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Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman) interacting with the spirit world through altered states of consciousness, such as trance. The goal of this is usually to direct spirits or spiritual energies into the physical world for the purpose of healing, divination, or to aid human beings in some other way.


  • I don't know why, but memories well up in me about my counter with the Jesuit “Father” Caspar Miller, a white-haired old man from some place like Ohio. He lived for many years in Kathmandu and was practically a fixture at the Jesuit schools between Kathmandu and Patan. He wrote a book about shamanism in Nepal, entitled Faith Healers of the Himalayas, that has been reprinted a number of times. Shamanism, however, has nothing to do with faith. Shamanism is experience. It is only religion that is faith, because it lacks experience. Ever since the publication of this book, the seductive and misleading term “Faith healer” haunts the literature on the subject, Although Cass was a nice man, I asked him: What does a Jesuit have to do with shamanism? In response to my question I received a fantastic answer — he was given the assignment by his superiors to research shamanism with the goal that it could be more successfully penetrated and ultimately undone.
    The Jesuits go out into the world to spread the "Good News.” They do not do this in as superficial a manner as the Christian extremists, fundamentalists, and fanatics. They proceed more cleverly: first research, then destroy... Since the good father has never been in a trance before, he could not have experienced anything of the shamanic world. He was not allowed to do so. His superiors had forbidden him to get involved with the shamanic reality; he was only supposed to research the surface in order to discover holes for the Catholic Jesuit mission to make use of.
    When the good father explained that in principle there is no difference between shamanism and Catholicism because both of them battle “evil” I started to feel ill. I politely took leave of the Jesuit—and of the devil as well... Luckily the Jesuits have had a tough time of it with the shamans of Nepal. In the meantime, they have extensively established their missionary activities.
    • Christian Rätsch in Claudia Müller-Ebeling_ Christian Rätsch_ Surendra Bahadur Shahi - Shamanism and Tantra in the Himalayas (2002, Thames & Hudson) page 5, Inner Traditions – Bear & Company
  • In the 1930s an anthropologist named Paul Radin first described it as "shamans being half mad," shamans being "healed madmen." This fits exactly. It's the shamans who are moving separate from everyone else, living alone, who talk with the dead, who speak in tongues, who go out with the full moon and turn into a hyena overnight, and that sort of stuff. It's the shamans who have all this metamagical thinking. When you look at traditional human society, they all have shamans. What's very clear, though, is they all have a limit on the number of shamans. That is this classic sort of balanced selection of evolution. There is a need for this subtype — but not too many.
    The critical thing with schizotypal shamanism is, it is not uncontrolled the way it is in the schizophrenic.
    This is not somebody babbling in tongues all the time in the middle of the hunt. This is someone babbling during the right ceremony. This is not somebody hearing voices all the time, this is somebody hearing voices only at the right point. It's a milder, more controlled version.
    Shamans are not evolutionarily unfit. Shamans are not leaving fewer copies of their genes. These are some of the most powerful, honored members of society. This is where the selection is coming from. … In order to have a couple of shamans on hand in your group, you're willing to put up with the occasional third cousin who's schizophrenic.

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