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133. Special Methods

Besides the common methods — simple logical method and intuition — the shamans use special methods for an intensification of the perception and imaginative thinking, and for an intensification of the intuition. These methods are: reading of thoughts, communication at a distance, auto-suggestive regulation of dreams, and extasy. All these methods in a lesser or greater degree are used by common people as well, but among the shamans these methods have become an essential condition of their art.

In preceding chapters I have already given some facts observed among the Tungus and Manchus, which point to the existence of reading of thoughts. I have admitted the possibility of such a reading which is not based upon a system of inferences made from facts, but seemingly is a direct communication, probably by means of a special kind of physical waves. For the time being the existence of these «waves» is a mere hypothesis, but this may be, at least temporarily, admitted, for the phenomena of «reading of thoughts» in a great number of cases cannot be understood as the result of mere «intuition» or coincidences parallelism of thought in two individuals. This peculiarity is not characteristic of all shamans, some of whom may use it in a lesser degree, others in a greater one; but all of them make this attempt. Communication at a distance is apparently based upon the same physical condition. The shamans attain it by different methods, namely, they may do it in their dreams, during the extasy, or in a «normal» state of concentration on a «desire» which they «think strongly». In all these cases the shamans say that they «send the soul» with a communication. It must be pointed out that this can be better done during the night, i.e. exactly during the period good for transmission of waves, undisturbed by sun rays. Another condition must not be forgotten, namely, the shamans attain extasy much more easily in the dark. On the other hand the perception of communication made at a distance is often symbolised in the form of animals which make the communication to those who perceive. The animals - e.g. bear, dog, snake — appear either in dreams (in a sleeping state) or in hallucinations (among the Birarchen). However, these communications may be perceived also in the form of voices heard, or may remain undescribed: «I want to do it, for the shaman wants it; I feel so», the Tungus say. Finally, there may be no perception at all, but the communication may be received unconsciously and will be followed by the acts implied by the communication. The shamans assert that they communicate at a distance with each other, then they are friendly, and they communicate and fight, when they are hostile. The analysis of some of these cases is extremely difficult, for it is not easy to determine whether the communication at a distance was a real one or not. Indeed, parallelism of thought and emotion is a common occurrence. Moreover, there are cases when two individuals (one of them a shaman or both of them shamans) do not know about each other, nor the occasion on which the communication is made, e.g. in the urgent cases when a shaman wants to have the assistance of another shaman and calls him. The nature of these phenomena is not clear, but I do not venture to deny them and to reject them under the pretext of lack of «rationalization».

The communication at a distance and the reading of thoughts are powerful means of abbreviation of the process of cognition which is widely used by the shamans.

The methods of dreams and extasy are of a special character, but they serve the same purpose and are a perfection of means of cognition.

As a rule, the shamans have recourse to dreams, when they have difficult cases or when they have to perform shamanizing. However, the shamans sleep with different purposes. As has been shown, some of them, especially the Manchu shamans, also Goldi ones, according to the description of I. A. Lopatin, go to sleep before the performance, and the spirits are supposed to come into them during the sleep. The Northern Tungus shamans also sleep, but extasy comes later. From the last fact, it is evident that sleep is generally needed for a certain purpose which is, as far as I can see, a rest needed before a performance. However, the awakening in a state of extasy is also not a pure and simple ritualism (though it may be included In the ritualism, as well), but the reaching of extasy in a half-conscious state is easier, and therefore the shamans sleep before the performance, it is different with the cases when the shamans want to cognize, to solve various problems in the state of sleep. The mechanism of this method, as far as I can see it, is described below.

As is known, sleep is not a definite unvariable physiological condition, but it shows different degrees of interruption of psychic functions, beginning with a complete elimination of all physiological functions of perception and a complete arrest of the complex of mental work, up to a partial elimination of a few elements. Indeed, in so far as «mental work» is concerned, there may be also different degrees of its arrest. However, by the side of illogical dream-constructions there may be and, as an observed fact, there are dreams which are free of an illogical character; they are perfectly logical, but with the introduction of imaginative elements, sometimes conditioned by the physiological complex. Thus they may appear illogical not in their construction, but in their final result. One of the important conditions of dreams is that the usual, «ethnographical», complex of thinking, because of a partial elimination of this sphere of the psychomental complex in sleep, may leave the thinking machine to go ahead with the solution of problems presented by a new situation, some elements of which are not included in the ethnographical complex of thinking and therefore cannot be solved within the limits of this complex. When the thinking machine is free from the influence of the acting complex, it may do its work still better, especially if several links are lacking. This is a commonly used method of leaving the solution of difficult problems to the time after a sleep, either at night or in the day-time. Indeed, this may be interpreted as the necessity of a rest for successfully carrying out a mental work, but every one who does this, intentionally or unintentionally, knows that in dreams one may have a continuation of his daily mental work and sometimes finds solutions of difficult problems, which come suddenly, either in dreams or in the first moments of awakening. Yet, if one faces a difficult problem which cannot be solved, the latter is often set aside, so to say banished, from the consciousness, and it may be solved — the process of solution remaining unnoticed — in the «strata of subconsciousness». In all these cases the aim is the same, namely, to suppress for a time the influence of the acting ethnographical complex of thinking. When checking is needed and when presentation of the result of the act of such a thinking is required, the lacking links must be introduced. Thus this method does not essentially differ from the «subconscious thinking», and the question is only about the creation of favourable conditions for such thinking. The shamans have adopted this method as an established and recognized one, regularly used when needed, and they explain it by means of the existing hypotheses and theories concerning the spirits. So that this method is not only non-inhibited, but its use is justified and rationalized. It should be noted here that the shamans may receive a «revelation» in a direct form of a definite statement, or as in the case of communication at a distance, it may be expressed by some special symbolization. The shamans are therefore very careful with the analysis of «dreams», some of which they consider as a «revelation», while the others consider them as mere «dreaming» and have different terms for these two different kinds of dreams. The Manchu shamans sometimes go to sleep only for half an hour and they receive a revelation from the spirits. The Manchu expression is vochko solimb'e i.e. to «invite spirits».

The extasy, in so far as the creation of special favourable conditions of the thinking process is concerned, is only a means. The mechanism is that there occurs a partial elimination of perception and a total or partial elimination of the influence of the existing ethnographical complex of thinking, so that the intuition and imaginative thinking meet with no hindrance, or this hindrance is reduced to the possible minimum. However, since the extasy in shamanism plays quite a distinct role and its aim does not consist only in the creation of favourable conditions for thinking I shall treat it in a special section.

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