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.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Core Issue

Major religions and shamanism are mutually exclusive.  The difference has to do with their IDENTITY base:  Shamanism=humanness as creatural.  As a cultural product, human life is described as separate and above the landscape, and assumes that human beings come into the world and leave it, and/or that spiritual life has little to do with the “material world.”

Indigenous spiritual practices that are often described as “paganism” and even “animism” that seem to be Earth-based, tend to be ecologically sensitive but imagine a world of spirits that really describe power resources for health as well as for evil.  Further, paganism and animism tend to imagine individual human life as everlasting and having an afterlife be it in Earth or beyond. Even non-theocratic Buddhism retains many elements from Hinduism that imagine an after-life.  God or gods are the creator(s) of life and the creation of man/woman and the Earth are the work of these anthropomorphized spirits.  Spirits are separate entities that are arranged in hierarchy of intelligence, grace, and other noble and ignoble characteristics: gods, angels, saints, eagle and animal spirits, demons, humans, animals, plants, stones, wind and water and light.  Spirit in shamanism is ultimately quite different, although shamanism tends to degenerate into the above religious motifs.

Paradoxically, most practices that are termed shamanism are cultural: shared belief systems that are “derivative” from authentic shamanism and often “degenerative.”  They aspire to meet cultural and social and psychological needs rather than open to and serve the larger landscape.

BOTTOM LINE: We live inside an incredible landscape, inside such an incredible, unending miracle that is so eloquent, so intelligent in every speck and flash of it, and our beliefs, values, and morals are so facile, so small, so prejudiced, biased, and anthropocentric.   We imagine that we know what most events are, but in our heart of hearts, we really recognize that we do not understand what the most basic events are, such as atmosphere and water and energy.

Shamanism appears and endures because it finds the humanized moral base limited and damaging to the Earth that, in turn, damages human life/health, no matter how benign or other-serving/kind the religious expression appears to be.  After we strip away the moral self-serving biases that we have been applying culturally to everything, this is not what we intuitively experience in a fundamental shamanic experience. 

Shamanism is naturalist inquiry, not a religious pagan practice, and not a theology.  Religions offer belief systems.  Shamanism emerges as a method of access like science.  Many spiritual practices, as well as science, emerge from a sense of everyday experience being incomplete.  All of the spiritual practices that endure across time go through cycles of co-optation and reformation.  Even science becomes “scientistic/scientism” and must check itself, but religions assume a stolid base that is eternal.

Shamanism sees difference—sun, tree, water, wind, biota, stone—but doesn’t find hierarchy that then sees “apartness.”  There is more of a metaphorical interweaving of events [not really objects] and process.  You listen more than you know, because seeing a tree, you need to get past the image/object to have any hope of relating/understanding and the event “tree” or any other that does not cleanly come down to a separate object. 

You see tree as expressing a star in Earth and it goes on and on from there, And then your actions may become quite different toward this event.  And this same base begins to apply to other events, and it is quite different from the routine way that you have been approaching things.  There is no longer a set base.  And then you find yourself living in two simultaneous contexts: cultural and natural.  Shamanism doesn’t “believe in nature” more than in culture.  It just goes there.  And this nature is not apart, not anti-urban, as urbanization can have powerful ecologically adaptive features and be optimized an expression of the Earth that, in turn, is an expression of the outer atmosphere of the sun, that is, in turn, ….

Different from other practices that emerge out of a sense of ordinary life as incomplete and even inaccurate, shamanism directs attention to the creatural dimensions of human life.  When it becomes psychological, social, societal and cultural, shamanism tends to become a derivative practice in which it reinforces a belief system rather than remains a method of access.  It becomes a motif and is really not shamanism any more, but rather becomes degraded and deteriorates. Blends/amalgams of shamanic method and other spiritual practices are cultural motifs.  Most practices that are termed shamanism either in contemporary indigenous or modern societies are really derivative and degenerative forms.   Why? Because spiritual practices are often more psychological balms and when supported culturally aspire to support and stabilize the culture rather than to challenge it, and were never really methods of access in the first place.  They arise out of neediness.  And none of these practices image themselves as coming from the landscape.  They are all anthropomorphic, human-centered.  They may pay homage to honoring the creation, but they ultimately look elsewhere.

Shamanism attends to the creatural because of a sense of human development coming out of the landscape and going back into the landscape.  Landscape designs and expresses human life, not anthropomorphic god/goddess-images.  Spirit comes from the landscape, period, no exception.  The landscape is not a playground of good and evil or demonic forces.  Spirit is present in an inherent harmonious intelligence that is in atoms, cells, slime molds, ad infinitum and that is demonstrable.  Shamanism aspires to attend to such phenomena.

Most aspects of everyday life that seem so real and concrete are primarily constructions: Time artificially divides the day, the sun moving across the sky is really the Earth’s rotation, actions are shaped by priorities and folkways and mores that may not be in harmony with landscape [which then feeds back on us in terms of physical and mental disorder and violence.  And our cultural sacred and profane practices and beliefs tend to encourage this disorder.  The worst-case scenarios of atrocities that have resulted in the murder of millions over and over again have what we consider to be benevolent religions as their root source.  The same has been the case toward the landscape.  It is not within our identity despite the contributions of our most rational scientific measures that find human life both intimately landscape [DNA and ecological literacy] and deeply lost in an Oceanus of Earth, galaxies and Cosmos rather than separate and above or some Casper-like soul.

The role of culture in creating exclusiveness and separation is reinforced because of core moral beliefs that place us either separate from the landscape or place us within it as if it were a stage set.  And this morality has fostered destruction of the landscape and underpins the manipulation/destruction of other human beings.  There is no unbreakable common ground once beliefs collide. 

Attention to the creatural dimensions of human life finds a complexity and subtlety that is intelligent and wise, not primitive.  Not separate, it designs us rather that we have to activate it, and we optimize human life by attending especially to that which we overlook and come into increasing harmony with it.  Shamanism is a method of access, with which we attend to the landscape, but very self-critically because of the cultural biases that we apply to it.  Attending to the creatural offers a check on our activities, folkways, mores and overriding beliefs that damage more than optimize. 

If this process is not there in what we call shamanism, then the practice is little more than a diversion or a delusion or entertaining, curious escape.

For a Koryak shaman the landscape of tundra and forest is heartfelt and the source, authentic, not primitive/archaic.  For moderns, core beliefs allow for the industrialization of landscape with landscape as a separate resource to be used to be of value or to be activated, preference/inequality in relationships both human and with other species, both human and ecological poverty, and violence.  Modern and primitive values encourage us to step out of the world as if it is not us.  It is simply crazy and yet it is what our systems teach us and these beliefs are expressed in our religions and philosophies and psychologies and sociologies and go unchallenged.

Homo sapiens/Earth taster

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