"Imagine, for a moment, what the world might be like if there was only one religion. Not a dogmatic creed you were forced to comply with, but a sort of 'open source' interplay of visions and ideas that not only encouraged, but demanded your active participation in creating an organic, evolving vision of the world. Imagine what such a religion might be like, if you were forbidden to simply take another's word for it, and you were required to experience the divine for yourself--a religion that required no faith in anything but your own experience of it. Imagine a religion based on dreams and visions, a religion that saw a world that was simultaneously sacred and profane but above all, alive. Imagine a world where you were not just an empty elite separated from your domain by the aloofness of power, but irrevocably enmeshed in a network screaming with life, a world where every stone and stick and blade of grass pulsed with a sacred spirit all its own. Imagine what such a religion might be like.
We don't need to use too much imagination to conjure up such an image, because not only did it once exist, it is humanity's natural state. That religion is today often called 'shamanism,' for the Tungus word for their most religious individuals. It is the root of all our modern religions--all of them are the descendants of the shaman's vision. It is the genesis of art, music, theater, philosophy, mathematics, science, and all those abstract things that we so often look to as the very best of our species' achievements.
...The "shamanic state of consciousness" (often abbreviated "SSC") is less a reductionist state, and more an integrative state. This boosts the mind's integrative abilities, allowing it to make connections between various ideas on analytical, metaphorical and other levels simultaneously. The value of non-analytical thought to make intuitive leaps that may be impossible through analysis alone has been evidenced at several points in the history of science. One striking example might be Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz, who added a new chapter to every high school chemistry textbook with his discovery of the benzene ring--a structure he discovered only thanks to the inspiration of a dream he had, wherein he encountered the ancient symbol of the snake eating is own tail, the ouroboros.
Winkelman shows that in the shamanic state of consciousness, the body's natural healing processes are activated in a significant manner. This is related to the placebo effect, in that the body is, in general, very good at seeing to its own treatment. For example, both the placebo effect and the shamanic state of consciousness result in the release of opioids. The placebo effect is well-known, but rarely given its due. Too often, we refer to "just" a placebo effect. Approved drugs must do better than placebo, but even our very best drugs--such as aspirin--can only narrowly edge out the placebo effect. Very often, up to 75% of a drug's effectiveness will be due to the placebo effect. The shamanic state of consciousness does not try to denigrate such a powerful healing function, but instead tries to use it to still greater effect. The SSC exacerbates the same self-healing processes as the placebo effect. When combined with the shaman's traditional role as resident ethnobotanist, this makes the efficacy of most shamanic ethnomedicine roughly equal to our own biomedicine.
These are the two primary tasks of the shaman: to heal, and to gain information from the spirit world. To do this, the shaman makes friends with the spirits and becomes, essentially, the tribe's ambassador to the spirit world."
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The Shaman’s Vision
The Shaman’s Vision » The Anthropik Network:
Posted by Rob Pugh at 11/23/2005 03:14:00 PM