Six Inherent Human Qualities and the Shaman’s World

                 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.[1] 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.[2] 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.

[1] [Date of publication was not provided]

[2] Wake Up World. 02/18/2015.



Original painting titled,”Ten Bears’ Last Spirit Quest” by award-winning American artist, Gerald Roberts. Original in color.

“Oh, great,” you say, “Now we can travel to Mars.” The word is worlds; not planets. Some say a shaman travels from one world to another physically; while, others say it’s the shaman’s soul that does the traveling. Yet, some shamans have felt they physically moved from one world to another.

Shamanic travel has been called many names. Among these are journeying, astral travel, and guided meditation, visualization, travelling, and altered states of consciousness. In recent years a new term has been added to the list: hedgecrossing. Apparently hedgecrossing is based on the Old Saxon word, haegtessa which is said to mean “hedge-rider.” Kelden in “Hedge-Crossing, Astral Projection, and Guided Meditation: Differences”[1] points out that haegtessa originally meant a hedgerow that divided property; that today, however, it functions as a metaphor. The metaphor references the boundary which divides our world from others. And, as you know, boundaries can be crossed.

Not everyone agrees with all the categories listed as shamanic travel. Sarah Anne Lawless is one such person. In her “Walking Between Worlds”[2] Lawless states, “visualization and guided meditations are NOT walking between worlds or trancework—they’re painting a lovely picture of doing so in your head.”

From a personal perspective I choose not to use the words crossing over because of its past use relating to death. I prefer the word travelling or journeying when talking about both the physical and soul movement from one world to another. This brings me back to a potential question raised in the first paragraph: What do we mean by worlds?

Traditionally, shaman believed there were three worlds: the Lower World, the Middle World, and the Upper World. These are sometimes referred to as realms. Briefly, the Lower World was inhabited by the dead who were waiting for reincarnation; the Middle World contained incarnated human spirits, and the Upper World housed ascended masters, teachers, and other enlightened entities. Besides this traditional view, I believe there are two other areas open for shamanic travel: an area in which the spirit world and the natural world interconnect, and second, is parallel universes.

During hypnotic sessions, a hypnotist will suggest you visualize a place with which you are very familiar. You are to look for a tree with a hole you can crawl into, a large rock (large enough so you could sit on it), a hole in the ground to enter. Other times the suggestion might be a hill or a mountain for you to climb. Upon arriving at one of these physical locations, one is expected to meet a spirit.

A shaman, in a trance, may travel to another universe. Here, he or she will find a duplicate of the current physical world. Things may be either slowed or speeded up. It is here the shaman may change things: prevent something from happening or learn what it is that has caused a client’s issues.

[1] March 23, 201. Patheos.

[2] June, 18, 2010. Witchcraft & Magic.


Norman W. Wilson, PhD.

 Quite often at talks on shamanic healing, I am asked what the difference between a shaman and a doctor is. My immediate instinct is to say ‘you’ve got to be kidding.’ Fortunately, better judgment grabbed me. The question deserves a respectful answer especially in that shamanism as well as other healing approaches have been described as “alternative medicine;” a term I personally detest.

 First, both the shaman and the medical doctor spend a great deal of time in training. For some, it is years. A modern medical doctor will need a four-year undergraduate degree, four years in medical school and then three to seven years in residency training before they are eligible for medical licensing. That’s about 40,000 hours of training. National statistics suggest that doctors in the United States retire at age 65.

On the other hand, a modern shamanic practitioner(certified) takes anywhere from three-weekend classes, to eight to ten lessons via the Internet, or a three-year program. Having never taken any of these programs I cannot attest to their effectiveness. Local Native American tribes have different expectations for their healers. (Note I did not call the shaman. That word does not exist in Native American languages. Some Native Americans resent the word shaman.) I use the word because it is not common language not dissimilar to Kleenex has become a household word for tissues. One of my former college students was in training to be a healer. His grandmother was the tribe’s healer. She began his training at age four. He told me, at age eighteen,that by the time he was 21, he would be accepted as a healer. That’s a lot of years by any standard.

Medical doctors have to learn body parts, symptoms of diseases, what medicines to prescribe, what technologies to call for (X-rays, C-scans, etc.). The shaman learns energy points, disease symptoms, herbal and essential oil use (healers of old did not call plant oils, essential oils), plants and their healing qualities, He or she understands when an illness is emotional or mental related. The modern doctor may recommend a psychologist and counseling to a client; whereas, a shaman will travel to the spirit world for help. Note both seek help elsewhere. Today, we speak of specialists.

Dylan Smeaton, CBP in an article titled “The Difference between a Shaman and a Doctor”[1]states “The difference between a shaman and a doctor is that while the doctor’s knowledge of the physiology of the human body has never been better, there is still an element of care a shaman understands that a doctor still does not yet: the role that consciousness plays in physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being.”

In my next article, I will expand on Smeaton’s statement by making a distinction between consciousness/soul, physical/mental, and spiritual/emotional from a shaman’s point of view.

[1] Smeaton, Dylan. OK In Health, July 2016.

Shaman and Transcendence

Norman W. Wilson, PhD.

Typically transcendence means experience beyond the normal and ordinary. It may be supposed that such things as “near-death”experiences be classified as an example of transcendence.  Generally, transcendence means one has gone beyond the ordinary limitations of physical realities, that is, one has become engaged in a spiritual state. For the shaman,it means the potential connection to a particular spirit in Nature, in universal energy fields, realms, and or parallel universes.

 Much has been written about the use of hallucinogens and shamanic travel. Not all shaman use drugs. They use sound and like hallucinogens,much as been said about that. When I talk about shamanic transcendence I mean a significant consciousness beyond that which is called normal for the human being, specifically one that has been altered.

For me, this shamanic transcendence really means a self-transcendence. This, in turn, means becoming part of that which is greater than your. I am not talking about developing a “God-complex.” What is inherently involved here is a move out of the mundane everyday world, the world of repetitive routine, of accepting things as they are. Researcher Pamela Reed in 2003 suggested that it is here the individual “connects with dimensions beyond the typically discernible world.” It is at this crucial juncture that the shaman connects to these other worlds. These worlds often called the Upper Realm, the Middle Realm, and the Lower Realm do not equate with some religious concepts of Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. At this point, for the shaman, it doesn’t matter what it is that is greater than the self. The shaman’s concern comes after the shift from ordinary time to non-ordinary time occurs. It is then, with her or his spirit guide or helper, the shaman pursues the answers to her or his healing questions, questions related to the patient’s issues.

In Canto XXV of the Dhammapada, we find this sage advice that is most important to transcendence: ” Empty your boat . . .when emptied it will go lightly.”

Shaman as Healer

The word shaman has been brought into the common language from Siberia. Even there, the connotation is that of a healer. The shaman’s tasks might include praying for a good crop, conducting special occasion ceremonies, reading the future, or interpreting past events.

Healing is probably the most important job of a shaman.

In his medicine bag, the shaman has a vast knowledge of natural herbs and other plants that hold healing qualities. These he may make into a tea, a poultice, an ointment, or burn as an incense. He may add one or more of the vegetative material to a small fire and smudge the person who needs to be healed.

As a healer, the shaman attempts to restore the individual’s personal power. The old adage of mind over matter certainly applies to what the shaman does. Implied here, of course, is the notion that the body can heal itself.

Michael Harner, in his book, The Way of the Shaman, tells us that shamanism is an ancient methodological system of mind-body healing. Modern science provides numerous examples of the mind healing the body.

 If the nature of the person’s illness is serious enough the shaman may go into an altered state of consciousness. In the trance state, the shaman works to restore the patient’s personal power. He does this by direct communication with the Spirit World. In this state, he hears, sees and feels the presence of other entities. It is within this framework that he asks for help to heal his patient.

 ©Norman W. Wilson, Ph.D. 2010. Originally published by ezinearticles. com May 31, 2010


ClockThe Greek Sophist, Antiphon claimed time was not a reality but a concept. Philosopher, Parmenides maintained time was an illusion. Time is accepted as a dimension during which present, past, and future events may occur. Later philosophers Leibniz and Kant held time to be neither an event nor a thing, and that it is unto itself and is immeasurable. Further, they believed time could not be traveled. For some, time has a subjective element; that is, one feels it as a sensation or an experience. For others, it is a construct, specifically a mental abstract one at that. And there are those who adhere to the idea that time does exist independently of human consciousness.

It is quite true that many of us live our lives without thinking about time as an abstraction.  And frankly, why should we? After all, it is such an integrated part of our daily lives

However, in today’s world, science has demonstrated time travel is possible on the molecular level by teleporting an atom. This is quantum entanglement. For the experienced shaman, this is nothing new and a part of his or her existence.

Whatever the viewpoints may be, it is agreed we can’t have time in a void. There would be nothing to relate it to. It would not exist. To understand time, it must connect to something. Time is a form of perception and for the shaman, that’s all it is—a perception of three divisions, present, past, and future. It is not ticking like a clock time nor is it the day-week-month time. It simply is, and the shaman moves in and out of these three “zones”  depending upon the world and the need for which he wishes to migrate.

During an altered state of consciousness (trance), the shaman is oblivious of all time for he is all time. He, frequently with his animal helper, is concentrating on finding the answer to a health issue for a patient. Depending upon the need, the shaman may travel to the Upper World or the Lower World. If, during his altered state, he senses the answer lies within the Middle World (the world in which he normally lives) he will seek help from the spirits dwelling there.

This movement into the other realms is a non-ordinary reality or a parallel universe. And in such a universe, time, all time, flows seamlessly. It is never linear. It is simultaneous. This gives the impression that a shaman is here and there at the same time. And he is. Copyright: Norman W. Wilson, Ph.D. 2018