Paranthropology: Boulders in the Stream

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Boulders in the Stream: The Lineage and Founding of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness

Stephan A. Schwartz


Quote:The founding of what has become the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness (SAC) can only be understood properly in the cultural context of its heritage, and the world in which it came to life. The author is the last living founder from the original group. This paper is an historical narrative tracing the intellectual lineage of the SAC and how it came to be. It focuses particularly on seminal events at the 1974 annual meetings of the American Anthropology Association in Mexico City. At those meetings a paradigm within anthropology begun decades before was shaken, and the process was painful. The immediate cause were a series of symposia: The Rhine Swanton Symposium on Parapsychology and Anthropology, Session 703, and several symposia on the challenge to anthropology represented by Carlos Castaneda and his writings.

Through a series of best selling books, including the publication of his dissertation for the anthropology department of UCLA, Castaneda, attacked the way a critical part of anthropology was conducted. The argument in his own narrative was that one could not understand the Shamanic world view, without becoming a shaman. No informant could ever convey this, because so much of it was experiential. And it could not be properly known unless one entered with sincerity into the experience, as a participant not just an observer. Implicit in this was the worldview that non-technological cultures can be as insightful as their technological counterparts; albeit in different areas of human functioning. Two insights central to this thesis are particularly relevant to SAC: an aspect of human consciousness exists independent of time and space susceptible to volitional control; and, there is an interconnection between all life forms which must be understood if the universal impulse humans feel towards the spiritual component of their lives is to properly mature. The SAC can be seen in pure Kuhnian terms as one response to the reassessment that Castaneda forced on anthropology.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

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