American Shaman [visits to !Kun Bushfolk of the Kalahari (pp. 1-151)]






Dancing under the Stars

17 to 40


What It Meaneth to Be a Shaman

41 to 59


Circles of Life

93 to 112


Who Is Not in the Room?

115 to 126


Value of Play

127 to 141


Evoking the Sacred

143 to 158


Multiple Modalities

159 to 173



175 to 192


Therapeutic Tasks & Ordeals

193 to 204


Love over Power

225 to 237

p. 22 soul-tree

"camelthorn tree, ... when you die, that is where your soul will return."

"a rough fence of camelthorn branches ... . This was designed to keep lions ... from getting inside." {So, the implication is that after death one's soul will be protected from marauding lions.}

pp. 27-8 praeternatural praesences : heat in body, thorns & praeternatural steam

p. 27

"It is when a shaman feels the energy in his body that the healing dance begins. ... The clapping takes on a crisp and piercing staccato rhythm. ... It is ... calling out the spirits. ...

"I feel my hands become hot in the dance. The power also comes to my feet and they move of their own accord ... ." ... .

... the Big God plants ... nails in the bellies of the chosen ones. ... to explain ... the word nail, they used to refer to thorns, as in ... the camelthorn tree.

{Do modern Bushfolk refer to the praeternatural thorns in the body {cf. "thorn in the flesh" of Paulos in his Epistle} in order to accommodate to the doctrine of the nailing of Christ to the Cross?}

There are only two ways to get such ... -- from the Big God, or from another, more powerful shaman who has many such things in his own belly. ...

{Likewise amongst the S^uar of Ecuador.}

p. 28

"When the healing dance begins, the nails [thorns] begin to heat up and become very, very hot. ... . ... When the nails become hot, ... they start to rise in the body and they climb in the chest.

The heat becomes like steam that comes out of a hole in the head.

{cf. the steam rising out of the top of the head of "Stripe Eye" in CBM, p. 38.}

The steam falls to the ground, where it cools again, forms another arrow ..., and enters the body again through the feet of the dancer."

{Poimandres : ("H&RT", p. 26) "a Being of enormous size" [cf. the Big God] shewed "the creation of water, steaming"; and ("H&RT", p. 27) "engendered ... stars" [cf. the Taoist rites of walking upon the stars of the sky; and Amerindian myths of an ARROW-chain to climb to sky]}

CBM = Codex Borgianus Mexicanus.

"H&RT" = John Scarborough : "Hermetic and Related Texts". In :- Hermeticism and the Renaissance. 1988. pp. 19-44.

pp. 28-9, 33-4 praeternatural sensations within one's body : shivering, jerking, shaking

p. 28

"a younger man ... started to jerk in convulsions. ... They lose control and start to shiver. ... Keeney ... was dancing around like a mariontte that was being jerked at the end of a string. ...

p. 29

At first one leg started jerking, then the other. Then his chest began rippling and vibrating."

p. 33

Keeney said : "I was trembling and then I felt this wild vibration in my thigh. ... Then my feet were jerking up and down. ... But it was weird because the whole thing was kind of effortless."

p. 34

healing by Keeney : "then the rumbling began, ... undulating. ... The two of them held on to one another as if they were being jerked around ... . ... Was the shaking somehow unsettling the disease, as the Bushman believed? They felt that sickness resulted from dirty arrows in the body that needed to be cleaned".

p. 39 !Kun shaman dreaming of medicine

"the Big God talked to him and gave him the power. He would dream thereafter about special medicines that would heal others. He knew how to find these things."

p. 40 one's heart becometh a star

"when a Bushman shaman dies, his heart comes out in the sky and becomes a star."

{After his death, Quetzalcoatl's heart became the morning star [planet Mercury].}

pp. 43-4 Harner

p. 43

"there is "Harnerism," created by Michael Harner ... . ...

{So-called "Harnerism" is not anything "created" by him, but is instead mainly a sociological method for encouraging native Amerindians of Washington and of British Columbia to continue to practice, or to redinstate the practice of, the theatrical canoe-enactment of a canoe-voyage to the world for souls of the dead.}

p. 44

"It is Keeney's belief that Harner ... got off to an unfortunate start".

{Harner started with being trained by S^uar shamans, who were using praeternatural "darts" is much the same ways that Keeney's Bushfolk shamans were using their praeternatural "thorns" or "arrows".}

p. 45 definition of /shaman/

" "Keep in mind," Keeney added, quoting the scholar Casanowicz (1926), "that the Siberian Tungus word for shaman, saman, means one who is excited, moved, or raised.""

"Under the influence of the divine, shamans become "the artist, the priest, the dramatist, the physician, all rolled into one, who develop the abilities beyond others to dream, to imagine, to enter into states of trance" (Larsen, 1976, p. 8)."

"Another translation for the Tungus word saman is "inner heat," and an alternative etymology comes from the Sanskrit word saman, which means "song" (Hoppal, 1987)."

Casanowicz 1926 = I. M. Casanowicz : Shamanism of the Natives of Siberia. Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution.

Larsen 1976 = S. Larsen : The Shaman's Doorway. NY : Harper & Row.

Hoppal 1987 = M. Hoppal : "Shamanism". In :- S. Nicholson (ed.) : Shamanism : an expanded view of reality. Wheaton (IL) : Quest.

p. 46 shamanic traveling

"Traveling the spirit world happens for shamans, but only as a consequence of being driven into ecstasy by internal heat, shaking, and song."

{In actuality, most often shamanic traveling is done during dreaming. Ecstatic waking performances are usually invocations to spirits of those spirits to come and to arrive into the praesence of an assembled human audience in the waking-world, without any shamanic travel abroad by the shaman-performer.}

p. 52 tingling; spirits in animal-guise

"There may be a tingling sensation that comes on your skin, a sudden jerk of your leg, or a twitching of your finger or eyelid.

In many indigenous cultures, these experiences are taken as evidence of the presence of spirits. Whether it's a butterfly, a bird, a bear, a moose ..., I regard these images as sacramental expressions".

{Experiences of tingling or of twitching are never anywhere taken as evidence of the praesence of animal-forms of spirits. (Where twtiching is ascribed to influence of a spirit -- such as to god Io among the Maori of New Zealand -- the spirit is in human-shape, not animal-shape.) The spirit-helpers in animal-form of Siberian and of Amerindian shamans are divine beings in those shapes seen by (and spoken with) the shamans in their dreams, not mere speculations about the possible causes of waking-state experiences.}

pp. 53-5, 58 mother ship & its tractor-beam

p. 53

Keeney said : "I just dreamed that I was staring at an ostrich egg. ...

{Eggs have the same shape as have mother ships for the flying saucers.}

The egg was just suspended in the air in front of me. ...

{Flying saucers commonly hover in the air.}

And then it cracked open into two halves. ... ...

{Flying saucers generally open themselves.}

"I just stared at the two halves of the ostrich egg ... . The right half was completely white ... . ... But the left side had these two stripes on it. One was red and the other was green. Then I woke up. ...

{There is a well-known European alchemical description of a divine egg needing to be split into two halves, a right and a left.}

p. 54

The Bushmen told me that it symbolizes that the ropes are open. ... .

{In order to take humans aboard, a mother ship must open its tractor-beams.}

p. 55

... the Bushmen depicted their spirit world by showing ropes to God, lines ... to the spirit world in the sky. ... The colored bands represent horizontal ropes. ... The most powerful shamans can climb those ropes to meet God.

It is through the dancing and shaking that this is possible."

{Commonly, human abductees of the flying saucers undergo shaking.}

p. 58

"I can't imagine believing in UFOs. Never will. Even if one picked me up and flew me away, I still would not believe that it happened. I refuse to believe in that kind of thing.

{So, Keeney is in denial of the existence of dreams?! (Abduction by flying-saucers is a variety of dream.) Amerindians (and most other traditional peoples likewise) generally consider the dream-world to be more real than the waking-world. Many traditional cultures teach about the divine flying vehicles (including "chariots of fire" in the Bible) capable of transporting souls to heaven.}

There are ... things that bankrupt my ability to make sense out of what is happening."

{How can such an ultra-traditional phainomenon as flying vehicles of the deities "bankrupt" anyone's ability to make sense out of what is happening?}

pp. 56-7 shamanic motivation via activation, vs. non-shamanic tranquilization via inactivation

p. 56

Praesent-day Occidental "Psychologists, social workers, doctors, and other health professionals routinely do things to calm and tranquilize people ... . ...

p. 57

Yet in ancient cultures, the shamans often advocate something quite different. They instruct people ... to rev up their energy even further. People are invited to dance away their troubles, to share them with the community, not through talk, but through movement. People become so aroused, they literally begin shaking and convulsing, sometimes ... they jerk up ... as if pulled by the strings of a puppetmaster."

pp. 102, 107 Bradford Keeney's promoting of socially radical anthropologists

p. 102

" "I used to have dreams," Keeney said, "in which I could hear Gregory [Bateson]'s voice giving lectures. ...""

p. 107

"[Keeney] invited the critics of cybernetics to his campus and created visiting scholar positions for them. These included Stephan Tyler (1987), a former founder of the school of cognitive anthropology, who had more recently become the most radical postmodern anthropologist in the world. Tyler, holder of an endowed chair at Rice Universtiy, came with his colleague, Harvard-bred Tullio Maranha~o (1986)."

Tyler 1987 = Stephan Tyler : The Unspeakeable. Madison : U of WI Pr.

Maranha~o 1986 = Tullio Maranha~o : Therapeutic Discourse and Socratic Dialogue. Madison : U of WI Pr.

p. 121 rejection of conventional psychiatry

""Even Emil Kraeplin, the man who invented the diagnostic system as we know it, denounced it before he died." "Psychology's time is over. It is dead."

p. 128 origin of shamans

" "In the beginning, there was love," Keeney says. "It gave birth to light that created that which we needed for personal transformation. This brought forth the shamans. ...""

pp. 133-4 exorcism of a haunting ghost by Mutwa Vusamazulu (by pleasing a ghost)

p. 133

Quaestions to addressed living inhabitants of the haunted house, and those inhabitants' response : " "What do you think would make this ghost feel more comfortable? ... How might you make your home an even more welcome place for this ghost, instead of trying to chase it away?" ... Perhaps they could leave the doors and the windows open so that the ghost might pass through much easier, without having having to negotiate through solid walls. They could leave out food for the ghost ... . ...

p. 134

"Let us give some thought about how to make your village friendlier to the ghost, rather than trying to frighten and threaten ... ....""

pp. 139, 141 fire; burning log

p. 139

At a "healing Giraffe dance", "When the spirits are strong, the shaman might actually dance in the fire without feeling the heat or becoming burned."

p. 141

Keeney explained his therapy-session with a client : " "Whatever burning log he pulls out of the fire, that's the one we play with. ..." ["The burning logs are the important metaphors that a client believes have meaning for his or her life." (p. 194)] The main operating premise that guides Keeney's work is to do what is unexpected, to shock and surprise the client as much as possible."

pp. 144-6 healing dance

p. 144

"We were ... watching Keeney dance and shake and writhe with three of the women healers ... . These were ... adorned in colorfully beaded ropes that encircled their necks and adorned their heads. ...

p. 145

[Declared those women :] "We women like to dance longer than the men. ... Our secret is that we are stronger than the men. We like to dance all night.""

pp. 146-7, 151-2 1st Kalahari dance-session participation of an a psychology-professor (from Governors State University in IL); & a warning not to misunderstand that dance-session

p. 146

"But ... he began to move and shake ... . His feet ... and his legs began to shake of their own accord, rippling from his calves to his thighs and lower belly. He heard the chanting,the clapping, and the drumbeats. ... He felt hands massaging him, and he realized they were "cooling" him down."

p. 147

""When you were in the dance last night," Keeney continued, "and the women began to rub their hands along the sides of your abdomen and to vibrate your hands, you began to exhibit some pretty ususual postures and movements.""

p. 151

" "My gosh {an allusion to the land of Gos^en in Mis.rayim}," Keeney said, "the gods gave you the gift ... ."" Then said the counseling-professor said to the psychology-professor (from Fullerton, CA) : "Brad ... is teaching you about how trying to understand things can destroy them in the process. He is telling you to value mystery".

{Endeavouring to understand a sacred performance in purely human terms, rather than in terms of the deities' vouchsafing to humans a gift, may lead to destroying that gift (by the deities' withdrawing it on account of those deities' being insufficiently praised for their mysterious gifting).}

p. 152

" "The problem is not understanding," Keeney continued. "The problem is limited understanding. ... We need more reverence and awe.""

{The deities involved demand that, toward those deities' own august immortal persons, mere mortals display reverence and awe. Thereupon those deities can show off (to still other deities) the reverence and awe wherein they are held by mortals.}

pp. 147-8, 150 visitation of Bradford's wife Mev by spirit-voices which were singing {her name Mev/Maeve is Irish, and in Eire praeternatural fairy-voices are often heard by their mortal devotees}

p. 147

"She reported being awakened in their Tucson home ... by the sound of Bushmen singing at a dance. She said that the singing was loud enough to wake her up, and it continued

p. 148

while she walked through the house." She wrote : "I don't recall if I had been dreaming before the singing woke me up ... ." {But evidently she must have been dreaming the same dance-singing, which praeternally continued after she had awoken.}

p. 150

"The Bushmen would call her experience a "visitation," a visit from the spirit world. ... For the Bushmen ... would hold a dance upon hearing of her report. ...

Brad wrote back to Mev : ... Before I left town [Tucson], I took a jar of sand I had collected many years ago in the Kalahari. It was sand from my first dance with the Bushmen. I sprinkled all of the sand around the house as a way of encircling our home under the spiritual custody of the" [!Kun dance-deities].

pp. 154-5 popular books by Bradford Keeney

p. 154

"In his book Everyday Soul ..., Keeney (1996) catalogued ... how to activate and nourish a sense of mystery. ...

Dance, think, and pray in the dark. ...

Bring on the music. ...

Be irreverent with the "why questions" in your life."

p. 155

"Keeney (1994) has written a whole book on rituals for watching The David Letterman Show".

Keeney 1996 = Bradford Keeney : Everyday Soul. NY : Riverhead Bks.

Keeney 1994 = Bradford Keeney : The Lunatic Guide to the David Letterman Show. Barrytown (NY) : Station Hill Pr.

p. 155 bliss

"Ask youreself what you believe would bring forth the deepest bliss in your life, that which would move and satisfy you the most beyond all other experiences. ... Does it involve ... perhaps being in bed with your lover?"

{To invoke the couples of the deities while engaging in sexual activities is the main sort of ritual of original Sahajiya/Vajra-yana.}

p. 156 the 4 kinds of experience

"Keeney sees his shamanic work as a movement between {among} four kinds of experience :

(1) stimulation of the client to have an ecstatic experience ...;

(2) working with spiritual dreams ...; doing so through both incubating dreams (making suggestions and rituals that unconsciously {i.e., by inciting dream-deities in their supraconscious dream-world} seed them) and transforming them when they are shared ...;

(3) encouraging ... making something concrete, based on what was was dreamed; and

(4) adminstering heavy doses of absurdity to help undo any overserious" metaphors. {This last is achieved with the assistance of joke-deities.}

p. 157 why persons become counselors

"Many therapists and helpers went into this profession is the first place because of feelings of helplessness and powerlessness ... . We ... believed that through advanced training, we could become the sort of wise sages who Knew Things. ... If only we ... sought supervision and mentors, then finally we could attain the sought-after position of ... someone who can make sense of the world.

Of course, the shaman has no interest in making sense of the world, much less of any phenomenon within it."

{In actuality, although a shaman may have little interest in understanding about irrelevancies of the material universe; yet nevertheless every shaman hath much interest in finding within the divine worlds (those journeyed to during dreaming) the means of solving difficulties which may exist in the material world.}

pp. 162-3 shamanic technique of diagnosis; synaisthesia

p. 162

"some shamans will lick the skin of others to get a sense of the body's condition. ... If you ask a Bushman shaman[ess] how she knows if someone is sick, she will tell you that she can smell it. And when she says smell it, she also {metonymically} means taste it and hear it as well.

Then there is the state of synesthesia ... . This is a condition that children have early in life but eventually outgrow it ... .

{Actually, very few young children have synaisthesia; and those who do, retain it throughout life.}

p. 163

The shaman merges these sorts of sensory modalities during ceremonial time, and this is what allows him or her to smell, taste, and feel sickness in others."

{Actually, synaisthesia may be as rare in shamans as in the general population. Genuinely synaisthetic persons may possess no special ability to diagnose, nor indeed any other psychic abilities any more so than the general population. Shamans never use any synaisthesia to diagnose patients withal, but instead use the separate senses of the personal guiding spirit (deity) who is empowering that shaman.}

p. 164 self-activation for making a praesentation to an audience or to a client; clinical acumen

"Keeney ... begins to vibrate his belly. He shakes himself from his legs, up his thighs, deep into his belly. ... By the time he greets his audience or client, he can feel his whole body vibrating and all his senses heightened. ...

"This is essentially what clinical acumen is," Keeney explained. "It is like when you can feel something in your bones. You can smell trouble. ... You can feel the ghosts ... .""

pp. 165-6 saying the same thing in speciously opposite terms [the 2nd case is being satirical]

p. 165

"Keeney recalled a conference from the 1960s in New York called "Beyond the Double Bind." ... During one panel discussion, [Jay] Haley claimed defiantly that he had never seen a schizophrenic in his life, that there was no such thing as schizophrenic. It was all a figment of one's imagination.

p. 166

Carl Whitaker asked for the microphone. "I've never met anyone who was not a schizophrenic," he said ... .

{This is a satire. The method used by psychiatrists in state mental hospitals for classifying inmates as "schizophrenics" is so broadly inclusive (they automatically label every patient admitted as "schizophrenic", regardless of symptoms) that the entire human population of the world would be so classified by such psychiatrists if they had the opportunity to do so.}

Relating this story, Keeney said that both of these mavericks were really saying the same thing."

{They were both implying that psychiatry is a huge public fraud.}

pp. 176-7 stillness resultant from energetic dancing to drumbeat

p. 176

"The drums ... begin beating in a multi-polyphonic rhythm ... . ... People begin to sway and move and shake in a convulsive-like fashion. Involuntary movements ripple through one's abdomen and chest and thighs. ...

p. 177

Ironically, it is through this intense stimulation that people reach a state of deep, reflective stillness that meditators would take years trying to achieve. They fall into this condition naturally, not by willing themselves to relax but by allowing themselves to become totally and completely excited."

"Keeney cited the work of Milton Erickson (1980) as one example of ... this principle".

Erickson 1980 = Ernest L. Rossi (ed.) : The Collected Papers of Milton Erickson. NY : Irvington.

pp. 177, 179-80 seiki jutsu

p. 179

"the Milton H. Erickson Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona, a center world-renowned for hypnosis and innovative work in psychotherapy ...

p. 180

recommended ... a meeting with Keeney. ... . ... he told her about the Japanese method of arousing the life force. He ... suggested how she could start moving her body in a way that would draw the life force into her whole being. After 1 week of doing this, she reported that she could feel a tingling sensation".

p. 177

"In the ancient Japanese tradition of seiki jutsu, the healer mobilizes and circulates the life force as part of a ceremony that emphasizes rapid, subtle shaking movements ... .

p. 179

As Keeney described this practice, he ... demonstrated ... . ... His body started to vibrate ... . He made moaning sounds. He started slapping his thighs ... . He slapped his chest, his arms, then leaned forward and started blowing through his mouth. The vibrations now moved up his neck, making whooshing sounds out of his mouth."

pp. 180-1 social contexts for bodily motions in Occidental culture

p. 180

"Our culture does not permit such movements, except under the most rigidly prescribed contexts, such as a nightclub or an Orthodox Jewish synagogue. ...

p. 181

Even during religious worship in most traditions (except among Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and African Americans), congregants are expected to remain immobile ... in the House of God".

p. 188 Micmac & Cree shakers

"In Nova Scotia, the ... Micmac medicine man ... naturally shakes when he touches others with his healing touch. ... the ... Cree ... was also a "shaker" and would find his body seized with ecstatic movements."

pp. 190-1 magical journey

p. 190

"When a shaman feels the inner heat, shakes with ecstatic energy, and hears or sings the sacred sounds, he or she may trigger a wide range of enhanced states of consciousness. One of these may be a magical journey up a rope to the sky, through a tunnel into

p. 191

an underworld, or into an immediate transference of consciousness to another place and time in the mythopoetic atmosphere."

p. 191 becoming the empty vessel; unique for the moment

"shamanism is about being open to the Tao, the natural effortless dance between movement and stillness ... . Applied to ... strategies of personal transformation, each school of therapy can be experientially true if the practitioner allows the process to flow naturally through him or her. What this means ... is that the vessel is more important than the content of what flows inside ... . ... Keeney cites ... the Lakota medicine man Fools Crow, who described himself as a "hollow bone." ... To be full of wisdom is to be empty. To be moved by the spirit is to be still. In these paradoxes lies a great truth ... . ...

We must seek to be aware of all the possibilities but yet allow the unique characteristics of the situation at hand to move us to be perfect for that moment. This is what Keeney calls a no-therapy for no-mind, or a no-shamanism for no-transformation, or a no-behavior for no-purpose. This ... paradoxical way of defining life turns everything we have been taught upside down. With the shamanic view, we see that we must learn

to make ourselves available for the spirit of life that waits for us to take a ride on its breath."

{"You can ride the things that are now" (Tao Te C^in 14).}

Tao Te C^in 14 =

pp. 195-198 a dream, & a consultation concerning it in a shaking-tent

p. 195

"Keeney ... first visited the Bushmen because he had a dream that directed him to do so. He is still such a florid and vivid dreamer that many of his life decisions are based on the messages that come to him in his sleeping visions."

"among the Ojibwa Indians, if you were to have a dream about an otter ..., you might be asked to go hunt for an otter and use its skin in some ritualized way. In fact, Keeney actually had a dream ... in which ... his grandfather told

p. 196

him to get the skin of an otterand make a bag to carry his things. ... Keeney ... took a seaplane to the island in Lac La Croix that houses the reservation. ... The people had gathered together to ... the shaking tent. ... It was believed that as the spirits shook the tent, so it was possible to receive messages of guidance. ... Whenever someone ... was visited by a sacred dream, he or she would visit the medicine man inside the tent. ... The medicine man then consulted with the spirit world and offered his verdict. ...

p. 197

Brad heard voices inside the tent ...; ... these are the voices of the spirits. While Keeney waited patiently, he noticed a little bell on the top of the tent was ringing loudly. This was a signal that the spirit was shaking the tent. The tent swayed violently back and forth. ...

p. 198

As soon as Brad took a seat, [the Ojibway medicine-man] looked at him and nodded. "Yup, ... you need a special pipe and I know just the man who can make this for you. ... And he can get you an otter bag to hold you pipe. ...""

p. 229 praeternatural bodily heat, sensed by Bradford Keeney in a university chapel at age 19

"once he entered the chapel, he felt a fire in his belly, as if a divine force was touching him. "This ball of fire slowly and surely crept up my back, and as it did, I began to feel multitple heartbeats within my chest. It continued climbing upward through my throat and finally all the way to the top of my head. As this fire worked itself up, my body became hotter by the moment. Sweat dripped from every pore and I began shaking. I felt like I had been struck by some kind of lightning bolt. I jerked and began to shake all over. Ripples of energy pulsing through my abdomen, legs, feet, arms, and hands. ... I felt love in a way I never knew possible. ... .

... and that ball of fire came right out of the top of my head. It came out as steam or

a white cloud and situated itself about 5 feet directly in front of me. The light was a white oval-shaped light about the size of a person. Its edges were not finely formed, but soft and irregular like those of a cloud in the sky. Inside this light I saw one saint after another, beginning with Jesus."

{"Behold, he cometh with clouds" (Apokalupsis of Ioannes 1:7). "one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven" (Daniye>l 7:13; cf. Euangelion according to Markos 14:62).}

Jeffrey A. Kottler & Jon Carlson : American Shaman : an Odyssey of Global Healing Traditions. Brunner-Routledge, Hove (East Sussex), 2004.