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Divine Inspiration? An Examination of the Impact of Hallucinogens on the Production of Imagery among some South American Populations

Author:

Carol Anne Baker

Virginia Commonwealth University
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Abstract

Studies of shamanism in a variety of world cultures invariably have one fundamental connection: the shamans’ use of altered states of consciousness when healing or contacting the realm of the supernatural. Shamans–and indeed all humans–have a variety of mechanisms that can be used to transcend the physical world; asceticism, chanting, meditation, and hallucinatory drug use. The purpose of this examination is to explore the use of hallucinatory substances among the shamans of indigenous populations in South America. In conjunction with the use of alkaloid-based drugs, this paper explores the connection between hallucinogenic trances among shamans and visual expressionism and iconic motifs in these cultures. The current debate among anthropologists concerns the extent to which shamanistic “art” is a result of biological phosphenes that occur in all human beings or of culturally–defined images that one expects to see during trances (see Bednarik 1990, Lewis-Williams and Dowson 1990, Reichel-Dolmatoff 1978).

How to Cite: Baker, C.A., (2007). Divine Inspiration? An Examination of the Impact of Hallucinogens on the Production of Imagery among some South American Populations. Middle Atlantic Review of Latin American Studies. 13(1), pp.47–62. DOI: http://doi.org/10.23870/12
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Published on 01 Jan 2007.
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