Not Quite Shamans, 5.7-5.9



Shamanic Humor II


p. 207, fn. 12 expression of ainigmata during Taman spirit-possession caerimony

"As David Holmberg explains in his study of shamanic possession rites ("soundings") among the Nepalese Tamang ...,

the Tamang shamans (bombos) are essentially "instruments through which enigmas resound." This is so because

{The "enigma" is praesent in "the bombo ... when he goes to the divinities" ("T&MPT", p. 23b), and is resolved only when "Bombo later report their visions in separate, formal divinatory recitations."}

"although ... closure -- figured in the bombo's mastery of possession --

{When "the bombo acquires the capacity to control", i.e. mastery of spirit-possession, ("T&MPT", p. 24b) "his or her condition changes from that of being grasped, seized, or captured to that of "carrying" divinities and spirits "piggy-back" (khwpa)".}

large portions of a sounding ... lack ... closure" (1989, 169).

{Lack of closure could be when ("T&MPT", p. 24b) "If you have no wang ['spiritual power'], ... you do not shake much."}

Indeed, Holmberg notes, "bombos often laugh at direct questions about their practice. ... (1989, 160)"

{Perhaps the bonbo laughed because of the author's as-of-then ignorance of the "long list of ... interpretive signs" ("T&MPT", p. 23a) for needed for the understanding of mystical closed-eyen visions.}

"T&MPT" = David Holmberg : "Transcendence and Magical Power in Tamang Shamanic Soundings". HIMALAYAN RESEARCH BULLETIN, vol. 22, no. 1 (2002), article 6.

Holmberg 1989 = David H. Holmberg : Order in Paradox : Myth, Ritual, ... among Nepal's Tamang. Ithaca : Cornell Univ Pr.

pp. 207-8 the nature of irony : semi-propositions

p. 207

"Ironic utterances, according to ... so-called radically pragmatic interpretation, are thus not genuine propositions but "semi-propositions." Instead of representing the world, irony is all about representing other {persons'} representations, hence ... tools for communicating one's ... (... attitudes toward) other {persons'} beliefs {or praetenses}. ...

A more culturally sensitive and therefore satisfactory

p. 208

interpretation would be to say that ... Darhad occult specialists ... are both representing a genuine belief in (making a proposition about) these metaphysical entities and communicating a meta-representational attitude toward (making semi-proposition about) this belief. On this interpretation {metaphysical truth}, then, shamanic humor is a tool for communicating relative {relative to -- viz., "more true than" -- that hideous mendacity known as "Christianity"} beliefs in occult phenomena {the reality of the immaterial occult being denied only by "Christian" capitalist-materialist deceivers}, for by reflexively referring (as "echoic mention") to tthemselves while also denoting (as "propositional use") the shamanic cosmos, ... "lies" {i.e., truths self-deprecatingly deliberately misdescribed as falsehoods} about spirits ... inserted {and continue to insert} a nested {in linguistic meta-levels} doubt into ... utterances. ... On the other hand, ... Darhads' skepticism {the propre signification of /skepticism/ being "adoxia, opinionlessness" (ShATh, p. 454)} about shamanism calls to mind Henrietta Moore and Todd Sanders's observation {of} ... "... witchcraft as being about humor or irony, which thus carries connotations of skepticism" (2001, 5)."

ShATh = Thomas McEvilley : The Shape of Ancient Thought. Allworth Pr, NY, 2002.

Moore & Sanders 2001 = Henrietta L. Moore & Todd Sanders : Magical Interpretations, Magical Realities : Modernity, Witchcraft and the Occult in Postcolonial Africa. London : Routledge. {This title similar to that of Peter Geschiere's The Modernity of Witchcraft.}



The Truth of "Lies"


p. 210 cosmic game within shamanic spirits' playful world

"an occult dimension of reality ... cannot be talked about by means of propositions ... . This occult dimension of the shamanic spirits is a play world, and the point of shamanic joking -- and laughter and play more generally -- is to stage tiny temporal play frames within this play world so as to participate in

the great eternal cosmic game (naadam) that the spirits play."

{It would be similar to a game in having particular rules according to which its activities are undertaken -- but such rules are (unlike those of the frivolous games of mortals) largely symbolically reminiscent of principles of public ethics involved with development of mechanistic technologies.}

{The essential purpose of the "game" played by deities is to instigate among mortals a willingness to develop their labor-saving technology to the point to having the leisure to contemplate continually the metaphysically significant interactions between material universe and immaterial subtle universes. [written July 2015]}

p. 211 sorcery-mythology of AmerIndian shamanry

"For Michael Taussig, who ... has explicitly included the question of laughter (1987, 1993), the case of shamanic humor would ... represent of a good example of "epistemic murk" (1987, 121). For him, the poetic language employed by ...

the "sorcery-centered religious mythology" of Amerindian shamans

{Such sorcery-mythology could be exemplified in the myths of establishment of the Midewiwin.}

celebrates the irreducible fluidity of ... by staging "Dada-like ... bawdy jokes and teasing ... in the yage` song's irresistible current, ... in a mosaic of interruptedness" (1987, 412)."

Taussig 1987 = Michael Taussig : Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man. Univ of Chicago Pr.

pp. 212-3 playful irony as apt terminology wherethrough to characterize shamanic deities

p. 212

"the truth of shamanic humor is posited to be relative in an "ontological" way : the different points of view ... bespeaks positively, or deictically, the existence of multiple worlds {i.e., multiple planes-of-existence (and not merely multiple material planets)}. That is why, on this analysis, talking about the shamanic spirits logically takes a playful form, for such is also the {seemingly} impossible form these entities take themselves.

Irony, So/ren Kierkegaard wrote many years ago, is "infinite absolute negativity ..., because that {viz., logos/reason} by virtue of which it negates is {maintained} a higher

something that still is not" ([1846], 261)

{viz., >e^n So^p 'there-is-not end/edge'}

This {ostensibly} "negative" definition of irony calls to mind the way in which shamanic humor -- like certain shamanic artifacts {artefacts} -- was found ... to render shamanic spirits "negatively visible. ... In the same way ..., the discursive genre of shamanic humor renders it all too apparent that the spirits

cannot be spoken about by means of ordinary representational language.

{as if a variant of apophatic description}

Thus understood, shamanic humor must be theorized ... about occult phenomena ... as a particular actualization, in the medium of language, of their inherently plastic and capricious mode of being. ... .

... it makes perfect sense that shamanic humor takes the ironic form it does, for this {seemingly} "impossible form"

p. 213

of speech, and this genre alone, is isomorphic with the plastic way of being of the shamanic spirits as perceived {witnessed (by shamans)} ... . In that sense, to communicate one's knowledge about the spirit world quite logically calls for the use of playful discursive genres such as joking ... for playful (naadah) is what the spirits are themselves. ...

It is here that my interpretation of shamanic humor departs from [that of Taussig, et al.].

In my account, the lack of fixity of meaning in ironic discourse is an occult means rather than an occult end. Instead of resulting in Taussig's "epistemic murk," shamanic humor offers a unique opportunity for instantiating in language that

{The author (M.A.P.) is correct is denying "epistemic murk" to shamanry, for the shaman is in communication with deities who expound metaphysics in such detail that no lack of clarity or praecision can persist. On the other hand, non-theistic (and especially materialistic) metaphysics are vague and murky indeed.}

it is the cosmos {and especially the theistic cosmoi} that is relative, not people's representations of it. ...

{The nature of the universe is shiftable according, not to the understanding of it by mortals, but rather to the hidden plans of the inscrutable deities supernaturally guiding it.}

This shamanic concept of relativity does not involve a conventional (Western {i.e., atheistic materialist} ...) decentering of truth ... . ...

{Truth (concerning the nature of the universe) persisteth, centred unmovably in the concord amongst committees of aeternal deities in their fully-concordant hierarchies of intercommunication on and among all levels of the universes.}

The shamanic enigma that spills over from possession rituals ... is thus ...

a question of where

{which locus of which sub-plane of which plane-of-existence}

these invisible beings are at a given moment in time {and-}or [at] a given point in {material-world} space."

{The relationships among spatial points located in different universes (the material and the various subtle) is mediated through purposes which are constantly undergoing minor revisions (universewide, upon recommendations by appropriate committees of deities) in order to maintain such relations in most functionable guise. And because the sequential fulfilling of universal purposes can be reckoned to be a way of understanding time, therefore such understanding is thus also constantly undergoing slight revisions. [written July 29 2015]}

Kierkegaard = So/ren Kierkegaard (Johannes Climacus, pseud. ) : Afsluttende ... . Kjøbenhavn : C.A. Reitzel, 1846. [reprinted 1963 Copenhagen : Gyldendal]

p. 214 a metaphor for the humorously shifty behaviour of shamanic deities

"the ongod are always on the move, floating from one place, thing, or person to the next, like ocean foam caught in the wind."

[fn. 15 : "In adopting this particular metaphor, I have in mind Henri Bergson's observation that "laughter indicates a slight revolt on the surface of social life. ... Like ["ocean"] foam, it sparkles. ..." ([1911], 178-79)."]

{In her favoring of heroes (such as Ankhises) of Ilion, Aphrodite was slightly insubordinate, superficially, to Hera (who, however, was profoundly revoltant against Zeus).}

Bergson 1911 = Henri Bergson (transl. by Cloudesley Brereton & Fred Rothwell) : Laughter : an Essay on the Meaning of the Comic. London : Macmillan. [reprinted :- 1928 Macmillan; 1999 Copenhagen : Green Integer]

{The standard classical allusion would be to the "foam-born" ("H:Th 176 sq -- "OAM--B") "laughing" (H:I 3.389 sq -- "OAG--S") or "laughter-loving" (OH 55 -- "OAG--S") goddess polu-onumos (PHETC, p. 194) Aphrodite.}

"H:Th" = "Hesiodos : Theogonia.

"OAM--B" = "Olympios Aphrodite Myths -- the Birth of Aphrodite".

H:I = Homeros : Iliad-.

"OAG--S" = "Olympios Aphrodite Goddess -- Goddess Of Love, Desire & Procreation".

OH = Orphic Hymn.

PHETC = Rudolphus Maria van den Berg : Proclus' Hymns : Essays, Translations, Commentary. Brill, Leiden, 2001.



Humor as Incognito Shamanism


p. 214 incognito religion

"Kierkegaard famously wrote that in certain situations, humor is the "incognito" of religion ([1846], 177-99). In fact he went so far as to maintain that "there is nothing as faithfully guarded by the comical as the religious" ([1846], 167)."

{"Soren Kierkegaard was, maybe, the funniest philosopher who ever lived. ... Besides, ... When Kierkegaard is funny, it is because he means to be." ("RHK")} {"Climacus’s ... satire is itself a form of indirect communication which, if we do come to see how it rebounds upon ourselves, serves a vital ethical-religious purpose." (H&IKTh, p. 5)} {"Climacus claims to hold ... the comic – in particular, irony and humour – and the various forms of the aesthetic, ethical and religious existence-spheres, in the light of his extraordinary claim that ‘the more competently a person exists, the more he will discover the comic’ (CUP 462). (H&IKTh, p. 6)} {"there can be relatively ‘stable’, as well as ‘unstable’ irony, in which the ironist has a concrete ethical position. Such irony can, because of its important riddling dimension, play the role of ‘setting free’ the recipient of such communication. ... . ... certain forms of wisdom are partially constituted by a certain kind of sense of humour" (H&IKTh, p. 7).} {"‘where there is life there is contradiction, and wherever there is contradiction, the comic is present’ (CUP 513–4)." (H&IKTh, p. 8)} {"But more common forms of humour than logical incongruities are what Swabey calls ‘factual incongruities’, which she divides into four categories. ... Swabey’s first category is equivocation or ambiguity. ... Her second category consists of the fallacies of irrelevance or non sequitur. ... The third category consists of humour arising from ‘disparities in subject matter, modes of operation, and conventions of two different worlds’. ... As her fourth category, Swabey also attempts to use the term ‘incongruity’ to cover ‘strikingly contrasting qualities at the farthest extremes of the scale from one another’" (H&IKTh, pp. 8-9).} {"the vast majority of the examples of the comic that Climacus gives in his lengthy footnote (CUP 514–9n) come closest to Monro’s threefold understanding of ‘inappropriateness’. ... ‘Contradiction’, in the Postscript, usually means the kind of factor that theorists such as Swabey and Monro have in mind when they talk about ‘incongruity’ or ‘inappropriateness’." (H&IKTh, p. 10)}

"RHK" = Nicholas Lezard : "Review of The Humor of Kierkegaard".

H&IKTh = John Lippitt : Humour and Irony in Kierkegaard's Thought : Climacus and the Comic. NY : St Martin's Press, 2000.

CUP = David F. Swenson (transl.; ed. by Walter Lowrie) : Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Princeton Univ Pr, for the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1941.

[We beg to differ, how-be-it, from J.L. on his p. 10, where he commenteth on Kierkegaard's humor-example of "the girl who applies for a permit to become a prostitute (‘something contemptible’) (see CUP 515n)" : for, in most regions of the world prostitutes are exaltedly admired (as priestesses of sexual-erotic goddesses aequivalent to Aphro-dite or to Tlazol-teotl, the latter a whore-goddess to whom sins are confessed for absolution by her divine grace), and wherein the requisite whoredom-licence is a certificate for practice of state-recognized sexual-erotic priestesshood; therefore any laughter concerning this would involve (1) laughter-of-joy for her seeking such an admirable status, and (2) laughter-of-awe for the goddess's so divinely inspiring her to aspire to such a lofty status, and even (3) laughter-of-apocalypse for her becoming a harbingeress of a futuristic world-order where all women generally commence the process of soul-transmutation in Vajra-yana modality into Heavenly-divine nature through the transfiguration of aeternal-caelestial whoredom -- all Kaula women in Swarga (Heaven) being confirmed habitual whores of Tantrik divine rite.]

p. 215 humor as enabling increasing the vogue of shamanry

"[Self-deprecatingly accusing oneself of, whenever awedly mentioning the supernatural,] "speaking lies"

has allowed Darhad shamanism ... to become more powerful than ever before ... .

{The more its deities are ridiculed, mocked, and scoffed at, the stronger they become, for such deities enjoy ("feed on", in metaphoric parlance -- alike to the "anger-eating daimon" in Samyukta Agama 11:3:2 = BT 93, pp. 426-7) ridicule's, mockery's, and scoffing's, all being votively offered to them.}

For what emerges ... {out} of ... linguistic details and cosmological oddities is a much larger {though linguistics and cosmology certainly loom very large in their own contexts} message : that joking ... is an occult modality in its own right."

{The message of humor is "larger" (more intensively productive) than that of usual metaphysics in that it (humor) is more immediately (and more intensely) inducing of joy and happiness than are more simply constructed logical metaphysics.}

BT = Henry Clarke Warren (transl.) : Buddhism in Translations. Harvard Univ Pr, 1896. HARVARD ORIENTAL SERIES, Vol. 3.

p. 215 humorous anecdotes about deities make for shamanry, by producing wondrement (and thus awe) as concerning the nature of the deities

"In a community ..., everyone is a potential shaman insofar as he or she makes amusing jokes about this very lack {of advanced shamanry}. A quintessentially ... ironic genre in which everyone (but especially the occult specialist) is quoting ... others, shamanic humor repeatedly undermines people's sense of what ... the shamanic spirits are. Yet, paradoxically, it does so in a way that it only serves to strengthen the spirits' grip on their lives."


Morten Axel Pedersen : Not Quite Shamans : Spirit Worlds ... in Northern Mongolia. Cornell Univ Pr, Ithaca (NY), 2011.