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Moving from Enlightenment and Romantic writers and Russian exile ethnographers to the anthropology of Franz Boas to Mircea Eliade and Carlos Castaneda, Znamenski details how the shamanism idiom was gradually transplanted from Siberia to the Native American scene and beyond. He also looks into the circumstances that prompted scholars and writers at first to marginalize shamanism as a mental disorder and then to recast it as high spiritual wisdom in the 1960s and the 1970s. Linking the growing interest in shamanism to the rise of anti-modernism in Western culture and intellectual life, Znamenski examines the role that anthropology, psychology, environmentalism, and Native Americana have played in the emergence of neo-shamanism. He discusses the sources that inspire Western neo-shamans and seeks to explain why lately many of these spiritual seekers have increasingly moved away from non-Western tradition to European folklore. A work of intellectual discovery, The Beauty of the Primitive shows how scholars, writers, and spiritual seekers shape their writings and experiences to suit contemporary cultural, ideological, and spiritual needs. With its interdisciplinary approach and engaging style, it promises to be the definitive account of this neglected strand of intellectual history.
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