Talk of mysteries ! Think of our life in nature – daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it – rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks ! the solid earth! the actual world ! the common sense ! Contact ! Contact ! Who are we ? Where are we ?
~ Henry David Thoreau
If the human race survives, future men will, I suspect, look back on our enlightened epoch as a veritable Age of Darkness… They will see that what was considered ‘schizophrenic’ was one of the forms in which, often through quite ordinary people, the light began to break into our all-too-closed minds.
~ Dr. R.D. Laing
Anouar Brahem – Conte De L’Incroyable Amour
Today, we have Naming of Parts…
No, today we have Madness.
Which in your case you have not got.
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.
Are you feeling the madness today ?
I suppose if I were a French professor of philosophy or a professor of English at Cambridge I would now proceed with a florid exposition as to whether flies can be mad or how chairs tolerate their sanity, which I would then deliver at some gathering of the learned, a symposium, ‘Digressions, divergence and episteme : The chair as symbolic of a social vector for revolutionary ardour amongst the marginalised and disenfranchised’. Publish on the internet as an example of my sophistication, eloquence and credibility.
But I am merely ulvfugl, so I do not carry the weighty burden of scholarship and academic repute. I do not need to impress colleagues or add to my reputation with a view to promotion and advancement.
I can rip the sheets from the bed, I can slice the towel into strips with the bread knife, I can pull the copper wire from the telephone cable, I can daub myself with mud from the pond, I can weave it all together into a garment fit for the Queen of May Herself, knot and knit myself wings, put on with a crown made of a garden rake and fly through the streets at 2 a.m. in the morning, hooting like an owl….
I am the notorious, most magnificent ulvfugl ! Master of Things ! Accomplisher ! I can call the wild foxes. How many of you people with fifteen letters after your name and medals on your chests can do that ? And the wild rabbits. Although not at the same time.
How can anyone who is not mad understand what it is to be mad, I ask myself ? Who is to judge ?
All those who are setting themselves up to define madness, are certainly very clear about one thing. That thing being that their own sanity is not at all in doubt.
But this is a rather contentious area, I think. When you look at the definitions, for example.
Psychosis, sometimes defined as ‘loss of contact with reality’. By which ‘they’, mean ‘their’ consensus reality. Typically, the dreary, tedious, mechanistic, ‘I think therefore I am’, Cartesian materialist bullshit epistemology that has been proved to be wrong since at least the 1920s. They are not just Generals fighting the last war, the are still fighting the one before that. They never even heard of Thomas S. Kuhn yet.
Pardon me, but, for fuck’s sake, all this amounts to is that one guy who is crazy points at another guy who is crazy and says ‘You are crazy !’ And then the other guy says ‘No, I’m not, you are !’
But if you are out numbered, and there’s more of them, and they all say it’s YOU that’s crazy, then that’s the majority view, that’s the consensus reality, you’re on your own pal, you’re the one who is insane. Outvoted.
And if the other guy is a psychiatrist in a white coat with fifteen letters after his name, then he counts for about a hundred thousand ordinary folk, (and receives the pay of at least 10), and if he says reality is THIS, and you say no it ISN’T, then YOU are in trouble.
Well, I am exaggerating for effect. But I have dug through all the philosophy and the physics and I know damn well that nobody knows what ‘reality’ is, or how to define it, and any ‘consensus’ is questionable. And to a large degree, what this whole ‘madness’ thing is about is social control, and power, and what sort of behaviour is acceptable to those who are in power and set the standards that they decide they would like to see.
Sane = Normal, and Normal = Like Them.
But who are they ? And are they sane ?
Because, from MY perspective, it looks to ME, as if they are barking friggin’ bonkers.
Dangerously so. Only they cannot see it. Because they live in their ‘consensus reality’.
I’m not saying that some people don’t suffer from mental illness, that some people don’t get their heads all screwed up, they do; that some people need professional help. I’m not saying that crazy people are not crazy.
What I’m trying to say is that this is a very difficult area, and that the line, so to speak, the definition, as to what is ‘sanity’, ‘insanity’, is, is a battleground.
Overall, the destruction of the biosphere, the pollution of the oceans, the extinction of species, all the rest, infinite growth on a finite planet, is totally insane. We are all caught up in insanity and co-operating and perpetuating the madness, destroying the only place where we and our children can live. The people who are causing all this are all considered mainstream SANE, regular tip top mentally healthy.
Can I rescue anyone from that insanity ? Can I rescue myself from that madness ?
It would be nice to think so, it would be nice if I could. Does any such possibility exist ?
There are hurt, damaged, traumatised, confused people everywhere, there are abused and abusing people everywhere, the whole system is the legacy of centuries of ghastliness… the nightmare of history… the system, the culture, the Machine, imposes itself, demands, insists, compels, coerces, almost nobody escapes…. It takes the children’s minds and colonises them, parasitises them, displaces whomever that human might have been and makes them into a product, a commodity, a victim, a servant, a minion, a cog in the Machine.
But must we submit, must we resign ourselves, must we accept, must we comply ?
Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.”
I sat awhile in perfect silence, rallying my stunned faculties. Immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me, or Bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning. I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could assume. But in quite as clear a one came the previous reply, “I would prefer not to.”
“Prefer not to,” echoed I, rising in high excitement, and crossing the room with a stride. “What do you mean? Are you moon-struck? I want you to help me compare this sheet here—take it,” and I thrust it towards him.
“I would prefer not to,” said he.
I looked at him steadfastly. His face was leanly composed; his gray eye dimly calm.
Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. Had there been the least uneasiness, anger, impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been any thing ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises. But as it was, I should have as soon thought of turning my pale plaster-of-paris bust of Cicero out of doors. I stood gazing at him awhile, as he went on with his own writing, and then reseated myself at my desk. This is very strange, thought I. What had one best do?
There’s lots of kinds of madness. There’s certainly some people who should not be allowed freedom, they are dangerous. You know, the ones who enjoy fantasies about sawing peoples heads off for fun and then go out and do it. I find it difficult to find a good argument against putting a bullet in them and an end to that problem. I don’t see it making a lot of sense to keep them locked up for decades when there are so many other urgent problems that need attention. That’s a luxury we maybe cannot afford.
Then there’s people who get overly sad and despair, people who get broken and need some love and fixing. Well, that’s easy. You form a chain. The super-hero, who is full of power, fixes the next person he or she meets and explains how it’s done, so they can fix the next one, and pass on the trick, and everybody keeps on fixing everybody…
For free. So long as you don’t make it into a religion or charge a membership or some other exclusive crap that makes it into yet another corporate marketing opportunity.
Havn’t we got enough damn gurus and pyramid schemes already, selling books and dvds. Eckehart Tollies and Ken Wilberries.
Seems everybody wants someone to cling onto. How about learning to stand up on your own ? Find your own real non-domesticated, non-broken, being…
Okay, people wobble and fall over. Like little children crawling, learning to stand.
Jesus had to do it, Buddha had to do it, everybody has to do it. It’s interesting. You watch yourself. You get bruises. We are humans. This is our journey, we learn, it hurts.
I say our journey. But is that true ? That’s part of the problem, isn’t it. Most of you don’t like doing it on your own. You want to hide in a club, a herd, a flock…
Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”
At the moment the gate to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gate into the inside. When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try it in spite of my prohibition. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other. I can’t endure even one glimpse of the third.”
The man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black Tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside. The gatekeeper gives him a stool and allows him to sit down at the side in front of the gate.
There he sits for days and years. He makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests. The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things, but they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet.
The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper. The latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, “I am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.”
During the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously. He forgets the other gatekeepers, and this one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the law. He curses the unlucky circumstance, in the first years thoughtlessly and out loud, later, as he grows old, he still mumbles to himself. He becomes childish and, since in the long years studying the gatekeeper he has come to know the fleas in his fur collar, he even asks the fleas to help him persuade the gatekeeper.
Finally his eyesight grows weak, and he does not know whether things are really darker around him or whether his eyes are merely deceiving him. But he recognizes now in the darkness an illumination which breaks inextinguishably out of the gateway to the law. Now he no longer has much time to live. Before his death he gathers in his head all his experiences of the entire time up into one question which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper.
He waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body. The gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the great difference has changed things to the disadvantage of the man. “What do you still want to know, then?” asks the gatekeeper. “You are insatiable.” “Everyone strives after the law,” says the man, “so how is that in these many years no one except me has requested entry?”
The gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and, in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it.”
~ Franz Kafka, Before the Law, translated by Ian Johnston.
You see, if you can stand up on your own, you can feel a bit proud of yourself, a bit of self-esteem, which helps. Something to build on.
I have to admit that this stuff I’m into is not for everybody. Most people will think I am extremely odd and eccentric. But I can’t help that, can I. I am a shaman, of a sort. Even worse than that. A shaman without a fucking tradition to maintain. In a culture and soceity which has no idea at all about anything to do with anything that shamanism is about, or for that matter, mostly, what anything spiritual is about. It’s a hard road.
So my choice has always been, to betray my true self by compromising and trying to fit the soceity, or be true to my real self and have a tough life out on the edge. Over the edge, ahahaha. Well, I survived, and not only that, I found I liked it. But I’m ulvfugl. You’re you. You have to choose your own way.
The evolutionary psychologists say that for a social primate the worst fate is banishment from the tribe, because it means death, and the instinctive pressures upon the psyche that result from isolation cause all kinds of horrendous mental problems, the Temptations of St Anthony sort of thing. What a wimp he was.
But I think this is just more unsubstantiated junk science from those people. Anyway, shamans welcome anything that breaks the bubble, that opens the doors of perception.
I love the solitude, the being faraway from everyone. Treasures are everywhere.
I’m talking about Britain now, because I don’t know other cultures well enough. The way it works is that there is pressure to regulate and discipline the populace to conform and comply with ‘the agenda’, which is capitalist, materialist, nationalist, etc. Following the generally agreed mythology.
Of course, there’s plenty of disagreement, the brackets are quite widely spaced, the agenda is vague, always in flux, it’s the tv, the papers, the gossip, the mood, the popular idea as to what the country ‘stands for’, what it’s history was, how it sees itself and other nations and so on.
It’s mostly all rubbish, in that none of it actually accurate or based upon anything solid and factual. But that doesn’t really matter. The majority float along through time inside this sort of bubble of what they think is ‘real’, ‘the world’. For them, it is the world.
So, when someone steps outside, or falls outside, those brackets, then it seems to them and to others, perhaps, almost inevitably, that they are ‘going crazy’. Insecure.
But this is cultural. This is relative. Anthropologists know and understand this. If you lived in an Amazon tribe which modelled it’s behaviour on that of wasps and ants, or one where the whole tribe gets together each morning to spend an hour discussing their dreams, then how would you ‘fit in’ ? Or in India, which has the brackets a lot further apart.
The way I see this, looking from the top down, the elite see the country very much as a slave plantation, or a farm, or a factory, it’s UK plc, after all, it’s run as a business, for a profit for them. It’s the remnant core that’s left after the greatest Empire this Earth has ever seen, built by blood and plunder, got downsized.
It’s never clear where you are in history until afterwards, when you can look back and see the patterns in context. So we don’t really know now, how this thing is unfolding.
But looking back, I see the madness label and the stigma attached as a stick to keep people confined within the brackets, to keep the herd on the track.
The Western scientific materialist Cartesian paradigm demands that ‘reality’ be understood in a certain way, and that the mind, body, and all related matters be understood in a certain way. Any other way is to be deemed pathological, an aberration.
This paradigm is closely tied to the capitalist view of the world, where everything is viewed as a commodity, a resource, with a market price, to be exploited.
It’s necessary to discipline the populace, because they are seen as the ‘work force’.
They are not, primarily, human beings, at all. They are labour, workers, consumers, breeders.
So, from the elite perspective, you don’t want them thinking outside the brackets, so to speak. But you don’t want to use overt or obvious means to control them either, because any crude repressive measures only engender troublesome reactions. I mean, there are still vague echoes of resentment about massacres by the dragoons and transportation to Australia and that sort of thing. Not to mention the Miner’s Strike.
Much better to use soft, subtle coercion. If someone doesn’t like being turned into a fucking zombie to suit the Machine, well, it’s because they are suffering from an illness.
America, with the backing of Big Pharma, which I gather employs three lobbyists for every one member of Congress, has turned this into a fine art.
I don’t see that battle being won, I mean changing British or American culture, turning it right around, but it’s worth understanding something about this, because under a different paradigm crazy states are not seen as pathological, and something to be stigmatised. That’s what the State, the elite, is afraid of. That’s why there’s so much hostile propaganda directed towards these ideas, and the people who advance them.
Wikiquote, Karl Rove:
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” He continued “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
I see this as roughly parallel to, for example, the idea of Conspiracy Theories, which was invented by the CIA as a way to discredit anyone who questioned the official Warren Commission version of the Kennedy Assassination. It’s been used ever since as a means of pitting a question mark over the sanity of anyone who the mainstream wants to define as being outside the brackets of what is approved as acceptable.
Believe your lying eyes ? What’s the matter with you ? You must be some kind of conspiracy nut.
Use of psychiatry as a political weapon was very blatant and clear during the Soviet era, from the external UK perspective, but it’s always much more difficult to see what’s under your own nose, so to speak. Of course, this isn’t necessarily consciously thought out and considered policy. It’s just the way tribes and ideologies work. The Catholic Inquisition, for example.
People get to feel fearful and insecure, the elite need tools, levers, to justify whatever their aims are. Paranoia feeds on itself. What the elite fear most are ideas that might spread through the slave plantation and cause a rebellion, some sort of uprising or insurrection that would get out of control and sweep away their privileges, their lives.
So that’s why the pyramid of power and control has to remain watchful with all it’s spies and covert agencies, infiltrating, monitoring, always suspicious of anything they do not understand. And because they are essentially mediocre, ignorant, clod-hopping numb skulls, what they don’t understand, it seems, is almost everything. Enough of them.
There’s another way to view all this. If you loosen the brackets, then what ?
This is what happens, sort of, when the rabble go on holiday. It used to be the progeny of the aristocracy doing the Grand Tour of Europe, even getting to exotic places like Istanbul and Egypt. Then it was the mill workers going to Blackpool and Londoners going to Brighton, and then the hippie trail to Morocco and India, raves at Goa, Glastonbury Festival with drugs, weekend flights to Thailand and trekking in Peru and Nepal.
People who have tried ecstasy, ketamine, LSD, hashish, opium, ahayuasca, mescaline, mushrooms, salvia, peyote, a score or other substances and found that far from instant death or addiction, they found amazing and enriching experiences, realise that like most everything else the mainstream media tells us, the official story on drugs is wrong.
And just like anything else, when someone tries to put it right, like Professor David Nutt, there is a massive reaction, an avalanche of character assassination and outrage.
That’s always the case. That’s how the Machine works. Anyone who refuses to accept the lies and says so in public gets bullied and beaten up, as an example. If it’s a really bad case, they may be killed, or stitched up with some dirty trick.
If you’re an anonymous nobody, then it doesn’t matter, because nobody will listen to you anyway, you can easily be dismissed as a conspiracy theorist, a crank, someone with ‘a history of mental problems’, or ‘an extremist’, or any other label which puts you off limits, in some fringe group or cult, some nasty bunch of weirdos that nobody would want to be associated with.
What the elite want is docile obedient 9-5 workers who will perform their duties and and keep sending the taxes up the pyramid to the top, so that those guys have plenty of cash to play with. To do whatever they want. So don’t cause them trouble, because if you do, you’ll be in trouble.
And, to be fair, for many UK folk, this has worked out very well. They got as close to utopia as anyone has ever done. Nice houses, nice gardens, good health care, buses and trains that ran on time, nice food in the shops, clean streets without any dead bodies on the pavements…
But that was because the elite sussed that it was a good idea to make everyone feel middle class and bourgeois, then they wouldn’t riot. So all the really dirty jobs, that nasty bloody cruel filthy stuff got sent overseas. Out of sight, out of mind.
Anyway, there are many ways that the mainstream dominant culture can resist the intrusion of change or radical ideas that it doesn’t like, for example, the ideas ofMary Wollstonecraft, which can be followed for a century and more, until eventually women are given the right to vote, and then the various struggles of feminists up until the present time.
Anybody who stands up and says they want to change things gets ignored, that’s the first and most effective response, pretending you don’t even exist. Then vilification and threats and being labelled as a ‘conspiracy theorist’, ‘well known extremist’, ‘known criminal’ or perhaps scariest of all, ‘paranoid schizophrenic’.
I mean, who in their right mind is going to take the side of a paranoid schizophrenic ? You might as well say he or she is potentially a mad axe murderer, with a swastika tattoo on their forehead who strangles kittens with piano wire. That’s the sub-text in the popular press. A hyped up demonisation to scapegoat and stereotype some vulnerable people who cannot answer back, who are probably the least likely section of the population anyone needs to be afraid of.
So, today we have madness….
This is where it gets more interesting….
There’s a man called Joseph Polimeni, a psychiatrist, who has worked out an original theory about schizophrenia. It makes a plausible link between schizophrenia and the role of the shaman in pre-modern soceities. I think there’s a lot of speculative junk there as well, and some ludicrous commentary on Bob Dylan and the Beatles says a lot about where the man stands as an intellectual. Some of what he says is just silly rubbish, imo.
He’s got one interesting point, all the rest is padding to fill up chapters so it’ll make a book.
But he’s up too close to his material, he does not see what he’s got there.
He’s looking out from within the dominant Western mainstream medical paradigm, which sits within the general materialist Cartesian scientific paradigm of reality and ‘the world’, particularly the American/Canadian worldview, and so he is unable to draw the obvious and inevitable conclusion, that is staring him in the face.
The INSANE culture is his own.
This materialist, scientific culture, that developed since Descartes, since the Enlightenment, or since Thales, if you like, is the only one ever known to see ‘hallucinations’ as pathology, as disease, the only one ever known where people actually deny the existence of any inner spiritual world.
And, it is the one which is destroying the only place in the Universe where we humans can live.
I mean, none of the shamanistic cultures are doing that.
Instead of listening to the shamanic voice, the dominant modernist Cartesian capitalist culture says STFU and blasts the poor unfortunate individuals with all kinds of horrible noxious chemicals and electro-shock treatments and social stigma to ensure they don’t impede the rape and pillage and destruction of the natural world.
That’s what the label schizophrenia is about !
If you have been taught at school, by parents, peers, tv, soceity, that all that exists is the visible, the tangible, the tactile, the edible, the material, out there, and that science then reveals deeper truths, by way of microscopes and telescopes and mathematical equations, that there are atoms and bacteria and everything started from a Big Bang, and that is how things are, then that’s your worldview, your belief system.
If you choose to train as a doctor and a psychiatrist, and the teaching states the orthodox dogma, that certain conditions are to be regarded as delusions, hallucinations, disjointed thinking, psychosis, pathology, etc, requiring treatment, typically following a somatic mechanistic model of disease with a physical chemical basis, possibly needing removal from soceity, confinement as in a prison or ward, to change behaviour, to adjust the person so that they conform to some other standard of behaviour, to cure them of their disease.
This person, this psychiatrist, self-proclaimed atheist, is never going to take seriously any unusual experience of the sort that indicates a reality beyond the tangible. For him, he only know what his gross senses reveal to him of the outer world, that’s all he has ever known. So that’s all that there is.
He has to dismiss as incredible that there is an Otherworld, a mystical reality, a paranormal domain. The poor ‘patient’, who does not understand what they have stumbled into, because they have no trained or experienced guide to assist them, gets told that they are suffering from a psychotic episode, which doesn’t help them at all.
So the whole meeting of psychiatrist and schizophrenic is basically a total fuck up.
In a completely different context, the person having the ‘psychotic episode’ could be told ‘Wow, you’re so lucky ! This is really great, what this means is that….’
Because if the Polimeni theory is partly correct, we need these people.
Perhaps, ideally, a young person having a so-called psychotic experience would be taken to an experienced shaman who would say ‘Oh yes, what you experience is what we believe to be such and and such, and we think it means such and such, that’s what we call in the Otherworld such and such, in on our tradition, we map it in such and such a way, this is the structure we found, we find this is the best way to understand it, and we believe it means you should do this and this…’
And for two or three or four weeks, the two of them would share a journey traversing the mysteries and then re-emerge and the young person would be entirely transformed and a much deeper and stronger person.
But that’s never going to happen, because the whole model of ‘mental illness’ has been captured by Big Pharma and the medical profession and the universities and training hospitals are all indoctrinated with the same basic paradigm as the rest of culture, all the basic myths re ‘progress’, etc, which are killing us all.
Possibly the best you can hope for is a Jungian type of therapist, which I’d consider the least bad of what’s on offer, or in the UK Rufus May and those folk seem great.
My personal experience
I trained as a psychologist in the 1990s keen to promote psychological approaches to experiences that are labelled psychosis and in particular what is termed “delusional thinking”. I prefer to use terms like unusual beliefs, paranoia and alternative realities because they are terms people find less judgemental.
I felt sure that if we really listened to people and helped them find activities where they would feel valued, both their unusual beliefs would be shown to have a logic to them, and people would be more likely to find ways to connect with others and recover a valued life. This was influenced by my own experience of psychosis when I was eighteen years old. I had witnessed and experienced how institutions and social isolation did a lot more damage than unusual beliefs that were seen by professionals as ‘delusions’.
Unusual beliefs are meaningful and symbolic, they are not merely the bizarre mis-firings of a faulty brain
I became fascinated with unusual or psychotic beliefs after my experiences as an eighteen year old where I became convinced that I was a spy for the British (working against the Russians) and that I was involved in a battle between good and evil. The psychiatric treatment I experienced was unhelpful, in that it focused on the form of my confusion but not the content. I was diagnosed with Hebrephrenic schizophrenia, hospitalised several times and put on a long-term neuroleptic drug regime.
It always seemed to me that my beliefs were meaningful and possessed an internal logic and had they been listened to sympathetically, this would have been the greatest aid to recovery. Looking back this time period was one of emotional complexity. My first girlfriend had left me and this culminated in a great deal of grief. This, in turn, related to unresolved feelings concerning my mother’s illness when I was eleven: my mother had had a brain haemorrhage and an operation that had resulted in physical and mental disability. I believe that I experienced emotional problems after this time, which I had buried and that were only re-awoken when my relationship with my first girlfriend broke up.
Plato wrote in his Phaedrus that the ‘first prophecies were the words of an oak’, and that those who lived at that time found it rewarding enough to ‘listen to an oak or a stone, so long as it was telling the truth’.
My thesis is that the fundamental reason why we are destroying the biosphere and causing our own extinction is that we stopped listening. Long ago we were embedded into the natural ecology like all the other life forms.
We had tribal soceities and the job of the shaman was to keep the culture in tune with the rest of life. This probably wasn’t a perfect system, it was probably messy and imperfect.
Daniel Quinn gives his interesting observations here
But then we stopped listening.
We became arrogant, self-centred and filled with hubris. If you don’t believe this, just consider your own response to listening to oaks and stones telling the truth.
I bet you think this is superstition, childish nonsense, fanciful, absurd, primitive. Rational grown up people don’t believe that sort of silly stuff, do they.
That is the problem, isn’t it, right there.
You see, there’s nothing rational, or reasonable, or logical, about the fact that we exist. Or that there is a Universe and that we are here. It’s all totally ridiculous and absurd and mysterious.
There was an Enlightenment project that thought that Reason and Logic could pin everything down and that somehow, eventually, all our questions would be answered tidily.
But look what actually happened. It has been a failure. It did not work.
As always, everybody just carries on as if nothing had happened. This is because most of them are too stupid to understand the significance and anyway, they have a vested interest in the status quo. Yeah, we know, but please don’t tell us. That’s why they hate Sheldrake, because he reminds them of the pretence and the lies and the fakery that’s been going on. The Constants that are not constant. Hahahahaha.
In his Institutio Oratoria the Roman rhetorician Quintilian says : ‘What the Greeks call phantasiai we call visiones, imaginative visions through which the images of absent things are represented in the soul in such a way that we seem to discern them with our eyes and have them present before us’.
If I want to draw or paint a representation of, say, a horse, I close my eyes and imagine in my mind’s eye, a horse.
I don’t just see one horse, I can see hundreds, if I wish, I can spend an hour, more, horses I’ve seen in my life in fields, in pictures by artists.
I was surprised to learn many years ago, that not everyone can do this. I’d assumed it was just a normal faculty like taste and hearing.
So this is fairly straight forward. It’s just an ability that artists have to visualise mental imagery, and it’s under the control of conscious will. If I want to see a bird, then I switch to seeing birds or boats or castles or anything else.
But then, the shamanic part is quite different, it has the same clear visual content, but the willing is not involved. It’s done in a sleeping or semi-sleeping trance sort of state, and the visualising ‘space’ is opened, and then, as in dreaming, whatever enters does so of its own accord.
So then, this would be what I now call ‘non-physical realities’. Other people have many different names for whatever these phenomena are. What can happen, is, like lucid dreaming, like watching a movie, a story unfolds, in which I myself am in some sense a participant or an observer, or possibly in several roles simultaneously. None of it follows the rules or logic of the ‘real’ external tangible world.
So, as I’ve mentioned, because of my CH affliction, I’ve been exploring this stuff for most of my life. I don’t need any more to enter a trance or sleep state. I can switch in and out, any time. Like checking my email, hahahaha.
The stupidity, bigotry, ignorance, prejudice, from the scientific community regarding all this is infuriating. They are incapable of even conducting an intelligent adult discussion, because they feel so threatened, terrified, by even the slightest possibility that their basic assumptions could be wrong, that they are instantly in panic mode.
Impossible ! they shriek.
Anyway, lets see if we can make a little progress here.
Artists down through the history of art have drawn from this source as an inspiration for creative works.
Story tellers have passed on the myths in all the cultures of the peoples of the world. And again, artists have illustrated those stories, in paintings, designs, carvings, sculptures.
And then we have this phenomena called by the Western medical model schizophrenia, a psychotic episode, a disease, a pathology. But which, in other cultures, other times and places, has been viewed very differently, not in this negative way.
So, the late Joseph Campbell is quite well known, having been a leading expert on comparative mythology. In 1968 he was invited to give a lecture on schizophrenia.
He replied that he knew nothing about it. So he was then given accounts of the experiences of schizophrenics by Dr John Weir Perry, and was amazed to learn how they appeared to correspond with his insights into the meanings embedded in myths.
The shaman is a person (either male or female) who in early adolescence underwent a severe psychological crisis, such as today would be called a psychosis. Normally the child’s apprehensive family sends for an elder shaman to bring the youngster out of it, and by appropriate measures, songs, and exercises, this experienced practitioner succeeds.
As Dr. Silverman remarks and demonstrates in his paper, “In primitive cultures in which such a unique life crisis resolution is tolerated, the abnormal experience (shamanism) is typically beneficial to the individual, cognitively and affectively; he is regarded as one with expanded consciousness.”
Whereas, on the contrary, in such a rationally ordered culture as our own – or, to phrase the proposition again in Dr. Silverman’s words, “in a culture that does not provide referential guides for comprehending this kind of crisis experience, the individual (schizophrenic) typically undergoes an intensification of his suffering over and above his original anxieties.”
“Can we not see,” remarks Dr. Laing in his commentary on the whole experience, “that this voyage is not what we need to be cured of, but that it is itself a natural way of healing our own appalling state of alienation called normality ?”
This was all known more than forty years ago ! So Polimeni’s ‘news’ is ancient history.
But as usual, nobody has learned anything, have they.
Anyway, we start to see here, a linkage between the culture, and our stories, and how we construct meaning, our beliefs about what we are and where we are and why we are, and our own personal inner world.
As I am seeing it, this supports my thesis that what went wrong, so to speak, why we are destroying the biosphere and our own future, is that we stopped listening. That is the tribal peoples all had their shamans who did their listening for them. The modern dominant culture broke that link.
It’s not the old pre-modern pre-Conquest (Sorenson) peoples who are the problem. It’s the industrial civilisation of the rational reasonable logical Enlightenment culture, the Western Judaeo-Christian culture that developed capitalism over the last two centuries and exported it around the planet at an exponential pace, the culture that has the Cartesian Paradigm of reality as its worldview.
We can split those two – the Judaeo-Christian and the scientific atheist materialist – into separate, indeed, hostile, strands. But, in practice, from nature’s perspective, they are equally disastrous.
The Christian lot have sent their Creator God far away into some abstract Heaven, leaving the Creation, this world, unsanctified and unprotected, subjected to the Dominion of the Stewards who can do whatever they want to do.
And for the materialist Cartesian, Newtonian scientists, it’s all just meaningless dead stuff.
So the businessmen rub their hands with glee and turn everything into money as fast as they can. And there is nothing to stop them.
And if some teenager feels, deep inside themselves, that somehow, there’s something wrong, that all the shallow, absurd, fake, rubbish, the billboards and adverts, the lies from the politicians, the ‘entertainment’, the… well, everything… and they have some kind of internal eruption, they cannot contain the conflicts and tensions, and they crack up, then they are seen as being sick, ill, wrong, in need of treatment…and then the treatment inflicts even greater suffering and confusion and exacerbates the misery.
Whereas, the truth of this situation is that animals – because that is what we are, sophisticated, complicated, marvellous – are being grossly abused, forced into conditions that are not appropriate to their basic nature. Because it suits some people to do things this way.
Unfortunately, tragically, everything is fucked up, and I see no prospect of things getting unfucked up, we seem to be plunging headlong into fascist dystopias, so the only option is for people to save themselves, because there’s nobody going to be able to do it for them, even of they want to. Sort of DIY shamanic healing, I suppose. That’s a fairly tall order, fraught with all kinds of difficulties and dangers. Learn how to shapeshift.
You know, turn into a slug and then back again. Don’t forget the second part, you don’t really want to get stuck, even though they are cool, in their way. Takes practice.
People usually lose their way, get stuck in alcohol or drugs or some group of crazy people or whatever, it’s very hard to find the right thing that suits you. Anyway, good luck. I’m weary. I must sleep now.