Author: Roger N. Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.
The author Roger Walsh M.D., Ph.D. DHL. graduated from Australia’s Queensland University with degrees in psychology, physiology, neuroscience, and medicine. He is now at the University of California at Irvine where he is professor of psychiatry, philosophy, and anthropology, as well as a professor in the religious studies program.
When I first came across The Spirit of Shamanism, I felt as though science had come to meet me in the Spirit world. Robert Walsh covers such topics as the shaman’s initiation, accessing the spirit world, healing, psychedelic drugs, and New Age adaptations.
He explores such questions as
- whether shamanic initiation and trance states are psychotic or schizophrenic,
- the difference between trance states and mental illness; and
- the effects of music, trickery and the placebo effect on healing.
Historically, shamans were viewed as schizophrenic or otherwise mentally ill and generally dysfunctional. Dr. Walsh provides the reader with an in-depth look at the psychology of shamanism. He has written his material in a very positive manner, yet, allowing for an objective viewpoint. The book draws its information from various shamanic cultures, drawing from a wide variety of sources.
This book solidified for me what I had been discovering during my comparison of ideas presented by Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung (to name only two people who have inspired me) that shamanism, is an ancient practice that has found a modern voice, with equally appealing modern applications for attaining and maintaining a healthy mind and spirit. I particularly enjoy that there are a couple of chapters, that focus specifically, on shamanic healing and how/why it works. Using his understanding of psychiatry, philosophy and shamanic practice; he verified my thinking that shamanic journeys are not a matter of escapism and trickery, but different paths towards enlightenment-like states of being, and connection to the Divine. It is refreshing to read a book, supporting shamanism, that is academically well researched.
The bibliography steered me to other fascinating books and published papers, enriching my understanding of shamanism and shamanic states of consciousness. Shamanism is a legitimate spiritual practice today. It is just as relevant now, perhaps even more so, as it was to our Ancestors.
The science and study of altered states of consciousness helps to prove, to the non-initiated, that accessing a worlds beyond normal space and time is, not only healthy, but necessary for keeping a healthy relationship to yourself and the world around you. Dr. Walsh does not sugar coat his findings. He does relay that the exploration of the worlds of the shamanic can be both terrifying and ecstatic.
Modern shamanism is still an evolving practice, moving our collective consciousness to a greater evolution and understanding of our place in the whole. That is exciting in and of itself, but to have it scientifically, and easily, explained, is a delightful excuse to read this book.
This book is good for anyone interested in knowing more about the psychology of shamanism. Buy this book here.