Trump as Dark Shaman

For the last several years I have been paid to give public talks on integral themes – often trying to emphasize the role of the unconscious and the unknown in our collective multidimensional evolution. Trump, of course, comes up often. I use his public persona as a fun way to introduce the integral psychograph. I also use him as an example of how subtle energy and ancient shamanic practices have a role in the future developments of the culture. It is not merely that he is a reaction to the age of sensitivity and cybernetic pluralism. It is not merely that resurgent Amber (predicted by McLuhan) seeks a mythological strongman to stand, however fallaciously, for nationalistic pre-rationality. There is something more interesting here also…

We see surprise, reversal, shock, nonlinearity, stunts, performative nonsense, the uncanny, the energized, perverse glow, etc. Signs of the archaic role of the shaman in political affairs. It is not merely (!) humor when I have compared Trump to the paleolithic figure of a man covered in graveyard ash, wearing an animal’s head upon his own skull, returned to speak vexatious gibberish in a manner that elevates him temporarily about the pragmatic warrior-chiefs and the input of the matriarchs.

This is a good discussion to have because why? Because it is often the case that the most sensible and progressive figures in politics lack an instinct for the irrational (which is not the same as the pre-rational). Among the many reasons that Hillary lost must be included this sense, this irrational sense among many people, that she was not possessed of wild energy, that she did not work by stunts, that she was too much in the pocket of Big Reason and Big System and Big Left Brain. When did she astonish us? When did she make us lose our minds?

At every level of both politics and philosophy, there is a risk that the leading thinkers or the most reliable agents may be publicly unwelcome precisely because they over-emphasize the role of conscious, sensible, bureaucratic existence. The Americans constantly long for an “outsider” in their politics. We all watch shows that promise to astonish us with twists and surrealistic realms. The Age of the Internet itself, with its uncanny juxtapositions and 4chan-nishness, seems customized to evoke weird, fluid, resonant, haunting and carnival-like effects. It may be an age of new shamanism.

If so, we must seek to employ this to our advantage. It must be an age of Planetary Shamanism and Integral Shamanism, of Health Shamanism and Intelligence Shamanism – otherwise we risk a systemic collapse in which regressive and dark shamans continually surprise us by wresting control away from the agents of reasonable progress and human flourishing.


Layman, I appreciate what you’re pointing to here, and yet, I have a considerably different perspective on this.

First, as you sort of point to, the relationship between shamans and political power (as well as military-warrior power) has a very long history, of course, one alleged example during the 12th century being that of a Mongolian shaman who foresaw and told the warrior Temujin that he was to be the “master of the world,” and gave him the title Genghis Khan. (The shaman later changed his mind and said Genghis Khan’s brother should be master; the shaman was put to death.)

Second, many of the words you use–reversal, surprise, shock, stunts, performative non-sense, irrational, carnival-like, uncanny–are more befitting the Trickster than the shaman. Granted, some shamans, certainly not all, have had and do have a trickster element to them, and also engage in theatricality and performance artistry. But to focus on this is to place emphasis on the superficial forms–the surface structures–rather than the content of shamanic activity–the deep structures. The tricks and stunts of shamans, like their costumes (if they wear one) or equipment, are not the main point.

I do not see Trump as any kind of shaman.

But, I do see elements of trickery in him. While you may be fully aware of Trickster spirits/energies/myths, I’m going to detail some information anyway, in case other readers might be less informed but interested.

The Trickster is a spiritual motif or recurring pattern that shows up in the mythologies of many cultures. Often considered a demi-god, Trickster takes both animal and human forms. Coyote is perhaps the most well-known trickster animal among native people of the Southwest and the Plains. Burt for tribes in the Northwest, it is the “thief” raven, or blue-jay, and among the Dakota tribes, it’s Spider Woman. Then there are the “contraries,” the human clowns, called Heyokah by the Plains tribes and Koshari by the Hopi and Pueblo. The False Face Societies of the Northeast are also tribal tricksters.

But there is also the god Maui among Hawaiians, part villain, part hero; among the Norse, there is the god Loki who constantly changes what side he’s on in any disagreement or conflict. Hermes is the Greek trickster god (called Mercury by the Romans), and is thought of in myth as the messenger between all the gods and goddesses of Olympus, and between the gods and humans. Even Krishna of Hinduism and Sikhism has a trickster aspect. And of course, Trickster shows up in folklore and fairy tales: there is the wolf, for example, in “Little Red Riding Hood,” and Robin Hood is a manipulative thieving trickster who serves, as many trickster spirits/energies/characters do, noble goals.

Regardless of the mythological form or culture/place, the Trickster energy has similar components, and I think it’s in considering these components that one can legitimately ask, not ‘is Trump a dark shaman,’ but ‘Is Trump a Trickster?’

In general, Trickster is viewed and serves as a “wake-up” call through the occurrence of the Unexpected. Tricksters deliver both minor jolts and major shocks, functioning through the element of surprise, both “good” and “bad” surprise. Trickster can be playful and humorous, but in a mischievous, prank-ish, mocking, ridiculing, embarrassing, even rough sort of way. Trickster is also associated with luck, both good and bad luck, and also with cross-roads and transitions.

Trickster is also thought of as a chaotic creative power, or “crazy wisdom,” that helps in the reconciliation and integration of contraries, or opposites, such as the opposites of villainy and heroism of Maui, or the “this-side, now-the-other-side” nature of Loki. Trickster operates through any and all pairs of opposites:
the opposing forces of good and evil; the male and female or masculine and feminine poles; the sacred and the irreverent; the wise and the foolish; unconscious motive/drive and conscious intent, etc. (In this regard, Trickster can be thought of as somewhat of an Integralist, encouraging integration of dualities/opposites within and without the self; this is also akin to shadow work.)

And often with Trickster energy, there is an element of the obscene or offensive, and sexual lust is frequently a theme in Trickster mythology. Coyote is well-known for this, but so is one aspect of the young Krishna, the “blue cowboy” making all the cow-maids fall in love and lust with him, persuading them to leave their homes and husbands to spend the nights dancing with him. The ‘noble goal’ here is to support and encourage their bhakti, or spiritual devotional love.

While trickster energy challenges our egoic stances and structures, as well as our attachments and aversions (contraries again) in some quite humbling ways, the intent is essentially to wake and grow us up. Some people say that it is only by trickery that many people ever awaken spiritually; consider the surprise, out-of-the-blue, unexpected spiritual awakening that many people have had. This kind of sudden jolted awakening (softly, usually) then presents the opportunity to reconcile and integrate the beliefs and views of reality we’ve been accustomed to with the view we’ve had of reality from the new experience/awareness.

At a minimum, the Trickster energy helps liberate us from our conventionality and tendencies to take ourselves, others, and life so seriously. Among some native groups with a Trickster myth, it is said that when one is able to laugh at having been tricked–laugh purely and whole-heartedly without any taint of wryness or sarcasm–the needed lesson has been learned.

So is Trump a Trickster figure? I think if you go down the line of elements of trickster energy listed here, you’ll be saying, yes, there’s that, there’s that, there’s that…

But if he is, he’s a very unconscious Trickster with few discernible (conscious) noble goals in terms of the intent to wake up/grow up others, and he’s not doing so well at reconciling the opposites (left and right political wings, for instance.) Further, Mr. Trump himself is also being constantly tricked, rudely surprised and jolted by the unexpected, mocked and ridiculed, so if he is a Trickster figure, he’s also tricking himself (which is not unusual; there are lots of tales of coyote tricking himself). He’s also, at least as judged by his public persona and behavior, not learning the lessons of trickery–I’ve yet to see him in a humble state or to laugh in a pure and whole-hearted way; have you?

But the other question is, if he is a Trickster, are we laughing yet?? I do occasionally (when I’m not ranting, or rapping my own aggressive song: “They call it falsehood Or misstatement Or fabrication But the word is LIE!” lyrical refrain, to the tune of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”–“He’s been ly i i i ing, Yes it’s true Ly i i i ing To me and you He doesn’t have a clue about the truth.”…). It’s all pretty absurd.

I don’t know that I answered your specific questions, Layman; maybe another time. Thanks!


Those are both super awesome theories!

I really learned something about Dark Shamans, thank you.

But I have to agree, of the two, Trickster is more fitting. He certainly fits the bill better.

However my understanding of why the American people chose him (my opinion as a Canadian spectator) is that he was a Maulik Tov Cocktail meant to destroy the system as it was. Dark Shaman, Trickster, Orange/Red demagogue, or succesful billionaire with a passion for America people saw and can see him in many different archetypes. But as I understand the exit pole information voters either saw him as a positive or negative person who was definitely going to change things.

Very interesting archetype discussion.

I quite enjoyed the discussion above. I would add Trump is playing the Hindu role of Destroyer, in a melee completely ignoring the Creator and Sustainer. The imbalance seems great enough to expect a forceful swing back … just hopefully not on multi-millenia cycles.

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This whole thread is very interesting. Some great exchanges on archetypes. From what I gather from the discussion, it seems the motif here is similar to Nietzsche’s Apollo vs Dionysus. From what I got from Layman, it seems that Hilary and every average, run of the mill, politics as usual candidate fits into the Apollonian category: Left brain, sensible, straight shooter, reasonable, logical, respectful and “having it together.” Trump leans much more towards the Dionysian: Wild, unpredictable, shoots from the hip, dark/mysterious, erratic, “drunken madness”, and with a penchant towards frivolity and play.

I think Obama was the most pure embodiment of an Apollonian candidate – eloquent, articulate, Harvard educated, impeccable reputation, etc… yet to many he was unable to accomplish much, which was a huge letdown given how much hype he generated. Trump, the Dionysian wrecking ball, was for many, a symbol of REAL change, and not more run of the mill Apollonian hyperbole.

To me, one of the greatest ironies that Wilber captured so well is how Trump has used the postmodern narrative against… the postmodernists (green). He’s a direct product of postmodernism, which in many ways embodies elements of the trickster, which was illuminated brilliantly by LaWanna. Derrida to me very much embodied the trickster archetype: “playing with the text,” undermining textual binaries, dissolving dualistic distinctions through deconstruction, and opening up space for free and varied interpretation. All of this I believe encouraged the postmodern trend to focus on superficiality, frivolity, and playfulness. Postmodernism is at its best when its self aware of itself as a joke (breaking the 4th wall and other types of meta humor, like the movie Deadpool). Some postmodernists who have studied Nietzsche even see postmodernism itself as a kind of Dionysian philosophy, in contrast to the rational, Apollonian philosophy of the enlightenment. But Trump very much embodies the spirit of the Trickster, as he is both the shadow of the God-fearing traditionalists and the postmodern greenies. Truly interesting times we live in.