Imagination it’s like a musical instrument all Men posses,
but few know how to play.
The Language of Metaphor
Metaphor is a figure Rhetoric of identifying a real term (R) with one imaginary (I) between which there is a similarity or analogy: Metaphor comes from Greek meta (outside or beyond) and pherein to move. To move a meaning beyond a boundary of reason, to a place of the Imagination by analogy, and similitude.
Viewed as an aspect of speech and writing, metaphor qualifies as style, in particular, style characterized by a type of analogy. An expression (word, phrase) that by implication suggests the likeness of one entity to another entity gives style to an item of speech or writing, whether the entities consist of objects, events, ideas, activities, attributes, or almost anything expressible in language. For example, in the first sentence of this paragraph, the word “viewed” serves as a metaphor for “thought of”, implying analogy of the process of seeing and the thought process. The phrase, “viewed as an aspect of”, projects the properties of seeing (vision) something from a particular perspective onto thinking about something from a particular perspective, that “something” in this case referring to “metaphor” and that “perspective” in this case referring to the characteristics of speech and writing.
When we dream mainly we do it in images with a Metaphoric content, rarely we have straight dreams were there is not a series of symbols constructed as metaphors, that require interpretation.
We could say that our dreams are the metaphors of our life reflected in the mirror of our consciousness, a realm of the Imagination that open the gates of insight in to the nature of Being beyond it’s material manifestation in to the realm of Spirit.
Metaphore in Native Cultures the Yaminahua of the Western Amazon Forest
The shamans themselves understand very clearly the meaning of these metaphors and they call them ‘tsai yoshtoyoshto’, literally “language-twisting-twisting.” Graham Townsley translates this expression as “twisted language.”
The word ‘twist’ has the same root as ‘two’ and ‘twin’. ‘Twisted’ means, technically, “double and wrapped around itself.”
Why do Yaminahua shamans talk in twisted language? According to one of them: “With my koshuiti I want to see – singing, I carefully examine things – twisted language brings me close but not too close – with normal words I would crash into things – with twisted ones I circle around them – I can see them clearly. “
For Townsley, all shamanic relations with the spirits are “deliberately constructed in an elliptical and multi-referential fashion so as to mirror the refractory nature of the beings who are their objects.” He concludes: “Yoshi are real beings who are both ‘like and not like’ the things they animate. They have no stable or unitary nature and thus, paradoxically, the ‘seeing as’ of ‘twisted language’ is the only way of adequately describing them. Metaphor here is not improper naming but the only proper naming possible.”
“The central image dominating the whole field of Yaminahua Shamanic knowledge is that of Yoshi, spirit or animate essence. In Yaminahua thought all things in the world are animated and given their particular qualities by Yoshi. Shamanic knowledge, is above all, knowledge of this entities, which are also the sources of all the powers that Shamanism claims for itself.
Everything about the domain of Yoshi is marked by an extreme ambiguity, not only for the outside observer, but for the Yaminahua themselves. For most Yaminahua they are things associated with the night, the half seen and dreams. They are called upon to explain a host of events that seem uncanny, strange or coincidental. However their significance goes far beyond this; they are implicated in all the literally vital questions of Human existence: birth growth, illness and death.”
After a lengthy explanation of Yoshi that can be analogous to the Chi, or Ki of the Chinese and Japanese. Concepts similar to qi can be found in many cultures, for example, prana and cit the serpent power Kundalini in Hindu religion, mana in Hawaiian culture, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, ruah in Hebrew culture, and Vital energy in Western philosophy. Some elements of qi can be understood in the term energy when used by writers and practitioners of various esoteric forms of spirituality and alternative medicine. Elements of the qi concept can also be found in Western popular culture, for example “The Force” in Star Wars. Notions in the West of energeia, élan vital, or “vitalism” are purported to be similar.
Townsley goes to the use of metaphorical allusions of the Shamanic songs of the Yaminahua that never call things by their name, but by their similitudes as visually perceived:
“The important thing, emphasized by all shamans, is that none of the things referred to in the song should be referred by their proper names. One might assume that this circumlocutions were not consciously metaphoric usages at all, but cultural fixed equivalents which were learnt and employed automatically with no awareness of their metaphorical content. This is certainly not so. In every instance the metaphoric logic of these songs could be explained with no hesitation. In every case the basic sense of this usage was carried by finely observed perceptual resemblances between the song-word and its referent. Thus fish become “white-collared peccaries “ because the resemblance of a fish gill’s to the the white dashes on this type of peccary’s neck; jaguars become “baskets” because the fibers of this particular type loose-woven basket (wonati) form a pattern precisely similar to a jaguar markings, rain becomes “big cold lean-to” because the slanting sheet of rain in a downpour resemble the slanting roofs of the lean-tos wich the Yaminahua built for shelter when they are away from the village.
But Yoshi are much more than this. They also have an intelligent, volitional existence in a supra-sensory realm. It is this fact which, for the Yaminahua, makes them so hard to know. The only established discourse about this realm is that of mythology. The creation myths which tell how, out of the original chaotic flux of the “time of dawnings”, the things of this world came to be, are not simply regarded by shamans as tales of some distant past. The powerful flux of the “time of dawnings” is regarded as in some senses still present in the spirit world. It is precisely these mythical, transformational powers with which yoshi are charged and that shamans see themselves as tapping. Origin myths are seen as providing “paths” into this spirit world and true accounts of the nature of yoshi. This is why shamans will sometimes chant origin myths, transformed into the elliptical language of shamanic song, because these are “the paths which take you to a yoshi”. The Yaminahua are only too aware of the extreme ambiguities and paradoxes surrounding yoshi. All accounts of them stress their mutability and the fundamental difficulty of knowing them. As a shaman, who like all shamans claims to see and deal with them directly, said to me: “You never really know yoshi — they are like something you recognize and at the same time they are different — like when I see Jaguar — there is something about him like a jaguar, but perhaps something like a man too — and he changes …” For the Yaminahua there is no possible unitary description of a. yoshi. They are always “like . . . and not like”, “the same . . . but different”. This profound duality marks not only all accounts of them but is reflected in all shamanic and ritual dealings with them. As I will discuss later in this paper, these are consciously and deliberately constructed in an elliptical and multi-referential fashion so as to mirror the refractory nature of the beings who are their objects.
As far as the Yaminahua are concerned, the key to the nature of this yoshi- world is the dream. Dreams, of course, are precisely understood as the wanderings of the human yoshi in this ordinarily unperceived world. Perhaps the best image we can have of the way they view their knowledge of this world is the one the Yaminahua use themselves when they refer to both myths and shamanic songs as “paths” (wai). These are the hunting paths which radiate out from every Yaminahua village into the vast surrounding forest. Near the village the paths are open, wide and well-trodden. These are the myths, the shidipaowo wai, the “paths of the old ones who went before”, transited by everyone and well known.”
And here we go a little further in Graham Townsley discourse in to the nature of the Shaman use of metaphor.
“Shamans are clearly aware of the underlying sense of their koshuiti metaphors and refer to them as tsai yoshtoyoshto — “twisted language” (literally: language- twisting-twisting). But why do they use them? All explanations clearly indicated that these were associated with the clarity of visionary experience which the songs were intended to create. “With my koshuiti I want to see — singing, I carefully examine things — twisted language brings me close but not too close — with normal words I would crash into things — with twisted ones I circle around them — I can see them clearly.”
There is a complex representation of the use of metaphor and its capacity to create immediate and precise images, contained within these simple words. Everything said about shamanic songs points to the fact that as they are sung the shaman actively visualizes the images referred to by the external analogy of the song, but that he does this through a carefully controlled “seeing as” the different things actually named by the internal metaphors of his song. This “seeing as” in some way creates a space in which powerful visionary experience can occur. It is in this visionary experience that the magical efficacy of the song is thought to lie. The song is the path which he both makes and follows. It sustains and directs his vision. Whether or not the patient can understand the song is irrelevant to its efficacy as far as he is concerned.”
And he conclude
“In showing how shamanic visions and song-images are constructed and sequenced, how the “paths” are made and followed, crisscrossing the boundaries of the yoshi-world of myth and this one, I hope also to have shown how the descriptions of the world contained in an Amazonian cosmology are actually known and constructed. This emphasis on the techniques of knowledge helps us to see how such a cosmology, far from being a complete and ready-constituted system of things known is, for the Yaminahua themselves, always a system in the making, never finished and always provisional. It certainly has stable reference points fixed by tradition, such as the “wide paths” of the myth-songs, however there are not very many of these and once off them, the song-paths followed by shamans are multiple and idiosyncratic. In this context we should pay attention to their own image of their knowledge as a network of paths. These paths are tenuous and impermanent, threading their way through a vast and refractory space of signs and images which, like the forest and the dream, offers the occasional glimpse of something, but is fundamentally opaque.
Yaminahua shamans have no certainty about what this space contains and are always ready to discover something new in it. It should not be surprising that they have been so ready to embrace the experiences of the transformed setting of their modern-day existence. Yaminahua shamans have now made koshuiti to almost all aspects of this world. There are songs to outboard motors (hard- fire-baskets), good for curing headaches and working on the resemblances between the sound of a distant outboard and the throb of a headache; to engine oil (fire-sun- water), good for children’s diarrhoea and working on the remarkable similarities between the used oil of an outboard and a child’s diarrhea; also to airplanes, shot-guns, cinemas, radios, sunglasses and much more. “When we first saw these things we examined them carefully, asked ourselves what their yoshi were like, and then found their song.” These are viewed as welcome and important additions to their repertoire.
Like good bricoleurs, Yaminahua shamans have found a use for everything. Along with the social circumstances paradoxically favorable to them, it is this creativity of Yaminahua shamanic knowledge which has contributed to its growth in the modern context of violent social transformation.”
The Yaminahua are of course not the only tribal culture where metaphor is the key that open the door of spirit, mankind through History, and around the world have used metaphor to connect and translate spiritual experience in to earthly wisdom, I like to offer a different view on the same subject but in a total different Historical, and Geographical context to look for parallelism, and analogy despite their obvious disconnection.
“When the knowers of God enter the Universe of spiritual meanings they are in the presence of a reality in which what is hidden to the rational faculty, and therefore deemed sometimes impossible by it, actually occurs and it is witnessed. it’s a spiritual reality teeming with the impossible and the coincidence of opposites. The unaided rational faculty has no direct access to this world and cannot countenance it’s true reality. it is the world where the impossible is given form, sense perception its the nearest thing to the imagination, since imagination takes forms from sense-perception, then discloses meaning through those sensory forms, it sees knowledge in the form of milk, honey , wine, and pearls…It sees religion in the form of a cord…the Real in the form of a human being or a light.
Its an Ontological realm in which spiritual meanings are given tangible form, and tangible forms become subtle spiritual meanings. The sensory thing cannot be a meaning, nor can the meaning be a sensory thing, but in the supersensory realm of the Imagination meanings are literally embodied, and sensory things subtilized.”
This Ontological realm is called in many cultures with many names, but we can resume saying we all men have the faculty of dreaming and to be connected to this realm by the fact of being human, however we have to point, that most men due to an impoverished culture of Spiritual values, had lost their ability to understand what their dreams are all about, few even care to find out, most they just dismiss it as nonsense, and are happy to go through life even thinking they do not dream, and if they do, it has no relevance in their life, they do this at their own loss ignoring we are the substance of dreams, and we are immersed in this metaphorical reality, where we can discover meaning, and purpose for a life of wisdom.