Shamanism & Soul Medicine
Shamanism is probably the earliest form of spiritual awareness/discipline, and worship practised by humankind, and possibly the oldest medical modality since the beginning of time. Evidence of its existence in the form of primitive art, and artefacts has been found at ancient sites from Australia, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Siberia. It is still very much an active part of indigenous community life in many parts of the world and its influence and place in the spiritual well-being and health in modern society is actively explored and practised in modern western society today. It is not a unified religion and adopting the 'ism' is really misleading, it might best be described as a cross cultural form of spiritual sensibility/sensitivity and practise. It contains no doctrine, and is not limited/bounded/ or controlled by any book or hierarchy.
Origins & Practice of Shamanism
Described as a visionary tradition, shamanism is the ancient practise of utilizing altered states of consciousness to contact the gods and spirits of the natural world to bring about healing and to gain knowledge and insights. The origin of the word shaman (saman) comes from the Evenk, a small Tungusic speaking community of reindeer herders and hunters in Siberia. The shaman uses his gifts to support the spiritual and physical well-being of his community, either on an individual basis or as a group. Shamans are at any time, doctors, priests, social workers, mystics, intuitives and inventers. He or she occupies a key role as a healer between the real world and the spirit realm. The shaman is not always accepted into the community, the Christian churches condemning shamanism as satanic and the shaman as mentally deranged or even possessed. Yet most Christian ceremonial practises are shamanic by nature, through invoking of spiritual energies from the Sacrament of Baptism to the Last Rights. Modern psychological interpretations of the shamanism reduce the actions of the shaman to that of a wild undisciplined person displaying a nervous pathology or various forms of 'hysteria' or 'neurosis', clinically associated with schizophrenia. The Shaman will use different forms of drumming, music, or dance to aid his/her entry into the spirit world. This is not very removed from the social practise of traditional dancing, or modern disco dancing, except in the case of the shaman it is more intense and spiritually connected to the drumming/music altering the frequency of the brain and aiding the spiritual journey.
Paul Fleischman, M.D., in his book 'Spiritual Aspects of Psychiatric Practise' argues that modern psychiatric and psychological practises have ignored the spiritual influence of soul on human behaviour to the determent of patients. Psychiatrists on the other hand, testify to success stories incorporating modern drug and therapy treatments while the reality is, the number patients seeking their services continues to increase with most patients remaining on medication long term or for life! James Hillman in his book 'Suicide and Soul' states that 'experience is the soul's one and only nourishment', which would lend credibility to supporting the role of shamanic therapy/soul repair/soul experience based on historical narrative indicating its success as a healing modality.