THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 538, September 27, 2009
"The plague of authoritarian collectivism"
A Shaman Speaks to those Bored of Directors
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
I call myself a shaman. People wonder what I mean by this term. Urban shamanism is not something learned in school, or a course of study or even something you learn by studying under the tutelage of an elder of some ancient tribe in a jungle. Many of our greatest writers on spirituality and mind explorations in history do not have what we would call these types of credentials. While I have spent time with the leading practitioners of my day I am largely self-taught. While shamanism is often thought of rural if not of primitive tribes it is making a recurrence in cities. Think of it as urbane renewal.
I found this definition of shamanism in a widely read book used as an introduction to anthropology. I had been practicing for decades before I discovered this explanation of shamanism. It fits me well. I think it describes me in my role in as a dealer of psychedelics and marijuana.
"Shamans live in mobile societies"
According to Joseph Campbell in his four-volume work on mythology; shamans are in mobile societies and priests are in agrarian societies. Shamans are experiential and interpreters of cosmic events. Priests, on the other hand, work with a written code and established ritual. In other words priests work for and within an established order. Shamans work outside of ordinary time and place to work a magick in the here and now. I also lived a very mobile life traveling not just to get and distribute magickal inducing plants and medicines but also interacted with many different cultures.
There were also psychedelic conferences and shamanic events to attend. Here I heard lectures and asked questions from greater shamans than me. I have been honored to meet with such lights as the following: Dr Andrew Weil MD, who teaches medicine and is the author of best selling books on drugs as well as natural healing. Dr. Sasha Shulgin PhD, who has created many psychedelic compounds who even the DEA regards as an authority and has written manuals for them. There is Dr. Timothy Leary PhD who directed Harvard's psychedelics research project. Dr. Michael Harner who is head of a foundation on shamanism who said that every tribe he ever studied either used drumming or psychedelics. Psychedelics were considered safer by them because the sound of drumming could attract enemies.
For years I would fly once a month. During that same time I was also in and out of airports. So this definition so far is definitely me. It continues
"A shaman is a person who is charged with much special supernatural knowledge and knows how to use it to create lasting effect on the material world"
There is much written on the use psychedelics and creativity. Psychedelics are popular among artists, writers, actors and musicians since the 1950's. Not only that but designers, architects, scientists and software designers are also proud users of psychedelics as well. And let's not forget that pot and psychedelics have been used widely on campuses since the 60's. And that's just one use of psychedelics. Creativity is not something measurable. Being the first to come up with an idea is one way of recognizing that aspect. That I have done and more which is seen in my bio.
"Shamanism is traditionally found in cultures with relatively low populations and less institutionalized religious systems."
The use of psychedelics is rare even among drug using populations. Even among bohemians it is not pervasive. There is also present among the urban and rural shamans a detachment from mere materialist gain. There is also a desire to avoid bureaucracy, hierarchy and over-embellishment. It is a direct rather than mediated connection to the divine that they wish. There is also an understanding and appreciation of humor, story telling and polytheism. That's me as well.
"Shamans are often the outsider. They are feared as well as respected and they often live on the margins of society because of their dangerous proximity to the powerful forces of the supernatural realm."
Yes that's me all right. I had access to the greatest minds of my culture as an equal. I was on the margins of even bohemian society because of my risk of being attacked by the powerful forces of demons called the DEA also known as the Demonic Entity Alliance.
"Shamans have at least two important roles that recur world wide. One is that they facilitate physical healing: health problems in the physical realm are often thought to originate in the eternal or supernatural realm and dreams are often called on to mediate with spirits to solve such problems. They also deal with spiritual healing. What Westerners may call psychological issues is often considered spiritual problems in shamanic societies. Shamans often conduct perilous ritually marked journeys to the spiritual world to intervene."
Marijuana is recommended by over half of physicians who are involved in cancer care. It is also used for glaucoma, AIDS, menstrual cramps and other uses going back thousands of years. While a lot of use is not medical all use of marijuana performs a medical function of relieving stress. Psychedelics have been used successfully in scientifically controlled studies in dealing with problems of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). This is a common problem for returning veterans as well as victims of rape. Psychedelics were used in over a thousand different studies in the treatment of addictions in the 1950's before the subject became controversial. Even Bill W. founder of AA lectured to those members that these drugs had a role in treating alcoholism. Psychedelics often have been used to induce spiritual experiences, which are of great help to some who are dealing with problems. Google "The Good Friday Experience" for details of a scientific experience on this. I was different from other dealers in that I distributed literature along with my substances and kept up with the latest research.
"Shamanic rituals often involve the shaman entering a state of altered consciousness or a trance state. This state can be accompanied in many ways such as repetitive chanting, drumming, deprivation of food and water or the use of hallucinogenic substances such as fly agaric mushrooms in Siberia or North America peyote or ayahuasca. In the trance state the shaman is transported to the spiritual realm, and on coming out of the trance the shaman is returned to the natural realm."
In this modern time pressed society we want quick, profound answers. Food and water deprivation has health risks and can take a long time. Drumming, repetitive chanting and meditation require more discipline and time than most people have. Shamanistic practices with the use of psychedelics are or were practiced among every inhabited area of the world. They are also making a return in the most modern sectors of society. There are many books and even academic papers on this subject.
"Shamanism isn't a religion itself. It's more of a technology for influencing the supernatural world to have effects in the natural world."
Psychedelics are and can be used by any religious way of life. These help the mind to be open to spiritual influences or change filters of perception as described by Aldous Huxley. There are scholarly interpretations of the Bible that show the use of magic mushrooms and cannabis. Houston Smith who has taught religion at four universities, has written about world religions and was interviewed by Bill Moyers has written on the subject of psychedelics and religion in "Cleansing the Doors of Perception". Robert Graves, famed novelist, poet, scholar of ancient writings and pagan recognized the use of entheogens in the ancient world. He also noted how a taboo indicates a previous use with the forbidden item. Richard Schultes who is regarded as the founder of modern ethnobotany and taught at Harvard wrote much about psychedelic use among shamans in his book "Plants of the Gods".
The preceding series of quotes come from the popular guide "Anthropology for Dummies". Want something more academic? How about Joseph Campbell, the greatest authority on mythology? In his book "Primitive Mythology on page 231
"The contrast between the two world views may be seen more sharply by comparing the priest and the shaman. The priest is the socially initiated, ceremonially inducted member of a religious organization, where he hold a certain rank and function as the tenant of the office that was held by others before him. While the shaman is one who, as a consequence of personal psychological crisis has gained a certain power of his own. The spiritual visitants who came to him in vision had never been seen before by any other; they were his particular familiars and protectors..."
So what qualifies a person as a shaman? One qualifier is an ordeal and that has been recognized by many as a factor in great growth in awareness. My ordeal of prison was one for me. But ordeal cannot be the sole factor. What is more is vision. Not just that he or she sees but that the vision helps heal. There is also a newness to the vision and that sets the shaman separate from all others. This can frighten the leaders, even the priests, even when the shaman has no intention of doing so. So a shaman could be seen as a storyteller who helps bring the story of the one who comes to the shaman as a listener who wants to be healed. Some shamans are dream interpreters. Therapy is a close model and many therapists have used psychedelics. So is the novelist, playwright or film writer and many of these have also used them. So is anyone who steps outside of non-ordinary reality and then brings something back that is seen as visionary to his community. But how does one evaluate a shaman as an authentic being who can help in a given situation? How does one evaluate a potential therapist, writer or any new thinker? One listens to what they have to say or reads what they have to write and decides. Opinions of others in the same field can help you. But in all these crowded fields there is much jostling for position and jealousy. Here are some questions to help you decide.
Do you come away from the experience of the shaman or the medicine teachers with new knowledge? Is it inspiring in some way? Do you feel better now that you know this? Would you want to experience this person or event again? And could you also proceed on your path with new strength even if you could never do it again? Are you conscious of what your path is? These are questions and the quest. No one can give you the answers. But some can help you find them.
We have long lived in a time of corruption of education, money, art and even religions and values. The state must do this in order to hide its crimes against us. When all institutions are being questioned what can we do to come out of this? The model here on doing this is what happened in Eastern Europe twenty years ago. In a book by Michael Kaufman "The Walls come Tumbling Down" he writes this advice to those who want to overthrow Communism. Here is the quote...
"Instead of operating ourselves as an underground state we should be organizing ourselves as an underground society. Not into a movement directed by a central headquarters requiring absolute discipline but into a loosely structured, decentralized movement composed of mutually independent groups, committees etc. each of which would be largely autonomous and self directed...Such a movement should strive for a situation in which the government will control the empty shops but not the market, employment but not the means to livelihood, the state press but not the flow of information, printing houses but not the publishing movement, telephones and the postal service but not communication, schools but not education."
The churches under communism that were oppressed thrived underground. In other countries the state subsidizes and therefore controls the churches. What happens then is that the churches are empty and the priests are cowardly and not listened to. The pastors of the underground churches would have to travel in order to hide. They depended on parishioners rather than on church hierarchies. So they became more like shamans through their ordeal. Even though theologically alike to their more pampered brothers on the West there is a difference between them. Through their ordeal their personal communication and direct interpretation of Spirit is shamanistic.
Also a shaman knows that in order to heal wounds, especially his own, he must see through the lace of hypocrisy and privilege. It is the fiction of the cloth that hides a bloody business. The bandage must be ripped away and the hurt must be exposed to air and light. At that time tenderness and the right drugs can help the healing, which comes from within. The shaman therefore is a rebel without a gauze. Then the healing begins by visions of health. The patient or seeker is a partner with the shaman in his or her healing and then takes charge of it. The visions of a better time become a reality as they replace the wound. This is what's happening now. We only have to allow it.