The Academic Question of Shamanic Studies

To: soc.religion.shamanism
From: deane[at]netcom[dot]com (Dean Edwards)
Subject: Re: The Academic Question of Shamanic Studies
Date: 16 Nov 1994 06:49:52 GMT

…Each person has their own experience. This is a combination of our outer and inner lives. Without an inner life, a shaman cannot develop the personal tools necessary to function for anyone. The inner journey and the outer journey become complementary aspects. Each have their own value and usefulness. The act of connecting the inner with the outer existence is a personal thing. Sometimes it may also be done within a group, sometimes not. Such things are usually held sacred and close.

Among many Siberian people’s there is a keen appreciation for the symbolic significance of the pole star which they see in the night sky. All other objects in the heavens move around this central star, Polaris. It is often called ‘the nail (peg) in the sky.’ It connects the heavens to the earth via a great cosmic pillar. (This pillar shows up prominently in many traditions, including the Celtic.) The pillar (or column) is a musical expression of light. It is sometimes called the axis-mundi here in the west.

Actual initiation, in the sense in which I am speaking here, is well represented by the cosmic/world pillar connecting earth and the heavens. It is an inner spiritual event. It also, in my experience, has an outer component. An initiation (or for that matter, any inner experience), IMHO, is made whole by grounding it in all aspects of being, including the physical. What an outer initiator can do is to assist in the process of grounding the experience in the physical and perhaps also in the other aspects of emotion, heart, mind and spirit.

…A shaman engages in the exploration and development of their own initiation and experience. There are also a whole lot of cultural variables. Most of the real training that a shaman experiences seems to occur inwardly and not outwardly. Applying what has been learned is another broad topic in itself. A shaman engages in the practice of being a shaman. This goes beyond desire, feeling or ritual.

…There is, it would seem, a distance that must be crossed between the Call and the actual practice. In the Shamanism-General Overview I use a lot of qualifying words such as usually and often. There are no hard and fast delineations here. This is why we cannot specify exactly when the line between recognizing a possibility and being able to put life into it and practice it is crossed. This is an individual experience. It can have significant ramifications for those who work with, interact with or come to a shaman, but the one who is doing the work is the shaman. Much of this is personal and involves self development. Even in these quiet ways, a shaman can affect the community in which they live. The recognition of this seems to often lead to more obvious methods of interacting with those around her/him.

There is an old street expression, “You can talk the talk, can you walk the walk?” A shaman may or may not talk much, but walks, swims, flies and moves beyond the ken of the mundane. Personal experience varies considerably, but a shaman does indeed put into practice a process of inner and outer life we more generally refer to as shamanism.


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