Bet you didn’t see this one on the GRE…

Please fill in the blank:

Contemplative is to mystic as __________________ is to shaman.

Any takers?

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About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Ron


  • Stephen


  • scott ruplin

    Keith Richards?

  • Jan


  • Ray


  • Darrell Grizzle


  • phil foster

    animist…or, penguin

  • judith collier


  • Ron

    Penguin? ???

  • Trish

    Magician…. the supernormal vs the supernatural.

  • Chris


  • Allison


  • Darrell Grizzle

    definitely penguin

  • Beth

    A large, happy fire

  • Beth

    Or I guess I should have said, sitting in a large happy fire

  • Beth

    Here’s a twist that would make any shaman’s head turn:

    Pentecost and the Way of the Shaman

    Y’all may enjoy the Jesus Manifesto site and also Phil Wyman’s site: Square No More

    (Phil was the overall winner of a Pentecost writing contest on the Jesus Manifesto site. The winners are being published each day this week, and I’m slowly, slowly realizing that my entry probably isn’t in the line up…but I liked writing it, so I guess I win! Stepping into a Violent Wind: Pentecost Revisited)

  • Phil Wyman

    Beth pointed me to this site, and looky, looky what I found. A cool exercise about shamans!

    so here’s my answer – drum

  • Peter

    prophet; apprentice; the guy who is not a full shaman yet but is in training for it, so maybe “novice shaman”–based on the notion that contemplatives are pre-mystics



  • myrabeth

    Oh, Peter, I like that!

    So here’s another take on it:

    Contemplative is to mystic as pilgrim/apprentice is to shaman

  • meg dowdy

    Comtemplative is to mystic as breathing is to shaman
    ” ” ” ” as healing is to shaman
    as drumming is to shaman
    as herbalogy is to shaman

  • Peggy

    Psychoactive drugs. Read “Supernatural” by Graham Hancock. The primary difference between mysticism and shamanism concerns the benefit. Mysticism is primarily a personal experience sought to deepen one’s INDIVIDUAL relationship with the sacred while shamanistuc journeying-as practiced by traditional tribal folk– is primarily for the benefit of the COMMUNITY. Shamanism today appears to be geared toward a path of SELF exploration–another form of psychotherapy. IMHO the group meditation practices of Buddhism are the closest to community mystical practice prevalent today. This is quite different from the comtemplative or meditative lessons which may arise in Christian groups which are still to individual benefit.

  • Carl McColman

    Sorry, Peggy, but your definition of mysticism certainly doesn’t fully describe Christian mysticism, which has a very strong social/communal dimension as well as a strong individualistic tradition. I think the tension between mysticism as personal enlightenment vs. mysticism as communal transformation is basically the hinayana/mahayana tension found in Buddhism, or the tension between monasticism and the mendicant orders in medieval Christianity. Plotinus the pagan philosopher saw mysticism as “the flight of the alone to the alone,” but his greatest Christian interpreter, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, situated personal enlightenment within the Mystical Body, and that has been characteristic of the greatest Christian mystics ever since. Benedict, Julian of Norwich, and Thomas Merton are but three of the voices in the Christian tradition who clearly understood that mysticism — whether as contemplative practice or as received experience — is all about the community. I think that can still be found within Christianity today, but generally in settings that hesitate to see themselves as “mystical,” such as within traditional lay apostolates like the Secular Franciscans or the Lay Cistercians. The Quakers would be a good Protestant example of communal mysticism, as are some of the house churches and neo-monastic groups popping up these days.

    But I agree with you that there is a difference between indigenous practices and the “shamanism” found in the first world marketplace, and I think you’ve nailed how that plays out. As for contemporary Christian contemplative practice being primarily for the individual, I wonder who it is you’re reading or studying with! Everyone I know who is doing this kind of work has such a clear sense that we deepen our personal intimacy with God in order to strengthen the community. They are so essential to one another. Christian mysticism is not just about me and God — and anyone who suggests it is, frankly, I would greet with suspicion.

  • Jacquelyn Judd

    Alternate reality (or altered state of consciousness–ssc), sometimes called dreaming. Terms vary with cultures, locations.

  • Philip

    visionary, meditative

  • phil foster

    If contemplative (a person, not a practice was my read in the original analogy) is broader, more general and mystic is more specific, more precise, more “advanced,” then it’s definitely animist.

    Carl’s post of 06/15/08 is a good clarification. I would only add that rarely does any true contemplation occur outside of community. Even the desert Mothers and Fathers interacted with each other. Even the Carthusians speak with each other at regular intervals. Contemplation also rests on a living tradition and interaction with others is where discernment of Holy Spirit happens.

    Our emphasis on the individual is a culture bound phenomenon arising post-Enlightenment. The spiritual wisdom of the New Testament and Jesus’ teaching is far more geared toward community than the individual. Some Biblical scholars (many, in fact) suggest that there is no individual salvation in the New Testament.