Morality and the shamanic void

In much of my experience, I haven’t been a “valid human being” at all. I think that is the starting point for shamanic initiation — where one recognizes that one is not a valid human being in some sense. Then one loses one’s humanity and regains it — that is the definition of initiation.

You have to enter non-being. Then, that kind of sticks with you, and you don’t employ moral categories so readily.  There are no longer any ““valid human beings”, just the totality of human experience, for better or worse.

A “valid human being”, for instance, is a moral category implying person-hood, with all that this entails according to people’s trained or educated notions as to what differentiates people from each other. So, on the basis of my education and training concerning “validity” I may come to certain conclusions about the kind of person who is valid, what characteristics they have, how they conduct themselves, their ontological status (as being redeemed by “God” or by morality, or by virtue of the state granting them their “rights”) or what have you. So, I’ll have a certain image of that person, perhaps very distinct, or perhaps rather fuzzy. In any case, I’ve created a categorical demarcation as to what constitutes validity in a human being.

This logically and practically also implies that I have it in the back of my mind as to what would make a human being “invalid”. So, maybe that kind of person would be immoral, evil, strange, not my color of skin, or whatever. In any case, I’ve set up a mental barrier that mediates my experience of the world on the basis of categories of “valid” or “invalid”.

For instance, like a certain male feminist writer does, I might mentally erect a category of oppressed people who have great validity as human beings. On the basis of that, I’d start to show great indulgence and forbearance in relation to these oppressed people. It may happen, though, that mediation of reality through defining a category of oppressed (versus less oppressed or not oppressed) means I can’t experience the shades of grey that make up the world as it actually is. There’s too much mediation of reality and not enough direct experience of it. That’s what moral categorizing does.

By contrast, entering non-being means we can open our minds a bit more, after we are not afraid of losing some structure and entering the void.

The meaning of amoralism, according to Nietzsche and Bataille is to become wilder, stronger in oneself, more independent and less tame. This is not a moral injunction that everybody has to do it. You can try it or not attempt it. It’s not even an issue of having the power of free choice. One can be seduced into trying shamanism, or one can avoid it. There are no transcendental principles governing this choice.

***

NOTE: Nietzsche’s amoralism is viewed most commonly as lauding the rights of the oppressors to oppressor whomever they please. But that view assumes a very morally delimiting perspective, as it makes it out that he was maintaining a moral position on who gets to oppress who. He isn’t.
Bataille’s dalliances with prostitutes have also been criticized for their immorality. But that was precisely the point of Bataille’s actions, to slip out of the grasp of morality.
Thirdly, the idea of renouncing judgement on people would need to acquire a moral motivation since it is a categorical distinction — i.e. that it is a good idea to renounce judgement on others.

Shamanism is not about establishing a moral position but about exploring a psychological void where making moral distinctions has not yet become automatic for you.

 

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