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123. Psychological Basis Of Performance

From the instances given in the previous description and analysis of performances we can see that the shamanistic performances, with their aims and methods have a purely psychological basis with its theoretical justification. Indeed, the cases attended by the shamans, as well as performances carried out by them for themselves, are not always successful, the main reason thereof being that the psychological moment does not always help and the shamans may make mistakes in their diagnosis, whence in answering the practical question: whether they may help or not. We have already seen that some shamans may refuse to attend cases which are known to be absolutely hopeless. Still the shamans may come to this conclusion only after the accumulation of some diagnostic experience and general knowledge, and when they possess that peculiar ability which is called «intuition». The problem is complicated by the fact that in a great number of cases attended by the shamans a shamanizing may fail to help the respective person, but may help to restore the psychic equilibrium of the clansmen. In cases of the «liquidation» of the souls of deceased relatives, the mastering of spirits, etc. this appears most clearly, for no individual patients are involved. Thus the shaman's performance produces psychic stability among the clansmen or villagers.

Let us now take a hopeless case in which the psychological condition of the patient cannot help, as for instance, typhus with high fever, loss of consciousness, etc. Indeed, no psychological effect on the patient is possible, and the «success» of the shaman's intervention will be due to a mere chance of recovery from typhus. We have seen that the Tungus of Manchuria would regard this case as one caused by a special spirit ain'i burkan, so the shamans would not interfere with it. However, for the relatives of the individual affected by this disease the question is to help in any way, and they would pray the spirit to leave the body, or to be merciful to the affected person. Among the Tungus groups which do not know this disease, because of its relative rarity, the shaman may attend the case as any other in which psychological influence may have its positive effect on the issue of the sickness. In case of failure, he would not be blamed. So, the Tungus do with many other diseases which they have contracted from the contact with other ethnical groups, e.g. smallpox, which in some instances of epidemics has swept up to fifty percent of the clan population; measles which can be harmful, even causing death; various forms of «influenza» which sometimes ravage the native populations of Siberia and Manchuria. However, these cases were gradually excluded from those attended by the shamans, who themselves would take preventive measures such as vaccination, isolation, etc. However, such an attitude would be adopted by the shamans when the theoretical side of a new disease is worked out in such a way that the shaman would be forsaken, and his place taken either by the priests, or by experienced people who know prayers, or by professional medical specialists. The shamans take a part in the creation of new theories, but they are not alone to do it. Before the practical

ways are found, or before the hopelessness of shamanizing is realized, the shamans must perform their shamanizing, the chief aim of which would be to maintain the «moral strength», the psychological resistance, in case of a calamity. Thus, the shaman would act chiefly on psychological grounds of the persons who are not sick, but who are «emotionally» and socially affected by the hopeless sickness of one of the members of their community.

Besides these cases, there is a great number of diseases of various infectious character in which the psychological condition may have a decisive influence upon the issue of sickness. We cannot discuss here the question how far the psychological moment can be hold responsible for the issue of a great number of diseases, but it is empirically known that the psychic condition does influence the issue, and this reason is sufficient for taking the necessary measures for the creation of psychic equilibrium, for avoiding disturbances, etc. The question is only about the choice of methods for reaching this goal. Whether it is kalium bromatum, silence, soft shoes and rugs, attitude assumed by the doctor and the nurses who attend the sick person, and hundreds of other method — is of no importance, provided the aim is achieved. The choice depends on the imagination, the empiric finding of the best conditions, the theoretical calculation, etc.; and among the groups practicing shamanism the method is a regulation of the relations between men and spirits. The shamans will do their best to apply this method in all cases in which they are not certain that their interference would be absolutely useless and would only compromise shamanism. So the shamans will carry out a necessary performance, the effect of which will be that the patient will become more certain of a good issue of his sickness, and thus his psychological condition will be more favourable. Naturally the shamans will not refuse to attend a sick person, even though this person be in a hopeless state, e.g. in the last stage of long tuberculosis (malu burkan complex). The shaman's sacrifice and prayer may alleviate the psychological condition of the person who is conscious of his approaching end, and the moribund would thus not be left to his own self. In this form the shaman would function in the same way as a Christian priest who for the reconciliation of a dying person with his fate would give him the hope of a better life in the future, or as a positivistically disposed philosopher who would convince a dying person of the inevitability of death, of its beneficial effect upon «evolution», even upon the formation of new forms of chemical combinations, etc. The shaman, priest and philosopher are needed for facilitating the parting with life, and in all these varieties of methods the essential is the same, while the methods are only correlated with the existing cultural complexes. Even in such cases the shaman's assistance is required, the community being in need of help to one of its members, and the success of the shamanizing should be estimated not only as the practical relief to the sufferer, but also as an assistance lent to the community, which suffers because of the suffering of its member. This becomes still clearer in hopeless cases when the moribunds are very small children who do not ask for the shaman's assistance.

However, the above enumerated cases do not form the majority of those dealt with by the shamans. The greater part of them are cases of regulation of purely psychological conditions which may be harmful for individuals and for the communities, such as clans, villages and ethnical units. As shown, the performance itself is a psychological operation, aiming at the community and working through it. There is no need to insist upon the fact that the interference of the shaman with psychomental disturbances as shown before, is very attractive in the majority of cases. When the matter concerns individuals the community is not indifferent as to the final effect of the performance; firstly, because the individual is a member of the community; secondly, because usually it is the community which takes the initiative in calling a shaman; thirdly, because the community itself is acting in the performance. When the shaman «masters» a new spirit, or when he enforces obedience to one of the clan spirits which would attack clansmen or when he sends off a spirit — an operation which must be made with the help of the whole community — the effect of the performance extends to the whole community and is an act of social importance. Naturally in these cases the only aim of shamanizing is a regulation of the psychomental complex of the community.

A positive effect of the performance is achieved if the community believes that the spirit is neutralized by being mastered or expelled; the effect of the performance will be doubtful if the opinions of the members of the community differ and there will be no effect if the community does not accept the shaman's solution. Thus the essential point is the psychological readiness of the community to accept or to reject the shaman's solution and action.

Since in all these cases the acting agent is the community itself the shaman can only be regarded as a special organ of the community. The issue of a performance depends on the personal ability of the shaman in so far as his performing corresponds to the expectations of the community and in so far as it is accepted and thus becomes effective. His individuality in the performance is thus greatly limited by the existing ethnographical and ethnical complexes. The performance must therefore have a form which would correspond to the ideas of the community about the performance and be in accordance with its susceptibility to the influence of suggestion, to hypnosis, and to extasy. This aspect of the shamanistic performances leads us to an important problem of ritualism — its variations and the degree of stabilization.

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