Origins of my character

I’m able to make sense of some of my character in relation to how actual events occurred.  For instance, I consider how I was my mother’s strong support system whilst my father was at war.  He was often away on call up from the time I was born.

So I learned to see the ability to have the correct emotional response to every situation as a matter of life and death.  I consider emotions very, very important — but also, and above all, the non-expression of emotions if someone looks like they are flaking out.  I can distance myself very, very quickly when that happens — and always do so.   I don’t experience my emotions, using that method — but, above all, this is an act of charity, trying to prevent another person from experiencing their negative emotions.

So, stoicism is very deep in me, and it is also deep in Mike, who must have learned the same technique when he was five and his father died, crossing a road.

We both consider emotional management very important because it limits the damage that we could have caused our parents if we had not had strict control over our emotions.

I’m suited for a crisis — as is Mike.   But I’m not suited for everyday situations.  If a child cries, and it is not a matter of life and death, that doesn’t interest me.  I’ll wait until it is one, or I’ll let someone else take care of it.  I don’t have a subtle variation of emotional nurturing patterns.   It’s kind of boring.  But life and death issues pull me in.

To understand this is important, because I know I just react to emotional input differently from people who were not brought up in similarly pressing circumstances.  I don’t diagnose myself as having a problem I ought to set out to fix.  Rather, I see myself as having the capacity to adapt to extreme circumstances, but not to those where subtle and measured responses are required.   I have a character, not a pathology.

And, I think that is useful to know.


Clarifying some concepts of INTELLECTUAL SHAMANISM

My use of psychology is totally abnormal … because what I am stating is that when you lose touch with conventional reality, because of hardship, or pain, you go on a journey to find a better reality and you come up with one
can the external condition be an agent or another being of some sort or its just a deformity created by extraordinary conditions
especially Perkinson’s text on shamanism as a black American identity and Taussig. My view is closer to Taussig’s
conventionally it is a deformity, but I don’t think this is what it actually is
Does intellectual Shamanism manifest only through the affected person’s ability to engage intellectually through works such as writing?
I think there are reasons to think, in the case of Bataille and Nietzsche, and others, that it enhances self awareness
Not just writing, but self-awareness
Marechera, to a reasonable observer’s POV, exhibited strong evidence of being mentally ill or mad.
… so despite that, he was more self aware?
It is also a feature of aspects of Bataille and Nietzsche’s writings — they are seen as mad philosophers
That is exactly what I’m saying, although I also allow that the cost of being self-aware can be a painful sort of madness
Like Nietzsche said, Hamlet was mad because he was certain of the truth
One would find it hard to give one’s child Marechera’s children’s book!
and yet what he advises kids is naked truth which is normally not told to kids directly
Yeah, yeah, that is what I see, too
actually, to know the truth about power relations could send most people mad. They don’t want to know it
I am more convinced that most of normal life is false and the life Marechera saw and experienced was the truth … and living, walking and talking it appears abnormal
We have a god intoxication, or an idealism intoxication, in that we believe in hidden purposes, or that life is a training ground for morality.
To see that this is not the case is difficult
It would wreck the psyches of most people
I agree … and so lies seem to normalise life … and make morality seem sane??
In a way. It’s not so much lying, but idealism, which is a milieu we’re born into. It’s a kind of lie, or distortion, but also a form of adaptation
It’s not like it’s morally wrong not to have a morality, if you know what I mean.
Or that it’s morally right to have one. You are standing outside of morality
You talking to someone who is not technical in this subject – more of a novice and so my language is not very good
OK, I meant Nietzsche, Marechera and Bataille are standing outside of the idea that there are hidden moral principles in the universe
Yaah, I understand better when you say “standing outside morality”, which is a perfect context for most of what Marechera did and say!
But I think you understand it
Well, because most people think there are hidden principles governing outcomes, when there are none
There is no principle that assures that if people do the right thing they will have good lives. They will more likely be serving others without realizing it
I remember reading where Marechera wrote something along the lines “don’t listen to what your parents and all adults say, because they all lie to you and all other little children”
Yeah, yeah. It’s idealism
Nietzsche called it the ascetic ideal
I don’t fully understand what idealism is.
It’s a bit hard to explain
The question is to whom should little kids listen to … Marechera seem to tell kids to just do what they want
Yeah, good point
Well he thought kids had a better capacity to live a meaningful life than adults
is this not anrachism?
I think it differs from anarchism although it is compatible
How does it differ?
Well, the idea that kids are in tune with nature or the universe in a way that adults have lost touch with
So, if adults get in touch with what the kids still have, they will live more meaningful lives
…which is also the benefit of going mad
because you get back into that childlike condition of receptivity
being in tune with narture, I hope is not equivalent to extreme form of limited experience and knowledge – which is what little kids have.
ha. Well, that is the other side of the paradigm. I had to do battle with that one, because it is the bourgeois perspective
But the idea is the quality of life, not the content, or in other words, ontology, not epistemology
“bourgeois perspective” – no idea what it is.
Um…it’s kind of the cynical view that there can only be one sort of order and that is the one we presently have
For instance, that to be adult you need to conform to existing mores, have a full time job, etc
By quality of life do you mean, in a child’s case, the perfect state of bliss, lack of care and worry, built on a foundation of no knowledge of what might or might not be?
not really.
Actually, if you look at Georges Bataille, who was a French philosophical writer, he says that this “non-knowledge” involves the embrace of terror in the immediacy. So instead of trying to postpone our terror of death, we encounter it directly, without mediation.
But this gives us quality of life, because then we start living it as it really is and don’t postpone it
For Marechera, I wonder whether there was a way of his viewing the world that did not accelerate his physical discomfort or destruction
We can even live it on our own terms, because we know that there is no truth outside of ourselves of the sort that really matters in an eternal or infinite way
I think it did accelerate his destruction
Morality, even though it is false, is mode of self-preservation
I wonder where if the sense of self-preservation or is this state also invalidates self-preservation?
Nietzsche seemed to think that it was both
Your preserve something, but you also lose something
Oh I had not seen your last sentence on self preservation.
I hope this makes sense
Nietzsche thought that those who wanted to seek beyond themselves would sacrifice themselves to their best qualities
Sorry. “create”beyond themselves
It does not because nature itself if left to operate will establish brutal rules such that non-conformance will lead to one destruction … rules of nature must be obeyed in most cases unless one craft strategy to postpone their repercussions.
What are the rules of nature?
any that can natural befall matter
Still don’t quite understand what you are saying
what your objection is
anything that naturally happen does so by force of rules of nature
Kind of, but nature is also pretty random
yes but the randomness is systematic
which makes it the rule
Yes, it tends to be systematic in the broader picture and random on the micro level
What is your objection concerning “nature”?
there are times what I see order in randomness
yeah, there is order in randomness, indeed.
My view is that being close to nature does not lead to quality of life
Yeah, being close to nature, as in being subjected to it, is not good
so it probably does not explain Marechera
But one does not subject oneself to nature as a necessity, but only by way of an experiment, and on one’s own terms.
a matter of terminology
also I don’t quite understand what your objection is, but I think it is to the term, “nature”. But one need not understand it in terms of the grass and trees
Being wild, living under the hibiscus bush
a temporary immersion in an unmediated reality — that is what I meant by “nature”
To me nature is both what you say AND also interacting with the elements
Ok. Yes, probably. I think the key is to get away from the mediation of civilizing meanings
“unmediated” – means in both the virtual and the physical
To destroy your civilized mind with drugs and alcohol
thats probably not the only way … there may be more ways to achieve it 🙂
of course!
So we will talk later
I believe living purely and normally can also achieve it in the manner that people like Ghandhi may have done
I think that is a way to live morally, but it doesn’t touch on the kind of realm of experience that Nietzsche, Bataille and Marechera did
Can any one really seek this?
Answer next time
I think they tend to be thrown into it by force of circumstance, but that they find something beneficial in it
I don’t think you seek shamanic initiation unless your life is already hellish and it seems the only option 

Dead Man (1995) and BLACK SUNLIGHT (1980)

IMDb :: Boards :: Dead Man (1995) :: Symbolism and Metaphors…Help?

The more I go into this movie, Dead Man, the more I understand that its shamanism parallels that of Marechera’s short, episodic book, Black Sunlight.

Some precise parallels:

1. The extremely choppy, episodic nature of the filmic (Jarmusch) and written (Marechera) texts. This speaks to the way the mind sleeps, then wakes up and continues on its narrative. It’s the shamanistic movement between the rational daytime awareness and irrational  sleep, a dialectic necessary to keep life going. This is faithful to the way we actually experience our lives: by going to sleep and the next day necessarily recreating the original narrative of the path on which we’re bound. This pertains to the functions of our deep subjectivity and to natural bodily rhythms.

2. The encounters with extreme violence and death as a poignant and mesmerizing aspect of life. Society is changing order and there is violence all around. In Marechera’s narrative anti-colonial riots, anarchy and war relentlessly assault the psyche as expressions of violence and resistance.

3. To be blind or without normal vision is represented as a different way of seeing more clearly. Lacking vision, one is dependent on the visceral senses. Instinct then predominates, after it has learned how to exert its intrinsic force. In Black Sunlight, Marie’s blindness represents a shamanic way of seeing. Death presses in more viscerally, in that it reaches on through the faculty of smell, rather than knowledge or visual perception. In Dead Man, the Indian guide Nobody suggests that his charge would see better without spectacles. This turns out to be true, in that he can use his pistol more effectively without clear vision.

4. The episodes show nothing more than several consecutive plunges into a state of greater proximity to death, matched with a greater awareness of the immediacy, strangeness and fragility of life. This polarization of the distinctive elements of life, highlighted the contrasts between life and death, is a key feature of shamanistic doubling.

5. One moves from a world of logic and violence to a world of flowing organic unity. In the Jarmusch movie, one moves from a failed attempt to integrate with socially-defined reality in a town called Machine. Since one cannot become part of The Machine, one is compelled to die. In Marechera’s novel, Chris joins with other social drop-outs at Devil’s End. Jarmusch’s protagonist, William Blake, meets his Indian protector, Nobody, only after receiving a bullet close to his heart. Thus, a shamanic wound sets the protagonist apart from the rest of society in each case. He starts to see reality differently, above all historical reality, through his wound.

6. In Jarmusch’s film, Nobody gives Blake the initiatory drug, Peyote. After this, Blake sees the effects of the colonial war against the Indians all around him, but the violence cannot touch him as he is impermeable. In Black Sunlight, apocalyptic shamanic visions at the climax of the novel. They are later explained, as if denied, by the protagonist, who had become the double of himself, Christian, having taken “Chris’ psychiatric drugs”.

7. Marechera’s protagonist is represented early in the book as a court jester, hanging upside down in a chicken-coup due to having offended the Great Chief. This is political satire, but is also a way of depicting the state of the uninitiated soul with his own superego. The author views himself as being condemned to be tortured and the source of this condemnation is political. The refrain of “stupid white man” expresses the political irony of Dead Man.

8. In Marechera’s novel, the protagonist-author, reunited with himself finally, as one, ends up showing the whiteness of his bones by effectively releasing all the words out of his body through his wrists. Rain pours down as overabundant meaning. Everything is liquefied  This is indicative of shamanic ritual in facing death and finding unity with oneself through resignation. In Dead Man, Indians dress up Blake’s dying body after he has been shot a second time, so that he can complete his journey on the other side of the mirror image of reality he has entered. This signifies that he can become one with himself again, on the surface of liquid (unconscious) (mental) processes.

9. Both texts suggest solutions to political and social problems (colonial domination and machine-like attitudes) by going more deeply into death. This is a means for detachment and shamanistic dissociation, by virtue of which, one sees historical reality more clearly.

10. In both texts, transgression of the normal social law is a result of accident, not deliberate. Blake’s killing of a member of the Town of Machine (a mechanistic world) is an act of self-defense. In addition, his being framed for the murder of another member of the town gave him an outlaw identity that was incongruous with his inner attitude or intent. Marechera similarly shows how his protagonist becomes a revolutionary despite himself, because he has been driven mad by social norms. Shamanism is thus shown to be a state of primeval (but not historical) innocence, in the face of attributed social and political guilt.

Bullying, narratives and ideology

I’ve just read an article on Huffington Post regarding thick and thin skins. The writer was, perhaps inevitably, of a religious persuasion. He counseled prayer and dependency on “God” as a solution to stressors.

I’m inclined to think that those who differentiate between having thick or thin skins oversimplify a great deal.

For instance, there are people who do not know their own stories, and who thereby become “thin-skinned”. Their histories have been erased and they are desperate to learn their story from anyone who will give them a hint.

A fifteen-year-old Canadian girl recently committed suicide after being bullied at school and online. It seems her story was hijacked to make her look like something she was not. Since the story of the bullies became psychologically bigger than her original internal narrative, she committed suicide. She had learned from her bullies that she was a bad person. Her understanding of what sort of person she actually was had not developed sufficiently for her narrative to be the dominant one.

Being thin-skinned is a necessary part of the process we all experience in order to learn about ourselves from others. Those who are capable of the greatest learning might be the thinnest skinned of all. If their educators are ethical, educated and wise, these people can learn magnificently. If not, they will be cast onto their own resources, which may be few. They may be overwhelmed by the narratives of others, which may be false or misleading.

Being able to know how much of what others say ought to be taken to heart depends on already having a good level of knowledge about oneself. One is not born with that knowledge, and many of us are still growing and learning. We are, at least, not stagnant.

Why some ideas sell

I’d like to make another point: that universities should get over their market-based assumption that would-be intellectuals ought to test out their ideas in “the market place”.

One could end the market-based delusion just by engaging with empirical evidence.  Ideas that have been imposed and reinforced through tradition, deprivation, or the cultivation of fancy are those that sell today.   There is no particular magic to this.   There’s also no particular “discerning power of the public” that anyone can cater to.  If a book or an idea is pushed, people will buy it:  If not, people will leave it alone.

Here are some of the top-selling books that the public has noted worthy of purchasing:

The Da Vinci Code

With The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown masterfully concocts an intelligent and lucid thriller that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history. [ Review]

 The Secret

Fragments of a Great Secret have been found in the oral traditions, in literature, in religions and philosophies throughout the centuries. For the first time, all the pieces of The Secret come together in an incredible revelation that will be life-transforming for all who experience it.In this book, you’ll learn how to use The Secret in every aspect of your life — money, health, relationships, happiness, and in every interaction you have in the world. You’ll begin to understand the hidden, untapped power that’s within you, and this revelation can bring joy to every aspect of your life.The Secret contains wisdom from modern-day teachers — men and women who have used it to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. By applying the knowledge of The Secret, they bring to light compelling stories of eradicating disease, acquiring massive wealth, overcoming obstacles, and achieving what many would regard as impossible. [Amazon]

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia 

This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls “Anne Lamott’s hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister”) is poised to garner yet more adoring fans. [Amazon]

Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy 

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires. [ Amazon]


As we can see, people are hungry for religious mystification,  new age mystification, the mystification of self-indulgent femininity and the mystification of sex via the mechanics of sado-masochism.

Also note:  If I’m the one “just being cynical” here, how does one explain away the evidence that the public wants to feed on shit?  Christianity, femininity, self-indulgent consumerism and dominance and submission have been trained into the masses over eons.  Consequently, what has been instilled also informs their tastes.

Should academics then turn to the public to approve of their skills or to sign off on whether their ideas have any market-place validity?  What is the nature of the mystical affirmation that such academics would be seeking from the public?

Wilfred Bion, Lacan and Bataille

Key to Bion’s work is the idea that people need to express what would become a “nameless dread” if it were to stay outside of the field of society and specifically, socially rendered intelligibility. Bion’s is a dualistic model of the mind, just as Lacan‘s is, but there is much more of a direct metaphysical continuity between Bion’s “unconscious” and the articulate, socially structured mind, than there is with regard to Lacan’s viewpoint.

For Bion, the unconscious is experiential reality that hasn’t been articulated. Indeed, the unconscious can never be fully articulated because it is multidimensional** (has, in effect, more dimensions to it than we can simultaneously process with our rational minds). Articulation, therefore, is always a process of simplifying (indeed, oversimplifying for the sake of managing) that which is irreducibly complex. From my reading of Lacan, there is a complete transition from the prearticulate level of the infant’s experience of the world, to the articulate social interpretation of the experience. His is a more complete mind-body dualism — dividing  the rational from the irrational aspects of experience, in a way that is designed to be practically impossible and thus makes place for the Catholicism of “sin” as an automatic part of the human experience, since we must all fall short of the Ideal.

But for Bion, the unconscious is the damming up of experiential reality, and the work to be done is in the further interpretation — the actually simplifying — of memory, to make it manageable, and to reduce the feeling of “nameless dread” (as it were, by giving the dread a name and a social context and meaning). The naming of the “nameless dread” is the social contextualisation of it by means of  an objectively recognised form (in words). This is like opening the floodgates to allow the water to go through the wall of the dam.

But we can see the role of the artist in all of this — to convert nameless dread into something that is socially meaningful. Thus the interpretive movement between the “paranoid-schizoid position” of disintegrated self and inarticulate experience, towards the “depressive position” (of simplified and linguistically reduced meanings, which, nonetheless “make sense” socially).

The Bion model is also shamanistic: the subject mediates between the multidimensional space of the unconscious field (in some senses the “spirit world”) and everyday, limited three-dimensional reality, which can be articulated and can be expressed rationally.

One might add to this understanding Bataillle’s perspective.  So long as one does not express oneself in language, one keeps hold of the unbroken whole of experiential reality:  this splinters as one speaks of it. 

Bataille takes his understanding of the nature of subjective experience and its oftentimes antagonistic relationship to language from Nietzsche, who says: 

Ultimately, what does it mean to be ignoble?—Words are sound signals for ideas, but ideas are more or less firm image signs for sensations which return frequently and occur together, for groups of sensations. To understand each other, it is not yet sufficient that people use the same words; they must use the same words also for the same form of inner experiences; ultimately they must hold their experience in common with each other. That’s why human beings belonging to a single people understand each other better among themselves than associations of different peoples, even when they themselves use the same language; or rather, when human beings have lived together for a long time under similar conditions (climate, soil, danger, needs, work), then something arises out of that which “understands itself,” a people. In all souls, a similar number of frequently repeating experiences have won the upper hand over those which come more rarely; people understand each other on the basis of the former, quickly and with ever-increasing speed—the history of language is the history of a process of abbreviation. On the basis of this rapid understanding, people bind with one another, closely and with ever-increasing closeness. The greater the danger, the greater the need quickly and easily to come to agreement over what needs to be done; not to misunderstand each other when in danger is what people simply cannot do without in their interactions. With every friendship or love affair people still make this test: nothing of that sort lasts as soon as people reach the point where, with the same words, one of the two feels, means, senses, wishes, or fears something different from the other one. (The fear of the “eternal misunderstanding”: that is the benevolent genius which so often prevents people of different sexes from over-hasty unions, to which their senses and hearts urge them—and not some Schopenhauerish “genius of the species”!—). Which groups of sensations within the soul wake up most rapidly, seize the word, give the order—that decides about the whole rank ordering of its values, that finally determines its tables of goods. The assessments of value in a man reveal something about the structure of his soul and where it looks for its conditions of life, its essential needs. Now, assume that need has always brought together only such people as could indicate with similar signs similar needs, similar experiences, then it would generally turn out that the easy ability to communicate need, that is, in the last analysis, familiarity with only average and common experiences, must have been the most powerful of all the forces which have so far determined things among human beings. People who are more similar and more ordinary were and always have been at an advantage; the more exceptional, more refined, rarer, and more difficult to understand easily remain isolated; in their isolation they are subject to accidents and rarely propagate themselves. People have to summon up huge counter-forces to cross this natural, all-too-natural progressus in simile [advance into similarity], the further training of human beings into what’s similar, ordinary, average, herd-like—into what’s common. [emphasis mine]

*Actually this analogy is mine. Bion’s is that the mother of the infant initially is the one who acts to “contain” or hold the inarticulate emotions of the child, and thus she gives social form and shape to them. My analogy focuses on this “nameless dread” as if it were to occur outside of a defined social context, whereas Bion shows the way this “nameless dread” is generally diverted towards becoming meaningful social content.

**Godwin, Robert W “Wilfred Bion and David Bohm: Toward a Quantum Metapsychology. .” Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought 14.4 (1991): 625-54

Shamanism and the reworking of memory

The shamanistic view is different from the psychoanalytic view that holds that psychological projection is an anomalous attitude of reprobates.   In terms of shamanism, absolutely everything one sees, hears or encounters is a projection.   Neurology makes it clear that perception is a function of the brain’s incorporation and rearrangement of data.  According to Atul Gawande:

Richard Gregory, a prominent British neuropsychologist, estimates that visual perception is more than ninety per cent memory and less than ten per cent sensory nerve signals.

The information we take in from our ears and eyes is not the same as what we experience.   The brain takes a huge amount of information from the senses and then rearranges it in such a way that a human being can gain advantage from it.  We see what makes sense to us, often by adding to incomplete information by producing information from memory, so that we often encounter precisely what we expect to see. We are the creators of our own realities.

 To go a step further, we don’t visually experience the far sides of the color spectrum that beetles and bats may do.  But, had we the needs and desires of insects, our brains would have learned to give us a different range of information.  We would have learned to sense a far wider spectrum including infra-red and ultra-violet.  Becoming aware of these light waves perhaps does not serve us as humans, since this may not give an advantage in indicating  food or sudden danger.

Humans and beetles inhabiting the same space will nonetheless experience different qualities to their environments.  What comes to the foreground and what pales into insignificance will not be the same aspects of the terrain.  A friend tells me that on taking LSD one hears all the background noises to life that would ordinarily be filtered from awareness.

 To  have the benefit of vision  enables us to navigate our human worlds effectively as humans.  A parallel world may exist for other species.  Each takes from the sensory environment what will nourish it in terms of what it is.    Taking in too much of reality would obstruct us in our normal activities.   We do well to leave a lot unnoticed.

 On the basis of being separate peoples and cultures, we also automatically impose filtering mechanisms.   I see what I need to see to nourish myself according to my particular needs, desires and capabilities.   I am convinced that others who enter the same environments would not see or experience the same network of meanings that are available to me.  I switch off when confronted with young children, for instance.  I can’t focus on them and my brain attempts to block them out.  I’m learning to notice social tensions, but they don’t intrinsically interest me, so they are about the last thing I recognize when I enter a new environment.

 When I began my life in Australia I didn’t “see” social relationships — only natural ones.   When I began a new job many years ago, I didn’t “see” institutional relationships.  I saw only postmodernist metaphysics, by virtue of which I had been trained to see the world.  I began reading Marecheralater and had to get rid of a lot of postmodernist assumptions to understand him.

 Contemporary humans get to move through their environments by throwing off one reality to enter another.   Shamanism enhances the process of gaining knowledge of our worlds by encouraging us to switch off from what we think we know, which is just a neurological projection however useful.   We can’t enter another environment so long as we are certain of what we know.   This is only possible by entering a state of uncertainty.  As Bataille says of Nietzsche, out of this striking moment of dissolution a philosophy is born:

Let no one doubt for an instant! One has truly not heard a single word of Nietzsche’s unless one has lived this signal dissolution in totality; without it, this philosophy is a mere labyrinth of contradictions, and worse; the pretext for lying by omission (if, like the fascists, one isolates passages for purposes which negate the rest of the work).

In terms of what I have described of shamanism, Nietzsche’s way of writing, whether intentionally or not, actually invites a radical rewriting of consciousness on the basis of a fundamental dissolution of reality.  By means of such shamanistic reworking, one’s existing projection gets dissolved and is replaced by another, superior reality.  This would be a result of  including a different network of memories in one’s perspectives. This adjustment in seeing, however, leads to handling life more effectively.

The new Philistines

Contemporary culture, including intellectual culture, appears to have taken a very philistine turn, whereby everything that is written must necessarily be taken in its most literal sense. Therefore you get entirely stupid interpretations, such as the one that my memoir is about “getting things wrong”. Sure it is, if you lack a sense of humor and are not ready to take a distant stance towards political correctness.

A lot of Jesus’ recommendations are thoroughly shamanistic in that he elevates subjective knowledge over official, authoritarian or materialistic perspectives. This is not to say the subjective knowledge Christians advocate is necessarily wholesome and good, but I’m talking about the abstract form of it.  This attention to the value of experience is the core of Christianity that is worth saving — the patriarchal stuff, not so much.

One absolutely has to be able to take things in a non-literal sense and sometimes in an ironic sense to be any kind of higher human being. Literalness is for those who are still struggling.

Nietzsche, for instance, interpreted literally, ends up being a boorish, misogynist pig with very little to say for himself. If you interpret “masculinity” to mean “males” and “femininity” to mean “women”, then we are left with a prescription for a very rigid social order, where men go about and act heroically and women can’t figure out what they hell that means, because women are too base and uncomprehending to be able to figure out much of anything.

At the same time, there is an equal and opposite danger in not realizing that when religiously based politicians pronounce, “We are loving women best by restricting their freedoms,” they are quite literally being vulgar and contemptuous of women’s intelligence, whilst using a religious veil to cover their ugly demeanor.

Perhaps the resort to literalness is a natural result of people feeling so often tricked. Dorpat says that one resorts to a very literal frame of mind when one senses a relationship has become abusive. One is no longer open enough with oneself or others to be able to dig deeply into one’s psyche.

The courage for great failure


When I began researching my thesis, I believed in psychological weakness. By the end of it, I didn’t. I thought, “Every animal, including those that are human, fight for their survival with everything they have.” To succeed or fail is only defined by circumstantial weakness, I concluded, rarely inherent weakness. This is related to a particularly Nietzschean insight, where creativity is viewed as tending towards the tragic, as it is directly related to a tendency to go beyond circumscribed limits — and thus to lead to uncontrolled outcomes.  Another way to say this is that failure at the point of extreme courage is all the more likely than failure whilst playing it safe, but this is not, at all, the same as “weakness”.

Zarathustra, however, looked at the people and wondered. Then he spake thus:

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman–a rope over an abyss.

A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting.

What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an OVER-GOING and a DOWN-GOING.

I love those that know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers.

I love the great despisers, because they are the great adorers, and arrows of longing for the other shore.

I love those who do not first seek a reason beyond the stars for going down and being sacrifices, but sacrifice themselves to the earth, that the earth of the Superman may hereafter arrive.

I love him who liveth in order to know, and seeketh to know in order that the Superman may hereafter live. Thus seeketh he his own down-going.

I love him who laboureth and inventeth, that he may build the house for the Superman, and prepare for him earth, animal, and plant: for thus seeketh he his own down-going.

I love him who loveth his virtue: for virtue is the will to down-going, and an arrow of longing.

I love him who reserveth no share of spirit for himself, but wanteth to be wholly the spirit of his virtue: thus walketh he as spirit over the bridge.

I love him who maketh his virtue his inclination and destiny: thus, for the sake of his virtue, he is willing to live on, or live no more.

I love him who desireth not too many virtues. One virtue is more of a virtue than two, because it is more of a knot for one’s destiny to cling to.

Limits to an individualistic therapy

When I first read Erich Fromm‘s ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM, I was enlightened as to some of the psychological dynamics that make less than free, should we succumb to them.  Fromm charts an historical movement from the European  medieval social context in which everyone knew his or her place, to 20th Century Modernity, where protestant Christianity had provided the ideological backing for the development of the private individual.

Fromm’s strongsuit is his understanding of European culture and history and how its changes cause the development of different sorts of psychological states.  Yet, he neglects to suggest any social solution to the alienated psychological states of consciousness he analyses.  Indeed, he says one cannot expect to return to an earlier state of communal consciousness, since centuries of historical development have taken us beyond this level of communal connectivity. My experience has been otherwise.  Upon my return to my birthplace in Africa,  I felt a very strange, invisible hand of coordination, where everybody was somehow operating in unison and surviving against the odds, with an incredible amount of grace and rhythm.

Despite the fact that Fromm’s views are Eurocentric, the overall moral critique is sound.  It is expressed in the form that we ought to transcend any desires to form symbiotic relationships, especially those based on power, since we fail to stand independently to the degree that we adopt this solution to our alienation.

Fromm states that sado-masochistic relationships are best avoided.  At the same time, he underestimates the role of knowledge and of the need to create meanings that are held in common. As humans, we are mimickers and learners from an early childhood upwards.  We may seek relationships with power in order to better know something.  Fromm does differentiate between unhealthy forms of authority and healthy ones.  He says that be equalized once knowledge is shared.  This makes logical sense.  However, Fromm’s emphasis on a moral solution to the problem of human hierarchies is not persuasive.

Knowledge and morality entail two separate modes of evaluation and tend to part ways.  Their relationship with each other is complicated and extremely fraught.  To know something, it is not enough to learn from a teacher, to accept his authority and wait for the appropriate time to grow into one’s own authority.  One must first know that the teacher is worthy.  How does one implicitly know that? An individual can submit on the basis of faith in one’s community or faith in one’s parents and their values, but this provides no verification that one’s trust in the knowledge that the teacher has to impart will be vindicated.

One can enter the relationship of learning with the teacher and still not gain the kind of knowledge that would serve one best.  The capacity to stand alone also has no meaning as a purely moral stance.  When one seeks after knowledge, one enters a realm of moral ambiguity in relation to oneself and others.  How could it be otherwise? One has to learn whether the knowledge one has is worth having.  To be able to draw conclusions as to the value of something, one must first enter a phase of moral doubt.  This state of readiness to learn implies tolerance of moral ambiguity. One gives one’s conditional trust to another, in order to create situations that light up with meaning.  That is the role of the student.  To seek after knowledge in the realm of moral ambiguity and with an understanding that this involves great risk is the only available means to obtain individualistic knowledge.

Fromm offers no solution, apart from a moral one, as to how to obtain individual self-assurance.  Nietzsche and Bataille do suggest the means.  Through giving up one’s moral certainties and by trial-and-error, one can finally attain the ability to stand alone without relying on others.  Nietzsche and Bataille, thus, provide the method by which one can finally be truly moral in Fromm’s psychological sense.  Fromm, however, makes no mention of toleration for ambiguity — or, the void of meaning that we have to enter before our knowledge of the world becomes individualized.  Instead, we are cajoled into simply standing independently.

Rhodesia and I

Even as an adult, I was often very insecure about my knowledge of the world.  That was  because everything I’d grown up with had been defined in extremely patriarchal terms.   Both men and women had authority in every aspect of life in my childhood.   Women’s authority was on a par with that of their male counterparts.   The only difference was that men knew about politics in a way that women didn’t.   The men went to war and it was forbidden to tell the women back home everything they had experienced.   To this degree, women were on a par with children — although they were authoritative in public life, they were not expected to carry the emotional burden of war.

The structure of colonial society was hierarchical in terms of knowledge.  As it seems to me now, there was a cabal who knew what was really going on with regard to the war and the likelihood of winning it.  Then, there were those like my father, who went along with the program because it was the decent thing to do.  As in the second world war, the lack of men around the place meant women had fairly high status, being those who were able to manage the running of institutions with an old-fashioned whip-hand.

They had greater power than women have today, when men are present and competing with them (which leads to gender war and psychological strategies to demoralize the other).  Despite this, they did not speak of the war “we” were prosecuting, and indeed, in the high school I attended it was forbidden to speak of it.

That was how it came about that my peers and I grew up with a traditional British education, but remained wholly naïve about politics.  We studied the history of Europe but we did not study recent, colonial history.   When “Rhodesia” became “Zimbabwe” and an uncensored version of “The Herald” began to appear on the library lectern, we sometimes used to flip its pages with a sense of fascination and complete incomprehension.  The tactile sensation of flipping the pages and observing the strange imagery in the late morning sun was enough for me.

Children were a step below “women” in the Rhodesian hierarchy, so we occupied a world of our own.   We were not to know anything at all, but to be protected from it.   That was the role of the strong Rhodesian male — to protect the (white) women and children from too much knowledge.

The structure of the antiquated society explains everything about my attitudes as I became an adult and understood that I was suffering from a knowledge deficit.  I had a number of strategies to try to cope with this, most of which failed me.

One was to try to get adults to tell me what I was missing — to fill in the gaps that comprised my knowledge failures.   This was a wholly failed strategy.  Whenever I went to see a psychological counselor of person of that nature (which I did sporadically, at various points in time), I generally wanted to draw from them the knowledge I’d been lacking.   I had a feeling that if I could get the knowledge I didn’t have, I’d be able to piece together all sorts of aspects of my reality that didn’t make sense before.

Needless to say, the psychological counselors I saw were not trained to fill in the gaps of your missing knowledge and it was hard even for me to try to gauge what knowledge I had to get to make reality into a coherent whole.   A lack of substantive knowledge can become a psychological problem, interfering with one’s way of interacting with the world, but contemporary psychology doesn’t recognize this as a fact.  I would inevitably talk at cross-purposes with such helpers — and then leave feeling that I hadn’t obtained much of what I’d hoped for.

The problem was:  I never had a psychological problem so much as a deficiency in understanding, which made me seem like an idiot, walking into walls that others already seemed to know were there.  I’d tripped up on too many barriers due to my worldly ignorance (which also related to sexual matters).

Much of what had led to this was that my Rhodesian engendered superego defined my limits.   I couldn’t do the work to find out what was “out there” because to be quiet and accepting of all sorts of boundaries was my acculturated norm.

To “transgress” authoritative boundaries, whilst defying the superego, became my means to escape from the Rhodesian cultural identity that had failed me.

Metaphysics is unfalsifiable

Metaphysics is essentialism. In other words, it involves positing that eternal essences pertain to things — be they individuals, groups or sexes, or to humanity itself. The idea of “human nature”, if unqualified by a recognition that this is influenced by historical change, chance and contingency, is metaphysics.

Metaphysics has the capacity to develop into whole philosophical and cultural systems, nonetheless its ideas are not provable by science. Indeed science may provide the basis for disproving many metaphysical notions.

The common assumption that men are the essence of rationality, whereas women are the essence of emotionality can be questioned by science at a very basic level, by presenting the physiological fact that both men and women have both the capacity to experience emotion and to use reason.

Since metaphysics furnishes our lives with meaning even though these meanings are without substantiation, metaphysical assumptions can be hard to root out of our thought processes.

Freud and Failure

Why say that psychoanalysis has elements of Judeo-Christian metaphysics in it that are logically consistent with a witchcraft continuum?

For a start, when one looks at the structure of psychoanalysis, along with one of Freud’s significant cases, one sees that how guilt is always at the source of any psychological tension, not in the sense of the patient having committed a crime in real, tangible reality, but rather that lying and self-deception is considered to make up the fundamental part his/her being.   In this sense, the patient is always the criminal, Oedipus, having killed his father and had sexual intercourse with his mother, and consequently blinded himself.   That this crime is held to be true on a metaphysical level, rather than a real one, doesn’t mitigate the logic that one must seek the cause of one’s problems in one’s own actions. The patient is always the quintessentially guilty party.   Outsiders may be relatively innocent, unless they turn the torchlight on themselves and thus reveal their similar, primeval guilt.

Let us now consider the case of Dora, one of Freud’s significant cases and noted therapeutic failure.   Dora’s parents were wealthy Austrians.   My understanding is that her father was having an affair with another woman and in order to keep quiet someone who had noticed this, he was attempting to palm his daughter off onto that guy for her to have a sexual relationship with him.   Here’s the story from the point of view of a Freud researcher:

In 1898, when she was fifteen, Dora was brought to Freud by her father. Alongside her physical symptoms and general sullenness, she had developed, according to her father, an irrational belief that his close friend Herr K. had made sexual advances toward her. Freud’s initial response to Dora was not at all what her father expected: Freud concluded that her account of Herr K.’s behavior was accurate, and he agreed with her that her father had in effect handed her over to Herr K. as the price for his own affair with Herr K.’s wife. Freud’s response to Dora also seems to surprise Masson, who, in The Assault on Truth, alleged that, having abandoned the seduction theory, Freud routinely attributed his patients’ stories to fantasy, thereby excusing the abusive actions of adults. In this instance, however, Freud initially took the side of reality against fantasy, and of the child against the parent.

But, Masson complains, Freud’s loyalty to Dora was short-lived, his original alliance with her soon giving way to opposition. Instead of accepting that she simply found Herr K.’s attentions unwelcome and was understandably angered by her father’s self-interested betrayal, Freud insisted that Dora’s hostility to Herr K. was unreasonable and her anger against her father excessive. Indeed, Freud regarded both her intense aversion and her anger as manifestations of her hysteria. After all, Freud reasoned, Herr K. was a prepossessing man still in his thirties: Dora should have been aroused, not disgusted, when he embraced and kissed her (at age fourteen), just as she should have been flattered by his serious romantic interest in her. Freud even suggested that the whole matter could have been satisfactorily resolved had Dora married Herr K., which would of course have freed Frau K. to marry Dora’s father.

[Paul Robinson Freud and his Critics  UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS Berkeley · Los Angeles · London © 1993 The Regents of the University of California]

According to Freud, there is nothing wrong with being sold into patriarchal sex-slavery, whereby one’s own views, timing and intentions are overruled by one’s father.  Rather, one should welcome it whenever it happens instead of being “hysterical”.  Here is more from Robinson, who writes sympathetically on behalf of Freud:

Freud suggests, in particular, that Dora was unconsciously in love with Herr K. and very much desired a romantic relationship with him. Her unconscious attraction explains why she reacted so violently both to Herr K.’s sexual advances and to her father’s contention that she had merely fantasized them. There was in fact an element of fantasy involved in her situation: the advances were real enough, but they were not entirely unwelcome. Dora’s extreme disgust disguised feelings of self-reproach. She had, in effect, gotten what she could not admit she wanted.

Dora had desired to be metaphysically raped by both her father and Herr K (and subsequently by Freud).  Of course this is not a physical rape of the mind, but a psychological one.   When a witch says, “I wasn’t cavorting with Satan and I strenuously protest the assertion that I ever wanted a dalliance with the Dark Lord,” she is in fact admitting her guilt.   She wouldn’t be over-reacting to an honest question by a respectable Christian gentleman concerning her alleged fantasies unless she knew that the assertions made by the Inquisitor were — quote — “really true”.  Or does that even make any sense?  She no doubt felt guilty about not following the patriarchal mores of her culture.  Freud would have known that that is the nature of Superego — to induce social conformity and makes us feel badly when we breach it.  But, defying social convention is not the same as lying to oneself.   Dora defied her father because she was true to herself and she nevertheless felt guilty because by being true to herself, she was going against social convention.   In other words, as hard as is for the patriarchal mind to imagine, Dora and her father were two different people.  What’s more, Dora had a different idea about social conventions than her father did, even though the weight of public opinion was in line with “father knows best”.

Freud is of course no inquisitor of the middle ages as he never professed to read minds nor take the side of rape apologists. If that were so, it would be enough to tip us all over the edge of hysteria*. [joke]


*It should be noted that I do believe in an unconscious mind.

The fact that many people will not perceive the deep nature of patriarchal hostility toward women, but opt for the easier path of attributing hysteria to those who point it out, is a function of their unconscious minds’ displacement and projection.  

The witchcraft continuum

Psychoanalysis is more often than not of the tradition of the Christian Inquisition, in that it wants to establish some intimacy within the sphere of evil.

We may be familiar with the Medieval notion of witches, being those who were morally corrupted by the devil, to the point that only torture or death could “save” them. Such spiritual corruption attributed to women, both young and old, was considered to put them at odds with the divine truth, the absolute metaphysical reality, including the ability to be aware of their condition. Only through continually wearing them down over a number of days and sleepless nights, could those accused of witchcraft be even brought into awareness of the sinister nature of their deeds. Otherwise they would deny their evil, because the devil was in them.

Much of contemporary psychoanalysis also puts individuals, especially women, at odds with “The truth”. This divine truth is always patriarchal ideology, especially in the Judaic formulations of a Freud. According to these formulations, the truth is never self-evident, never on the surface, but always has to be rummaged for. Original assertions have to be discarded, whilst one waits for a moment of unguarded speech, at which point the accused will inevitably acknowledge that everything she had said was back to front.

This is the moment the priest/inquisitor had been waiting for. He had known it was coming all along as the process of disregarding whatever the ” witch” had said whilst applying pressure to say something else inevitably brings this about.

One does not vigorously deny anything, unless those allegations happen to be true. Vigorous denials are a sign of the spiritual warfare for one’s soul, with God and the Devil battling each other for supremacy. To assure God wins, the woman has to die, and it is always a shame when she doesn’t go to her death gracefully. That’s when the stage plans are in danger of being ruined.

The priest must battle valiantly, therefore, against Satan’s forces, to win the moment of forced intimacy in which “the witch” confesses to her crimes and is willing to go to her death for her sins. This is the moment the priest had been waiting for — when he and the “witch” are one, in crime and forgiveness.

This fundamental reversal, where the one really guilty of a crime (the priest) causes his victim to confess to an outrageous level of sinfulness and guilt is the stage play constantly repeated in every patriarchal system, especially those of Abrahamic derivation. Psychoanalysis is no different whenever it posits the existence of an unconscious at odds with normative communication.

If one denies what has been stated many times, in order to find a residue of “truth” in what has not been said, then one is guilty of believing in witchcraft.

Mathematically deducing the necessary paths of patriarchal notions

Patriarchal ideologies are rife with smoke and mirrors, to a degree with can be measured by the logical inconsistencies of these ideologies.

Working out how the system of patriarchy is structured requires a logical, almost spacial form of reasoning. You have to figure out what sorts of acts, events or attitudes are included within its system and which are excluded. Secondly, there is an algebraic aspect, whereby if something is added to one side it is excluded from the other side. I had a lot of fun exploring the patriarchal proposition, “men are intellect, but not emotion.” Patriarchy excludes emotion and makes reasoning without emotion into its definition of the active principle. At the same time, we can see that males, like any creatures, are emotional.

So the question becomes, apart from these patriarchal formulations that state men are never whimsical nor emotional, where does emotion come from and where does it disappear to? Also, an entirely different question: Where does PATRIARCHY say the emotion comes from and disappears to — and what MUST it be bound to say if it is true to its own internal logic about active and passive principles?

God is the reification of rational order

 Women are the made to stand for the entropy driving the universe toward more and more disorder until God (reified Reason) fades away to nothing. Just another irrational power game justifying  of one group of humans dominating another.
Even many secularists get suckered into playing this game — Richard Dawkins was, for instance, when he implied that women trying to draw some demarcation lines of their own (which is always a patriarchal no-no, since women are intrinsically without structure) is just so much whining and silliness.
The lines he would draw between rationality and irrationality are consistent with Western culture being quintessentially rational, and cultures where women allegedly (or actually) suffer more than anybody might normally do in Western culture being considered irrational.  This contrast is hardly as stark, in reality, as our metaphysical conceptions would lead us to assume.


Patriarchal metaphysics: the reversal of cause and effect

Judeo-Christian metaphysics maintains that the negative principle of life (woman) must submit to that which is deemed to be the positive principle (man), or else all hell will break out, civilization as such will be doomed and evil will be perpetuated as a general rule.

Everything centers around The Father in the same way as the Earth circles the Sun. Women are considered to be negative or shapeless, unless they get their true essence of being by conformity to patriarchal mores. Ultimately they must submit to a man to find their identity and redeem themselves from evil, which is related to a state of chaos and/or formlessness.

Men are to be considered always the perpetual victims of female recalcitrance. This is only logical if you assume that the force of evil (chaos) is necessarily more violent and powerful than the force of good (logic and order).  At the same time, since this sense of gender relations is founded not on empirical or psychological facts, but on metaphysical precepts, nothing really changes if women do submit to patriarchal mores.  Evil in the world is not reduced by submission, since women themselves are  evil, which is metaphysical view that remains intact no matter what women may do.  This is how patriarchal systems justify bringing to bear on women a lot of hostility “for their own good” and to “make them see reason”.  This increases the more the man in charge is feeling unstable — for he feels a sense of “evil”, perhaps fuzzy and undefined, or perhaps interpreted as the devil himself, moving through his agent of women to undermine his psychological resources and cut his courage.

With their intrinsically back-to-front consciousness, patriarchal systems continue to hold that women inflict harm on poor suffering men who just happen to be in power over them, whenever women act according to their volitions.

Jesuitical cunning

A lot of what many conservatives say can seem like random ideas or speculations, not necessarily coherent, until you unpack them.Consider the poster below I made from the leader of the Australian opposition party’s words.

Click to engorge

Try to ignore the images, in the first instance, which I supplied to show the ramifications of this conservative’s agenda.On the surface of it, the speaker is simply calling for honesty and for balance in our thinking. We could read his words as saying, “Let’s not get all overwrought just because a boss, or other male representative does something wrong, sinning a bit. Instead, let’s open our hearts and realize that he does more good than harm.”

In fact, this seeming call for leniency and kindness hides a fundamental patriarchal ideological structure which is directly patterned by those right-wingers in the US who argue that it’s not so bad to be raped because at least that brings a child into the world.

So, Tony Abbott,  our opposition leader, is implicitly arguing that male energy, no matter how forcefully or wrongfully applied, is always for the good.  His words appeal to a traditional, metaphysical view that female energy is only ever passive and reactive, so it requires male energy to give it meaning, force and shape. That is why having a rapist’s child might be a good thing in the dark minds of sordid fellows — because a rapist is the embodiment of male energy and women allegedly need male energy if they are to become something other than dark matter.

Similarly, even a vicious boss or wife-battering husband could be considered to be doing women some good, by exposing women to the necessary male energy that she needs to come into being in a meaningful way. This is actually the conservative ideology that underlies a text that could otherwise seem benign or genteel to some ears.

2. “Metaphysical” means imaginary. It means it has no relationship to reality. Nonetheless, many people live their lives as if metaphysical notions about the world were true. If enough people do that, it can change the real texture and experience of reality for a lot of people. To take one example, if women believe they are inherently passive they will wait for men to act, and not enjoying life on their own terms. That is why metaphysical precepts are so insidious.

Tricks designed to get you laughed out of school

Patriarchal types always complain that nobody ever manages to explain to them in a logical or coherent way what patriarchy is and why it must be abolished. Some of those more contemporary ones may in fact read the words of feminists, but these words have no meaning to them, or if they do, the words seem “hysterical”, “crazy”, “emotional”, “reactive”, “oversensitive” and “exaggerated”.

In every one of these descriptions, we have precisely the patriarchal perception of WOMAN.  Patriarchal readers, some of whom may be women themselves, are unable to register any range of experience that is not already part of their conscious self-identity.   They wish to identify themselves with the opposite characteristics to those listed above.   Those opposite expressions to this are what patriarchal people view as “masculine”.

When a patriarchal fellow is unable to understand the substance of the words he is reading, but instead finds himself tripped up by pejorative expressions that enter his mind, guess who is tripping him up?  He is responsible for reading the characteristics he doesn’t want to be identified with into the written word, to the extent that he cannot make coherent sense of what is written, but keeps asking for another explanation.

Such a fellow has no doubt already been told many things by feminists, but he cannot remember any of them, because he has been so intent on projecting the qualities he considers to be negative out of himself and into the text he has been reading.  After that, he can feel disgusted with the text, but not disgusted with himself.   So far as he is concerned, he is empty, free, an undefined essence floating above everything.   Nothing moves him. He is a human being without emotion, without physical body.

Such is the nature of patriarchal projection.  Patriarchal people have been rendered insane by their ideologies, but it is always a woman who are viewed as being “mad” whenever a patriarch cannot digest her words to him.

What is projected into women by the patriarch is actually and precisely the insanity engendered in the patriarch’s mind as a result of his patriarchal ideological training.

Utterly fundamental to understanding shamanism

1.  Shamanistic usages of language

Shamanisms learn to speak very indirectly about reality.  As Georges Bataille points out in his Unfinished System of Nonknowledge  verbal communication sets itself at odds with the physical body and its vicissitudes.   To communicate completely, one does not communicate with language, but non-linguistically.  “We feel each other through our wounds,” he said, thus suggesting shamanic access to  another dimension of knowledge, not through suffering as such, but through the internalization of knowledge as a result of wounding.  To draw a distinction here between two levels of communication is vital.

Crude psychoanalytic interpretations would tend to make out the shaman to be one who whines about wounding whilst justifying false ways of seeing the world, to make himself feel better.  So, psychoanalysts may set out to defeat what it sees as a competing system of interpretation of the world, by distorting its claims.  The willful nature of this misunderstanding is obvious because it does not distinguish between a wound and the person who has it.  Whereas psychoanalytic distortions would have the wound seem to speak for and on behalf of itself, in shamanism, the shaman masterfully speaks on behalf of his wounds and furthermore uses his incidental wounding and the understanding it brings to heal others.

In the case of Bataille’s form of shamanism, the “wounds” are the sexual organs, which he considered a wound to language itself, as a system that aims to be closed and complete, capable of accounting for everything and making all of reality seem rational.   The physicality of the body itself  prevents the formal dimensions of language to close the circle of meaning, in terms of giving a full account of everything in the world.

This suspicion of language is expressed in all forms of shamanism, which attempt to address the problems associated with the body in a more direct way than via language.   To the end of addressing the body and not the mind, language may be “twisted” so that the shamanic seer can use it to “look around corners”. Marechera uses this expression in The Black Insider, where he criticizes logical formulations for degrading the more human dimensions of reality.

The tyranny of straightforward things is more oppressive and more degrading than such idle monstrosities as life and death, apartheid and beer drinking, a stamp album and Jew-baiting. One plus one equals two is so irrefutably straightforward that the unborn child can see that even if man was wiped off the face of the earth one plus one would always and forever-equal two.

The “unborn child” is one who cannot yet speak, who can be readily victimized by narrow forms of logic that would easily be able to erase humanity.  The “unborn child” is also the non-rational state of the shamanistic seer.   Huge aspects of reality are more readily observable when one has learned not to depend on language.

2.  When shamans work with “energy fields”, they are referring to the ability one needs to have to defend oneself against projective identification.  This term has gained meaning in psychoanalysis as implying that someone has injected their own needs and values into another person to get them to play a particular function on their behalf.   These functions are to express emotional attitudes that area already in another person but which he doesn’t have the confidence or the courage to express.

Shamans work to develop a strong “energy vest”  for the one who has become ill, to enable her to resist future attempts to control her.   A shaman’s incantations are sung to create a sense of wholeness about identity, defined as integral bodily sensations. Future assaults against the integral wholeness of the victim will from now on be understood by her in terms of what they are, and not being unconsciously accommodated.

Having developed a sense of energy fields, one is cured, since one now understands when one’s own energy field has been violated.   Should a “dart” be fired in one’s direction, one can choose to ignore it, or to return the dart to the original owner.  There is nothing mysterious about the fact that darts and energy fields exist, except for the terminology.  The means by which assaults take place, as well as their psychological meanings,  can be accounted for in the earlier mentioned term of projective identification.

Shamans take knowledge of energy fields a step further than others do in psychoanalysis, however.   An advanced shaman will conduct effective ideological warfare by observing another’s energy field and sending “darts” into the field of another to disrupt their mental ability to work. It was said that shamans used to lob mountains at each other.

Nietzsche,epistemology and shamanistic texts

 Due to the nature and intensity of opposition to the intellectually shamanistic paradigm, I understood there is a formidable amount of emotional investment in the view that both morality and knowledge have predetermined structures.  These are thought to be made known though the inspiration of certain wise men, whilst being inaccessible to women.  Nietzsche, too,  can be read as promulgating a foundationalist position in the pattern of old testament prophets whose oracles were only decipherable by those of the greatest spiritual elevation. Many of his contemporary readers believe that belonging to the generic category, “men”, suffices for one to understand Nietzsche’s works.Shamanistic literature is much more evasive than foundationalist texts about who has the right to understand it.  Nietzsche’s naming of one of his works as Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None is very much within the shamanistic tradition, which appeals to a heightened subjectivity.  If the book appeals to you, it is “for” you, but otherwise it isn’t.In contradistinction to this are the quintessentially patriarchal texts of the Christian God and Allah.  All foundationalist texts seem to fall from the sky already formed but in actual fact are the products of much prevarication and revision.  Given that none of the patriarchal texts lie on a firm foundation, despite the vigorous promotion of the opposite idea, monotheistic religion does not have a better leg to stand on than shamanistic texts.  The idea, “these texts are true because they have an authoritative source”, does not seem to hold up where patriarchal authority is shown to be multiple, historically variable, subject to the political climate and ultimately devoid of an actual God to assure the authenticity of all interpretations.Herein lies the advantage of shamanistic writing, in that it does not require one to first believe in anything in order to gain benefits from it.   One can read Carlos Castandena’s Don Juan without any concern as to whether it is a reliable text.   If Castaneda was in a sense Don Juan himself, having made up all the information and advice, the value of the text remains unaltered.   Psychological trickery is fundamental to shamanism, just as it is a means by which its wisdom can be communicated.    Nietzsche adoption of the tone of an old-testament prophet, despite being nothing of the sort and indeed inimical to the aims of religiously inspired persons, is a concession to the shamanistic spirit of mockery as a means for communicating wisdom. So if you come to the ultimate conclusion that you have been “had” by a shamanistic text, perhaps this is the principle lesson of life you needed learn all along: the meaning and value of skepticism.

According to the principles of shamanism, what one says doesn’t have to be True, but it has to work.   By contrast, patriarchal reasoning demands that something has to be true when it is based on authority.  However, it can neither show that its principles work, nor produce its authority.  One may not be better off with shamanistic texts, but at least one is not worse off.

Don’t try to mold others

Clarissa’s writing yesterday got me thinking.  I hadn’t realized it was possible to suffer from formlessness.  I may have suffered from it in my early twenties, when I craved a rite of passage to test me, teach me the lessons of adulthood and what society means and how it works.   That was a period in my life when it would have been good for me to begin learning martial arts.  More generally, though, she and I are polar opposites. Whereas she agonizes over formlessness, I have had to try to find ways to escape the imposition of too much form.This is why people who come along and try to shape me for any reason earn themselves the status of my mortal enemy. I have my own internal structure and I’m capable of reaching a fever point in self-discipline.   What I don’t need is someone coming along and arbitrarily trying to impose some structure on something they can’t see.   What I need is to extract the heat, to take off some of the pressure of being fully formed and to be allowed for moments at a time to enter formlessness.I have nothing to fear from formlessness, unlike the fear I have of too much structure, especially when the new structures imposed are unrelated to my existing structures.   To calculate multiple opposing principles and conform to all of them means the temperature rises to the point that I can no longer think. I need simplicity and clarity in order to continue to achieve my tasks.

Psychological structure  has always been a part of my life to the extent that I’ve internalized a sense of structure fully.  I never have to fear losing control or devolving into a state of formlessness, because my early childhood life had more structure in it than I’ve experienced since.   Above all, my primary school had an extremely military structure.  We marched everywhere in single file, recited our times table and greeted our teachers by standing up whenever one entered the room.   We were yelled at, threatened and sometimes subjected to corporal punishment — a ruler on the knuckles for inattentiveness.  That was how I grew up, by internalizing the necessity for such discipline.  Should I drink alcohol or move away from places where form is directly imposed, I still retain this form within myself.

But impose yet another layer of form on me that takes no account of my early training, and I’m in danger of losing my cool.   I have a form of my own and I don’t need two or three more layers of someone else’s necessities imposed on top of that.  A Christian cultural tendency for strangers to come along and morally shape others I find reprehensible. Let people be as they are and function according to their identities.   Don’t come along and try to mold or rearrange them!

Shamanic double vision & Nietzsche

Temporary physical injury and blindness are essential to a shaman, for they ultimately enable him or her to see better.

Shamanic injuries lead to a compulsion to cross a bridge from one side of consciousness into another and in effect to join two opposing levels of consciousness together.  Traditionally, shamans seek to retain the injurious darts in their bodies in order to keep hold of magic power.  Whereas shamanic injury leads to a darkening of normative perceptions, it enhances others.  Blindness forces one to rely on senses other than vision.   Needing to function without sight or health, one develops aspects of one’s awareness that would otherwise never be developed.  Nietzsche is typical in this pattern, as is his 20th Century French protégé, Georges Bataille.  The result is a “double vision”, whereby two levels of reality can be compared and data extracted from combining their vectors in much the same way as the brain combines information from the left eye and the right eye to produce a third level of consciousness — depth perception.

In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche writes:

Even my eye trouble, which at times approached dangerously near blinding, was only an effect [of general exhaustion] and not a cause; for, with every improvement of my general bodily health came a corresponding increase in my power of vision. An all too long series of years meant recovery to me. But, sad to say, it also meant relapse, breakdown, periods of decadence. After this, need I say that I am experienced in questions of decadence? I know them inside and out. Even that filigree art of apprehension and comprehension in general, that feeling for nuances, that psychology of “seeing what is around the comer,” and whatever else I may be able to do, was first learnt then, and is the specific gift of that period during which everything in me was subtilized-observation itself, together with all the organs of observation. To view healthier concepts and values from the standpoint of the sick, and conversely to view the secret work of the instinct of decadence out of the abundance and self-confidence of a rich life-this has been my principal experience, what I have been longest trained in. If in anything at all, it was in this that I became a master. To-day my hand is skillful; it has the knack of reversing perspectives: the first reason perhaps why a Transvaluation of all Values has been possible to me alone.  (2)

Just a bit later on, he says:

This double series of experiences, this means of access to two worlds that seem so far asunder, finds an exact reflection in my own nature-I have an alter ego: I have a “second” sight, as well as a first. Perhaps I even have a third sight. The very nature of my origin allowed me an outlook transcending merely local, merely national and limited horizons; it cost me no effort to be a “good European.” (3) [emphasis added]

As we can see, the representation of “two worlds” of consciousness that have to be bridged by virtue of a necessity stemming from sickness leads to the  sense of having a “third sight” — implicitly a mystical level of vision.

Contrast the use that a shaman can make out of his constitutional blindness with the normative blindness of the one who sees only one world, that being the vision circumscribed by the felt necessity to conform:

One used to fly by vision and now one flies by radar — blindly, as it were. That is the destiny of women within patriarchal societies – to have to rely upon a set of “civilising” values. That way, their navigation systems can always be jammed if they become too vocal. Women who have been “translated” into beings with now ‘ Civilized’ as opposed to Natural demeanours, have been taught to rely only upon those forms of communication that have been narrowly defined as “sensible” according to expectations which are starched, formal and conservative. How does one live within patriarchal society as a woman? Blindly, and disregarding of one’s own experiences, lest they puzzle and derange one enough that one finally takes action. Women are born to be castrated, according to some.

Next:  Bataille’s non-knowledge as a form of shamanism

Shamanic death and regeneration

I had cause to revisit my knowledge of the so-called “death instinct” after reading the following article.

ON THE DEATH OF WHITNEY HOUSTON: Why I Won’t Ever Shut Up About My Drug Use | xoJane

Herein, a very beautiful ape expounds:

The life instincts are those that deal with survival, reproduction, pleasure—in other words, instincts that are crucial for sustaining a person’s life, as well as the continuation of the species: thirst, hunger, pain avoidance, love, human interaction and other prosocial actions.

You follow?

But eventually Freud determined that human behavior couldn’t be explained by life instincts alone—and introduced his theory of death instincts, or death drive, or Thanatos.

Freud posited that “the goal of all life is death”, concluding that humans hold an unconscious desire to die—and that self-destructive behavior is an expression of the energy created by the death instincts.

According to this theory, then, if you are not a self-destructive person, your death wishes are under control because they overridden by healthier life instincts.

I shall both add and subtract from this formulation on the basis of my shamanistic understanding.

The “death instinct” is not a self-destructive drive that kicks in automagically in the same ways cells are biologically programmed to die.   Instead the death instinct is the underside of the life instinct, and its constant monitor and guarantor.  The death instinct makes sure the life instinct is on-track, or if not, it withdraws its support for whatever you are doing and forces you to reformulate your goals:

Even in your folly and despising ye each serve your Self, ye despisers of the body. I tell you, your very Self wanteth to die, and turneth away from life.

No longer can your Self do that which it desireth most:- create beyond itself.

That is what it desireth most; that is all its fervour. But it is now too late to do so:- so your Self wisheth to succumb, ye despisers of the body.

To succumb- so wisheth your Self; and therefore have ye become despisers of the body. For ye can no longer create beyond yourselves. And therefore are ye now angry with life and with the earth. (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)

Nietzsche speaks of those who have succumbed to the death instinct, because they have embraced a lie about the nature of reality.   They think reality is spiritual and not physical, and therefore the death instinct has  taken charge and is forcing them to either rethink their proposition or to get out of life altogether.

As I have outlined via my interpretation, the death instinct serves the life instinct.   These are not two distinct instincts that could gain the upper hand. The reality is close to Taoism and far removed from Manichean formulations.

That the death instinct is always in service of the life instinct is very good.  Wilhelm Reich, by the way, also noticed that when one does not believe in oneself enough, one sacrifices oneself to those whom one more easily believes in.  This is the death instinct at work, functioning as an evolutionary principle, and removing those who don’t believe in themselves so that they do not clutter the scenery.

Why does one not believe in oneself? Because one is on the wrong track, because one has turned against what is ecstatic, vital and good about life, and has adopted negative formulations.

The intervention of the death instinct is not supposed to be final, except in the worst of cases. Mostly, it is just death tapping you on the shoulder, telling you that you have gone off-track.  It may be difficult to figure out where one has erred.  When I received my warning from death, I was in a mode of extreme conformity and emotional repression.  That’s when death alerted me that I had to change my ways. I’ve since done so, and nothing has been the same since.  All my relationships are extremely positive.

Shamanistic death and regeneration works in the same way. One has to face death in order to learn where or how one might have strayed from life’s purposes.  Once one has discovered this, one can get back on track. Death no longer has its hold, and Eros (the life instinct) takes over.