Monday, September 27, 2010

For Andrew: Still More Intellectualizing About Shamanism

My earlier post on the linguistic uses of Shamanism inspired some questioning on Visionary Shamanism from Andrew, an enlightened being from Great Britain. I thought I'd share my response to his words of wisdom here. 

This is all an attempt to intellectualize!

If we are going to use words, perhaps we should first have some idea of what we mean by those words, n'est-ce pas? This is especially true when dealing with words that have multiple meanings.  And why would intellectualism be a bad thing? Anything worth doing should be worth examining.


a) It is not really a faith!

For some people, shamanic practices are an integral part of their spiritual life. Others see them as something which can be separated from religion and culture. But I'd argue even those non-theistic/atheistic shamans engaged in personal exploration are practicing it as a spiritual discipline. (Belief in God need not be an integral part of religion, as any Buddhist might tell you).  If you're seeking and finding mystical experiences, then you're a mystic. And any mystical experience worthy of the name involves jumping out past the comfortable realms of logic and coming face to face with That Which Transcends.  When reason is no longer of use, one can only rely on faith.  (A Danish guy named Søren Kierkegaard wrote about this at some length: you may find his work enlightening). 

b) Who says practioners should be subjected to tough questioning?

Hopefully the practitioners. If you have no beliefs worth defending, then you have no beliefs. If you never subject your beliefs to any challenges, then what distinguishes you from the wild-eyed fundamentalists who Know with unquestioning certainty and are ready to die and kill for their Knowing?

c) Where do 'prophets' and 'ego crutches' come into it?

If you believe shamans are born, not made, then you have a Priestly Caste, a Chosen People.  That can be an enormous ego-crutch. Saying "I'm an Ascended Master who has come to dispense wisdom to the masses" is much more soothing than admitting "I'm an ill-educated chav who lives in my mum's council flat."  This is an issue which advocates of the "born shamans" theory must address: how do you distinguish the born shamans from those who are seeking a badge of Enlightenment.

d) WE do not choose who is chosen by the gods-there are no gods, only man-made assumptions!

Says you and a few other people. This is not a belief which has a long history, nor is it a majority belief today.  I'm trying to find a definition of "shamanism" which encompasses both "the Gods are real" and "there are no Gods."

c) Escape from reality? Which particular one of the many are you referring to?

I don't want to see "shamanic reality" become an escape from the reality where said "shaman" is just a dysfunctional dumbshit with delusions of grandeur. I prefer an approach which seeks to better one's lot in life to one which says "you don't need to worry about your problems, just tune them out and accept a Higher Truth."  That way of strikes me as more akin to addiction than self-improvement or spiritual development.