Becoming-Animal – In 1980 French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995) and psychoanalyst Félix Guttari (1930–1992) published A Thousand Plateaus, the second part of Capitalism and Schizophrenia (part 1 is entitled Anti-Oedipus [1972]). Deleuze and Guttari speak of “vitalism,” a sea of constant flow, flux, change, and “becoming,” and in chapter 10, entitled “Memories of a Sorcerer,” they outline how “we sorcerers” engage with becoming by “becominganimal,” a form of shape-shifting or transformation called theriomorphism. Unusually for Western philosophy, shape-shifting in this instance should not be read as a metaphor, analogy, or form of mimesis: for Deleuze and Guttari, becoming-animal is not imaginal or fantasy but “perfectly real” (1980, 238, also 273–74). In their disruption of Cartesian, Hegelian, and other Western philosophies, and indeed the Modern condition, Deleuze and Guttari might be argued to offer a critical, postmodern methodology for engaging with indigenous realities such as shamanisms and animism. Matt Lee examines the Edwardian artist-shaman Austin Osman Spare in this light, arguing that Spare is Deleuzian in the sense that he no longer insists on a focus on the “magician” as controller, perceiver, or creator: Sparean sorcery is “a technique not of . . . ego-dissolution but . . . [of engagement] with . . . the ocean of becoming.”


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007


Related Articles

Drury, Nevill

Drury, Nevill (1947– ) – Australian author whose introductory and survey work on shamans, Pagans, and esotericism (e.g., The Elements of Shamanism, 1989; Magic and…


Imaginal – Describing the realm of consciousness or the other world in which shamans journey during altered states of consciousness, according to Jungian psychologists. The…


Transformation – Many shamans are purported to be able to transform themselves, either at will or with the aid of otherworld and other-than-human persons, or…


Theriomorphism – In animist contexts in which the ability to transform is understood to be a defining characteristic of persons, or specifically of powerful persons,…