The shamanistic project involves radically resubjectivising persons and situations which have been objectified in ways that make them lose their inner vitality. It is about turning social objects back into subjects. Therefore, it is against the principle of shamanism to talk about shamanism in utilitarian terms (to talk about it in terms of its use-value and relation to objects). Resubjectivising might be considered by some to be a Use value, but only the subject herself knows in what sense this is true. It concerns a relationship between the subject and herself. It concerns the feeling of vitality as compared to devitalisation. This is in opposition to complying with economic and formal organisational dictates that make one “of service”. The principle of seeking to makes ones inavoidable pains and personal agonies work for one instead of against one is a feature of this radical subjectivity. Success with the project implies spiritual and aesthetic mastery of life that is of the highest order.
That which is generally counterintuitive to modern sensibilities is the fact that one must take the evil into oneself and embody it in order to learn to master it from within. This is what the an article by Jim Perkinson points out. But this is precisly, I feel, the hingepoint of the shamanistic paradigm that can make many modern liberals react with alarm. I think they see this in various ways as a descent into ideological impurity, exhibiting unsoundness of moral judgment or “madness”. They may see the appropriation and embodiment of the negative or demonic aspect (for example, the effect of violence) as psychologically regressive and pathological.
This descent into hell constitutes the basis of shamanistic alchemy. Internalising the negative ideologies of society and re-experiencing their effects gives the shaman opportunity to amalgamate their qualities with other aspects of life, thereby enabling him or her to dominate these aspects through a thorough knowledge of them and rearrangement of their qualities in terms that are aesthetically more sublime. This is the sense in which the shamans lose themselves to (social, political and psychological) demons and then slowly manage to regain themselves (”putting the flesh back on their bones”) to the point where they are able to feel masterful over the ideology (at least through knowledge of it, if not actually through the ability to materially escape its effects).