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Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Bollingen Series (General)) Paperback – 8 Feb 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 648 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; With a New foreword by Wendy Doniger edition (8 Feb. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691119422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691119427
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 14 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

ÝA¨ close and detailed yet comparative study of shamanism. . . . ÝIt¨ has become the standard work on the subject and justifies its claim to be the first book to study the phenomenon over a wide field and in a properly religious context.


Eliade writes of the shamans with that masterly combination of sympathy and detachment. . . . . [His] findings will almost certainly be echoed by great voices of the future. -- New York Times Book Review



[A] close and detailed yet comparative study of shamanism. . . . [It] has become the standard work on the subject and justifies its claim to be the first book to study the phenomenon over a wide field and in a properly religious context. -- Times Literary Supplement



Clearly the best work on Shamanism published so far. -- The Review of Religion


Eliade writes of the shamans with that masterly combination of sympathy and detachment. . . . . [His] findings will almost certainly be echoed by great voices of the future. -- "New York Times Book Review

Clearly the best work on Shamanism published so far. -- "The Review of Religion

[A] close and detailed yet comparative study of shamanism. . . . [It] has become the standard work on the subject and justifies its claim to be the first book to study the phenomenon over a wide field and in a properly religious context. -- "Times Literary Supplement

Eliade is the most informative guide to the modern mythologies.--Frank Kermode "New Statesman "


Eliade is the most informative guide to the modern mythologies.
--Frank Kermode "New Statesman "

"Eliade writes of the shamans with that masterly combination of sympathy and detachment. . . . . [His] findings will almost certainly be echoed by great voices of the future."--"New York Times Book Review"

"Eliade is the most informative guide to the modern mythologies."--Frank Kermode, "New Statesman"

"[A] close and detailed yet comparative study of shamanism. . . . [It] has become the standard work on the subject and justifies its claim to be the first book to study the phenomenon over a wide field and in a properly religious context."--"Times Literary Supplement"

"Clearly the best work on Shamanism published so far."--"The Review of Religion"

About the Author

Born in Bucharest in 1907, Mircea Eliade was for many years Sewell L. Avery Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago. He is author of, among other books, "Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism, Myth of the Eternal Return", and "Yoga: Immortality and Freedom" (all Princeton). Wendy Doniger is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago. Her books include "The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade, The Implied Spider", and "Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India". Her translations of such texts as "The Rig Veda, The Law of Manu", and the "Kamasutra" have garnered wide praise.


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I don't normally write reviews for books but felt the one review giving one star for this book to be so unjust that it deserved a more balanced addition.

This book is a scholarly meticulously researched study of the various practises of shamanism throughout the world. It does not provide you with a description of the techniques of how to be a shaman, nor how to have an ecstatic journey, nor how to have an out of body experience, which is presumably what the one star reviewer was looking for. Instead it provides a detailed description of shamanism as it was and is practised.

There are over 50 pages of reference works on which Eliade drew in order to provide this summary, which groups his findings by region as well as by certain common practises - parallel myths symbols and rites.

There are descriptions of the 'rebirth' experiences of shamans [the genuine near death experiences, not the common interpreation now used of born again]; the practises of healing, the travels of the shaman in out of body experiences, their roles as psychopomp and their practise of healing via 'soul retrieval'. He also describes 'soul loss' and what it means to each group.

The amount of carefully researched detail that is provided is astonishing, it is almost a life's work but carefully organised into this relatively compact volume. It draws on the work of anthropologists and the better and more serious researchers of religions, as such it is also reliable in its findings.

Personally I found this book to be a treasure house of information - but then I bought the book knowing what it contained and what I was going to use it for.

To summarise - an invaluable scholarly work on shamanic practises throughout the world over the ages .
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Eliade's book is a classic for a reason, the first cross-cultural study of shamanism ever, it inspired many both in academia and amongst the general public to explore this topic further. The West's fascination with shamanism has long been a two-faced beast veering from immense curiosity to repulsion. Eliade introduced the west to a romanticised and universal form of shamanism that moved away from the view of shamanism as madness, but simply does not exist outside of his very biased Christian imagination. Eliade never carried out field research and is commonly termed an armchair scholar. His views were heavily influenced by his Christian bias and he suppressed the darker side of shamanism and elevated more Christian themed practices over others that he considered to be sorcery, or devilish. His work is inspirational, but perhaps more interesting as a reflection of developments in anthropology than as an authoritative text on shamanism.
If you want a more up-to-date view of shamanism check out some of the latest academic offerings. Thomas DuBois' Introduction is noteworthy and although Margaret Stutley's Introduction is not perfect it is superior to Eliade's work. If you're interested in Neoshamanism, Graham Harvey and Robert Wallis lead the pack in accessible and intelligent material.
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In an era where westerners are encouraged to learn shamanic drumming, discover their animal guides or go on spirit journeys, it is probably difficult to realise that shamanism was once considered to be an aberration in religious history, the province of ethnologists’ curiosity and the object of psychologists’ dismissal as a form of psychopathology. It was the great achievement of Mircea Eliade to rediscover its fundamental role in the history of religions as an ‘archaic technique of ecstasy’ based on an “exemplary model of initiation”, as he describes it in his Autobiography.
Of particular interest to the general reader is his exploration of the way that shamanic myths and practices survive ‘camouflaged’ in better known religions: in his Journal he wrote that he wanted the book to be read by poets, playwrights, literary critics and painters, who he felt would derive more benefit from it than would specialists.
There is also much interest nowadays in the use of hallucinogenic drugs to achieve ecstasy; and so the question arises as to what extent this has always been an essential part of the shaman’s repertoire. Eliade is clear that the use of such substances is “a recent innovation and points to a decadence in shamanic technique. Narcotic intoxication is called on to provide an imitation of a state that the shaman is no longer capable of attaining otherwise.” A more recent study of shamanism, by the historian Ronald Hutton, supports this view (although it has been suggested elsewhere that Eliade modified his opinion towards the end of his life), but is less kind about his methodology, criticising his tendency to ignore data that did not fit his overall thesis.
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Eliade's wide-ranging study of shamanism is a classic in shamanic literature. This historic and academic thesis is perfectly complemented, in my view, by Ross Heaven's book, The Journey To You, which makes this shamanic perspective accessible and useful in modern life. Eliade shows how shamanism is powerful and useful in all societies, while Heaven makes it a vital practice to the modern urban West.
Eliade's is one of the best books i have read in terms of content, though it can be a long read! But well worth the effort.
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