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132. Methods Of The Common Thinking Process

From the description of shamanism as a function and from the analysis of performances we can see that the shaman in his function of a clan safety valve (as well as the safety valve for any other community), uses different methods in his investigation and his influence upon the community and individuals. An average shaman does not blindly proceed with a practical application of his art, as summarized in the above indicated (vide Chapter XXVI) directions, but he always considers the character of the case with which he must deal and, according to its character, he chooses particular methods. Therefore the first thing to be done is to analyse the case and to diagnose afterwards. The shaman's diagnosis does not differ from any other diagnosis based upon an analysis and recognized methods of inference. He makes an inquiry as to the history of the trouble: whether there are other similar cases or not, i.e. whether this is a single case or a mass phenomenon; he considers all symptoms — fever, pain in various parts of the body, character of the attacks, their frequency and the time of the day when they occur; he talks, if possible, with the person who needs his assistance. Lastly, he comes to a conclusion which may be reached immediately on the spot, or some time later. In simple cases he would do this immediately; in complex cases he would postpone his decision; and in some other cases he would not come to any definite decision. A series of solutions being equally possible. His diagnosis may be formulated in the form of various causes which produce the trouble. As has been shown, such ones can be: (1) infectious diseases symbolized either in terms of spirits or even directly in a hypothetical external physical agent (e.g. «worms» and «micro-organisms» cf. supra); (2) individual physical trouble, due e.g. to traumatic disfunction, old age, individual affection from causes expressed in terms of symbols or in terms of external physical agents; (3) individual troubles of a psychomental character, according to the conceptions of these troubles, expounded in the previous chapters, which may be classified into several groups and may be due either to an individual disfunction of the elements of the soul or to the causes only symbolized or directly understood as hypothetical spirits, which are regarded as realities only to some extent and accepted by ethnical groups and individual shamans with a certainty of various degrees.

This process of the discovery of causes of trouble from the observation of the supposed effects does not differ from that of the common European diagnostics based upon a symptomatic analysis of the condition and upon direct information, as well as direct evidences. The form of declaration of the result, as well as the outer forms of the performance of diagnosis, are also essential and they are conditioned by the «customs», which do not affect the diagnosis and the theories that underlie diagnostics. Indeed, when the shaman gives out his conclusion he cannot do it without considering the habits of the people. There may be thus created special performances in connection with the diagnosis. This is quite clear, if we remember that a European medical practitioner must also «perform» certain, acts before pronouncing his conclusion, for instance, he must not do it too quickly, he must show that he is thinking about the case, even though the latter may at the first glance be perfectly clear; he must do it seriously; he must sometimes examine the patient more than he needs for his conclusion. Another way to win the patient's confidence is to give quickly, in recomforting words, after a very brief examination, a conclusion in order to show that the doctor knows what should be done. Various methods may be worked out into real «performances», the importance of which will often be greater than that of inoffensive medicines. Among some ethnical (European) groups paraphernalia have also a great psychological influence and therefore are increased in number, not for the gathering of new facts, but solely for producing an «impression». of course, I have in view perfectly honest doctors who must «perform» for making their diagnosis psychologically acceptable to the patient. Dishonest physicians are not considered here [651]. The shamans, when they are good, also have their methods, for it is especially important to them to make their diagnoses acceptable, since the greater part of their cases are cases of a psychomental complex.

In the choice of methods the shaman is greatly handicapped by the theoretical considerations concerning the spirits and methods of diagnosis, so he must perform what is required. In fact, in most cases he does not need to have recourse to a complex performance with calling into himself his spirits, but he declares that the patient has such and such a spirit», or simply disease, and that he must have either a medical treatment or be assisted by the shaman himself. However, sometimes the shaman must perform the introduction of spirits which are supposed to help him in finding out the cause (to diagnose) or the trouble. Thus a performance, usually purely conventional and ritualistic, is carried out and the shaman declares the result of his investigation or it is understood by the assistant of the shaman from the shaman's words pronounced during the supposed presence of spirits in him, and communicated to the audience. This is especially done in case the trouble is of a psychomental character, because the shaman, from the beginning of his intervention, must gain the patients confidence. This ritualism may incidentally grow into a complex — the divination and discovery — treated in Section 113.

The shaman's diagnosis may be made only in special terms and according to the conceptions as to the nature of the troubles which exist among the ethnical groups. A great number of conditions which require the shaman's interference are not covered by the theories and hypotheses accepted by the Tungus, so they are grouped under the symbols of spirits in the same way as, for instance, modern European symbols «influenza», «meningitis», and still earlier ones «fever», and others. Of course, the shamanistic diagnostics did not reach a very detailed specification of trouble-some agents (I omit all cases in which diagnosis may be done without recourse to hypotheses), but, on the other hand, the shaman is not a medicine man who must treat everything -he attends only cases in which suggestion, hypnotism and persuasion may be effective. Theories and hypotheses in a great number of instances explain the troubles as due to the spirits, which actually cannot be treated in this way, and naturally the shamans fail in their diagnosis. Thus, the possibility of making a correct diagnosis also depends upon the degree of advancement of the classification of troubles. Here the question as to the personal ability of the shamans in diagnosis naturally arises, but to this question I shall revert later on, because now I am speaking of shamanistic diagnosis in general.

In the preceding lines I have thus shown that the methods of diagnosis used by the shamans do not differ in principle from those of the European medical doctors. However, the difference of the result is great. The shamans cover by their symbols a great number of troubles without classifying them in detail, while the advanced medicine may specify them as far as possible, and with a relatively good effect, in so far as the aim of medicine is a treatment. It must be pointed out once more that the shaman's aim is not the same as that of a medicine man, and he is perhaps not interested in the further differentiation and classification of trouble with which he cannot interfere. On the other hand, being perfectly familiar with the psychomental complex of the clansmen, and also with individual complexes the shaman may perhaps find out the conditions (always expressed in used symbols — the complex soul, spirits etc.) of the patients much easier than the European physicians, apart from the rare clinicists-psychiatrists, who usually know very roughly the psychomental complex of their patients. In fact, the chief function of the physicians is not the regulation of individual and mass psychomental complexes, but the treatment of diseases, while a regulation of the individual and mass psychosis is the chief function of the shamans and the aim of their diagnosis is the finding out of the details of psychomental disfunctions.

In observing daily the practice of shamans I have found that in the greater number of cases the shamans confine themselves to the above described simple methods of diagnosis. If they used only these methods, they would not differ very much from common people. However, in difficult cases the shamans use methods of cognition which cannot be framed in the complex of simple logical methods used by ordinary people. Although not all of these special methods are a special privilege of the shamans, they are characteristic as a complex, and this constitutes the special character of the shamans and shamanism as a complex.

Under simple logical process I mean here the process which is commonly used in the given ethnical unit. However, the process may be greatly abbreviated after a long use of the same system of links. In fact, a sequence of inferences (based upon facts of established «truths») may be linked in a system without interruptions — from fact to fact, from inference to inference. Such a system will be clear to any one in the given unit. But owing to a long use of these systems they may be greatly abbreviated in the process of thinking. Every ethnical unit has its own ethnographical sequence, and it is subject to some extent to the variations in individuals. When it can be demonstrated in a common sequence, it is considered as logical and thus accepted. However, the process of thinking cannot always go along a rigid system of the existing ethnographical logic, for it would be too slow; so it is abbreviated. The more one thinks, the more abbreviations occur, the wider the spacing between the links marked in the consciousness. Since apparently the whole thinking process is a system of conditioned reflexes of a higher order, the omission of links becomes not a simple «abbreviation», but a new system of established reflexes which function as such [652]. The shamans who spend their lives on meditation as to the phenomena of psychomental complex, naturally work out an abbreviated system of quick thinking, which may appear in the eyes of laymen's a spirits' gift, while in respect to other branches of activity laymen use the same method without noticing it.

It is different when there are elements of a new situation which must be linked with a system already known. If an ethnographic complex does not know a new element of a new system of linked elements, there appears a necessity of linking them with the old system by a bridge which, at the first attempt, is an imaginative system of links. After the experiment of checking and repetition, the process of linking may change into a system of usual (for individuals, for ethnical units and even for the most mentally slow individuals) linking which will be accepted as such. However, such a bridging cannot be done without breaking the usual requirement of the ethnical group as to the spacing of links. The process may go with large spacings in the known directions, from the known to the unknown, which will be discovered and perhaps later on linked, if necessary. In this case it would be also necessary to eliminate the ethnographic limits of logic, before the result is presented to and accepted by the ethnical unit. However, the process of thinking and checking is not confined to the linking of inferences based upon facts, but it is also conditioned by the complex of already existing systems of linking (a pre-existing system of abbreviated thinking) and emotive and even physiological conditions which may produce new imaginative elements not yet linked and which may imply the choice of the lacking links. This is empirically checked up, and when it cannot be rejected, owing to the new experience (observation of facts, inferences, or systems of linking), it may persist as long as the emotive and physiological conditions are responsible for their existence. The linking of a system of abbreviated thinking may be checked up by the existing (adopted) ethnographical sequences of inferences without interruptions (which are ethnographic in their nature) e.g. mathematically, or with a linked system of «truth». The shamans widely use abbreviated thinking, for they are «meditating» all the time on the same matter. The risk for the shamans in using intuition, imagination with the help of an abbreviated thinking, is not great. Since their process of thinking is always empirically checked up, they gradually correct their systems and give them up for otherwise the shamanism could not and cannot function — it is, first of all, a system of empirical adaptation. Moreover, the shaman's credit is great, they have time for proving empirically the correctness of their «bridging», and they need not show immediately all links of their thinking process.

First of all, the shamans, chiefly owing to the character of the treated cases, rely very much upon their intuition, which cannot always be put into the frame of a common way of solution of problems. An absolutely correct solution of a problem may sometimes remain little convincing and mysterious, for the links of logical process of inference may be lacking. In fact, discoveries made by the shamans, being in their nature merely a successful guess, very often require the support of the authority at the shamans as person who possess spirits, which are held responsible for the success. The shaman's power of intuition, «ta-lent» and «genius», are often explained as the spirits' ability. Moreover, discoveries made by the shamans are very often due to the fact that the shamans use as technique the breaking of the existing ethnical models of logical thinking, based upon an existing limited knowledge and fixed in rigid forms of accepted analogies, syllogisms, etc. The shamans have at their disposal a powerful means of correcting and perfecting the existing methods of making conclusions, namely, the introduction of lacking links, symbolised in the form of new properties of the spirits. And new spirits, as a possibility allowed to the shamans, is accepted by the Tungus, as much as among the Europeans the building up of working hypotheses, sometimes quite unusual, is allowed to the recognized scientists, although these hypotheses — for being convincing and declared to be «truth» — may be as much erroneous as the system of new spirits of the Tungus shamans. In reality not all shamans follow it. To make their conclusions (and new hypotheses) acceptable the shamans have to put them into the form of a «performance» used in the given ethnical unit, i.e. just as it is required from the European «break-ers» of the existing ethnographical complexes (introduction of a new conclusion, hypothesis, etc.) who must show their new idea in a seemingly convincing form of formulae, experiment, system of «logical» constructions, etc. In the accumulation of knowledge about the milieu and the «psychic» life reduced to a form of fixed «truths» and «hypotheses» and usually achieved through the breaking of other previously established «truths and hypotheses», the performance is of primary importance. In a great number of cases the form decides the fate of new «truths and hypotheses». In this sense the work and success of scientists depend on the psychomental ethnographical complexes of the existing ethnical units, and perhaps more effort is made for the «performal» side than for the discovery itself. So in the ethnical units, in which the adherence to the complex is strong, the performance may grow into an aim by itself. Moreover, when the science is professionalized, even the performance may lose altogether its functional power. This refers to the search for new truths in general, but the Tungus instances give us a whole scale of variations as to the weight of the performance in the bridging of «old» and «new» truths, all of them being naturally ethnographical phenomena, i.e. elements of psychomental complexes of concrete ethnical units [653].

In so far as the shaman uses his intuition in the «finding of causes» he does not differ from any other man who is using the method of breaking of the existing ethnographic complex as a means for proceeding from the known to the unknown. Indeed, the shaman can use this method only on the condition of his familiarity with and his possession of the existing ethnographical complex, for otherwise his mode of «breaking» of the complex may turn into a mere incoherent guess-work, practically quite fruitless and unnecessary for keeping afloat his ethnical unit. This may be compared with the «thinkers and philosophers» of our time (in the European complex) who cannot master the present knowledge and use their power of intuition and guesswork, even incomes in which the knowledge might save them from the most elementary blunders and save their «teaching» from being an incoherent babbling. Indeed, these «thinkers and philosophers» have their function in the existing ethnical complexes; namely, they give a satisfaction to the ignorant (relatively, in the ethnical units) part of the population with a simulation of penetration into the condition of milieu. This is reached without a great loss of time and strain of the brain on learning facts and generally achievements of knowledge; it leaves to this part of the population the hope, that such a penetration can be achieved by any one who has leisure and desire; finally, it leads the thought into a stream of dreams (an emotionally pleasant condition) and tickles this population with an «opening» of a special world of «mysterious power of gnosis». This type of «thinkers and philosophers» is only rarely met with among the Tungus shamans, for their function is different, although to the superficial observer the shaman's intuition, thinking and guess-work may appear to be similar to that of the above indicated, so to say, inferior kind of thinkers. By saying «in-ferior» I introduce the idea of relativity — the practical outcome of an intuition of the shaman's type may be equal to that of the above mentioned «thinkers»; but considering the amount of knowledge among the Tungus and other groups, the «thinkers» would occupy an inferior position in their ethnical and ethnographical complex. Thus the shaman's intuition, as a method of reaching «truth», would be much superior to that of the «thinkers», when it relates to the existing Tungus knowledge.

651. With the growth of the knowledge concerning chemical methods and microscopical analyses, new requirements as to these «performances» have arisen. Whether or not such analyses are needed, the patients require them and they must be carried out. Even when they are of no use to the doctor, he is bound to make them, because «theoretical» medicine insists upon such analyses.

652. The same may be represented in terms of «channels and strata».

653. It must not be forgotten that different ethnical units may have the same ethnographical complex, which may produce an impression of an independent existence of «culture», civilization, «science» and other abstractions, when they are treated independently of the ethnical units.

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