Chris posted a very interesting and in-depth article over at Beams and Struts a week or so ago. The idea of Jesus as a shaman is nothing new - I was reading about that back in college 25 years ago, and those books were 25 or more years old. Jesus was also linked with Mithra, Osiris, and Dionysos by various authors, all of whom are mythic figures in the shamanic archetype.
A little background on my take on this, which owes much to Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy. Nietzsche analyzed drama in terms of two archetypes, the Dionysian and the Apollonian. Dionysos is the god of wine and ecstasy, an earthy puer who charms the women and enchants the beasts. Apollo is the Golden Boy, pure light and reason, but also charming and seductive, a smooth talker.
Dionysos represents the horizontal orientation in the world, the earthly, the shamanic. Apollo represents the vertical orientation in the world, the heavenly, the prophetic. Nietzsche saw these two forces - also conceptualized as "reality undifferentiated by forms" (Dionysos) versus "reality differentiated by forms" (Apollo) - living in constant interplay. The birth of the tragic form in Greek drama embodied these two opposing forces.
In the Old Testament, the prophetic form prevails - Moses and his descendents are mostly prophets who convey to the people the vision God has form them and their offspring. The orientation is exceedingly vertical, and the Word of God is experienced as the archetype for human conduct. The laws of man come from God.
In the New Testament, the Word (Logos) is made flesh in the form of the Christ. Jesus is both of the world, the prophesied Son of Man, and not of this world, the Son of God. His orientation while on Earth is horizontal. He speaks about how we conduct our lives in community, he heals the sick, he feeds the starving, he rejects the Temple money changes because we need no intermediary between us and God - for the Kingdom of God is on Earth.
Moses was a prophet. Jesus was a shaman.
It's been a couple of weeks since I read this, so I don't remember if Chris gets into all of that kind of stuff. If not, well, there ya go. If he did, well, there ya go.
Thus endeth Humanities 401 for this morning. Enjoy Chris's article.
Written by Chris Dierkes
In a previous piece on Beams I looked at the remnants of shamanic consciousness on contemporary fairy tale-based tv shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time. The journey into shamanic forms of experience and healing is one that I've found myself on over the last year. This has been an unexpected but beautiful turn in my life. Up until this switch, I had followed a path that would be characterized, in yogic terms, as one of bhakti (devotional practice), karma yoga (the path of service), and jnani yoga (the contemplative mind). Those others elements all remain rooted in my being but something else has developed recently. Or at least something I'm now giving more time and attention to--which for lack of a better word I'll call shamanic.
Shamanism includes things like kundalini energy or the experience of the chakras (especially the 6th, aka the third eye) and auras. It's the seat of imagination, intuition, and what is often termed energy work. It's also the home of The World Soul (Anima Mundi). This realm is often encountered through the use of entheogens or in (genuine) Pentecostal experiences: e.g. speaking in tongues, bodily ecstasy (aka holy rolling), and so on. While shamanic consciousness is by no means solely reducible to these phenomena, they do constitute an important set of core elements in the shamanic tradition.
In the Western world many of these phenomena like auras and chakras are typically thought of as New Age. And certainly there are those who would label themselves New Age who are connecting to those forms of experience. New Agers however don't have a monopoly on such experience--these are simply domains of possible experience available to all. Human beings (traditionally called shamans) have founds ways of accessing, learning from, and working with those domains for many thousands of years across the globe: from aboriginal Australians to The Americas to the Siberian tundra to sub-Saharan Africa...and even the Middle East (as we'll see in a moment).
My experiences over the last year have opened my eyes to my own sacred scriptures and to Jesus.
Jesus practiced shamanism.
What I find most interesting is that these shamanic forms of practice surrounding Jesus are the stories that embarrass liberal Christians the most: exorcisms, healings, and apocalyptic language. Weirdly these elements have become largely confined to much more conservative forms of Christianity like evangelicals and Pentecostals. They therefore have a bad rap. And yet when we stop running from what's right in front of our noses, the evidence is overwhelming that Jesus was a shaman.Read the whole article.
The reason historically that liberal Christians denied these elements of Jesus' life were because they were seen as irrational. Influenced as they were by the Western Enlightenment, liberal Christians emphasize reason and tolerance. They see Jesus as a Teacher of Morals and Eternal Wisdom. One great counterexample to this is the liberal Christian scholar and priest Marcus Borg. Borg's book on the historical Jesus argues correctly that Jesus was a charismatic healer and exorcist. Borg however stays safely within the domain of the scholar, not a practitioner nor an advocate of this path.
The costs to liberal Christians of denying this reality are enormous.