What Is Shamanism?
Why has shamanism, an ancient healing practice, re-emerged in the modern world?
Why are shamanic practices today associated with highly educated people?
What can shamanism do for you and your personal growth?
Shamanism has re-emerged in modern societies because is reflects principles of the brain and consciousness. Rather than a delusion or superstition, shamanism involves a range of practices that are empirically effective in healing body, mind, and spirit.
The universality of shamanism and its persistence across time attest to the ways in which shamanism reflects basic aspects of human nature. Shamanism is found throughout the world because it is derived from basic ways in which the brain functions. Shamanism uses these brain functions to induce altered states of consciousness (ASC). These ASC induce healing conditions and promote integration of the different aspects of the brain and personality.
Shamanism has important applications in healing a range of health maladies. The ability of shamanism to heal derives from many ritual activities that induce relaxation, psychological integration, and enhanced operation of the body's neurotransmitter systems.
Shamanism has been traditionally viewed as a procedure for addressing the spirit world and spiritual illness. Today, shamanistic practices have modern applications in alternative medicine and in addressing the consequences of violence, trauma, addiction, alienation, and disconnectedness. Shamanism's healing powers are derived from the ASC, from the ability to manipulate unconscious brain structures and processes, and from the community setting that provides vital human support.
Shamanism is being integrated into many contemporary complementary healing approaches. Shamanism strengthens the individual's ability to take an active role in their health and well-being. Shamanism enhances the use of all our brain both the conscious and the unconscious. Shamanism provides a vital connection with community and the spiritual dimensions of human health which have been lacking in modern societies.
The ancient shamanic practices have survived and made a dramatic resurgence in the modern world (e.g., see Shamanisms and Survival in Cultural Survival Quarterly Summer 2003). Although shamanic practices have continued to face repressions today, they have shown that they will continue to be an important part of the modern world. This survival of shamanism reflects its basis in human psychobiology as the original neurotheology.
Publications on Shamanism by Michael Winkelman:
2004 Divination and Healing: Potent Vision. Michael Winkelman and Philip Peek, eds. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
2003 Shamanisms and Survival. Guest Edited Special Issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly, Summer 2003.
2000 Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey.
1987 A Cross-Cultural Study of Magico-Religious Practitioners and Trance States: Data Base. In HRAF Research Series in Quantitative Cross-Cultural Data: Vol. 3. Edited by David Levinson and Richard Wagner. New Haven, Conn. HRAF Press, Inc. 106 pp. with floppy disk. Michael Winkelman and Doug White.
2006. Cross-cultural Assessments of Shamanism as a Biogenetic Foundation for Religion. In: Patrick McNamara, ed. Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion. Pp. 139-159. Westport, CT: Praeger.
2006 Teaching about Shamanism and Religious Healing: A Cross-cultural, Biosocialspiritual Approach. Pp. 171-190. In: L Barnes and I. Talamantez, Eds. Teaching Religion and Healing. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (with Chris Carr)
2006 El kusiyai: chamanismo entre las poblaciones yumanos del norte de Baja California. Culturales 2(3): 111-131 (with Peter Finelli)
2005 El shamanismo como neuroteologia. Perspectivas en Psicologia 1(1)62-68
2004 Spirits as Human Nature and the Fundamental Structures of Consciousness. In: From Shaman to Scientist Essays on Humanity’s Search for Spirits, J. Houran, ed. Lanham, MD.: Scarecrow Press. Pp. 59-96.
2004 Shamanism as the Original Neurotheology. Zygon 39 (1): 193-217.
2004 Spirituality and the Healing of Addictions: A Shamanic Drumming Approach. In: Religion and Healing in America, Edited by Linda L. Barnes and Susan S. Sered. New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. 455-470
2004 Substance Abuse Resistance Strategies and Alternative Medicine Use at the Phoenix Shanti Group. AIDS and Anthropology Bulletin 16(3): 7-9.
2004 Shamanism: Update. In: Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd. Edition. Jones, Lindsay, ed. Thompson Gale Pub. Pp. 8274-8280.
2004 Cross-cultural Perspectives on Shamanism. In: Shamanism An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices and Culture. M. Walker and E. Fridman, eds. Santa Barbara, Ca, ABC Clio.pp. 61-70.
2004h Divination. In: Shamanism An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices and Culture. M. Walker and E. Fridman, eds. Santa Barbara, Ca, ABC Clio. pp. 78-82
2004i Neuropsychology of Shamanism. In: Shamanism An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices and Culture. M. Walker and E. Fridman, eds. Santa Barbara, Ca, ABC Clio. pp.187-195.
2004j Witchcraft and Sorcery in Shamanism. In: Shamanism An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices and Culture. M. Walker and E. Fridman, eds. Santa Barbara, Ca, ABC Clio. pp. 271-274.
2004k North America. In: Shamanism An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices and Culture. M. Walker and E. Fridman, eds. Santa Barbara, Ca, ABC Clio. pp.275-279
2003e. The Shamanic Paradigm: A Biogenetic Structuralist Approach. Reply to Reviews of Michael Winkelman’s Shamanism. The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing in the Journal of Ritual Studies Book Review Forum, Vol 18(1): 119-128.
2003f. Shamanism. In Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology Health and Illness in World Cultures Volume I, edited by Carol Ember and Melvin Ember. New York. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers., pp. 145-154.
2003 Shamanisms and Survival. Cultural Survival Quarterly. 27(2): 12-14.
2002a Shamanism and Cognitive Evolution. Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 12(1): 71-101.
2002b Shamanic Universals and Evolutionary Psychology. Journal of Ritual Studies. 16(2): 63-76.
2002c Shamanism as Neurotheology and Evolutionary Psychology. American Behavioral Scientist. 45(12): 1873-1885. This article is in an Adobe PDF format. To download Adobe Acrobat Reader, please go to this website http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html.
2000a Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey.
2000b Shamanism as Psychobiological Structures of Consciousness, Cognition and Healing. Curare. 22(2): 121-128.
1992 Shamans, Priests and Witches: A Cross-cultural Study of Magico-religious Practitioners. Anthropological Research Papers, #44. Tempe, Ariz.: Arizona State University.
1990 Shaman and Other "Magico-religious" Healers: A Cross-cultural Study of Their Origins, Nature and Social Transformations. Ethos. 18(3): 308-352.
1987 A Cross-Cultural Study of Magico-Religious Practitioners and Trance States: Data Base. In HRAF Research Series in Quantitative Cross-Cultural Data: Vol. 3. Edited by David Levinson and Richard Wagner. New Haven, Conn.: HRAF Press, Inc. 106 pp. with floppy disk. Michael Winkelman and Doug White.
Page last updated: March 21, 2007