Premodern Zones of Consciousness



A fetish object illustrates the paradox of power: it exists if other people think it does, which lies also at the core of magic. Surrounded by an aura of fraud, showmanship, and chicanery, the paradox of power is also that of creativity.
40,000 years ago until recently, the mechanics of enchantment in life were never far from the surface. People lived in mental zone where everything was simultaneously material and spiritual, everything was social and nothing fixed like the zone of the fetish. Fetish objects are both human creations and alien powers at the same time. In today's Madagascar, folk charms consist of bits of rare wood or other objects, preserved in an ox-horn or other receptacle. The power that lies behind them is not from the ingredients, but from the conscious agency of an invisible spirit, which the user has to invoke with prayers each time the charm is used. People do not speak of charms as objects or as spirits, but as a form of knowledge. The charm is a kind of knowledge that extends the owner's powers to act on the world.
Psychologist Lawrence Leshan, in The World of the Paranormal, writes of different ways of construing and perceiving the world, ways which increase the potential of humans, necessary for their fullest humanhood. He breaks down these ways into four types: sensory reality is the everyday world of working and essential to biological survival; unity reality has no boundaries and nothing is separate from anything else—all things flow into each other and are part of a larger whole of the cosmos, as in panpsychism, shintoism, taoism, paganism, and shamanism; transpsychic reality is one in which prayer is perceived as effective by urging desire on the great forces of the cosmos; and mythic reality as found in the dream, organized play, stories, magic, and creativity.
These variations of consciousness only appear as an affront to contemporary society because of the underlying assumption of science that human beings are basically nothing but machines, machines without intrinsic meaning, feelings, values, or ethics. However, the assumptions of positivism, mechanism, determinism, and realism are challenged today by new ideas such as relativity, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and the science of the paranormal. Some artists do not see themselves as imposing their will on the world, but rather acting with kinds of inspiration that come from another consciousness.