SHAMANS AND SHAMANISM
FROM THE WORK IN SPANISH BY:
JOSE MARIA POVEDA
AND PRESENTED IN ENGLISH BY:
"If we are victorious in any way we don't have anyone to whisper in our ear that our victories are fleeting. Shaman-sorcerers, however, do have the upper hand; as beings on their way to dying, they have someone whispering in their ear that everything is ephemeral. The whisperer is Death, the infallible advisor, the only one who won't ever tell you a lie."
Don Juan Matus to Carlos Castaneda, "The Active Side of Infinity"
WHAT IS A SHAMAN?
The Shaman is a survivor, he has passed in one way or another through Pain, Disease and Death.
One of the qualities that makes the Shamanic phenomenon admirable is its generalized presence among all the groups that make up our predecessors. His practices, though they evolve in the actual moment, work with elements, basic references, archaic symbols and emotions already present since the origin of humankind. When the geographical distribution of Shaman practices are studied the presence of analogous activities in the five continents stands out.
The map of the world the Shaman operates in can be understood from what is psychologically called "modified states of consciousness" (understanding as consciousness the capacity of "noticing", from the Latin cum-scire, "knowing with"). These states, which usually are accessed through a period of transition, are sometimes identified as trance or journey. The modified states ordinarily evolve as:
1. Transition from the usual state
2. The modified state
3. Transition to the usual state
Not only the healer is in these states, but also the attended person and many times the other participants.
Many strategies exist in order to modify the state of consciousness, most of which do not include the use of psychoactive substances. As experience is acquired it is easier to enter in them. A similar experience develops with relaxation techniques.
Natural changes of the state of consciousness happen during the day. During the period of sleep, modifications of the different characteristics in the level of consciousness and its content occur. One of the hypothesis for explaining them, is the possibility of passing from a usual consciousness to that of the world of the dreams without first passing through the relaxing phases at the beginning of sleep.
ORIGIN OF THE WORD "SHAMAN"
The term "Shaman" wears a halo of mystery and can evoke diverse and even contradictory realities. This isnít strange because for us, it refers to something of ancestral origin, and the creation of culture has separated us from its methods, often archaic and extreme.
The word shaman, used internationally, has its origin in manchķ-tangu and has reached the ethnologic vocabulary through Russian. The word originated from saman (xaman), derived from the verb scha-, "to know", so shaman means someone who knows, is wise, a sage. Further ethnologic investigations shows that the true origin for the word Shaman can be tracked from the Sanskrit initially, then through Chinese-Buddhist mediation to the manchķ-tangu, indicating a much deeper but now overlooked connection between early Buddhism and Shamanism generally. In Pali it is schamana, in Sanskrit Sramana translated to something like "buddhist monk, ascetic." The intermediate Chinese term is scha-men. The Siberian and Central Asian peoples also had local terms for the Shaman. In alataic Turkish it was kam, in Yacuto, ojon (and the female shaman was the udujan), in the Butirates, bŲo, and in Central Asia, bakshi, for the Samoans, tadibe, Lapps, moita, Finnish, tieöjö and Hungarians, táltos (see pp.411 and ff.). See as well SIDDHIS: Supernormal Perceptual States.
This knowledge or wisdom, in the Tungu languages, implies in one way or the other mastery of the "spirits", whose powers can be introduced by the Shaman into himself at will, using them in his own interest, especially in order to help others who suffer because of spirits.
Shamanic activities are considered in relationship to the actual world as belonging to far-off marginal geographical areas or border groups conceptually diffused.
For many investigators, the Shaman acts in an area of reality often shared by mystics and doctors (H.E. Sigerist, 1987; M. Harner, 1987; S. Kakar, 1993; S. Krippner and P. Welch, 1992; F. De Oleza, 1996).
The Shaman includes in his activities what would be proper for a prehistoric psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Especially, if one considers the "prehistory is a way for the expansion of consciousness. It is a activity in the development of our real life, with which we help ourselves and others in order to awake from the stupor of unconsciousness and ignorance knowing who we really are." (D. Shainberg, 1993)
DEFINITIONS OF "SHAMAN"
Many definitions of "Shaman" exist:
- "Indigenous healer who deliberately alters his consciousness in order to obtain knowledge and power from the world of the spirits in order to help and cure the members of his tribe" (S. Krippner, 1990)
- Among the Ojibway, speaking of the Midewiwin, a Secret Ojibwa Medicine Society: "It is the person, man or woman, who experiences, absorbs, and communicates a special form of support, of healing power" (A. Grimm, 1987)
- "He who knows the archaic techniques of ecstasy" (M. Eliade, 1972)
- "A person to whom special powers are attributed for communicating with the spirits and influence them dissociating his soul from his body. The spirits help him do his chores which include discovering the cause of sickness, hunger and any disgrace, and prescribing an appropriate cure. They are found among the Siberians and other Asiatic people; his activity also evolves among many other religions and with other names." (The Cambridge Encyclopedia, 1990)
- "A person prepared to confront the greatest fears and shadows of the physical world." And depending on the results: "A healer who has experienced the world of darkness and who has fearlessly confronted his own shadow as much as the diabolic of others, and who can successfully work with the powers of darkness and light." (J. Sams, 1988)
- "A guide, a healer, a source of social connection, a maintainer of the groupís myths and concept of the world." (R. N. Walsh, 1990). It also serves for referring to someone who is "hyperactive, excited or in movement", or who is "capable of warming himself and practicing austerities." (R. N. Walsh, 1990)
- "Archetypal technician of the sacred. His profession evolves in the space that united mythical imagination and ordinary consciousness." (S. Larsen, 1976)
- "Person of any sex who has a special contact with the spirits (understood as forces not easily put into evidence) and capable of using their ability in order to act upon those affected by the same spirits." (M. Harner, 1989)
- "Great wizard and priest of certain primitive peoples, especially from North Asia. The shamans of Siberia are among the most famous." (Diccionario de las CO; El manual moderno, 1985)
- "The eternal art of living in harmony with creation." (J. Matthews, 1991)
- There are three key elements for defining Shamans:
- They can voluntarily enter altered states of consciousness
- In these states they can feel themselves "travel".
- "They use these journeys as a method of acquiring knowledge or power and for helping the people of their community." (R. N. Walsch, 1990)
WE DO NOT HAVE SHAMANS:
The Case Against "Shamans" In North American Indigenous Cultures
AREAS AND FRONTIERS OF SHAMANISM
It is NOW necessary to go to the margins of what we call the "civilized world" to search for groups who currently present individuals who practice Shamanism -- because Shamanism is tied to groups that show a tight relationship with nature, up to the point in which any menace towards it impoverishes our possible comprehension of its concrete manifestations.
Around 9,000 years ago agriculture and the domestication of stock-animals came into being in what is now Turkey. Larger amounts of food enabled the peoples that raised the animals and crops to increase their populations a hundred-fold. Having done so, those same people, who only generations before were once small tribal peoples themselves, gradually forayed into Europe, taking their animals and crops with them and driving back into even more inhospitable regions the hunter-gatherers. The movement took place over a period of 4,000 years, affecting the whole of Europe and all of the people and tribes therein. Unlike what is found on the North American continent, most of the European tribal names, customs, culture and rituals were almost totally wiped out or erased during that 4,000 year period.
The areas of the planet through which more civilizations have successively passed and that own a centralized social structure from the big urban nuclei are those that preserve the fewest traces of Shaman activities. These can still be maintained among the inuit ( the name the Eskimos of the extreme north give themselves) or the fueginos ( the first inhabitants of the south end of America), among the inhabitants of the African, Asian or American jungles or hard to reach places, like deserts and mountains.
How do Shamans differ from other "helpers" like priests, doctors, magicians, sorcerers and wizards? The relationship of help is a phenomenon of great interest in that it reveals fundamental characteristics of the way the world is seen by the helper as well as the helped. So, according to the characteristics of "the helped", the helper and the problem or disease, a part of this "world map" is emphasized, distinguished or highlighted. The area of work is defined by zones where the respective maps partially overlap.
In psychotherapy, it is a scientifically accepted fact that when basic world of reference and values are shared , these are factors of a good prognosis regarding treatment. (In surgical therapies it isnít as revealing, but the patientsí possibilities of choosing the hospital for an operation also responds to criteria the patient or his family may attribute to the surgeon or his surroundings). At any rate it is understood, the relationship of help will be more operative when the theoretical and practical beliefs are that participated.
Priests and Shamans
The Shaman is born into a preagricultural society of hunter-gatherers, his knowledge based primarly in first-hand individual experience.The role of the priest on the other hand, relies on the traditions and sites of the agriculturaly-dominated town or city-market.
A modified state of consciousness is an essential medium for the development of the Shaman activity. The priest, on his part, doesnít need to modify his state of consciousness in order to act. He is situated in more complex social groups, part of a more hierarchized, more centralized religious structure. The surroundings of cities favor more indirect forms of communication among the citizens and makes priests necessary. The populationís distribution and its organization is made according to pyramidal shapes. On the contrary, the nomadic groups in whose heart Shamanism grows are less hierarchized and the interpersonal relationships are more direct, more "horizontal". The Shaman context is less authoritarian regarding individual conduct, and on this level there are less formal regulations of the particular morality.
Without rigid acceptance, but as preferences or more common characteristics, some basic criteria can be orienting. See, for example the following table:
Type of society
Age of practice
Rituals bound to calendar
Type of ritual
However, we can consider the existence of figures who act out both functions. As an example, the marakame (huichol Shaman) is at the same time one thing and the other, with the Shamanís or priestís functions predominating according to the circumstances (M.Harner, 1989).
Medium and Shaman
Both affirm they have a relationship with the "spirits". In both there is a change in the state of consciousness, a modification that can be searched for voluntarily by both. In the Shamanís case, the control of the relationship with the spirits is generally more energetic; while the Medium acts in a more passive way. Adapted to what is being elaborated in those moments, the Shaman can discuss with the spirits and appears to have more power than the Medium. He treats the "spirits" he finds as his equals.
It is possible to establish a typology among the healers, with five established groups (S.Krippner, 1980):
- esoteric healers
- religious or ritualistic healers
- intuitive healers
Shaman activity can partially be described as a particular form of Mediumism. It can also be said the the Medium exists in the urban society and that his trance is passive, while the Shaman uses nature, the rural world, as a reference and his trance or Shaman state of consciousness is an active phenomenon with a general maintenance of control. M. Harner considers the State of Trance essential for Shamanism, which is described as a "journey" (Shaman state of consciousness). Once done, he is capable of remembering it. The Medium doesnít necessarily remember what he did or happened during the trance.
According to the above criteria, while studying the work of American clairvoyant and psychic Edgar Evans Cayce, he would not only show himself as a Medium, but occasionally also as a Shaman. In his states of trance, he differed in the use of a technique called "canalization". In order for it to take place, one searches for a state of trance without possession. Cayce understood it as a power, as an influence that one can awake inside oneís self. He insisted in achieving a trance without possession:
"Donít allow yourself be directed by an identity that calls itself your guide. Why? Because invoking infinity is much larger, much more satisfying, more valid for the experience of the soul than being directed by an entity."
The state of trance without possession is achieved in movement by what is called "kinetic trance." The kinetic trance is a technique with ancestral roots that influences almost all levels of the person, endowing him through the practice of new forms and perspectives of self-experience. Through an absence of inhibition, it is possible to achieve states of fusion with the surroundings, which is shown as a replica of ourselves.
NOTE: In a western sort of way E. Cayce's discription above as well as the term "fusion with the surroundings" is not exactly the same, but similar in anology to what is called Jijimuge in Zen circles. Jijimuge translates into an unimpeded interdiffusion of all particulars. See also Shojo
The state of trance WITH possession is present in all cultures, in Africa as well as in America, Asia or Europe and Australia. While it is produced, the person stops being himself. He becomes alienated, transformed into something strange. In those states, there is a reduction of the capacity of self-control by the subject. At the same time, his capacity of realizing the external is diminished. For example, the states of trance found in Caribbean voodoo
Healer and Shaman
The healer shows himself as a person capable of treating diseases that are particularly feared by people and for which medicine still does not own the most efficient therapeutic methods.
The healer's activity can be varied and unusual. His connection with his clients is not as tight as the one the Shaman normally has, and he is found more commonly in rural than in urban surroundings.
The Shaman can be considered a type of healer, but not all healers are Shamans.
Wizard and Shaman
They share the following attributes: they produce a feeling of the extra-ordinary, break with life routines and intervene over space and time.
The world of magic has occasionally been characterized by an intensification of activity or by a concrete knowledge obtained through extraordinary measures. It can be classified as an objective if the final results can somehow be quantified, and subjective if the results are imaginary or not comparable. For Nevill Drury, Shamans are the physical and spiritual healers of Aboriginal cultures or the entire world. Wizards are their mirror image in today cultural traditions. The parallels existing between Shamanism and occultism seem obvious.
The wizard we know today through the media (television, movies, circus...)can arouse the same surprise as the Shaman, and perhaps he can trace his origin back to him. However, he lacks the healing projection essential to Shamanism.
Mystic and Shaman
Mystics can be seen as an informal, but defined group of psychologists. They repeatedly experiment with themselves and observe the resulting mental changes. They use singing, music, meditation and other systems in order to travel to particular regions of their mind. And, most important, a world of reference seems to exist in which the common points of these traditions far outweigh the differences. Wich are more superficial than profound or fundamental. (J.H.Clark,1983)
Many investigators, especially anthropologists, understand Shamanism as an archaic magical-religious phenomenon in which the central figure is characterized by being, in words of M. Eliade and Edwards , "master in the art of ecstasy".
Ecstasy is defined as a psychological state characterized by an absorbing feeling of wonder, amazement, bliss and at times alienation.
From a theological point of view, it refers to a "state of union" with God or the divine through contemplation and intimately lived love. And in the external aspect, by a degree of suspension of sensorial activity in relationship to the outer world.
This disconnection can be reached many ways. For example, in the so-called "nectar Meditation" of Buddhism, the meditator brings all his attention to a determined part of the organism, the point of the tongue. As he gradually concentrates on it, he ends up practically submerged in a state of sweetness. Intuitively, through their own experienced practice, the bon Shamans of Tibet discovered this method for focusing attention and modifying consciousness. Today we know, because of the objective data brought through microscopy, that the sensorial terminals capable of feeling the sweet are concentrated in precisely this part of the organ, while the salty, spicy or bitter sensations are concentrated in other parts of the tongue.
The experience of "ecstasy" doesnt imply gain or loss of control. Other states described by mystics as a intuitive knowledge do imply control.
Ecstasy appears at different levels in the person:
In its classification, four mutually excluding categories can be made:
- It is based on a physiological, physical, experience
- It is an emotional state
- It provides a special type of perception, at times described as intuitive
- It is an out of the ordinary state of consciousness, which gives a special dimension tothe other levels.
- Mythic and prophetic ecstasy
- Shaman ecstasy
- Sexual ecstasy
- Ecstasy produced by substances.
Mystic ecstasy deals with the grave, overflowing true presence of the divine. This greatness has been described in a poetic fashion by Saint John of the Cross and Ibn Arabi. From these experiences of submersion into the divine, mystics can sometimes anticipate experiences that are to come. The prophetic activity expands this vision from the future so that the present can be modified and people be prepared.
Shamanic ecstasy is characterized by a therapeutic intention that preceeds trance and that acts as a guideline throughout the experience.
Sexual ecstasy is part of the orgasmic response. During it, there is a modified state of consciousness, at times short, at times of a duration hard to estimate. Tantrism, practiced from the frame of yoga or Buddhism, tries to expand consciousness using the state of alertness and focalization produced during sexual activity through specific techniques. During orgasm, a period with the characteristics of a modified state of consciousness is temporarily induced, with changes in corporal perception, estimation of time and other psychological variables.
Ecstasy produced by substances can present differences depending on their characteristics. The cultural frame, expectations, and way of consumption can profoundly condition experience and what can be learned by it. See Aushadhis as well as Flying Ointments.
M.Harner thinks the term trance can be preferentially used among doctors, while the term "ecstasy is more theological and humanistic, but both mean the same. The moments of entry and exit in them will have the characteristics of a crisis. In colloquial language, the fact of being in trance is identified with being in crisis. In the traditional Chinese context, crisisis means danger and opportunity.
The deep changes produced experiencing the body can be spontaneously be presented when a Near-Death Experience (NDE) is lived. Occasionally, it is a way deliberately used by Shamans and magicians deliberately. These changes can also be produced by music, relaxation, and the use of substances --- for example the "Sorcerer's Brew" Ayahuasca as well as the Native American ritual herb from the desert southwest Sacred Datura and certain mushrooms as for example in the Velada ceremony --- and many other procedures. In international literature, many of these states can be described as an Out of Body Experience (OBE).
The intensification of emotions and global thinking characterize the mystic. It is more appropriate for the Shaman to intensify actions and use defined thinking.(P. Ouspensky, 1944) The production of a direct mystical experience, transforming and personal, is also present, according to R. N. Walsh, in Shamanism. Both experiences can be transmitted badly, and, with time, lose force, turning into empty and routine rituals. In its best meaning, the ritual, like art, is the active culmination of a symbolic transformation of experience.
Many techniques of trance use rituals as gateways at the beginning and the end of the work. In this context, rituals can lose their presence when the subject is too familiarized with the states of trance.
The rituals may serve to diminish anguish towards the unknown or what overwhelms the individual. In the cognitive area, they can enhance the participantsí concentration, modifying attention in the physical area, facilitating relaxation and in the emotional area, modulating anxiety, the sense of loss of control, or the expression of rage.
From the clinical point of view, in the so-called neurosis it is affirmed that the obsessive (repeated thoughts) and compulsive activities (action one sees himself impelled by himself to do repeatedly) are part of the psychological mechanisms that reduce anguish and elude the possibility of a deeper alteration. The rituals bound to order and hygiene, especially present in perfectionists, are systems or mechanisms of defense towards anguish. Not realizing them provokes discomfort, while their practice brings relief.
The transforming power of crisis in general and in particular death is highlighted by mystics and Shamans.
GOALS OF THE SHAMAN
His activity directed towards healing, curing. He seeks to act by himself being a medicine. He develops a relationship of help. At the beginning of any task, he always has a purpose. The situation tends to be seen al a challenge, accompanied by a great motivating power, and, at the same time, a source of inspiration. From a general point of view, his tasks can consist in :
1. Restoring health
5. Improving the relationships of the individual with his group and his surroundings
6. Giving a meaning to what is happening, explaining it or setting it a meaningful way
These types of activities can develop over corporal, emotional, cognitive or social problems. However, what makes the Shaman differ from other helpers is that he uses modified states of consciousness. That is, he deliberately modifies his attention with a specific purpose during his work. During the task, his devotion to it is practically consumate. The capacity of showing selective attention can become absolute.
The Shaman, while intervening over a body or "healing" the interpersonal relationships, will make continuous references to the world of the "spirit" or Shaman state of consciousness, in which his fundamental work takes place.
His interventions can be understood from an analogical perspective at several levels. This happens, for example, in the so-called "sweat-lodge", also known as the ceremony of tamascal. In it, global purification is searched for; corporal, emotional and social.
In some places in Canada like Thunder Bay (Ontario), following the traditions of the local Ojibwey people, this technique is used in the treatment of problems with alcohol and heroin. Both substances can globally psycho-somatic-socially act over the person and it is therefore logical to think integral treatments are more efficient.
For more precision we must distinguish betwen Shaman and Shamanism. All the Shamanís acts arenít necessarily "Shaman." And non-shamanic individuals may use or develop tasks based in these techniques.
Central to Shamanism is the "capacity to enter voluntarily in a modified state of consciousness" (Shaman state of consciousness: SSC) "with a therapeutic purpose, in order to seek knowledge, and once out of this trance, capable of remembering what happened during it."
THE INITIATING JOURNEY
Disease as such is the way to therapeutic knowledge in Shamanism. Any disease and its cure can be understood according to four moments. In order to understand a Shamanís education, it is necessary to develop four steps.
1. THE PREVIOUS SITUATION:
It is the phase in which the "background" is given, the moment in which the appearance of unusual experiences or strange physical signs that give uniqueness to an individual are clear. Periods of solitary reflection may also exist. The search for answers in voluntary isolation has been one of the ways in which humans have re-illuminated or fitted their problems maintaining a knowledge that goes beyond the common. Among North American Indians, it is known as Vision Quest.
2. THE APPEARANCE AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROBLEM:
This second phase may be understood as a call from the "spirits", that can be produced in different ways:
a) The calling of some disease. It is evident that in order to learn something, it is best to work hands-on, practice it, live it intensely or suffer it. In this sense, one of the primordial ways of learning about a problem is having passed through it and having surmounted it. In the concise case of a disease, surmonting it with good results would be one of the principal ways of knowing it and how to manage it. The ex-patients stop being "patients" and turn into experts,with sources of information about a process that has taken them to unusual forms of living. Contact with pain and death are powerful ways of exposure to knowledge or to the necessity to know about critical situations. The shaman has also been defined as the "wounded healer", in the sense that the scars are signals of his transformation in the quest for knowledge to cure.
In this way, the psychoanalyst who passes his own psychoanalysis before beginning to work represents another manifestation for learning. The person who is part of a self-help group shares his experiences and is a first-hand example of this knowledge put to the service of others.
b) The family Shaman calling. The fact of having close-by and accessible models to imitate helps any process of learning. Family transmission would be another of the elemental forms of acquiring knowledge. The place where shamans usually work is normally the place where thet live and where their family or group is. It is a traditional system of transmitting experience, especially in tasks that include craftmanship. This family vocation may follow a female line, like among the Voguls, or male, like with the Ostiacs and Siberian Samoyedans.
c) The calling attributed to the spirits. They are signals with a profound value for a particular individual. Frequently this calling is felt like from "above".
In the Shamanís world, heaven and the mountains represent the superior world, more intellectual and spiritual. What is underwater or underground represents the inferior, more physical world.
The middle world between both is not only the place lived in, but also where the ordinary states of consciousness exist and are given. This calling may be expressed in concise things capable of modifying the everyday world, and can be perceived through dreams, extraordinary happenings or among individual or group problems that need a radical solution.
A calling can be waited for without occurring. In this way, the victorious and popular General Powell said in November 1995 while not presenting himself as a candidate: "The career towards Presidency needs a calling I havenít heard yet."
In many cultures, like Bramanic, Balinese, Indoamerican, etc., the mountain is a special place by analogy, for being in contact with the superior in it most original form (in Baramanic, for example, the holy mountain of Arunachala. There visions can be reached, beneficial realities contacted with, one can know himself better, or find solutions for different problems. The creating power that silence, observation, contemplation have for the philosopher Antonio Escohotado seem to exist here. The generating power of nature as such is the one who makes the "calling", producing a "stop of time" or a "breakup of lifeís routines". (Carlos Castaneda)
Once the person has assumed his implication in the process of help, there is a retreat of previous activity. Now, the subject considers there could be a remedy and he incubates his future activities.
The educated emerging Shaman represents the moment in which the person has turned into a being of knowledge. Someone has gone, returned and is here as a remedy after a profound transformation. The spirit we discover in the great pilgrimages: Mecca, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, Guadalupe and so many other places, consistently shows a personal, profound and enriching transformation for every culture. In order to signify its importance, in some cases, like the Muslim world, the pilgrimís name is changed, another is added.
Knowledge can be considered a goal, a value in itself. It can also be considered that its value acquires a meaning when it is balanced with feelings. For example, Buddhism practiced in Thailand or Sri-Lanka underlined that the evolved person who has returned, is wise, is above all a considered person. This consideration is without a doubt an intellectual value. A subtle distinction between consideration and compassion marks the difference between understanding and helping. The idea of help begins with the compassion cultivated in Tibetan lamaist Buddhism. The individual "realized" in the mystic sense, who is indifferent to living and dying care to live or not, decides for the former because of the compassion sentient beings arouse in him. In other types of Buddhism, like the one practiced in Thailand, a higher value is given to consideration than compassion. This implies that more importance is given to intellectual values (understanding, considering) than to emotional values (pitying).
According to the human groups, his evolution throughout time and reflection about disease given in them, the process of transforming into a Shaman can present differences. These are always more superficial than profound, and more quantitative than qualitative. In this way, for example, a greater number of steps or significant moments can be recognized in this process of learning. (See the distinction of J. Matthews about Celtic shamanism , p. 446 and ff.).
The Shamans systematic reflection about himself is a recent phenomenon in the development of this type of practices.
The activity that characterizes the Shaman arises from an impulse, not necessarily reflexive, towards help. Together with it, a progressive accumulated experience will give him a meaning of wisdom and of the roles to be developed. Life as such and its difficulties contribute to the fact the Shaman doesnít give himself excessive importance, although he may have it in a relative way. It is unimportant because his force against nature is relative and he knows it. At the same time, he is capable of recognizing things others ignore and whose application in times of crisis may be very necessary.
If we affirm the size of a man can be measured by the size of the things that enrage him, the Shaman is a great man because he is capable of confronting the spirits, the forces of nature.
Knowledge and the relationship of help can allow him to believe himself a higher or proud being. However, not giving himself importance will allow him to act more efficiently or purely (C. Castaneda, 1975). The definition Louise Hay makes from the context of neo-shamanism about herself and about her work may be understood in this sense:
I am not a healer. I donít heal anyone. The concept I have of myself is that of a step in the path of self-discovery. I believe in a space where people can learn how incredibly marvelous they are, helping them love themselves.
The encounters with ones own and others adversity are stimulating and educate his sensibility. For Amber Wolfe, curing is in itself self-curing. In this sense, what could be the Shamans essence, curing, is understood as the capacity of making or facilitating others cure themselves. She considers herself a ìCatalystî (term used in chemistry for defining a substance that facilitates reactions of transformation that without its presence would be more difficult or slower).
Confrontation with the extreme and profound, with disease, fear and death, with torment and ecstasy are capable of turning the Shaman into a brave being and at the sane time help him to lose his own importance (C. Castaneda, 1975î. Narcissism is a bad ally of persons of knowledge in that it represents not being capable of seeing reality with the eyes and feelings of others. The sense of humor is at times a good thermometer for seeing if the person is beyond himself. In Alvaro Estradaís book Vida de MarÌa Sabino, la sabia de los hongos, this form of living is very clearly revealed to us.
As a matter of fact, Pride, Fear, Power and Death are the Shamanís natural enemies. At the same time, they are a challenge he must overcome until his last dance with death (Carlos Castaneda 1979).
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