Can Shamans bring down the cost of healthcare?

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?


About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at
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9 Responses to Can Shamans bring down the cost of healthcare?

  1. Anon says:

    Hey, sorry to bother you again.

    I’m having trouble understanding why you use the term ‘science’ in a lot of your posts. Science refers to a particular process of gaining knowledge about the world and putting that knowledge together in useful, predictive constructs. But it seems like you are talking more about end products, the knowledge or ‘understanding’ part, and how it’s possible to get good products with methods that that are not ‘scientific’ in any conventional sense.

    Wouldn’t it be more honest to simply argue that there are non-scientific methods for reliably learning about reality, rather than radically redefining the term to fit your line of argumentation? If a list of basic characteristics defining the scientific enterprise — rigorous experimentation, testability, falsifiability, fair treatment of the literature, etc. — don’t fit well with your definition, shouldn’t you just recognize that you aren’t talking about the same thing anymore?

    As an aside, you’re laying on the ‘noble savage’ stereotype pretty thickly.

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear Anon,

    Intelligent people never bother me (and I know you are intelligent). It is true that I am expanding the term “science” to go beyond observable phenomena to include metaphysical ideas. I am well aware that scientists reject metaphysical principles – even if they represented what is ontologically real. Swedenborg (who you know) developed a theistic science which included a theory of causal process between an Infinite God and finite world. I consider his Doctrine of Forms as his theistic version of multidimensional string theory (in a background-independent format). He applies these same geometric patterning principles and forms to the scaffolding of the human cognitive architecture within the neuron. Swedenborg claimed that as one went deeper into these neural substrates organic form and action removed itself (lawfully) from spacetime constraints. The removal of these constraints was the means by which action becomes less physical and more intelligent (and closer to God). Swedenborg claimed that more ancient races of humans had access to these deeper substrates and developed a symbolic language called correspondences.

    Nobility is of the heart and volition (intent). Some of the smartest people in history have acted in quite inhuman ways.

    Thanks for contributing. Feel free to “bother” me as much as you want.

    Spiritually yours,

  3. Sue says:

    I like the way you put your ideas across, Godguy. It’s sort of shorthand. Painting impressionistically. So, I probably shouldn’t nitpick. But, here, you are wrong about our modern world, I think. You would not really choose a shaman over a doctor of modern medicine, would you? No one would, not even those ‘lucky’ people in the jungles of South America.

    Sometimes, our scientists do use tradition and inspiration to come up with discoveries. And shamanism is not ‘free’, I’ll bet. Providing the only hope for a cure in town gives him great power and probably makes him rich. Think how rich he could get if he had a secret ingredient (antibiotic pills) to hand out. I think the jungle leaves would soon be abandoned.

  4. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Your criticism does not rule out the power of plants to be used as cures. Modern science discovers these curative powers from experiment. Shamans discover them in dreams and visions (just as Swedenborg described those of ancient churches). Swedenborg is unique in that he explored truth through both methods – through western science and visionary insight.

    You can defend modernity all you like but science will not advance to discovering ultimate reality without a thorough knowledge of CORRESPONDENCES and the causal relationship between nature and heaven.

    Spiritually yours,

  5. Sue says:

    Your conclusion is true; I agree with that. But how shamans discover cures? I think it’s done by experiment over generations and not in dreams and visions.

  6. Kate says:

    Yes, plants can be used as cures, and modern medical science works so well because it actually goes to the trouble of figuring out which “cures” work, which don’t work so well, and which cause serious problems. The system isn’t perfect, but it works a heck of a lot better than trial and error on a person-to-person basis.

    If traditional shamans came up with the same or better answers, leading their peoples to live longer, healthier lives than we enjoy in Western society (and likely leading to a lot of medical tourism by organics-loving Westerners), then I would have to concede that their visions are on to something. But unfortunately for people in the third world countries with the shamans you so admire, this is not the case. I second Sue’s question as to whether you would honestly turn down medical care and seek out a shaman to cure a serious medical problem that you or your loved ones may face.

    You are likely right that people are increasingly adopting “holistic and non-traditional methods” (i.e. non-evidence-based medicine) into their healthcare regimens, but unlike you, I don’t think it is a good thing. Although in many cases, the “natural” health movement may be quite harmless, it is largely because most people still go to the doctor if they get anything serious. However, when people start to take homeopathy (i.e. sugar or water) for serious illnesses, refuse to get their children vaccinated and dose up on unregulated “remedies” that may in fact be harmful, then we start to have problems not only on an individual basis, but as a society.

    If you want to believe that your or someone else’s visions tell you something about the human spirit or an afterlife, that’s one thing. But in the interests of public health, I wish that people like you would keep your “insights” out of medicine.

  7. thegodguy says:

    Dear Kate,

    I have not belittled modern medicine nor do I reject it. What I am communicating is that discoveries can be made from tapping into higher mind. Modern education offers no means to tap into these more interior realms of perception.

    Spiritually yours,

  8. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Some shamanic cures deal with quite poisonous plants. Do you think shamans kept killing people off until they got it right? Why would someone mess around with a poisonous plant in the first place?

    Spiritually yours,

  9. sks says:

    Fabulous post, GodGuy! And your premise here is really insightful. Perhaps it is we who are the “savages,” rather than the people in the rainforest, who live much less artificially than we do. For those of you who haven’t seen this fascinating documentary, set aside your preconceived notions and seek it out. I highly recommend it. And as you view it, think about correspondences, the most ancient church, divine providence and higher mind…

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