Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Supernatural

All of the quotes below are from the same source, David Abram's SPELL OF THE SENSUOUS.

The primacy for the magician of nonhuman nature - the centrality of his relation to other species and to the earth - is not always evident to Western researchers. Countless anthropologists have managed to overlook the ecological dimension of the shaman's craft, while writing at great length of the shaman's rapport with "supernatural" entities. We can attribute much of this oversight to the modern, civilized assumption that the natural world is largely determinate and mechanical, and that that which is regarded as mysterious, powerful, and beyond human ken must therefore be of some other, nonphysical realmn above nature, "supernatral."

Our modern ideas about the realm of the spirits being some how separate from nature, are actually relatively recent ideas in history. They stem from our largely Judeo-Christian perspective, in which heaven is a realm above and separate from nature. Such an uncoupling is not observed in most oral cultures.

Nevertheless, that which is regarded with the greatest awe and wonder by indigenous, oral cultures is, I suggest, none other than what we view as nature itself. The deeply mysterious powers and entities with whom the shaman enters into a rapport are ultimately the same forces - the same plants, animals, forests, and winds - that to the literate, "civilized" Europeans are just so much scenery, the pleasant backdrop of our more pressing human concerns.

When indigenous people talk about the land being alive and aware, they are not using metaphor. To them it is alive and aware. That has been true in my own experiences.

Magic, then, in its perhaps most primordial sense, is the experience of existing in a world made up of multiple intelligences, the intuition that every form one perceives - from the swallow swooping overhead to the fly on a blade of grass, and indeed the blade of grass itself - is a experiencing form, an entity with its own predilections and sensations, albeit sensations that are very different from our own.

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