The paradigm of intellectual shamanism

Intellectual shamanism is and isn’t a form of materialism.  (I shall explain.)

Perhaps one way to understand this is if you imagine different forms of economy.  The material economy is the economy of possessions, food, supplies, clothing.  It includes the physical dimension of cold and warmth, and the means to regulate one’s temperature.   Alongside this is the emotional economy.  Place all the aforementioned items in an emotional context, and one knows exactly what this is.  One has the means to regulate one’s emotional temperature, one has emotional protection, gratification, control.  Finally there is the economy of meaningfulness, which is oftentimes called ‘spirituality’.   To obtain and take possession of meaning is a fundamental human drive.

The key insight of shamanism is that meaning is created rather than discovered.  Or, to put it in a different way:  in most cases, somebody had to first create the meaning that you later came along and believed you had discovered.  They embedded their meaning in reality — and there it was, when you found it!

Although the economy of meaning is the most important to intellectual shamanism, the paradigm of intellectual  shamanism posits that there are these three different economies that are all simultaneously parallel to each other and interrelated.

Rich material experience is vitally important to one’s development, but this wealth must be viewed primarily in terms of experience, not in terms of spending power.   Spending power is only valuable to the extent that it can purchase one rich physical experiences, that extend one’s understanding of the world.

Intellectual shamanism is not a form of materialist determinism.   That is, it holds that nothing intellectual or spiritual necessarily or inevitably arises from a bedrock of a good material conditions.  That being said, some material wealth is of benefit, so long as it is not in excess to the point that it forms a buffer between a person and their capacity to directly experience the world.  There is no sense in idealizing poverty, but it is nonetheless the case that being poor often leads to a much less buffered (hence less circumscribed) view of the world.

In general, the idea that meaning is not inherent to the world, but requires a human creator, sets shamanism apart from other philosophical positions, including materialism and philosophical idealism.


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