The shamanic position is inevitably and definitively naive*. Bataille said of Nietzsche that one can only understand his writing as a complete disorientation and dissolution of thought, with the imperative to reorient oneself to the world again. One can see how this works in the case of Nietzsche as the destruction of a religious worldview, with what he terms the “death of God” necessitates a revision of everything one had previously held to be true. An ongoing project of revaluing all values is imperative just so that one may continue to live in the world and feel one is doing so realistically.
A temporary state of madness, or what Nietzsche seems to hold as an unhealthy disorientation toward the world is followed by a period of recovery, where one is an invalid who nonetheless is reaching for a foothold. The loss of ones worldview can be fatal and (take it from me) is an extremely unhealthy state to experience, both in terms of the mind and the body. Nonetheless, if one can recover from this maddening state, one is automatically stronger.
It is remarkably difficult, however, to recover from a complete loss of one’s worldview. There is always the possibility that the struggle to recover oneself will take such a toll on mind and body that a deeper kind of traumatic illness will make its way into one’s bones and one will die before one’s time. Nothing is assured in this whole process of accepting loss and attempting recovery.
I used to take the approach where I used other people as radar beacons and effectively beamed my ideas off them to see how they would react. That seemed to be a way to find out where I might fit in the totally new world I’d moved to after having been ripped out of my place of origin at the age of 15.
Honest engagement was extremely necessary, but equally hard to come by, as in most cases one has done the ordinary foundational work in any particular culture by the time one has reached one’s mid-teens. Except this was not the case for me. I’d done a totally different foundational work. It was as if I’d studied for a maths exam and then had to take an English exam. I felt like a ridiculous person. In a way, I hated myself, while in another way I revered myself that at least I knew so much about maths.
But what I couldn’t do without was other people’s reactions. “How am I improving in my English? Are all of the remedial lessons paying off? Is anything I’m saying starting to make a little bit of sense?”
Many people took the opportunity to feed me a lot of misinformation, because obviously I must be putting them on. We all tend to make the assumption that others generally know as much or as little as we do about the important facts of life. Our brains naturalise our accumulated knowledge so that it seems we have always had it. Furthermore, we do not experience the sensation that we all enjoy very specific types of knowledge, due to the naturalisation tactics of our brains. Being part of a unified culture makes us view what we share with others who are similar to us for historical reasons as the entirety of knowledge that can be obtained. After all, othe majority of one’s mental actions overlap with those who have had the same cultural background as oneself and a similar range of accumulated experiences.
Those who go mad through no fault of their own know something different. They know from their own hardships that the overlap of knowledge between your mind and mine might be much smaller than either of us would like to fathom. Since we both want to naturalise our knowledge set and make it seem to be universal, we both struggle against any indication that any part of our knowledge could be relative, indeed a product of historical contingencies.
The weaker party ends up by becoming batlike, learning to cope with cultural blindness by flying by radar. I’ve been an invalid of this sort for too many years: blinded and resorting to secondary forms of awareness.
But Nietzsche and Bataille and anyone who has known complete disruption harmonize with me. They are, indeed, discordant beings, who give hints as to how to find one’s way out of the mess, or totally calamity.
Maturity in the shamanic sense is to no longer need to build one’s knowledge. One has enough, now, to orient oneself effectively and with a sense of emotional satisfaction.
Knowledge, after all, is also emotional knowledge. Where are the watering holes so that one can revive? If one is batlike, one has to discover these before too much time has already passed, or otherwise one weakens perhaps permanently.
I was able to find a few, but for two decades it was always a hardship to maintain these.
I’ve had to do all sorts of things in the backwards order and in the wrong ways. I’ve often been poisoned by the wrong waters, but how is one to know unless one tries them?
I understand, now, at least my own territory — what is poison to me and what is not.
Maturity is harder to achieve when one brings oneself up, but it is at least, in a sense, fuller, since one does not take the word of the authorities for truth but tests everything oneself.
One feels beyond grateful, having made it to this point, to those who gave a great deal of their knowledge in a way that helped instead of hindered.
The level of desperation one has one one does not know things is frightening and extreme. But self-knowledge brings satisfaction — no matter how long its accumulation takes.
* While the noble man lives for himself with trust and candour (gennaios, meaning “of noble birth” stresses the nuance “upright” and also probably “naïve”), the man of resentment is neither upright nor naïve, nor honest and direct with himself. His soul squints. His spirit loves hiding places, secret paths, and back doors.
[emphasis added] http://nietzsche.classicauthors.net/GenealogyMorals/GenealogyMorals10.html