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Stephan V. Beyer

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Profile created August 15, 2009
  • Singing To The Plants: A Guide To Mestizo Shamanism In The Upper Amazon (October 31, 2009 release)
    In the Upper Amazon, mestizos are the Spanish-speaking descendants of Hispanic colonizers and the indigenous peoples of the jungle. Some mestizos have migrated to Amazon towns and cities, such as Iquitos and Pucallpa; most remain in small villages, their houses perched on stilts on the shores of the rivers that are their primary means of travel. Here in the jungle, they have retained features of the Hispanic tradition, including a folk Catholicism and traditional Hispanic medicine. And they have incorporated much of the religious tradition of the Amazon, especially its healing, sorcery, shamanism, and the use of potent plant hallucinogens, including ayahuasca. The result is a uniquely eclectic shamanist culture that continues not only to fascinate outsiders with its brilliant visionary art but also to attract thousands of seekers each year with the promise of visionary experiences of their own.

    Ayahuasca shamanism is now part of global culture. The visionary ayahuasca paintings of Pablo César Amaringo are available to a world market in a sumptuous coffee-table book; international ayahuasca tourists exert a profound economic and cultural pull on previously isolated local practitioners; ayahuasca shamanism, once the terrain of anthropologists, is the subject of novels and spiritual memoirs. Ayahuasca shamans perform their healing rituals in Ontario and Wisconsin.

    Singing to the Plants sets forth, in accessible form, just what this shamanism is about -- what happens at an ayahuasca healing ceremony, how the apprentice shaman forms a spiritual relationship with the healing plant spirits, how sorcerers inflict the harm that the shaman heals, and the ways that plants are used in healing, love magic, and sorcery. The work emphasizes both the uniqueness of this highly eclectic and absorptive shamanism -- plant spirits dressed in surgical scrubs, extraterrestrial doctors speaking computer language -- and its deep roots in shamanist beliefs and practices, both healing and sorcery, common to the Upper Amazon. The work seeks to understand this form of shamanism, its relationship to other shamanisms, and its survival in the new global economy, through anthropologists, ethnobotany, cognitive psychology, legal history, and personal memoir.

  • The Classical Tibetan Language (1992, 2007)

  • The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet (1973, 2001)
    "The worship of the goddess Tara is one of the most widespread of Tibetan cults, undifferentiated by sect, education, class or position; from the highest to the lowest, the Tibetans find with this goddess a personal and enduring relationship unmatched by any other single deity, even among those of their gods more potent in appearance or more profound in symbolic association. This fact in itself means that her cult may repay scholarly interest, for Tara's rituals differ from those of the 'high patron dieties' of the monastic cult in that they eschew much of the deeper -- primarily sexual -- symbolism which has so upset many Western researchers, and yet they conform to the basic patterns of all Tibetan ritual. Their straightforward avoidance of the textual complexities of the highest Tantras is an advantage, because we can direct our attention to their structure rather than to the 'meaning' of their symbolism. Once these structures have been established, they may be generalized to include the most profound Tantric revelations; but we must first ask, simply, what the Tibetans are doing before we can go on to decide the 'real' reason they do it.

    Perhaps the most immediately impressive aspect of these rituals is the true devotion with which the Tibetans approach the goddess: she guards and protects her people, they say, from the cradle to beyond the grave, and her devotees cry out to her in their distress and share with her their joys. This fundamental attitude of worship, however, is inevitably channeled through a ritual process of 'offerings, praises, and prayer' and is directed to the goddess by the ceremonial forms of the monastic community. Thus, to understand something of her cult is to understand something of the whole structure of Tibetan culture and religion."  -- from text

  • Buddhism: A Modern Perspective (1995) by Stephan V. Beyer and Charles S. Prebish
    An introduction to Buddhism of value both to the scholar and the reader with no prior knowledge of the subject, this book begins with a comprehensive survey of fundamentals and goes on to include topics previously untouched in introductory texts.  Includes contributions by
    Charles S. Prebish, Douglas D. Daye, Francis H. Cook, Lewis R. Lancaster, Mark A. Ehman, Roger J. Corless, Stefan Anacker, and Stephan V. Beyer.

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