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.

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]? 

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