Main Title
Salutogenesis & Shamanism
Masters Thesis © Barbara Buch, 2006

6. Applied Salutogenesis and Shamanism

6.1 Description of the Suggested Shamanic Salutogenic Model
6.2 Shamanism, the Holistic Form of Applicable Salutogenesis?
     6.2.1 Possible Hinderances for the Shamanic Approach
     6.2.2 Shamanic Salutogenesis and Western Thinking
Applied salutogenic approaches have advantages versus pathogenic practical approaches. An example of this is described by Ross (2002). He compared the practical salutogenic approach with the normally used pathogenic approach. The result was better success with the competence- and resources oriented salutogenic approach in treatment of tinnitus. One of the main elements here was to activate the self organizational processes of the treated person, to develop important resources and to learn that influencing the health outcome by oneself is possible. He used different methods in his studies, like sound therapy, physiotherapy and relaxing methods, social competence training and imaginative techniques (Ross, 2002).

The concept of Salutogenesis was formulated by Aaron Antonovsky in the nineteen-seventies. His intention was good and he established an important first step to change our pathogenic view. As I showed in this thesis, Antonovsky was neither the only one who studied to find a helpful salutogenic solution (chapter 2), nor did he consider all aspects of human nature in his concept. In my opinion, he described in a theoretical scientific concept parts of what practically already existed in the universal form of Shamanism. Whether or not Antonovsky was previously aware of this, Shamanism comprises all of his salutogenic elements and more, although it has already been in existence for more than 20,000 years (see chapter 3) as a practical and applicable holistic method.

There are different reasons why Shamanism offers, in my opinion, the answer to Antonovsky’s search: The existential quest for meaning or meaningfulness within humanity led to the universal belief system called Shamanism (Ripinsky-Naxon, 1995). Here the human’s role was regarded as part of nature’s chain, which became less passive and more articulate. This was a new order of understanding, the first systematic attempt to understand and influence phenomena within the range of human experiences, where the human being was regarded as part of nature (comprehensibility and manageability). Shamanism attempts to unravel and illuminate the universal enigmas: the origins of the cosmos, the earth, man, animals and plants and especially the existential quest for the meaning of life and death (comprehensibility and meaningfulness). Ritual techniques of ecstasy, facilitated by the discovery of hallucinogenic plants and their neurochemical activation of psychodynamics, induce visions of cosmic worlds. Effects of shamanic ideology are “organizing the universe into a meaningful order” (Ripinsky-Naxon, 1995, p. 52, 53). Winkelmann concludes that Shamanism, including ASC, originates from the common psychobiological basis of humans, while its specific form results from the adaptation to environmental conditions (Winkelmann, 1997). Therefore shamanic practices have strong similarities cross-culturally as a result of the interaction between the innate structure of the brain and certain ecological and social conditions.

Shamanism itself basically offers, creates and reinforces a wide range of GRRs in each of Antonovsky’s categories (apart from genetic-constitutional GRRs). It comprises every aspect of Salutogenesis mentioned by Antonovsky and further aspects, which belong to the human nature. If these aspects could be lived, as in prehistoric societies this could be regarded as a comprehensive form of applicable salutogenic approach in order to keep people healthy. For thousands of years Shamanism represents proven and applied holistic methods that offer the practicable match and further essential additions to the new theoretical concept of Salutogenesis. This enables human beings to raise on their continuum to health, to balance with the inner and outer world and (in the shamanic view) even more, to balance with everything there is, including the supernatural forces.

6.1 The View of Health and Illness in Shamanism and Salutogenesis

In figure 2 I combined Antonovsky’s model of Salutogenesis (Faltermaier, 2005) with my suggested additions to the model (blue color) as described in the chapters before. Possible influences of Shamanism on aspects of the Salutogenic Model are shown as well.

Antonovsky’s aspects of his model (chapter 2, figure 1, Faltermaier, 2005) are presented in black print. The red arrows show the places where Shamanism or shamanic methods can act as practicable salutogenic applications within the model. At the bottom, in blue, I show a part of what I call the Shamanic Circle of Life. This represents the holistic Shamanic Concept of life as a state of equilibrium, which includes the health-dis-ease continuum as one aspect. Antonovsky’s model with its blue background is meant to represent a ‘tangent’ which intersects with the blue Shamanic ‘Circle’ of Life.

To describe my added aspects (in blue), I start with the vertical panels on the right, from top to bottom. To potential endogenic and exogenic stressors I added ‘cosmic and supernatural’ (C) and ‘psychic internal demands’ (D). While science might not be able (yet) to explain cosmic and supernatural stressors, they are confirmed and/or suggested to be present by different authors: e.g. cosmic influences by Faltermaier and supernatural influences by Ellison and Levin (Ellison and Levin, 1998; Faltermaier, 2002). Both terms are not finely distinguished here and might overlap. The term psychic, internal demands was taken from Becker (1992, cited in Waller, 1996) to describe the effects of inner wishes, dreams and desires as potential stressors. Like the unfulfilled desire to live a certain dream in life, they definitely can act as stressors with the according consequences, shown in Antonovsky’s Model.

The health-continuum with its balance and imbalance can be seen as embedded in a larger (shamanic) state of equilibrium (blue), which regards all aspects of life (social, biological, psychological, physical, environmental, spiritual, cosmic, etc.). An example for this image, which I call the Shamanic Circle of Life, is the Medicine Wheel of many Native American Tribes.

The horizontal direction in the model from left to right starts with effects and context of socioculture and history. Here I added the ‘effects and context of environment’ (landscape, surroundings) which are pointed out by Halifax (1990, chapter 5) and ‘supernatural forces’, which include divine influences as well as bioenergies, morphogenetic fields, psi-effects, non-local consciousness etc. (Ellison and Levin, 1998, chapter 5). Since everything is connected and interdependent (shamanic worldview), both added effects have a natural influence on socioculture and history and vice versa.

‘Supernatural sources’ are also added in the next panel, as source of GRRs.

I’ve added ‘belief system’ as a more neutral term to the Generalized Resistance Resources, although this aspect is already included in ‘religion, philosophy, art: a stable set of answers’. ‘Regular ASC practice’ in some form with purpose and some form of guidance, serves as a strong GRR, as described before. ‘Awareness’ and ‘consciousness’ can serve as GRR as well, by making inner or subconscious processes more conscious on a daily basis, thus preventing e.g. the damming up of emotions (see also chapter 4.5.1). ‘Ontological security’, suggested by Kolip et al., as an additional aspect of Salutogenesis (Kolip et al., 2002, see chapter 5.) can be seen in my opinion as GRR and was added accordingly.

Under ‘life experiences’ I supplemented several basic points. ‘Drastic, dramatic experiences’, which can be either internal or external, should have a special meaning within the salutogenic process. Antonovsky didn’t express their meaning and usefulness. As Near-Death-Experiences or mystical insights for example, they can be intentionally created in order to manipulate and drastically influence the SoC and thus level of health. In my opinion, life experiences should be divided into internal and external processes, to point out the equal importance of both as possible massive influence factors on SoC and health. External experiences include all experiences made in the outside, material world, while internal experiences describe all experiences in the inside world. Experiences that I call essential human needs or drives are added under ‘external and internal’ in italics. The fulfilment of these needs is a basic condition for health. In this context I’ve added ‘food and water’, ‘sexuality’ and the need to experience some form of ‘spirituality’ to provide meaning for existence and ‘ASC’ (Krippner, 1987). Antonovsky himself mentioned that the need for food and water has to be fulfilled in order to practically apply the Salutogenic Model (Antonovsky, 1985). Along with internal ‘mystical’ experiences, I’ve also added ‘border’ experiences which, for instance, can be Near-Death-Experiences on the internal or external level.

As an aspect of the ‘SoC’ I’ve added the ‘feeling of unity and interdependence’ (chapter 4.4, Krippner, 1987), which to me presents the shamanic synonym for SoC as a more tangible expression.

The panel ‘Stress’ is added by (shamanic) ‘Crisis’ because in my opinion both words can have the same meaning.

Red arrows point out the practicable application of shamanic methods on salutogenic principles and show how Shamanism influences all basic aspects of the Salutogenic Model. The biggest red arrow in the middle (# 4), from ‘Shamanism’ to ‘Life experiences’ points out the main effect of shamanic influences on salutogenic mechanisms. The influencable GRRs are created and strongly fortified by shamanic methods, as shown by red arrow #3. Red arrows #1 and #2 are pointing from ‘Shamanism’ towards ‘effects and context of socioculture, history, environment and supernatural forces’ as well as to ‘biographical, social and supernatural sources of GRRs, because both can be influenced through shamanic methods. In addition, Shamanism itself is a source for such GRRs through its presentations, interpretations and sources of information for people. Potential stressors can be directly influenced, created and experienced by shamanic methods as shown by arrow #5 from ‘Shamanism’ to ‘potential stressors’. The management of tension, guided by the Shaman, is shown by red arrow #6. Red arrow #7, pointing from Shamanism directly to the health-disease continuum expresses that many shamanic methods have a direct influence on health and physiological states. Red arrow #8 represents successful guided shamanic coping with stress and (severe) crisis with the positive effects on health and SoC, which is based on the shamanic aspects pointed out by red arrow #4.

The missing level of social aspects and the corresponding bias to the individual level in the model of Antonovsky (e.g. Faltermaier, 2002), does not exist in the shamanic application of Salutogenesis. Here the individual reflects respectively mirrors in the shamanic sense what happens on the social level.

Figure 2: The applicable Shamanic Salutogenic Model (based on: Antonovsky’s Salutogenic Model in Faltermaier, 2005, p. 66) Italic words (in: ‘Life experiences’) mark essential human needs or drives, which have to be fulfilled.

6.2 Shamanism, the holistic form of applicable Salutogenesis?

Certainly an applicable form of Salutogenesis must be effective on all basic aspects of the theoretical model of Antonovsky. It must be able to intentionally raise SoC as well as the number and quality of GRRs, to perform tension management and crisis intervention etc.. In my opinion such an applicable salutogenic method ideally should include further important characteristics. It should
  1. pay respect to fulfilling human needs
  2. be adaptable and flexible
  3. be able to coexist with medicine
  4. honor traditional biological and psychological interventions
  5. fulfill needs/fill gaps which medicine can’t
  6. be universal, applicable to people all over the world and
  7. almost everyone should be able to learn it and use it
Shamanism has all these characteristics, and even more, as already shown in this thesis and once again confirmed below. In order to point out the significant convincing opinions of different authors including their respective solidity, I have mainly chosen direct citations:

1. Human needs are met: “The human potential for trance and its institutionalisation to meet human needs is represented in the different shamanic practitioners” (Winkelmann, 1989, p. 23). The need for meaning (belief system) (Paloutzian, 1981), and the need for ASC (e.g. Rätsch, 1995), are fulfilled by Shamanism. Clients act only on their free will. “Although Shamans are able to intervene, they are not able to hurt or impose their will on others” (Green, 1998, p. 215).

2. Adaptability/flexibility of shamanic methods: “The Shaman can use many dimensions of consciousness at different times for different purposes. No shamanic performance is ever exactly the same!” (Krippner (2), 2000, p. 112). E.g. in Korean Shamanism the Shamans say that even after their teacher died, they never stop learning and developing their skills. “They will continue learning until they die, even when they no longer have a teacher” (Yang, 1988, p. 34).

3. Shamanism can coexist with medicine: There are examples of cultures, where Shamanism and Western medicine coexist, work together and even supplement each other (e.g. Greve, 1982).

4. Traditional biological and psychological interventions are honored by Shamanism (Green, 1998): Shamanic methods could be “employed along with biological and psychological treatments” (Green, 1998, p. 219-220).

5. Shamanism fulfills needs which medicine cannot: “An important lesson from this treatment experience is that the modern psychotherapeutic theories should not be privileged automatically over other ways of categorizing and treating illnesses, such as Shamanism. The value of these Western theories should not be declared as absolute. In fact, their effectiveness seems highly dependent upon the cultural context out of which the patient operates” (Yi, 2000, p. 486). Jilek, as attested by many authors, found that in the cases of rehabilitation and prevention of chemical substance abuse, traditional healing modalities have advantages and in general were successful and sometimes even more successful than “’official’ treatment and rehabilitation programs” (Jilek, 1994, p. 246 ).

6. Universality (universal healing technologies): Faith healing and institutionalized ASC (Altered State of Consciousness), as well as Out-Of-Body experiences, as the core element of the shamanic soul-flight, are seemingly universal (Bourguignon,1973; Eliade, 1974; Murdock, 1945; all cited in McClenon, 1997, p. 349). Contemporary research indicates that phenomena that share many fundamental experiential similarities with shamanic soul journey, occur both spontaneously and deliberately among modern populations (Green, 1998; McIntosh, 1980; Blackmore, 1982). Experiences such as those revealed in the studies of Near-Death or clinical death experiences (e.g. Moody, 1975; Sabom, 1982, both cited in Green, 1998; Schoonmaker, 1979; Ring, 1981, 1986; Blackmore, 1991) reflect similar patterns. These individuals report experiences similar to Shamans, traveling through diverse worlds, interacting with spirit beings, and acquiring information about both the ordinary and spiritual worlds (Winkelmann, 1997). Strong elements of Shamanism still appear in native cultures like Native American Indians (e.g. Lowery, 1998), even when most of the original knowledge in its complexity seems to be lost. The universal appearance and function of music like chants etc., which plays a large role in Shamanism is expressed, even by Antonovsky himself: “We are only saved by music from being overwhelmed by nonsense. The need to make music, and listen to it, is universally expressed by human beings” (Thomas, 1974, cited in Antonovsky, 1985, p. 121). Dream enactment, mystical states, trance and shamanic ecstasy all seem to be amplifications of naturally occurring self-healing mechanisms (Prince, 1976, cited in Dow, 1986). Shamanism represents the roots of most cultures and human beings: It is the source of our cultures, “Shamanism [...] is the origin for all later religious forms” (Winkelmann, 1986, cited in McClenon, 1997, p. 349). Shamanism “has been the religion of Koreans from the very beginning” (Park, 1991, p. 83). The “cosmic religiosity” of natural religions should be the mutual base of other religions for working together towards world peace (Park, 1991, p. 83). “It is likely that Homo sapiens practiced shamanic healing for many millennia” (McClenon, 1997, p. 345). “Shamanism is the first spiritual discipline of humankind. It is an oral tradition [...]. The Shaman’s mystical path is an archetype, a universal pattern. It is not a prehistoric or a dead artifact, but a living fossil possessing vital psychological foundation. [...] Most significant is the transformative nature of mystical experience. It is an evolution from fragmentation to integration, from ignorance to awakening and illumination, from separation to unity with the absolute” (Peters, 1990, p. 82, 83). The shamanic goals are a unitive life and the experience of union with the transcendent (Peters, 1990).

7. Almost everyone is able to learn it and should learn it in today’s unpredictable world: Harner states “that anyone can learn to enter into shamanic realm with practice” (Harner, 1980, cited in Green, 1998). “This knowledge has been brought back to Western cultures and is now available to anyone who chooses to walk the path of the Shaman” (Green, 1998, p. 220). “In my training of Westerners and others in shamanic methods, I have found that approximately nine out of ten persons have the capacity for the visualization necessary to the shamanic journey” (Michael Harner, comments to Noll, 1985, p. 452). That means more than 90% of Harners students were successful using shamanic techniques, even after only brief exposure (Green, 1998). Harner taught “what he refers to as Core Shamanism, which is his distillation of the basic techniques practiced by Shamans throughout the world” (Green, 1998, p. 213). Green writes about Near-Death-Experiences of persons with no prior knowledge or interest in Shamanism as shamanic initiations (Green, 2001). He describes the phenomenological overlap between Near-Death-Experiences (NDE) and Shamanism, recognized by other authors as well (Green, 1998). The original form of baptism, full body immersion (held under water until near drowning) is discussed by White (1995, cited in Green, 1998) as an induced Near-Death-Experience. NDEers are described as modern Shamans, the NDE is the classic form of initiation, whether the NDEer realizes it or not (Ring, 1990, cited in Green, 1998). ”Many NDEers also return from their experience with an intense desire to help others. By developing the skill of shamanic journeying, NDEers could become shamanic healers” (Green, 1998, p. 209). “It is likely that spiritual activities originally involved the entire clan, but changing social and economic conditions brought about shamanic specialization and, later, a priesthood and social inequality” (Anisimov, 1963; Bermann, 2000, both cited in Krippner (2), 2000, p. 97). Several researchers suggest taking “the shamanic turn” and Weiss suggests “that within the next few years [...] profound experiences [...] which may well be called ‘spiritual’ can be readily facilitated in psychologically normal individuals” (Weiss, 1992, cited in Green, 1998, p. 206). Stanislav Grof’s and Moody’s work have already started this process (Green, 1998).

The Near-Death-Experience, which can be voluntarily entered into by Shamans on their journeys, “is in principle available in life to anyone who has learned the ‘access code’” (Ring, 1990, cited in Green, 1998, p. 207). Ring, as many other authors cited by him, assumes that the number of persons who experienced shamanic initiations such as out-of-body experiences (e.g. Near-Death-Experiences (NDE)), UFO encounters and similar others have increased dramatically in recent years (Ring, 1989). Shamanic journeys also “seem to be increasingly common and commonly sought after in our contemporary world” (Ring, 1989, p. 20, 21). Ring writes “altogether, we seem to be undergoing a period of mushrooming growth in the occurrence of [...] ‘the other world journey’ for which the traditional Shaman has long been the prototype [...]. If this is actually so, might it be that what we are witnessing is the beginning stages in the Shamanizing of modern humanity? And what that would mean is precisely this: that humanity would be finding its way back to its true home in the realm of the imagination, where it would be liberated to live in mythic time and would no longer be strictly bound to the prison of historical time. [...] this period of apparently accelerated psycho spiritual evolution, these two worlds may be drawing nearer to each other so that we, too, like the Shaman, will be able easily to cross over and live in both worlds” (Ring, 1989, p. 20). Similar statements about the human consciousness changing by shamanic means are made by numerous different authors cited in Ring (1989). Ring means that shamanic experiences are to educate the soul and “they must do this by propelling us into the infinitude of the human imagination” (Ring, 1989, p. 19). Harper suggests: everyone should become his/her own Shaman in order to being able to deal with rising (global) catastrophes, diseases, and dramatic earth changes (Harper, 2006). “Now may be the time to reconsider the ways of knowing [...], and their sources in imagination, intuition, visions, dreams, the senses, and the body. Perhaps these ways of knowing can enter into tandem with intellect and reason to construct cooperative and collaborative lifestyles for the pluralistic world in which we live, a world which shamanic epistemology would appreciate and enjoy” (Krippner (2), 2000, p. 115). Krippner suggests that the functions of cultural myths within traditional Shamanism could be taken over – in a new form - as individual or personal myths (Krippner, 1987) (see also chapter 3.9) Halifax writes, she believes “that the Shaman’s initiatory journey is our individual healing journey [...] convinced that we need now more than ever to seek initiation, to go into the depths of our psyche in order to make familiar the strong forces that destroy us and others” (Halifax, 1990, p. 53). This is congruent with Harper and Grof (Harper, 2006; Grof, 1999). Halifax writes that “the shamanic world view brings us into the realization that we are deeply interconnected with the elements as well as with all beings, including plant and animal” (Halifax, 1990, p. 58). ”To understand the Shaman’s world at this time is to understand the Self ”(Halifax, 1990, p. 58). “It is so important for us to understand what happens in the journey of crisis because we are undergoing such a journey on a global and environmental level at this time. However, for initiation to work, it must be entered into personally, not generally” (Halifax, 1990, p. 54). Pandian states that “religious movements arise when the health of individuals of a group is at stake. The messiah or religious leader of the group adopts the shamanic orientation in forging a paradigm to bring the people back to health” (Pandian, 1997, p. 513). Today, especially at the example of the USA where already more than 30% of people are overweight / obese with all the consequences, where cancer and other sicknesses are on the rise, we are in real need of such movement. It is high time to turn inward and become one’s own Shaman.

Despite of all our knowledge and scientific explanations, today we face a dramatically rising number of unpredictable natural catastrophes and sudden dangers (tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, weather unpredictability, ozone holes, pollution, etc.) as well as further global and personal problems. There is an increasing ‘insecurity‘ in life by man made causes: like unemployment, rapid devaluation of money, unpredictable money and stock markets, terrorism, raising danger of epidemics, viruses, bacteria, etc.. Our lives become more and more threatened. These events often leave a white blank concerning their meaningfulness. We need to be able to deal with that and find our place in the world. The gap needs to be closed otherwise depression, frustration, resignation and search for meaning in extreme cults, etc., may be the result, with corresponding effects on the Sense of Coherence (SoC) and health. Antonovsky believed that both culture and belief systems are important factors to influence our SoC with its three components as well as coping with stressors. Shamanism can offer an adaptable belief system for people today in Western societies, where cultures and traditions, cultural myths and values seem to be lost. Shamanism offers us an applicable, holistic salutogenic approach which goes beyond Antonovsky.

Shamanism is much more than a salutogenic application. It is a holistic way of healing, supporting and helping human beings to live in equilibrity with everything. Over thousands of years it has been successfully applied to every aspect of human life.

6.2.1 Possible Hinderances for the Shamanic Approach

Hindrances for this practical shamanic approach of Salutogenesis could be:
  • our lost cultural (shamanic) background
  • our Western scientifical way of thinking
  • our limited medicinal concept of health-disease and the concept of mental illness
  • misunderstanding (misjudging) of Shamanism in past research
  • fear of the unknown, rejection, fear of rejection
  • missing knowledge and understanding
  • a cultural resistance to ASC experience in Western/Indo-European cultures” (Winkelmann, 1997, p. 404)
  • medicine lobby and pharmaceutical industry
  • the problem of scientific evaluation on the effectiveness of traditional healing (Jilek, 1994). In order to achieve wider acceptance in our society, shamanic techniques have to be shown to be scientifically acceptable. Just as we can neither prove scientifically subjective experiences like leaving the body nor the kind of pharmacological action responsible for the effect of being an anti-depressant medication, “we need prove only that the treatment was effective in alleviating the problematic condition” (Green, 1998, p. 219). “Scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of traditional healing [...] is frequently limited” by the following inherent constraints of scientific research (Jilek, 1994, p. 245): “(1) the sacred or arcane character of the ceremonies; (2) the healer’s practices and prescriptions are often considered private or clan property; (3) the healer’s reluctance to divulge information because of negative experience with enquiring authorities interested in illicit drug use; (4) the undeniable interference effects of experimental research with the conduct of traditional ceremonies; (5) the difficulty of evaluating the merits of a single therapeutic method when several are often combined in case management; and (6) the practical difficulties in conducting outcome studies by case follow-up, due to the lack of reliable records, the problems of finding and accessing former clients and verifying their statements, which are especially great under the conditions obtaining in many developing countries” (Jilek, 1994, p. 245).
One further problem in the practicability of Shamanism might be that Shamans, and with them their profound knowledge, are dying out. Even if aboriginal (shamanic) texts are translated, “mere literal translations of aboriginal texts are likely to miss many implicit meanings” (Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1979, p. 59). Reichel-Dolmatoff thus emphasises the necessity of eliciting commentaries and explanatory notes from native informants, in order to keep as much as possible of the “unsuspected wealth of additional information” on shamanic initiation and other aspects of the shamanic world view (Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1979, p. 59). “It is saddening to realize that every year that passes sees the irretrievable disappearance of a body of human knowledge and experience that might have enriched the intellectual and spiritual life of modern man” (Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1979, p. 27). Another challenge is the long training time and the large amount of knowledge, traditional Shamans have to learn. For this reason only certain shamanic technologies can possibly be learned and used by a bigger circle of people. Existing schools should be further investigated.

Antonovsky was aiming for an improved health care system, where the whole person within his/her life situation and social components would be seen. He himself warned about the possible problems and dangers of filing client’s life histories. (Antonovsky, 1985). In order to find a way to improve people’s position on the health-dis-ease continuum we must therefore look at options other than officially filing client’s histories. Referring to other authors, (e.g. Harner, 1990; Harper, 2006) I suggest the vision in which (almost) everyone can become one’s own Shaman – with techniques that are taught in special schools. People who wish to live self-responsible can learn these techniques.

6.2.2 Shamanic Salutogenesis and Western Thinking

Regarding this subject I refer mainly to one author, Laughlin (1997), who in his words describes so well, what I find essential in considering Shamanism as a potential application of the Salutogenic Model. Apart from the ‘hindrances’ mentioned above, there is one main crucial aspect within our Western culture when it comes to openness for Shamanism: The shift to the industrialized and scientific modern Euro-American society caused a ‘material’ worldview, where credence typically is given only to experiences made in the ‘normal’ waking phases. In these states, consciousness is oriented primarily towards adaptation to the external operational environment. According to Laughlin we consequently live in a monophasic culture, which is characterized by a concern for adaptation to the external world, having relatively little or no concern for inner growth and balance among phases of consciousness (Laughlin, 1997). Altered States of Consciousness are frequently ignored, repressed, negatively sanctioned, considered pathological, or otherwise derided. Thus experiences and the inner life in alternative phases like dream and trance may be lost (Laughlin, 1997). Traditional polyphasic (shamanic) cultures do “integrate knowledge gleaned from experiences encountered in all phases of consciousness within a single worldview” (Laughlin, McManus and d’Aquili, 1990, cited in Laughlin, 1997, p. 479). On the other hand, in polyphasic societies the worldview contains an integration of knowledge, memory, and experiences (figure 3) and a corresponding cosmology, expressed in its “mythopoetic symbolism” like myth, ritual, drama, art and stories, etc. (Laughlin, 1997, p. 480). The latter is used to evoke directly experiences in alternative phases of consciousness with the support of “mythopoeic procedures”, that are interpreted in such a way that the worldview is verified and vivified (Laughlin, 1997, p. 480). Shamans may influence the process by structuring the symbolic expression and helping to interpret the experience. In many polyphasic societies members are encouraged or even compelled to explore multiple phases of consciousness through dreams, visions, meditation states, drug trips, trance states and initiation procedures like ingesting psychotropic drugs and enforcing vision quests, etc. (Bourguignon, 1973; Naranjo, 1987; both cited in Laughlin, 1997). The Shaman’s role is to lead initiating practitioners and society through experiences within different phases of consciousness and to interpret those experiences for both groups (Laughlin, 1997) according to culturally recognized systems of meaning (Winkelmann, 1986, 1990, both cited in Laughlin, 1997).

Figure 3: The cycle of Meaning (Laughlin, 1997, p. 481)

The model of the cycle of meaning “reminds us that the knowledge constituting much of culture derives its meaning in part via direct experience” (Laughlin, 1997, p. 484). In our modern Western world, we have to get back to this experiental level – in order to balance our lives and being able to respect all elements of our existence.

Shamanic societies use mechanisms to produce recurrent extraordinary experiences in some or all of their members in order to enliven their worldviews (Laughlin, 1997). These mechanisms already described above could be the tools for a practicable salutogenic health care, which considers the whole human being with all its aspects. Within this creation and verification of a worldview (belief system) it is essential to create meaningfulness in life, being one crucial element in the Salutogenic Theory. An example is phenomenological training (the study of processes of consciousness), which Laughlin describes as leading to direct the mind in a disciplined way (Laughlin, 1997). Within this training, direct concentration and inquiry towards one’s internal processes (e.g. dreaming, bodily functions, like breathing, movement, etc.), eidetic imagery, feelings, thought processes, and more are learned. Habit patterns are established to prepare the student for the kind of procedures for incubating and attaining transpersonal experiences that counter the Euro-American conditioning towards ignoring or repressing internal processes (Laughlin, 1997).

In my opinion we need to make a shift back to a more polyphasic personal worldview, to make an effective salutogenic application and health education possible. Only this way it is possible to attend to and integrate personal insights, emotions, intuitions and spiritual needs of a human, essential and necessary for balance and health. Shamanic worldviews, which are at the root of our humanhood can offer a solution. Such worldviews are based on personal experiences, which strongly integrate other states of consciousness like dream states, feelings and visions and influence the SoC.

As described before (chapter 4.1), Shamanism has no concept of mental illness (Stephen and Suryani, 2000) different to Western medicinal terms and to Antonovsky’s concept: “The possibility that some persons diagnosed as schizophrenics in Western cultures might instead be experiencing something similar to the inner transformation sometimes experienced by Shamans and healers in traditional cultures [...]. What we are pointing to is a gray area wherein Western cultural assumptions about ego boundaries and hallucinatory experience have led to a pathologizing of experience which other cultures continue to value and to foster” (Stephen and Suryani, 2000, p. 34). While Antonovsky suggested to regard stressors as a chance for growth and rising SoC, seeing the salutary effect of stressors, Shamanism practically applies it. It uses the most effective growth or healing effect, reached after stress or a crisis has been experienced. In the shamanic view there is no illness, just a message encoded in this physical or mental state.

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