Michael Harner received his doctorate in anthropology in 1963 from the University of California, Berkley. In 1980 he wrote The Way of the Shaman which started a worldwide shamanic revival.
In the ’60s psychedelics where in. Most of the big universities had programs studying the effects of various consciousness altering substances. Michael Harner discovered shamans in many cultures used drumming as a way to alter consciousness in much the same way some cultures used mind altering substances. He published a drumming CD and taught us how to journey to the underworld without psychedelics.
In his new book, Cave and Cosmos, he gives us a history of the anthropological study of shamanism and somewhat of psychedelics. He also presents many stories recounting the experiences of ordinary people who have taken shamanic journeys. Here you will find instructions on how to journey to the underworld to retrieve your power animal and how to journey to the upper world to meet and seek the help of guides or spirit helpers.
Shamanism in its various forms is an ancient healing modality. Shamans assume humans are a part of the totality of nature, related to all other biological forms and not superior to them. This pagan view is one of the reasons the church persecuted shamans during the Inquisition.
Shamans believe there are two realities and that the perception of each depends on your state of consciousness. The ordinary state of consciousness and the shamanic state of consciousness. In the shamanic state you can access non-ordinary reality. A shaman can move back and forth between these two realities at will in order to heal and help others.
The shaman encounters spirits in non-ordinary reality. He experiences them as real as his fellow humans.
Living members of all species including humans have souls or personal spirits – present in each of us from conception to death – to varying degrees. At death, the soul continues to exist, as it did before birth, but the length of time it exists varies. Shamans encounter souls in non-ordinary reality.
The Universe is divided into three worlds. The Middle World where we live. The Upper World and the Lower World are purely spiritual and are found only in non-ordinary reality where they exist outside of time. The shaman makes out of body journeys to these worlds to seek assistance for healing from compassionate beings there.
Poor health, illness and serious injury are usually due to specific spiritual and nonspiritual factors – the task of the shaman is to deal with the spiritual factors. The spiritual factors are of two types: (1) those that involve a loss by the patient of a spirit important to the patient’s well being; (2) the acquisition by the patient of a spirit detrimental to the patient’s well being.
In healing a patient a shaman will consult their helping spirits and/or will be able to “see” the spiritual cause of the illness.
Shamans generally believe in a holistic approach to healing and will augment other healing modalities. They often view Western medicine as being concerned primarily with symptom relief rather than true healing at the spirit level.
Shamans only engage in healing at the request of a patient.
Shamanism is the path of independence leading toward spiritual freedom – freedom to know, not just to believe. Cave and Cosmos gives us the tools to seek help from another reality where teachers and wise and caring spirits are forever ready to heal and share their knowledge, wisdom and compassion.
Maybe the best gift of shamanism is to liberate us from our bindings of belief and disbelief. Now we have a means for direct experience of the non-ordinary. We are no longer restricted to the teachings of heavenly books brought to us by the ancient few. Now we can travel to the origins of the teachings themselves.
For ordinary people who do not aspire to become a shaman, journeying can be very beneficial in self healing and self awareness. It is safe and involves listening to drumming music which is holding a steady rhythm of 205 to 220 beats per minute.
A shamanic journey is very similar to meditation. The difference is you are journeying for a purpose – one which you decide upon before your journey begins. Several drumming CDs are available – be sure to find one designed for shamanic journeying. Michael Harner has been teaching shamanism for many years. I found the instructions for journeying in his books to be very easy to follow.
I’ve taken several shamanic journeys since reading The Way of the Shaman years ago and have come back with very valuable information. Consider giving it a try.