Saturday, 16 March 2013

Shamans!

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A decade ago (thus before I was a Christian) I was fascinated by shamans and also by neo-shamanism (the modern Western revival of would-be shamanism)

http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/meaning-of-life.html

http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/animism.html  

I read scores of books on the subject, ranging from library copies of 19th century 'first contact' accounts of hunter gatherers (eg in Tierra del Fuego or among the Eskimos), to modern ethnographic scholarship, and New Age 'self-help' or spiritual books.

It was a personal quest.

I was an alienated modern intellectual seeking 'contact' with reality via the kind of animism of children and nomadic peoples. This seemed to me to be the 'meaning' in life - not a matter of purpose or a cosmic plan; but simply life as a fully-engaged relationship with the rest of the world.

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My own 'shamanic' experiences were periods of this kind of thinking, semi-dreamlike moments or minutes when I was fully engaged with the world - solitary, generally remote, often in relation to natural phenomena.

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The fact that I have become a Christian is evidence that this kind of things was 'not enough'; but it was valuable in itself - and I have often striven to ensure that my Christian life incorporates the value that I found in Shamanism - which is why I consider a personal relationship with a personal God to be a non-negotiable essence and ideal of Christian life - for lack of which nothing can compensate.

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The animistic hunter gatherer (or indeed, ourselves when we were children) lived in a world of meaningful personal relationships that included landscape features, the sky, plants and animals - as well as people.

All this is, and ought-to-be, incorporated-within Christianity - and not (as so often) rejected as a 'paganism' which Christianity has superceded.

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Many devout Christians have a lively and personal relationship with Christ, and also with other people especially family - but in order to live properly in this world, as God intends us to live, these relationships should also embrace the natural world - Christians should strive to see the natural world in a lively and personal way.

(Or, perhaps not so much strive as simply allow themselves to do this - because it is spontaneous.)

Different traditions provide different vocabularies by which this may be done (for example, the medieval Christian understanding that the sun, stars and planets are angelic intelligences).

But however it may be done, done it should be!

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