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Justin Hall
26 February, 1996
Shamanism, Grant


I'm a big fan of "anyone can do it." As a rich white guy who's been given a nice load of everything, I want to share the power. I've been able to make good things happen by believing, and exerting energy, so I'm trying to help other folks to have similar experiences.
Michael Harner seems to be of a similar bent. Having experienced a wonderful world of accessable spirituality, he presents The Way of the Shaman as a democratizing tract - anyone can awaken their inner shaman!

This is an admirable mission, ideally, but it runs into some problems.

sort of reminds me of the Tai Chi class I take somewhere in deep southeastern Pennsylvania. Run by a white guy who underwent a post-60s spiritual transformation to become "Eo Omwake" and now runs a Tai Chi/Karate center in a strip mall in Chadds Ford.

Standing around with middle aged women in turquoise sweat suits and yellow socks, balding overweight white guys flaunting their designer Tai Chi shoes, I'm so glad to be learning something that seems so wise, and at the same time lamenting a loss of context. We hear stuff like, "the monks used to spend two years on this posture alone" and somehow I am to feel empowered - thanks to the wonders of cultural appropriation, Tai Chi's been reduced to a drive-through science? I can buy a video tape and learn it at my own pace, in my own home.

So I run into some of these problems in this book. Democratizing often sacrifices pointed holiness and dignity and purity, in favour of a group joyousness and accessability.

I would say quantity of followers over quality of followers, but perhaps it's not a lesser quality, but a different one.

This would not be so bad were not the accessable spirit somewhat compromised within the book. While we can all do it, Michael Harner privledges the "master shaman." Shamanic exemplars could be inspiring, but at times his hoisting thereof clashes with innate human potential message. Most of these times are when he elevates the master shaman through unqualified aphorisms and platitudes.

Like he is projecting.

And he sees himself as the trustee and enabler to three thousand years of human spirituality.

So at the same time he wants us to know we can get on board at any moment, he does want to point out his strong placement in the field, and his ties to the proud lineage of mystic badasses.

After I recounted my entire experience, he told me that he did not know of anyone who had encourntered and learned so much on his first ayahuasca journey.
"You can surely be a master shaman," [the most supernaturally knowledgeable of the indians] said.
- page 8
Not that that isn't allowed, but on some level, it seems more congruous for him to sacrifice the master shaman to decrease newbie alienation.
But hell, I guess if I had been to the jungle and taken weird drugs with crazy "primitives" (as he calls them), I'd want folks to know. And I guess it qualifies him to awaken my inner-shaman.
Not that I don't respect the concept of master shaman, it's just that when he talks about them, it seems a little hokey.

And he contradicts himself!
These custodians of the ancient methods are very important to us, for almost none of their cultures left writen records. Thus it is only from their remaining living representatives that we can learn the shamanic principles.
- page 40
oo, ah.
who is in touch with the living representatives? tell me more, Michael,

As I have indicated, one should undertake the sucking type of shamanism only if fully prepared, as set forth above. Yet in the case that follows, a beginning shaman with only slight knowledge of the sucking method found himself knowing what to do as the experience unfolded. This is not surprising, because once an apt student grasps the basic principles of shamanic power and healing, he can usually operate logically from those principles to solve new problems creatively.
- page 123
So these principles are at once held by dying wise dark folks and accessable within as inner truth -
smells oriental.
(and it seems like Bruce Grant has a plan...)

Though Harner's writing tends toward the ranty unqualified, his message is not entirely objectionable.

it's often reassuring, like folk wisdom (or common sense),

When you feel power-full, that is the time to overcome some major obstacle in your life or to meet an important challenge. When you feel dis-spirited, try to avoid crises - and do not attempt to help anyone else shamanically.
- page 95
Take out the shamanism, and the spirit power, and this appears as dressed up truism.
It reminded me of reading the Celestine Prophecy. In that spiritual self-help bestseller, James Redfield explains his breathless adventure discovery of an ancient nine part manuscript in the Peruvian jungle. This of course, holds the secret to 21st century enlightenment. And, it is being supressed by world governments, at the same time folks all over the world are discovering their inner potential to be happy, well adjusted, healthy energy beings.

Exciting self-actualization concepts grounded in the exotic, synchronus, exciting, and the accessable.

Funny, both books end in an address for the authors respective organizations.

Both say good stuff - don't do drugs, be healthy, be in touch with yourself, use your imagination, visualize energy fields. Don't disregard western medicine/society, but realize there's this entire realm we've discovered in another hemisphere (South America seems to be important) that reflects our own inner rainforest.



At this point it seems a little hucksterish, though forgiveable if it works and makes people happy.

More honesty would be nice;
some people used to do stuff like this, this is my interpretation of this stuff, a little like they used to do it, but with some of the specific stuff forgiven, cuz what's important here is that you use your imagination and your personal energy to have more self-confidence and healthy spirit mind and body.

He comes reasonably close to that, perhaps a little lame-legged by his admirations and justifications of "primitives" and their healing wisdom.

Perhaps the next round of spiritualized actualization techniques, without trappings, maybe at the millenium they won't be so, well, hokey.

It'd be nice to think we could hear this stuff; be healthy, use the force Luke, without having to have it dressed up fancy fatty for us.

Kind of like eating a big load of fresh vegetables in a cream sauce.

If you're going to do that, you might as well take the drugs.

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