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4 February, 1996

structural anthropology

Claude Levi-Strauss

furthermore, disorders of the type currently termed psychosomatic, which constitute a large part of the illnesses prevalent in societies with a low degree of security, probably often yield to psychotherapy.
page 180

Does he speak of our/his society?
What kind of security?

Reading his comparison of the shaman to the psychoanalyst, I was struck again by the commonality between Shamans and and performers, music in particular. Acknowledged by LS - "In treating his patient the shaman also offers his audience a performance." - page 180, which he likens to abreacting, a psychoanalytic term for patient reliving experiences. I was more reminded of possession, in Santeria:

Trance possession is an important part of our religion. During a bembe or drumming party for the orishas an orisha may be persuaded to join the party by entering the body of one of the priests consecrated to that orisha. This is referred to as the person being 'mounted' by the orisha or that the orisha has 'come down' from heaven to be with us. The songs, rythms and dances are actually calculated to entreating the orishas to come down so that we may be blessed by their counsel, cleansings and their sheer presence.
The Mounting of the Horse:

Trance Possession In La Regla Ocha
Performers act this out, group catharsis. Perhaps in our emphasis on individual myth concoction catharsis leads to a sense of group alienation. One Jane's Addiction concert therapized me as much as 5 years with Dr. Harold Balikov working over my problems. Sometimes the one on one is helpful, but the sense of power contained in a group possession moment is truly transcendent.

It seems to me that our emphasis on the individual, coupled with the objective fosters alienation. Debunking mythology in favour of something less pathological, our problems, our emotions, our experiences we can no longer "articulate them into a whole or system." Woe, we drown in discontinuity.

Context dammnit!

Why does he see the projection of psychoanalysis into diffuse mythology as distressing? (page 183) No longer based on real cures but "a sense of security that the group recieves from the myth underlying the cure and from the popular system upon which the group's universe is reconstructed" - isn't that the third part of the Shaman equasion, group catharsis through myth magic? He seems to be saying the science of Psychoanalysis would be jeopardized by its transformation into mythology. Isn't that all it is? Modern myth? Or is he saying something different?

It seems to me that science would stand to benefit from a bit of intergration of pathological thought, integration of the inexplicable - my friend Raina would agree:

The natural sciences that deal with life on a meta-atomic level describe a realm where the observer becomes unseparatable from that which is being observed. This dimension of existence is extremely non-intellectual - there has to be a great step taken in which one can accept that things can exist which we cannot know with the macroscopic senses. It takes a great leap of faith to understand that everything is composed of particles that are in unified structures to infinitely small degrees.

Then again, all of math and science rests on the idea of infinity, a very non-intellectual concept indeed.
Raina Siladi, Nothing and Everything

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