Unless you are lucky enough to live in the jungles of South America, probably not. There are too few surviving shamans in this post-modern world of six billion inhabitants and their “medicine cabinet” (rain forests) is getting smaller every year.
Even a chemist or pharmacologist will admit that a large percentage of today’s medicines came from the plant world. What is unusual about shamanic medicine is that rather than through painstaking experiment, finding cures (which have proven effective) come from visionary insights and dreams! Psychiatrist and author Stanislav Grof calls these shamanic experiences “holotropic states” or non-ordinary states of consciousness.
A shaman, who is less influenced by the external trappings of modern civilization, is trained to enter into a realm of symbolic thought where the unconscious mind can share its mastery of science. The evidence that such mastery of science exists within each of us is the miraculous biological and chemical processes that are intricately balanced and kept in order from an involuntary intelligence in the brain. Because this intelligence is superior to the habitual mind and its ordinary consciousness, it communicates in a more abstracted language—through symbols. Shamans can interpret this language.
A scientist working in a lab feels no need to invoke ancient spiritual wisdom or tradition that would suggest there are untapped powers of consciousness buried deeply within the human psyche. A Ph. D will do just fine, thank you.
Emanuel Swedenborg was probably the best example of a western scientist who succeeded in tapping into these higher states of mind. In these rarefied mental states he discovered that the world of nature corresponded to the world of spirit. The plant kingdom was a physical analog of, and corresponded to, the human understanding. So particular plants could have the same healing effect on the physical body as particular ideas and values could cure a wrongly principled or ailing mind. As above, so below.
Swedenborg even claimed that the knowledge of correspondences was the greatest of all sciences and the secret key to interpreting the symbolic language of the unconscious and spiritual mind!
Unfortunately, this knowledge leads to a serious clash of cultures. There is also a conflict between ancient cures and modern commerce. A shaman works one-on-one to develop cures (and for free) whereas the pharmaceutical industry must mass-produce its “magic bullets” and recoup its investment.
However, there have been some interesting low-tech strategies proposed. For instance, there is some research going on where dogs are used to smell if a person has cancer. That could prove to be less expensive than getting an MRI.
But if Swedenborg and shamans are correct, true health can only be obtained by adding a spiritual dimension to the program of remedial treatment. Happiness, love and positive engagement in the community are known to strengthen the human immune system. More and more people sense this and are adopting holistic and non-traditional methods as part of their health regimen.
A spiritual dimension will also provide a healthier view of death. That would really bring health costs down!
Got any thoughts?