A Native American shaman trots in tradition around a smoldering fire pit. His eyes glint, and the wrinkles in his weathered face deepen as if guarding the very secrets of time. The man chants formulas passed on to him from ancient tongues. His hand reaches up and pulls at the sky. His arm then rapidly whips down to the fire-less pit. His hand delivers lightning from the sky and a fire rages up upon his touch. This above is based on the character of a famous medicine man my parents knew. According to them, and many others, such accounts are factual. More powerful than lightning, a shaman can control belief.
In every culture there are representations of shamanic ritual, tradition, and practice. In every culture there are representations of shamanic leadership. In more primitive cultures, these figures are often spoken of as witch doctors, healers, among other titles shrouded in mystery. Currently, there is a vast ocean of role models to choose from. Typically, shamanic positions represent tangible connection with deeply intangible lines of logic. It was a person granted with a shamanic role that once ascribed gods to natural phenomena. Shamanic practice is the mother of ritual and superstition, yet has traditionally provided cohesion within communities through carrying hope and belief with it.
Naturally, the various roles of the shaman, along with mankind, have evolved. Some shamans wear animal relics, others, a simple, understated, shirt and tie. Some draw symbols in the sand, others draw from allegorical metaphor. The role of the shaman, has always stood, as if in marriage, along the leadership dynamic in a group or society – if not the primary component of it. This is the finding of trans cultural analysis. Despite the apparent confusion of the idea, people, not need, but should have, great ideals and the mysticism of the unknown driving and furthering their intention. Yet, mysterious inspirations should never be held as truths themselves – else, they be as ever changing as the particles beneath the fine structure of matter itself. The authority of the shaman commands, and speaks for, belief. This kind of prowess could cage or free a people. That is the power it possesses. Belief can wield the destruction of human kind. However, inspiration, is born of the same branch. Reason has not always rescued us, but it gains promise.
Inspiring ideas fill our intellect. Reasoning filters it. This is our compass – and, the only one we’ve ever known. This compass does not point to true North, but truth itself. Bruce Lee’s studies in philosophy are barely known, but highly useful here. More than a chiseled martial arts master, he, as all masters of discipline, was a philosopher. Lee spoke of two ends of a person – one, he called the “mechanical man,” the other he coined “the unscientific man.” On one end, man is not much more than a series of conditioning, or, rote memorization. His individuality, nonexistent. In conflict, “the unscientific man” is the apparatus of imagining. When creativity is taken to the extreme, any information it derives can become independent of empirical identity. Yet, when these social behaviors are tuned in balance, each builds and connects the other. The result is a symphony of a very evolutionary nature. Science needs imagination to expand its empire – and imagination is meaningless without the structural identities of science.
The two human constructs gallop in tandem. Each create the other’s design. In realms of dreams, the shaman has served society on many levels. Yet, the role, or – the archetypal schema, must always be represented by symbols, beings, or ideas. In modern culture, ancient shamanic masks evaporate as society’s awareness of other cultural ideologies grows. Like the species of its origin, the shamanic roles evolves with time. Today, it seems, these cultural icons appear before us as magicians, scientists, rebels, charismatic, ominous, or, the most common role played – sacred. In modern civilization, communities have been replaced by mobs. The role of the caring shaman has been abandoned amidst the chaos. So, who will save us from our very human insanity now that the shamans are fading mirages in the distance? We ultimately write our own truths. I write mine with the golden realizations those before me have found and left behind. In poetry, art, music, film, philosophy, writing, etc… I feel that I can gauge truth for myself. When the sparks of enlightenment are spoken by another, they are only ever recognized by one’s own measure. The catalyzing charge released by the very seeds of our ideas is, and always has been, the magic of the shaman. With this push from our cumulative genius, human consciousness expands into the unknown as the universe itself.