Shamanic Influences on Malcolm Lowry: East-West Connections

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


This paper investigates various psychological, psychogeographical, and anthropological forces - cultural, social, and linguistic – bearing on Malcolm Lowry’s works. With its focus on the influence of nineteenth-century Russian literature upon his creative mind, it examines East-West cross-cultural and historical factors and their implications for the ‘ascent of man’. It explores the impact of Sir James Frazer’s ethnographic research and of Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, upon Aztec civilization, as reflected in Lowry’s novel, Under the Volcano (1936-47), set in Mexico on the Day of the Dead. Previous research is also advanced by pursuing Lowry’s spiritual odyssey in his mystic quest for truth and salvation. Consideration is given to connections established with his natural, supernatural, and celestial roots. His application of psychoanalysis is probed, as are synergies with social, cultural, and linguistic anthropology, cabbalistic astrology, and even voodoo in Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid (1945-68). Lowry’s paradisean symbol of the soul of Eridanus in The Forest Path to the Spring (1947-61) is considered in the context of his attempt to harmonize the rational, scientific, and materialistic intellect of the Enlightenment with the aspirations of European Romanticism. An analysis of his cosmic consciousness and his preoccupation with the Cabbala reveals links between Modernism and shamanism. Psychotherapeutic and shamanic healing is seen as a way of enabling regeneration via ethnographic and aesthetic methods. Developing the inclinations of Ted R. Spivey, it may be deduced that, for Malcolm Lowry, true salvation is attainable only in a fusion of the two worlds (the natural with the divine, the terrestrial with the celestial) and the two minds (the rational and scientific with the spiritual, and the conscious, perceiving intellect with the subconscious imagination).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2010
Event4th International Malcolm Lowry Colloquium: A Tribute to Rául Ortiz y Ortiz - Malcolm Lowry Foundation/ Museo de la Casona Spencer, Cuernavaca, Mexico
Duration: 3 Jan 0001 → …


Conference4th International Malcolm Lowry Colloquium: A Tribute to Rául Ortiz y Ortiz
Period3/01/01 → …


  • Shamanic
  • Rául Ortiz
  • Malcolm Lowry
  • Russian literature
  • English literature
  • psychology
  • psychogeography
  • anthropology
  • East-West
  • cross-cultural
  • ascent of man
  • Sir James Frazer
  • ethnography
  • Hernán Cortés
  • Spanish conquistador
  • Aztec
  • Cuernavaca
  • Mexico
  • Under the Volcano
  • Day of the Dead
  • spititual
  • mystic
  • linguistic
  • Cabbala
  • astrology
  • voodoo
  • Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid
  • paradisean
  • Eridanus
  • The Forest Path to the Spring
  • the Enlightenment
  • European Romanticism
  • Romanticism
  • cosmic
  • Kabbalah
  • Modernism
  • shamanism
  • psychotherapeutic
  • regeneration
  • aesthetic
  • Ted R. Spivey
  • celestial
  • subconscious
  • imagination
  • Nigel Foxcroft
  • literature
  • Museo de la Casona Spencer
  • Malcolm Lowry Foundation.


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