Shamanism and the Origins of Spirituality and Ritual Healing

Authors

  • Michael Winkleman School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.v3i4.458

Keywords:

shamanism, ritual healing, origins of religion, anthropology

Abstract

The concept of the shaman has cross-cultural validity, reflecting common patterns of behavior associated with spiritual healing practices found in foraging societies worldwide. These empirical characteristics associated with these practices are examined from evolutionary perspectives and in terms of an evolutionary psychology that identifies their underlying biological bases. The physiological foundations of shamanism are revealed by examining the biological and evolutionary roots for community ritual and the physiological aspects of altered states of consciousness (ASC). Shamanic rituals expanded primate community bonding rituals involving emotional vocalizations and drumming as social signaling and communication processes. The ASC involve the ritual induction an integrative mode of consciousness that enhanced self-awareness and social identity formation in the concepts of souls and spirits and produced a variety of physical and psychological healing processes. Shamanic practices are part of human nature and involve a variety of evolved capacities that have assisted in human adaptation and survival.

Author Biography

Michael Winkleman, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

References

Arcadi, A., D. Robert, and C. Boesch. 1998. ‘Buttress Drumming by Wild Chimpanzees: Temporal Patterning, Phrase Integration into Loud Calls, and Preliminary Evidence for Individual Distinctiveness’, Primates 39.4: 505-18. doi:10.1007/BF02557572.

Atran, S. 2006. ‘The Cognitive and Evolutionary Roots of Religion’, in McNamara 2006: 181-208.

Baars, B. 1997. In the Theater of Consciousness (New York: Oxford University Press). doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195102659.001.1.

Bird-David, N. 1999. ‘Animism Revisited Personhood, Environment, and Relational Epistemology’, Current Anthropology 40: 67-91. doi:10.1086/200061.

Boyer, P. 2001. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (New York: Basic Books).

Brereton, D. 2000. ‘Dreaming, Adaptation, and Consciousness: The Social Mapping Hypothesis’, Ethos 28.3: 379-409. doi:10.1525/eth.2000.28.3.379.

Brown, S. 2000. ‘The “Musilanguage” Model of Music’, in Wallin, Merker, and Brown 2000: 271-300.

Bulbulia, J. 2006. ‘Nature’s Medicine: Religiosity as an Adaptation for Help and Cooperation’, in McNamara 2006: 87-121.

Crowe, B. 2004. Music and Soul Making: Toward a New Theory of Music Therapy (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press).

d’Aquili, E., C. Laughlin, and J. McManus (eds.). 1979. The Spectrum of Ritual (New York: Columbia University Press).

De Waal, F. 1997. Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (Berkeley: University of California Press).

Dietrich, A. 2003. ‘Functional Neuroanatomy of Altered States of Consciousness: The Transient Hypofrontality Hypothesis’, Consciousness and Cognition 12: 231-56. doi:10.1016/S1053-8100(02)00046-6.

Donald, M. 1991. Origins of the Modern Mind (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

———. 2001. A Mind so Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness (New York: W.W. Norton & Co.).

Eliade, M. 1964. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (New York: Pantheon Books).

Flaherty, G. 1992. Shamanism and the Eighteenth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

Frecska, E., and Z. Kulcsar. 1989. ‘Social Bonding in the Modulation of the Physiology of Ritual Trance’, Ethos 17.1: 70-87. doi:10.1525/eth.1989.17.1.02a00040.

Freeman, W. 2000. ‘A Neurobiological Role of Music in Social Bonding’, in Wallin, Merker, and Brown 2000: 411-24.

Friedrich, P. 1991. ‘Polytrophy’, in J.W. Fernandez (ed.), Beyond Metaphor: The Theory of Tropes in Anthropology (Stanford: Stanford University Press): 17-55.

Geissmann, T. 2000. ‘Gibbon Songs and Human Music from an Evolutionary Perspective’, in Wallin, Merker, and Brown 2000: 103-23.

Glazier, S. (ed.). 1997. Anthropology of Religion: A Handbook of Method and Theory (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press).

Goodall, J. 1986. The Chimpanzees of the Gombe: Patterns of Behavior (Cambridge, MA and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University).

Guthrie, S. 1993. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Hauser, M. 2000. ‘The Sound and the Fury: Primate Vocalizations as Re_ections of Emotions and Thought’, in Wallin, Merker, and Brown 2000: 77-102.

Hayden, B. 2003. Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books).

Hubbard, T. 2002. ‘Some Correspondences and Similarities of Shamanism and Cognitive Science: Interconnectedness, Extension of Meaning and Attribution of Mental States’, Anthropology of Consciousness 13.2: 26-45. doi:10.1525/ac.2002.13.2.26.

Hunt, H. 1995. On the Nature of Consciousness (New Haven and London: Yale University Press).

Kirkpatrick, L. 2005. Attachment, Evolution, and the Psychology of Religion (New York: Guilford Press).

Koenig, H., M. McCullough, and D. Larson. 2001. Handbook of Religion and Health (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Kohler, W. 1927. The Mentality of Apes (New York: Harcourt Brace). doi:10.1037/11338-000.

Laughlin, C. 1997. ‘Body, Brain, and Behavior: The Neuroanthropology of the Body Image’, Anthropology of Consciousness 8.2–3: 49–68.

Laughlin, C., and E. d’Aquili. 1974. Biogenetic Structuralism (New York: Columbia University Press).

Laughlin, C., J. McManus, and E. d’Aquili. 1992. Brain, Symbol and Experience: Toward a Neurophenomenology of Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press).

Lawick-Goodall, J. 1968. ‘The Behaviour of a Free-living Chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream Reserve’, Animal Behavior Monographs 1.3: 161-311.

———. 1971. In the Shadow of Man (New York: Delta Publishing).

Leukel, F. 1972. Introduction to Physiological Psychology (Saint Louis: Mosley Press).

Levi-Strauss, C. 1962. Totemism (Boston: Beacon).

Mandell, A. 1980. ‘Toward a Psychobiology of Transcendence: God in the Brain’, in D. Davidson and R. Davidson (eds.), The Psychobiology of Consciousness (New York: Plenum Press): 379-464.

Marler, P. 2000. ‘Origins of Music and Speech: Insights from Animals’, in Wallin, Merker, and Brown 2000: 31-48.

McClenon, J. 2002. Wondrous Healing: Shamanism, Human Evolution and the Origin of Religion (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press).

———. 2006. ‘The Ritual Healing Theory: Therapeutic Suggestion and the Origin of Religion’, in McNamara 2006: 135-58.

McLean, P. 1990. The Triune Brain in Evolution (New York: Plenum Press).

———. 1993. ‘On the Evolution of Three Mentalities’, in J. Ashbrook (ed.), Brain, Culture and the Human Spirit: Essays from an Emergent Evolutionary Perspective (Lanham, MD: University Press of America): 15-44.

McNamara, P. (ed.). 2006. Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter our Understanding of Religion. I. Evolution, Genes, and the Religious Brain (Westport, CT: Praeger).

Merker, B. 2000. ‘Synchronous Chorusing and Human Origins’, in Wallin, Merker, and Brown 2000: 315-27.

Mithen, S. 1996. The Prehistory of the Mind: A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science (London: Thames & Hudson).

Molino, J. 2000. ‘Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Music’, in Wallin, Merker, and Brown 2000: 165-76.

Newton, N. 1996. Foundations of Understanding (Philadelphia: John Benjamin’s Publishing Co.).

Noll, R. 1985. ‘Mental Imagery Cultivation as a Cultural Phenomenon: The Role of Visions in Shamanism’, Current Anthropology 26: 443-51. doi:10.1086/203305.

Oubré, A. 1997. Instinct and Revelation: Re_ections on the Origins of Numinous Perception (Amsterdam: Gordon & Breach).

Pandian, J. 1997. ‘The Sacred Integration of the Cultural Self: An Anthropological Approach to the Study of Religion’, in Glazier 1997: 505-16.

Randall, J. 2001. ‘Evolution and Function of Drumming as Communication in Mammals’, American Zoologist 41.5: 1143-56. Online: www.bioone.org (accessed 29 April 2005).

Reynolds, V. 2005. The Chimpanzees of the Budongo Forest (New York: Oxford University Press). doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198515463.001.0001.

Reynolds, V., and F. Reynolds. 1965. ‘Chimpanzees of the Budongo Forest’, in I. DeVore (ed.), Primate Behavior (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston): 368-424.

Samuel, G. 1990. Mind, Body and Culture: Anthropology and the Biological Interface (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press).

Swanson, G. 1973. ‘The Search for a Guardian Spirit: a Process of Empowerment in Simpler Societies’, Ethnology 12: 359-78. doi:10.2307/3773123.

Tylor, E. 1924 [1871]. Primitive Culture (New York: Brentano).

Valle, J.P., and R.H. Prince. 1989. ‘Religious Experiences as Self-healing Mechanisms’, in C.A. Ward (ed.), Altered States of Consciousness and Mental Health: A Cross Cultural Perspective (Newbury Park, CA: Sage): 149-66.

Vollenweider, F. 1998. ‘Recent Advances and Concepts in the Search for Biological Correlates of Hallucinogen-induced Altered States of Consciousness’, The Heffter Review of Psychedelic Research 1: 21-32.

Walker, M., and E. Fridman (eds.). 2004. Shamanism: An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices and Culture (Santa Barbara: ABC Clio).

Wallin, N., B. Merker, and S. Brown (eds.). 2000. The Origins of Music (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

Walton, K., and D. Levitsky. 1994. ‘A Neuroendocrine Mechanism for the Reduction of Drug Use and Addictions by Transcendental Meditation’, in D. O’Connell and C. Alexander (eds.), Self-Recovery: Treating Addictions Using Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi Ayur-Veda (New York: Hayworth Press): 89-117.

Winkelman, M. 1990. ‘Shaman and Other “Magico-Religious Healers”: A Cross- Cultural Study of their Origins, Nature and Social Transformation’, Ethos 18.3: 308-52. doi:10.1525/eth.1990.18.3.02a00040.

———. 1992. Shamans, Priests and Witches: A Cross-Cultural Study of Magico-religious Practitioners (Anthropological Research Papers, 44; Tempe: Arizona State University Press).

———. 1997. ‘Altered States of Consciousness and Religious Behavior’, in Glazier 1997: 393-428.

———. 2000. Shamanism the Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing (Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey).

———. 2001. ‘Psychointegrators: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Therapeutic Effects of Hallucinogens’, Complementary Health Practice Review 6.3: 219-37. doi:10.1177/153321010100600304.

———. 2002a. ‘Shamanism and Cognitive Evolution’, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 12.1: 71-101. doi:10.1017/S0959774302000045.

———. 2002b. ‘Shamanism as Neurotheology and Evolutionary Psychology’, American Behavioral Scientist 45.12: 1875-87. doi:10.1177/0002764202045012010.

———. 2004a. ‘Shamanism as the Original Neurotheology’, Zygon 39.1: 193-217. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.00566.x.

———. 2004b. ‘Spirits as Human Nature and the Fundamental Structures of Consciousness’, in J. Houran (ed.), From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on Humanity’s Search for Spirits (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press): 59-96.

———. forthcoming. ‘Shamanism and the Evolutionary Origins of Spirituality and Healing’, in S. Krippner (ed.), Mysterious Minds (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press).

Winkelman, M. (ed.). 2003. ‘Shamanisms and Survival’, Guest Edited Special Issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly (Summer 2003).

Winkelman, M., and J. Baker. 2008. Supernatural as Natural: A Biological Theory of Religion (New Jersey: Prentice Hall).

Winkelman, M., and P. Peek (eds.). 2004. Divination and Healing: Potent Vision (Tucson: University of Arizona Press).

Winson, J. 1985. Brain and Psyche: The Biology of the Unconscious (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday).

Published

2010-02-08

How to Cite

Winkleman, M. (2010). Shamanism and the Origins of Spirituality and Ritual Healing. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 3(4), 458–489. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.v3i4.458