Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My Latest Read - on Shamanism by Eliad

Shamanism by EliadI have been reading "Shamanism: archaic techniques of ecstasy" my Mircea Eliad. After reading through the first two chapters I have been noticing that the initiatory rites of the Shamans are ecstatic dreams or visions which elements of Christ's death and resurrection, or at other times model His temptation in the wilderness.

I find some parallels of ecstatic experience in my own life. Could there be a regular prefiguration of Messianic call happening simultaneous in many cultures? I tend to think so, and this makes me wonder why the similarities of Christianity and other religions generally cause people to view Christianity as adopting Pagan practices. Could it not be possible that a single voice from the other side of this veil calls out to various cultures in similar, but culturally adapted modalities?

Okay, I suppose that was a weird, and overly complex connection. But if you are up for a great read from a fine scholar who was the world's foremost authority on Shamanism, follow the link above, and get the book.


Adam Gonnerman said...

It seems evident to me that the one God has spoken in varied ways into the lives and societies of peoples throughout history, though never as clearly as in Israel and through Jesus. There were dying and rising gods in garbled myths centuries before the disciples munched on fish with the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth on the shore of the sea of Galilee.

cern said...

I don't have the slightest problem with the concept that 'the divine' has communicated (and still communicates)with different cultures in ways that are adapted to those cultures. I've been saying something remarkably similar for quite a few years now. :D I've also been suggesting that ALL these communications get garbled to a certain extent... bits not quite heard and the like, and that ALL those who hear the communications engage in the practice of trying to fill in the gaps of the bits they didn't quite hear properly..... hence contradictions between some core aspects of different traditions.

Mind you, I must have first read the quoted book about 10 years ago... It's a good book. :)



Pastor Phil said...

Hey Adam,

It is those stories from Gentile nations which give the Gospel even greater power. God has been showing His face throughout human history, and prophets and priests are people who can read His handiwork.

Pastor Phil said...


How did this book influence you 10 years ago? It seems to be the early preeminent work on the subject of Shamanism in the context of world religious history.

cern said...

TBH, I think the book was only a slight influence. I was reading rather a lot of books on shamanism at the time. So it was one of many perspectives.

Two books I would particularly recommend for anyone looking into shamanism (and they make for tough reading for anyone who has a whimsical perspective of shamanism) would be Ronald Hutton's book 'Shamans- Siberian spirituality and the western imagination' http://www.amazon.com/Shamans-Siberian-Spirituality-Western-Imagination/dp/1852853247
and Robert J Wallis's book 'Shamans/Neo-Shamans' http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shamans-Neo-Shamans-Alternative-Archaeologies-Contemporary/dp/041530203X

Eliade is still a classic. But shamanism as practiced by people like me (western, european etc.) really needs putting into a slightly different context.



Pastor Phil said...


Thanks for the reading suggestions!

Anonymous said...

Hi youse all--
There's nothing whimsical about shamanism at all--no doubt about that!

Thanks for this line of thought--I too believe that there is wisdom from sources that we can't fathom that is available to any of us. The expressions of this wisdom, as you all have said, are almost always garbled.

Sometimes a magnificently clear vessel appears and gifts us some of that wisdom, ie Jesus. Our murky human tendency is,for reasons that are too complex to fathom, to end up worshiping the messenger and garbling the clarity of the message.

Shamans and prophets come to show us where we are confused: the message and the messenger are not the same. Through different avenues, they highlight our tendency to:

Believe that we know what how and of this works (shamans' work)

Believe that we know what any of this means (prophets' work)

Thank God that voices of clarity arise in each generation and each culture to give us a fresh wind in the aridity of our murkiness!

Thanks so much for the work you are doing, Phil, and for the dedicated thinkers and doers who are learning anew alongside you what this all means! (I guess that indicates that you are a prophet from this perspective!)

Pastor Phil said...


The manifestations of Divine expression are amazingly colorful. It is my prayer that we learn to see them in every culture, and that we also learn to avoid too quickly demonizing those who are different than ourselves.