The Shaman is usually regarded as a healer as well as a mediator between the normal – ordinary – world or reality (OR), and the spiritual world, the so called non-ordinary reality (NOR). He is an expert for communication with the helping spirits by changing his everyday consciousness to an altered state and “journeying” to NOR to retrieve power and information for his clients and tasks.

Traditional Shamanism
Traditional Shamanism is a complex of beliefs and behaviours embedded within a variety of cultures. Shamans are distinguished from other healers, mediums and various religious practitioners. These criteria are helpful:

  • Usually shamans have direct contact with spiritual entities.
  • Strict control of one or more spirits. Spirits do not usurp or “control” the shaman’s consciousness without his or her permission.
  • Control of an altered state of consciousness (the shaman determines when to enter and when to leave the altered state).
  • They focus rather on the “normal”, material world than looking for personal enlightenment.
  • The ability for the “magical flight of the soul”, i. e. the shaman’s journey.

Comparison of data from tribal cultures show a cosmological pattern. In general shamans experience three worlds: The Upper, the Lower and the Middle World. Upper and Lower World are the realms of the compassionate helpful spirits of the shaman.

Core shamanism. Core shamanism consists of the universal or near-universal principles and practices of shamanism not bound to any specific cultural group or perspective, as originated, researched, and developed by Michael Harner. Since the West overwhelmingly lost its shamanic knowledge centuries ago due to religious oppression, the Foundation’s programs in core shamanism are particularly intended for Westerners to reacquire access to their rightful spiritual heritage through quality workshops and training courses. Training in core shamanism includes teaching students to alter their consciousness through classic shamanic non-drug techniques such as repetitive drumming so that they can discover their own hidden spiritual resources, transform their lives, and learn how to help others.

Core shamanism does not focus on ceremonies, such as those of Native Americans, which are part of the work of medicine men and women, persons who do both shamanism and ceremonial work. The training programs in core shamanism have been carefully designed and thoroughly tested to provide an authentic shamanic experience and practical results.


Following his initial shamanic training in the Upper Amazon in 1961 and 1964, Professor Michael Harner developed his personal practice of shamanism and shamanic healing in the United States. He also began to teach about the practical importance of the ancient shamanic knowledge and wisdom of the tribal peoples of this world. As he wrote and lectured on shamanism, students began to ask him to introduce them into the shamanic methods. In response he started giving training workshops in the early 1970s to small groups of people. Interest in this training rapidly grew and in 1979 he founded the Center for Shamanic Studies (CSS). For eight more years Dr. Harner continued his duties as an university professor of anthropology, but at the same time he was aware that shamanic practice and training in tribal cultures was disappearing fast. It became clear to him that firm worldwide action had to be taken to help preserve the ancient knowledge and to transmit it to future generations. So he left the university. In 1987 CSS was integrated into a new non-profit organization, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS). The Foundation grew rapidly with financial support primarily coming from the shamanic training courses and workshops Michael Harner taught. His teachings were augmented by others he trained, such as Sandra Ingerman, Sandra Harner, Alicia Luengas Gates, Paul Uccusic, Michael Hasslinger and others.


  • UIT: When asked the Foundation helps tribal peoples to revive their own threatened or destroyed traditional practices of shamanism within the Urgent Indigenous Assistance program. The program is made up of several distinct parts that accomplish program goals, and importantly, Field Associates, a group of anthropologists and cultural experts, who work with indigenous groups around the world. The Foundation has dispatched training teams and individuals to various tribal groups. They visit for as short a time as possible to provide basic shamanic tools, so that the native volunteers can subsequently get most of their shamanic knowledge directly from the spirits as it is typical in shamanism. Among the groups to which such assistance has been lent are the Inuit (Eskimo), the Sami (Lapp) and several Native American tribes in the northeastern United States.
  • Cross-Cultural research and Experimentation. Quality research is necessary for quality teaching. Basis of FSS teachings is crosscultural research on shamanic knowledge and practices in hundreds of the world’s cultures to provide authentic and time-tested information. Michael Harner’s research work, aided by graduate students and the Foundation’s staff has made it possible to rediscover or recreate practices long thought to be lost. One typical example is the MONOR project – Mapping of Nonordinary Reality.
  • Training Westerners in Shamanism and Shamanic Healing: The Foundation is working to develop a broad range of educational and training opportunities founded on fundamental and near-universal shamanic principles and practices that will help revive shamanism and shamanic healing around the planet. FSS currently offers 203 courses to approximately 5000 individuals annually.
  • Living Treasures of Shamanism Program: This started in 1991 in conjunction with the Field Associates Program. Part of the responsibility of the Field Associates has been to locate potential Living Treasures for the Foundation. So the Foundation has searched for outstanding indigenous shamans in jeopardized conditions to help them preserve their knowledge and practice through FSS recognition and lifetime wages.
  • Developing Practical Health Applications and Measuring Health Impact: The Foundation has investigated and refined a variety of shamanic healing methods to help deal with illness and other problems of Western life. Significant findings became incorporated in the training offered to medical doctors, psychotherapists and others through the Foundation’s educational programs. A critical part of this work has been accomplished through the Shamanism and Health Program (SHP) where the Foundation has engaged in scientific research in a progressing effort to communicate the value of shamanic methods to the mainstream medical community. Another example has been Harner Method Shamanic Counseling (HMSC), which combines classic shamanic divination methods with systemic and technological innovations to help persons deal with the stress of daily life.

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