Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

McClenon's Ritual Healing Theory: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

McClenon's Ritual Healing Theory: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

The practice of shamanism still remains a vital tradition in many countries. McClenon (2002) defined the "shaman" as the person who links the world of people and the world of the "spirit(s)" and uses ecstatic trance states to "travel to other dimensions." The shaman's primary objective, however, is healing of others, and ritual hypnotic processes are the central element within these shamanistic therapies (Krippner, 2000). It is through rituals that the shaman is able to perform curing/healing functions (Walsh, 2001), and the majority of the rituals performed are carried out with the fundamental motive to heal. Unlike "Western" culture, in which sickness tends to be viewed as "bad" and the fault or weakness as belonging to the physical body, in shamanism illness or bad health are believed to be caused by harmful spirits. A shaman who follows the correct procedures and imprisons these spirits becomes a friend of the community and helps treat and fight off sickness (Lewis, 1985). Spiritual healing thus aims to remove the evil spirit/demon/sickness.

Shamanic hypnosis of the afflicted person is the most commonly employed technique used to aid in healing both psychological and physical disorders. Hypnosis, stimulated for the benefit of shamanic rituals, can include the following activities: sensory restriction or overload, fasting, ingesting drugs, repetitive movements, dancing, drumming, and chanting (Lewis, 1985). These are all features that can induce altered states of consciousness (Winkelman, 1990). Clottes and Lewis-Williams (1998, cited by Krippner, 2000) suggested that there are three stages of altered consciousness used predominantly in shamanic ceremonies:

   In Stage One, people move from alert consciousness to
   a "light" alteration, beginning to experience geometric
   forms, meandering lines ... Stage Two, people begin to
   attribute complex meaning to these "constants" ... Stage
   Three, these constants are combined with images of
   people, animals and mythical beings ... [and people] begin
   to interact with these images. (Krippner, 2000, p. 107)

Paranormal experiences and belief--part of many shamanic societies--have been reported since early human history, and Bower (2001) contended that mystical or paranormal experiences may extend into prehistory. Besides healing, psychic phenomena (or at least the appearance of them) are another of the shaman's ritual functions and include telepathy and clairvoyance. This display of control and power over the "spirit world" strengthens the "suggestive effect on the audience" (Lommel, 1967, p. 10), and observing the display at a group level may increase individual anomalous belief and experience.

Many legends and accounts of shamans' ostensibly paranormal powers have filtered into Western society. For example, individual shamans have been reported as altering the weather from a cloudless sky to rain. Another account is by Speck (1919, cited by Kalweit, 1987), who wrote that the North American shamans of the Penebscot possessed the powers of levitation, precognition, telepathy, and clairvoyance.

A recurring theme within the anthropological literature is that shamans are "wounded healers"--individuals who suffer from stress-related disorders but who have gained mental stability through indigenous therapeutic processes. Lewis (1985) described the basic patterns surrounding this process, and the anthropological literature is filled with example cases. People, particularly women, exposed to stressful environments are most likely to suffer "shamanic sickness" and as a result of shamanic healing to become shamans. Broddy (1988) provided examples of this process in Sudan. Women, who must endure oppressive conditions, often experience dissociative states labeled as "spirit possession." They recover mental stability through ritual practices that lead them to becoming shamanic practitioners themselves. Child abuse is "merely" an extreme form of social stress. …

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