[NB] Shaman: a snapshot in the life of a word

“Anonymous writers were the norm, frequently German, Swedish, or Danish captives; among them, by the second half of the seventeenth century, ‘shaman,’ ‘saaman,’ and ‘shaitan’ were established as indigenous terms, applied to all groups living past the Ural Mountains. Later ethnographers would suggest that the term ‘shaman’ was specifically of ‘Tungus origin,’ but in the mid-seventeenth century the Tungus were…not a distinct ethnic tribe…. Judging from the historical evidence, the word itself is a generic label of Slavic origin via German transcription with negative connotations.”—Silvia Tomášková, The Wayward Shaman: The Prehistory of an Idea (77–78)

So, yeah, this word that has now become a tense spot in the dialogue around appropriating indigenous discourse, may very likely have had its origins in the imperial effort to catalog the margins of Russia. I’m not saying the dialogue around appropriation doesn’t matter, but it does suggest something funny that we have gotten tangled up in a word rather in the history or present circumstances of a people and a practice. Or, that we twist ourselves in knots to avoid appropriating a word while living the ins and outs of our days on the appropriation of their land and labor.

Does the concern over a word really help us or other people? Or does it slow us down, isolate us, divide us up so that we can’t communicate so easily with each other? While we need to have good definitions on the ground, I suspect that language policing benefits empire first and foremost.

More Conscious Evolution

The back and forth that kicked off yesterday’s post came at an opportune time and helped me to solidify some material that started with this post. I had wanted to develop that post more by talking about Kabbalism proper and the question as to the possible identity or distinction between sefirot and henads allowed me to do some of that.

Okay, so this is going to sound weird and science fictional, but I work with what I got. I want to talk toward a fully temporalized account of embodied intelligences in dialogue with eternity as an alternative to a holographic account of eternity projecting itself into a temporal frame generating intelligences according to eternity’s logic.

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Unintended Consequences

In my last post, I proposed that a portion of what we might call spiritual technology is a good deal like other sorts of technology, i.e. it results from human experimentation rather than direct divine inspiration or straightforward exploration. From this perspective, spiritual traditions are a mish-mash of spiritual guidance, spiritual accident, and human cleverness.

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