other societies.  Natural events such as forest ecosystems or specific biota take on meaning that is specific to the culture rather than universal, and it often begins to reinforce cultural actions that are anthropocentric, rather than Earth-centric and culturally-challenging.  The odds are strong that cultural support for shamanism in a society that one might describe as shamanic is a measure of cultural manipulation to serve orthodox cultural traditions and personal needs rather than serve the larger Earth ecosystem.  Often, practices that are identified as “shamanism” may describe shamanistic elements that are secondary “motifs” of religious practices and folk healing.  “Shamanic practices” may be reactionary movements that are religious in nature that incorporate shamanic motifs to challenge to the dominant social order within the culture more than they aspire to serve the larger Earth ecosystem.             

Western passion for shamanism due to a sense of something missing in post-modern life can unintentionally contribute to the degeneration of the fundamental shamanic experience by adopting non-Western practices.  Western “shamanism” does typically describe practices that derive from within Western culture, becaue it misses the presence of shamanic experience within Western culture.  Adoption of non-Western practices and Western “shamanic tourism” can be a form of cultural robbery as well as contribute to the degradation of shamanism into a “business.”

The “ancient” shamanism that endures in any age and in any culture is a fundamental, acultural, personal experience that tends to be eventually limited rather than strengthen by cultural elaboration and support.  The enduring shamanism aspires to remain a method of access rather than a belief system, and so it continually critiques itself in order to remain fresh an alert. 

Fundamental shamanism is an action-state, that of shamanizing, and resists becoming a derivative cultural “ism.”   Fundamental shamanism attends to the non-cultural, creatural dimensions of human life–seasons and weathers, the waters, flora and fauna, the landform and stars.  Fundamental shamanism serves the larger Earth ecosystem rather than a personal quest or societal goal.  Fundamental shamanism does aspire to optimize human life by aspiring to inform human life of the primary impact of these dimensions on human life.  Fundamental shamanism experiences [rather than believes in] human health as continuing to be primarily a creatural rather than a cultural process.  From this perspective, optimal human health requires attentiveness to the large conditions of existence both on a personal and societal level.  When this attentiveness is lessened, the quality of human life is degraded.

2. Toward a Strategy of Residency

TWO THOUSAND years of modernity and tens of thousands of years of cultural emergence do not override hundreds of thousands of years of emergence as species sapiens.  While contemporary urban life may seem nearly separate and above nature, human life is still young in the life of the Earth, and perhaps even neonatal and far from mature.   Instead of being distinct from nature, our most rational measures reveal that human life remains deeply inside nature so that there is, remarkably, less of a distinction between culture and nature.

This is not to say that modern human life is much the same as ancestral human life.  The contemporary condition of existence might be said to be a “post-natural” one in which human life now modifies all landscapes, and landscapes, in turn, feedback degrading environmental quality on a global scale.  Now, having peopled the Earth with no remaining physical frontiers, our longstanding strategy of pioneering appears to be in need of transformation to a strategy of residency.  The stored capital of vast physical frontiers has allowed us to delude ourselves with as sense of dominion over nature as our way forward.  Now we are beginning to understand that human life remains significantly creatural and requires attention to events beyond culture to meet our most practical interests and not simply our aesthetic interests if we are to optimize the quality of human life for the short run and perhaps to sustain for the long run as a species.  As wild creatures, modern human life needs methods to continue to remain wildly alert to the conditions of existence.

3.   Shamanism as a Method for Accessing a Wild State

FROM A SHAMANIC perspective, there is no distinction between nature and culture.  Like a flower, human life is experienced to be inseparable from wind and water and mineral.  And so, in any age, it is essential to access events beyond culture both for optimal health and basic survival.

In contemporary life, science is very effective at attending to or measuring many aspects of natural phenomena that impact upon everyday life.  Still, a dimension of human experience that comes to be termed shamanism spontaneously arises.  This experience is two-fold.  First, there is an experience of one’s everyday life as an incomplete experience of reality at best.  This experience is explored by many practices other than shamanism, including formal religion, varieties of spiritual expression, psychic and metaphysics, and even our most rational measures of scientific inquiry.  However, shamanism is differentiated by its emphasis upon the experience of being a “creature” or a human “wild state” that attends to acultural events such as trees and wind as primary reaches of self that design human life.  In the experience of shamanizing, the voice of landscape is experienced as inside one’s personal identity.

The self or personality that can emerge from shamanic methods is a “wild” or, more accurately, totemic identity.  That is to say, a person’s working/conscious identity includes elemental events beyond culture as primary facets to be attended to if health is to be optimal.
From a shamanic perspective, the exclusion of acultural events from identity limits rather than optimizes the quality of human life and places long-run sustainability at risk.

In shamanic experiences, human life derives from landscape—from beyond self and culture.   The living, vital shamanism inescapably is a fundamental, uncompromising method that challenges culture.   For example, an early shamanism of a coastal society might challenge the community to reexamine its exploitation of the nearby sea and impose self-limits as a solution to the reduced quality of a fishery.  The “ancient” shamanic way authentically endures as beyond culture, fundamental more than derivative, and creatural.  At its most authentic, shamanic method aspires to bring human life into harmony with its larger, inescapable, inseparable creatural dimensions that are present in any era. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Second Song

Copyright Lance Kinseth, 2011

To the drum’s astonishing voice, listening,
We uncover this way that we are starlight.

How then can we say
Our time has been wasted?

Because we listen to this astonishing voice,
We know that ants and owls are inside us.

Because we listen to this astonishing voice,
We know that our everyday is an illusion:

This way that we dismiss Earth as so very less than out heart pulse,
As if we could afford to do so.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shamanism And Modern Life: An 8/2007 Overview

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Blue Fire II: Shaman's Journey, 20"x24, 2002

MANY PRACTICES AND BELIEFS can be associated with shamanism to the degree that the term “shamanism” becomes nearly meaningless.  Like “spirit” and “soul” and “being-ness,” “shamanism” has become an inclusive, encompassing term rather than a distinguishing term, and sort of a "pop" term.  That is likely because it touches many aspects of human life, especially those naturalist aspects for which we continue to hunger and to connect with, involving aspects of modern life that go unrecognized as having anything to do with “primitive” shamanism.

Shaman’s Grace argues that there is a dimension of human experience that occurs in every society in every era that involves attending to an enduring wild state, wherein human life continues to be primarily creatural rather than cultural or social or psychological.  From the emergence of human life [species sapiensto the most post-industrial cybernetic moment, shamanism has proffered a way to "see in the dark"—a way to touch something deep inside us, which is rock-firm reality, that listens to the changing conditions of existence while we are half-awake in our everyday.  Seemingly primitive and superstitious, shamanism is a core yet effusive aspect of modern medicine, art, psychotherapy, and science.  But to most of the modern world, shamanism describes practices found in Third World developing nations and Fourth World indigenous societies that are superstitious and manipulative.  And to a very real extent, that is true.  They are not stuck in the primal as much as "modern," but utilizing the resources that are available to them.

Shaman’s Grace focuses on an enduring fundamental experience that is quickly co-opted into derivative forms, both explicit traditional and hidden modern expressions, that reinforce culture, that are manipulative and superstitious, rather than that challenge culture.  

This more “fundamental [un-co-opted] shamanism” is increasingly of value in a now peopled Earth with no vast frontiers.  This is co-opting of fundamental experience is common to all experience, including our most rational scientific measures, but is especially present in addressing “spiritual” experience.   Religions continually undergo "reformation," and so science, and our most practical, everyday routines.  Now, each decade--not each century--is radically altered.   

Shaman’s Grace describes a fundamental enduring human response that is present in any society in any era that is distinguished from the popular association of shamanism as a derivative indigenous practice of contacting spirits and strengthening self.  Its methods are the conscious expression of an enduring wild state that aspires to align us with the vast conditions of existence that have designed us, and that continue to design us.

 In this fundamental shamanism, all experiences that optimize human life are envisioned to be, astonishingly, a creatural process—rather than a psychological or cultural process.  And shamanism focuses on the central human characteristic of imagination.  Every second of human life involves a stream of imagination.  Imagination uses momentary experiences to aspire to access billions-years-old experiences that are contained within our eloquent physiological-eco design.  Like scientific inquiry, this fundamental shamanism requires a self-critical approach, with the expectation that layers of cultural bias must be looked for, rather a trust that one’s "shamanic experiences" are somehow exempt from scrutiny, and automatically authentic.  We are anthropocentric, presuming that we have come into the Earth and will leave it in death, and in this sense, we—in our most post-industrial, cybernetic essence--remain “primitive” or perhaps “ignorant,” or perhaps—more-accurately—neonatal [more accurate: neotenic], in our development as a species.  We are "nasty" in our sense of import, killing both the human and the natural world.  For all of our modernity, we remain so very, very young in the history of the Earth, as well as fragile.  We have barely appeared in geo-time, and are at risk of disappearing far to fast.

Shamanism is a method far more than a belief system, a practice of using deep imagination to touch the imaginal—something profoundly deep and authentic rather than something imaginary, in the sense of being fantasy or wished-for-to integrate with the natural process of the Earth and cosmos.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Awakening From A Dream

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Medicine Pouch, Shamanic Relic, 2000

Listening alone to the cricket
To its grinding songs
And to the sound of birds’ walking

The blistering rock in high summer
Seeds finding their wings
Snow curving the slatted fence
The fast dance of hard spring downpours
The clan of stars in deep night

Yes, everything communicates
Says something invaluable to human life
Says nothing is apart
Says everything is our longer reach.

What is this voice?

IN EVERY SOCIETY, from aboriginal through postmodern, there are times when human imagination is experienced as accessing a voice that is no longer exclusively either “inner” or fantasy.  This voice is inherent in the serendipitous breakthroughs of our most rational, objective measures in science—“double helix,” and sub-nuclear “quark” “flavors” of “Strange” and “Charm,” and “leptons” of “Tau,” and “gravitrons” of “W” and “Z” bosons, and 8 “gluons.”  These terms are ways of saying that which we know to be real, but that we also acknowledge that our existing lexicon—our eco-literacy—must  grow into it.

We are young in the Earth, and for all of our advancements, we try to imagine our world with a still-developing tri-cameral brain.  We tend to take our experience apart to sustain.  We are not very good at seeing whole.  We see, for example, ecology; how a tree collects the energy of a star, but we tend to compartmentalize “tree” and “star,” because we can measure “parts” more than processes that interpenerate “parts.”

In the archaic past, in primal societies, wholeness and integration and inseparability were intuitively sensed.  But often these experiences seemed “spiritual,” which was different that “objective” or “rational,” and, therefore, esoteric at best, and, perhaps, delusional and misleading when we believe in them rather than remain self-critical and open.

From archaic times through the present moment, there has always been an enduring sense that everyday life can become a half-life, a dream of reality rather than reality as it is.  And there can be this sense that such a walking dream state can be not only less satisfying, but also dangerously illusive in the way in which it islands and disconnect.  And there have always been a variety of responses including shamanism.

The range of human experiences that come to be termed “shamanism” offer attention to the “creatural” dimension of human life that might be associated in modern life with ecological orientations such as “deep ecology” and “eco-psychology” or “transpersonal ecology.”  But these are still not “shamanism.”  In a cybernetic, electronic age, shamanism is distinguished from these orientations in that it concentrates attention on imaginal methods rather than explicit facts.  And in the post-modern, cybernetic age, to be both creatural and imaginal seemed to be the antithesis of the essence of “modern.”

However, shamanism continues to offer modern life a method to address the dilemmas of human existence through
•      the demolition of perceptual barriers, so that
•      the uncategorizable elements of reality emerge in a mythic language, [not unlike metaphors in science] that may
•      reveal information to optimize a response to the dilemmas of existence,
•      to restore harmony between everyday and vaster, non-sensory dimensions of reality.

What will be needed if shamanism is to contribute to any society is a self-critical attitude, but also, a continuing challenge to culture [as science does challenging its own theories rather than degenerating into a reinforcement of culture]? 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Shaman's Song

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Shaman Sings, 24"x30,  2002

Recovering A Creatural State


I fly to the center of the Earth
My voice brimming with migration and wind.

I become my long life.
I know that the dead breathe through me.

I apologize to Earth and sky.
I become a gathering of places.

I close my eyes to see.
I sing to awaken.

I gather my song of unlanguaged sounds
Today from the butterfly and the crow.