The Death and Resurrection Show: the shaman industry?

A guest blog by Tai Carmen at Parallax. Parallax:Exploring the architecture of human perception.The word parallax is a scientific term denoting a shift in perception upon movement of the perceiver rather than the perceived. Bang a gong, get it on….

Tai Carmen:

“Beat the drum and sing songs. If you are an ordinary man, nothing will come of it; but if you are to be a shaman, you will be no ordinary one.” Siberian shaman. “The unfathomable experience that humanity has symbolically expressed for millennia through myths, fables, rituals and ecstasies, remains one of the hidden centers of our culture, of the way we exist in the world.” Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies. “Listen, wait, and be patient. Every shaman knows you have to deal with the fire that’s in your audience’s eye.”- Ken Kesey

---PRIVILEGED PRIEST VERSED IN THE SORCERIES OF SHAMANISM Shamanism, a form of spirit-worship, said to be one of the oldest religions in the world, is still practised by some aboriginal races of Siberia. This strange object, with bits of iron, small bells, rusty nails, copper coins, and other metal rubbish dangling about him, and holding a weird drum, is a Shaman priest in ceremonial garb, ready to conduct intercourse with the supernatural powers--- click image for more

The word shaman, originally Siberian, is an anthropological term. In the Tungus language, a saman is a person who “beats the drum, enters into trance, and cures people”(The Cosmic Serpent, Jeremy Narby).

Almost universally, indigenous people have sought meaning and clarity through ritual ecstasies. The word “ecstasy,” despite its modern connotation of supreme bliss, originally meant “to be out of ones head.” The Greco-Roman Dionysian Mysteries (aka the Cult of Dionysus) parallel the shamanic practices of tribal cultures — a systematized disorganization of the senses via trance states induced by intoxicants/hallucinogenics, music and/or dance, with the goal of personal transformation/liberation from social constraints, and communion with a divine or supernatural principal. (If that sounds like a pretty good time, keep in mind that there are tales of humans being hunted like animals and sacrificed by wild Dionysians).

---This is why both Shiva and Dionysus are known as “liberating gods” and “healers”, granting salvation from ignorance and deliverance from angst and fear. A good example of this liberating power is the image of the Dance of Shiva, where the god is portrayed dancing on a dwarf-demon whose name translate as “forgetful and ignorant demon”, symbolising the triumph over unawareness through the dance....--- click image for more

In A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell writes: In intoxication, physical or spiritual, the initiate recovers an intensity of feeling which prudence had destroyed; he finds the world full of delight and beauty, and his imagination is suddenly liberated from the prison of everyday preoccupations. The [Dionysian] ritual produced what was called ‘enthusiasm’, which means etymologically having the god enter the worshipper, who believed that he became one with the god.

The idea of the shamanic ritual was to go through a symbolic death of sorts, to shed old psychic skins, and emerge, in a sense, reborn. Interestingly, rock shows and raves more closely resemble these archaic rituals than modern religious services. Show business has taken the place of shamanism. Celebrities are the medicine men and women of modern society. The shaman addresses the collective psychic state of the participants through ceremonial performance, guiding the group through a transformative experience, usually accompanied by hypnotic rhythm. Archaic man’s ecstatic mysteries have much in common with modern man’s rock shows.

Titian.---The shaman's visionary wildness, animal cunning, authority and energy come from having befriended both her demons (the personal shadow) and Dionysian energy, which inflicts - among its other initiations - a rending yet tenderizing sword run through the heart. The shaman thus typically lives at the extreme edge of Western society, given that the latter in privileging the (opposite) Apollonian light of rational 'civilization', has patronized, rejected, stigmatized, persecuted, incarcerated, medicated, lobotomized and suppressed its untamable opposite, often in the name of 'medicine', though in reality in a frantic and fearful effort to keep Dionysus at a safely sedated distance. One of the challenges that faces us today - as James Hillman so eloquently argues in his The Myth of Analysis - is thus the reclaiming of Dionysian consciousness, supplemented, I suggest, by our openness to embrace and celebrate its bliss, ambivalence, hunger for depth, androgyny, irrationality and divine terror. In this connection, Jung pronounced that 'the gods have become diseases', ruling no longer from Olympus but from the Underworld depths of bodily instinct and the unconscious. Importantly Hillman, like Jung ever seeking the god in the illness, shrewdly spots Dionysus as essentially feminine in hysteria, which in some ways is the extraverted complement of introverted schizophrenia (hence the link between schizophrenia and shamanic initiation)--- click image for more

John Lennon famously complained about the vast amount of godlike power assigned him and his band-mates as Beatles. People would show up in wheelchairs wanting Lennon to heal them. “The Beatles,” relates Rogan Taylor, “had been mistaken for medicine-men. Soon they began to look and act like medicine men. “By the mid-sixties,” continues Taylor,”something strange was happening on a scale never previously seen. R

��n’roll had burst out of its adolescent shell to become a full-blown sacred cult:

“[…] The star performers were being hailed as culture heroes and worshipped with an ecstatitic intensity more usually reserved for religious rites […] soon they even began to look like weird prophets from another age. “Their bizarre regalia and wild manner were framed in fantastic lifestyles and their powers acclaimed as extraordinary […] it was as if the old shamans had cast away the last vestiges of disguise to stand openly on stage at last.”

---It's not that Hendrix was simply a virtuoso-there have been plenty of players since him who have stood out because of their pure skill, such as Eddie Van Halen or Steve Vai. And it's not that he was soulful-Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn were capable of just as much feeling in their playing. Hendrix was a shaman, offering his solos as a sacrifice to the electric mystical-blues god that he worshiped.--- click image to read more...

And just as gods must journey into the underworld, modern celebrities do what they can to do this mythic requirement justice, often living in a ceaseless Dionysian frenzy until they self-destruct and die young, as so many young musicians and actors have so tragically done. But such is the price of a shaman.

A shaman gets his powers in some way from the other worlds he journeys to, from his strange lifestyle, and through his ability to transform and articulate transformation to the tribe. Just as spirits often “possess” the shaman during his trance, musicians often report feeling possessed by a greater spirit than themselves on stage. R & B singer Beyonce has said of her alter-ego “Sasha Fierce:” I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am.

---Even later, at the very end of his life, Jesus is suggested. All through the most creative period, the shaman’s journey from Sgt. Peppers to the end of Abbey Road, John wore a special flowered talisman around his neck. Afterwards, he stopped wearing it. But in New York, in one of the last pictures ever taken of him, a well-known photograph where he is wearing a t-shirt that says New York City across the front, there is a tiny cross hanging from his neck. At the end of the Beatles period John continued the archetypal journey of the shaman whose duty it is to rejoin the world. Like Moses and the Boddhisattva, he returns from a celestial vision on top of the mountain with a simple transforming idea, as Moses did with the tablets. It is the same idea that has occurred throughout the century but is new to our century. It is Emerson’s message and here it is again expressed ten years before the Beatles by C.G. Jung: “Our world has shrunk, and it is dawning on us that humanity is one, with one psyche. --- click image for more...

Religious Historian Mercea Eliade sums up the vast anthropological literature on shamanic ritual as ”the death and mystical resurrection of the candidate by means of a descent to the underworld and an ascent to the sky.”

Some of today’s most mainstream performers re-enact these ancient transformative rituals with startling precision. Take for instance shock-pop icon Lady Gaga’s infamous MTV Video Awards performance wherein she smeared her white dress with (hopefully fake) blood . . .. . . and then walked around looking like a living sacrifice for the rest of the night.

read more:

In a strange interview Lady Gaga acknowledges her awareness of her role: What are you looking for? What you’re looking for is magic…magic is what happens on the stage … I’m here to entertain you and I’m here to be a martyr for show business… I will die in front of all of you so that you can watch and enjoy.

But a coked-up, gyrating, scantily clad pop star singing about sex is a far cry from a peyote-smoking medicine man pounding a drum and guiding the tribe through a night of cathartic dance, ritual and sacredly framed drug-induced vision questing. One primary difference is training and tradition: archaic medicine men and women had the tradition of their tribal elders to draw upon, trained often for years to become the spiritual guides of their community.

Bjork. read more:

Today’s would-be rock shamans have only the mantra of “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” chanted by their hedonistic heroes to go by, and stardom is a map-less road known for inspiring egomania, isolation, addiction and suicide. These are our shamans, the blind leading the blind, and millions of children aspire to be just like their heroes.

“We live in a culture where everything tastes good,” says Daniel Pinchbeck, author of Breaking Open The Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Modern Shamanism, ”but nothing satisfies.” In today’s culture of distraction, where humankind is increasingly isolated from nature and from a sense of visceral community, we can still pursue the sacred art of the vision quest.

---But what about when all those adult-like activities find their way into a children's talent show? Such is the case with five little girls, ages 8-9 years old, who recently took part in the World of Dance competition in Los Angeles. Their gyrating rendition of Beyonce's popular "Single Ladies" dance proved beyond doubt that these little girls are extremely talented. But it has also stirred a tornado of controversy that both the World of Dance and the girls' parents never saw coming. With more than 20,000 hits on You Tube of the World of Dance competition, the response has been one of amazement --- but all for varying reasons. The Internet has been buzzing the past few days with comments calling the performance raunchy, strip-club poll dancing, and taking the parents to task for being irresponsible. But the parents have come out strong in defending their decision to allow their children to dance so provocatively, claiming the dance was never intended for worldwide viewing on You Tube, and dancing in that manner is what's required to win in modern day talent competitions.--- click image for more...

We must make our own reality-maps, as those leading are blind themselves, our healers, wounded. We can create new ceremonies and transformative techniques that have meaning to us personally. The important thing is to take the time to stop and commune with our inner visions, tap into the greater cosmic wisdom, etc — in short, to take the time to dream. In a culture of media overload and technological gadgetry, we must remember to honor our need for deeper meaning.

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