By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005
Shamanism claims contact with supernatural entities for a variety of religious or even secular purposes, and is increasingly popular today.


(From Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, Harvest House, 1996)


Description. Shamanism is an occult path claiming contact with supernatural entities for a variety of religious or, today, even secular purposes. Traditional shamanism is where the shaman functions as healer, spiritual leader, and mediator between the spirits and people. Shamanistic psychotherapy, a novel form of modern fringe psychology, is where shamanistic techniques are employed allegedly to produce “psychospiritual integration,” explore the unconscious, contact one’s “higher self,” and so on. Shamanistic medicine includes the application of animistic and various ancient witchcraft techniques to health care. It may involve either shamanism itself as a means to health and enlightenment (shaman initiation and following the shaman’s “life path”), or the varied use of specific shamanistic techniques in conjunction with a particular health program (e.g., visualization, altered states of conscious­ness, dream work, or the use of “power animals,” which are spirits that appear in the form of animals, birds, or other creatures in order to instruct the shaman).

Founder. Unknown; the practice is found in almost all cultures throughout history. In the United States, the Native American religious tradition is representative.

How does it claim to work? Modern shamanism claims its methods will bring personal power, spiritual enlightenment, greater harmony with nature, psychological insight, and physical healing.

Scientific evaluation. Because of its occult nature, science has little to conclude concern­ing shamanistic claims. However, the methods and occult powers of shamans are stud­ied parapsychologically, as is true for the spiritual cousins of shamans such as psychic surgeons, mediums, channelers, and Eastern gurus.

Examples of occult potential. Spiritism, spirit possession, kundalini arousal, psychic healing, and various occult practices.

Major problems. Shamanism leads to spirit possession and other forms of occult bond­age. For example, in shamanistic healing the acquiring of true health demands both the practitioner and patient to be “energized” by his or her “power animal,” or spirit guide. Possession by one or more spirits for empowerment, enlightenment, personal health maintenance, and healing abilities is fundamental.

Biblical/Christian evaluation. Shamanistic practices involve pagan methods and beliefs that are forbidden (Exodus 20:5-4; Deuteronomy 18:9-12).

Potential dangers. Temporary insanity, demon possession, and tremendous physical suffering are some of the effects. Those treated with shamanistic techniques or methods may become converted to the occult.

Note: It should be said that using shamanistic techniques and methods in any given pro­gram (e.g., visualization, altered states of consciousness, sensory manipulation, dream work) is not equivalent to following the shamanistic path. Shamanistic methods can be used independently in a variety of ways; they may or may not introduce one to pursuing the path of the shaman. Shamanism also bears a significant relationship to modern cultism. In the last generation the revival of new American cults and religions illustrates a number of shamanistic motifs.

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