Let us try this

The shamanistic drum-beating, which is supposed to inspire the “soul journey” or the shaman actually inspires a journey into the realm that Kristeva refers to as “The semiotic”.

One of Kristeva’s most important propositions is the semiotic. Kristeva’s use of the term ‘semiotic’ here should not be confused with the discipline of semiotics suggested by Ferdinand de Saussure. For Kristeva, the semiotic is closely related to the infantile pre-Oedipal referred to in the works of Freud and mainly Melanie Klein and the British Object Relation psychoanalysis, and to the Lacanian (pre-mirror stage). It is an emotional field, tied to our instincts, which dwells in the fissures and prosody of language rather than in the denotative meanings of words. In this sense, the semiotic opposes the symbolic, which corresponds words with meaning in a stricter, mathematical sense. [Wikipedia, my emphasis in bold]

It is a return to the semiotic developmental stage of existence, with a very real potential to draw adult insights from this realm of earlier experience that has subsequently been censored by adult expediencies (in terms of losing openness to other perspectives) that is significant for shamanism. This experiential return to one’s origins enables one to correct modes of development that were dysfunctional, whilst also opening up the eyes to see the world in a way that is not narrowly culturally determined (in Kristeva’s terms, one would not be limited to viewing the world in terms of the Symbolic — ie. in terms of the logical determinations of language.)

My body is the B52’s bombing strategy the dead reckoning
From the deep of the sea the highest of granite peaks
And the air in between are the split infinitives of my speech

It should be noted — since certain things can so easily be misunderstood — that a return to the semiotic (in the shamanistic sense) is not SIMPLY a regression (although it involves a certain capacity to psychologically and emotionally regress). Rather, one’s return to the semiotic realm is from the realm of the Symbolic. Thus it involves a mediation of the Symbolic and a transformation of it.

It also appears that the semiotic realm is linked to the destruction of the socially defined (and, I would add, socially conditioned–) subject. Thus, it is linked with thanatos. So, we have a further explanation as to what the shaman’s dangerous crossing is and how it involves the ability to face “death”.


On being foreign (it cuts both ways)

According to Jock Mccullock, writing on Colonial Psychiatry and the African Mind, “Doris Lessing’s quintet The Children of Violence … depicts Zambezia (Southern Rhodesia) as the most claustrophobic of societies.’ ( p 3).

It is interesting that Doris Lessing considered colonial society the most “claustrophobic”.  From personal experience of such a society I would say that for my parents generation there was some degree of truth to that, although “colonial society” is not that different from the rural British societies of the early 50s.  On the other hand, I am a bit wary of the degree to which those who want a cheap way to make themselves appear to be sophisticated and culturally knowledgeable tend to knock colonialism in order to score their social points.

Kristeva’s writing offers an alternative perspective: that a different culture may seem claustrophic just because one wasn’t born there. I see myself in this, but I also see the ideological “anti-colonials”, who are a formidable force.  She says:

Like a child that hides, fearful and guilt, convinced beforehand that it deserves its parent’s anger. In the world of dodges and shams that make up his pseudo-relationships with pseudo-others, hatred provides the foreigner with consistency. Against that wall, painful but certain, and in that sense familiar, he knocks himself in order to assert, to others and to himself, that he is here. Hatred makes him real, authentic so to speak, solid, or simply existing. Even more so, it causes to resound on the outside that other hatred, secret and shameful, apologetic to the point of abating, that the foreigner bears within himself against everyone, against no one, and which, in the case of flooding, would cause a serious depression. But there on the border between himself and others, hatred does not threaten him. He lies in wait, reassured each time to discover that it never misses an appointment, bruised on account of always missing love, but almost pleased with persistence — real or imaginary? — of detestation. (Strangers to Ourselves, p 13).

Could the claustrophobia Lessing experienced upon entering colonial society have been derived, at least in part,  from her sense of her own foreignness rather than being something completely objective, as she wants to imply?  I suspect there was a bit of subjectivity at work.