North American Proto-shamanic Philosophy and Body-mind Centering
Author: Margaret Ann Adamek
All cultures develop and transmit practices of somatic conditioning that predispose its members to relate to and experience the world in particular ways. A pivotal distinction between Enlightenment- and shamanistically-influenced methods of knowledge production involves styles of embodiment based on metaphysical and epistemological assumptions about the nature of reality, mind, body, experience and relationship. The Enlightenment worldview claims a separation of mind and body; privileges vision over other senses; denies the trustworthiness of subjectivity; upholds rationality and language as the manifestations of the highest forms of consciousness; and values objectivity and detachment as the legitimate stances in knowledge production. By contrast shamanic paradigms claim a unity of body and mind; the centrality of moving, sensing and perceiving in knowing; the privileging of subjective and intersubjective; an integrative use of the senses in producing knowledge; and explicit acknowledgment of sacred, biological, and feminine dimensions of reality. Contemporary scholars in phenomenology, pragmatism, consciousness studies, corporeal feminism, and indigenous philosophy express a strong degree of conceptual complementarity around the nature of experience and relationship, yet propose methodologies remaining firmly rooted within dualistic styles of embodiment. Only a few call for innovations in methodologies that train sensory, perceptual, and movement capacities of knowers toward a more relational, experientially grounded stance of knowing---an embodied praxis that reflects the character of a shamanic metaphysics and epistemological claims of these philosophical schools. Body-Mind Centering RTM is a local knowledge system that alleviates this methodological impasse, offering innovations in how to explore direct, embodied experience using touch and movement to establish and explore subjective and intercorporeal dimensions of experience and relationship. In many critical respects, Body-Mind CenteringRTM reflects core features of shamanic ways of knowing and presents significant methodological breakthroughs for training sensory and perceptual feedback mechanisms integrating first, second, and third-person corporeal approaches to knowing. Developed outside the academic realm primarily by women, BMC(TM) makes radical advances that transforms scholarly praxis, upholds the legitimacy of shamanic systems of knowledge, reveals proto-shamanic methods of knowing emergent from American embodied experience, and articulates how the unique embodied location of women gives rise to significant new knowledge.