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Interview: Brendan Smithers

Brendan Smithers is the prime mover and “Drill Sergeant” for the Upsetters, who created The Turbine for Africa Burns 2007 and The Wish for 2008, as well as being involved in the creation of the San Clan (Man) itself. As much as anyone else he has made his mark on the Festival, predominantly in his large scale work. So what thoughts lead to such powerful, iconic pieces?

Night
The Wish : Night

It started with The Turbine in 2007… Continue reading “Interview: Brendan Smithers”

The life-cycle of heresy

This post forms part of a synchroblog, “Emerging Heresy”. For other contributors, see below.

A nanoplay in 8 acts.

  • Someone has a “revelation”: enter the prophet / shaman / seer/ discoverer/ inventor/ author/ entrepreneur.
  • A community forms around the revelation: enter the evangelist / apostle / articulator / raconteur.
  • The community grows and becomes a politic, which needs to be organised: enter the pastor / priest / curate/ administrator / coordinator.
  • Part of this organisation is to describe the doctrine of the group: enter the scribe / theoretician / expert.
  • These laws become reinforced in the consciousness of the group, as an empire grows: enter the teacher / policy maker / marketeer / spin doctor / taste maker.
  • Someone has a revelation, as a critic of this consciousness, or just because truth is always emerging: re-enter the prophet / shaman stage left. But simultaneously something else happens:
  • The judge / inquisitor / policeman comes on stage right. A trial begins. Outcome:
  • The new revelation is accepted and the group reforms and adjusts its doctrine and practice.
  • If that revelation is contrary to the groups current doctrine (conscious/overt laws) or ethos (unconscious mores and taboos), enter the executioner, announce the new revelation as heresy, and the prophet/shaman as heretic, excommunicate the prophet, demonise the revelation, and begin the inevitable demise of the empire. 

Jesus was a dissident

Contributors to the synchroblog

The shamanic shadow in the 3rd millennium

” … Rather than viewing the shaman as sort of a vestige of some savage and primitive world view … they’re harbingers of the future evolution of humanity.” (Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove in conversation with Alberto Villoldo

baptism from mattstone.blogs.comThis is the concluding part of my series “The shamanic shadow“, an enquiry into primal spirituality from a contemporary christian viewpoint.

After a brief survey of shamanic practice, relying chiefly on accounts garnered over the last 150 years (but looking at the topic somewhat generally and globally), and emphasising the commonality of shamanic practice across continents, I looked for these same urges in the narratives of the Old testament, and then the New. I concluded from this that much of what Christ represented had deep resonances with the “pan-shamanic” traditions (if such a thing does in fact exist). Continue reading “The shamanic shadow in the 3rd millennium”

Shamanism, interview 3: Tim Victor

Tim VictorTim Victor has worked as a youth pastor and spiritual consultant in urban missions. His aim has been to teach people how to hear from Godde and exercise spiritual gifts like prophecy and healing, announcing and demonstrating Godde outside of Christian environments and also mentoring Christians to work missionally.

Tim Victor is “a follower of Jesus intentionally growing as an envoy to postmodern spiritual seekers”. He is also trying to figure out how to grow as a husband, a father and a small-business owner. Note: Tim has committed to rendering all references to “God” as “Godde”,  in blithe disregard for patriarchal norms, as an amalgam of the Male and Female aspects of the Divine.

Do you as a Christian find the shamanic metaphor irrelevant, threatening or promising?
Promising, without a doubt. The concept of shamanism lends expression to much Christian practice while offering a framework for understanding and enabling people to enter into the practice of spiritual encounter, including revelation, healing and guidance.

Continue reading “Shamanism, interview 3: Tim Victor”

Shamanism, interview 2: Gavin Marshall

Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall looks a bit like ‘The Dude’ in the Big Lebowsky. He is a musician, a magician and a bit of an explorer when it comes to the mind and spirituality. A former evangelical pastor, he recently attended a guided retreat under the auspices of a Peruvian Shaman.

Tell us about how you moved from being an evangelical pastor to becoming interested in shamanism?
It was a long journey. I grew disillusioned with the church and decided to take a break. The break then became a bit more permanent and I found that I now had the freedom to explore what I really believed. The exploration involved studying different religions, magic, guys like Jung and Joseph Campbell and so-on.

Continue reading “Shamanism, interview 2: Gavin Marshall”

The shamanic shadow in the old testament.

Jonah in the Whale, by Caroline MackenzieI have tried to immerse myself in the question “What is shamanism?” for long enough to develop an unbiased view. If I had simply done “a christian critique of shamanism” or something that hadn’t got sufficiently out of the gravitational pull of orthodoxy, I think the quest would have been less fruitful. Doing critiques based on ones already held point of view is natural, but may not afford one enough objectivity to make it a useful investigation that ultimately leads to transformation.

So after summarising (albeit in western-style bullet form) some features of shamanism, I gave the good old testament a scan to see if I could identify the “shadow of the shaman” on the landscape of those 66 books.

Continue reading “The shamanic shadow in the old testament.”

Shamanism, interview 1: Anthony Paton

Anthony Paton, a “materialist fundamentalist with and interest in alternative perspectives”, works for the Cradle of Humankind world heritage site. Besides being my brother, he in a intrepid bipedal student of all things natural: Birds, Reptiles, Rocks, People, and Natural Selection, and is not known to pass an opportunity to opine. So I asked him for his views on Shamanism.

Where does shamanism fit into the picture we now have of mans social and spiritual evolution?

Chief SeattleShamanism seems to have a long history- tens of thousands of years and is prevalent in many pre-agrarian societies, and is possibly associated with hunter-gatherer culture.  That would make it possibly a 250 000 year old tradition. There is a strong argument to suggest that shamanism is associated with traditional medicine- that since people discovered that plants can be harvested and consumed in various forms- through eating, smoking, steaming etc. and some of these plants contained chemicals which sent people on a mind journey which they interpreted through their own animistic (or other) beliefs.  Seeing that people already had a notion of deities and a spiritual world, it made a lot of sense to them to interpret these trips as informing them of the contents of these worlds, and receiving messages from them.

What is the role of the shaman in the Bushman culture of the Kalahari?

Continue reading “Shamanism, interview 1: Anthony Paton”

The shamanic shadow

Ah conquistador is it only gold you’re looking for
Or may you still yet see the treasure long concealed within thee?
Ah conquistador campaigns you waged to win the war
To gain the world and lose your soul
What were you fighting for? – The Shamen, “Conquistador”

The shaman as visionary, prophet, healer, ceremonialist, psychotherapist & often herbal doctor is the ‘doctor of the soul’ for both the community and individuals.
– Leo Rutherford “Contemporary Shamanism”

Unknown artist's replication of ancient pictograph found in the Tien Shan Mountains of Central AsiaI have been broadly exploring new approaches to spirituality in posts such as
Ecclesia as Sacred Tribe and A Pagan conversation. Once one opens the imagination to ideas outside of the western modern norm, (such as “Tribe”), we inevitably meet, in premodern and ancient cultures, the shaman .

The shaman is a shadowy figure, dimly understood, and widely viewed by moderns as a purveyor of superstition, a dangerous magician or a charlatan praying on the fears of simple people. But in fact, in most accounts I have read, shamans are tough  mystics who has overcome their fear of death and so earned a reputation as powerful guides, seers and healers.

Continue reading “The shamanic shadow”

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