CREATIVITY, HEALING, AND SHAMANISM: Part 1
A Dynamical Systems Model of exceptional encounters in Brazil.
© 1996 Carlisle Bergquist, MA, Ph.D.c.
A blue gray horizon loomed outside the window of the plane as it slowly banked and turned toward the airport still miles ahead of us. The plane turned as another glow punctuated the breach between the zodiacal light and the darkness that enveloped the earth below. The glow had the yellow-white tinge of city lights reflected up from a huge urban aggregate of life, power, and activity. As we descended into the dark landscape a long tentacle of lights reached out below, stretching from that still distant aurora. More tentacles appeared below stretching in all directions. Motionless, they laid full the valleys, extended up ridge lines and spilled over crests as if to defy containment. At last the conglomerate of lights radiated below us. We sailed through the sky above it for thirty minutes or more. It was as if we were gazing down at some giant primordial sea creature that had flung itself from the ocean depths and wedged among the rolling hills to await the warming sun of morning.
The sprawl below us was not what I had expected. This was not the emerald forest I had imagined, rather it was a jungle of humanity into which we descended. It was not my preconceived notion of idyllic tribal life with the local witchdoctor to show us his healing gifts. It was a world of urban shamans. Not the chic metropolitan healers suggested by the cover of Gabrielle Roth's book titled The Urban Shaman, but the world of healers as they live and serve in the poor favillas of populous Brazilian cities. The plane dropped onto the tarmac and taxied to its assigned port and thus began a journey into magical time, a reverie, a journey in Brazil.
This essay will chronicle events witnessed on this journey. Many of the
events described occur in what I can only describe as magical time. This essay does not
claim to prove the validity of these events, rather it will show a similarity between
creativity and healing as it occurs in these events. Likewise, though traditional, or
indigenous, Shamans did not explicitly perform the events described here, they emanate
from the same deep reaches of consciousness. The following quotation succinctly draws a
similar connection between creativity, healing and the state of consciousness in which the
It seems increasingly certain that healing and creativity are different pieces of a single picture...Creativity in terms of physiological processes means then physical healing, physical regeneration. Creativity in emotional terms consists then of establishing, or creating, attitude changes....Creativity in the mental domain involves the emergence of a new and valid synthesis of ideas, not by deduction, but springing by "intuition" from unconscious sources.
The entrance, or key, to all these inner processes we are beginning to believe, is a particular state of consciousness...[called] reverie.... (Green, Green, & Walters, 1971)
This essay will link the aspects of creativity referred to in the above quotation as they appeared in the events on this journey in Brazil and, as they appear in the general development of shamans. I will express a dynamical systems (or chaos theory) model as a vehicle for telling the stories of creativity, healing and Shamanism observed in Brazil to show how such actualization might occur. Though this writing will mention many happenings, it will detail an eight part dynamical model and within it illustrate the creation of a shaman and, three incidents that particularly illustrate creativity and healing in different mediums; spiritual inspiration in the creation of a religion; physical regeneration in the act of physical healing and physical mediumship; and personal healing through the experience of Santo Daime. It will also propose a structural model of an individual's unique creativity based on an adaptation of the model of chromosome structure as will later be detailed. In addition, as the events witnessed in Brazil are part of my personal myth, this paper will include some personal process materials that parallel the occurrences described.
Manifestors of a Different Order
Mircea Eliade describes the task of the shaman as producing:
the manifestations of something of a wholly different order, a reality that does not belong to our world, in objects that are an integral part of our natural "profane" world. (1957)
I propose that creators, healers, and shamans all seek to fulfill this task.
In early cultures one individual often executed the roles of healer, artist, and creator; i.e., the shaman. The shaman performed these roles for the village or, perhaps just for his or her clan and family. As they developed and diversified, cultures began to delegate the roles to more than one individual. For example, in the Chippewa culture there are two types of "doctors" that predate Western science, the conjurer and the sucking doctor. The conjurer is a diagnostician able to see the causes of disease as well as exercise magical and spiritual powers. The sucking doctor specializes in removing the cause from the patient's body by sucking the inciting object (perhaps a symbolic object) out thereby curing the disease (Rogers, 1982). Both doctors are creative in their approach to healing. Though in our society we have separated the roles even further, an ancient connection remains between creativity, healing and, the role of the shaman.
Weston La Barre points to this nexus. Describing the talents of a shaman he says the following:
the original artist, dancer, musician, singer, dramatist, intellectual, poet, bard, ambassador, advisor of chiefs and kings, entertainer, actor and clown, curer, stage magician, juggler, jongleur, folksinger, weatherman, artisan, culture hero and trickster-transformer. (1979, 7-11)
Along with La Barre's list of talents, I would add scientist, for much of the medical knowledge represented in modern pharmaceuticals results from the work of these ancient herbalists and innovators.
Finally, before I describe the process through which these talents manifest, I will mention the qualities required of an individual to be a shaman. Various researchers list many such attributes: I prefer those denoted by Ruth-Inge Heinze (1991) as follows:
...only those individuals can be called shamans who
1. can access alternate states of consciousness at will,
2. fulfill needs of their community which otherwise are not met, and
3. are, in fact, the mediators between the sacred and the profane.
I propose that, although our society has separated the shaman's role into many professions, creators (whether artist, performer or, innovator) healers, and contemporary shamans of the highest character still meet these three requirements. They perform in urban and rural settings worldwide. Each of the instances discussed in this essay lend credence to Abraham Maslow's statement about human development as follows:
My feeling is that the concept of creativeness and the concept of the healthy, self-actualizing, fully-human person seem to be coming closer and closer together, and may perhaps turn out to be the same thing. (Maslow, 1963)
This essay will be discuss three examples of self-actualizing humanness as witnessed in Brazil along with Shamanism. I have briefly introduced the shaman's role so, before modeling the dynamical process, I will give a similar preface to the three remaining examples.
Dr. Pierre Wiel introduced Amyr to Dr. Stanley Krippner and myself as Amyr entered the cafeteria at the City of Peace. The City of Peace is an educational institute started by Dr. Wiel. Amyr is a third generation Brazilian of Arabic decent who now lives in the area near Brasilia. (His last name is omitted to protect his privacy.) Amyr is in his mid-forties with slightly graying hair and a full beard. He had soft dark brown eyes and when I shook his hand he seemed somewhat nervous. My immediate sense of him was that he was a very gentle and kind man. I had no further introduction to him nor any explanation of his presence with us. Over the next few days he became a living example of the link between creativity and healing. Amyr would later describe himself as a sensitive. He demonstrated a series of phenomena known as physical apports as well as sharing an experience of stigmata in our presence. I will detail these events relating them to the various stages of the creative model. I will also share more of his personal history as he related it to us in several conversations.
The Valley of the Dawn
The Valley of The Dawn is a healing community and religious order headquartered about 20 kilometers outside Brasilia, Brazil near Planatina. Neiva Chaves Zelaya started The Valley of the Dawn as an outgrowth of a psychic opening during which she developed clairvoyance. It is a uniquely ecumenical compound of temples and abodes that sprang forth to serve the destitute workers during the construction of Brasilia. Its first missions included (and in part continue to be) feeding and educating homeless children in Brazil and, providing spiritual healing and guidance to all who come through its doors. This essay will model the mediumistic work, as it is performed at the Valley of the Dawn, as if it is a creative act performed within a transcendental creative system.
Personal Ayahuasca Experience
Ayahuasca is a hallucinatory drink used by indigenous peoples of upper Amazonia for centuries. It remains legal in Brazil. It is used in several countries by shamans called Ayahuascaros to travel on healing journeys and talk to the spirit world. Brazilians know it as Santo Daime. The Santo Daime Doctrine, an organization that uses Santo Daime as a sacrament, was founded by Raimundo Irineu Serra. Serra tapped rubber in the 1920s in Peru and studied with local Indian shamans who taught him how to prepare and use it. Serra's experiences with ayahuasca led him to bring the herbal tea to the rest of Brazil through the organization , The Santo Daime Doctrine. I experienced the tea and its effects with the Santo Daime group in Rio de Janeiro at their worship center Ceu do Mar.
The Daime is made from two plants, the stems of the vine Banisteriopsis caapi, and leaves from the bush Pychotria viridis. A tea is prepared in a special ceremony called the Feitio Ritual during which participants pay careful attention in silence to insure that the Daime remains free of contamination from the spirit world. The tea I imbibed was prepared earlier. Santo Daime contains several active substances; b- carbolines including harmine and tetrahydroharmine, and the hallucinogenic N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) (Don, Psicologa, & McDonough, 199?).
This paper will now relate the tales that marked these paths toward becoming more "fully human," paths toward actualizing the creator-healer-shaman within, as they began for myself in Sao Paulo, and continue today. I will tell these stories, as mentioned, within a proposed model of the dynamical process through which potential becomes the actual. I have termed a system in which such actualization occurs a Transcendental Creative System (Bergquist, 1993). The individual creator, healer or, shaman operates as a teleosponder within a teleonomic field (Transcendental Creative Suprasystem) that actualizes the needs of the community (however large of small that may be) as will be described below. However, before delimiting the dynamical system I will construct an additional model I call the Creatosome that illustrates the potentials from which a creator redifferentiates.
The Creatosome Model
In the above examples the individuals are the reproducer subsystem of a larger consciousness. This living systems (Miller, 1978) analogy is also useful in creative acts; e.g., scientific innovations, the creative and performing arts and, the act of healing. I will describe the creator-healer-shaman's roles as reproducer subsystems (teleosponders) in a transcendental creative system with the additional metaphor that I adapted from the chromosomes found in the DNA molecule. I call this model a "creatosome" and will briefly explain it before proceeding.
A chain of variable components (like the chromosome) is a useful model for creative potential because it allows for individuality. It also incorporates the many psychological theories about the development of a person's creativity. The psychoanalytic school proposes that creativity is the sublimation of the primitive drives of the id. Proponents of behaviorism suggest that creativity is the skill of recombining previously learned behaviors and responses at a preconscious level. Humanists, like Abraham Maslow (1962, 1968) and others, view creativity as the actualization of the healthy self. Each school of thought emphasizes a different aspect of our humanness as being pivotal in creativity; respectively, our primitive or instinctual nature, our environment, or our higher thought process (Bergquist, 1991). I would add to these components, the indwelling consciousness that many spiritual traditions describe (Bergquist, 1992). Thus, a "creatosome" acknowledges the attributes described by each of these schools as if they were component "genes" in a metaphoric double helix. In this creatosome model, an individual's creativity is a unique combination of qualities that, like genes, determine their particular receptivity and ability. There may be many component "genes" in this double helix but, as an example, it would include the following: biological factors, including physical prowess, acuity of the senses, and intelligence; psychological elements such as emotional make-up, primary and secondary processes; learned behaviors from their environment and experiences; and (arguably) abilities brought into this life experience by the indwelling consciousness whether one wishes to use the Eastern idea of reincarnation or the Judao-Christian perspective that talents are God given to a newly created soul. These factors combined, as if forming one strand of a double helix, each attracts and bonds with a second strand made of the flow of inspiration and information coming from an infinite transcendental suprasystem. Thus, like a DNA molecule, individuals exist with a distinctive creative potential that arises from this combination. Taoist philosophy describes this as a person's Te, their unique purpose in the universe (Chan, 1963, Lao Tzu, 1944).
The creatosome model also allows description of two forms of creativity. These two forms of the process resemble the biological counterparts, mitosis (fission) and meiosis (fusion). One can observe and describe both fission-like and fusion-like forms of creativity in the work of creative artists and thinkers. Carl Jung (1969) also described, and divided artistic creativity into two categories, psychological art, and visionary art.
Primary processes generate psychological art and relate to the creativity produced by fission (mitosis) in the above model. Visionary art, according to Jung, "derives its existence from the hinterlands of the man's mind." This second category connects us with the super-human, timeless worlds beyond our conscious knowing; thus, it correlates with the creative process described as fusion (meiosis) in the above model. When a creator, in any field, approaches this second category, s/he becomes a scout for all of humanity. S/He transcends personal fate, and speaks to, and for humankind. Such work is "channeled" through receptive individuals who respond to the collective needs of the race. Marshal McLuhan, described such people as the "dew line" for society at large who capture and express the spiritual meaning of the culture (May, 1975). The collective unconscious described by Jung ties the psyches of humanity together; creativity thus includes the expression of the specie's needs, not solely the Individual's. Creating thereby becomes a function of humanity: the individual, the creative process, and the creation, form a gestalt within the context of a larger "whole." The transcendental creative system embeds them. This essay will now give brief examples of these two forms of creativity as expressed in the work of an artist.
An artistic work begins with the process of fusion. An individual artist who opens to inspiration, and meets the infinite flow previously described. The original work shows a merger of the individual blueprint (represented by one strand of the creatosome) and the infinite flow that forms the complementary strand. The appropriate elements from this flow link with matching receptors on the first strand and thus, artistic work that reflects the make-up of the artist at the time of creation. It is conception. However, such a work is primarily psychological art (despite its beginning as a product of fusion) because it is an expression resulting from a stable state or, cumulative life experience.
Once an artist has found a means of expression, the two forms of creativity become more clearly delineated. As with the development of a living organism, the initial creation (or perhaps conception) occurs through the fusion of two strands of the chromosome (or in this case the creatosome) that form a new system. After this beginning however, the fission process produces the rest of the organism as the cells divide through mitosis to create more tissue of various types. So it is in the work of an artist. After the incipient work develops, the artist expands his or her portfolio by replicating the original work in various forms. The theme (Briggs, 1988) of each work may vary but it still bears the blueprint originally present in the artist. It is psychological art, the work of the ego manipulating the medium according to the artist's skills. Such artistic works often go stale over time. The artist works, and reworks to extinction, the various forms of inspiration to which they were originally receptive. However, in the work of some artists a process of transformation is apparent: this results from a fresh, or continuous encounter with the source of inspirations. It forces change in the artist. This is visionary art, the result of fusion.
Visionary, transformative art results from the fusion of the artist's intrinsic receptive capacity and his encounter with the flow of infinite inspiration -- or infinite potential; e.g., David Bohm's Holomovent -- coming through the collective consciousness. The transformation of the artist and his or her work, occur through a process similar to meiosis that changes the actual structure of the artist's creatosome as follows. Rather than replicating themselves in their work repeatedly, something of such magnitude occurs that it virtually tears the artist's ego apart. The creatosome (in part the creative ego structure) divides as a response to the over-stimulation it encounters from the source of inspiration. The stage in the meiosis process described as "crossing over" occurs. In crossing over, after the original strands separate and replicate themselves, rather than rejoining as two duplicate creatosomes (like in fission) the strands exchange portions with one another thus creating four strands that are new receptive combinations. The artist shifts to one of these new combinations that attracts and bonds with different information and energy flowing through the collective consciousness. The work will have a distinctly new quality that may reflect a complete shift in the life, and the medium of the artist.
Thus in conclusion, a reproducer subsystem conducts both forms of creativity. They cycle in alternation; but, the period spent in either process form may vary in length and frequency. Fixation in either form will result in one of two outcomes, a lack of continuity because the artist is in constant change and fails to deepen, or stagnation because the artist ceases to evolve. I suggest that the works represented in the individuals described in this writing seems to be a flux between the evolving visionary type -- creative meiosis, and the stabilizing, deepening -- creative mitosis.
An idea from electrobiology is also useful in developing this model of the creative and healing processes. Robert O Becker, MD., along with others, studied the process of tissue regeneration as it occurs in certain species, e.g., the regrowth of tails in salamanders. I refer the reader to The Body Electric (Becker & Selden, 1985) for a detailed (pun intended) summary of this work: its importance in this thesis is that the research they cite indicates that cells are able, under certain conditions and stimuli, to dedifferentiate from their existing state into a primitive cell known as a blastema. The blastema then redifferentiates into the needed cell type to regenerate the missing tissue. The stimuli needed to induce this process is an extremely small electrical current measuring in picoamps or nanoamps. As with the process just described in the creatosome, I propose that there may be another isomorphic process that occurs in the consciousness of the individual creator or healer that allows the ego, or personality (differentiated consciousness) to dedifferentiate and thus reform in a new creation. The reformation follows a morphic field process described by Rupert Sheldrak as "formative causation" (1982). I propose that visionary creative acts result from the individual creator's willingness to allow dedifferentiation of their individual consciousness and then redifferentiate their consciousness influenced by a different morphic field that changes both the creator and their work. I will outline this process in the exceptional visionary creativity and healing works of shamanism, Amyr , Neiva Chaves Zelaya and, my own experience with Ayahuasca in the following dynamical model.