Is shamanism masochistic?: “Perhaps contemporary shamanism might be misunderstood as being simply masochistic — in the way that I had originally been inclined to misunderstand Bataille.
It seems so if one thinks non-dialectically, but not if one thinks otherwise.
Think of any dangerous, extreme sport. From the point of view of the non-participant, these sports appear to be masochistic. I remember when I did about my seventh skydive, I still felt as if I was holding death close to me, like an icicle close to my breast, for the full duration of the 20 minute ascent. Having completed the jump, however, one feels as if one had developed the capacity to see through — and beyond — mountains. One has become superhuman.
Shamanism is precisely like this. Like skydiving, it harnesses the death instinct in such a way that all sorts of limits are drawn upon it — to the point that it is made to enhance the feeling of being alive, rather than to lead towards actual death (except in the case of rare accidents).
Like skydivers some of us may have obtained a blueprint for repeating death-defying experiments with their own psyches — without dying.
Is it masochistic?
Not at all, in the sense that such activities are thoroughly opposed to submissiveness of any sort. The opposite is the case.
I would trade blow for blow against any mechanism that was set up to put me in my place, since I have become naturalised to the enjoyment of all sorts of psychological extremes. “