Is Shamanism a Religion?
Anthropologist Michael Harner says, “Shamanism is a methodology, not a religion. It is a system of knowledge, based on firsthand experience, not a belief system.” The word shaman is from the indigenous people of Siberia, and simply means one who knows, or one who sees.
The practices of modern shamanism are like practical tools or methodologies that can help anyone, regardless one's personal faith. So one can enjoy the benefits of shamanic healing without changing one's personal faith or joining some religious group. Just as one can practice yoga without being Hindu, or sit in meditation without being a Buddhist. Indeed, “shamanism is for skeptics”, says Harner, “it is a system of direct experience”.
During his 20-year career in public and private hospital chaplaincy, Jeff supported people of religious traditions from around the world. He understands the need to respect individual beliefs, and knows that a true healer is not a religious know-it-all but more like a border-walker: one who travels between meaning-worlds of both faith and culture. This includes honoring the perspectives of people with no religious belief at all.
The earth-honoring spiritual practices utilized in our programs transcend particular religious culture. As the modern expression of ancient traditions from around the world they have roots in every person's heritage, regardless of culture. These ancient ways did become aligned with specific cultures over time. But the realm of the human heart is universal and wide as ‘Christ consciousness’ or ‘Buddha nature’. Thus the sacred "text" of shamanism is not found in a book written in ink or on stone tablets, but through the Great Spirit, alive in our hearts.
If anything, people who participate in our programs typically find their personal faith and level of spiritual maturity expanding. They develop a deeper respect for the Spirit alive in all things, not just in human beings and human institutions. With that respect comes love. And when you open the door to love, you open the door to healing and hope for the entire world.
“I treasure my Christian faith, and I appreciate how Jeff can guide me to a deeper understanding of myself using the tools of shamanism in a way that feels very respectful to my faith. The human heart is not easy terrain to explore, and Jeff’s help has been so valuable.” -Jennifer, mother and graduate student
“I trust Jeff’s experience and training. I trust that he has done ‘the work’ for his own inner journey to live generously with and for the rest of us. He uses non-traditional methods that enable my heart to speak and be more fully alive.” -Cynthia, MA, D.Min., Catholic health care chaplain