Globalization and Ontological Hybridization in Consciousness-based Practices

By Laurel McEwen, Nancy Midol

There are many questions surrounding the effects of globalization on practices that touch us to the core; whether they be practices for health, pastimes, or a part of our spirituality. One example is the various forms of neo-shamanism that have flourished in Europe and beyond since the beginning of the 20th century and with increasing intensity in the 21st century. This paper examines the effects of certain globalization processes on the ontologies of two practitioners pursuing different consciousness-based practices. It explores how the concepts involved in these practices, which come from societies with different, even divergent, ontologies (one sees a discontinuity between humans and non-humans while the other sees a form of continuity between entities) are able to be disembedded, de-localized, and then integrated into other cultural frames. It sheds light on some of the processes that these practitioners employ in order to harmonize their knowledge and experience with the realities of the globalized world. The two practices that are examined here include an example of neo-shamanism being practiced by a Peruvian shaman in Western Europe; and an example from the symmetrical but inverse phenomenon of competitive freediving. While this second practice is based in Western cultures, it is able to cross the ontological boundaries of naturalism and to produce new forms of “aesthetics” as it retrieves ontological elements from totemism, animism, and analogism in this practitioner’s attempt to explain the cosmic dimension of his experiences in consciousness that result from practice.


  • ontology
  • consciousness-based practices
  • globalization
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