The Story of Michael and Sandra Harner: Pioneers of Core Shamanism

“The Story of Michael and Sandra Harner: Pioneers of Core Shamanism” is a captivating documentary that delves into the fascinating journey of Michael and Sandra Harner and their significant contributions to the development of core shamanism. The film explores Michael’s early experiences in the Amazon rainforest, where he gained profound insights into shamanic power. Inspired by his encounters, the Harners established the Foundation for Shamanic Studies to preserve and share shamanic knowledge worldwide. The documentary features interviews with influential figures such as Ehrenreich, Stanislav Grof, Susan Mokelke, and Larry Peters, who have been influenced by the Harners’ work. With a running time of 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 42 seconds, this thought-provoking content was released in July 2017 and highlights the importance of spiritual experiences, altered states of consciousness, and the need to respect indigenous traditions.

In this informative and inspiring film, “The Way of the Shaman: The Work of Michael and Sandra Harner,” the remarkable story of the Harners is narrated. From Michael’s early days as an anthropologist, his encounters with indigenous cultures, and his involvement in the psychedelic movement of the 60s, to meeting Sandra and founding the Center for Shamanic Studies, their journey is testament to their deep love and connection to shamanism. The couple’s work revolves around the shamanic journey, a practice that allows individuals to connect with compassionate spirits and develop a profound understanding of the natural world. Their dedication to preserving and training new shamans through the Foundation for Shamanic Studies has been instrumental in the global revival and preservation of shamanism. With a vast collection of archival materials and the promotion of respect for all beings and the environment, the Harners’ impact on shamanism is truly extraordinary.

The Early Life of Michael Harner

Michael Harner, born on April 27, 1929, in Washington, D.C., had a unique and intriguing journey that led him to become one of the most influential figures in the field of shamanism. Growing up, Harner had a keen interest in anthropology, which eventually paved the way for his exploration of shamanic practices.

Anthropology and Shamanism

Harner’s fascination with anthropology began during his studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He immersed himself in the rich cultural tapestry of indigenous societies, delving into their belief systems and spiritual practices. It was during this time that he first encountered the concept of shamanism – the practice of connecting with the spirit world through altered states of consciousness.

Interaction with the Psychedelic Movement

In the 1960s, Harner’s path crossed with the burgeoning psychedelic movement. Psychedelic substances, such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, were gaining popularity as tools for exploring altered states of consciousness. Intrigued by their potential for spiritual exploration, Harner began incorporating these substances into his own shamanic practice. This intersection between shamanism and the psychedelic movement would greatly influence his future work.

Meeting Sandra and Starting the Center for Shamanic Studies

In the early 1970s, Harner had a life-changing encounter with a young woman named Sandra “Sandy” Ingerman. Together, they embarked on a profound exploration of shamanism and its transformative potential. This partnership eventually led to the establishment of the Center for Shamanic Studies in 1979, with the aim of sharing their knowledge and experiences with others interested in this ancient art.

The Center for Shamanic Studies

Focus on Shamanic Journeys

At the heart of the Center for Shamanic Studies’ teachings was the practice of shamanic journeying. Harner and Ingerman developed specific techniques and rituals to guide individuals in accessing altered states of consciousness, allowing them to connect with the spiritual realms and gain wisdom from compassionate spirits. These shamanic journeys became a core aspect of their teachings and workshops.

Importance of Accessing Alternate Realities

Harner believed that accessing alternate realities through shamanic practices was not only a means of personal growth and healing but also a way to gain insight and guidance for the betterment of the world. He saw shamanism as a path to address contemporary spiritual crises and bridge the gap between humanity and the natural world. By entering alternate realities, individuals could tap into a vast wealth of knowledge and healing that could be applied to societal and ecological challenges.

Preserving Indigenous Shamanic Knowledge

A crucial aspect of the Center for Shamanic Studies’ mission was the preservation and respectful dissemination of indigenous shamanic knowledge. Harner emphasized the importance of recognizing the wisdom held by indigenous cultures and working to protect their traditions from cultural appropriation. The center worked diligently to educate individuals about cultural sensitivity, encouraging a deep respect for indigenous traditions and fostering partnerships with indigenous communities worldwide.

The Story of Michael and Sandra Harner: Pioneers of Core Shamanism

The Shamanic Journey

Connecting with Compassionate Spirits

One of the key elements of the shamanic journey, as taught by Harner and Ingerman, was the connection with compassionate spirits. These spirits, often animal guides or guardian spirits, were seen as sources of wisdom, guidance, and healing. Through various shamanic techniques, individuals could establish a personal relationship with these spirits, accessing their wisdom and receiving assistance in navigating life’s challenges. The shamanic journey provided a pathway for direct communication and interaction with these benevolent beings.

Promoting Understanding and Respect

Harner viewed the shamanic journey as a way to promote understanding and respect for diverse spiritual beliefs. By entering altered states of consciousness and engaging with compassionate spirits, individuals could develop a greater appreciation for the interconnectedness of all life forms and gain insight into different cultural perspectives. This understanding fostered a sense of unity and allowed for the breaking down of cultural boundaries.

The Foundation for Shamanic Studies

Continuation of their Work

Following the success of the Center for Shamanic Studies, Harner and Ingerman established the Foundation for Shamanic Studies in 1986. This nonprofit organization aimed to continue their mission of preserving, researching, and teaching shamanic practices worldwide. The foundation offered a wide range of workshops, training programs, and resources, ensuring that individuals interested in shamanism could access transformative teachings in a respectful and authentic manner.

The Shamanic Knowledge Conservatory

The Foundation for Shamanic Studies also established the Shamanic Knowledge Conservatory, a vital initiative dedicated to documenting and archiving indigenous shamanic practices. Through collaborations with indigenous communities, the conservatory aimed to preserve invaluable wisdom, rituals, and healing practices for future generations. This project served as a testament to Harner’s commitment to cultural preservation and honoring the roots of shamanism.

Michael Harner’s Contributions

Revival and Preservation of Shamanism

Michael Harner’s contributions to the field of shamanism were immeasurable. Through his pioneering work, he not only revived interest in shamanic practices but also played a crucial role in their preservation and respectful dissemination. Harner’s teachings and techniques allowed individuals from diverse backgrounds to tap into the transformative power of shamanism, facilitating personal healing, spiritual growth, and a deeper connection with the natural world. His legacy continues to inspire and guide countless practitioners and enthusiasts today.

Interviews in the Film


The film on Michael Harner includes an insightful interview with esteemed author Barbara Ehrenreich. Known for her exploration of spirituality and consciousness, Ehrenreich offers her perspective on the significance of Harner’s work in the context of contemporary society. Her keen insights shed light on the broader implications of shamanism and its potential for personal and collective transformation.

Stanislav Grof

Another prominent interviewee in the film is Stanislav Grof, a renowned psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of psychedelic therapy. Grof shares his deep respect for Harner’s integration of shamanism and psychedelics, highlighting the profound impact this fusion had on the exploration of consciousness and the expansion of therapeutic possibilities.

Susan Mokelke

Susan Mokelke, President of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, provides valuable firsthand insights into Harner’s life and work. Her extensive experience collaborating with Harner gives her a unique perspective on his contributions to the field of shamanism, as well as the ongoing efforts of the foundation to carry forward his legacy.

Larry Peters

Lastly, the film features an interview with Larry Peters, a longtime student and friend of Michael Harner. Peters recounts his personal experiences with Harner and how they shaped his own understanding of shamanism and spiritual exploration. His anecdotes offer a glimpse into Harner’s teachings and the profound impact they had on his students.

Content Details

Running Time of the Content

The film on Michael Harner has a running time of approximately two hours and fifteen minutes. This comprehensive documentary probes deeply into his life, teachings, and the ongoing legacy of his work. Viewers are treated to a wealth of insights, interviews, and engaging visuals that bring to life the transformative power of shamanism.

Release Date

The film on Michael Harner was released on September 1, 2022, marking the celebration of what would have been Harner’s 93rd birthday. This release date pays homage to his significant contributions to the field of shamanism, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in his teachings and engage with his captivating journey.

Discussion of Spiritual Experiences and Encounters

Throughout the film, viewers can expect to witness engaging and thought-provoking discussions about spiritual experiences and encounters. The interviews touch upon the profound impact that shamanism, altered states of consciousness, and compassionate spirits can have on individuals’ lives. These conversations invite viewers to reflect on their own spiritual journeys and consider the transformative potential of shamanic practices.

Importance of Altered States of Consciousness and Shamanism

The film underscores the importance of altered states of consciousness as a portal to deeper spiritual insights and healing. By exploring shamanic practices, viewers are encouraged to embrace the power of altered states and recognize their potential for personal growth, connection with compassionate spirits, and broader understandings of the world.

Emphasis on Respecting Indigenous Traditions and Spirituality

Throughout the film, a significant emphasis is placed on the need to respect and honor indigenous traditions and spirituality. Michael Harner’s work and teachings were deeply rooted in cultural integrity and the recognition of indigenous wisdom. Viewers are reminded of the importance of cultural sensitivity, ethical engagement with shamanic practices, and the preservation of indigenous knowledge for future generations.


The life and work of Michael Harner are a testament to the power of shamanism as a transformative spiritual practice. From his early exploration of anthropology to the establishment of the Center for Shamanic Studies and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, Harner’s contributions have shaped the field and brought ancient healing wisdom to the modern world. The film celebrating his life serves as both a tribute to his legacy and an invitation for viewers to embark on their own shamanic journey, honoring the interconnectedness of all beings and the sacredness of the natural world.

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