SOC 250Y1Y: Prof. Bryant
September 19. 2012
Social science example of the dilemma:
Carlos Castaneda (d.1998), who began his research on the world of Yaqui
magicians/sorcerers in conventional anthropological fashion, but through his
association with the brujo Don Juan Matus and other "insiders", came to agree
with them that science could not properly access the "separate reality" they
functioned in. Castaneda "cross over" (from the tonal to the natural, the
'everyday' to the 'spirit' world) became a mystic of sorts, and related that magical
world from the "inside" in a series of popular best-sellers. The social science
community, however is highly sceptical of the objective value or realism of
Castaneda's "reports." The case thus illustrates the basic dilemma of insider vs.
outsider, subjective vs. objective ways of knowing: scientific standards are
deemed inadequate or distortional by "believers/insiders" while scientists insist
that only by maintaining "objective distance" can we hope to discover the true
social causes and forces at work
- Don Juan and Castaneda's relationship was strained because Don Juan didn't
believe Castaneda could ever understand the Yaqui world by only viewing it from
the extermal. Takes Don Juan's advice and beings to "cross over" into their
- He learned how to speak to a coyote, learned how to fly, turned into a jaguar.
He wrote about techniques of how to communicate with the spirit world even
without Don Juan.
- His work was applauded in the anthropological world. As more books came out
and the claims became more unrealistic - there was a back-last. It was viewed as
less of an anthropological work, but more spiritual, popular culture, self-help.
-Castenada "crossed over" to fully understand Don Juan's world. But he began to
lose his credentials as an anthropological scientist
- Anthropoligists tend to become closer to their subjects and get insider
information than sociologists. Its ok for them to fully practice their subjects - but
there is a fine line between being a participation vs. observation.
- Black like Me" - a documentation of a journalist who changed the colour of his
skin to try and experience what it was like to be a black man in the south
- even though he felt like he got closer to the experience of being a black man,
he didn't experience it fully because he had the option to go back to his regular
life, or the skin pigment would fade.
- Castenada's experiment was talking about the spirit world, not the real world -
an entire different reality. Even though the experiement was silimar.
RELIGION: a system or complex of social relationships that human beings create and modify - in history - with supernatural or divine powers
(impersonal/personal), for purposes of establishing order and protection, and for
securing meaning and purpose.
- religion emphasizes the relationship between the HUMAN AND DIVINE.
- we create relationships with supernational beings and entities
- there is no society who hasn't had a sacred/religious practice - religion is close
to universal social practice/ a fundamental social aspect
- two central concerns to explain why human beings repeatedly make these
Religion is thus:
a. a way of making sense = the COGNITIVE function
- human beings find meaning and purpose
- one of the most fundamental medium of how human beings find understanding
of the cosmos, where we are placed in the world
- providing a world picture of what the world is like, a powerful system of belief
and definition of the order of the universe
- we now turn to science for understanding now (ex. we go to doctors rather than
spiritual healers for health)
- modern science and technology
b. a way of gaining security, support, protection = the PRACTICAL function
- human beings established relationships with the divine powers to get something
from those powers
- ex. offerings, sacrifices, rituals, appealing to, building sacred places, prayer to -
the supernatural powers for fertility, health, agriculture, weather, war
[common sense, science, law, morality, technology, art, etc., share those
basic premise or intuition: there is a higher reality than the natural and
social/human worlds, ultimately constitutive, creational, causal -- a transcendent
realm of power and mystery, upon which our existence is dependent
religion is an "imaginary" consturction, in the sense that human beings create the
symbols of representation and meaning that "vivify or realize" the transcendent
for our comprehension
- we are the authors of how gods are understood - it comes from our own
- personification: projecting the human qualities to natural processes (ex. rain
power that could be appealed to)
= making the Transcendent "objective" ... localized or present in sacred
objects, places, times, actions/events
- in order to establish a relationship with the transcendent, we have to bring them
into our own domain - this is how anthropologis