a definition of us and our Traditions?
Throughout this text, I use the term, "Industrialised"
rather than modern, eastern, western, tribal etc. This is
a deliberate and specific choice in terms of reference and description,.. please allow me to explain
in detail as this is important:
Why ‘Industrialised’ as a Definition?
Industrialisation is a process which separates a people
from traditionally conceived of survival based imperatives AND observational norms; distancing those
individuals from the seasonal and natural cycles of the
land on which they live. Industrialisation is the child
of science and mass communication. I write this text on a computer I could
never construct from the raw materials available to me, a
grateful beneficiary of my society’s industrialisation
and scientific advancement.
Industrialisation irrevocably alters the
requirements of adherence to survival and
societal imperatives. Do you think an Amazonian
tribesman would last any longer on the streets of Harlem
than a street-wise gang member from Harlem would in the
deep Amazon jungle?
That same Amazonian tribesman (or Harlem
'wise-guy' for that matter) would not survive for long in
Australia’s harsh interior either as the survival
imperatives there are radically different from those
of the Amazon Basin and Harlem's streets. Learning can change this of
course. Team that [teachable] person up with one who knows how
to survive in that environment and the needed time is granted for new survival
imperatives to be learned.
Before opening up this subject too much, let’s talk of a
dangerous prejudice. In ‘Western’ society, there is a
tendency towards elevation of ‘Eastern’ or 'Tribal' ideas and
philosophies and people as more, “spiritually worthy”. This
extends to a propensity [prejudice] to elevate the spiritual
potential of one over another based upon their
Example: Many folks might have a problem with the
idea that two Tibetan monks might have [human] words
or actions in anger over a television; based solely on the knowledge that
they are from Tibet and
are monks; denying their right to be human first.
person might be overheard saying how wonderfully
spiritual another person is, based solely upon the fact
that they are of Native American descent, disregarding
the humanity of the individual.
This is bigotry
and racism, even if the prejudices
are apparently reversed.
Prejudices lending spiritual credibility (even if
seemingly positive) based upon skin colour, ethnic ties
etc., is a bland and patronising version of the, “noble
savage” prejudice at very best. The concept of the
‘spiritual potential’ of a people or society, eastern or
western, civilised or native etc. is worthless.
Example: A common and erroneously racist
that a person of Asian origin is likely to be a more
skilled acupuncturist than a Caucasian person, based on
the premise that acupuncture is an ‘Asian’ skill.
That is a bit like saying that just
because my father was a pilot; I should be able to fly a
plane better than another person of similar training
whose father was a plumber – a completely illogical
argument based on
unrelated and meaningless
Finishing our acupuncture example from above, it is the
person with the clearer intent, the better training and
more developed skill, who
consistently better results; they are the
better acupuncturist, regardless of ethnicity.
The first step in understanding how close or far
a society is from their traditional shamanic
roots is recognising the real impact of
industrialisation. The level of industrialised
adaptation within a given community or society is an
appropriate and anthropologically relevant measure of
Industrialisation is the key concept here. People who
live in an industrialised society are [generally] well removed
from the seasonal imperatives that would otherwise
dictate survival and the successful continuation of that
people. It is the
level of heed and adherence
to these survival and seasonal imperatives that defines
the level of industrialisation of a people.
Example: A non-industrialised society must bank food for
the non-productive months, grow food and harvest
game when available and respect seasonal cycles (e.g.
flooding, fire, drought etc.) to survive. It is to these seasonal,
imperatives that non-industrialised societies must
either adhere or perish.
In contrast, those of fully industrialised society can
afford to have an empty larder at the start of winter;
the super markets will have what they need in the coming
'barren' months. They do not stockpile feed for transport
animals, the service station almost always has fuel for
sale 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
Allow me to define industrialisation in this
context. If you have direct knowledge of how to source
the raw materials and requisite skills to make a
finished product from those raw materials yourself, the
resulting item is, by definition, a non-industrial
item. Whilst manufacture for trade is the first step
towards industrialisation, we will include this example here in
the non-industrialised category.
If an item’s production is
technologically specialised, removed from the reach of the
single individual or basic communal collective, it is by its
nature the start of industrialisation. The required
process’ of sourcing iron ore, forging iron, refining it
to steel, sourcing chromium and alloying to stainless steel and manufacturing
a knife from the refined metal, requires
A blowpipe and darts or bow and arrow made within and
used by a community is not industrialisation, a knife or rifle
made of components unavailable to the technology of that
community is [industrialisation].
Industrialisation gives its adopting
society the freedom of living outside of environmentally
dictated survival and seasonal imperatives. Until
recently, the cycle of the earth’s seasons governed
almost all aspects of our lives.
All creatures know and/or feel nature’s myriad
cycles just as a child in the womb knows its mother’s heart
beat. All creatures, from mankind to the trees, feel
and respond to these planetary rhythms at a level far
below cognitive recognition in most cases.
This is not to say any people are completely removed
from nature’s seasons. Even industrialised people feel
the anxious push of autumn’s depths to make sure the
larder is stocked and feel the anxiety of the season.
The first warm days of winter’s leaving still bring
malaise and irritation. We still revel in the coming of
the sun after days of storms. Modern mental health care
would do well to recognise these seasonal influences as
significant to their 'patients'.
As an industrialised people, we remain connected at some
level to our land and its cycles. We still rely on
farmers to produce our food, even if many city-dwellers forget about
anything beyond the supermarket shelf. Farmers are most
definitively working within nature’s seasonal
imperatives to a significant degree, even though
fertilisers, irrigation and genetic modification of
crops etc. have allowed greater release from a few of these
I would suggest that those societies and communities who
do not have access to, or lack industrialised advances
and conveniences, are those who could be best described as
essentially non-industrialised; those who remain fully
entangled with and aware of their environment’s seasonal
and survival imperatives.
Deeply remote tribes and clans that continue to exist in
much the same ways as their ancestors have, sourcing all
their requirements from their immediate environment;
food, medicine, weapons, tools and shelter are, within
this definition, ‘non-industrialised’. There are very
few fully non-industrialised peoples still in existence
(Brazil's policy of preserving
non-contacted people's status is to be applauded!)
The process of industrialisation is a subtle and
seductive action. Why use sharpened bamboo requiring
remanufacture often when a stainless steel knife lasts
for years? Metal, modern medicine and education are all
far too seductive, convenient and/or worthy within a
society to exclude once they are known.
I will not say that using a stainless steel knife begins
to industrialise a people in the same way that firearms
do, but the process has started. A stainless steel
knife is the end product of a complex technology.
Industrialisation is the use of complex technology to
remove the individual – at one level or another – from
day to day, survival based imperatives that would
otherwise face them.
There are also many peoples in a transitional,
semi-industrialised state who are still living within
[often harsh] seasonal imperatives but also have
industrialised tools at their disposal. Whilst people
like the Inuit of North America’s Arctic north
maintain traditional hunting rites and rights, many now
hunt with a rifle from a motorised vehicle.
Semi-industrialised communities tend to try to leave a
foot in both camps, preserving ‘the old ways’ whilst
embracing the new. Unfortunately, the new,
industrialised conveniences seduce, almost coaxingly, a
separation from seasonal imperatives, removing a people
from their inherent awareness of their land’s heartbeat
and breath. A rifle harvests game more reliably and
from further away where using a harpoon or spear is less reliable
and requires far more skill and personal exposure to
We heat our homes in winter, cool them in summer and use
computers and the internet to communicate to a wide
audience. Industrialised conveniences like gas cooking,
electricity etc has changed the degree of attention
which must be paid to these survival based imperatives,
at least to a great extent.
fact that you are viewing this text on your personal
computer means that you and I both exist in an
industrialised society with electricity, shops and all
the conveniences our society can make us desire.
Industrialised people may have lost many traditions
along their path, but newer, more widespread and far
more energetic traditions have taken their place in a
way so subtle, many fail to identify them.
Reductionism and constructionism are the two major
learning traditions of industrialised people. We see a car
as an assembly of separate parts, like wheels and seats,
engine and fuel, yet we identify a car as a singular
thing too. Our
tradition of learning is powerful and energetic.
reduce our language into sounds, words made up of
component sound bytes; represented abstractly by the
alphabet. The alphabet allows the identification of
sounds, reduced components of language that can then be
constructed and reconstructed to convey concepts, ideas
and meanings far beyond the component letters and their
reduce all that exists around us to study the components
and understand the complexity of interplay involved.
We also construct not only the original components back
as they were, but into new and innovative configurations
until new technologies evolve, emerging from learning.
IS the tradition of industrialised people. You
read myriad combinations of 26 components on this page
to explore my reality of the concepts of and surrounding
shamanism. This is the learning tradition by which
modern, industrialised Shaman can be trained.