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Neo-Shamanism and its Discontents: Potentials and Challenges

Guest Lecturer:  Cleo McNelly Kearns

Free, with donations accepted at the door

One of the more intriguing phenomena of the recent explosion of interest in religion and spirituality is the rise of what Kearns calls neo-shamanic practices, by which she means the conscious attempt to retrieve and cultivate the wisdom of ancient earth-based traditions for purposes of healing and of honoring and protecting the natural world. There are neo-shamanic interest groups springing up now on every continent from Minsk to Bogota and Los Angeles to Seoul. While Kearns is a practitioner and in some sense an advocate of one or two of these lineages as they move out into the contemporary urban mainstream, she is also intensely aware of the problems of this practice, ranging from issues of cultural misappropriation to questions of the ontology or reality of spirits. In this talk Kearns wants to discuss both the potentials of neo-shamanism for our time and the challenges of drawing on this support in a principled, wise and ethical way.

Cleo McNelly Kearns is an independent scholar in the fields of modern literature, continental philosophy and comparative theology. Her monographs include T. S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief (1987) and The Virgin Mary, Monotheism and Sacrifice (2008), both published by Cambridge University Press.  She has for many years taught courses in religion and culture at Rutgers University and New York University and has held fellowships from both the Princeton Center for the Study of Religion and the Notre Dame Institute of Advanced Study. Her current research is on the recent widespread resurgence of interest in shamanic traditions in a time of globalization and ecological crisis.


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