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Derivatives and Demonology and/or Shamanic Post-Marxism

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The authors of a recent book called Shamanism and Tantra in the Himalayas define shamanism as "a combination of natural science, psychotherapy, and theatrical comedy.” This would be the starting point for a reading group that would explore critical mergers between dialectical materialism and archaic / ecstatic / esoteric / magickal techniques and practices.

The group would experiment with the conceit that such techniques have an efficacy greater than simply their psychological or performative effects and might focus on, for example, what a shamanic engagement with the "spirits" and "demons," etc of financial capitalism would look like. A good reference point: Abbie Hoffman and Allen GInsburg's 1967 project to levitate (and exorcise) the Pentagon.

The scope of the group (and the orientation towards absurdism or earnest inquiry) would be determined based on level of interest and commitment. I propose starting with a look at some of the forebears of energy psychology (eg Blavatsky, Janet, Jung, Wilhelm Reich) and early concepts of energy, transference, dissociation, and overdetermination as they were used to translate some of the aforementioned techniques into an urban colonial/post-colonial milieu.

Ultimately I'd like to explore the terms of "shamanic" engagement with any possible "entities" which may take form on the plane of financial capitalism with a particular emphasis on scapegoats and similar concepts related to, for example, ritual sacrifice, purification or exorcism. 

Alternatively, if there is greater interest in so doing, the course could veer towards exploring the same material with a greater emphasis on its relationship to OOO, speculative materialism etc.
Given the admittedly absurdist potential of the course, readings could be drawn very widely. A few that come to mind: Pierre Janet, Wilhelm Reich, Althusser, Graham Harman, Terence McKenna, Daniel Pinchbeck, Theses on Feuerbach, Shamanism and Tantra in the Himalayas, the blog Chaos Marxism. etc.

Feedback and suggestions are very strongly encouraged! Thanks!


**NOTE I will be away from 7/20 until the end of august. perhaps september or october will work?

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9pm works for me. diamond_cake, do you have a copy of Shamanism and Tantra in the Himalayas? I'm very much looking forward to reading it.

diamond_cake's picture

I can do 9PM next Thursday if that works for others.

sean's picture

ok the 8th it is! although i could make it as early as 8pm, i would prefer 9 (which is after i've put my daughter to bed). but if 9 is too much of a bother for others, i'll be able to open the space at 8pm

diamond_cake's picture

I can lend the Nick Land book. Will bring it on the 8th if we get a critical mass of people to warrant a meeting.

Can we agree on 8 December for the initial meeting?

I'd like to invite everyone to a second session (perhaps one week after the first) on the theme of "materialism."

Readings may include select passages from Georges Bataille, Jean Baudrillard, Nick Land (if someone can loan me a copy of Fanged Noumena), Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Negri, and others.

This theme will proceed nicely from the first conversation on energy psychology.

I will try to provide scanned copies of the readings in advance.


diamond_cake's picture

I like the style you've proposed for structure, Parodunn.

I'd be happy to take on the first actual class to discuss the roots of energy psychology, etc and its relationship to the himalayas, etc.

I am voting for 12/8. I cannot do 12/2.

I agree that we should have a preliminary meeting to get to know each other and launch the discussion. 1 December is not a good day for me, though 2 December would work fine. 8 December is also fine.

Here's a suggestion for the conduct of the course. What if each person who wants to explore a particular theme or genre schedules one session on which s/he becomes discussion leader/conductor/fuhrer/whatever, and also selects a set of readings/background material for that session? Of course no one knows what will happen once we arrive for any given discussion session, but this would be a way of covering all our bases, and ensuring we approach our zone of inquiry from various directions. This scheme would also give us the opportunity to create different dynamics within the group, by rearranging the subject-matter according to diverse individual curiosities. What say?

diamond_cake's picture

December 1 or 8, both Thursdays to plan for a January beginning lasting through February? Discuss, organize, strategize.

Solomon, I could see either a tight structure with only 4-5 classes. I could also see a much longer, ongoing discussion - so many possible directions and ways to synthesize. We could also keep this course fairly short and somewhat dada - ie people presenting different readings rather than studying the same texts and then define future directions / courses.


sean's picture

Maybe we (anyone who wants to come) could get together once in the next couple weeks (a weeknight is fine for me) to plan out the trajectory of the course? It sounds like starting in January and running into February would be ideal, based on the comments.

parodunn and diamond_cake want -- do you want to propose a date, for the planning meeting?

ssbothwell's picture

sorry i have been slow to respond. how does january sound? evenings can be tough for me depending on the day. thursdays might work well.

how many sessions would you want the class to have?

diamond_cake's picture

Marshall that sounds great - having a specific ethnographic component would be a very nice counterpoint to the currently trendy pop vagaries of capital s "Shamanism."

Hopefully after Thanksgiving or so, we can schedule this in such a way it will still be happening in February and you can come school us.

marshall's picture

I'm very interested in this, but am only in LA for the month of February. My schedule is totally open during that time, though.

I took part in last year's "Practicing Shamanism" class, have done much of my undergraduate work on Asian folk religion and have been doing field research on Thai-Lao folk religion during the past year, so I'd be coming to this class from those angles. I can lecture/teach on shamanism/folk religion if it's of value.

diamond_cake's picture

Yes! Let's schedule this - my weekends are often complicated. Is there a weeknight that would work for others also? Tuesdays are hard for me but M, W, TH all work. Sunday evening too.


I'm not leaving, it turns out. When were you thinking you'd like to begin? The possibility of holding a preliminary meeting has been raised, like maybe next week, with the actual course set to begin a few weeks or months later. (Mat has proposed January.)


ssbothwell's picture

hi patrick. when are you leaving and will you be returning? i would like to try to schedule this class if possible.

New book of interest:

More to come soon. (I've been very busy lately and may be leaving LA before this course begins.)


diamond_cake's picture

Yes, I think September would be great. And a prelim reading list would be awesome.

Let's look at Eliade. Most contemporary use of the Shamanism category traces back there anyhow so, why not go to that moment/source?

Reality Sandwich has definitely included some pieces in the past related to finance and shamanism. Maybe also that Hakim Bey Occult Assault on Institutions piece? Generally speaking, it seems like this side of the group could be harder to put together so ideas from one and all are very much appreciated. Feel free to email me if you like: mat (dot) keel (at) gmail

I get back to LA Tuesday am and am widely available to brainstorm after then.

Are we still hoping to begin early next month? I could begin putting together a reading list.

Shall we focus more on classics, or on recent items? Those interested in the latter might want to scour Reality Sandwich for readings.

Might it also be helpful to include traditional sources relating to shamanism (rather than, or in addition to, contemporary appropriations)? Another possibility is classic scholarly literature on shamanism (i.e. Eliade).


diamond_cake's picture

Christopher Lehrich The Occult Mind: Magic in Theory and Practice

diamond_cake's picture

perfect. anything in particular?

+ michael taussig readings?


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