Monday, September 14, 2015

Shakespeare and Shamanism

By Dr. Ron Shane and Assisted by Karan Pandher,Lauren Kupis, and Alva Liang

This article looks at Shakespeare as a viable practitioner of the Shamanistic arts. This visionary poet in his last known play, The Tempest, appears to reveal his proclivity for the modulation of the ineffable forces of nature. In the author’s view, The Tempest is not a fictional account of Shakespeare’s mystical predilections, but rather represents his actual powers to govern human and subtle forces. There is viable support presented in this work that Shakespeare has acquired similar mystical abilities characteristic of other indigenous Shamans. This article is essential for any scholar who is interested in the relationship between mystical art and indigenous Shamanism.

Shakespeare is a visionary artist, but likewise can be considered a prodigious shaman. This Renaissance artist certainly actualized his numinous body, and could readily coalesce with a higher dimensionality of the celestial realm. He wrote the following in his play the Mid-Summer Night’s Dream: “The poets I in a fine frenzy rolling,/ does glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,/ and imagination bodies forth/ forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen/ turns them to shapes, and gives to aire nothing a local habitation and a name/ such tricks with strong imagination…” (1). What is Shakespeare referring to by “a fine frenzy rolling”? It is evident as with Plato’s dialogue, the Ion, that the Shamanistic artist’s plume powers of perception are not limited by the dismal shade of ratiocination or what Nietzsche explicated as Apollonian Consciousness. Higher theosophy and epistemology merge, and become intertwined in mirthful rhapsody or what is referred to as deductive enthrallment. For Shakespeare, a dull-witted human entity cannot apprehend phenomena beyond the limitations of reason.

The play of quip can only be ascertained where the mettle of thought is not tempered by the body’s peevish neurological workings. Shakespeare in an enigmatic manner stated the following, “For our judgment sits five times in that ere wants in our five wits” (2). Shakespeare is connoting to a Shamanistic knowing, which is qualitatively distinctive from the central nervous system’s conceptual rationality. Visionary artistic genius or Shamanistic revelry is not the enfetterment of the five senses, but rather a frenzy rapture experienced from the celestial airy sphere. Thus, for Shakespeare, the poetic eye in “fine frenzy rolling” is analogous to Nietzsche’s Dionysian, or Ion’s ebullient intoxication, of what Eliade defines as a Shaman’s “ecstatic capacities permitting of magical flight” (3).

The traditional shaman in his or her ritualistic revelry are not concerned like the visionary artist or Shakespeare with providing a forum “To things unknown,” but would rather in an enchantment of occult ceremony ravishing the arcane delirium of others in his or her tribal unit. Shakespeare appears to be more likened to a Dionysian playwright who utilized the pageantry of theatre to ascend the energy dynamics of the etheric body. It is the author’s contention that heuristic non-cathartic theatre is likened to occult ecstatic seething ritualism, which was the principle focus of atavistic tribal units. For Shakespeare, the play was a thing to display his reverence for paganistic euphoric delirium; and festively mock the dull-witted mediocrity of knavish Western consciousness.

Traditional shamans are not concerned with giving “A local habitation and name” to provocative factors of the ineffable celestial realm. The frenzied Jaguar queen is exalted by the delirium of purely coalescing with the celestial sphere as well as bestowing this intoxication to others as her etheric body is mystically enamored with nirvanic ecstasy.

Goethe compares the artistic powers of the body’s numinous essence with the mundane conceptions conjured by the central nervous system’s neurological machinations. This artist expresses the following view “One impulse art thou conscious of, at best, never seek to know the other; two souls, alas reside within my breast, and each withdraws from, and repels, its brother: one to the world is bound in clinging lust, the other soars, all earthly ties unhood, to join ancestral gods, far from this dusk, in fields where naught mundane is needed” (4).

Goethe appears to regard these two distinctive powers of aesthetic apprehension as being seemingly contentious. Conversely, Shakespeare mocks the baser sway of peevish ratiocination. This shamanistic artist tempers not the marvelment of inspired revelry even when depicting licentious bawdy behavior. Shakespeare writes the following: “It would anger him/ to raise his spirit in his mistress’ circle/ of some strange nature, letting it down-/ that were some spite…” (5). This visionary artist’s shamanistic puissance ecstatically soars even when explicating the salacious mundane. Even Plato was cognizant of the frenzied powers of the shamanistic artist, and Socrates states the following regarding the ascendant powers to perceive the shamanistic celestial realm: “The gift which you possess of speaking excently about Homer is not an art, but, as saying, an inspiration… For all good poets, epic as well as lyric, compose their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed. And as the Korybartian revelers when they dance and are not in their right mind, so the lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains…” (6). Plato and Socrates possessed only a vague comprehension of the mystical powers of the numinous body.

Western philosophy which is the conceptual study of provincial epistemology cannot apprehend the metaphysical knowledge, that defies the baser machinations of the corporal body’s sensory faculties. Aristotle further denigrates in his work The Poetics, sagacious perception liberated from puerile empirical veracity. Shamanistic ontological genesis which in Jungian terms is the principal aspect of the human collective unconscious is desecrated and ruinously annulled by the virulent epigenetics of the contemporary social reality. Most post-agrarian visionary artists associated with Western culture, except for Shakespeare were unable to actualize the numinous body’s Shamanistic powers.

Plato and Socrates did not comprehend that philosophy was the desiccated raiment of the shaman’s ecstatic puissance; and should be regarded as a quintessential metaphenomenon where the ascendant etheric body is rapaciously transformed by a succinct facet of the celestial sphere. Contemporary universities abstain from facilitating students to experience the inspired fecundity of the body’s frenzied sentience. Freud’s analysis of Id as well as Aristotle’s disquisition regarding theater is emblematic of the wretched servitude and enfetterment of the body’s libidinous power where it is formidably disinclined to experience heuristic mystical metamorphosis. Thus, the numinous body is invidiously severed at the sex chakra.

Shamanistic practitioners and visionary artists like Shakespeare are able to blithefully liberate themselves from cognitive structures related to pedestrian empirical reality, which constricts the ineffable powers of the numinous essence. The baser artist is engulfed in the phantomorgia of the subconscious, like that of the protagonist in James Joyce’s Ulysses. 21st century artists have allowed their etheric essence’s powers of metaphysical apprehension to become desiccated where only the dearth of constricted perception or this storehouse of outward experiences is the impetus or their mode of creation. Shamans and visionary artists forsake the province of ratiocinations or subconscious reflective sensibilities in order to be edified by the ecstatic enthrallment of the celestial realm. Socrates further explicates the rhapsodic impassionment of Shamans and visionary artists who are intoxicated by the frenzy marvelment of coalescing with the celestial realm.

“When following under the power of music and meter, they are inspired and possessed like  bacchanalian maidens who draw milk and honey from the rivers when they are under the influence of Dionysus nor when they are in their right mind” (7).

Shamans in visionary artists are experiencing the body’s ineffable powers to merge with the celestial sublimity which provides not only rapacious metamorphosis to the numinous body, but more importantly ecstatic mystical knowledge that is not delimited by the central nervous system’s empirical neurological perceptions.

The shamans mercurial ecstatic rites and the visionary artists’ muse propelled maniacal euphoria is the same metaphenomenon where the numinous body translocates consciousness from monolithic perceptions to higher arcane machinations. The use of Ayahuasca can facilitate the occult frenzied transformation of a Dionysian male and Dianic female if they are ardent practitioners of the mystical arts. Atavistic civilizations prior to the cultivation of plants pursued ecstatic ritualistic enchantment where the Jaguar Queen, and Dionysian shamanistic males were the progenitors of the occult ecstatic delirium.

Renaissance artists like Shakespeare and Edmond Spencser would have been shamanistic hierophants if they resided in pre-Agrarian indigenous societies; and also they would have been able to thoroughly unfurl their mystical powers in occult revelry. Artists like Keats and Shelley realize that their cultural milieu represents a formidable stultification to unleash the numinous body’s paradisaical powers of ecstatic metamorphosis. The disquiet of solitary pursuits like the protagonist in Keats’ epic poem Endymion is the metaphysical ostracization of the modern authentic shamanistic artist.

Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle are wretched captives of the manacles associated with pejorative ratiocination where their conceptual renderings represent their loathsome servitude. What has referred as being “inspired and possessed” is in actuality the metaphysical liberation from the constricting gyves of conceptualization or the epistemology of mystical dearth. Aristotle explicates in his philosophy of theatrical arts in his work The Poetics where rhapsodic ecstasy is replaced by the dismal languid wretchedness of emotional catharsis, and this is the metaphysical prison house which harbors the modern etheric essence or its higher ecstatic revelry.

Shakespeare writes in Romeo and Juliet how the etheric essence can experience rhapsodic revelry, “To of the fairest stars in all the heaven, / having some business do entreat her eyes/ to twinkle in their spheres so they return. / What if her eyes were there, and they in her head? / As daylight doth a lamp. Her eyes in heaven/ would through the airy region stream so bright/ that birds would sing and think it were not night” (8).  Romeo’s fervid ecstasy is not harbored in the confines of the soul but rather the euphoric marvelment of his ascendant numinous body as it prodigiously penetrates into the celestial effulgence.

Shakespeare’s allusions not only ravage away the delimiting constrictions of ratiocination where the etheric body is in a Dionysian frenzy, but further inspires with nirvanic luminosity. For Shakespeare as a Shamanistic artist, the theatricality of his poetic works is a scabbard to conceal the maniacal occult powers of his transcendent numinous body. Romeo and Juliet may have been regarded by Shakespeare as a mockery of modern debasing antics or edicts, which derogates the etheric essence to an ostensible stultification. The taciturn ineffable puissance of Shakespeare’s mythic poetics can be likened to an atavistic ecstatic mystical right with the intent of inducing maniacal apotheosis.

The following passage from Shelley emphasizes that Shakespeare’s narrative is there to be only concordant with contemporary ratiocination and that the frenzied rhapsody of his poetic revelry represents an ascendant ecstasy:

 “A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth. There is this difference between a story and a poem, that story is a catalogue of detached facts which have no other connection than time, place, circumstances; cause and effect…” (9). Shakespeare as a shamanistic artist is lucidly focused on the incensement and invigoration of the body’s etheric essence, not upon in the words of Shelley, “The one is partial and applies only to a definite period of time, and a certain combination of events” (10). Shakespeare in the following passage is rhapsodically educating the interior body to be blithefully, and resplendently inchoated with the celestial realm in a manner similar to a Jaguar Queen in an occult ritual inspiring others with maniacal euphoria.

“…For thou art/ as glorious to this night, being over my head,/ as is a winged messenger of heaven/ upon the white-upturned wandering eyes/ of mortals that fall back to gaze on him/ and he bestrides that the lazy-puffing clouds/ and sails upon the bosom of the air” (11).

Shelley states that higher poetry should develop “new and wonderful applications of the eternal truth, which it contains” (12). The quintessence of Shakespeare artistry is not in the pedestrian nature of his narrative matriculations, but rather in the seething deceiving abstruseness of Shakespeare’s shamanistic enthrallment where his numinous body is inspired to transcendent ectstaticness.

Shakespeare in his last known play entitled The Tempest reveals himself to be endowed with Shamanistic prodigiousness. He writes “My high charms work, and these my enemies are all knit up/ in their distractions: they are in my power” (13). This visionary artist appears to be very familiar not only with blending with celestial energies with the intent of inducing nirvanic metamorphosis, but Shakespeare professes in a seemingly fictional manner to have zealous expertise in modulating furtive forces. The Tempest represents a veil of fiction; however, Shakespeare may actually be revealing the machinations of his acumen as a light sorcerer in this seemingly apocalyptic work.

Shakespeare through the character Prospero depicts his Shamanistic powers in the following manner:

 “If by your art, my dearest father, you have/ put the wild waters roar allay them/ the sky, it seems, would pour down striking pitch/” (14). Is the persona of Shakespeare living in Elizabethan England an actualized prophetic sorcerer of the Shamanic arts? The authentic identity of the person who actually pinned the plethora of plays bearing the name of Shakespeare is still enigmatic and most likely it was not the peasant author.

There is some speculation that Elizabethan Theater was a ruse for thriving maniacal occult practices. Shakespeare may have been an expert in dissembling robes or miraculous deception in order to conceal that he was an advanced hierophant of the occult arts. Queen Elizabeth as depicted by Edmond Spenser is a quintessential Dianic female whose mystical powers are ecstatically intoxicating. Is the Shakespearean play The Tempest actually a non-fictional account of the metaphysical puissance of Shakespeare and others who were able to govern cryptic forces in a manner similar to atavistic omnipotent Shamans?

Shakespeare further states through the character of Prospero the following regarding the arcane powers to modulate other human entities as well as aspects of the environmental milieu:

 “…lend my hand, / and pluck my magic garments from me- so: / lie there, my art… the direful spectacle wrack which touched/ the very virtue of compassion in me, / I have with such provision in my art” (15).

The utilization of celestial forces to modulate the psyche of other human entities; and the disposition of naturalistic factors represents a very advanced level of metamorphosis of the etheric body, and this translates into the cultivation of higher Shamanic powers. There were many visionary artists who have been able to be ecstatically inspired as a function of prodigiously blending with the furtive effulgence of the celestial realm; however, they could not govern the actions of others or control the terrestrial forces of nature. The ensuing chapters of this text depict how authentic shamans become skillful at symbolic warfare as well as medicinal healing practices. Moreover, what Shakespeare is referring to in The Tempest is the apex which the shamanistic practitioner can achieve. Those less advanced shamans with respect to the stellar exquisiteness of the etheric body could be themselves deleteriously modulated by furtive forces. Shakespeare represents Prospero as an elite Shaman who can govern a provocative spirit power to modulate a diverse array of naturalistic factors.

Shakespeare writes in his play King Lear: “And take upon us the mystery of things, / as if we were god’s spies…” (16). Shakespeare is purporting that it is dismal and woeful when humans are not able to acquire the visionary zeal of synesthesia or when they can’t experience a kind of mystical apprehension beyond the sphere of their physical limitations. The gyves of Lear’s baser perception is tempered of the character Edgar’s shamanistic cunning who is not impeded by the neurological workings of his ego or superego. Shakespeare is one of the only western visionary artist who likewise acquired shamanistic puissance. This Shamanistic artist is elevated to a more enhanced tier of nirvanic consciousness. The following passage from Plato’s Ion represents a lower ecstatic level of perception:

“The gardens, and flowery veils belonging to the muse’s, from fountains flowing there with honey, gathering the sweetness of their songs, they bring it to us, like bees… nor do they tell us untruth. For a poet is a thing like, in volatile, and sacred; nor is he able to write poetry, told the muse entering into him, he is transported out of himself” (17).

Shakespeare is more inwardly nirvanic than other visionary artists like Ion who can become impassioned with frenzied mirth by coalescing with the celestial marvelment. The collective nature of the experience of being incensed by the prodigious realm is a universal meta-phenomenon.

Authentic Shamans like Shakespeare is not only delighted by celestial enchantment, but have acquired the metaphysical acumen to profusely penetrate to an omnipotent clime, and can magnificently modulate these mystical powers to govern others and the matrix configurations of earthly nature. In The Tempest, Prospero’s modulation of the character Aerial’s ineffable wonderment represents the artful cunning which Shakespeare could induce through the maniacal occult ritualism of his theatricality. “The super-natural solicitation” in many of his plays is more than a fictional extravagance, and it actually pertains to his advanced shamanistic practices.

Shakespeare’s poetic artistry is a kind of mirthful raiment concealing the mystical delirium of his atavistic occult ritualism. The actual mystique of this Shamanistic hierophant can only be discerned through the stealth praxis of his metaphysical sentience. Shakespeare certainly reveals the naked provocativeness of the etheric body in the following passage from the play entitled The Twelfth Night: “Oh spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou,/ that not withstanding thy compactly/ receiveth as a sea, not enters there,/ of what validity and pitch so ever,/ so full of shape is fancy/ that it alone is high fantastical” (18).

This passage from Twelfth Night represents a more tempered arcane praxis of a Shaman compared to the mystical prodigiousness of Prospero. Shakespeare states the following in The Tempest regarding his Shamanistic mystique:

“Open and let them forth/ by my potent art, but this magic I hear adjure…. Which even now I do-/ to work my end upon their senses, that this every charm is for…” (19). Shakespeare is a Shamanistic artist of high fantastical; and an ecstatic mentor to the etheric body.


1.          William Shakespeare, Mid Summer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Complete Works, New York: Harcourt, Brace, and the World 1952 Page 536.

2.          William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Methuen Drama, London: 2012 Page 160.

3.          Miracea Eliade, Shamanism, Bollinger Foundation, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1964 Page 6.

4.          Joann Wolfgan Goethe Faust: Part 1, New York, Collier Books, 1962 Page 78.

5.          William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, OP. cit Page 183.

6.          Hazard Adams, Critical Theory Since Plato, Plato/The Ion, Harcourt, Brace, and the World 1971 Page 14.

7.          Plato, The Ion, Ibid. Page 14

8.          William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, OP. cit Page 187.

9.          Percy Bysshe Shelley, Defense of Poetry, Selected Poetry and Prose of Shelley, Ed. Carlos Baker, New York, Modern Library, 1951 Page 499-500

10.      Shelley, Ibid, Page 499-500

11.      William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, OP. cit Page 188.

12.      Shelley, Ibid, Page 499-500.

13.      William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Random House Inc. New York, 1958, Page 91.

14.      Ibid, Page 9.

15.      Ibid, Page 13.

16.      William Shakespeare, King Lear, Methuen, London, 1972 Page 188.

17.      Plato, Ion, In Blake and Traditions, Volume 1, Ed. Kathleen Raine, Princeton: Princton University Press 1968, Page 412.

18.      William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Menthuen, London, 1975, Page 6.
William Shakespeare, The Tempest, OP. cit Page 116.   

Ron Shane ND PhD OMD MFA   Dr. Shane is a world-leading authority in body mind consciousness studies. See Bio section for more information about Dr. Shane.