Nobody is a shaman by choice. Take Marechera. He was a victim of war nerves. His nerves were shattered. And I only started getting shamanic insights after I was attacked simultaneously by both the cultural right and the cultural left — bullied at work and bullied at home. I made a video recently about how ego defences seem to break down when one is extremely tired or stressed. I hypothesise that a shaman is someone who gains insights into their own ego defences under extreme duress. And, of course, their insights can help others.
But certainly nobody is ever a shaman by choice. the ancient pictures depict a shaman as one who has been pierced by an arrow. Shamanic initiation is a disgusting and horrible experience.
I’d be so simple and say that my shamanic version of feminism is a quest for personal wholeness.
The femininity that patriarchal culture requires is, by contrast, mental and emotional atrophy. One cannot be whole if one is required to represent half the features of a human being, and moreover the negative and undesirable features at that.
Feminism therefore is part of the shamanic quest, which is the quest for personal wholeness.
Of course, shamanic wholeness means that we recover what was already part of us, not something new.
Feminism also involves personal sovereignty. This is not a power grab but a mode of being resolute in difficulty and not permitting others to make a power grab on your life. One needs skills, training and extreme resolve to secure one’s personhood in a realm of opposing power relations.
Dominant power systems, including patriarchy, maintain that women have no right to speak authoritatively regarding issues that concern them. Even commentary regarding one’s own life is thrown into doubt. Those who had never taken the time to know one well may proclaim that they have superior and more accurate perspectives into the features of one’s life. To continue to speak authoritatively on one’s own behalf, despite the cultural trend of second guessing women, is the most essential and difficult task that one must pursue for one’s whole life. Without this insistence that one has the right to speak about the things one has known and experienced, and to do so authoritatively, one can never be a full public person.
Finally, feminism is about separating out what one is to blame for and what one isn’t to blame for in life, so that one can also be a fully fledged moral individual. If one is taking the blame for things that were never one’s fault, one is mistaken about one’s very identity.
In short, feminism involves recovering dissociated aspects of the self, the insistence on personal sovereignty and the insistence that one has the authority to speak in a trustworthy manner about those things one has personally experienced.
Improvement is possible when one trusts one’s own instincts, but I have never made any sort of improvement at all –whether moral, behavioral or otherwise – when advised to do so by people who are in the business of improving others. Once again, there is this issue of synergistic interaction against the independence of the noble spirit. Some suggested improvements may be well intentioned, in all sorts of areas, but generally one improves when one calms down and listens to one’s own instincts and stops taking on superfluous advice.
Noble spirits are susceptible to advice about how they might improve because they are believers in civilization – or something larger than them. If they realized that the suggestions for improvement were not founded in a larger vision for society or for the future, the noble types would not take it into consideration at all. They would see the suggestions for what they were, which is that they are required to run the gauntlet of others’ criticisms as a payment for attempting to play a public role.
Small spirits who already know each other all too well implicitly realize that there is no vision for betterment in the kinds of criticisms that are passed around nowadays. They bite each other but don’t see any loss in not being able to stand tall.
The only way to really improve in anything and to stand tall is to listen more closely to one’s own voice and to relax more deeply into one’s instincts (allow them to flourish and grow). Taking on board “criticism”, though, has the opposite effect. For the noble person, believing in social progress is a liability because it can leave one open to those who opportunistically intervene to make “improvements” without having the capacity or vision for the future.
That’s why it is very important, when associating with people, to see if they can self-ignite. If they can – that is, if they have a vision for their future – you can work with them. But otherwise you will find someone who hangs around and gives “helpful criticism” – which is actually obstructive criticism.
I’ve noticed this again and again, how often “giving criticism” takes the place of any authentic engagement or action. And in fact it is actually anti-noble – it is MEANT to obstruct action (at least if you look at the results of it). But this whole battle between noble spirit and critic is fought out on a subliminal or sub-conscious level, usually. Only I am inclined to make it obvious and therefore conscious.
Rhodesian society was largely and almost completely a society of metabolic wholeness, where what was inside of you was replicated by what was outside of you. This meant there was a seamlessness to the way people related to each other. I state that rather than competition, there was a seamless orchestration of duties and tasks. Metabolic competition occurred only in the roughest edges of the society, for instance it had some frequency in boys’ boarding schools and in the military. In general, however, we were brought up to take on a predefined social role and not to compete. This explains why I tend to view so much of metabolic competition as being extremely vulgar, because it seems to detract greatly from an individual’s capacity to take on a social role in a smooth and graceful manner. To my mind, one has either a social role or one has competition, but not both. (Certainly I do not understand the means by which one might have both.)
The lack of metabolic wholeness, on the other hand, where individuals are denied a seamless relationship to their society (or the attainment of a broader sense of fit), produces, it seems, a state of craven graspingness and half-personhood. They may try to create an illusion of wholeness by grasping and competing at a hormonal level, but this certainly does not produce a seamless fit with the society at large. The whole state cannot be attained because the macro level of society and its organization has become decoupled from the micro level – that of the person himself. This decoupling produces an exacerbation of pointless competitiveness, as people try pointless routes to make themselves whole.
Or they may give up and decide that it is the human lot never to attain any semblance of wholeness. Perhaps only after they die? in any case there remains a yearning, which perhaps leads to the fantasy of a heaven that completes one’s being after one has passed away.
I think a subject that is really at its core shamanic is the notion of moral contamination. Even Nietzsche recognized this when he saw that some people were conduits or lightning towers for bad feelings and sensations. And of course we can see it in the case of Marechera’s mother, who prostituted herself to put food on the table for her children. In turn she was afflicted with madness, which she tried to escape by passing on the moral contamination to her children. She actually hired a witchdoctor whom she beseeched to send her evil spirit into Dambudzo, of all her children, so that she might be free of it.
And if we are honest, this is what parents do to their children all the time, I don’t mean necessarily or as a matter of course, although this might be true as well, but very often they do try to cast off their demons into their children, who are expected to pay the price for the parent’s unfortunate circumstances. The parent can feel relieved when the child suffers instead of them, which is what he phenomenon of projective identification is all about.
Also, culturally inculcated superstitions about the sources of moral contamination create a whole invisible conduit system, whereby before even experiencing the moral contaminant, the privileged groups in society can pass their future dirt onto those lower in the system. For instance, dalits are moral contaminants, who serve the systemic social function of taking away the dirt from the higher classes. Suppose I am of the upper classes and am angry and upset, these people will be the manifest representation of this dangerous emotional scourge, and I will not have to feel it myself so intensely.
And there are superstitions about certain types of ethnic groups as well, who also serve to remove any sense of emotional contamination before it can be properly experienced. (For instance, when it is deemed that women, unlike men, are “emotional”, what is really being said is that they are expected to remove the sensations of moral scourge away from men, before the men can experience these too much. But this idea about gender is a superstition that designs and constructs an underlying conduit system to filter off society’s negative emotions.)
All in all, I fear a culture or even a person who puts too much emphasis on moral contamination. A healthy person, in my view, would not put any emphasis on it at all.
If we look at the way identities are constructed by traditional forms of society, we need to concede that not everybody is allocated personhood. Even in Rhodesia (as recent as that in historical time), there were differently allocated levels of attributable personhood. For instance it would be very difficult for most people in that society to deny that a white person was in fact a person, possessed of full personable facilities and in command of their reason. But others in the society were not so lucky and indeed this had everything to do with their power quotient. A black man may have been considered needful of more cultural training and development before full personhood could be attributed to him. If that was the case for the black man, a black woman was in an even worse position. Her quotient of power was very limited since she was not in touch with white society at all (a proximity which, in the symbolic reading of her situation, would have brought her into closer to the radiance of civilization and power and hence the attribution of personhood). A rural, black woman was therefore deemed to be mad, and not at all in control of her faculties.
What does it mean when one’s personhood is denied? It means that those aspects of experience that would be considered capable of driving a “normal”, civilized person to distraction are not taken into account as significant when it comes to the person who is deemed to be of a very low status. To give an example, if a civilized person would find being raped by strangers in the middle of the night something horrifying and destructive, an entity who lacks personhood is not expected to raise a fuss. Indeed, to raise a fuss is to be seen to be demanding higher social status than others are willing to concede to you. It is considered to be both illogical and arrogant that a low status person would attempt to draw attention to themselves by making something out of “nothing”.
I think the discussion of gender really has to be had in terms of our understandings of personhood and non-personhood. Marechera noticed that the tendency (or capacity?) for women in his society to “see ghosts” is because they had been rendered barely existent, ghostly figures themselves. In Western society, by contrast, we tend to take for granted that everybody has an already pre-existent state of personhood, when in fact there may still be some instances of such uneven power distribution that it attenuates personhood.
In any case, you can see how the psychological systems that are developed within any particular society will tend, I think, to reflect the society’s power structures. Rather than criticize or explain the ramifications of uneven power structures, the formal psychology emerging from a particular society merely reinforces and justifies what already exists.
In fact, I think only shamans like Marechera go deeper to observe the different levels of impact that these power structures have. In this sense they are not at all like “psychologists”, but are deep readers of the actual psychical structures of society.
Also, it stands to reason that the motif of becoming ghostly or communicating with ghosts is reserved for those who lack the most power in the particular society. Their personhood has become very, very thin indeed. This may lead to the thinning of the metabolic boundaries, which is why we can talk about such people as being at lest potentially shamanic, especially if they learn to handle their disempowerment well.
A significant deficiency in most Americans (which is the fault of their culture, not necessarily of their personal dispositions) is to be unable to gain access of any sort to the mode of irony. For instance, a USA toll chastised me recently for using “Um a lot”, which apparently was not to its taste. But if you listened to the way I used the pause tone in the particular video, it was purely ironic. I was saying, “I am stuck for words, because the following topic isn’t usually one I would address and in fact I find it a bit distasteful to try.”
Nonetheless, trolls serve a task of being revelatory as to the sweeping nature of American cultural blind spots. If I can think of anything that is quintessentially un-American, it is appreciation for irony in tone. They simply cannot take it in, and so sentences that were actually delivered with an ironic twist are taken as a kind of point blank plodding (which probably replicates the troll’s own plodding stupidity). This leads to people of remarkable stupidity criticizing Irigaray’s writing from their lowly heights (a few yards below her feet in height) and accusing her of being unscientific. Similarly, Nietzsche is read as telling Americans to note well that masters are good and slaves are evil. (I think Nietzsche endears himself to stupid Americans by seeming to be simpler than he is, but in fact he does employ something akin to the Hegelian dialectic when talking about the masterful shaping forces and the internalizing reactive forces and how both of these make up human reality. )
From long terms observations I can say that when a beginner is picking up a new book, from a culture or historical period he does not yet know much about, and is reading “a tone” into it, he is generally reading his own tone and existing range of experience into it. He would need to persist much longer, and with much more intellectual commitment than a beginner usually has, to gain access to the book’s real tone and flavor.
It is very important to try to understand his formulations mathematically, almost in the sense of mathematical sets, rather than intuitively, because if you try to the intuitive method you will allow yourself to be misled.
In any case, we have this notion of subjectivity as a condition that is made possible by being curtailed, constrained or observed by a transcendent other. In this sense we could consider the construct of “immanence” versus “transcendence”, in that those who transcend their constraints lose their sense of social and emotional and political identity. That identity only becomes possible the minute it is not infinite, since only a finite number can be known and identified. But when the actor is infinite, he may as well make no statement about its identity at all, because it could be anything, and in a sense it is also everything.
You can see then, that Hegel draws from a very general mathematical logic in order to construct his dialectics. To explain further, if one is not curtailed and constrained by any human limitation because one has defied one’s fear of death (then ultimate human limit), then one has the status of “Lord” and a relationship with infinity. One cannot be known and is unknowable. One dominates according to one’s will, but one also (perhaps unknowingly or uncaringly) sacrifices identity, when one denies a limit to one’s being. By contrast, the bondsman or slave admits a limit to his being because he fears death. Perhaps it is not so much that death itself becomes a limit, thus giving him a sense of identity in the form of a closed set, but psychologically as well, his timidity makes him submit to a master, who limits his being by curtailing and controlling his activities. As a result of this, he gains a defined – hence recognizable – identity, which we might understood as giving him “subjectivity” (i.e. he is “subject” to the master and so his range of being acquires a certain logical predictability, which in turn he learns to relate to as his real essence or incontrovertible self). The master, (who is in the masterful relation to the bondsman simply because he can defy all limits), has no socially delimited identity, and therefore no KNOWN limited emotional or behavioral range (he is not defined by the restrictions that cause others to retreat into fear and servitude). His identity therefore cannot be defined. In this sense we can say that he transcends subjectivity.
A major cause for my taking a shamanic perspective, which is one that regards the world as if there had been a complete social and political dissolution of any imaginable order, is that Westerners behaved toward me in the EXACT OPPOSITE TERMS to how I was.
That is to say, I had no notion or sense of any individual or collective entitlement accruing to me, but rather had the opposite sensation of having to go begging (although this was in a way my normal state, since I had been brought up with extreme Christian modesty, the likes of which is not seen at all in the modern world). And because of the media articles about Rhodesia, people treated me as if I were arrogant and entitled. No, I had only a mode of asceticism and stoicism that I could operate within.
So I ended up seeing them as deranged, infantile and insane.
I think if people’s membranes were a bit thinner – if they could feel the force of the sun and the rain through their skins – they would also be healthier. But then you see my paradigm differs very much from the psychoanalytic paradigm whereby “feeling the wilderness” automatically means you are in danger. In African terms it does not, since nature does not automatically threaten civilized thought.
To the extent that people come under the same or similar historical pressures, their ways of coping will be similar – which is why at significant historical points, the shaman figure become publicly effectual for the first time, whereas he or she is normally (probably) a more private figure.
Maybe there is a misunderstanding as to what the word “communal” means. You speak a common language with a lot of other people, you may enjoy common facilities like roads, rules of conduct and public toilets. What if everybody else was allowed to use these things, including language, but suddenly you, and only you, were denied them?
All of my language – including my reverence for the wilderness comes from the sense that it was my only friend in this extreme state of detachment that I had for the first two decades of my life. So I absolutely do not relate to the notion psychoanalysis has, that the wilderness is basically ourselves, in our raw, untamed natures. For me, the wilderness is basically what is NOT ME, but yet enables me to become whole. For psychoanalysis, the wilderness is ALREADY me, and is the obstruction to becoming social and therefore fully whole. You see how the whole thing reads back to front from the other perspective? This is really important to keep in mind – because one easily loses sight of it.
I’ve been thinking that post traumatic stress disorder is not what it seems. I don’t think it has ever been explained this way before, but to my mind it has to do with …well let me explain. I don’t think someone can get ptsd when they do not expect anything from anyone. Well then they get what they expect and they are not let down. But for people who have an unusual or high level of reverence for society or for its moral arm, or anything like that, trauma can arise when they are suddenly disappointed. I don’t mean a minor disappointment, but more like realising that your esteemed god was really a goat, or that what seemed good or reliable turned out to be evil. In that case, I think one suddenly develops a negative or demonic God concept, and this is what makes one feel as if one is undermined. The whole point is to get out from under the influence of this demonic God, albeit only as a concept that dominates one’s mind. If one can do that, one recovers from post traumatic stress. If one cannot do so, then one remains permanently injured — and mad, to boot.
I really think it is important to accept (something I have always been reluctant to accept) which is that different people have different spiritual natures.In “The Alley”, Marechera has one of the characters say, “I am your wall and you are my wall…” (he relates this to the black and white factions of Zimbabwe at war, whom oddly enough he sees as making up a whole)One need not be set up in contest of oppositional fighting to become a wall to another person or group of people. But it probably helps.–In any case, what is “a wall”, but somehow (not what I thought before, which was the limits of the consciousness)… The wall seems to me to spell the material limits set up against spiritually projecting consciousness. It seems to me that when one reaches a limit with regard to one’s extension of one’s own spiritually directed consciousness (conscience?) into the world, one has encountered the other person – but not as “spirit” (for one would need to share their conscience in that case). One encounters them as materially directed LIMITS.It seems to me, for example, that there is a spiritually middle class desire not to have to experience very much, but to be on an even keel and proceed smoothly and predictably through life. I just had an encounter like this, where someone demanded that I ought not to prefer nervosity to this calm manner suited to living in civilization rather than the wild. But their assertion of their spirituality – which perhaps tries to help me – is a material wall to me. It shuts off the projection of my own spirituality, which requires the means to experience life with a high degree of nervosity in order to experience it fully.So, different people, in trying to guide each other, become the walls against the other’s progress.
- The complimentary human obeys the opposite principles to the spirit of the age. If the age is strong, the complimentary person is weak and sensitive. If the age is weak and lacking in will, the complimentary human must gain a surfeit of will.
- This is a communicative and demanding age. Loud voices have little to say. Intellectual shamanism embraces the principle of not communicating. It sticks to its authenticity, by not endeavoring to say anything. Anything it does communicate will be incidental in relation to its existence, which alone is of importance.
- Similarly, intellectual shamanism does not seek to render help. Its basic understanding is that most humanity cannot be assisted. Individuals may at times develop themselves by going to their roots, but via no secret means nor methodology
- Intellectual shamanism embraces wildness but offers no reassurance or guidance. A beneficial outcome is unknown.
- Intellectual shamanism is distinctly non-empathic. It does not concern itself with a world of hurts, in a world where it is impossible to avoid the mangling of feelings. It applies no salve. It makes a mockery of the principles of spiritual motherhood, including the roles of nursing, teaching and the metaphysical construct of the of Earth Mother. Should you be broken, it will not seek to fix you.
- Shamanism is: what it is. People may break because of it, whereas some grow by it. And all this time, shamanic practitioners merely watch and observe.
- Shamanism does nothing and is fundamentally nothing
- Shamanism is non-action
- Shamanism neither wishes to understand something, nor does it wish to be understood
- Dying is being born
- Shamanism adds nothing to the contemporary discourse.
- Shamanism welcomes trolls and those who self-destruct, since there is nothing more beautiful than the spontaneous fumes of their self-destruction
- Shamanism denies that human progress is necessarily granted and assured
14 Shamanism resides at the nexus of destruction and the creation of the eternal fire
- Shamanism resolves nothing – but makes apparent what already exists
- Shamanism is the enemy of the socially obvious, the pat idea and the already resolved notions about life
- Shamanism is neither intrinsically hostile and nor is it free of hostility
- Shamanism is politically homeless
- Shamanism is intellectually homeless
- Shamanism is socially homeless
- Shamanism is neither Western nor Eastern but is everything
- Shamanism does not ameliorate anything, but it clarifies everything.
- Shamanism accepts no difference between right wing populism and left wing populism, but pronounces them one and the same.
- Shamanism withholds acknowledgement of chronological time, but only at times
25 The principle is “inside-out is outside-in”
- Strong roots lead into the primeval
- Transgression and/or regression are not as dangerous, as dangerous as they sound.
- Cultural attributes are surface reflections of reality
- A dog howls
- Someone says it: “Nothing!”
- A door swings open and is closed
- A man walks in and one can discuss this or not
33 The writing appears and it is on the wall
- Never mind, a doctor beckons
- Reality is denied
- Above all, then, nothing is noticed
- Learning to read and write again when it is has already come time to die
- The mind lurches forth
- A cannon misfires
Of course it is very dangerous to access the primeval forces. It’s not to say that private primeval forces are the same a group forces akin to Jung’s collective unconscious. Of course there is the solitary activity of the solitary shaman, and in that case he or she is only tampering with their own DNA (and this might be quite literal actually, because we now have some idea that there is an adaptive mechanism in DNA – i.e. softwiring (“junk” dna) as well as the hardwired biological material. So one may be tampering with the soft wired dna. I’m almost sure we are doing so.
And of course it is very dangerous not just to allow things to proceed as they are, on the surface of being, as has been guided by tradition and historical precedent and perhaps one or two wise males.
But in the end, historical crisis also forces us into relationship with this taboo level of existence. We may face the roots of our dna with terror and abundant fear at the knowledge that we are transgressing against historical precedents (which so far have kept us relatively) safe and against tradition, but we have to do it anyway, as not to make this move means that we will almost certainly be destroyed.
I am sure that was the situation with Marechera, it was my situation, and so on. Historical shifts mean we can’t operate with the same dna anymore.
And let us bear in mind, too, that it is one thing to caution wisely against impetuous delving into the DNA, and it is another thing to act as if one cannot even understand what someone is talking about when they explain their necessities. There is such a thing as being too pure – too much of a wise monkey. And such people are so obstructive, in fact, that I fear they put themselves in harm’s way.
Also to clarify something, there are two levels of violence. One is the shamanic process itself and the other is the fact of how my identity was malformed by trying too hard to be good and perfect. Always, there has been an attitude that I am someone on trial who can only be accepted conditionally, but needs to be constantly policed by others acting as moralists. And also the same moralist in my head, but even more extremely so. So to encounter in myself all the things that others fear and to make peace with them – and I do mean specifically my white, African identity – is to encounter myself in my most creative mode.
I think it ought to be clear that I am not inclined, now more than ever, to be a philosophical activist.
Preaching to people about wholeness seems absurd when there are whole societies or even continents where people grow up naturally whole.
I have mentioned the Japanese as one example, but much of Africa also seems to embrace the continuity between the sensual self and the higher aspects of the self (which is all that wholeness means).
Therefore wholeness is not as rare as I had once suspected.
To preach to those who do not have this wholeness from childhood that there is a wholeness to be had seems folly. After all, in fact, this wholeness may not be available to be had BY THEM.
I think if the early childhood roots are not allowed to grow too deep and if one has already succumbed to very harsh pruning very early on, it may be difficult to be anything other than a very pruned and not particularly sensually engaged person (I refer again here to the motif of castration, which seems to imply enforced sensual disengagement).
Like dogs may have their tails docked and ears clipped – or indeed, undergo castration – some people have had the upbringing that makes them necessarily civilized and domesticated, but unable to access any sense of the primeval.
I cannot stress enough that what we are talking about here has nothing to do with abstract formulations of strength and weakness. The primeval is not “strength”. What it is, is connectedness. One may have very strong seeming characters that are castrated and very weak seeming ones that are entirely connected to the primeval. In fact it can be a torture, in some instances, to be connected to the primeval, but not in others. To have that connection is shamanic. Not to have it is Mutilated.
Therefore there are two social and historical trends – the shamanic and the Mutilated.
One need not oppose the Mutilated trend, although one can warn against it. It will attract those who are less connected to the primeval and it will tend to subvert the shamanic development of those who need to draw strength from roots.
This much I have found to be empirically true.
I have also found it to be true that one does not serve two masters, Mutilated and Shamanic, otherwise thy path does get corrupted. The Mutilated path is via the embrace of non-wholeness. Just in the same way as having sickle cell anemia protected the black slaves from succumbing to various diseases that a normal, healthy person would have succumbed to, so being Mutilated can protect one from all sorts of emotional contaminating diseases. At the same time, it is a state of being that is already fundamentally mutilated and (to that extent) unhealthy. By contrast, the shaman type is defined fundamentally by wholeness (but not strength!). The whole human being may be sick in all sorts of ways, even often contracting various social diseases and being afflicted with contaminants of varying sorts. But despite being frail, or insane, or endangered, the shamanic type is whole.
Perhaps extreme weakness is the price that a shamanic type is prepared to pay for being whole. The Mutilated type desires not wholeness and doesn’t necessarily need it to attain his sense of self-satisfaction. But for the shamanic type, things work exactly in reverse (he may be prepared to sacrifice riches, well-being and social esteem, just to be his complete self).
And because things work in reverse for the shamanic type, one has to be quite intellectual superficial (like a postmodernist) to attempt to serve two masters.