Friday, March 20, 2015

Shamans, Writers, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Because of their lifestyles and abilities, shamans tend not to fare well in the general media, which, because of their own lifestyles and abilities tend to to regard the shaman with cynicism.  True enough, there are certain media who tend to glamorize or inflate the performance of the shaman, which in turn makes the cynical media yet more cynical.

Regardless of gender or age, the true shaman tends not to notice either extreme, engaging instead in shaman-like behavior centered around seeing things differently from civilians.  From your own awareness of shamans of various stripes, you feel comfortable and safe with the generalization that their primary occupation is seeing Reality through a lens or opening not available to most of us civilians, followed by either reporting on the nature of what they've seen or, through a variety of approaches, engaging in a ritual that attempts to influence the outcome of a ritual.

Some shamans alter their state of consciousness through meditation or trance-like focus, others still ingest or in some other way process some manner of pharmacopoeia as an entry into this altered state of Reality, from which various phenomena call attention to their presence.

Your first awareness of these remarkable beings bore the tint of your background in comics, adventure stories, and legends of legerdemain, all the magic a boy could want.  At the time there was little difference between a shaman, a magician, a conjurer, and a sorcerer.  

Later, you carried the energy and imagination of those years into and through the pseudonymous authorship of a book, Charms, Spells, and Curses.  In many ways, your visions of such potentials was leavened by T.H. White's monumental epic of Merlin and Arthur, The Once and Future King, wherein, among other things, King Arthur followed the standard chronology of birth to death while the great sorcerer, Merlin, reversed the process, thus growing younger.

Your picture of the shaman has evolved with your studies of fanciful materials and those attempting a greater sense of objectivity and plausibility.  Well enough, the worlds of which you write is your world, just as the world of the shaman is the unique world of these remarkable men and women, each according to his or her culture and arrived-at vision of Reality.

Even better, in the past paragraph, you've opened the portal to this world beyond Reality where admission has to be earned if there is to be anything of value to bring back for the use of this world of Reality.  And so, yes; you are making the connection that a writer may well be a shaman because he or she (and in this case you) has through study, discipline, stubbornness, and some measure of slipping past the guards at the gate, has found a way to get inside the big tent, often with the help of one or more mentors.  

Of course this brings to mind the metaphor of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, that variation on a theme of Pygmalion, in which the apprentice betrays eagerness to learn the true magic that will cause the transformation of mere mortal into another sort of mortal, with visions of another world bu as well with at least as many foibles as the civilians have.  Perhaps even more.

Let us write off in a few strokes the extremes among writers and shamans, with little more than lip service to their flamboyance and implications of self-service tempered by self-importance.  You have little use for this sort, whether they be a shaman or a writer.  Instead, you interest is on the writer and shaman who looks to healing ritual, which is to say rituals intended to restore lost beauty, balance, and a sense of personal integrity.  

True shamans learn the scenario for rituals, which gifts to offer, and the order in which they should be offered to please the forces on the other side who are used to the multifarious transactions back and forth between worlds or planes.

The better and more effective the shaman, the greater the likelihood he or she will be a shrewd diagnostician of the individual who is out of balance with the environment.  By the same metric, the better and more effective the writer, the more probability he or she will be able to diagnose a character out of Beauty (apologies to the Navajos, but they have it so well conceived) or out of sync, or, greater yet, a population or culture out of Beauty.

True writers learn by watching, reading, imitating, experimenting, jumping off garage and story roofs, taking chances, getting rejection slips, being edited.

The only trance-like state you can speak to is the focus or concentration you achieve when you've passed those tough bouncers and security guards, the Inner Editors, standing right outside your manuscript.  

You are in, often without knowing it, more often than not in before you realize you are.  In fact, realizing you're in might cause someone to come tapping you on the shoulder, asking to see your ID--no, not the one that has anything to do with age.  This ID is the intent that got you here in the first place.  It is the one you earned on one or more of those occasions when you were the sorcerer's apprentice, anxious to show your chops with a spell or two, before you tumbled so precipitously to the floor.

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