Wednesday, November 21, 2007

William A Sadler, III


2002 Clear Secondary Education CLAD/NCLB Credential for English, Sonoma State University, CA.
1993 Master of Arts in Psychology, Sonoma State University, CA.
1987 Bachelor of Arts in Modern Society and Social Thought, U.C. Santa Cruz, CA.
1980-1983 Individual Major: The Ecology of Folklore Cultures, Hobart College, Geneva, NY.

Professional Experience

2006 Will C. Wood High School, Vacaville, English 10 & 11 Teacher.
2005 Education Consultant and Substitute Teacher, Sonoma County Schools.
2004 Sonoma Valley High School, Senior English and Keyboard/Computer Applications Teacher.
2003 Sonoma Valley High School, English Teacher, 9-12, Summer School.
2002-2003 Sonoma Valley High School, English Language Development / Special Education (English & Math).
2002 Summer School Instructor, 5th grade English, SVUSD.
2001-2002 Petaluma School District Substitute Teacher.
2001 Fall-Winter, Student Teacher at Casa Grande High School, Petaluma, CA.
1998 Western Institute of Science and Health, Office Administrator.
1998 Sonoma State School of Education, Interim Administrative Manager.
1995 California Poets in the Schools Conference, Santa Barbara.
1992- Owner of Acoustic Aspirations Audio Recording and Production Service.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Appendix One

Appendix One

Research Documentation

This appendix contains copies of official documents submitted to the Department of Psychology and the Graduate Department at Sonoma State University. There are also copies of actual questionnaires used to try to get information about peak experiences and wilderness from students at Sonoma State. All documents appear as submitted.
The first document is a questionnaire, followed by selected quotes from the 10 or so respondents who actually returned the questionnaires or agreed to be interviewed. As agreed, all identities are held in confidence.

Appendix One Table of Contents

l-Questionnaire #1 (10 questions, 2 pages)................................371
2-Selected Quotes from Respondents and Interviews...........374
3-Master of Psychology Thesis Prospectus Form
(1/24/89 Draft, photocopy)......................................380
4-Sonoma State Thesis Prospectus Approval Form
(2 pages, photocopy)....................................................381
5-Sonoma State University Human Rights Protocol
Sheet (2 pages, photocopy)........................................383
6-Answers to Protocol Summary Questions(photocopy)......385
7-Questionnaire #2 (1 question, 1 page, photocopy).............386
8-Interview Question Guide Sheet (3 pages, photocopy).....387
Please return to- Post Wilderness Peak Experience

Bill Sadler (QUESTIONNAIRE # 1)
308 Vallejo St Sex/Gender:
Petaluma, CA, 94952 Occupation:
(707) 763-6558 Age:

1- Would you please describe your wilderness peak-experience and the context in which it occurred in your life?

2- How do you feel about the experience now? If you told anyone about it, did their responses to your experience affect your current feelings? How?

3- Did you experience difficulty making sense of your experience when you came back from the wilderness? What factors contributed to this difficulty?

4- If you experienced any negative emotions (depression, anxiety, frustration or grief) after you "came down" from the "peak experience," please discuss these and how you dealt with them. Try to give an example or two.

5- How did you integrate the peak-awareness from your wilderness experience into your non-peak, non-wilderness life? Please describe some of the challenges and changes you faced and how you dealt with them in light of your peak-wilderness experience.

6- If you practice any centering exercises, or do anything that helps you put it all together, please discuss whether or not these influenced your post-wilderness-peak experience integration process outlined above. (optional)

7- Was there any community involvement in your wilderness-peak-integration process, and if so, how did this affect your post-wilderness human relationships? (If you have had both solo and group experiences, please discuss any similarities and/or differences between the two.)

8- If you could "do it all again," what would be your "wisdoms of hindsight," i.e., what would you do the same/differently?

9- Overall, what has been your most significant constellation of learnings with regard to your experience(s) (before, during, and after) of wilderness? How did your experience of wilderness change your sense of yourself in relation to your environments?

10- Has this interview/questionnaire helped you to understand your experience better? If not, how could this tool be improved? (Please use this space and the other side to reflect on this process. Thanks a lot. Have Fun !!)
Selected Quotes from Respondents to Questionnaires and Interviews:

Female: Age 31-- Questionnaire # 1, Question 5: (on integrating peak experiences into non-peak life) "Before 'leaving' organize and 'clean' up life. Leave with intention and readiness. When I return, life has semblance of order making it easier for me if there is confusion, chaos. I have many peak experiences outside of the wilderness environment. Breathing, singing, sweating, communicating, within my safe and supportive (sometimes) community.

Female: Age 35--Questionnaire # 1, Question 2: (on feelings about peak experiences and reactions of people told, if any) "It is still hard to get back to the 'feel' of the experience. I still think of it often and re-work the experience for new information and use. It is very special to me.
"I did not tell anyone about the experience for a long time. Then only a special one. I have found that in telling most people my experience is ruined. They either don't believe and make fun or push it off and say no such thing could happen. It rips apart my joy and love for what has happened to me. This reaction has also occurred since I was little. So... I guard my 'peak-experiences' to keep them special."

Same Respondent: Question 5: (on integration) "I integrated my experience awareness by writing it down, looking at it in different ways, and then seeing how to fit it into my life. As my life is now [changed] the difference in my non-peak:peak life is very small. They mix together nicely. One thing I found is I like being around fewer and fewer people--I hate large groups."
Female: Age 48-- Questionnaire # 1, Question 4: (on post-peak wilderness "blues" and strategies to deal with them) "I experienced all of these (depression, anxiety, frustration, grief) every time I came home. I had no way to deal with them except to go back to the woods."

Female: Age 28-- Questionnaire # 1, Question 9: (on the most significant constellation of learnings to be derived from wilderness or other nature-oriented peak experiences) "I have difficulty with words for this-- my experiences in the mountains-- Kings Canyon, Yosemite, and the Canadian Rockies-- leave me fuller and more awed by life.... Somehow in touch with deep nature, primal beauty, and cruelty and pain-- no, something that transcends my range of emotions and feelings and expression."

Male: Age 27-- Questionnaire # 1, all ten (10) questions: (The entire contents of this person's questionnaire responses have been reproduced below--pages 377-379. Because of the depth of detail, writing skill and understanding evidenced by this respondent,.no attempt has been made to alter, edit or change any of the facts reported herein. Also, the exact photo-copying of the following pages, as well as of the forms that follow, may not conform to the specifications of the Graduate Studies Office at Sonoma State University or with the American Psychological Association's Editorial Style Manual. Inclusion of these forms is required, however, and any attempt to alter them is censorship, and is a violation of the civil and academic rights of the author.)

Master of Arts Thesis: Ecstatic Transformation:|Appendix Two

Appendix Two

Suggested Master of Arts in Wilderness Leadership:
A Forty (40) Unit Program

The purpose of this program is to fully prepare the participant to become an active member of the professional wilderness leadership programs now currently in existence in the United States and abroad. Participants that have completed the program will have the skills and knowledge needed to successfully create, establish, and direct their own independent wilderness programs with some kind of inter-program quality assurance. All courses are required, with the exception of one (l) 4 unit elective.
An outline of the eight (8) courses, one of which is taken twice, plus the elective follows:

Course: Survey of Professional Wilderness Education Programs (4 units)--This course explores the major features of seven (7) different wilderness programs. Included in the evaluation of these programs are skills emphasized and taught, course difficulty, age/sex grouping, balance of group/individual time spent, etc. Sample courses from Outward Bound, N.O.L.E.S., School of Lost Borders, and other "Vision Quest"-oriented programs are evaluated. Students individually design a course/program that includes factors from each of the 7 programs studied and submit this as a term project.

Course: The Business of Wilderness Leadership (4 units)-- This course focuses on the business, legal, financial, and ethical aspects of wilderness work. Includes how to set up a program of one's own, marketing, networking, personnel management, incorporation and outside investment, taxes, licensing, information gathering, government agencies (federal, state, county, and local) and private foundations involved with wilderness and environmental education, standards for wilderness work, organizational development and sustenance, international travel concerns (passports, visas, permits, medical concerns) and working in the global village.

Course: Physical Fitness Training and First Aid in the Wilderness (4 units)--This course focuses on health, safety, and emergency medical procedures to effectively deal with possible wilderness dangers, and to learn techniques and attitudes to prevent such accidents. Includes practice and theory of several different approaches to body building and fitness training, such as aerobics, yoga, tai chi, aikido, weight training, and others. There will also be an investigation into common pharmacological considerations regarding participant medication needs (vocabulary and physiological action of common over-the-counter and some prescription medicines). In addition, a forum for consideration of issues regarding sex and sexuality, infectious diseases, parasites, and other wilderness trip related health concerns will be offered as a group discussion on a regular basis throughout the course. Participants will become Red-Cross certified in First Aid and Cardio-Pulminary Resuscitation (CPR).

Course: Group Process Workshop (4 units)-- This class will focus on meetings facilitation skills, group communication, roles of participants in group activities, planning sessions, negotiation techniques, conflict resolution theory and practice, and practical solutions to working with difficult individuals and/or non-cooperative group situations. Participants will each have an opportunity to act as group facilitator during one or more class meetings.

Course: Counseling and Interpersonal Skills (4 units)-- This course explores emotional and intellectual challenges to human relations. Basic interpersonal communication skills are taught with an emphasis on crisis and pathology management. Participants learn to become "skilled helpers" and will develop an important set of skills that will enable them to become more empathic and effective wilderness leaders and group participants, as well as more self-aware and possessing greater self-esteem. Co-counseling practice among all participants is required.

Course: Culture and Personality (4 units)-- This course explores the basics of child development and the building of social relations. The influence of society and culture upon the personality is the main area of concern. The formation of values and beliefs, personality change and stability, and issues of personal transformation are considered within the context of modern and traditional cultures, and post-industrial, commerce-oriented economies and their interface with developing nations. The course will hopefully inspire a respect for the diversity of both individuals and cultures. Participants will gain a better understanding of the influence society and culture have upon their personalities, and will learn to apply such understanding to wilderness leadership in both domestic and foreign situations.

Course: Wilderness Environments (4 units)-- This practical course involves a survey of seven (7) different ecological zones, or environments, where wilderness trips are likely to take place. Includes such considerations as survival techniques, peculiar and common challenges encountered, climate and meteorological events, and other related factors. Two (2) weeks are spent on each of the 7 zones, including desert, mountain, coastal, forest, swamp/jungle, grasslands, and glacial/snow/winter environments. Participants will be prepared to encounter a wide variety of environmental situations and to deal with them effectively, alone and in groups.

Course: Wilderness Leadership: Practice and Theory of Planning and Executing Group Wilderness Trips (4 units, taken twice for a total of 8 units to graduate)-- Weekly meetings involve all participants in the design, planning and carrying out of a 10-14 day/night wilderness trip. All aspects of the trip will be covered, including diet, exercise, democratic assignment of tasks. development of leadership skills, and special group processes and dynamics. Two (2) students from each class will be designated as nominal leaders. Each program graduate will have acted as "leader" during at least one trip, but two trip leadership experiences are strongly preferred. (It is assumed that not all trip participants will be in the degree program. Additional trips may be formed to allow all program graduation candidates the opportunity to lead as least one trip.) Course includes exercises in survival skills, map and compass work, journal keeping, and additional communication skill practice (i.e., consensus process, simple speaking, verbalizing emotions, etc.). This is the “core course,” along with the three courses on different programs, wilderness environments, and physical fitness/safety.

Course: Elective (4 units)-- Any area of interest is acceptable so long as it relates to the practice, theory and process of becoming and being an effective and balanced leader of group wilderness trips, as a qualified professional. Examples may include courses in art, music, group or individual therapy, anthropology, native American studies, economics, ecology, botany, biology, environmental sciences, sociology, history, or whatever area of academic or individual study most passionately interests the program participant. Additional electives may be added at the discretion of the student/participant and that person's advisory committee.

This 40 unit program should take at least two (2) academic years, or four (4) semesters. With slight modification, this program can fit in with the ten (10) week quarter period, or with a thirteen (13) week term. Because of the reliance upon unpredictable seasonal changes that may affect actual trips, participants are urged to allow two (2) full years to complete the program satisfactorily. The author-creator does not recommend pursuing this degree at Sonoma State University because of certain unavoidable bureaucratic contingencies.

To all future participants: Good Luck and don't give up!!!!!

"Vision Quest" BA Thesis Table of Contents

Vision Quest: Shamanic Ecstasy and Healing in Traditional and
Modern Societies

Bachelor of Arts Thesis From University of California, Santa Cruz, June 15, 1987,

by William A. Sadler, III



Chapter One: Definitions, Terms, Cultural and Cross-Cultural
Patterns and Commonalties, and Historical Origins

Chapter Two: Functions, Social Roles, Forms and Differentiations from Other People, Sacred Practitioners and Ecstatics

Chapter Three: The Functional Roles of Vision, Ecstasy, Trance, Hallucinogens and Alternate States of Consciousness in Accelerated
Neuro-Genetic Learning and Processing of Emotions and Cognitive Skills;
What It Is, What It's Like, and How Shamans Do It

Chapter Four: Becoming a Shaman: Initiation and Legitimation

Chapter Five: The Shaman: Culture-Carrier, Teacher and Social
Integrator; Status, Ethics and Gender Ratios

Chapter Six: Elements and Sources of the Shamanic
Complex Among Primal Peoples

Chapter Seven: The Renaissance of Shamanic Expression and Interest Therein; and Why Continued Exploration of Shamanic Ways Is Crucial to the Survival of Human Culture in Post-Technological Societies

Chapter Eight: Modern Forms of the Shaman-Figure

Chapter Nine: The Value of Hallucinogens and Shamanic Ecstasy
to Modern Society

Chapter Ten: The Modern Shaman-Figure as Psychotherapist and
Terrestrial Healer



BA Thesis Introduction


At some time in any person's life, there will emerge a period of crisis and rapid transition through unfamiliar experiences. This life crisis may be the result of any number of causative factors, but its resolution is imperative to the continued development of the human being.
It has generally been acknowledged that "socio-cultural acceptance of the crisis experience" fosters the resolution of the disturbance into socially accepted forms of expression, conversely, social rejection or dismissal of the crisis experience often leads to "paranoid delusions" and hostility on the part of the experiencer. (Peters, 1981, 83) In some societies, from ancient times to the present, there have existed those whose lives were transformed by a crisis, and who learned to use the knowledge and skills derived from their experience to heal themselves and others. These persons are generally called "shamans", or medicine-people.
One of the main features of the "shamanic experience" is the development of a perspective that includes senses of"reality" that may be alien to the non-shaman. It is as though a "doorway" appears, through which the shaman passes, leaving "normal" conceptions of what is "real" at the threshold. "The idea of the simultaneous coexistence of an alien dimension all around us is as strange an idea in the context of modern society as it must have been to the first shamans, whose experiments with psychoactive plants [and other means of consciousness alteration] would have brought them to the same ...doorway." (McKenna and McKenna, 1975, 104)
Could it be that the shaman has consciously evolved away to pass out of "consensus reality" into the primordial world of sacred space-time, and then to return with information and abilities that may be applied to the concerns of those of us living in "this world"? "What is the nature of the invisible landscape beyond that doorway?" (Ibid.) What importance does this experience of another dimension of reality have for us modernized peoples of the late 20th century ?
"If the world beyond the doorway can be given consensual validation of the sort extended to the electron and the black hole--- in other words, if the world beyond the door is found to be a necessary part of scientifically mature thinking about the world--- then our own circumscribed historical struggle will be subject to whole new worlds of possibility." (Ibid.)
The purpose of this paper will be to explore the "world beyond the doorway", the travelers in that realm, and the means by which they maneuver about strange and beautiful places and mingle with inhabitants of the "other side". There will be a development of an understanding of the status and function of these travelers within their societies, and also of the historical and trans-cultural influence of their "journeys" upon human culture and kind.
Toward this end, a relatively open-ended approach of benevolent acceptance has been taken. "While cultivating a suspended judgement, we endeavor to allow the phenomenon every opportunity to reveal and refine itself." (Ibid., 106) Though much of the information presented here has been derived from literary sources, personal communication with practicing shamans and medicine-people, as well as participation in shamanic ceremonies and rites of passage have played an important part of the development of this thesis.
Much that was learned could not be included in the present manuscript. At least three future products have evolved out of the efforts to complete this baccalaureate essay, as well as several career options. The work here presented is only a progress report for what may become a long "Journey," a "Quest" or "Path of Power."
May We All Walk Together In Peace..."Ho!!"

BA Thesis Chapter 1

Chapter One

Definitions, Terms, Cultural and Cross-Cultural
Patterns and Commonalties, and Historical Origins

According to Michael Harner, shamans "are the keepers of a remarkable body of ancient techniques that they use to achieve and maintain well-being and healing for themselves and members of their communities." (Harner, 1980, xiii) The "nature" of these "keepers", of their "ancient techniques", beliefs, social roles and functions, both historical and modern, will be explored here. Connections will also be drawn among the "mind-sets" of those who participate in the "shamanic complex".
This relatively ubiquitous system of beliefs and practices has ancient roots which are reflected in the many similar forms of shamanic expression. These beliefs and forms are particularly important and relevant to the modern, techno-bureaucratic societies that have developed around older, more enduring cultural matrices. the shamanistic perspective will be seen to be of special interest to those involved with psychotherapy and the alternative healing professions. Finally, artists, musicians, writers and poets may find that the shaman's journey provides inspiration as well as transformation.
Without the figure of the shaman there would be no shamanistic complex, though some would see this inversely. Either way, in order to understand the shaman's function within his or her society, we must create in our minds a picture that reflects the importance of shamans to both traditional and modern worlds, we will then be able to establish links with our own society, and with the forms of shamanic expression that nave been emerging since the second world war and the beginning of the "atomic age".
Since shamans tend to operate in multi-dimensional worlds, let's construct a multi-dimensional image of them and the "realities" in which they live. Åke Hultkrantz, believes that a shaman is "a particular, ecstatic diviner, healer and mediator between humans and the spirit world." (Hultkrantz, 1978, 28) Through states of ecstasy, the "shaman... acquires supernatural power through direct personal experience." (Park, 1938, 10) Only the shaman can go into ecstatic states of consciousness in a controlled, voluntary manner and stay centered during the "journey." Centered enough, in fact, to perform the often elaborate ritual ceremonies to heal and divine information from the spirits.
The ability to enter into controlled ecstatic trance is important to both the shamans and their societies. Among the Kalash Kafir of Chitral, India, the "dehars" of Joshi engage in ecstatic dancing during which they are believed to become possessed by supernatural beings (gods, demons and fairies) from the mountains. Through the "dehar", these beings confer blessings and food fortune, as well as advice and warnings upon the general populace that attends the ceremonies. (Suger, 1967, 73)
Shamans are those with the gift or skill of a "special clear sightedness". They."see such things as normal people do not see, they gain knowledge about secrets of the past, the present, and the future...[from communications with] the dead [who] know more than ordinary, living men." (Karsten, 1955, 57) The Lapp "noide", or medicine-person, experienced spirit-flight", or “soul travel" to the land of the dead where instructions were received from the souls of deceased shamans, and other tutelary agents concerning the development of supernatural powers and stronger connections to the spirit world. (Ibid.)
The ecstatic journey typically involves the perception of leaving one's body while going on a trip to a heavenly upper-world, a frightful underworld or the oceanic depths, but this is not always necessary. The shaman, with or without leaving his body, may enter into an ecstatic state and, with the help of spirits, cure the sick. reveal hidden items or secrets, prophesize and summon the spirits for assistance in other matters. (Hultkrantz, 1967, 32-33) The "Ki ugwa sowi no", or "dreamers" of the Penobscotts were those that.would "search about in dreams." (Speck, 1919, 268) The "dreamers" expressed an "ability to foresee events, to penetrate in a dream vision the barriers which prevent ordinary human beings from seeing the spiritual forces which underlie acts and which animate various creatures. They were shamans of a humbler sort." (Ibid.)
As a healer, a shaman may be considered as a " sick man who has healed himself, who is cured, and who must shamanize in order to remain cured." (McKenna and Mc Kenna, 1975, 10) Though this isn't always the case, it is generally true , and is contradictorily related to La Barre's definition of the shaman. (LaBarre, 1970, 321) His basic theory is that the shaman is a borderline schizoid, paranoid, narcissistic autistic. LaBarre's bias is apparent in the use of outmoded, primarily negative psychiatric terminology, with a reference to Freud as a "Moses in the wilderness of the irrational." (Ibid., 314)
In his 1938 work, Willard Park cites Mac Colloch's functional definition that a shaman performs magico-medical functions, especially healing and divination, through actual communication with the spirit world: "'He has direct intercourse with the spirits and actual (bodily or spiritual) access to the spirit world. All his magical acts are done by virtue of his power or influence with spirits.'" (Park, 1938, 8) This is echoed by Rogers, who notes that a "shaman makes contact with the spirits and works with them. and he uses magic." (Rogers, 1982, viii)
The shaman is an intermediary with the spirit world whose primary task lies in opening the road to the supernatural powers through the medium of ecstasy." (Peters, 1981, 33-34) The shaman is a mediator with the unseen cosmic forces, and s/he is the receptacle of power beyond that available to normal persons. (Rogers, 1982,13-134) The shaman manipulates the invisible forces of the mind which are responsible for one's orientation to life, the environment and other beings, and one's abilities to adapt and survive in the natural world. (Ibid., 43)
By working with such intangible elements, the shaman becomes "a practitioner of mysteries beyond the understanding of most members of his community." (Ibid., ix) In this sense, the shaman is not unlike a modern scientist, as both use empirical evidence and speculations to arrive at answers to their questions, and to formulate new questions about the nature of their experiences.
The term "shaman" is derived from the Siberian Tunguisic "vamen" or "saman", which bears a strong similarity to the Pali "samana". (McKenna and McKenna, 1975, 9) According to Peters ,the term "samana" refers to one who is excited, moved, "raised" or possessed, as in the "shaking trance” of the Tunguisic. (Peters, 1981, 7) "Sram" is a Vedic term meaning to "heat oneself or practice austerities" as in Yogic traditions.(Ibid.) The female version , "shamanka", (Rogers, 1982, ix) compliments the male counterpart in that both refer to the ability to "see". Eliade defines this ability as being expressed in the mastery of "techniques of ecstasy". (Eliade, 1964, 4)
In Malaysia, the shamanic practitioner is referred to as a "pawang", or "one who makes magic." (Winstedt, 1951, 7) Among the Peninsula Malaysians, "pawang" is used to denote general magical practitioners, and "bomor" for those who only practice medicine. In Perak, the "pawang" is a magician of ordinary stature~ and the shaman is referred to as a "belian".(Ibid., 11)
Among the Penobscotts of upper New England, there are two general shamanic figures: the above mentioned "one who searches around in dreams", or "Ki ugwa sowi no", and the "Made olinu", or "drum sound person", being derived from "made" referring to the "sound of drumming". (Speck, 1919, 240, 268) The personage of the "dreamer" is actually closer to the general, cross-cultural understanding of the shaman as a visionary helper than Speck's own analysis of the "drumming conjurer".
Along coastal Southern California, the Chumash referred to their political and spiritual leaders by several titles. The term "wot" denotes a village chief or political leader. "Paxa" refers to a political, ceremonial.leader linked to the "wot". (Blackburn, 1975, 12) An "alcuklas" was an astrologer, diviner and administering official whose responsibilities included the prognostication of a child's future by means of astrological readings, to name the child according to the month of its birth, to administer jimson-weed preparations (called "toloache" or "Momoy"), and to report illnesses and social disharmonies to the "wot". (Ibid., 14) All of these officials were members of the "?antap" cult, a religious and hierarchic ruling social class, members of the "?antap” cult were believed to possess an "?atiswin", or dream-helper, talisman or fetish that guided them through their lives. (Ibid., 12)
The Eskimo term for shaman is "angakoq," and is related to the terms "apseroq" meaning "one who is questioned", and "tuneroq"/"tunralik" for "one who has a helping spirit". (Holtved, 1967, 29) This is not dissimilar to the meaning of the Zinacantecan speaking peoples' name "h?ilol" for "one who sees-seer." (Schweder, 1972, 408) Somewhat north of Mexico, the Paviotso of the Eastern Sierras use the term "Puhágem" to denote one who has "puhá," or the power, to heal with spirits. (Park, 1938, 15, 95)
Among the Spanish speaking, mixed Indian cultures of Mexico and Latin America we find such terms as: "Brujo/Bruja" = witch, "Hechicero/Hechicera" = sorcerer/-ess, "Profeta advino/advina" = prophet, soothsayer, advisor, seer (especially into the future), and "Curandero/Curandera" = healer with herbs, charms and chants. (Rogers, 1982, ix)
Other terms for the shaman denote his/her role as a mediator between human beings and the spirit world. These include the Indonesian "Bomoh", the Malaysian "Hala", the Hawaiian "Kahuna", the Chippewan "Wakeno", the Japanese Shinto "Miko", the classical Greek "Oracle", as of Delphi, (Covell, 1983, 18) the Korean "Manshin" (female), and "Paksu" (male),(Ibid., 20) the Chinese "Sha-men", and the Japanese "Shamon." (Peters, 1981, 7)
Ecstatic practitioners are also known as "shamans" among the Tungus of Eastern Siberia, “Ojuna” for the Yakuts of the same region, "Kami" for the Mongols, "Babalawa" among the Yoruba of West Africa, "Nganga" to the Shona of Southern Rhodesia, "Mori" to the Yemenite Jews, "Bariva" among the Balahi of Central India, "Tahunga" for the Polynesians, "Si-Kerai" to the Menawei of Sumatra, "Mane Kisu" among the Melanesians, "Nung-gara" to the Arunta of Australia, "Angakok" for the Eskimo of Baffin Land, "Diyi" to the Apache, "Hungan" to the Haitians, "Kwisiyai" for the Dregueno of California, and among the Quetchua speakers of South/Central America they are known as the "Kambidura". (Rogers, 1982, xi)
Among all of these peoples, shamanism may be considered as the "religious and magic complex centered on the ecstatic magician, the shaman." (Hultkrantz, 1967, 32) Because of its antiquity and ubiquity, "shamanism appears to be a tenacious and adaptable profession." (Peters, 1981, 7) With origins estimated at 100,000 years, shamanism "may well have been the religion of Neanderthal man" and shaman-curers the first professionals. (Furst, 1972 cited in Peters, 1981, 7)
Shamanism has historically been associated loosely structured gatherer-hunter peoples for whom curing rites were the primary form of religious ceremony. (Lessa, 1972, 380) Rank (1967, 18) delineates two main historical phases of shamanism. The first is associated with so-called "primitive communism", and takes the form of the nature-healer who removes intrusive objects from a sick person. The second is tied to the "feudal society" where shamans recover lost souls and travel to the spirit world. (Ibid.)
Be that as it may, shamanism is an ubiquitous form of religious expression, with its common essence being a "means of contact with the supernatural world by the ecstatic experience of a professional and inspired intermediary: the shaman." (Hultkrantz, 1978, 30) Hultkrantz specifies four basic constituents of shamanism: l) the existence of a contactable spirit-world, 2) the shaman, mediator between spirit-world and society, 3) the existence of tutelary/helping spirits who guide and assist the shaman, the "allies" mentioned by Castaneda, and 4) shamanic ecstasy, spirit-flight, possession and other alternate forms of consciousness. (Ibid.)
As Hultkrantz explains , contact with the spirit world is made possible because of the structure of the shamanic cosmology. (Ibid., 31) Through the interiorization and internalization of the "cosmological ideogram" by the shaman, he experienced it and used it as the itinerary for his ecstatic journeys." (Ibid., 32) This "cosmological ideogram" is most commonly expressed through the symbology of the Cosmic Tree, Eliade's "Axis Mundi" which is seen as connecting the three realms of existence, the Underworld, the Middle/ Terrestrial world, and the Heavens. Through spirit-flight, the shaman ascended to the heavens or descended to the underworld to divine information or to retrieve lost souls. "Evidently, this concept achieved this importance because it provided shamanism with a model of communication with the other World." (Ibid., 33)
According to .Karsten (1955, 55), "shamanism [exists] wherever certain persons, and especially professional sorcerers, believe they are able to enter, in a state of ecstasy, into a mystic relation to an invisible spirit world." He notes a strong similarity in this set of beliefs among the Lapps, Samic, Samoyeds, and South American Indians through their shamanistic activities. (Ibid.)
Rogers also perceives a natural similarity of forms and functions in the trans-cultural overview of shamanism. He observes that "each culture has its own contrivances in response to human needs and in accord with its technology and belief system." (Rogers, 1982, ix) This may include such factors as environment and eco-consumption patterns, such as gathering, hunting, farming, producing manufactured items for exchange, bureaucratic systems, and consumption oriented marketing. This perspective is echoed by Hultkrantz (1978, 54), who asserts that ecological adaptations seem responsible for the multi-varietal forms of shamanism. These many forms, though widespread, are surprisingly similar to the Siberian forms which are believed to be among the oldest, classic developments of shamanistic expression.(Ibid.)
In his book on Malay magicians, Winstedt (1951, 11) sees the extent and sources of Malay shamanistic traditions as being both ancient and pervasive, with roots in Siberia and Northern China. "Shamanism was the primitive religion of peoples from the Bering Straits to Scandinavia, and spreading to China and Tibet it reached the Malays before they left Yunnan. It is still the sole religion of the Sakai Aborigines who entered the Peninsula before them." (Ibid.) Shamanism is still retained among many modernized peoples as a "last recourse in sickness or trouble." (Ibid.)
The Asian connection, through Mongolian forms, also influenced the "Magi" of Iran and the "Sufi dervishes"of Islam. (Kapelrud, 1967) It also reached the "dehars", ecstatic dancers of the Kalash Kafirs of India, (Suger, 1967, 73-74) and the Sherpas of the Himalayan regions of Tibet and Nepal. Among the Sherpas there are two main religions, the newer Lamaistic Buddhism, and the older Shamanic "Bon", for whom the "Bonpo/Bompo" is the principal practitioner. (Schmid, 1967, 82) In Tibet and Nepal, Lamaism and Bonpoism are complimentary, and the populace will attend both types of ceremonies, some of which have both Lama and Bonpo officiating. (Ibid., 83)
The American shamanistic tradition is strikingly similar to Euro-Asiatic beliefs and practices. One difference, however, is seen in Karsten's remark concerning contact with spirits that, "whereas in American shamanism it is the man himself who , in one way or another, selects for himself a guardian spirit, in Asiatic shamanism it is the god who selects the shaman." (Karsten, 1955, 64)
Whether Asian or American, the shamanic complex is derived from primal gatherer-hunter societies. As agrarian sustenance methods evolved, the religious, ritual and visionary connections have remained intact to some extent among such American peoples as the Mexican Huichols of the Western Sierra Nevadas and the Tukano of the Vaupes region of Columbia. (Furst, 1977, 6) The Huichol farmers still maintain symbolic connections to their hunting past in their veneration of the deer as seen in the "Dance of the Deer", a joyous expression of life now being shared with non-Huichols through the dedication of such people as Brandt Secunda.
In pre-Columbian North America, shamanism was the primary religious form, although there was a flourishing priestly class in the Southwest among the Hopi, Dine (Navaho), and Zuni Pueblo. (Eliade, 1964, 297) Shamanism was a relatively organized, hierarchical religion among the Chumash, but still retained its visionary basis in the myths and experiences with Datura. (Blackburn, 1975, 12, 14) In Mexico, the Zinacantecan "h?ilol"-seers were not organized, hut were “part-time specialists" who diagnosed illnesses "by means of divine revelations and by means of pulsing the blood of the infirmed." (Schweder, 1972, 408) The "h?ilol" also performed healings, prepared remedies, and officiated at annual ceremonies and special blessings for community members. (Ibid.)
In the Northeast of the United States, there was to be found a uniformity of cultures. Shamanistic elements were quite similar among such peoples as the Abenoki, Pawenok, Malecite, Passamaquoddy, Algonkians and Penobscotts. (Speck, 1919, 242-243)
Among many Native American peoples there are commonalties in supernatural experiences. The "Vision-Quest" rites of passage represent a common element, as well as a sort of "democratized shamanism." (Lowie cited in Hultkrantz, 1978, 34) Eliade observed that in some societies it is fairly common for adolescent males and females to develop relations with helping spirits during vision-quests, or during experiences of spontaneous ecstasy, or dreams. (Eliade, 1964, 107)
According to Eliade, "every Indian 'shamanizes', even if he does not consciously want to become a shaman." (Ibid., 314) The shaman is distinguished from the average Indian by the intensity of magico-religious experiences, (Ibid., 297) and the quantitatively greater number of spirits within his/her command. (Ibid., 314) On a qualitative basis, however, both may attain states of ecstasy and commune with the spirits, though the shaman tends to do so in a premeditated and volitional manner. (Ibid.)
"Every Indian can obtain a 'tutelary spirit' or a 'power' of some sort that makes him capable of 'visions' and augments his reserves of the sacred; but only the shaman, by virtue of his relations with the spirits is able to enter deeply into the supernatural world; in other words, he alone succeeds in acquiring a technique that enables him to undertake ecstatic journeys at will." (Ibid., 298)

BA Thesis Chapter 2

Chapter Two

Functions, Social Roles, Forms and Differentiations from Other People, Sacred Practitioners and Ecstatics

In most traditional societies that have shamans, the chief function of the shaman is healing. (Eliade, 12964,299) Shamans also do many other things like hunting, planting, giving advice for solving problems, counseling, preserving myths and traditions, and interpreting dreams, visions and ambiguous feelings. (Ibid., 326)
Though the healing often involves magic, such tried and true methods as herbal remedies, diet, massage and showing active concern for the well-being of the person seeking help also contribute significantly to the shaman's stock of healing assistance.
The shaman is "first and foremost a healer" who may have attained ecstasy at one point during initiation and perhaps at crucial points in his/her career. According to Hultktantz (Hultkrantz, 1967, 36) the shaman need not generally enter into trance except for the "summoning of his assistant spirits." At these times, the shaman may become ecstatic to contact the spirits "for consultation or active intervention, be it curing of the sick, the finding of lost articles or the discovery of secrets and future events. (Ibid.)
The McKennas see healing and acting as psychopomp as the shaman's primary functions (McKenna and McKenna, 1975, 10), with divination also being perceived as the "especial prerogative of the shaman, whatever the cultural context." (Ibid., 109) Covell interprets the Korean "Manshin" as being a "quasi-psychologist, but instead of calling on Freud or Jung, she calls on the demi-gods of Korea's cultural past." (Covell, 1983, 99)
As "mediums who through a familiar interrogate spirits as to the future or as to the cause and cure of disease", the "sky-born hereditary [Malay] magician (who may also be a chief) can invoke ancestral spirits" by "falling or pretending to fall into a trance." (Winstedt, 1951, 11-12) While in an ecstatic state, the shaman will divine the location of lost or stolen items and conduct a ceremony to draw an offending spirit out of a person's body "either into the shaman's own [body] or usually into a receptacle that contains an offering of food." (Ibid., 12) This method of spirit-baiting is common in Asia, from Tibet to Korea, and Nepal to Malaysia.
As the principal "neuron" between the sacred and profane hemispheres of life, (Karsten, 1955, 77) the shaman acts as a teacher-negotiator who serves as an intermediary with the spirit world. S/He shows his or her patients that they are responsible for their ailments and that they can re-harmonize themselves through a mutual endeavor with the shaman.
"Curing is the chief function of the Paviotso shaman." (Park, 1938, 45) The "Puhágem" treats the sick by sucking out disease objects and restoring lost souls. (Ibid., 95-96) The public performances allow everyone to participate to some extent since shamanism has been the Paviotso Indian's "principal religious activity." (Ibid., 45) Group participation was possible to a large extent because the Paviotso complex was composed of fairly simple beliefs and practices. (Ibid., 71)
Among the Havasupai, Walapai and Yavapai, supernatural power was used for curing purposes by the medicine-people. Spirits, for the Havasupai of Arizona's Grand Canyon area, are "limited in numbers and are... the familiars of shamans." (Ibid., 95, 107)
The Wintu shamans had multiple professions. "In their hands lay the transmission and moulding of speculative thought.... They were called upon to predict the outcome of hunts, to restrain inclement weather, and in many different ways were allowed to direct and shape social undertakings." (Ibid., 105)
In Penobscott society, the "Maede olinu"/drummer's main activities were outdoing each other in wonder-working, cursing and curing misfortune or illnesses. (Speck, 1919, 243) Their public functions included destroying tribal enemies (either mundane or spiritual) and dispelling group misfortunes. Families often had some member who functioned as a shamanic intermediary to ensure successful hunting and the safety of the group. (Ibid.)
The duties of the "Ki-ugwa Sowi-no" or "dreamer" were focused upon warning the tribe in advance of danger so as to avoid troubles and to assist hunting parties in finding game while "asleep" or in a self-induced, somnambulistic trance. (Ibid., 269) They were not reputed to inflict injury or curses upon each other as the "drummers" were apt to do, and were considered "harmless in their behavior towards other men." (Ibid.)
The Eskimo shaman's principal tasks include procuring assistance from the spirits of game animals to facilitate hunting, driving away evil spirits, healing the sick, changing the weather, and exploring the future. (Holtved, 1967,23) The Kalash Kafir's "dehar" also procures information about the future, and generally advises, counsels, and gives warnings based upon his connections with the spirit world. (Suger, 1967, 81)
The Nepalese "Bon-po" is responsible for curing with herbs and other medicines as well as ecstatic performances. (Schmidt, 1967, 81) Nepalese shamans often treat psychosomatic illnesses that do not greatly interrupt the daily lives of the patient, and are non-incapacitating. The tendency is to treat "neurosis" rather than "psychosis," and to focus upon both "personalistic" (spirit caused) and "naturalistic" (germ-virus caused) diseases. (Peters, 1981, 74) Tamang shamans treat disturbed individuals' emotional states and interpersonal relations rather than physical and psychic matters. (Ibid., 118)
Distinct from the "Alcuklas" or Datura administering astrologers, the Chumash "Bear Shamans" are anomalous as they tend to fulfill no culturally approved and apparent functions for their societies. (Blackburn, 1975, 41) They can not, then, be technically considered as shamans, even though they seem to have relations with the supernatural and have innate spiritual powers. In order to be a valid shaman, one's ecstasy must be channeled toward some socially accepted purpose, as the "Alcuklas'" is for divination. (Ibid., 14)
In almost all societies, shamanic practitioners demonstrate a positive force for goodness and social cohesion through their expressions of the "ecstatic capacity". (Eliade, 1964, 299) This is opposed to the anti-social tendencies of "black sorcerers,” whose behavior has more to do with self-aggrandizement than healing. "In a general way it can be said that shamanism defends life, health, fertility, the world of 'light', against death, disease, sterility, disaster, and the world of 'darkness'." (Ibid., 509)
Sun Bear sees the native medicine-person's main function as "that of a sacred teacher, one who can communicate with the many realms of reality and bring understanding." (SunBear, 1983, 25) "They designed and carried out rituals and ceremonies that marked the changes in the lives of people and of the planet." (Ibid.)
Because of her position between the realms of inspiration and perspiration, the shamanka is an evolutionary agent of high caliber. S/he "must be strong in body and dedicated in mind, possessed of self-control, and capable of mental effort beyond that of most individuals" in her society. (Rogers, 1982, 8)
The shaman's social roles are listed by Hultkrantz (1978, 37) as being those of a diviner extracting information from helping spirits or through "precognitive talents", psycho-pomp accompanying dead souls to the strange realms of the afterlife, hunting magician and charmer of animals who calls and finds game animals through spirit allies, and sacrificial priest who performs ceremonies for blessing and purification, as in the Native American pipe and sweat-lodge ceremonies.
According to Krader, the Buryat shaman has several roles:

l) mediator between man and spirits;
2) specialist in folk medicines;
3) maintainer of the culture's traditions,
4) performed of private and public rituals including:

A) Blessings on the beginnings of any sort of.
B) Exorcizing the spirits causing human illness;
C) Protecting herds and crops from disease and
D) Making prayers to weather and natural world
spirits for bounty and safety in communal and individual life journeys. (Krader, 1978, 190)
Shamans are professionals with proto-historic roots and powerful relations to their societies. (Rogers, 1982, 7) They can be both seers and mediums since both communicate with spirits while ecstatic or in other forms of consciousness or changing orientation. (Ibid., 6) In this way, a shaman can be an artist whose inspiration comes from tapping the sources of "unconscious creativity." (Nordland, 1967, 186 and Suger, 1967, 78)
As it has been mentioned, the shaman aided hunting parties in finding game animals. The Paviotso "Antelope Shaman" used dreams and trance to locate and call a herd to be captured, through the auspices of the Antelope Spirit. To show respect for the Spirit of the Antelope, all parts of the killed animals were used for food, clothing, tools and medicine. Any waste might cause the angered Antelope Spirit to withhold its bounty in the future. "Antelope the one well-recognized function of the shaman which is not heavily charged with beliefs about the cause and cure of disease. (Park, 1938, 62-66)
Among the Hungarian peoples, shaman figures took several forms. "The magician of folklore, the seers, quack-doctors, faith-healers, witches, village wise men, shepherds, wandering beggars and finally children with special birthmarks, the so-called stigmata, or other external characteristics were regarded by the Hungarian scholars as shaman-figures with roots in the distant pagan past." (Fazekas, 1967, 99)
There were several different types of Hungarian shamanic practitioners who were differentiated according to their functions. The "taltos" (Finnish = "taitoa") was a shaman, medicine-man, wizard, sorcerer, or priest-magician. The "tudos" was a scientist, scholar, learned one, knower or philosopher, not unlike the alchemist of Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The "garabonc(i)as" was a wizard/magi who, disguised as a traveling student, was able to raise storms and prognosticate the future. A "bozorkani" was an evil sorcerer or witch of maleficent behavior, and the "regos" was a minstrel, gleeman, or bard who maintained myths and legends, as well as provided amusement and general information. (Ibid.)
Since a community is human beings in relation to each other, one cannot abstract the individual from his or her social milieux. The shaman's job is to experience this wholistic perspective and to help others reach a similar state of understanding so as to facilitate a healing of social relations that are out of balance. (Peters, 1981, 95)
Paviotso shamans are differentiated from the rest of their society, in which acquiring power is the norm, through their quantitatively greater measure of connections with spirits, and not by quantitative terms. (Park, 1938, 92) The shaman also tends to use this greater reserve for healing other people, as well as him or her self and the planet. "The shaman is distinguished from the lay person not by the nature but by the strength of his supernatural experience." (Ibid., 93) In some cases, the guardian spirit met during a Vision Quest is stronger for the shaman than for the ordinary person. (Ibid., 94)
According to the McKennas , the shaman is distinguished from others in that the "shaman remains eminently individualistic, idiosyncratic, and enigmatic, standing ever apart from organized ecclesiastical institutions, while still performing important functions for the psychic and religious life of the culture." (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 8) S/he is the "possessor of techniques of proven efficacy and of powers bordering on the para-normal." (Ibid.)
Not all ecstatics are shamans, however. Eliade argued that only those whose trance experiences followed the pattern of a trip to and from the heavens or underworld via the "Axis Mundi" or “Cosmic Tree” were classic shamans. (Eliade, 1964 cited in Hultkrantz, 1978, 31) This may, however, be too narrow a classification category. The "Axis Mundi" is only a model used to communicate the incom-municable to lay persons and other expert ecstatics. The Yakut shaman of Siberia possesses a complex vocabulary of 12,000+ words that make up a poetic language used to attempt to describe ecstatic and spiritual experiences. (Rogers, 1982, 8) This demonstrates both the difficulty of communicating these subjective experiences to non-initiates and the innovative drive of shamanic professionals.
Within Zincantecan culture in Mexico, the shaman is distinguished from his or her fellows in several ways when confronted by a test of "unstructured stimuli" composed of blurred and clear photographs of culturally familiar items, the shamans tended to:
l) avoid bafflement and impose form on diffuse sense data more than non-shamans,
2) be more productive in their responses and more generative of different responses,
3) seem to have available to themselves their own constructive categories and are relatively unresponsive to alternative categories suggested by the experimenter, which shows an "inner-directed" and "self-centered style of classification." (Schweder, 1972, 409, 412)
The shaman's capacity to impose form on stimuli that are diffuse and apparently lacking in significance is highly valued, for, "it is in situations where significance is not clear, and alternative responses are lacking that the shaman's abilities are at a premium." (Ibid., 410)
Depending upon their society, shamans may not be considered to be "abnormal" because their experiences are intricately meshed with a culturally valid, if not unusual, set of perceptions about the nature of reality. (Peters, 1981, 84) The shaman does, however, often live apart from the community in a delicate balance between group norms and the super-normal, gray areas of accepted behavior. To walk this tightrope requires a high level of sensitivity to tendencies, expectations and "rules of the game" of one's particular society. The shaman, therefore, is rarely a true socio-path or psychotic individual. If s/he were, s/he would not maintain the respect, awe, and usefulness of and to his or her community. (Rogers, 1982, 139)
For both the shaman and the psychotic, subtle natural processes are at work to produce both ecstatic trance and toxic psychosis. On the one hand is the shaman who has learned how to manipulate these subtle processes for valid reasons. On the other hand, the psychotic is an unwitting victim, and is often shunned by his or her society. (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 97) "For both the shaman and patients suffering from protracted hysterical delirium, visual hallucinations...may reveal visions of animals and fantastic processions of ghosts and demons. The patient will utter meaningless words borrowed subconsciously from several languages." (Winstedt, 1951, 63) "There is, however, an impossible gulf between the hysterical visions of an adolescent medium and the calculated ritual of the trained shaman of mature years when intellect has taken the place of lost inspiration." (Ibid.)
Shamans also differ from priests. "Theologically,... a shaman should be regarded as having become a priestly practitioner when his divine tutelary (or tutelaries) no longer adds new revelations to his rite." (Luckert, 1979, 13) The Navaho "Singer", for instance, may not be considered a true shaman since, though they may have experienced ecstasy at some point, their ceremonial development is based primarily upon learning through rational, rote memorization of the texts of the myths that they chant. These skills are taught, and the traditions are maintained across generations. "Singers" do not seek the experiences of prophetic dreams, power sicknesses, regenerative visions and the like as shamans do.
There are of course exceptions, like the "hand-trembling" diviners, who may also be "Singers". The decision, to become a "Singer" is more often related to a desire for economic stability in old age, to the availability of a good teacher with an accurate knowledge of the Chantways and origin myths. The strongest inherent talents for a "Singer" would include a good, strong, resonant voice, a sound memory, and the patience to learn the complex and time-consuming rites. (Ibid., 12)
In other cultures, the shaman is distinguished from the priest "by virtue of his possession of supernatural power... which he uses when he performs curative rites and acts as a prophet and a seer." (Park, 1938, 9) The priest, however, works by knowledge of rituals and esoteric doctrines which are learned arts. In Malay society, the distinction between magician-priest and magician-shaman, if any at all, is that the former is initiated whilst the latter is hereditary. (Winstedt, 1951,7) The priest "has no personal powers, he is a specialist in ritual and symbolic manipulation." (Rogers, 1982, 53)
This is as true in Malaysia as it is in Nepal where the "lama proceeds step by step" according to prescribed litany, while the "Bombo proceeds by his voice," inspired by the gods and spirits. (Peters, 1981, 59) Both lama and "Bombo" are tolerated and employed by the Nepalese for different functions, depending upon their talents.
Among other ecstatic practitioners, prophets are distinguished from shamans through their inability to cure disease, though trance, dreams and visions are experienced by both. (Park, 1938, 69-70) Prophets are also differentiated from shamans, in that prophets tend to have single or infrequent ecstatic revelations which serve predominantly as simple information sources. The shaman, however, tends to contact the spirit world more often and is able to compel the spirits on behalf of his or her community, usually for some sort of healing purpose. As an example, the "Ghost Dance" visionaries were technically prophets, and "not trained shamans," because their activities were directed more to social change than towards personal or group healing via ecstatic communion with spirit entities. (Hultkrantz, 1978, 30)

BA Thesis Chapter 3

Chapter Three

The Functional Roles of Vision, Ecstasy, Trance, Hallucinogens and Alternate States of Consciousness in Accelerated
Neuro-Genetic Learning and Processing of Emotions and Cognitive Skills;
What It Is, What It's Like, and How Shamans Do It

Ecstatic phenomena are fundamental to the human condition and are trans-historical and cross-cultural in occurrence. Ecstasy is human nature, though its expression may be suppressed or encouraged according to social pressures and consensus reality conceptions. (Eliade, 1964, 504)
Ecstasy, among other things, is a different kind of consciousness, alternative to the one that most people spend most of their waking adult lives in. Ecstasy may be considered an "alternate state of consciousness" (following Zinberg's 1977 definition). This implies that "different states of consciousness prevail at different times for different reasons.... Alternate states of consciousness is a plural, all-inclusive term, unlike usual state of consciousness, which is merely one specific state of A.S.C." (Peters, 1981, 8)
Alternate states of consciousness (ASC’s) may be perceived in several ways, and accepted or rejected accordingly by individuals and societies. Harner prefers to discern two basic states, or perceptual preferences: the "O.S.C.," or "ordinary states of consciousness," and the "S.S.C," the "shamanic states of consciousness." (Harner, 1980, xvi) With this model, mythical animals and spirits may be seen as "real" and normal to the S.S.C., but unreal and abnormal to the O.S.C. Those in O.S.C. may find such "fantasies" of little use, or even downright dangerous, while such things are often highly valued to those in S.S.C, and may be seen as providing important information about the state of socio-personal and environmental equilibrium. "Both are right, as viewed from their own particular states of consciousness. The shaman has the advantage of being able to move between states of consciousness at will." (Ibid.)
According to the McKennas, "access to unconscious processes" is considered to be higher among shamans and "schizophrenics" than "normal" people. (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 6) The difference between the shaman and the schizophrenic, as already noted, is that the 'latter is "spontaneously inundated and often overwhelmed." (Ibid.) The shaman, however, integrates these processes into manifest consciousness "without suffering personality disintegration" (beyond the initiatory stages mentioned below, Chapter 4). This is achieved or facilitated by means of the "techniques of ecstasy" which "trigger and control this process." (Ibid.) (The McKennas suggest that these processes involve molecular changes in the processes of the brain, and that tryptamines, such as those found in Psilocybin mushrooms may play an important role. (Ibid.) This will be examined further in discussing the role of hallucinogens in relation to a theory of consciousness.)
Shamanic tendencies to alternate states are not indicative of mental disorder, either during initiatory calling in which involuntary ecstasy may occur, or during developed shamanistic trance. The latter is a feature of voluntary interaction with spirits through temporarily induced "hysteria" or self-hypnosis, as well as occasional "possession." (Hultkrantz, 1978, 50)
Shamanic ”possession" differs from that of the medium, since the shaman "retains his own personality" and is the "master, and not the slave or passive instrument of the spirits." (Ibid., 42) My own preference is to interpret this interaction as a cooperative venture, rather than one of domination by either the shaman or the spirit entities. In either case, shamans generally tend toward soul journeys as their ecstatic form, while mediums tend to become possessed.
The development of shamanic consciousness involves a transformational shift from "ordinary" to “non-ordinary" perceptions and perspectives. This is done with full intent and attention, as floundering about in states of doubt and non-commitment will distract one from what is happening. The shaman must retain the ability to communicate information learned in alternate states and ascribe meanings relevant to participants in the social, consensus reality. (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 10)
For all intents and purposes, ecstasy and trance at will are equivalent to shamanic control over neural processes. The "techniques of ecstasy" require great sensitivity to hormonal as well as neuro-muscular, sensual,,and mental processes. (Ibid., 13) The integration of these states into "normal", waking consciousness requires an wholistic perspective of "brain-mind organization," on the part of both the shamans and their respective cultures. The McKennas see this perspective ecologically represented by their "hypothesis of neuro-transmitter and drug activity which attempts to explain how either cortical experiences could be modulated at the molecular level." (Ibid., 7) They perceive an integrated system of interactions with several environments, coordinated at multiple "levels" of energy resonance. (Ibid.)
The McKenna brothers theorize that the origins of consciousness lie at the sub-molecular interface of DNA and RNA to the neural processes of the brain. (Ibid., 18) At this shifting locus we find the deepest levels of mind and the buried unconscious. It is possible that the manipulation or interruption of these processes is involved in shamanic ecstasy, as well as schizophrenia. (Ibid.)
During "spirit-flight", for instance, the shaman travels through space-time in an ecstatic trance, often meeting "souls of the dead", and the "spirits" of animals, plants, and power places. Perhaps this state of consciousness allows the shaman to tap a “genetic script," reading out what is written there for the benefit of self and society. To this end, it is possible that neural DNA is the "repository of information" which could, under certain circumstances, "render the totality [or portions] of this information available to consciousness, and might include all personal memories and experiences and also all collective knowledge and experience, accumulated over evolutionary (and possibly cultural) history of the species and reflected in its genetic makeup." (Ibid., 97) Such a perspective is itself a product of the intuitive processes common to shamans.and their ilk.
Previous references to the distinguishing characteristic of shamanic trance mentioned the "experiential feature of control" over the trance states. This has been folklorically described as a "mastery of spirits." (Peters, 1981, 11) Nordland, however, contradicts this description , and argues that trance involves a loss of ego boundaries and personal volition of the body. (Nordland, 1967, 167) In a sense, both perspectives are true, depending upon whether one is an "observer" or a "participant," and upon whether the shaman makes the "journey" alone, or in the company of supportive colleagues.
Ecstatic trance as shamans experience it may also be compared with a "lucid dream," which is a dream.state in which one is aware of being in a dream, and has varying levels of control over the dream processes and imagery. (Peters, 1981, 104) In shamanic trance, the shaman seems detached even though s/he is participating in the events going on around him or her.
Ecstasy may be defined as the "' total suggestive absorption [of the participant] in the object of belief.'" (Hultkrantz, 1967, 57 after Ernst Arbman) This "suggestive absorption... reveals itself in a 'peculiar, strictly organized and intensively clear, conscious and realistic visionary state or dream.'" (Ibid.) This features "an 'almost dazzling inner clairvoyance of illumination' with 'actual perceptions of light of a purely hallucinatory or physically sensuous nature."' (Ibid.)
In this suggestive state, the shaman may return to a "golden age," "Garden of Eden," a primordial state of mythical space-time and harmony. S/he becomes the divine human child reminding profane human consciousness of its roots in the sacred. (McKenna & McKenna, 1975,12)
Because ASC's are internally arranged, they are difficult to observe in studies. (Karsten, 1955, 56) As primary forms of religious experience, divine revelation, inspiration, dreams, visions and ecstatic states are considered by some to be a "special gift which is inborn only in a few persons." (Ibid.) Other researchers disagree and suggest that, given the proper set of circumstances and motivations, almost any person can shift their focus, though few seem to develop this talent. Such persons as shamans, artists, mystics, musicians, scientists and other highly innovative and creative individuals are among those that do develop this capacity.
For all intents and purposes, the shaman's ecstasy may be considered to be the same as shamanic trance, since both of these states involve contact with the spirits. (Hultkrantz, 1978, 40) The "elements of control and volition of the trance state" are also common to all shamanic cultures." (Peters, 1981, 12) The shaman is not overwhelmed by the intensity of his experience but manipulates it in the service of the community." (Ibid.)
All "visions" are subject to cultural interpretations. The visions of "alien" cultures often seem crazy or jumbled to a non-native person because the forms of expression differ. It is important to understand, therefore, the cultural basis for a "vision" while leaving room for individual interpretations in variable contexts. (Ibid.,50)
It is impossible, then, for the shaman's visionary experience to be "abstracted from its cultural milieu...[in which] the symbolic system is crucial, for the symbols brought forth in the shaman's trance must be both transformative for the shaman and empathic for his audience." (Ibid., 15) The shaman "must give form to these states so they will serve the community... [made possible through a] cultural embedding of the altered state of consciousness." (Ibid.)
The Central Eskimo trance state is characterized by a quiet, contemplative state best suited for deep, dream visions. (Holtved, 1967, 26) Shamanic ecstasy for the Korean "Manshin," however, involves a multi-dimensional release from social norms and taboos. The Confucian, patriarchal social system that dominated Korea for centuries relegated women to a repressed, inferior status, giving rise among some to an ecstatic form of release. This is called "Shin Barom," the "wind of the spirits," and has strong sexual energy and orgasmic connotations. (Covell, 1983, 97-98)
Because of the altered awareness of the Korean “Manshin's” trance, she is "no longer in a normal state... so the ordinary rules concerning physical process are changed." (Ibid., 52) By being outside of the "rules" of "normal" physical and psychic realities, the shaman may be able to perform acts otherwise considered superhuman, as among some Yogis and ascetics. (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 15)
Nepalese shamans experience both trance possession and magical soul journeys, with the "seeing of visions" being reported for both states. (Peters, 1981, 10) The "Noidi" of Lappland and the Indian medicine-people of the Americas both experience ecstatic soul flight. (Karsten, 1955, 73) Among the latter, it has often been acknowledged that there was a prevalence of trance states prior to white, Christian colonization. For the "Puhágem" of the Paviotso, "those who used the trance were the more powerful shamans." (Park, 1938, 114) These trance journeys were shared with the audience at a curing rite; "as soon as the shaman returns to [ordinary] consciousness, he relates his experiences in the trance." (Ibid.) With the support of the singing audience, the "Puhágem" proceeds with the curative measures recommended by the spirit allies.
Different kinds of trance emerge depending upon the function the shaman is to perform. "Extra-corporeal" journeys might be necessary in a case of restoring a lost soul. (Hultkrantz, 1978, 41) During initiation, dream visions might be combined with learning sessions to abolish the sense of historic time so as to enter the sacred space-time continuum in which the shaman performs. (Eliade, 1964, 103)
Some trance states seem best suited for encountering tutelary spirits, such as the Huichol's "Tatewari," Grandfather Fire/Sun, or the Chumash "Old Woman Momoy," the Datura guardian spirit. (Halifax, 1982, 29) These elderly elemental entities reveal wisdom from the natural world, age and experiences of maturity to those that experience the ASC's necessary to perceive them. mythical beings also instruct the shaman (and others) on the best ways to live in the world by means of revelatory visions and/or dream visits which seem to leave more lasting impressions upon the recipient than simple instructions by means of rational discourse or rote imitation. (Ibid.)
Alternate states and their manipulation through the "techniques of ecstasy" are part of a "definite discipline" of which the goal is the psychological transformation of the individual, and indirectly, of his/her society. (Peters, 1981, 13) The social, altruistic orientation of the shaman's ecstasy and the pursuit of visionary knowledge are revealed in the typical mythical patterns of creation of order out of chaos, the derivation of wisdom from foolishness and trickery, and the development of knowledge out of ignorance. As core elements of myths, these patterns are also common to the re-birthing experiences associated with shamanic initiation and other ecstatic experiences. (Halifax, 1982, 29)
Shamanic trance is nearly always instigated on behalf of the shaman's community. "Shamanism is therefore a community-recognized religious vocation that involves the production of altered states of consciousness." (Peters, 1981, 8) Arctic shamans, for example, integrate trance into their tasks of recalling the soul of an ill person, removing "disease objects" from the body , retrieving information and discerning the outcome of "fateful events," all with the assistance of helping spirits. (Hultkrantz, 1978, 36)
Among the Samek, the shaman depends upon an ecstatic trance to bring about a "close communication with the spirits." (Karsten, 1955, 61) "Joiking," a performance to invoke the guardian spirit (Ibid., 68, 80), involves chanting and beating a drum, the head of which is often painted with visionary motifs which act as mnemonic devices to remind the shaman of the purpose of the ritual, and of the spirits to be contacted. (Ibid., 69) Such devices reflect the use of "sympathetic magic" to extend control over spirits by imitation or use of the image of that which is to be controlled or invoked. (Ibid., 76-77)
The East Indian "dehar's" trance is achieved during an ecstatic dance and is considered auspicious as it charges him with "life force." (Suger, 1967) While entranced, the "dehar" receives communications from the spirits that are primarily related to the needs of this world. (Ibid., 79) Through these communications, the "dehar" counsels how to avoid danger and misfortunes, but, unlike other shamanic practitioners, he does not attempt to induce the spirits to assist in or change events. (Ibid., 80)
Some shamans use spirit-flight as a means of "transportation" "anywhere at will." (Winstedt, 1951, 28) Others use it for both travel and supplication of spirit entities. The Chuckchee shamanistic performance often takes place after dusk to facilitate a sinking into trance. This is referred to as "an-na ackin" which literally means "to sink." (Borogas, 1972, 387) The shaman's task is to sink to the depths of the sea to visit the great sea spirit, "Taka nakapsaluk," to placate her for blessings of food and good health. (Ibid.)
The McKennas list several methods of achieving ecstasy. Among these they include "frenzied and prolonged drumming," dancing and chanting, sleep deprivation, fasting, isolation, solitude, and sensory deprivation. (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 14) Trance may also be induced by head-whirling, twirling about, and being exposed to hypnotic music, as well as using incense, ritual paraphernalia and items of power that facilitate the turning of attention from the profane to the sacred world of the spirits. (Winstedt, 1951, 61)
In order to be a fit vehicle of the spirits, the "dehar" of the Kafirs "must always take care to live in a state which enables him to receive communications from supernatural beings whenever they choose to communicate. If he does not possess the will to comply with the commands of the supernatural beings he cannot be a dehar." (Suger, 1967, 77) The ritual dance of the "dehar," like that of the "Manshin," requires that the shaman move "as the spirits direct her; her movements reflect their movements, their ecstasy, spirit borne." (Covell, 1983, 52)
The process of becoming a fit vehicle sometimes encompasses some extreme, though common, forms of personality change. Identity transformation may manifest as gender switch, such as in the case of the "Berdache," or "contrary," common to some Great Plains peoples. Other forms of external rejection of previous social roles and behavioral norms include, but are not limited to change of dress or costume, hair fashioning, and linguistic mannerisms. "By destroying his own pattern of character, he opens the way for the voices, the visions." (Nordland, 1967, 175)
One method of achieving alternate awareness that has received a lot of attention in "modern societies," usually with undue repressive measures, is the age old use of natural psychoactive substances. Such "artificial means" of inducing the dream-state" necessary to hold counsel with the spirits are not only ancient, but widespread, in fact, nearly ubiquitous to shamanism. (Karsten, 1955, 59)
In their fascinating book, The Invisible Landscape (1975, 14), the McKennas pay particular attention to the use of ''narcotic-hallucinogenic'' plants and substances by shamans to achieve alternate states. Other than the widespread use of tobacco, marihuana and hashish derivatives, the McKennas list several substances including Amanita muscaria mushrooms in Siberia, Peyoté (Lophophora williamsii) use among the Huichol, Psilocybin mushroom ceremonies among the Mazatec of Mexico, and Yagé/Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis cappii) divinations among the Jivaro and Putomayo. From this evidence it appears that the narcotic experience and the shamanic experience are, in very numerous cases, one and the same, though the narcotic experience must be molded and directed by the symbolic motifs of ritual to give it its peculiarly shamanic quality." (Ibid.)
Since the dawn of time, shamans and others have employed botanical agents to facilitate ecstasy and to "tap resources within themselves." (Dobkin de Rios, 1984, 12) Amanita muscaria, for example, has been extensively used by the Koryak, Chuckchee, Buriat, Yakut and other Northern and Asian peoples, and may have been the key ingredient of "Soma," the divine nectar of the gods mentioned in the Vedic poems of ancient India. (Rogers, 1982, 14-115 and also cited extensively throughout R. Gordon Wasson’s, Soma: The
Divine Mushroom of Immortality.) Other substances include tobacco snuffs and infusions (nicotine), San Pedro cactii and the toxic red-mescal bean (Sophora secundiflora), both of which contain the alkaloid mescaline, also found in Peyote. (Rogers, 1982, 114-115) Datura is widely used, as in Africa, where the Yoruba "shaman" employs it for the less than admirable purpose of aggravating the symptoms of his mentally disturbed patients so as to charge a higher fee for his services. (Ibid.)
The use of hallucinogens like Peyote among peoples within the shamanic complex is usually for the purpose of attaining access to a state of being that enables the users to perceive and harmonize themselves with the primordial order of nature's life sustaining relationships. The Huichol refer to this as a journey "to find their life." Annual Peyote pilgrimages mark the development of the shaman, though anyone who is able may participate, Five successful pilgrimages are necessary to become a full fledged "Mara Akame," or shaman. (Furst, 1977, 24-25)
"Toloache," or Jimson Weed (Datura meteloides), was used extensively by shamans in several Southern Californian cultures. It played an important role in the ritual life of the Chumash, the Southern Diegueno, Luisen , Serrano, and also somewhat for the Cowpa. (Park, 1938, 106) "Old Woman Momoy," or Datura, was used to induce dream visions to assist in the development of young adults, and to make them "more courageous." (Blackburn, 1975, 147) The Chumash had a good sense of which parts of the plants produced the strongest effects, as well as how much to use to achieve specific trance states. (Ibid.) Their ceremonies, which may or may not have involved "Toloache" use, were both public and private, depending upon whether they were intended only for the individual, direct family relations or the entire village social group. (Ibid., 14)
The solitude, hunger and intense concentration of the "Vision Quest" facilitates profound states of consciousness and the accompanying changes in self-identification. This is modulated to a large extent by a strong emotional channeling through a request for a message of some kind of communication from the "powers that be". Sun Bear, an 0jibway medicine-man, describes the prayer that accompanies a Vision Quest: "We call this process crying for a vision. We go out and we cry, asking the Creator to send us a sign, to give us something that will direct us and tell us our purpose in life. If a vision comes to a person and he moves forward with that vision, then that becomes his medicine, his path of power." (Sun Bear, 1983, 204) This process is never easy at first, as it often involves breaking away from one's learned, expected and familiar "scripts for life." (Ibid.)
The Paviotso have a fairly simple form of the "Vision Quest". A person seeking "power" spends a night alone in a semi-desolate place, such as a mountain cave. Arduous fasting and self-inflicted pain are unheard of with them, and a midnight snack is frequently included along with blankets to keep the seeker warm. Their prayer is equally simple and direct, and is addressed to the spirits of the place for the powers to heal others. (Park, 1938, 27)
Dick Mahwee, an elderly "Puhágem," relates his initial power-quest requests: "'I went into the cave in the evening. As soon as I got inside I prayed and asked for power to doctor sickness. I said, “My people are sick. I want to save them. I want to keep them well. You [spirit] can help me make them well, I want you me save them. When they have died give me the power to bring them back [by returning their lost souls]." I said this to the spirit in the cave. It is not a person. It comes along with the darkness. This is a prayer to the night.'" (Ibid.)
Dick's prayer is significant not only in its specific location as to the source of healing power, or knowledge, but also in its form. This simple form, "My people are sick.... How may I help them?" is common to the Vision Quest prayers of several peoples. None seem as simple, though, as the case of California Pomo shamaness, Essie Parrish, who eschews arduous pilgrimages and self-sacrifice declaring, "I don't have to go nowhere to see. Visions are everywhere." (Halifax, 1982, 8)
Along with prayers, songs and chants are also powerful verbal means of connecting with spirits. The Montana Flathead Indians believed that when the spirit of an animal is making you sick " sing many songs about him to make him feel better. Any kind of songs. Songs that make you laugh and songs that tell you where he lives and songs that say mean things about him. The animal does not care. He likes to be sung about." (Rogers, 1982, 128)
Chants are powerful tools for the shaman. Their use involves the human body itself as a magical instrument to contact the spirits. Chants are frequently composed of a "few powerful words which are repeated with great emphasis." (Karsten, 1955, 85) In Hungarian shamanic practice, a "regos-song" is a chanted magical charm that invokes ecstasy. The phrase "Haj, regi (rego) rejtem!" could mean "Ho, through ecstasy I make magic!!!" (Fazekas, 1967, 111-112)
Music itself is a potent force in consciousness alteration. It is "the first step to divorce the medium from the mundane or secular world, to allow the mind of the medium to commune with or be possessed by spirits." (Covell, 1983, 40) Through the ritualization of music, the shaman, like the Korean "Manshin," separates herself from profane existence and temporal problems. She is then "allowed to meet the spirits with an empty and pure mind, to become a suitable vessel to pass along the commands and advise from the world which is real but unseen to those who deal in the profane." (Ibid.) While the "Manshin" is communing with the spirits, the musicians themselves often enter a parallel, supportive trance as they play upon their instruments. (Ibid., 43-44)
The sound of the drum is one of the most powerful tools for trance induction. The Penobscott "Maede olinu" derived powers from the knowledge that drumming connects all beings that, in one way or another, sense the drum's vibration induced sound. (Speck, 1919, 240-241) The rhythmic beat of the drum provides "insistent deep tones that disrupt the natural [or unnatural] flow [or blocks] of the body's rhythm, speeding or slowing it, causing the mind of the audience or participants to open upon a different reality." (Covell, 1983, 40) The striking, discordant manipulations of percussive instruments like drums, tambourines, bells and gongs "could stir frenzy or create peace." (Ibid.)
In Asiatic shamanism, the drum finds two general uses:
l) as an "excitant" to induce trance, and
2) as a "divination tool," as in the Lapp "ring-ceremony," where the direction of movement of a ring upon the beaten drum head indicates fortune or misfortune. (Rogers, 1982, 36-37) Among the Eskimo, drumming, either by the shaman or an assistant, is used to invoke trance and to facilitate spirit flight. (Holtved, 1967, 26) Whether in Asia or America, many shamans believe that the monotonous drum beats help control spirits and "all absent things." (Karsten, 1955, 82)
In an article entitled "Percussion and Transition,'' Rodney Needham observes that percussive instruments seem to generate "meaningful messages about transition in social life." (Needham, 1972, 391) He sees percussive instruments as ubiquitous to cultures where there are frequent attempts to establish contact with the "world of the spirits." (Ibid., 392)
Because of the nature of the repetitive impulse of the drum, Needham asserts that percussion type instruments are preferred in shamanistic practices because of psychological reasons rather than socio-historical reasons. (Ibid., 394) "'The music of the drum is more closely connected with the foundations of aurally generated emotion that that of any other instrument. It is complete enough in itself to cover the whole range of human feeling.'" (Ibid., citing A. E. Crawley, 1912, "Drums and Cymbals," from the Encyclopedia of Religious Ethics, p.91)
The cultural effects of interpretation and the specific emotions related to sounds differ, yet there seems to be a common basis to percussive appeal. The "comparative affective import" comes not from melody, rhythm, tone or period of resonance, but from percussion. It appears that "sound waves have neural and organic effects of human beings, irrespective of the cultural formations of the latter." (Ibid., 395) As to their ubiquity in terms of technological sophistication, percussive sounds are derived from both "primary" (of the body) and "elemental" (of the environment) phenomena, and are often the easiest to produce. (Ibid.)
"Rites of passage" involve a "formal passage from one status or condition to another" and are often marked by percussion and other noise generating devices. (Ibid., 396) There is a "significant connexion between percussion and transition" seen in the "conjunction of two primal, elementary and fundamental features, (1) the affective import of percussion, [and] (2) the logical structure of category change." (Ibid., 395) There is a combining of emotion and reason which produces a result which cannot be derived exclusively from one or another approach, but only from a conjunction of the two.
Francis Huxley notes that percussion can trigger alternate states of consciousness, perhaps by modulating brain-wave patterns through disturbances of the inner ear which "modulates postural attitude, muscle tonus, breathing rhythms, heartbeat, blood pressure, feelings of nausea and certain eye reflexes." (Ibid., 397) Hence, percussion can be aimed at the inner ear "in an effort to dissociate the waking consciousness from its organization in the body." (Ibid.)
Noise, especially the explosive sounds of firecrackers and drums is often used to punctuate certain stages of development and transition. This could involve several factors, among them the stimulation of K-complexes. These are bursts of EEG wave-forms associated with sudden, non-rhythmical sounds, K-complexes are often present in EEG readings when a subject is startled or when awakened from sleep when an unusual noise is perceived. (personal communication from Gordon Mumma, UCSC, 1986)
Monotonous stimuli, along with percussion, the transformation of the sense of personal identity, isolation from social norms, and intuitive learning are all basic features of shamanism. Monotonous drumming and dancing, restricted movement, staring at a flame or into darkness or through masks with special light effects for the eyes can facilitate an alternate state without ecstatic emotions. Sometimes demonstrations of ecstasy can be more of a performance to convince participants of the truth of the shaman's experience of the "other world" than it is in fact necessary to establish contact with spirits. Alternate states do not always preclude ecstasy. (Nordland, 1967, 174)
Apparently, monotonous stimulation increases emotional intensity and motor movements during which the higher cerebral centers detach from sensorial input, allowing the shaman to perceive experiences which are beyond the grasp of the uninitiated. (Ibid., 168) This is not unlike the achievement of auto-hypnosis by means of "self initiated sensory [and social] deprivation." (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 24) Such sensory deprivation can produce "visual and auditory hallucinations and perceptual distortions" such as "hearing voices, seeing imaginary people, and having sensations of body-image distortion." (Ibid.)
Sensory deprivation and relaxation are believed to be capable of isolating the brain from body-centered consciousness. This allows regulation to take place by the inner-dynamics of bio-rhythms, like circadian cycles, rather than by sensory input. In this state, thoughts tend to wander and there can be "clear hallucinations of happenings" and presences not perceived by others. (Nordland, 1967, 169-171)
Both sensory deprivation and monotony function in similar ways by separating higher neural centers from "external" events and facilitating a focus upon "internally" generated thoughts and emotions, as well as images and sensations. These are the classic hallucinations which are internally perceived structures sometimes taking the shapes of "unclear figures... geometrical figures changing contours, altering in size and shape, etc." (Ibid., 172-173) They may also take the form of amazingly complex, highly detailed and intensely realistic images, sounds and sensations rivaling in clarity the pristine perfection of new-fallen snow on a crystal clear morning. Such is the jewel within the lotus of shamanic ecstasy.

BA Thesis Chapter 4

Chapter Four
Becoming a Shaman: Initiation and Legitimation

The process of becoming a shaman often involves a "sudden and radical reorganization of values, attitudes and beliefs which 'make sense' of a hitherto confusing and anxiety provoking world." (Schwedwer, 1972, 441, note 4, quoting Wallace, 1961., 192) This reorganization involves a reorientation of the potential shaman's sense of reality and personality. In "cultures where the shamanic institution exists an individual may choose to restructure his life and become a shaman as a means of resolving a life-crisis." (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 23) Though this may involve profound changes in mind and self-expression, shamanism "is not an institution designed to capitalize on psychological aberrations." (Ibid., 13)
The nature of the shamanic calling, initiation, training and the development of psychological abilities involves a breakdown of old patterns of behavior and senses of reality. The shaman's development has consequently been compared with psychopathic and schizophrenic forms of mental illness. (Ibid., 24) It is important to realize that the potential shaman is not a victim of the life crisis and altered perceptions of his profession as is the schizophrenic. According to Eliade, the "problem has been wrongly stated... The acquisition of shamanic gifts indeed presupposes the resolution of the crisis brought on by the first steps of this vocation. The initiation is manifested by-- among other things-- a new psychic integration." (Eliade, 1964, 77)
In societies where the shamanic institution has degraded, the person experiencing early phases of the calling may indeed suffer from social ostracism and may develop schizoid, anti-social behavior. Those societies might then classify the potential shaman as "crazy" and therefore of little use to social evolution. This is especially common among modern, industrialized societies who have lost a sense of place in nature. Hence, the "altered perception of reality into which this newly opened cognition plunges the schizophrenic [or developing shaman] has, in modern societies, no cultural validity." (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 24) There is no support network to assist developing shamans (or slipping schizophrenics) in the process of integrating their altering perceptions. Instead, the shaman must work out his adjustments "without the benefit of culturally sanctioned attitudes for [the] expanded reality which he now inhabits." (Ibid.)
The isolation of the potential shaman from his or her society does not assist integration, but rather stimulates a breakdown between social and personal realities. Sleeping and waking cycles may also charge allowing the potential shaman to slip into a "twilight world of hypnogogic fantasy and half-waking reverie." (Ibid., 23) This state may be compared with the auto-hypnotic trance achieved through "self-initiated sensory deprivation" in which "visual and auditory hallucinations and perceptual distortions" are common phenomena. (Ibid.) The development of these abilities is an asset to the shaman in a culture which validates his or her experiences, but a tragedy to the schizophrenic or persons with shamanic inclinations that live in societies in which the vocation of the shaman is not an option. (Peters, 1981, 91)
Becoming a shaman is a complex and often confusing process. There are generally two ways that potential shamans are generated: l) through "hereditary transmission," or 2) "spontaneous election." (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 9) Initiation also proceeds along two general lines, both of which are important to the developing shaman. The first involves the experience of ecstasy, trance and dream visions and mastery of the psychological processes underlying ASC's. The second part of initiation involves apprenticeship to an older, experienced shaman or appropriate elder who trains the initiate in ecstatic techniques, costume making and symbolism, "spirit languages," helping spirit names and types, curing techniques, medicinal plants and herbs, the use of drums and other musical instruments, and sacred songs, stories and chants. (Ibid.)
Whether the shaman-to-be inherits or spontaneously becomes a shamanic candidate, s/he must show "a certain receptivity to states of trance or ecstasy." (Ibid.) Young shamans are frequently of an introverted and slightly nervous, highly sensitive constitution. (Ibid., 23) There is often a tendency to moodiness, sickness, solitude, dis-ease, psychosomatic illness and the fear of death and personal dissolution. (Ibid., 9) These tendencies manifest themselves in the classic "initiatory illness."
Perhaps the best generalization of this process comes from Eliade's description of the disease aspects of the shamanic calling and initiation. especially vivid are his descriptions of the candidate's visions of personality disintegration which often take the form of a perceived dismemberment and skeletonization of the body, with body parts being broken down and reconstituted. (Eliade, 1964, 53, 62)
Psychosomatic distress also manifests as "pains" which are "looked upon both as the source of the shaman's powers and the cause of disease. The 'pains' are thought to be animate and self-moving, sometimes with personality." (Park, 1938, 80)
Peters describes the initiatory sickness as a somaticization of the "Axis Mundi." (Peters, 1981, 92) He draws a parallel between the development of shamanic skills among the Tamang and the rise of "Kundalini" described by adepts of Tantric Yoga. The principle of Tantra involves the awakening of the "Chakras," neuro-energy centers that are charged with vital-force,"Chi" or "Ki." These centers are associated with neuro-endocrine processes, and the rise of "Kundalini" along the spinal pathways can be a frightening and bewildering experience to the subject. (Ibid., 93) It can also be very beautiful, and the images revealed during these times may bring out insights into the deepest levels of the initiate's sub-conscious. These images and complexes may become valuable tools for the future shaman in his or her role as an interpreter of the dream visions of others. (Ibid.)
Whether pleasant or disturbing, the initiatory sickness presents the candidate with an "existential crisis" that parallels the death/rebirth experiences of mystics and yogis. (Ibid.) The "creative illness" is itself a "rite of passage" and a transformative process. It is characterized by "anti-structural, paradoxical situations" which challenge the novice and provide insights into the afflictions of others. Feelings of desolation, angst and alienation are also common, and are to be seen among such non-shamanic practitioners as artists, poets, and scientists whose sense of dis-ease fosters the inspiration toward heightened creativity and novel forms of expression. (Ibid.)
Shamanic election may also be revealed through various physical anomalies such as the "shaman-tooth” an extra finger or toe, "superfluous bones," birthmarks and other stigmata. (Fazekas, 1967, 107) More commonly, the first signs involve dream-visions or extraordinary experiences of nature. (Holtved, 1967, 23) These include meeting a magical animal, finding a magical stone or object, or surviving an ordeal in the wilderness. (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 13) These experiences are often resisted at first, but are eventually yielded to and sought after in training with a master shaman. Among the Paviotso, "when a boy starts going into trances, his father knows that someday his son will be a doctor. A woman can inherit power the same way." Park, 1938, 30) Though not an inherited profession for the Nepalese "Bonpo," a young candidate may succeed his parent if he shows the proper ecstatic qualifications. (Schmid, 1967, 85) Initiatory dreams and trances are like Jung’s "Big Dreams," and carry much numinous content. (Peters, 1981, 52) They are key elements in the development of the shaman's personality, whether the position is inherited or of spontaneous election.
Irrespective of the nature of the first signs of the calling, the shamanic candidate must soon find a suitable teacher. (Karsten, 1955, 65) Generally an older shaman or village elder will train the novice in the proper use of the "tools of the trade," ceremonial and ritual procedures, fasting, and the techniques of ecstasy and healing. The relationship of the apprentice to the "guru" is both "didactic," in terms of being taught the myths and ritual procedures and healing methods, and "ecstatic" through the mastery of trance and spirit flight. This process bears remarkable similarity to the practice of undergoing psychoanalysis while studying to become a psycho-therapist. (Peters, 1981, 17, 84)
The "guru" guides the novice through the inner world of ecstasy and trance, and assists in such experiences as ritual dismemberment, death and rebirth, celestial journeys, "sacred-tree climbing" and the use of psychedelics, narcotics and other hallucinogens. (Eliade, 1964, 110) The teacher prepares the aspirant for initiation by instructing him or her in the proper means of dealing with challenging situations, and helps to provide a cosmological structure within which the shaman-to-be must operate. Occasionally, the teacher will pass on to the student certain of his or her own spirit allies, but it is usually left up to the student to develop his or her own connections with the supernatural world and its inhabitants.
Finding a spirit ally and/or tutelary being is one of the main tasks for the initiate. Its discovery is often predicated by meaningful synchronicities or coincidences, as well as senses of ancestral urgings which give clues to the means by which the tutelary beings may be contacted. Sometimes a dream or vision will provide the structure for meetings with spirit entities, as in the common sense of climbing the celestial tree, mounting the sacred "Axis Mundi," shimmying up a rope, or flying like a bird to the "other world." (Ibid., 67, 110)
Sometimes a "Vision Quest" is performed in a deliberate attempt to contact the spirit world. (Ibid., 100, and Winstedt, 1951, 73) In North American shamanistic societies, the "Vision Quest" is a very special rite of passage toward the initiation into adulthood of both shamans and non-shamans.(Eliade, 1964, 109) The forms of Vision Quest differ among those societies that practice it, but it is often done at puberty or adolescence before sexual encounters, or after a long period of abstinence. The seeker must leave the village or tribe and find an isolated place of power in the wilderness. S/he must remain there alone for any number of 2-6 days while fasting, using a sweat-lodge and other forms of self-purification, and praying while staying awake until a "vision" occurs. This process involves learning a personal "song" or chant that is often the gift of a spirit who may take the "form" of an ancestor, animal, plant or element of nature. (Ibid., 100) Finding a spirit ally is considered auspicious and fortuitous, while not finding an ally or achieving vision can seriously affect the young person's self-esteem, tribal status and personal potency. (Ibid., 109)
In some cultures the spirit ally may be the soul of an ancestor or dead shaman. (Ibid., 81-85) This entity assists the shaman to-become a volitional spirit in control of his/her spirit-body during cosmic journeys. The tutelary spirit may also take the form of a spiritual seducer that teaches the initiate secrets. Often, a relationship develops with this celestial "mate," as the lonely aspirant longs for more tangible sensual and sexual relations with members of the opposite sex while engaged in the long periods of social isolation that frequently accompany shamanic initiation.
Whether the spirit allies are ancestral, sexual, botanical, geological, animal or mythical, it is important for the initiate to learn to communicate with them. (Ibid., 86-95) This often requires the development of a special "language" which can be learned either from the teacher or from one’s own efforts with the spirits. (Ibid., 96) The language is often akin to the sounds of animals, like birds (Ibid., 97) and helps the novice to move through several dimensions of experience and remain centered, as well as to make sense of the subjective experiences of soul-flight and dream-visions. (Ibid., 99) It is common knowledge among shamanic practitioners that the relative bizarreness of one's experiences in trance are extremely difficult to communicate to those that have not shared or experienced similar processes themselves. (Sun Bear, 1983, 206) Among those that do share such experiences, there tends to develop a personal language that, like the Yakut shaman's 12,000+ word poetic vocabulary, expresses their ecstatic and otherworldly, visionary experiences. (Rogers, 1982, 8)
As among the Bon shamans of Nepal, shamanic initiation generally involves three stages of l) separation from "normal" society and social intercourse, 2) transition from profane to sacred consciousness, and 3) incorporation of the new skills into a form that benefits the shaman's society. (Peters, 1981, 94) Some societies mark these stages with public and private rituals and ceremonies. The Chumash of California have a complex ceremony to celebrate the acquisition of a spirit helper. "Perhaps the most significant ceremony as far as the individual was concerned was the drinking of Datura, for it was during the subsequent coma and hallucinatory state that the boy or girl established the special relationship with a dream helper (represented by the ?atiswin or talisman) and received prognostications concerning his or her future from the alcuklas or administering official." (Blackburn, 1975, 14)
Among the Paviotso of the Western Nevada however, there was no public initiation of the shaman. He or she simply declared that s/he was ready to begin "doctoring" whenever s/he felt competent. There was no organized training, though apprenticeship did sometimes occur among relatives. (Park, 1938, 45) Paviotso ceremonial procedures tend to differ, therefore, from shaman to shaman, especially in the details, because of the individual communications between the shamans' particular spirit information sources. The general forms of the rituals were shared by most shamans, and were often picked up through participation in healing ceremonies directed by other shamans. (Ibid., 46)
In Buryat society, a shaman "is socially recognized as such, and he is called forth as a shaman by his own social group; he can only function as a shaman if he is recognized as one in potential by his contemporaries." (Krader, 1978, 18) This generally occurs when personal experiences of spirit communication and travels to the "other worlds" can be successfully demonstrated to cultural experts like other shamans. "Only the shaman can see the spirit or spirits from which he derives his power. Even when he invokes his supernatural aids at a doctoring, they are visible to him alone. Their presence is known to the others only through the shaman's account of his conversation with them. Supernatural spirits never appear to, nor are they ever heard by, anyone but those upon whom they bestow their power." (Park, 1938, 19-20)
With the acquisition of spirit allies and the "techniques of ecstasy" and healing, the shamanic candidate becomes "transformed from a profane to a sacred state of being." (McKenna & McKenna, 1975, 10) S/he is able to assist the healing processes of other people with skills derived from a transformative process that often involves sickness, confusion, and the symbolic death and rebirth of the novice into the new, wholistic, integrated personality of the shaman. This process involves imbalance, disharmony, breakdown, restructuring and a return to wholeness for the shaman, as well as in his or her relations with society and the natural world.