Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Deborah Bryon - Participation Mystique in Peruvian Shamanism

Chapter excerpt from Deborah Bryon (2014). Participation Mystique in Peruvian Shamanism, Chapter 7 in Mark Winborn (Ed.). Shared Realities: Participation Mystique and Beyond. Fisher King Press, 2014.

The psychological organization of the underlying "participation mystique dynamic that is most frequently manifested within the context the modern world is not the same as the experience in indigenous cultures, and therefore does not hold the same meaning. This is because the etiology of the phenomenon is dependent upon and a direct byproduct of the existing collective cultural experience.

In any culture, the information that we distill from our experience shapes the way we will perceive and interact with our environment, informing the assumptions we make, and ultimately creating the narrative we form about the world. Although the intrapsychic developmental process itself is the same during infancy, the content of our individual experience – largely dependent upon cultural context - creates a feedback loop that then forms the structure of our processing style in adulthood. In adulthood, we learn how to learn by creating a bidirectional exchange between method and content – what we learn determines how we will approach learning in the future.

For example, the approach I am taking in my explanation of this subject matter is very different from the tactic a Q’ero medicine person would most likely use. I am thinking, using a method of differentiation to form a conceptualization in an effort to try to understand the dissimilarities in how we process as a function of culture. A Q’ero medicine person would take in the experience phenomenologically, allowing it to stand on its own without interpretation. The difference wouldn’t matter because they would be focused on the experience of the connection itself.

The Q’ero grow up in a village community called an ayllu, and depend on their physical endurance and the support of their ayllu to survive. Living in close contact with the simplicity of nature is very different from spend days existing, in the comforts of modern living; a kind of virtual world comprised of automobiles, air conditioning, television, digital music, cell phones, and computers. While providing convenience and comfort, these modern accommodations insulate us from the natural rhythms of life associated with manual work, changes in weather patterns, communal gathering, and non-mechanized travel.

Peruvian medicine people, who refer to themselves as p’aqos, perceive and experience the world the world primarily through their senses using their bodies. P’aqos track everything going on around them – whether it is noticing the movement of Apucheen, a condor flying overhead as a manifestation from the spirit world, discovering a quiya, or sacred stone, laying in their path, or noticing a tingling sensation in their bodies when they are sitting on a waka, or power spot." (pp. 149-150)

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