The Urban Shaman

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by William Draven, Apr 14, 2014.

  1. Are we mages or are we just magicians with a delusion of grandeur? There has been a large effort in magic in the past 50 years or so to really present it as just cleaver tricks or stunts performed by skilled tradesmen adept in the form of trickery, misdirection, and illusion craft. Really since the Inquisition started torturing heretics for being witches magicians have clung to the idea of innocent entertainers more so than powerful sorcerers. Yet still to this day we hold dear to our hearts romantic visions of the classical Merlin figure as being the epitome of what a real magician is.

    The Penn's and Randy's of our community speak out strongly against anyone who would dare obfuscate the truth of deceit in the name of performance. It seems that the magi can present any claim they want while on stage, so long as they take of the long white beard and flowing robes of their god like persona the minute the stage lights go out. But Urban Shamanism isn't that simple. Or rather much like Taoist traditions it's so simple it's complex if you try to over think it. I don't think the only acceptable archetype to be presented on stage should be that of the Trickster. That after all robs the audience of so much viewing potential it's not even funny.

    I also don't believe that there isn't such a thing as "real" magick either. After all as anyone who has witnessed the birth of their child, or pondered the impossible limitless power of love will tell you that magick is real. All the Urban Shaman does is blend a little wisdom with a little trade craft and add in a spice of showmanship to create and inspire our audiences to think about their lives. To aspire to inspire as it were. Does that make us frauds? Are we liars, deceivers, and con-men? Why is it that our magical fraternity must take such a self righteous stance against those who do not overtly scream at the top of their lungs "I'm just tricking you"? Why must the moment of magic, and awe inspiring mystery be limited to the first few seconds post reveal? Why must we disillusion our audiences only moments after we've worked so hard to create the illusion to begin with?

    Those questions are questions we all must find answers for ourselves with before we can truly dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of the Urban Shaman character. Choosing to walk the path of the Urban Shaman is not a path we take lightly because it makes us more than just entertainers. It calls us to be teachers, leaders, instructors, counselors and above all else- mystics. Because the work that we do is so impactful on others there will be those who will line up by the droves to denounce our work. They will call us religious fools who have lost the one "true" way, and that we've perverted their sacred art of magic by blurring the line between the Trickster and the Mage. A line that for thousands of years before us was blurred. But that is the price we pay, our dues if you will, for taking part in this important work.

    Just because one person learns to con people out of their money, manipulate them emotionally, or otherwise abuse their trust using skills of our trades does not automatically reduce every practitioner of the art to the level of scum that willfully pray on the gullible with the intent of personal profit. And in that there lays the truest difference between the Urban Shaman and the New Age Scam Guru Psychic. The scam artist our fraternity is so concerned with combating only seeks to give to them self by using their powers. They only seek personal gain. The urban shaman doesn't seek to give to them self, but to give OF them self to others. They help, not take. They heal, not wound, and they inspire not enslave. Not everyone can be an Urban Shaman, just like not everyone can be a magician.

    It takes a special kind of calling. It takes a special attention to detail, but to those who hear the call to avoid answering it is impossible. Inevitably we are drawn back to the way by forces more powerful than us. We can only answer the call and humbly accept the charge presented to us. It's a Gias that we're called to. And it's quite the rewarding quest to be sent on.
  2. Again. . . great challenge, let's see how many get it.
  3. #3 TeeDee, Apr 14, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 14, 2014
    Over the last year or so, I've been systematically trying to find my "voice" as a writer/performer. It's only over the last few months that my studies and reflections have led me into an area that some might include under the banner of "urban shaman". I study quantum mechanics and Qabala, calculus and Christianity, sleights and sorcery. In other (less alliterative) words, I've realised that my place is at the fulcrum of the rigidly rational (sorry, couldn't help it) and the esoteric. Just as the adepts of old like John Dee, Sir Francis Bacon, Hermes Trismegistus and the line of Enoch combined very practical science with metaphysical philosophy and magickal thinking, I think we're in an era now that's ready for a similar approach. If you look at respected thinkers of today like Rupert Sheldrake, and some of the work in consciousness studies, we can already see the glimmerings of that kind of thinking making its way into the mainstream.

    Given that's where I feel myself to be positioned, I think this development of the "urban shaman" paradigm could be a great step forward. If we nurture a generation of performers who feel a responsibility to show wisdom and genuine knowledge as well as to entertain and "fool", the best of magic and mentalism could be elevated to new heights. My only sticking-point is the name "urban shaman". In my opinion, shamanism is a specific calling, and I think creative mystery performance can encompass more than that. A shaman is not an entertainer, but I wouldn't want to see magic and mentalism lose all its entertainment value and become too po-faced. Perhaps a more useful word than shaman would be, ironically, "Fool", as represented by the clowns of the Hopi community, or in The Fool of the Tarot, who is Aleph, the beginning of creation and, in mathematical terms, the beginning of a ladder of infinities.

    Despite my small misgiving over the possibilities of performers becoming pigeon-holed by the term Urban Shaman, it's definitely an approach which we should seriously consider. Why shouldn't we be genuine miracle-workers? What were the legendary mystics of old but mystery performers? Having chosen this path, or a similar one, we should be prepared to fully accept the responsibilties that come with it, though. It's not to be taken lightly, as William says, which is why initiation into the mysteries was never offered freely and easily. If we are to be true magickal performers, we first need to be magickal thinkers and become adept not only in our act, but our whole lives.
  4. The "Pigeon Hole" I see as a positive in that we will stick out like a sore thumb in that we are Black Sheep of sorts when it comes to how the traditional magic community will view us due to how close to the edge we walk when it comes to Charlatanism, some stepping far closer to that edge than others, but none of us "play it safe"; we are by design, unlike the conventional performer of magic and that would include our forebears , the Mentalist and Bizarrist. What we do is NOT "an act" or a "character" it is a thing that we live. . . that we are; the esoteric and philosophical flowing hand in hand with one another and frequently leaning on the words of Hermes as well as noted pagan ideologies and bits of folklore -- regional shamanism, traditional disciplines such as Qi Gong or Reiki, etc.

    The idea behind the Urban~Shaman did not start with David Blaine, he simply introduced its potential to us on the commercial level; there is much more to it than even he has found reason to share, in that the average magician 'don't get it". That's because it's more of a calling than a genre of performance.

    Presently over a dozen noted authors/experts from the fields of Mentalism, Bizarre Magick, Story Telling and the Occult are brainstorming so as to create a massive missive that defines the whole of the Urban~Shaman idea, I know that everyone here will recognize the names participating in this project though they will be introduced to a few they may not be aware of just yet. This project is a world wide endeavor that has been discussed and debated for over a year already. One of the key "edicts" of this tradition is the restoration of magic as a SECRET SOCIETY in which Secrets Remain Secret vs. the commercial exploitation we've seen go rampant the past 15 years or so.

    This is not a path for the cynic or overtly skeptical but similarly, it is not for the gullible. While it hosts a deliberate esoteric aura around it, it is open to the more Gnostic of conventional religious thinking because it has close ties to shamanism. We ARE shaman by every sesne of the term, who just happen to use trickery in clever ways to educate, heal and guide, frequently in conjunction with parables, pros, and poetry or even music that weaves memorable tales into the deeper crevasses of the mind.
  5. I think this could be the key to the power of the Urban Shamanism approach. Audiences always ask expectantly, "Are you a member of the Magic Circle?", which they seem to imagine to be a highly secretive Masonic-type organisation. Laypeople, in general, want mystery, they want to believe that there's something richer and deeper behind our tricks. If the movement towards Urban Shamanism succeeds in establishing an exclusive system of initiation, then it could be something that defines the future direction of magic.
  6. Realistically no system needs to be in place in order for you to make your audience think that there is already a secret society that is exclusive to join...and unless you know for sure you're only taking Craig's word that it exists now. Just a thought.
  7. That's true and I have, in the past, implied to audiences that the inner sanctum of the Magic Circle is more esoteric and arcane than might actually be the case. However, I believe the benefits of a genuine initiatory mystery society are far greater than just using it to impress laypeople by referring to it in patter.
  8. The benefits may or may not be worth it - I was merely hinting at the fact that the idea is more powerful than the existence of the society. Even just knowing one exists but not knowing what they do or how to get in is more exciting than joining - it's like seeing 2 cards transpose impossibly and then learning that a duplicate and one silly move can cause this to happen. There's magic in the unknown, in the impossible, but the moment you can see behind the curtain you're more often than not going to be disappointed.
  9. Add to your list of those "just saying so". . . Jerome Finley, Peter Turner, TC Tahoe, and well over two dozen other notables in today's Magic & Mentalism society that openly identify as being Urban~Shaman and perhaps a bit more. . . all of whom are part of a rather active (new) Facebook page (close - invitation only) that is very selective when it comes to who it allows in. . . it's not just another magic group, it is the core from where this tradition is being defined.

    There is a "bible" in the works that will be out next spring (there abouts) in which all of these people as well as noted "Masters" in other fields will be contributing so that all aspects of the U~S tradition are represented. This book will be several hundred pages in length, potentially composed of several volumes. . . and though effects & routines are in it, it is not a book of trickery but more one of philosophy, theory and presentation -- the things that define the U~S.

    The U~S path is nearly an exact opposite to the mode of magical work we've are all used to; it is not a commercial path per ce' and it is in many ways, a humble and very personal path. You do not just claim to be an Urban~Shaman because of a particular persona that you choose to adopt; it IS WHO YOU ARE in life -- a 24/7 role based on personal spiritual discovery as well as emotional/psychological introspection. It is part faith and part "theater" in the sense that we are in deed, performers but not so much "showmen" as we are the shaman -- the teacher and guide; the village wise one and counselor; the medicine man and hoodooist.

    NO, we are not con-men or charlatans though we do walk very close to that edge. Know us by the result of our work, not the preconceived ideas of a rationalist cult.

    When it comes to your first argument here, that no system need be in place. . . well, this isn't true. Discipline and understanding the nuances of each division (kindred art form) within magic is paramount and only those that focus on a specific niche come to know success in those areas (though some limited inter-mingling may exist).

    Groups like the Psychic Entertainer's Assoc. came about because of this need as did the Magic Castle and Magic Circle -- a place/fellowship of similarly minded souls.
  10. And this still changes nothing - it's hearsay - I'm not asking for proof, I'm saying if I am not a part of the community it means the same whether it exists or is imaginary.

    And I hope it achieves exactly what you wish it to achieve. I actually hope the 'movement' stays true to what the core believes and doesn't become a fad. From what you've said it could be very powerful.

    Is this going to be a book similar to the Tao Te Ching (for example) that can show you examples and speak of the U~S but in reality there is no one answer on 'how do I become an U~S'?

    I hope you understand what I'm asking - this is actually interesting to me.

    Noted - I never suspected you to be a part of anything that involved actually conning people. I actually think very highly of your views on magic and the occult and the lines that many are afraid to approach.

    If the system is for fellowship - similar to the other groups mentioned - and I assume for growth as individuals as well as helping others who wish to live the U~S life then it makes sense.

    I'm not a part of such a society - but from what you've said I can develop my own notions and even begin living such a life without ever being part of any specific group. I would end up with different ideas on many subjects, especially on my own - you're probably already discussing things I would have never thought to ask of myself.

    I merely speak on the power of ideas. The Wire is an amazing idea - but wasn't it so much more amazing when nobody knew what it was - a question is far more interesting than an answer if you ask me. The idea that there are top guys in the industry getting together to collaborate on a different way of approaching our art is enough to get me thinking about it - and that's more powerful sometimes than being told by others what it is or what it could be or what they want it to become.

    I actually support the idea behind what you're saying and if it's 100% true I hope everyone involved grows in a positive light from the experience.
  11. I understand what you're saying and for the most part, I agree completely. It's actually a kind of complex psychological thing you're touching on here. In essence, it's what I call the "Clipboard principle". In short: If you're carrying a clipboard and look like you know what you're doing, you will be assumed to be in charge.

    But it doesn't have to be a clipboard - when you're skilled at this you can do it with pure attitude a lot of times. For magicians this is an invaluable skill. We step on stage and immediately our bearing and attitude tell the audience we are in charge, listen to us.

    Association with 'secret societies' is something we as people put a lot of weight to. Just ask anyone about the Freemasons.

    At its base level, it doesn't matter of the group actually exists, but if it's been hinted at for years then that gives it a different sort of prestige. Like those secret fraternities at Ivy League schools and such.
  12. The "purpose" behind the book and the semi-formal "society" that is forming around the Urban~Shaman idea, while it does involve a certain level of fellowship, has more to do (presently) with defining what this new path is all about and who, by their nature, is or isn't a part of that path. There is a Zen-like essence to this tradition that is not found in conventional magic in that the latter seeks, as part of its nature, glory, reward and riches. The U~S student/worker seeks none of this, it is not a commercial path in the traditional sense, though it has ways by which to generate a livable income via the sort of work a mystic or teacher is known to do; Readings, Classes, and some special "performance" work that is more in the mode of storyteller than magician. It is literally "urbanized" in the sense that we stay "local" -- within 4-6 hours driving time from our home base; we're not jet-setting about the globe chasing gigs or trying to take our skills into the big dollar/higher profile market. Rather, we accept what is "enough" over glut.

    There will be many that will mimic this path, there already are; but few will "get it" and be willing to live it because it is demanding and for lack of a better expression, it is a full-time role but a part-time venture. That is to say, the U~S will most likely require a real day-job, at least for a while, just to survive. That or live a true mystic's life, which few (especially in the U.S. and much of Europe) will be willing to do; we're a spoiled people after all and living a "humble" life is counter-intuitive to most of us.

    David Blaine based a certain side of his persona on two historic figures; Buddha and Jesus the Christ. In many ways the formalization of the U~S system carries this concept forward, encouraging practitioner to basically live a very stark and exemplary life, so as to be an example to others. . . like I said, it's not an easy path; many may come but few will tarry.

Share This Page

{[{ searchResultsCount }]} Results