Date: Thu 21 Nov 1991 - 09:56:33 EET
Shamanism-General Overview-Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
This is the unedited FAQ document as available on the Usenet newsgroup soc.religion.shamanism. I will conclude volume 9 here, and will start volume 10 now.
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From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dean Edwards)
Subject: Shamanism-General Overview-Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Message-ID: <deaneCEstv1.4vF@netcom.com> Followup-To: email@example.com
Summary: This FAQ conatains a general overview on shamanism. It should be read by anyone interested in understanding the what is meant by shamanism and what differentiates shamanism form other forms of ecstatic experience
Keywords: shamanism, spirit, anthropology, ethnology, oobe, dreams Organization: NETCOM On-line Communication Services (408 241-9760 guest) Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1993 19:23:24 GMT
Last-modified: 27 September 1993
NOTE: The following general overview of shamanism is not intended to be the last word or the definitive work on this subject. Rather it is, as its title implies, intended to provide the participant or reader with a set of guidelines that will familiarize them with the general use of the terms shamanism, shaman and shamanic in the trends, study and practice of historic, traditional and contemporary shamanic experience. Pleae send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org (Dean Edwards).
Shamanism-General Overview-Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
(c September, 1993 by Dean Edwards)
This FAQ shall be posted monthly and is maintained by Dean Edwards
(email@example.com). It is intended for the private non-commercial use
of Usenet users.
Table of Contents:
From the Greek 'ekstasis', ecstasy literally means to be placed outside, or to be placed.This is a state of exaltation in which a person stands outside of or transcends his or herself. Ecstasy may range from the seizure of the body by a spirit or the seizure of a person by the divine, from the magical transformation or flight of consciousness to psychiatric remedies of distress.
Three types of Ecstasy are specified in the literature on the subject:
1. Shamanic Ecstasy 2. Prophetic Ecstasy 3. Mystical Ecstasy
Shamanic ecstasy is provoked by the ascension of the soul of the shaman into the heavens or its descent into the underworld. These states of ecstatic exaltation are usually achieved after great and strenuous training and initiation, often under distressing circumstances. The resulting contact by the shaman with the higher or lower regions and their inhabitants, and also with nature spirits enables him or her to accomplish such tasks as accompanying the soul of a deceased into its proper place in the next world, affect the well-being of the sick and to convey the story of their inner travels upon their return to the mundane awareness.
The utterances of the shaman are in contrast with those of prophetic and mystical ecstasy. The prophet literally speaks for God, while the mystic reports an overwhelming divine presence. In mysticism, the direct knowledge or experience of the divine ultimate reality, which is perceptible in two ways, emotional and intuitive.
However, it can be argued that, generally speaking, there are three
perceptive levels of ecstasy.
1) The physiological response, in which the mind becomes absorbed in and focused on a dominant idea, the attention is withdrawn and the nervous system itself is in part cut off from physical sensory input. The body exhibits reflex inertia, involuntary nervous responses, frenzy. 2) Emotional perception of ecstasy refers to overwhelming feelings of awe, anxiety, joy, sadness, fear, astonishment, passion, etc. 3) Intuitive perception communicates a direct experience and understanding of the transpersonal experience of expanded states of awareness or consciousness.
While the physiological response is always present, the emotional response may or may not be significant when intuition is the principal means of ecstatic perception. Some have argued that beyond the intuitive state there is a fourth condition in which the holistic perception exceeds mental and emotional limitations and understanding.
The ecstatic experience of the shaman goes beyond a feeling or perception of the sacred, the demonic or of natural spirits. It involves the shaman directly and actively in transcendent realities or lower realms of being.
4. How does one become a shaman?
One becomes a shaman by one of three methods:
a) Hereditary transmission; b) Spontaneous selection or "call" or "election"; c) personal choice and quest. (This latter method is less frequentand traditionally such a shaman is considered less powerful than one selected by one of the two preceding methods.) The shaman is not recognized as legitimate without having undergone two types of training:
5. What is the role of personal trauma or crisis in the selection or
development of a shaman?
A common experience of the call to shamanism is a psychic or spiritual crisis, which often accompanies a physical or even a medical crisis, and is cured by the shaman him or herself. This is a common occurrence for all three types of shamanic candidates described above. The shaman is often marked by eccentric behavior such as periods of melancholy, solitude, visions, singing in his or her sleep, etc. The inability of the traditional remedies to cure the condition of the shamanic candidate and the eventual self cure by the new shaman is a significant episode in development of the shaman. The underlying significant aspect of this experience, when it is present,is the ability of the shaman to manage and resolve periods of distress.
6. Does the presence of an active shamanic tradition necessarily mean that the society itself should be deemed "shamanic"? No, not at all. The presence of shamanism in a nation or a community does not mean that shamanism is central to the spiritual or religious life of the community or region. Shamanism often exists alongside and even in cooperation with the religious or healing practices of the community.
7. What is meant by shamanic ecstasy and what role does it actually play
The ecstatic technique of shamanism does not involve itself in the broad range of ecstasy reported in the history of religion. It is specifically focused on the transpersonal movement of the consciousness of the shaman into higher or lower realms of consciousness and existence. Another aspect of shamanism is that compared to other spiritual traditions, it is a path that the individual walks alone. While much of the focus of shamanic studies has been on the shamanic complexes of north and central Asia, shamanism is a universal phenomenon, not confined to any particular region or culture.
8. What is the origin of the word "shaman"? Shaman comes from the language of the Tungus of North-Central Asia. It came into use in English via Russian.
9. What are the usual roles of a shaman? In contemporary, historical or traditional shamanic practice the shaman may at times fill the role of priest, magician, metaphysician or healer. Personal experience is the prime determinant of the status of a shaman. Knowledge of other realms of being and consciousness and the cosmology of those regions is the basis of the shamanic perspective and power. With this knowledge, the shaman is able to serve as a bridge between the mundane and the higher and lower states The shaman lives at the edge of reality as most people would recognize it and most commonly at the edge of society itself. Few indeed have the stamina to adventure into these realms and endure the outer hardships and personal crises that have been reported by or observed of many shamans.
End of FAQ
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