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The epistemology and technologies of shamanic states of consciousness

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Abstract:

The Epistemology and Technologies of Shamanic States of Consciousness Shamanism can be described as a group of techniques by which its practitioners enter the ‘spirit world', purportedly obtaining information that is used to help and to heal members of their social group. The shamans’ epistemology, or ways of knowing, depended on deliberately altering their conscious state and/or heightening their perception to contact spiritual entities in ‘upper worlds', ‘lower worlds’ and ‘middle earth’ (i.e., ordinary reality). For the shaman, the totality of inner and outer reality was fundamentally an immense signal system, and shamanic states of consciousness were the first steps toward deciphering this signal system. Homo sapiens sapiens was probably unique among early humans in the ability to symbolize, mythologize and, eventually, to shamanize. This species’ eventual domination may have been due to its ability to take sensorimotor activity and use it as a bridge to produce narratives that facilitated human survival. Shamanic technologies, essential for the production and performance of myths and other narratives, interacted with shamanic epistemology, reinforcing its basic assumptions about reality.

Keywords: Shamanism; epistemology; states of consciousness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Saybrook Graduate School, 450 Pacific, 3rd floor, San Francisco, CA 94133-4640, USA.

Publication date: 2000-11-01

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