Repost: On the nature of shamanic regeneration

On the nature of shamanic regeneration

What is shamanism?  Unless you hit rock bottom, you will be able to know what it means implicitly. One does not develop shamanistic strategies unless you have no other recourse and unless you are severely marginalized. And shamanistic strategies are the close cousin of pathology although they are arguably not pathological at all in that their intention is to produce redemption — and in this they often succeed, if not in whole then at least in part.

Shamanism is a strategic kind of madness — a controlled madness. One allows oneself to go mad. One watches oneself go mad. But the madness is never out of control, but rather strategic, as a way of counteracting powerful political, military and other interests, that exert themselves directly on one’s life.

The shamanistic “doubling” introduces a level of complexity into the psyche that makes one’s behavior hard to calculate and therefore one is less manageable and less able to be controlled by draconian authorities. One also gathers unusual perspectives in this way and it can open up the psyche to some very creative and innovative insights. Shamanism is not a cultural category but relates to what happens to the psyche if the psyche is on the ropes and fighting for its life. It’s a form of health obtained by the severely oppressed. It’s not recognized as such, but that is what it is

Shamanistic self-renewal is not “once-off” but multiple, in that one needs to be renewed many times. The process of “shamanizing” involves the -destruction and regeneration of the self. The traumatic induction into shamanism is in terms of “shamanic initiation”. Later experiences are from a position of mastery over this realm, and are most likely to involve feelings of “ecstasy”. Knowledge of this other realm of being – the one involving -destruction and self-regeneration – fueled Marechera’s creativity and psychological insights as a writer. In psychoanalytical terms, it is the superego that is destroyed and reborn through shamanistic experience. One creates the basis for a better one, using habits and ideas that one has chosen.

It is much like sparring in that sense (destroying temporarily the mind in its pursuit of safety), or violent training that destroys the muscles in the body – “ripping” them and forcing the body to renew itself in a better way. 

Nietzsche and Bataille were both at war with the mores of their culture based on ethical principles, which is something that could be said of Marechera, too. It wasn’t that they simply wanted to hail in a different kind of society. They had to use the principle of violence and rupture (that was already within them, and had been put there by their own traumas), in order to explode whatever container was in fact closing in on them, making them feel self-satisfied and blinded.

A shamanic type opposes society’s conventions on principle because once you become comfortable with those conventions, you are no longer creative. You have to feel as if something is continually at stake, so opposing society’s conventions on principle is opposing one’s own comfort on principle — hence “live dangerously, build your houses on the slopes of Vesuvius” etc, from Nietzsche, whereas Bataille focuses more on the -destructive and hence self-renewing aspects of the same dynamic of which Nietzsche gives us the formula. 


Anger is the particular forbidden emotion in conventional society because it explodes the ideological bubble that has been historically designed to keep you in your place. The ideological bubble is a closed microcosm of ideas and prescribed and anticipated reactions. Many who are broken and frightened by their various traumas consider such a closed microcosm to be invaluable for continuing their lives. In different ways many people may submit to a form of counseling (reeducation) which forms a bridge for the broken people back to this place of trust and subservience in relation to authority (although authority in this instance is the submission to rules) — an unfortunate piece of engineering!

To explode the bridge back to normality would be frightening to many people, but for those of us who enjoy wildness, it is our only hope. To constantly explode this bubble (that operates via repression), and to take ourselves out of the comfort zone into the danger zone, where nothing or little is regulated, is the key to shamanistic self-renewal. The element of destruction positively guarantees a process of renewal, if a person is still young and healthy.


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