Shamanism 101

Michael Harner has studied and practiced shamanism for half a century and is one of the leading authorities in academia. This post is a little intro montage to his work and to shamanism too.

shamanAfter having personally practiced shamanism, shamanic healing, and shamanic journeying for more than half a century, I can say that there is nothing I have encountered in reports of the spiritual experiences of saints, prophets, psychedelic drug experimenters, near death survivors, avatars and other mystics that is not commonly experienced when following classic journey methods using a drum. — Michael Harner

Shamans are often called “seers” or “people who know” in their tribal language because they are involved in a system of knowledge based on first hand experience. Shamanism is not a belief system. It’s based on personal experiments conducted to heal and to get information. — Michael Harner

All of these quotes are from the website The Foundation for Shamanic Studies

Michael Harner, Ph.D., is an anthropologist and founder of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving shamanic knowledge as it survives on the planet and to teaching the basic principles of that knowledge for practical applications in the contemporary world.

Harner, who has practiced shamanic healing since 1961, received his doctorate at the University of California-Berkeley. He is a former professor and chairperson of the department of anthropology at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York, and has taught at Columbia, Yale, and UC Berkeley. He also served as co-chair of the anthropology section of the New York Academy of Sciences. His books include Hallucinogens and Shamanism and the classic The Way of the Shaman.

Started in 1979 as the Center for Shamanic Studies, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies presents the world’s foremost training programs in shamanism and shamanic healing. They are based on the pioneering work of anthropologist Michael Harner, who brought shamanism to contemporary life in the West after extensive field and cross-cultural investigation, experimentation, and personal practice. He originated, researched, and developed core shamanism, a system designed for Westerners to apply shamanism and shamanic healing successfully to their daily lives. This system is based upon the underlying universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism—together with journeys to other worlds—rather than upon culture-specific variations and elaborations.

Lastly from an article on Michael Harner’s website: 

Is shamanism a religion?

The practice of shamanism is a method, not a religion. It coexists with established religions in many cultures. In Siberia, you’ll find shamanism coexisting with Buddhism and Lamaism, and in Japan with Buddhism. It’s true that shamans are often in animistic cultures. Animism means that people believe there are spirits. So in shamanic cultures, where shamans interact with spirits to get results such as healing, it’s no surprise that people believe there are spirits. But the shamans don’t believe in spirits. Shamans talk with them, interact with them. They no more “believe” there are spirits than they “believe” they have a house to live in, or have a family. This is a very important issue because shamanism is not a system of faith.

Shamanism is also not exclusionary. They don’t say, “We have the only healing system.” In a holistic approach to healing, the shaman uses the spiritual means at his or her disposal in cooperation with people in the community who have other techniques such as plant healing, massage, and bone setting. The shaman’s purpose is to help the patient get well, not to prove that his or her system is the only one that works.

In many cultures, shamans are often given gifts for their work, but they will return all the gifts if the patient dies, which I think is a commendable innovation that might help us with the costs of health services today.

For more articles and information on Beyond Meds that consider a shamanic interpretation of the psyche see here:  Links to articles that look at the Shamanic-like nature of consciousness 

This is a favorite post from the shaman page that always gets lots of hits: ●  What a Shaman Sees in A Mental Hospital

I just put together a shamanism section in the bookstore too! 

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