Shamanic Healing with Michael Harner – The Foundation for Shamanic Studies

During the UC ESPYs global medicine conference, renowned authority on shamanism, Michael Harner, captivated the audience with his talk on shamanic healing. Harner, founder of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, shared his expertise and experiences from over five decades of practice. He emphasized the importance of entering the shamanic state of consciousness, not to be confused with a trance, in order to safely journey into different realms and access spiritual knowledge and healing. Harner highlighted the widespread presence of shamanic practices across cultures and stressed that everyone has shamanic abilities, but the key is to learn the discipline and principles required to tap into these abilities.

As California leads the way in organizing conferences like this focusing on global medicine, Harner expressed his gratitude to Dean Dan Smith for his efforts. He commended the rise of spiritual democracy, where individuals regain their right to connect with the spiritual realms and receive direct revelations. Harner emphasized the role of the spirits as the true teachers, pointing out that guru figures hold no place in shamanism. With his captivating presence and wealth of knowledge, Harner left the audience inspired and eager to delve deeper into the fascinating world of shamanic healing.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Shamanic Healing

Shamanic healing is a centuries-old practice rooted in indigenous cultures around the world. It is a spiritual and holistic approach to healing that recognizes the interconnectedness of all living beings and seeks to restore balance and harmony in individuals and communities. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of shamanism and explore the expertise of Michael Harner, a leading authority on shamanic healing. We will also learn about the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, an organization dedicated to preserving and teaching shamanic practices.

Overview of shamanism and shamanic healing

Shamanism is a belief system rooted in animism, the belief that everything in nature possesses a spirit. Shamans, the central figures in shamanic practices, are believed to have the ability to communicate with spirits and act as intermediaries between the spirit world and the physical world. Shamanic healing is the practice of harnessing these spiritual energies to address physical, emotional, and spiritual ailments.

History and background of Michael Harner

Michael Harner, born in 1929, is a renowned anthropologist, author, and practitioner of shamanism. After studying with indigenous shamans in South America, Harner became dedicated to preserving and promoting shamanic practices. His experiences and research led him to develop a cross-cultural approach to shamanism, making it accessible to individuals from diverse backgrounds.

About the Foundation for Shamanic Studies

The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, founded by Michael Harner in 1979, is an organization committed to preserving and fostering shamanic knowledge and practices. It offers training programs, workshops, and seminars worldwide to educate individuals interested in exploring shamanism. The foundation’s mission is to revive, research, and present the core teachings of shamanism in a way that is relevant to contemporary life.

Michael Harner’s Expertise in Shamanic Healing

Michael Harner is considered a leading authority on shamanism and has dedicated his life to researching its practices and principles. Through firsthand experiences and extensive fieldwork, Harner has developed a deep understanding of shamanic healing. His expertise is rooted in both academic knowledge and practical experience, making him a respected figure in the field.

His experience in practicing shamanism and shamanic healing

Harner’s experience as a shamanic practitioner is invaluable. He has spent years studying and practicing shamanism, both as a participant and as an observer. Through his work with indigenous cultures, he has witnessed the profound healing power of shamanic practices firsthand. This direct involvement has allowed Harner to develop a unique insight into the spiritual dimensions of shamanic healing.

Pioneering the return of shamanic practices to contemporary life

One of Harner’s most significant contributions is his role in reintroducing shamanic practices into modern society. He recognized that the wisdom of shamans could benefit people from all walks of life and sought to bridge the gap between ancient traditions and contemporary needs. Through his teachings and writings, Harner has made shamanic practices accessible to individuals seeking spiritual healing and personal transformation in the modern world.

The Foundation for Shamanic Studies

The Foundation for Shamanic Studies is a prominent organization that continues to promote shamanic healing and education around the globe. Since its establishment, the foundation has been dedicated to preserving the integrity of shamanic practices while adapting them to fit the needs of contemporary individuals.

Overview of the foundation

The Foundation for Shamanic Studies serves as a hub for those interested in learning about and practicing shamanism. It offers a wide range of training programs, workshops, and online resources to help individuals develop their shamanic skills. These programs are designed to provide both theoretical knowledge and practical experience, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of shamanic healing.

The mission and goals of the foundation

The foundation’s mission is to teach and preserve shamanic practices in a way that is respectful, ethical, and accessible to all. It aims to create a supportive community of individuals who are committed to personal growth, spiritual exploration, and the well-being of the planet. Through its programs and initiatives, the foundation seeks to empower individuals to become active participants in their own healing journeys.

Training programs and accessibility worldwide

The Foundation for Shamanic Studies offers a variety of training programs suitable for individuals at all levels of experience. From introductory courses to advanced workshops, there is a program to suit everyone’s needs. These programs are conducted both in-person and online, making them accessible to individuals from all corners of the globe. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned practitioner, the foundation provides opportunities for continuous growth and development in the field of shamanic healing.

Michael Harner’s Background and Achievements

Michael Harner’s contributions to the field of shamanic healing extend beyond his expertise as a practitioner. His academic background and extensive research have solidified his reputation as a prominent figure in anthropology and shamanic studies.

Chairmanship at the Graduate Faculty of the Department of Anthropology

Harner’s academic accomplishments are noteworthy. He served as the chairman of the Graduate Faculty in the Department of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York City. This prestigious position allowed him to explore the connections between indigenous cultures and contemporary society, deepening his understanding of shamanism in a broader context.

Teaching experience at top universities

In addition to his administrative role, Harner also served as a professor at various universities, including Yale, Columbia, and the University of California, Berkeley. His teaching experience enabled him to share his passion for shamanism with students and colleagues from different disciplines, fostering a multidisciplinary approach to the study of shamanic practices.

Co-chairmanship at the Anthropology section of the New York Academy of Sciences

Harner’s involvement in the Anthropology section of the New York Academy of Sciences further highlights his significance in the academic world. As a co-chair, he actively contributed to shaping the dialogue around shamanism and promoting its recognition as a valid field of study.

Fieldwork in different parts of the world

Harner’s extensive fieldwork has taken him to various corners of the globe, where he studied and interacted with indigenous communities. By immersing himself in different cultures, he gained firsthand insights into their spiritual practices, traditions, and beliefs. This cross-cultural perspective enriched his understanding of shamanism and deepened his appreciation for its universal principles.

Authorship of books on shamanism

As an accomplished author, Harner has played a crucial role in disseminating knowledge about shamanism to a wider audience. His books, including “The Way of the Shaman” and “Cave and Cosmos,” have become widely regarded as seminal texts in the field. Through his writings, he has captured the essence of shamanism, making it accessible to individuals seeking spiritual guidance and healing.

Understanding Shamanic Healing

Shamanic healing encompasses a wide range of practices that are guided by the principles and worldview of shamanism. To appreciate the depth and significance of shamanic healing, it is crucial to explore its underlying principles and techniques.

Definition and principles of shamanic healing

At its core, shamanic healing recognizes that imbalance and disharmony in an individual’s energy field can manifest as physical, emotional, and spiritual ailments. By entering an altered state of consciousness, shamans are able to connect with the spirit world and work with spiritual allies to retrieve lost energies, extract intrusions, and restore balance to the client’s being. This holistic approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and spirit.

Shamanic Healing with Michael Harner - The Foundation for Shamanic Studies

The role of drumming and its effects

Drumming is an integral aspect of shamanic healing and is used to induce an altered state of consciousness. The rhythmic beat of the drum serves as a catalyst for the shaman’s journey into the spirit world. It helps to synchronize brainwave patterns and promote relaxation, allowing the shaman to access deeper states of awareness. The repetitive nature of drumming also helps to quiet the mind, creating a receptive space for spiritual guidance and healing.

The distinction between a shamanic state of consciousness and a trance state

While the terms “shamanic state of consciousness” and “trance state” are often used interchangeably, it is essential to understand their distinct characteristics. A shamanic state of consciousness refers to a mental state in which the shaman enters an altered state of awareness while remaining fully present and engaged with the physical world. In contrast, a trance state implies a complete detachment from the physical realm, often characterized by a loss of awareness of one’s surroundings.

Various ways to enter the shamanic state of consciousness

Shamans employ various techniques to enter a shamanic state of consciousness. These can include drumming, chanting, dancing, and the use of hallucinogenic substances in certain cultures. The specific method employed may vary depending on the cultural context and the personal preferences of the shaman. However, the ultimate aim is to achieve an altered state of consciousness conducive to spiritual exploration and healing.

Journeying in Shamanism

Journeying is a fundamental aspect of shamanic practices, serving as a means for shamans to interact with the spirit world and receive guidance and teachings. It involves entering an altered state of consciousness and embarking on a visionary journey to other realms or dimensions.

The importance of journeying in shamanism

Journeying is considered a cornerstone of shamanism, as it enables the shaman to connect with spiritual allies, seek answers, and retrieve information for healing and guidance. It provides a direct experiential connection to the spirit world, allowing the shaman to tap into the vast wisdom and healing energies that exist beyond the physical realm.

Differentiating shamanism from other spiritual practices

What sets shamanism apart from other spiritual practices is its emphasis on direct personal experience and engagement with the spirit world. While other belief systems may rely on intermediaries or formal rituals, shamanism encourages individuals to develop their own relationships with the spirit world through direct experience. This direct communication forms the basis for shamanic healing and personal transformation.

The regular use of a journey to other worlds as a distinctive feature of shamanism

Shamanic practices involve regular journeys to other realms as a means of accessing spiritual information and energies. This regularity distinguishes shamanism from other spiritual practices, where such journeys may be less common or even absent. By consistently engaging with the spirit world, shamans deepen their connection and refine their abilities, ultimately becoming more effective healers.

The role of spirits in teaching and healing

Central to shamanic healing is the belief that spirits, both human and non-human, act as catalysts for transformation and healing. Shamans cultivate relationships with these spirits, often through journeying, and work in partnership with them to promote healing and restoration. These spiritual allies serve as teachers, guides, and sources of wisdom for the shaman, providing invaluable insights and guidance on the healing journey.

The Three Worlds in Shamanism

Shamanic cosmology is often organized into three distinct worlds: the lower, middle, and upper worlds. Each world serves a unique purpose and offers specific experiences and insights.

The concept of three worlds in shamanic journeying

The three worlds in shamanic journeying are not physical locations but rather realms of consciousness or spiritual dimensions. They can be accessed through the shaman’s altered state of consciousness, where they become vivid and tangible experiences.

Overview of the lower, middle, and upper worlds

The lower world is associated with the subconscious, the Earth’s core, and the realm of animal spirits. It is often perceived as a fertile landscape where one can encounter power animals and seek knowledge related to one’s personal growth and healing.

The middle world represents the physical realm we inhabit. It is the domain of human spirits, nature spirits, and ancestral spirits. Shamans may consult with these spirits to retrieve lost energies, receive guidance, or seek resolutions to everyday challenges.

The upper world refers to the realm of celestial beings, divine energies, and enlightened spirits. It is a realm of higher wisdom and enlightenment, where shamans can commune with cosmic entities and receive profound spiritual teachings.

The purposes and experiences in each world

Journeying to the lower world allows the shaman to access deep healing energies, connect with power animals, and retrieve lost or fragmented parts of the client’s soul. Here, the shaman can tap into primal forces and ancient wisdom to facilitate personal transformation.

In the middle world, the shaman can interact with human spirits, ancestral figures, and nature spirits to address everyday concerns, seek guidance, and receive messages for the client’s wellbeing. This world offers a bridge between the physical and spiritual realms, allowing for direct communication and support.

Journeying to the upper world permits the shaman to explore realms of expanded consciousness and connect with divine energies. Here, the shaman can access profound spiritual insights, receive teachings from enlightened beings, and tap into universal wisdom for guidance and healing.

Cross-Cultural Shamanism

Shamanism is a practice that transcends cultural boundaries, with variations and commonalities found in diverse indigenous cultures around the world.

Examining shamanism across different cultures

By studying shamanism in various cultures, we can identify recurring themes and practices. Indigenous communities across continents share similarities in their shamanic practices, suggesting a universal understanding of the healing potential of shamanism.

Similarities and common practices in shamanism worldwide

Despite their cultural differences, shamans worldwide often employ similar techniques and rituals. Drumming and chanting, for example, are prevalent in shamanic practices across cultures. The use of ritual objects, such as feathers, crystals, or animal bones, is also a common theme in shamanic rituals.

Understanding the independent discovery of shamanic principles

The independent discovery of shamanic principles by various cultures attests to the inherent wisdom and effectiveness of these practices. Without direct contact with each other, indigenous cultures have developed similar techniques and beliefs as a means to restore harmony, heal illness, and maintain spiritual balance.

The ethics of shamanism

Ethics play a vital role in shamanic healing. Shamans are entrusted with great power and responsibility, and their actions must always be guided by ethical principles. This includes obtaining informed consent from clients, maintaining confidentiality, and upholding the highest standards of integrity and safety.

Shamanic Abilities and Shamanic Principles

Shamanism recognizes that everyone possesses innate shamanic abilities and potential. Embracing and developing these abilities can lead to personal transformation and the capacity to heal oneself and others.

The belief in shamanic abilities in all individuals

Shamanism acknowledges that everyone has the potential to connect with the spirit world and cultivate their shamanic abilities. Through intention, practice, and guidance, individuals can tap into their innate spiritual gifts and develop their capacity for healing and personal growth.

The importance of learning shamanic principles

While shamanic abilities may be inherent, it is essential to learn the foundational principles, techniques, and ethics of shamanism. This knowledge allows individuals to channel their abilities effectively, navigate the spirit world safely, and engage in healing practices responsibly.

Avoiding the misuse of shamanic powers

It is crucial for practitioners of shamanic healing to approach their work with humility and respect. The misuse of shamanic powers for personal gain or manipulation is strongly discouraged in ethical shamanic practices. The focus should always be on the well-being and highest good of the client, guided by the principle of non-interference.

The revival of shamanism as spiritual democracy

The resurgence of shamanism in contemporary society represents a shift towards personal empowerment and self-healing. It reflects a rejection of hierarchical spiritual structures and the recognition that spirituality and healing are accessible to all individuals who are willing to pursue their own paths.


The resurgence of shamanism and the exploration of shamanic healing have opened new doors to personal growth and spiritual transformation in our modern world. Thanks to the expertise of Michael Harner and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, these ancient practices have been revitalized and made accessible to individuals worldwide. As we continue to delve into the depths of shamanic healing, we discover a profound interconnectedness between ourselves, the natural world, and the spiritual realms. Through journeying, learning, and embracing our innate shamanic abilities, we embark on a constant exploration of our own healing potential.

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