NORMAN W. WILSON, PhD
In my article, “What’s the Difference between a Shaman and a Doctor?” (December 17, 2018) I said I would come back and discuss a point made by Dylan Smeaton in his article by the same title. (July 2016). He states, “… there still is an element of care a shaman understands that a doctor still does not yet: the role that consciousness plays in the physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being [of the human being].” I feel Mr. Smeaton should have developed each of these esoteric and yet inherent human qualities and then address their connection to healing-the shaman’s way. I also believe a fifth and sixth quality should be included: emotions and soul.
It may not be possible to be specific when it comes to definition of consciousness, physical, mental, emotional, soulness, and spiritual health. Hopefully, there can be a general agreement on working definitions.
I begin with consciousness. For quite some time, it was generally thought consciousness was located in the mind and of course, the mind located in the brain. However, today science is considering other possibilities. Maybe— just maybe—consciousness is outside of the human mind. Could it be cosmic? This certainly opens a can of worms. For now, let us say consciousness is awareness by the mind of itself and of the world. For the shaman, consciousness is a special altered state in which localized awareness is diminished. All there is is an unending cosmic awareness—of all things seen and unseen.
Mateo Sol has provided a unique definition of mind. He wrote, “. . . the mind is the ultimate software because it can only know what you teach it. Does this not negate original thought? Creative thought? Isn’t there such a process called innate learning?
The physical element in light of modern medicine may appear to require little in the way of shamanic healing. From one perspective that might appear to be true especially with all the electronics and drugs currently in use; however, the shaman brings to the table something that many medical professionals do not. Even though shaman of old did not understand all the physics behind what he or she did, they provided a shift in vibrational energy for healing the physical body. They did this with drums, rattles, flutes, voice, and dance. Today’s shaman adds recorded sounds such as solfeggio and drumming in their healing practices. Chiropractic’s now use vibration to help with muscular issues.
The mental element may need a bit of clarification. For me, it refers only to the physical functions of the brain and the malfunctions occurring there caused by aging, disease, and drug abuse. Often we say a person has mental issues when in truth they are emotional issues. And this brings me to the next element. Shaman equate this with soul loss and that brings into play another set of shamanic procedures such as journeying.
Emotion really means one’s feelings. Feelings can be damaged by bullying, physical trauma, death of loved one, unkind comments, jealousy. Drugs and counseling are the general healing techniques used. Tranquilizers or amphetamine-based psychostimulants are the drugs of choice. The shaman offers herbal teas and what we now call essential oils. As in the mental element, the shaman may journey to regain his or her client’s soul or a part of the soul. Emotions when in the negative are also responsible for issues in the physical element and as such are never taken lightly.
The spiritual element from my perspective should not be confused or associated with any of the world’s religions. I am not implying those who are religious and practice their religious beliefs are not spiritual. All humans are spiritual whether or not they follow a particular set of religious beliefs. I am very aware that spirituality is in vogue today especially among the millennials. Spirituality, at least for me, encompasses compassion, empathy, and love. It includes respect for all living things. It is the recognition that we are one world, one race—the human race. Most likely beneath all of this is an innate desire to understand one’s inner life. This means being centered on the very deepest values and their values. It contains the idea of an inner path enabling a person to discover and live the essence of her or his being. For the shaman, one’s inner life is expressed in one’s outer life. Healing, therefore, begins with the inner life. This brings me to the sixth element, the soul.
The human soul, long a fascination for humankind, is embroiled in a debate about the question of the soul’s survival after the body dies. If one accepts the premise that the soul is energy and I do, then modern physics gives us the answer: Energy cannot be destroyed only transformed. (The Second Law of Thermodynamics) Michael Roads in Wake Up World tells us the body dies and the soul continues forever. In the shaman’s world, the soul or part of the soul may be stolen, lost, or kept back by a loved one. Further, that soul or its part can be retrieved and returned to its human body. I have written about this in my book titled Shamanism What It’s All About.