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Neurotheology

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  • satkartar7
    aShamanism Is the Original Neurotheology Neurotheology is a new concept given widespread exposure in the recent Newsweek article (05/17/01) God and the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 2003
      aShamanism Is the Original Neurotheology
      "Neurotheology" is a new concept given widespread exposure in the
      recent Newsweek article (05/17/01) God and the Brain: How We're
      Wired for Spirituality. "While the term neurotheology is new, the
      basic ideas have been around for thousands of years," says Dr.
      Michael Winkelman, Department of Anthropology, Arizona State
      University. "Many cultures have developed technologies for altering
      consciousness and inducing spiritual experiences." Winkelman
      describes shamanism--an ancient healing practice--within the context
      of neurotheology.

      Scholars have recognized shamanism as a special form of religious
      behavior for more than a century. Winkelman's earlier cross-cultural
      research on shamanism (Shamans, Priests and Witches) demonstrated
      that there were basic similarities in shamans in cultures around the
      world. The similarities in shamans include the use of trance or
      ecstasy--altered states of consciousness (ASC)--to interact with the
      spirits and heal. These spirit world interactions are often referred
      to as "soul journeys," flying, out-of-body experiences, and astral
      projection. These abilities are acquired when the initiate shaman
      undergoes a "death and rebirth experience" and acquires animal
      allies and spirit powers.



      In his new book, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and
      Healing, Winkelman outlines the neurobiological basis of shamanism--
      humanity's original spiritual practices-- and explains puzzling
      aspects of shamanism: its universal presence in the ancient world,
      as well as its modern resurgence. Similar shamanic practices in
      diverse parts of the world present a challenge to the rational
      scientific view that all religion is a delusion. To explain this
      paradox, Winkelman poses the questions: "Why do these so
      called 'delusions' develop in similar ways in distinct cultures?
      What is the adaptive basis that enabled these practices to survive
      for millenia?"



      "Universals of shamanism are related to basic brain functions," says
      Dr. Winkelman, who suggests these universals reflect biological
      principles of the consciousness and the functions of ASC. Shamanism:
      The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing explains basic
      aspects of brain operation that provide the foundations for shamanic
      practices and experiences. "The shamans' experiences and practices
      have fundamental similarities around the world because they reflect
      innate brain processes and experiences," says Winkelman.



      Winkelman's research findings place shamanism in the context of
      human evolution and suggest that shamanic practices were a key
      element of the evolution of modern humans some 40,000 years ago.
      Shamans helped people acquire information and develop new forms of
      thinking. Shamanism also provided mechanisms for healing and
      personal development, building alliances, and creating group
      solidarity.



      "Shamanism is not just an ancient practice nor is it limited to
      simpler societies," says Winkelman. "The contemporary world has many
      examples of 'neoshamanism,' current adaptations to these ancient
      principles of spiritual healing and consciousness.



      "The resurgence of shamanism in the modern world is an anomaly and
      contradiction," continues Winkelman. "These kinds of practices were
      supposed to disappear with the development of modern rationality,
      yet they persist and grow in popularity, especially among the more
      educated segments of the population."



      The perspectives of neurotheology help explain the persistence and
      revitalization of shamanism, with current practices reflecting the
      same principles of brain operation that engendered the original
      manifestations of shamanism tens of thousands of years ago.
      Winkelman's book Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and
      Healing describes these brain systems, their functions, and how they
      can be elicited to enhance human health.



      Alternative healing practices incorporate many shamanic principles
      and activities. "The rise in popularity of alternative medicine is
      part oa a desire of people to take charge of their own healing,"
      Winkelman points out. "Shamanism was the original self-healing
      practice, a form of self-empowerment." Winkelman's book elaborates
      on how shamanic practices help people establish contact with their
      intuitive powers, manifested in visual symbols.



      The brain's serotonin and opioid neurotransmitter systems are
      stimulated by shamanic practices. "Shamanism enhances both one's
      health and a sense of well-being because they 'turn on' the
      body's 'feel-good' chemicals," says Winkelman. "Our current reliance
      upon Prozac and other serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, and our
      societal problems with drug addiction, are consequences of our loss
      of these vital healing traditions."



      Winkelman predicts that shamanism will continue to grow in
      popularity due to its natural basis, and will present papers on
      these ideas at two seminal conferences this fall. Winkelman has been
      invited to the "Religious Healing in Urban America" conference in
      September at the Harvard University Center for the Study of World
      Religions, where he will speak on the use of shamanism and drumming
      as important therapies for addressing drug addiction. Winkelman will
      present a paper on the "shamanic paradigm" and its use in
      interpreting healing practices as part of a panel on anthropological
      studies of consciousness that he organized for the American
      Anthropological Association meetings in Washington, D.C. He will be
      the Program Chair for the Anthropology of Consciousness Annual
      Conference in Tucson, April 10-14, 2002, where there will be panels
      organized on "Alternative Medicine and Substance Abuse Treatment."
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