Shamanic of mutilated

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.


on judging as revealing

Even my memoir – or should I say ESPECIALLY it – has helped me to gain a much deeper appreciation for where the ideological and anti-shamanic battle lines really are.  How people react to it is really telling – at least to me, regarding their shamanic maturity, or even their animosities to things.
People reveal themselves through their reactions – which is a good thing, because when the battle lines become clear, one realizes that there is no point trying to convince certain people of things, or even to convince oneself, for instance, that there is more to understand about critical theory or that one can turn oneself into a success through understanding it.  The lessons taken enable one not to waste time. 
And energy and time are very, very important features from the shamanic perspective, as what is life anyway, but one’s energy and one’s time?
Perhaps this is why certain hostile ideologues like to tie you up in confusing knots, just to waste your energy and time.

The wrong message

What is taken from Bataille is a distortion that does not recognise what Bataille was – which was a delver into the primeval.
You have already seen one article which I downloaded and shared with you, wherein Bataille’s philosophy is used narrowly to advocate demasculinising and masochism in service of a political goal.
But this is so far from what it is – as I am sure I have indicated and perhaps you can now start to see.
I think the one thing Bataille was concerned with was ontological wholeness – the wholeness of the human being; and the means to recover it.
But you have to be already very spiritually wealthy to take in some of his recommendations.  You need to be able to draw from the resources of your own energy and spirit, because he advocates a violent breaking from social norms, by means of wallowing in what social normality takes to be abject.
But let us be very clear.  The purpose of this is not so that you can diminish yourself and make yourself weak so that you become a true leftist who is taking the side of weakness.  No.  the point is that by exposing yourself to a horrible initiation, you learn not to care so much about what others think about you.  You have already faced the worst horrors of your imagination and your worst fears – so what can others do to you now?
Therefore, Bataille is advocating a break from mediocrity and a means to individual freedom or “sovereignty” as he called it.  But the idiots keep wanting to turn his stuff into some gesture of social masochism.
People actually read his writing and take from it the opposite message.

Postmodernism AATS

It seems highly probable that both Bataille and postmodernism assume certain postures on the basis of what they take to be the advantages bestowed on them through the developments taking place in history.
In the case of Bataille, one might well question one of the assumption relating to his trope of the “inverted Icarus”  As we have discussed, and in terms of what I see as true, Nietzsche made one of his essential motifs “masculinity” because he was on a phallic ascendency journey to the sky.  If one sees this not so much in terms of an innate masculine impetus, but rather in terms of a need to DEVELOP a masculine familiarity, and condition oneself to a masculine modality of transcendence — well, perhaps Bataille realized that the historical work had been done.  In other words, so far as HE was concerned (half a century later), his masculinity was already clearly apparent and attained.  What was necessary NOW was to take the movement in the opposite direction (not to lose masculinity, but to capture wholeness).  This might be why Bataille came up with his notion of the inverted Icarus, who doesn’t ascend to the sun, but rather falls into it.  (And I am not sure, but perhaps this is also a falling to Earth, except that Earth is less an emblem of enlightenment than the Sun).
But Nietzsche did say, in ZARATHUSTRA, that one should return one’s spiritual harvest to the Earth, rather than send it skyward.
Postmodernism, however, has this simplistic formulation that we can dispense with being concerned with BEING and just work on theory, which does the job of labeling and hypnotizing and therefore indirectly controlling being.
This is also an assumption about history – that we are beyond rough handling and PHYSICALLY controlling and labeling people.  We can retract and be concerned only with theoretical labels and conceptual constructs, designed to move history (by engaging actively and politically).
But once again what obstructs is that this idea does not at all model the human psyche, which is more of a tree with three levels (roots, stem and branches) rather than just historical end points of stem and branches.  Actually the conceit and naivety of Western postmodernists and others similar to them in general is to imagine that history has bestowed on them the capacity to ONLY be stem and branches – whilst they continue to act as root systems as well!


Fundamentally, Icarus – as it seems to me, is a phallic or masculine style of thinking.  Icarus seeks enlightenment by transcending the Earth – which he takes as “feminine”.  But this is all too impetuous (although nonetheless very natural, and indeed very necessary).  Actually one has to shoot as high as possible – and definitely for enlightenment (whether one is male or female), but the shaman (i.e. Bataille) as post-metaphysician already knows that this is going to fail.  However, the failure is not in the way that the linear mind would understand failure.  When Icarus falls to Earth, his linear mind considers his an effort that led to failure, but in fact that is wrong – or only half of the picture.
In fact, Icarus has reached the limits of his being (which is commendable), but he was only ever in one channel, operating in ONE mode, which is that of linear thought.  His crash is not a disaster (entirely) because it returns him to the other level of thought, which unites him with the duality of existence.  Thus he is reunited with circular (perhaps) or “feminine” thought (diffused thought).  
But the shaman (perhaps even the potential shaman in Icarus) knew that this was always bound to happen.  It is in the natural order of things that one gets beyond the monistic thought IF one pushes far enough and with enough resolution – one reaches the limits of one’s being.  After that, one must reunite with the other elements of through that one had left behind.
The paradox of shamanic initiation – only after one has crashed and burnt can one be whole.
But this is not as pretty as it sounds, and takes a lot to pick up the pieces.


When we consider our life in linear, chronological terms, going away from the core self and as it were “into the world” is considered to be the mark of maturity.  But this conception of things is hindered by linear reasoning.  In fact, moving “up” – away from infancy – is only one possible direction one may move in, in order to move to the “outer” part of the circle.  If the inner part of the circle is defined by herd conventions and herd laws and gate keeping, then of course moving “down” in relation to these — that is, down into the core self, is also moving to the outer reaches of herd conventions, where conventional Christian ideology explicitly forbids us to go. 
I think most of the time we are a little bit bewitched by our metaphors so that we think the only way that is is reasonable to progress is always “up” (hypnotized by  the linear metaphor of growing UP from childhood).  Of course the linear metaphor IS in fact the HERD METAPHOR, which keeps us all in place, operating according to herd norms and conventions.  We can allow ourselves to become bewitched by it, to the point that we do not also see that what the herd explicitly prohibits is going “DOWN”.  But going down into the core self can also be extremely productive.  And going downward in this sense is dangerous.  It is not going TOWARD THE INSIDE, where everything is guaranteed to be regulated, orderly and safe.  (What is on the inside, aligned with the herd. is meant to be safe, but what is on the outside is rarely very safe, which is what separates these two IN THE SHAMANIC SENSE.)
Bataille’s insight was that is was possible to go to the outside by going DOWNWARD, whereas Nietzsche had only seen one possibility, which was going UP.
In an case, it is very important to separate herd metaphors (which inscribe their fear about encountering danger, and use linear metaphors) from those metaphors created from a shamanic perspective.  Psychoanalysis employs herd metaphors, which come in with inbuilt herd warnings.  Our metaphors cannot be so readily understood by those who think in terms or linear consciousness.
Perhaps the point is not to go through the barrier of the id, so much.  I see what you are saying, but for some reason the id seems the most mystical and magical part of me.  Also if you go through the barrier, you may lose oxygen, nutrients and other supplies. 
I think the point is rather to become so rich in one’s sense of reality that one no longer relies on external forms of knowledge.  That is the real barrier in fact.  Because there is a world of difference between the people in the world who need to be taught what is what and how to live their lives (the majority) and those who have become rich enough to draw from their own rescources.

Energy and matter

1.  The old dualism of materialism versus idealism is (has already been) undermined considerably by advances in biology, physics and possibly even philosophy.  So now we are learning that what seems to be material is actually composed of energy, and what seems to be mental is actually, well, not so much so.  To give you an idea, which relates to recent advances in medical science, it is now becoming apparent that certain mental disorders, like autism, may have their origins in the bacteria (or lack thereof) in the gut.  So we cannot avidly assert that someone lacks mental strength or (perhaps even) ability because they are not of good moral fiber, but rather their gut fiber might not be so good (much more literally).
2.  Even back in the forties or fifties (I’m not sure when) Bataille proposed “base materalism” as a mystical formula relating to matter.  I think he specifically remarked on its indeterminacy.  So matter and mysticism can be quite compatible on an abstract level, even if that is not how most people understand it.
3.  So, I would move away from positing that there are two basic levels of existence, or two basic levels of understanding.  It might be better to see energy moving into matter and matter moving into energy.  (I have actually thought this way myself – that those whose energies have been captured, by larger and perhaps hostile forces, are forced to remain as matter, losing their capacity to self-transform and adjust at will to difficult or different situations.
Hostile forces always try to pin us down, to make our energy visible (materially), so that it can be used and drained off for other purposes.  That is why it is imperative for a shaman to remain invisible and to keep engaging in training that will allow him or her to shapeshift.

Policing cultural boundaries

I first began to learn about national personhood after I migrated to NewMonia.   Of course I had my own personality at that time, which was rather shy, extremely dutiful and generally full of anxiety.  I also had a mischievous side, but this did not find much of an outlet in an environment that was far from natural to me.


But people started to teach me about the lovable, or infamous rogue that they thought of as my country of origin.  They taught me this by imposing what they considered to be the characteristics of this country onto me.  Presumably, I was very arrogant and conceited and replete with infamous deeds, for instance those that could have been committed by adult males, if they were out of control.


Whenever I made an error of judgment or asked for assistance to find out how things were supposed to work, I was treated in this light. 


Eventually — and this is strange, too – I gained some of the characteristics of whom I was supposed to be.   I began to feel very aggressive and even at war with those around me.  It is not as if this manner of treatment of me was relenting.  The more afraid I was that it would start again, the more it brought this out in people.  After more than a decade of different levels of experience, but in a left wing work place, where people seemed to really feel vindictive about the supposed characteristics of my supposed country of origin, I felt like I was going to be totally erased by the force of hostility bought against me – which once again seemed like the kind of animosity you would bring against an enemy soldier who had dared to cross your lines.  Then, I realized that the only way to counteract this level of psychological antagonism was actually to give myself some of the characteristics already attributed to me, which would enable me to start to fight back.


This is how it is when a person is perceived as a country.  But what is it that responds to the other person, not as an individual but as a country?  Certainly, it must be the country within them, that is responding to another country. 


So we see that people draw their boundary lines in the dirt, and act out their particular country’s fears and hostilities.  In NewMonians I saw that they were suffering from a good deal of colonial guilt, so it made sense that they would try to deflect their discomfort about their own identity by projecting their sense of a dark, shadowy, evil potential onto me.


And there are other ways that people of particular nationalities set out to make themselves look good.  One of the biggest ways is by denying that anything exists outside of their psychological boundaries, or that they are even capable of engaging in hostilities of any sort.  They might explain the effects of their hostilities in totally different terms, for example in terms of training others about ethics, or I terms of diagnosing another person’s alleged pathologies.  In any case, part of the perfection of political boundary defense is in not seeing it as entailing any form of proactive aggression or hostility.


Denying history

Shamanism does have a political dimension actually, because it enables you to see id structures that form battle lines.
It’s my view that if we come asunder on one of the boundaries of these broad, historical id structures, we will either be destroyed or be forced to shamanize.
But to shamanize is to see, for the first time, the outlines of these id structures, and how they dominate the lives of whole sectors of the community.  That is why Marechera’s insights into the ID structures of contemporary Zimbabwe were so useful to me.  You have to know where people are inclined to draw a line and fight you with the irrational parts of their beings, rather than taking in what you have to say in an open and objective spirit.  If you don’t understand these kinds of things, AND you happen to be situated right at the boundaries of these broad historical structures, you will end up succumbing to others feints and false alliances.
So, to me, shamanism does open up a sphere of a higher level of knowledge, which is basically political and bounded by the limits of reality aligned to historical necessity.
This is something Westerners do not see, as a rule, because they, themselves, are at the center (not the boundary) of a huge political landmass, which causes them not to have to experience any degree of historical change or disruption.  They remain undisturbed by such sensations, which feeds into their notion that we are all just isolated individuals, who have no essential relationship to history or to historical change.

the historical sense

After a couple of decades of deep experience and self-analysis, I believe that the structure of my psyche may be significantly different from that of people who were raised in the West, or indeed in circumstances of advanced industrialization.  I have had experiences that may not be available to many people, as a result of this – my different upbringing and my different structure of the psyche.
So what concerns me is that I am true to myself and to my insights, which have been accumulated in circumstances that most people would describe as extremely difficult (compared to what is considered normal circumstances).
Also, I see the historical sense as part of the accruement of my particular shamanism.  I think that when many Westerners have a blocked sense of instinct or the capacity to see things according to their own organic capabilities, they are also fundamentally lacking in a notion of historical sense – for instance, they tend to see their childhood selves and their adult selves and their future selves as all mostly the same, with just a few minor changes.  This is a lack of historical sense and a lack of understanding of how deeply they are entwined in their present environment – I mean how much their present cultural environment moderates their experiences.  If they were able to see themselves coming under the force of history and it’s political structures and being forced to change and become something else under its pressures, they would suddenly understand a great deal more than they do – and be able to afford an exoteric perspective!
My emphasis on shamanism is very much in terms of a historical construct.  It seems we disagree on our paradigms in this regard.  There may be those who think differently (which I also put down to the impact of historical formation forces).
Mine is a historically interested paradigm, first and foremost.

mastering the ID

I rather think that the horses, in the case of the British aristocracy – and belatedly  in my case – were means to solidify and concretize one’s concern for the ID and one’s need to care-take in relation to it.
I think it’s what is most missing today – there is no horsemanship.  People don’t go along at their height, but on their hands and knees.
But back in my day things were very, very strict.  If you did not take care of the well-being of your horse and monitor that all the time, you were thought of as an evil and insidious person.  In fact, we had a British couple move into the neighborhood, who bought a horse but had no idea of how to take care of it.  Even I thought there was something strangely degenerate — something that went beyond negligence, in that simple inability to know what was the right thing to do.
So I think that British horsemanship had a lot to do with mastery of the ID.

On not caring to be liked: the authoritarian

Let me make the difference a bit more explicit to you, because it can be lost on people who have been brought up in the comparatively more permissive West.  I will make it more obvious in this way, by a narration, but I am sure there could still the temptation to say that two opposing motivations (fearing dishonor and wanting to be liked) are fundamentally the same.  
In the Air Crash Investigations show last night, they showed a Korean Air cargo jet that crashed in the UK.  Apparently the pilot was a captain in the Korean military before he transferred to become a captain in the airline business.  But in fact he had not trained on airliners.  He should really not have been put in the position of captain, but for him to be relegated as first officer would have been a loss of face.  Anyway, the instruments were faulty, but he had previously been reprimanded for not paying attention to his instruments, so even though he may have sensed that something was wrong, he continued to take his readings from his instruments.  Meanwhile the first officer told him that he was banking 90 degrees.  The first officer’s instruments were correct.  But the military trained pilot ignored the first officer and followed his own instruments.  The first officer didn’t say anything more, because he did not want the higher status captain to lose face.  So the plane ploughed into the ground.
Well, firstly, I do not want to deny that there is a sense of awe and honor, loyalty, etc. in obeying cultural laws like these created in the Korean military.  But I also want to point to a qualitative difference between behavior that is commanded by fear and behavior that is commanded by a principle of wanting to get along and be liked.   One might well argue that the differences are philosophically subtle, and that we ought to just say that whatever anybody does, it is for the sake of the pleasure principle.  Somehow this would make the Korean pilots out to be like jolly old fellows, just rolling along and wanting to be liked.   In fact, perhaps it is more likely that the first officer feared, as the narrator of the show insinuated, dishonor more than death.
But I do see this theoretical flaw appearing the theorizing of contemporary Westerners again and again.  It posits that we are all jolly old clowns, just rolling along and wanting to be liked.   It’s very strange to impute that motivation to everyone, in my view, and this is a lens that does tend to fuzzy rather than clarify the vision!
I actually think Bataille is speaking to people like me – people of the stricter authoritarian orders, who need terrifying visions and terrifying injunctions….to help them free themselves from terror.
It’s a strange solution but one that seems to work.

Superego today

I will maintain that what psychologists of today leave out of the mix in their models of the psyche is the the level of inherited cultural and social mores, which are very firm, rigid and external to any experiences one may have had.  And as I say, contemporary people, it seems, simply do not UNDERSTAND the Superego, or see any room for it, because rarely do these people today inherit such strong external structures into their minds, which have nothing much to do with their individual, personal experiences….

Observing the obvious

The key to understanding me is the political and historical key.  With that (set of) keys, you can achieve an almost complete understanding.
It really isn’t more complicated than that.  I think Western ego psychology has a lot to answer for in making very, very obvious things seem hard to observe.
But there are some things that differ, very significantly, from how Westerners experience themselves.
The first key is authoritarianism.
This means the rigid adherence to external form, no matter what one may be feeling inside.
That has always been my training – my early cultural conditioning from the youngest age.
The second key is I had very young parents who did not manage their fears about a child’s possible (but unlikely) non-adherence to authority and authoritative norms.
The third key is that I was ripped out of my home soil just at the age when adulthood is being established and one is putting down roots.
A fourth key is that emotions were not engaged with in a lavish way, due to the war.
A fifth is the feeling of shame through losing one’s homeland (my father’s sense of shame at God abandoning him through the loss of the war)  and because others said the natural behavior one had learned was suspicious in all manner of ways (did it evince racism or delusions of superiority?  If there was even a hint of suspicion that it did – not actual content, but suspicion – I was taught a “lesson”).
All of this has a political and historical meaning and origin.  There is no need to look further, or deeper for something strange, as they will not be found.
Furthermore, my reactions are very logical.  If a certain group of people create a setting where I am treated with suspicion, I am not comfortable with them.  But if they do not create such a setting, then everything is perfectly fine.  I respond to a trusting situation with trust and an untrusting situation with fear.
These facts are all quite obviously on the surface of reality.  So let’s not mystify.  Let’s just accept them.

Entry into shamanism through a structural flaw

I think if you look at the structure of my psyche, what you find is a structurally weakened metabolic self.  This does not mean that I do not have very strong COMPONENTS of a metabolic self – but there is a STRUCTURAL flaw.
I think this flaw developed firstly, from an early age, because of my father’s episodes of rage, especially in relation to whether or not he perceived we were conforming to social norms.  If he perceived that things were not perfect, he would fly into a rage.  Since conformity was not possible either – (the demand was too ambiguous and fraught with uncertainty) – I developed a tendency to flip a switch and not to be present very much, in relation to these rages.
That was, I think, the basis of an early metabolic flaw.
Later, when I was compelled to migrate, right at an age where I was just establishing an adult identity, I lost my roots.  This was like being a tree with no roots.  Without their very rugged and forceful vitality, I suffered from a compromised immune system and caught every little virus going.
The fact that I continued to be attacked for my identity made it very difficult to put down roots.  People were basically implying, “Your roots are bad.  Start again!”  So I kept trying to start again.  But one does not simply start again at the age of 16, with a different character structure, different loyalties and different notions of the world.  The fact that I took their injunction seriously and tried to start again meant that I did not have the stamina in certain situations to persist through them.  I kept trying to be like what the average Westerner expected me to be, but as this involved denying my basic metabolic instincts and adopting those that were not mine, the amount of energy it took to repress reflex and think non-reflexively was more than I could muster.
From the other side, my father kept attacking me for the opposite reasons that others were inclined to attack.  He was angry to the extent that I was even capable of adapting and putting down roots.  This made him feel like the whole war in Rhodesia had been for nothing.  To the extent I made a life for myself, I was considered wayward and a renegade.
The accumulated effect of this was to make me feel it was very, very dangerous to have a metabolic self – that is, a self that is firmly rooted in its own visceral sense of meaning and value and an implicit understanding of the social order.
When people attacked my metabolic self – my Rhodesian identity and experiences up until the age of 15/16 – I felt disoriented and unable to experience emotion.  My capacity to have feelings or awareness of my surroundings, apart from a narrow, tunnel-vision, simply disappeared.  
The basic structural flaw, as well as further events that continued to exacerbate it, made adaptation to modernity pretty much impossible for me.  I have tried – but I just keep switching off from complex emotional engagements with things when attacked at the root level (when people criticize my automatic or early organic programmed reactions).  It’s not that I am hurt by criticism, by any means – it’s just that I cannot draw any meaning from it, and it leads to a separation from my own emotions, so that I do not understand even myself.  I feel organically detached.
So, this is what led me into shamanism.  In a sense it is the fact that I don’t really have an identity that is allowed to settle in.  When others take it upon themselves to destroy the existing structures and to constantly attempt to remold you, you do not have an identity that you can actually work with.
Consequently, you learn to see things in an unusual way.  In particular, political and social boundaries and the methods used to guard and protect them become much more obvious.   Also, mechanisms of control within systems become clearer to observe.
For me, being always on the outside of things by necessity is what affords a shamanic perspective.  Unfortunately, what is observed from the outside it almost impossible to convey to those on the inside of the system, whose egos and personalities have been built into the cultural and social structures they inhabit.
Shamanism is a little bit pointless.  But one has no choice but to persist.

Creating our own rites of passage

It’s one sided just to experience the playful aspect of existence or even to be adept at it.  Interesting that postmodernists focus on this side but not at all on the heavier side of risk, maturity and difficulty, which they want to do away with as if these were just so many antiquated and demanding CONCEPTS (unrelated to reality in any sense, except that some antiquated person dreamt them up).
On the danger and difficulty side, of course this has to be inner danger and difficulty (maybe reflecting outward circumstances in an obvious way, but not always obvious to the naked eye).
I read this article yesterday:
You might think, as one of the commentators did, that it sounds hippiesque and attention grabbing, but I know this is not necessarily so, since I deliberately set up the circumstances for me to undergo the same process when I chose to write my PHD in the WAY I did.  Apparently, Kingsbury (who vomited up his anger after having ayahuasca) wanted to stage a fight where instead of operating from rage he had a very clear mind and complete awareness and control during his fight.  He traded the incentivizing force of anger for the attitude of a masterful clear head.  Of course, he lost his rounds very badly but claims that the fight was really between him and himself, and that having to perform in a mode of personal mastery (although he lost in front of others) was his ultimate victory and sense of achievement.
In this sense, then, we can say that he set up and completed his own rite of passage, through shamanic doubling: masterfully watching himself perform and even losing without losing his emotional control or equilibrium.
I did that when I wrote my PhD.  I was concerned that I would have mastery on my own terms, even if I saw myself losing.  (That is actually one of the most difficult things to manage – to see oneself losing in public, but on one’s own terms, and not to intervene on one’s own behalf to try to change the course of fate.)
The fact that I even got my PhD when I was pushing in the other direction – toward authenticity – will always be significant to me, as the loss if I had failed completely would have been extreme.  But if I had sacrificed my reality, my sense of being true to myself at the point of writing, I would have felt it throughout my life, as a symptom of weakness in me, leading me to despair in myself.  Instead, I learned that I was strong.

Academic identities

For all of its claims to be open-minded and attuned to new levels of criticism, academia is really concerned with the instillation of dogmatic thought.  There is a certain genteel openness to differences expressed in personality that belies the fact that many in academia are really not open to the kinds of ideas that would in any way not already be accommodated by the existing academic dogmas.
For instance, in the humanities, there is the prevalent idea that we are all, gradually, incrementally, making our way toward a more enlightened and fair-minded attitude, as a society.  That is one of the fundamental academic dogmas.  This idea is that progress is inevitable and that it is slow and that that academia itself represents the fundamental bastion of enlightened thought.
But academia is all too often close-minded to the possibility of sudden shifts in consciousness, as would take place within the framework of shamanism.   It is also close-minded in terms of real, ethical fair play.  If you cannot feed your knowledge and experiences in, through one of the holes that is already available in the academic edifice, you will not be heard at all.  That is a problem.
For instance, if I would like to speak of the fact that people who migrate from right wing countries can also be susceptible to suffering, I will not be heard at all.  I can speak, but it is as if I am not saying anything.  There is no hole in academia to feed that information through.
But if I point out that there is suffering and oppression in developing countries due to oppressive regimes, there are all too many holes to feed that information into.
Also, in academia, there is an expectation of one having a fundamental identity – an easily recognizable mode of being, based on categorical definition.  One may have an ethnic origin, a gender, a sexual orientation, etc.  It is understood implicitly that one speaks through the orientation of one’s particular identity.
But my real identity structure is not considered to exist, particularly, for academia.  It’s so much of a problem to academia that it is NOT EVEN a problem anymore.  It’s out of sight and out of mind.
The way academia preemptively structures and controls thought goes quite some way to explaining why and how, for a long time when I was in the system of academia, I felt like the process of thinking involved a necessary dissociation from oneself, by stepping aside from who one really knows one is and taking on a more hackneyed identity, in order to speak as an academic to academics.
One has to take on the attitude of, “I am female, therefore…” or, “I am white, therefore…”  (these are allowable categories).  Or, one may even speak of “intersectionality”:  “I am female and white and a migrant (but definitionally not of the oppressed sort, since “white” cancels out “oppression”).  Intersectionality means that I am at the juncture of all of these identities, and therefore the nature of my being and my prospects for the future are seemingly already well-known.
But actually very little can be known through dwelling in this dogmatic, dissociated state.  In fact, this leads to virtually an anti-knowledge.
What can be known is rooted in experience, not categorical delineations of the external characteristics of identity.
But this false system of knowledge as to who I am can tend to by quite insistent.

The structure of shamanic experience

The structure of shamanism


Shamanic initiation seems to involve a dissolution or even a “dissipation” (temporary degeneration) of the being, through violence.  By “violence” I do not necessarily mean external force.  The force can well up from the inside, or be a result of partaking of extreme chemical substances.  If one’s nerves are extremely overextended, such as (for some people) meditating on some aspects of violence they have experienced, or something suddenly changes, like a fly landing on the hand of a Zen monk whose mind has already become incredibly stretched, through the rigors of contemplation, the violence from the outside enters the inside and there is no longer a differentiation between outside and inside.

Through the initiation process, the relationship between the individual and the external world is changed, as he or she is no longer embedded in the reality defined by earlier social conditioning.  This does not mean that the initiate may not return to VISIT such states as one who has departed from the old mindset — that is quite possible.  But the embedded and comfortable status in relation to one’s home no longer exists.   A shaman is, then, effectively homeless — and perhaps spiritual homelessness is one of the essential features of the shamanic type.  Along with this, though, is the more important psychological component of ADJUSTMENT to homelessness, which completes the initiation and gives the (now) initiate the tools to wander.

Where to go?  There are two axes and four directions.  One may go back into the past, or into the future.  One may ascend into the heavens (transcendence) or descend into hill (immanence and below, into the psychological roots of our existence).    This freedom not to have to remain in present time and space but to move into other zones (representing modes of consciousness) is attained through successful shamanic initiation.  (Of course, one hesitates to speak of the unsuccessful outcomes, where a dissolution of being is not followed by the acquisition of additional knowledge that would make homelessness possible or even palatable.)  Successful shamanic initiation, especially these days, may be an accident of fate — if one is weak enough to succumb to rupturing violence and yet strong enough to put oneself together afterwards, one can be said to have undergone a successful shamanic initiation.

But the loss of being, even temporarily, is not to be taken lightly, and the wound that it inflicts, although bringing wisdom, may be permanently debilitating, for instance, by adding a dimension to being that makes it more difficult to socialize, in some instances.  Traditional shamanic literature (quoted by Mircea Eliade) speaks of the difficulty of regaining the contents of one’s being in very grueling terms.  For instance, all the organs from the body are taken out and boiled and then replaced.  One must be sure to count all the body parts to make sure none are missing, or otherwise one fails to make the “difficult crossing” that would facilitate a return from the dead.   This kind of language, which is really the language of torture, is not that different from that of Nietzsche when he speaks of the initiate into knowledge as one who was “almost sacrificed”.   Similarly, there is a shamanic obsession with wholeness, which appears as nothing if not a life and death issue.  (Bataille, a disciple of Nietzsche, was himself concerned with psychical wholeness and wrote about his obsession in his introduction to his book, “On Nietzsche”.)

So the return to wholeness, having lost one’s ability to be embedded as part of the herd, is one of the most difficult tasks of self-development.   It may take many years, if it is completed at all.  Nietzsche’s “On the way of the creator” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, details some of the travails that such a would-be initiate will meet on the way, such as confrontation with the condemnation of one’s own conscience for taking a path that doesn’t have the prior approval of the herd (and of the herd’s voice, which cautions one within, concerning the danger of one’s necessary enterprise).

The point is that the enterprise of achieving wholeness on one’s own becomes absolutely imperative once one has faced disintegration, since the herd and its wisdom cannot reach one anymore, from this position on the verge of complete psychological destruction.  One has, in effect, outgrown the herd, but is not yet strong enough to stand completely on one’s own — a difficult time, then, has been guaranteed!  (And members of the herd, sensing the vulnerability, will often do their best to make sure that this time is not just a bit trying, but distressingly hard.)

This is what it means to experience shamanic initiation — but afterwards one is much more free in many ways, and more whole.  Of course there are other stages of development, too, such as learning to move more effectively between the different zones of consciousness that one is now more free to explore. One can learn to enjoy the process and develop dexterity in the mode of action.


The physical expression of force and psychical violence are different things, although both experiences are terrifying.

The point of the particularly shamanic experience, is that the psychical terror changes the perspective from an outside-in perspective, to one that is inside-out.  That is, it intensifies subjectivity (inner sensations) and also prioritizes them.

Once one has become shamanically alive, through this prioritizing of the inner life, everything seems changed and more alive than before.

Note on shamanism

My experiences were inter-psychical violence. In fact the physical expression of force and psychical violence are different things. Both experiences are terrifying.

I think the point of the particularly shamanic experience, though, is that the psychical terror changes the perspective from an outside-in perspective, to one that is inside-out. That is, it intensifies subjectivity (inner sensations) and also prioritizes them.

Once one has become shamanically alive, through this prioritizing of the inner life, everything seems changed and possibly more alive than before.

So there is a qualitative difference between a shocking experience that is not shamanic and one that is.

Inward-out or outward-in?


You know, in the past I would not have had the capacity to analyse character through a text in that way, but I am starting to see how it makes sense to do so.  I would have analysed it purely formally, in the sense of assuming the writer had a lot of things on her mind that she wanted to draw together, and that she was starting with a big picture, drawing it in to make a very small picture (herself) and then drawing away again from the small picture and back to the big picture focus.   It might seem a rather strained piece of writing, in the formalistic sense, but it was written for a vaguely feminist outlet, Jezebel.  So maybe she wanted to talk about women and child-bearing within a context of acknowledging the reality of global violence.

I am sure the writing can be viewed that way, and that appraising its qualities in a formal, literary sense, rather than a psychological manner is often important to do.

On another level, though — the level of cultural critique — one could ascertain that the writing is narcissistic.  That’s because there is so much that comes out on the Internet that does not even attempt to take the individual outside of herself or himself and place them into the broader context they have mentioned.  Instead, the world must shrink to occupy the smaller space of the self.  There should at least be a two-directional pathway between the broader world and self, with information flowing in BOTH directions.  If information flows only one way, that is a sign that the writer may not be a deep thinker.

Having said that, I will now talk about myself.   My original position was diametrically opposite to that of the writer who channels everything into the smallness of herself.   As dramatic as it sounds, I used to have almost no sense of the self at all.  Everything used to be outward-looking.  As a result, after migration, when the environment changed, I aggressively attacked myself at an unconscious level, in such a way that it played havoc with my immune system and left me perpetually exhausted.  I don’t know how this happened, but I think that having been brought up in a time of war, all our energies were directed to the next episode of attack or defence or what was on the news (who was killed, who remained alive), so there was no focus on developing and inward sense of self and no time for it.

Even now, having developed an outward-looking character structure, even the intense inward focus of the writer tends to register to me on a literary-formalistic rather than individual-as-subject level.

I am actually just learning, these days, from an individual that Clarissa wrote to on my behalf, how this individual-as-subject level of reflexive interpretation works.  I’ve really always been blind to it.  For instance, I keep saying, “shamanism is a formal structure of experience that one passes through,” whereas it seems he says, “shamanism is the capacity of the individual to perform effectively.”  Even this difference of perspective indicates how little prepared I am to take the individual as a separate structure unto himself all that seriously.  While I can do so, that is not my reflex and is really a second language I am learning.

Speaking a different language from others, by reflex, though, is not always the best for analysing the world.  So I must make a shift from viewing the whole world in terms of literary formalism and start taking the individual expresssions of the self more seriously.

soul shattering

This was not an ideological residue of the past I had to cope with, but a complete ideological entrapment. You need to estimate something pretty vast. Imagine that your very close relatives had gone to war and died for a religion based in your country. Everybody in your family really believed in that religion—and now you are displaced. Well in a very fundamental sense that religion IS your identity, rather than a residue to be cast off. I think you need to enhance your sense of magnitude.

I think what you still don’t get is the petrifying force of conscience and duty and the power this had over me. When you are used to living under an ideology that sometimes pronounces death on those who disagree with it, you may be inclined to put issues of conscience and judicious righteousness BEFORE well-being and the basic functions of eating and sleeping.

soul loss

I think one of the most terrifying things is to have other people demand things of you, or even get punitive, when you are in a mode of incompleteness.

When I first migrated to Australia, I was in a mode of real incompleteness and psychological shock.  As we know, that continued for some time.

But I also had a lot of hidden pressures.  My first pressure was simply to adapt to my new external circumstances.  But, as well as this, I had parents who began to lean on me as the eldest – not just a bit, but quite heavily.   I had to be the bridge for their adjustments.  But at the same time they insisted we are proud people who will not adjust our values or behavior or language to conform to the new norms.

Add onto this my father’s raw mental state and barely contained vengefulness, as he became angry at having to readjust midlife.  He had fully believed the ideology of the Rhodesian rulers about maintaining a standard for Western civilization based on Christianity – one that would have been superlatively good, in a society that was assured survival BECAUSE of its reliance on God despite monumental political and psychological pressures.   So when that was shown, by circumstances, to be false, he was profoundly rocked to the core of his being as well as subconsciously – but never openly – outraged at the betrayal, which had taken on metaphysical proportions by now.

So I had to cope with his extreme levels of aggression at me, and displacement of the blame for Rhodesia’s demise, onto me.   Nothing I did was ever perfect or good enough.   And because I had to constantly use a lot of energy to defend myself from his ventures into my personal space (both literally and figuratively),  I had difficulty recovering my own equilibrium and felt rather raw myself.

Along with this, others also never really let me adjust.   They kept telling me things I could not make sense of, implying that my life has been easy or “privileged” and that now I would have to pay.

But my life in the past and even in the present was rather precarious.   In the present it was more so, since I had become emotionally blocked from experiencing my own sensations, since people kept implying that I ought to feel guilty about who I was.

So I became this de-sensationalized person.  And then people put on more pressure:  “You need to adjust.  You need to adjust!” – but I had lost my sensations.

This is, I think, “soul loss”:  one loses one’s capacities to function and one’s emotions make one frightened.  One feels that there is something socially unacceptable about having emotions of any sort at all – and one tries to constrain them.

But these blocked off aspects then become unknown aspects of the self and represent a puzzle and a source of danger.   One has to try to draw them out slowly, but that has NOW become a psychologically  transgressive motion and fraught with danger.  One is drawing out emotions that others have described a socially unacceptable.

This process is terrifying, too.

And then there are the secondary effects of all of this – people noticing your incompleteness and commenting on it.  That adds another layer of psychological difficulty and mental confusion.

So, to function when you are incomplete is very difficult.

I actually think it is almost unbelievable that I made it out the other side, into completeness, finally.   Given my circumstances, you would not think I would.  But here I am!