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138. Accumulation Of Knowledge By The Shamans

In order to complete the picture of the shaman's activity it must be added that the shamans are promotors of, or better to say, contributors to the Tungus knowledge.

In the description of the psychic state of the shaman during the performances and extasy I have shown that the shamans must go very deep into the study of the psychology and mentality of the sick persons and the audience. The shamans are observers, collectors of facts which they analyse the new spirits, or the new manifestations of the old spirits. As shown, in their practical work in treating clients, chiefly in psychomental troublesome conditions, they find various new methods. All this knowledge must be adjusted to the existing theories concerning spirits and methods of treatment, which may keep the shamans very busy, especially when there are too many things to be discovered or when the Tungus come into close contact with other ethnical groups. The adjustment of new cultural elements to the existing complex is a real creative work continuously carried out by «good» shamans. Let me emphasize that when I speak of the analysis and elaboration of new methods this should be understood in the sense of an adaptive creation. A great part of phenomena, as we may understand them, are merely symbolized in simple or elaborated complexes of spirits and special relations existing among them. Indeed, if a person, behaving like a European, were to listen to the shamanistic theories and look at the methods elaborated by the shamans, all efforts of the shamans would appear as a maniacal delirium, deceit of naive people, «superstitions», sexuality etc., i.e. exactly as shamanism has usually been pictured. This side of shamanism must first be «translated» into the terms of the «European complex» and then analysed, after which it will not appear more delirious than some great philosophical systems of great European philosophers, although the latter sometimes bear all attributes of a delirious complex (sometimes being actually so), especially when abstracted from the cultural complex, of which they were only elements.

There is besides another worry, namely, the transmission of the acquired knowledge to the younger generation of the shamans, to the candidates, and the selection of shamans. The teaching of the younger generation — the mechanism of preservation of knowledge and tradition - is naturally one of the conditions of accumulation of knowledge, as the publishing of scientific works is a means of accumulation of knowledge. However, in this way only a part of knowledge may be transmitted, for the shamans very often refuse to transmit their knowledge to the candidates whom they do not believe to be sufficiently prepared.

The shamans very often refuse to talk about things of their competence with people who cannot understand them. They have even a special term for such people which may be translated «simple», «common» people. However, in shamanism there is nothing «sacred» or «prohibited», and still less «tabooed». The only matter is that not every one can understand shamanism and therefore it is useless for a shaman to talk with ignorant persons. It is not surprising that a great number of investigators find themselves thwarted by the mutism of the shamans, their hostile attitude and their treatment of investigators as ignorant persons, who can be satisfied with any reply. It is especially true of those who travel with various «questionnaires» which consist of the most inconsistent questions resulting from the European theories concerning «primitive man» and other imaginary constructions. I am certain that no European scholar would permit an ignorant outsider to come into his laboratory to poke a thick finger into delicate instruments, and to ask with an ironical mile questions concerning the influence of the scholar's sexual complex on his laboratory experiments. Only an extreme politeness and the recognition of the necessity of submitting to the overbearance of powerful representatives of «civilization» keep the shamans from sending off such investigators.

In my experience with the shamans I have come to the conclusion that, as soon as one shows them a bit of understanding, they become desirous to explain more and more, especially If one does not bother them with «fountain pen and note book» and other devices of the alien cultural complex. When one wants to learn from the shamans, they are easier in this respect than some European professionals who are anxious to show their authoritativeness in their professions, who very often are jealous and afraid of disclosing professional secrets on which they are making their living, who still oftener are concealing their ideas provided there are such ideas — from other people, in their fear of being robbed of their poor mental equipment. There were some shamans with whom I could not establish a close connection. At the beginning this might have been due chiefly to my lack of experience, and later to the fact that some shamans can perform and have ideas of their function, but do not know how to express them in words — they are not eloquent. This is especially true of female shamans whose shyness can only increase the difficulty of communication.

The acquiring and transmitting of knowledge is a function of «good» shamans who naturally must have broader knowledge, in general, than the average Tungus, especially in so far as the psychomental functioning is concerned. In fact, most of the shamans are always interested in acquiring new knowledge; they pay much attention to conversations concerning problems of their speciality, and they can spend hours in discussing these problems with competent people.

However, it would be superfluous to point out that not all shamans are alike in this respect. Not all of them are equally interested in «theoretical work», and not all of them are interested in acquiring new knowledge. From the description of how a candidate becomes shaman and from the description of the functions of the shaman it is evident that among the shamans there may be different types with difficult inclinations. A shaman may be a very good performer without being a good diagnostician; he may be a good diagnostician without being a good performer; he may be neither a performer nor a diagnostician, and he may be interested in the above mentioned theoretical work. Since these types are a result of adaptation — they result from the complex conditions sometimes not cognized — the gradation of the creative power among them is not less than that observed, for instance, in the European universities where one may see many types — from professors, who are merely mechanical reproducers of ideas which remain not understood, up to creative geniuses. This simple fact has been very often overlooked by investigators.

The function of the shamans accumulators of knowledge should not be taken as a professional function. Every Tungus may do this, and every Tungus may be interested in shamanism, and thus may be in close contact with the shamans. But since the shamans specialise in this field, meeting in their practice with various cases, they are put in better positions with respect to this aspect of the cultural complex, and naturally may know more and may become more theoretical in this field than the «common» people.

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