Ten Percent American Culture Destroys Empathy «
I don't think that all is lost with regard to western individuality. To parallel somewhat what Ghandi said about western culture, "It is still a good idea!" Yet, the social isolation of westerners (which a morality of individualism produces) leads to very brittle, overly sensitive characters.
Westerners have a hard shell, but underneath there is the sense of something waiting to crack.
The secret’s out: everybody and his cat “projects”. It’s not just childishness or craziness that causes human projection. Consciousness itself compels us to do so, since an individual’s knowledge of the world is limited and culturally constrained.
When you read this blog, you are 100 percent projecting, whomever you may happen to be.
You are reading into the words your own values, experience and knowledge, which will inevitably differ from mine.
Good luck, fellow travelers, and enjoy the spheres of meaning you will happen to project.
“Intuition” could mean all sorts of things. The word itself still requires further elucidation.
If we are talking about the capacity to have correct hunches — what is normally referred to as ‘women’s intuition” — then the best explanation/definition I have heard is that this is a category of intuition possessed by all who are in a position of being oppressed. The capacity to anticipate the actions of the “master”, to effectively “read his mind” can be a life-preserving skill — and therefore one worth developing for anyone in an especially vulnerable position in relation to power. So, it is not just women, but others who have been a long time in a position of relative dis-empowerment, who will be likely to develop this skill.
Alternatively, one may wish to consider the question in relation to a different set of ideas. Supposing that “intuition” was the capacity to detect cause and effect, that is something entirely different from the capacity to have the right hunch about what someone will do next.
Certainly, many women have a better grasp of cause and effect than their male counterparts would have. This is because women were historically positioned to relate more directly to the concrete (empirical) world than men are, whereas men were relieved of the everyday burdens of housework and child rearing so as to be able to become, in effect, Philosophical Idealists (people who relate to the world in terms of intangible abstract concepts) to a greater degree.
Philosophical Idealists have the tendency not to see cause and effect as stemming from the relations of the material world. Rather, they experience cause and effect as the influence of one set of abstractions on another. So, for instance, “cultural decline” can be viewed as having the abstract cause of “female insubordination”. In such an estimation, neither of the two concepts — one posited as “cause” and the other as “effect” — need be given any concrete definition. Also, on an intangible plane, by means of a strange reversal, patriarchal myths have it that male creativity “causes” females to come into being, but never the other way around. This reversal of cause and effect is obvious.
I came from a culture which couldn’t have been more different from the one into which I moved. The problems were cultural and historical, though, rather than to do with class status. I was perpetually misread on these bases.
To be a child of a colony isn’t what people thought it was. There had been a propaganda war fought against us “whites”, so that we appeared to be people who lounged around swimming pools and ordered our black staff to bring us cocktails, whilst we did nothing.
In reality, most of us came from practical classes of Britain — our parents were soldiers or farmers, or in very rare cases, managers of companies. There was no intellectual or artistic strata to our colonial culture. Our society has been a very rustic one indeed.
Also, although my family did have a swimming pool, we lived very frugally. On Saturday at lunch, my father would open one bottle of beer for himself. We would eat a family sized packet of potato chips, which we would only just afford, and share a family sized coca-cola between us. People don’t like to hear that this was all the “luxury” we could afford, because it raises ire and sounds like apologetics. “What about all the millions of black people you personally oppressed? What could they afford?” is the common comeback. Such an angry and resentful attitude shuts down conversation, making it impossible to proceed.
When we came to Australia, in early 1984, we sold everything to pay for the trip. We had to start again in every possible sense — psychologically, economically and socially. I didn’t have any new clothes for about five years, although I wasn’t culturally wise enough to realise I needed them. Of course, I had absolutely no social pretensions. I noticed that people were extremely unwilling to help me find my feet, and I later understood this was because I was a ‘colonial’ and so was expected to pay for recompense for that.
I became a little crazy: I turned to fundamentalist Christianity as a way of trying to inject some heart and soul into my new circumstances. This didn’t help at all, as I later discovered so much of the doctrine I’d been learning was intellectually contradictory.
I had come from a conservative to right-wing culture and I ought to have stayed in that kind of cultural context where I would have been treated more sympathetically. As I had no idea that I was being discriminated against, and that I was effectively making things worse by not choosing conservative environments that would have welcomed my identity, I gravitated towards liberal intellectual and artistic contexts.
As time went by, I developed chronic fatigue syndrome, as a result of not being able to make sense of it all. Along with this, I developed a strong paranoia about being misread, which I have until this day.
Nowadays, I’ve rectified my social and working life by only associating with the sorts of people who will not be inclined to misread me. I find Japanese people wonderfully normal, African people from my original culture pleasant and understandable enough and I associate with kick-boxers who don’t care for cultural pretensions.
It took me a lot of experimenting and book learning to try to understand what Western egoism was about. I knew I was missing something, because people assumed I was saying things using a sub-text, when I really was, quite simply, blurting things out. Like if I said, “Is this the way we are supposed to do this task?” I really wasn’t criticizing anybody implicitly for the way they were doing something. I was just asking a simple question.
I also absolutely didn’t get the idea of identity, at all — that one person could be implicitly criticizing another on the basis of something being wrong with their identity. In retrospect, I think this was happening to me a lot. I was being criticized implicitly because of my white, African (colonial) identity. But I didn’t make much sense of this, so naturally I didn’t defend myself either.
I became more and more stressed, however, because I was way out of my depth in Western culture. When I said, “I’m becoming more and more stressed” (a simple case of blurting something out), people began to say, “You’re making it all about you. You think you’re important. You imagine you’re really great!”
That was weird, because I had no such imaginings, nor indeed any concept of my self in relation to the new society.
As I couldn’t understand why my attempts to communicate had to be stymied in every direction, I found the situation extremely stressful and even more bewildering.
It’s a very useful thing to say, perhaps the most useful.
I find that a lot of people believe their meanings are self-evident, when this is far from being the case. It’s the kindest act to help them sort out their meanings.
A lot of the problem with understanding whether or not one is communicating is to combat psychological projection in some of its more subtle manifestations.
For instance, I always supposed my university lecturers would know what I was trying to mean because they were highly educated and must necessarily know anything of great importance. I was projecting some kind of omniscience into them that they didn’t have.
In other instances, people will project a whole world view and intellectual structure onto reality that isn’t really there. For instance, they might say, “Being single and being married are totally different things — you know what I mean?” Of course, I won’t know what they mean, since there are all sorts of cultural and historical reasons why my experiences of these would differ from theirs.
It’s always better to doubt that communication has actually taken place than to assume it follows automatic channels.
1. An ego-centered approach to criticism remains a puzzle to me, although I do grasp its meaning, in part. To have to overcome an ego that is both overconfident and insecure (for that state of being pretty much defines the operation of ego itself) seems like culturally limited work.
The language of ego was very foreign to me when growing up, and this differentiates me from those for whom ego was an essential part of their cultural development.
My culture was implicitly tribal, so that we kind of surged or held back as a group, depending on the mood in the wind.My cultural background made me not just insensitive, but oblivious to personal criticism. I really didn’t take it in. Comments about my progress in art, for instance, were momentarily interesting, but I considered them to be ultimately arbitrary and pointless.
I actually had no concept of self-improvement, growing up. I considered life in terms of likes and dislikes, but not in terms of being good or bad at anything in particular. My academic performance reflected this, in that sometimes I performed well in English, sometimes Art, sometimes in an entirely other subject. When I did my school leaving exam (the second year after migrating to Australia), my best mark of all subjects was in maths.
I went on to study Art, but I had no concept of Western individualism. If I’d developed any individual sense of ego by that stage, I would have called my problems “culture shock”. As it was, I had no way to conceptualize why I couldn’t draw any meaning from my situation. On a deep level, I felt like I needed a rite of passage as a transition from childhood to adulthood.
The concept of there being individual egos gradually began to dawn on me. I changed my course from Fine Arts to Humanities, and by the end of the course, I understood individualism a lot better.
I still didn’t understand how completely the ideology of ego was suffused in language in order to give language a sense of having particular reference to the individual who spoke. I felt language was more for pointing out things objectively. However, I found that when I tried to do this, more often than not, people brought the issue back to me, as if to say, “Well that is just what YOU think, but it’s only about you. Your language doesn’t actually point to anything beyond you.”
Ego eventually seemed to me a very limiting factor because of this cultural presupposition that one could not say anything that did not relate primarily, or exclusively to oneself.
2. Et moi, aussi:
Ego isn’t evil — but it is far easier to control someone who is ego-centered than someone who isn’t. I’m very difficult to control, because my first instinct, when someone criticizes me, is to think, “Surely you are mistaken!”
I do accept criticism and incorporate the knowledge from it very easily, but I also entertain the high likelihood that there are cultural elements of error in many criticisms I received. That’s to do with the assumption that I’m necessarily saying things “about myself”, when I am making observations in an extremely detached manner.
The first fifteen years of my life, I was simply without ego, which doesn’t mean I was without hedonism.
On the good side: a wounded ego can be really useful for keeping one on a particular track. I’ve experienced that before, too. The oyster makes a pearl out of its injury. Such was my PhD.
I’ve reverted to my old ways now, where, having satisfied my intellectual thirsts (indulged my hedonism), I really don’t care what people think of me, again. This attitude is deeply African. It’s a core part of African resilience, to be able to surge or contract without any reference to ego or identity.
STAY SANE AND SAVAGE Gender activism, intellectual shamanism
I’ve had USA citizens positively yelling at me online, because they feel a very profound need to cut loose from the religiosity they are, apparently, surrounded by. The tone of this screaming is that I’m somehow regressing from the standard they would like to set, by embracing deep subjectivity.
I do consider their attitudes to be philistine, whilst displaying an inability to separate their own cultural issues (the desire to be done with USA religiosity) from other people’s ideas and experiences.
There really is no harm in growing up and realizing that one’s own personal agenda may differ from that of others.
One of these guy’s views was that one must be compelled to embrace the meaninglessness of existence. One wonders what fearsome god he has erected in his head that would command him to embrace “meaninglessness” as a way of proving his atheism. This formulation may seem logically consistent on the surface, but in the absence of a god that commands atheism, it makes no sense at all.
People can be remarkably stupid.
I am very distressed about the disappearance of a good friend and colleague, Paul Chizuze, on the 8th February 2012. Paul was one of the first paralegals we trained at the Bulawayo Legal Projects Centre in the 1980s. He has been one of the most consistent human rights activists I know – a man of great compassion and integrity. The following statement has been issued by his colleagues and friends. Please would all those living in Zimbabwe and its neighbouring states look out for the vehicle described as it may be the best way of locating him. I have posted Paul’s photograph below.
PAUL CHIZUZE – DISAPPEARED
A long established Zimbabwean human rights activist has been missing since 8 pm on Wednesday 8 February 2012.
Over the last three decades, Paul has been either employed by, or active with, the Legal Resources Foundation, Amani Trust Matabeleland, The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, ZimRights, Churches in Bulawayo, CivNet, and Masakhaneni Trust. Paul has worked tirelessly as a paralegal to track activists in jail and offer them support. Paul was among those who maintained the campaign to uncover the truth of what happened to Patrick Nabanyama after his abduction and disappearance in 2000, and has selflessly worked to expose human rights abuses in the last decade.
WHERE IS PAUL? He allegedly left his home around 8 pm on 8th February, and what happened after this remains a mystery. He may have been murdered, hijacked or abducted by parties unknown.
His car, a white twin cab Nissan Hardbody Reg Number ACJ 3446 is also missing.
Paul has searched for other activists and never given up. We appeal to the police to pursue all the possibilities, and we in civics vow to maintain a campaign to find Paul wherever he may be
It’s structurally based on the capacity to separate oneself from oneself and to have two senses of the self: the immediate, concrete one and the one that is defined by abstract terminology or “spirit”.
MINUS THE MORNING
Born in Rhodesia during a time of civil war, this author experienced these salient aspects of Rhodesia (and Zimbabwe): being a poor white, performing garden chores, accepting hand-me-downs for clothing and having one’s mother cut one’s hair.
The effect of censorship and right-wing conservative ideology meant living in an ideological bubble and evading my father’s inexplicable fits of rage.The results of migrating were thoroughly disastrous — until then, life had been a wry amusement. A fundamental aspect of my experience after migration was that I felt worn out by the emotions that were subsequent to the war — whereas, after migration, people were inclined to treat me as if I knew less about reality than they did.
This book makes merry with my younger self in an ironic, joking style.
- Shamanism is a mode that mixes the recognition of extreme trauma with a mode of speaking that is extremely ironic. It’s not to everybody’s taste and is indeed confusing, since most people believe that genuine injustices ought to be taken seriously and with the greatest sense of moral deliberation.
- Shamans are, however, “wrecked out of their wounds”, which means that they’ve reached such a base level of extreme skepticism about morality, and its capacity to do any good, that they can only treat the world ironically, henceforth.
Psychoanalysis and shamanism share an interest in the same subject, the psyche, and yet they speak very different languages — often using almost the same words. To begin with, shamanism’s implicit point of reference is always “nature”, whereas that of psychoanalysis is always “society”.
Psychoanalysis is implicitly moral in terms of its goal of producing adaptation to societal norms, but shamanism views experiences in a morally neutral way. One can see how observations made in the spirit of shamanism can appear in a totally different light in terms of psychoanalysis. Nature is amoral, so observations made about relationships and experiences in light of this point of reference are morally neutral. Social organisation, however, is based on principles of morality. Relationships and experiences are therefore subject to moral examination and interrogation in order to produce conformity.
The moral neutrality of shamanism can be shown in the fact that shamans use sexual energy for self-transformation, but psychoanalyst Donald Meltzer maintains that orgasm without intercourse leads only into a realm of unproductive, indeed pathological fantasy.
SHAMANISM IS STRUCTURALLY IRONIC
Shamanism sets itself at odds with the fear of transgression, therefor it is always ironic. Nietzsche’s irony is shamanistic, in that it is entirely sourced in his awareness that there is an essential difference between humanity and nature: the body of Nietzsche’s work is an attempt to find different ways to view these differences and to acknowledge them as part of our general awareness.
My writing is also never to be framed directly according to issues relating to society, but is always to be understood more directly in a shamanistic vein.
In other words, it is quite beneath me to try to argue against historical events or facts as they have happened. My concern is always to connect the dots between seemingly unrelated aspects of experience. These links I suggest must first be grasped and understood, prior to making of any topic a moral issue.
“My story starts in the womb of innocence- a cozy and comfortable womb, as every womb is, and ought to be.”
Thus begins an intriguing and at times heartbreaking account of a childhood that is in so many ways like any other childhood, but that is in as many ways unique. Jennifer Armstrong’s account of coming into consciousness during the early years after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Ian Smith, the then prime minister of Rhodesia in 1965, is a personal tale of living and existing with a status quo which she played no part in shaping and against which she was powerless. The adults were powerless, however what makes this story so compelling is the utter powerlessness of the child. It is the powerlessness of the adults in the story, particularly her father, which she captures with amazing prowess, yet using simple, child-like language. She is then able to demonstrate how this sense of impotence and loss of control and adherence to Christian ideology, which he dared not question, created a war within him, a raging minstrel which spewed its heat over her, the female child who was different because she was curious and dared to question. The young Jennifer turns inward, becoming quiet and as still as possible in order to avoid the unpredictable, explosive outbursts of anger from her father. However, it seems at times as though her very existence is an affront to his authority and a source of great irritation.
Armstrong’s discussion of the war of liberation of Zimbabwe from colonial rule provides the context to the complex emotions and the visceral fear that adults experienced and how these in turn impacted on her psyche. She chronicles events in a circuitous manner much like the memory, which does not always recall events and experiences in a linear fashion. One might call it an emotional geography, in which nature, events and subjects are all contexts for emotional expression. Yet one is truck by the richness of her descriptions of Nature, which she calls the “umbilical cord” to which she was attached.
Amstrong’s family eventually emigrates to Australia after her father resigns his job as a lecturer at one of Harare’s tertiary educational institutions. Life in the new country is described in emotional terms and the teenager Jennifer wrestles with the loss of Nature as her primal source of energy and happiness, paternal unpredictability and issues of sexism and patriarchy, which she meets head on with a defiance and determination that brings her to a point of personal emancipation.
Armstrong’s voice is very consistent but at times petulant; a child’s voice that is focused totally and exclusively on herself, with events and circumstances always being relative to herself. This is the case throughout the entire narrative, which gives it a cohesiveness, which its esoteric style might otherwise have threatened. The esoteric quality is what makes the story such a delight to delve into. It demands that the reader delve in with an open mind as well with as an open heart. It compels the reader to think deeply, all the while enjoying a gently cruising pace, giving pause for reflection on one’s own inner child and the innocence, which gives the young Jennifer the gift of exacting immense pleasure and joy from the simplest of things like jumping into a cool swimming pool on a hot afternoon.
This is a story told in a unique way. It is solid. What makes it a gem is the author’s audacity to tell of her experiences in a way that she wanted to, in a voice with which she is completely comfortable. Her writing, however is not inherently emotional but it captures the emotions of Jennifer the child. Armstrong displays discipline and objectivity in writing about her emotions at that time in an ironic and at times dispassionate way, almost as though telling someone else’s story.
By taking a risk with experimental form, Armstrong has demonstrated what a memoir ought to be – a means of recollection, told in a manner in with which she is at home. This in turn enables her readers to “feel at home” in her narrative.
Excellent read Jennifer! I am hoping that there is more where this came from!
He says, “I have failed to convey my sense of non-knowledge all the previous times I’ve tried to explain it and I will fail this time, too.”
You’ve got to love the French and their sense of irony. There is nothing French without irony.
As I said, this kind of irony makes some non-French people very angry and also very suspicious. “What is he trying to do? Is he a crypto-fascist?” they murmur under their breaths.
Just because I hold a certain (subjective) belief doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s factually true and applies to things other than myself as well. There is a clear difference between two beliefs (sushi is delicious, and God is the father of all).
It seemed to me that I wasn’t really fit enough for the army, so I started atraining regime. I started running. I was running onthe spot in my bedroom, doing press-ups and the like at night. Iset myself goals to improve. Two weeks later, my papersarrived with instructions for boarding a train in Salisbury station. I reported to the station nine o’clock in the evening, I found mycompartment. One of my travelling companions was a young man whose namewas Forster. Forster was completely inebriated when he got on thetrain. He was not nice company when drunk. I got nosleep the whole night and arrived in Bulawayo six o’clock the next morning wornout. Somebody ordered us off the train and we assembled as a loose groupon the platform. We were told to take our luggage and put it on a truckthey had bought to pick us up. It was a cold morning and the truckoffered no protection from the wind.
An hour later we drove into Llewelyn barracks. We were instructed tocollect our bags out the truck, to get inline, and to start to march along theroad. Some of the suitcases were very heavy and the guys couldn’tcope. The guy next to me was in tears and I only just coped withmine. We took them up to the quartermaster’s store, which was actuallyan old aircraft hangar. Llewelyn barracks had been an air forcetraining base during the second world war. Here we were lined upand made to fill in your enrolment forms. We were then issued withuniforms, according to the army’s philosophy of one size fits all. Therewere three sets of boots, which were necessary to try on to make sure theyfit. These were hockey boots, weapon training boots which wererubber soled leather boots, with leather like orange peel, then we also hadstick boots, which were dress boots for parade. These had half inchsoles with metal studs in them, so that someone walking down the roadwith them would make a hell of row. They also had half a horseshoe shape fixedto the heel.
We then were marched down to some barrack rooms, with ten beds in a rowon each side with a tall boy, a tall locker, on each side. Then we had the unpleasant task of cleaning the kit. People who hadn’tbothered to clean it properly had used some of the kit. Rhodesia army kitwas standard British army kit, including webbing, two small packs,two kidney pouches, one big pack, all in extra durablecanvass. It was required to be blankoed. This meant beingcovered in khaki coloured mud from tablets that came in a packet. All the webbing and packs had to be covered.
Some recruits developed a rash from the blanko. So just as we got all thekits done, the army changed their blanko to a formula that was much moregreasy. We had to redo everything. Two months later, they changedthe blanko again. All the brass buckles had to be polished until youcould see your face in them. Then, one day, a staff corporalsat down amongst us and demanded a pair of stick boots from someone. Heheated a spoon with a blow torch and applied it to the leather, which ironedout the dimples. When he’d got the dimples out, he applied a layerof polish. Then, with a piece of cotton wool, soaked in water, he wipedit over the leather, until it began to shine like patent leather. This could only be done with one form of polish, Kiwi polish. In notime, we’d emptied the shops of this form of polish. This kind of polish was very fragile, though. If you’re drilling on parade, and the one bloke puts his heel on the tipof your shoe, that can be enough to put you on a charge.
For instance, long have I delved into the philosophy of Nietzsche. It’s a philosophy of liberation from religious binds, but it also upholds the extreme importance of subjective experience. Certainly, it embraces science, but via subjectivity. For instance, Nietzsche’s THE GAY SCIENCE (not in that sense, silly!) describes how one should base one’s learning of the world on testing one’s hypotheses about it practically. One experiments with one’s life in order to find out what is true or not.
So, this is easy enough for me to do. I have little in the way of ties that bind my to convention or society, having entirely lost my society and my place in it by the age of 16. On the positive side, that makes me free to experiment.
However, I’ve never met such opposition to this approach from any sort of person as I have from those who claimed to be “Nietzschean”, who were “philosophers” and so on.
These were the ones who absolutely couldn’t stand me finding things out of my own accord.
They castigated me for this in all sorts of ways. I’ve been called some really horrible terms for thinking for myself and engaging in free experimentation.
I concluded from this that people are not interested in very much about the world, but are keen to embrace a dogma. They want to feel good about themselves, but without any cost to themselves. They want to do it via ideological self-justification.
So, certainly, atheists are not necessarily superior to organised religious folk in any special way. They tend to both want the same sorts of things in life — power over others and self-vindication through ideology.
The natural mind that is the shaman’s innermost mind, is that which differentiates between the self that wills something and social conventions, and does not become a victim of social conditioning in any long-term way. It is this self that operates most naturally, because it is conditioned to accept a psychological mode of plasticity, and is thus free to perceive that which, in society, remains rigidified though psychological stress — ie. that which is not this self.
The “natural” self has light feet– like the shaman’s “spirit” in the world of spirits:
All that is good is instinct — and hence easy, necessary, free. Laboriousness is an objection: the god is typically different from the hero. (In my language: light feet are the first attribute of divinity.)
The shaman crosses between two worlds — between psychological fluidity (a healthy plasticity of self-identity) and rigidity (the inevitability of psychological structures that conform with social expectations in society at large). As spirit (one who has resources of huge psychological plasticity), the shaman encounters energy as force — indeed, as other forms of spirit — and thus moves very easily and on light feet “as spirit”, observing the visible forms of solidified energy (rigidified psychological forces expressed as sociological forms) that have become fixed into position. The energy forces of those (and of the parts of self) that have become fixed into social roles register in physics terms, as “matter”.
Nietzsche (from Zarathustra):
I love him who keeps back no drop of spirit for himself, but wants to be the spirit of his virtue entirely: thus he steps as spirit over the bridge.
According to the “World Myth” found in many cultures, the earliest stage of human life was one of total harmony and wisdom. The planet was connected to the sky, which was always a place of light and the focus of human devotion, by the bridge, tree, mountain etc., thought to be the “axis mundi”, the center of the world. “Humans could effortlessly communicate with the gods above.”[Eliade] They could pass between heaven and earth without obstacle because there was no death yet. This easy communication was cut off by a “fall” from grace similar to that in the Christian bible. Since this “fall”, the only way to cross the bridge is in “spirit”, ie. as dead or in ecstasy. This bridge is full of obstacles, demons and monsters, and the way is as narrow as a razors edge. The crossing is dangerous and only privileged persons succeed in passing over it in their lifetime. ” In the myths, the passage emphatically testifies that he who succeeds in accomplishing it, has transcended the human condition; he is a shaman, a hero, or a spirit and indeed this passage can be accomplished by only one who is spirit. “[Eliade] The shaman in crossing by way of his ecstatic journey proves he is spirit, and attempts to restore the “communicability” that originally existed between this world and heaven. What the shaman succeeds in doing today through ecstasy, could be done at the dawn of all beings “in concreto” ie. without trance, in the physical body. ‘The shaman reestablishes the primordial condition of all mankind.”[Eliade]http://easternhealingarts.com/Articles/shamanism.html
And Dambudzo Marechera did embody the Nietzschean principle of living his ideal — giving flesh to his imaginings.
My “religion” is intellectual shamanism — a form of atheism, since I believe that religious experiences occur only in the brain.
Intellectual shamanism maintains that we should try to do without the scaffolding of civilization as much as possible. This is by no means because civilization is evil. To the contrary — but one should not rely on systems of support because there are nearly always hidden power interests that would “assist” you at the cost of your subjectivity.
Intellectual shamanism upholds one’s subjectivity as a pearl beyond price. Lose that and one loses one’s meaning. It is too easy to lose aspects of one’s subjectivity through contemporary pharmaceuticals, through submission to authorities, religious and secular, and through playing safe.
One must meet one’s fears, including fear of death, to be free from unseen binds. The recovery of oneself through facing one’s worst fears involves the ecstasy of shamanistic healing.
A lot of Jesus’ recommendations are thoroughly shamanistic, in that he elevates subjective experience and subjective knowledge over official, authoritarian or materialistic perspectives. That is the core of Christianity that is worth saving (the patriarchal stuff, not so much).
One absolutely has to be able to take things in a non-literal sense and sometimes in an ironic sense to be any kind of higher human being. Literalness is for those who are still struggling.
Nietzsche, for instance, interpreted literally, ends up being quite a boorish, misogynist pig with very little to say for himself. If you interpret “masculinity” to mean “males” and “femininity” to mean “women”, then we are left with a prescription for a very rigid social order, in which men go about and act heroically and women can’t figure out what they hell that means, because women are too base and uncomprehending to be able to figure out much of anything.
At the same time, there is an equal and opposite danger in not realizing that when religiously based politicians pronounce, “We are loving women best by restricting their freedoms,” they are quite literally being boorish and contemptuous of women’s intelligence, whilst using a religious veil to cover their ugly demeanor.
Perhaps the resort to literalness is a natural result of people feeling so often tricked. Dorpat says that one resorts to a very literal frame of mind when one senses a relationship has become abusive. One is no longer open enough with oneself or others to be able to dig deep from the psyche.