As usual we dont have to implicate the shamans individually or even as a

As usual we dont have to implicate the shamans

This preview shows page 175 - 178 out of 455 pages.

Carvey's Church Lady would exclaim, "How convenient!" As usual, we don't have to implicate the shamans, individually or even as a diffuse group of conspirators, in the devising of this rationale, since it could just emerge by the differential replication of rites, but the shamans would have to be pretty dense not to appreciate this adap-
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The Evolution of Stewardship 165 tation, and even appreciate the need for deflecting attention from it. In some cultures, a more egalitarian convenience has emerged: everybody gets to eat the food that has somehow also been invisibly and nondestructively eaten by the gods. The gods can have their cake and we can eat it too. Isn't the transparency of these all-too- convenient arrangements risky? Yes, so it is almost always pro- tected by a second veil: These are mysteries beyond all comprehension! Don't even try to understand them! And as often as not, a third veil is provided: it is forbidden to ask too many questions about all these mysteries! What about the shamans themselves? Is their own inquisitive- ness blunted by these taboos? Not always, obviously. Like every con- scientious worker, shamans can be expected to notice or suspect shortcomings in their own performance and then experiment with alternative methods: "I'm losing customers to that other shaman; what is he doing that I'm not doing? Is there a better way to do the healing rituals?" A familiar folk idea about hypnosis is that the hyp- notist somehow disables the subject's sentries, the skeptical defense mechanisms, whatever they are, that inspect all incoming material for credibility. (Perhaps he puts the guards to sleep!) A better idea is that the hypnotist doesn't disable the sentries but, rather, co-opts them, turning them into allies, getting them to vouch for the hyp- notist, in effect. One way to do that is to throw them some little facts ("You are getting sleepy, your eyelids feel heavy ...") that they can check for accuracy and readily confirm. If it isn't obvious to the subject that the hypnotist would know these facts, this creates a mild illusion of unexpected authority ("How did he know that}"), and then the hypnotist, armed with the blessing of the sentries, can go to town. This bit of more or less secret folk wisdom gets some support from experiments: the success a hypnotist has on a subject is sig- nificantly affected by whether the subject is told in advance that the hypnotist is a novice or an expert (Small and Kramer, 1969; Coe et
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166 Breaking the Spell al., 1970; Balaschak et al., 1972), and this tactic has been discovered and exploited again and again by shamans. Everywhere, they are as- siduous, discreet gatherers of little-known facts about the individu- als who may become their clients, but they don't stop there. There are other ways of demonstrating unexpected mastery. As McClenon (2002) notes, the ritual of walking unscathed on a bed of hot coals has been observed around the world—in India, China, Japan, Sin- gapore, Polynesia, Sri Lanka, Greece, and Bulgaria, for instance.
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