William Everson: The Shaman's Call

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9781608606047: William Everson: The Shaman's Call

In 1991, author and Jungian psychotherapist Steven Herrmann was "called" by the poet-shaman William Everson to collaborate on writing a book. It is from that event that the subtitle of this book emerged, The Shaman's Call. Its aim is to instill in readers that if one follows one's calling from the shamanic archetype with the right attitude, it could culminate in true cosmic awareness. And, it would interconnect the psyche with nature, or what C.G. Jung called the "Self." Such awareness is made clear through the transfiguring power of American poet-shamans, who transmit what they are called by nature to convey: That an experience of the Self is a life-altering experience. The calling can be transmitted by way of an animal power to a person through dreams, transformative relationships, in-depth psychotherapy, religious experiences, art, scientific endeavor, or through the hearing, reading or writing of shamanic poetry. During the conversations with Everson, emerged a vision of the way shamanism has been portrayed in American poetry, from Herman Melville's Moby Dick, to Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, to Emily Dickinson's The Complete Poetry, to what Everson achieved in his seminal poems, October Tragedy, The Encounter and Black Hills, and in his literature course at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The conversations form a link between the 80-year-old poet-shaman and the 35-year-old Jungian author Steven Herrmann, who was just beginning to find his own wings as a poet. Herrmann lives with his wife in the wooded hills of Oakland, California.

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From the Author:

It is a great honor to be able to share with the public this new publication of William Everson: The Shaman's Call―Expanded Edition. I was a student at U. C. Santa Cruz during the years 1978-1982 when I had the good fortune to have been a teaching assistant and facilitator of dream groups in William Everson's celebrated course "Birth of a Poet" at Kresge College, on the UCSC campus. In "Birth of a Poet," I and many students at UCSC felt personally that we were being initiated into the meaning of being a California poet by one of the seminal fathers of American poetry. In 1980, Everson asked me to be his teaching assistant and lead dream groups for his course, where the aim was to help students locate their calling to vocation. This is the way I got to know Everson personally. From Everson's empirical research into the nature of vocational dreams on the UCSC campus he could see from a vista in the Native American cultural psyche, where the drum beat and rattle of the shaman were experienced as the heart-beat of the Nation: "The center is the drum, throbbing at the center of reality; everything that has life dances to that primal beat." From this vantage point he set out to chart a post-Jungian journaling method that could help lead students to discover the central factor of spiritual experience: the Self. His notion of the vocational archetype provided the way in. Out of his spiritual center--the calling--Everson spoke to students at UCSC in an effort to reconnect them to their origins. The goal of the course was to deepen students' understanding of themselves, their unconscious and instinctive motivations, as well as to develop their ability to express themselves through poetic writing and in that way to gain a deeper understanding of their literary vocation. I was honored to see Everson bring his remarkable series of meditations on the UC campus to a close during his final three years there, but I am even more grateful to be able to say that Everson and I continued to discuss the theme of the vocational archetype during the next decade until his death. In February of 1985, I interviewed Everson on the notion of the vocational archetype, which became a starting point for my Master's Thesis research. In 1990, Everson "called" me down to his home at Kingfisher Flat on Big Creek to co-author a book with him. It originally consisted of a series of 11 conversations that culminated in my writing of William Everson: The Shaman's Call, published in 2009. William Everson: The Shaman's Call―Expanded Edition published in early 2016 commemorates the Centennial of William Everson's birth (September 10, 1912). My four centennial lectures now appear in Part II of this book, as well as "Seven Meditations: William Everson's Basic Teachings on Vocation," and an unpublished conversation with Everson on "vocatypes." In this final conversation, Everson coined a new word―vocatypes―to lay stress on the fact that though archetypes present in all of us are only self-realized images of instinct, our instinctual imperative is to produce our own vocalizations of what these instincts portend. It is the poet's job to express the vocalizing function latent in the culture, but pressing for expression in each of us. Through being in the sacred time of origins with Everson, I was put in imaginal colloquy with the shaman-ancestors of American Poetry. In this new edition of The Shaman's Call we get a clear description of a historical regression in the service of vocation, a regression from the then-contemporary idea of poet as literary figure (along the lines of Robert Frost, T.S. Elliot, and Wallace Stevens) to a shamanic figure who takes it upon himself not just to depict the wasteland of contemporary culture, but actually to try to heal it. In Walt Whitman's and Robinson Jeffers's wake, this way of a shamanic healer was also an imperative thrust on writers and poets to clear a path between the opposites of poet and prophet, if sacred is to meet the profane and redeem it. Everson saw such a path as that of the poet-shaman. He embodied the shamanic archetype and encouraged his students and readers to shamanize! The "destiny of America," Everson said, depends on this. Medicine men, and medicine women, like Whitman, Melville, Dickinson, Jeffers, and Everson, heal the earth, the waters, and the air we breathe because they express the Nature they are called upon to save. Herrmann asks readers to help find ways to join our voices to that of the California shaman―William Everson―whose life and works are being celebrated in this new and exciting book.  

About the Author:

STEVEN HERRMANN'S writing is recognized nationally and internationally. He has published over thirty papers and two books, William Everson: The Shaman's Call (2009) and Walt Whitman: Shamanism, Spiritual Democracy, and the World Soul (2010). He has taught on the subjects of Whitman and Melville at the C. G. Jung Institutes of San Francisco, Chicago, and Zurich, as well as at the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. Herrmann's expertise in Jungian Literary Criticism makes him one of the seminal thinkers in the international field, and a foremost authority on Whitman and Melville in post-Jungian studies. Herrmann, a poet and Jungian psychotherapist, has a clinical practice in Oakland, California.

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