Shamanism As Evolutionary Medicine

Although it appears that our paleo ancestors inhabiting temperate and tropical ecosystems had no modern diet-related diseases, they did suffer dis-eases, and universally had “medicine men,” also known among anthropologists as “shamans.” As a medical system, shamanism maintains that many apparently physical dis-eases have spiritual causes. Indigenous/shamanic tribal cultures “believe” that spirits exist and play roles in individual, tribal, and ecological health. Shamanic interventions address traumas affecting the soul/spirit through direct interaction with the spiritual realm, achieved through altered states of consciousness that provide entrance to a non-ordinary reality.

All this talk of spirits certainly makes anxiety for modern “scientific” atheists and Judeo-Christian religionists alike. The former will dismiss such talk as mumbo-jumbo without empirical basis, a threat to rationality and logic. They will tend to dismiss shamanism as dealing with non-existent “supernatural” entities. The latter believe that for some odd reason the One True God chose to reveal himself and the Rules for the Right Way of Life only to the members of several middle Eastern desert tribes, leaving everyone else in the dark. They also believe that this God gave these chosen people not only the right but the duty to convert all other tribes to their faith and way of life, if not by persuasion then by force. These people call non-believers by various names like heretic, infidel, heathen, pagan, and so on, and have called shamanic culture “demonic.”

In either case, shamanism directly competes with the “authorities.” Atheists may consider shamans a threat to the authority of “reason,” science, and scientists, and religionists certainly consider shamans a threat to the authority of their faith, dogma, and priests. Shamanism comes from non-hierarchical tribal culture in which no one has ultimate authority over another, and thus it conflicts with civilization and all types of authority.

To illustrate the modern discomfort with shamanism, in 1892, in a speech at the Smithsonian Institution, John Bourke called shamans “an influence antagonistic to the rapid absorption of new customs” and said “only after we have thoroughly routed the medicine men from their entrenchments and made them an object of ridicule can we [whites] hope to bend and train the minds of our Indian wards in the direction of civilization.”

Shamanism as Experimental Science

Shamanism refers to a universal conceptual framework found among indigenous, uncivilized (i.e. politically unstratified), tribal humans. It includes the “belief” that nature (the world) has two aspects, the ordinary world, accessed through ordinary consciousness, and the spiritual world, accessed through an altered state of consciousness, or “trance,” induced by shamanic practices such as repetitive drumming, fasting, or herbal drugs. According to shamanic theory, the spiritual and ordinary worlds interact continuously, and a shamanic practitioner can gain knowledge about how to alter or to guide interaction with ordinary reality by taking direct action in the spiritual aspect of the world.

Importantly, according to the shamanic perspective, the spiritual realm is NOT what both atheists and theists would call “supernatural.” The spiritual realm described by shamans does not lie outside of nature or experience. On the contrary, just like gravitational force and the subatomic realm of quarks and photons, also invisible in ordinary states of consciousness, the shamanic spiritual realm occurs as part and parcel of nature.

I put the words “belief” in quotation marks because, unlike modern religious beliefs, the shamanic “belief” in a dual aspect world is not faith-based. Rather, it arises from direct and replicable experiences induced by specific, repeatable procedures. That makes it an experimental science, not a faith system.

To wit, the indigenous belief in a spiritual realm and spiritual entities is no more “mystical” than the belief that the typical modern educated individual has in quarks and other subatomic particles. In fact, it may be less so.

The typical modern person’s belief in subatomic particles is based on hearsay and authority, not on direct experience. To get anything like a direct experience of subatomic particles, you have to go through a certain procedure. You have to complete adequate training in the conceptual framework known as modern physics, which will prepare you to perform certain types of experiments and supply you with the conceptual tools you will need to interpret certain types of data (e.g. particle movements in a cloud chamber) as evidence of the existence of quarks. Very few people have completed the required training and experiments, which makes modern physics a type of non-ordinary knowledge of a non-ordinary reality accessed directly by only a few people, the high priests of physics. The rest of us accept their description of subatomic worlds on faith.

In contrast, the typical tribal human’s belief in a spiritual realm inhabited by spiritual entities is based on personal direct experience of that realm and those entities by following certain experimental procedures, i.e. inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness using shamanic techniques such as repetitive drumming, fasting, vision quests, dreams, or herbal drugs. Thus, we should not confuse neolithic religious belief with paleolithic religious experience. The average modern believer in God does so not based on experience, but on doctrine or hearsay. In contrast, shamans don’t “believe” in spirits, they actually know and work with them directly in altered states of consciousness.

I want to emphasize that the shamans’ claims about a spiritual realm are as scientific as the physicists’ claims about quarks. They are open to confirmation by experimental procedure. If you have not performed the experiments yourself, you really are not in a position to deny the claims of the shamans or the physicists. Similarly, if you want to confirm (or dispute) the claims made on basis of these experiments, whether shamanic or modern physics, you will have to do the conceptual training and the experiments yourself.

The rub here is the personal difficulty and discipline involved in replicating shamanic experiments compared to physics experiments. I mean, performing basic physics experiments does not involve anything as physically or mentally arduous as extended fasting, vision questing, or controlled entrancement. But you can’t be an armchair shaman any more than you can be an armchair subatomic particle physicist.

Although called by some “trance,” I put the word “trance” in quotation marks because it is typically taken to imply a “false” state of mind, when it does not. In fact, people enter “trances” regularly as a part of ordinary life. If you have found yourself so engrossed in an activity that you had an altered perception of time, you have been in trance. If you have ever driven somewhere, then, upon arriving, wondered at how you did not remember doing the driving, you were “entranced” during that drive. If you have ever experienced “the zone” of peak performance, you have been entranced.

In fact, shamanic “trance” differs from the usual “trance” in that the practitioner must tread into “trance” territory without losing control of his intent. It is this need to harness the ordinarily quite restless mind that makes shamanic experimentation with “trance” more difficult and arduous than physical experiments which require control only of isolated physical events.

Shamanic Experiences Versus Cognicentrism

In fact, we have absolutely no way of determining which of the many waking states of consciousness we experience is the “real” state. Michael Harner, an anthropologist who specialized in studying shamanism, wrote a book The Way of the Shaman in which he discussed the hostility that ‘authorities’ express toward shamanic knowledge of alternate realities such as presented by Carlos Castaneda in his series of books reporting his experiences under the tutelage of don Juan, a Yaqui “sorcerer:”

“To understand the deep-seated, emotional hostility that greeted the works of Castaneda…one needs to keep in mind that this kind of prejudice is involved. It is the counterpart of ethnocentrism….But in this case it is not the narrowness of someone’s cultural experience that is the fundamental issue, but the narrowness of someone’s conscious experience. The persons most prejudiced against the concept of nonordinary reality are those who have never experienced it. This might be termed cognicentrism….”

Natural Selection of Shamanic Practices

Using the principle of natural selection as a guide, Harner also addresses the prejudice that the ordinary state of consciousness (OSC) is real reality, while the altered shamanic state of consciousness (SSC) is illusion:

“Some might argue that the reason we spend most of our waking lives in the OSC is that natural selection intended it that way because that is the real reality, and that other states of consciousness, other than sleep, are aberrations that interfere with our survival. In other words, such an argument might go, we perceive reality the way we do because that is always the best way in terms of survival.

But recent advances in neurochemistry show that the human brain carries its own consciousness-altering drugs, including hallucinogens such as dimethyltryptamine. In terms of natural selection, it seems unlikely that they would be present unless their capacity to alter the state of consciousness could confer some advantage for survival. It would appear that Nature itself has made a decision that an altered state of consciousness is sometimes superior to an ordinary state.

We are only beginning in the West to start appreciating the important impact the state of mind can have on what have previously been too often perceived as questions of purely ‘physical’ capability. When, in an emergency, and Australian aborigine shaman or a Tibetan lama engages in “fast traveling”–a trance or SSC technique for running long distances at a rapid rate–that is clearly a survival technique which, by definition, is not possible in the OSC.”

Since shamanic practices and knowledge are human universals, I conclude that evolution by natural selection favored the survival of shamanism. In other words, the fact that shamanism occurs in all tribal cultures indicates that it enhances survival. If shamanism didn’t enhance survival then the people who relied on shamans would have died out, not spread universally. As a corollary, shamanism must tell us something important about the constituents of the world/nature, or it wouldn’t have survival value.

On the same evolutionary basis that we expect ancestral diets to have therapeutic effects for diet-related diseases, we can expect ancestral medicine–i.e. shamanism–to have strong clinical efficacy when appropriately applied. This would also apply to interventions having strong similarities to shamanic practices, such as hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other psychophysiological interventions exploiting the mind-body relationship.

Shamanic Intervention Clinical Trial

Shamanism maintains that physical dis-ease may arise from disturbances of the spirit, and consequently that by addressing the traumas affecting the soul/spirit through direct interaction with the spiritual realm, we can restore health. If efficacious, this would make it an important medical method to apply in cases that do not respond to dietary, physical, or chemical treatment.

According to shamanism, dispiritedness can cause dis-ease. In case an individual exhibits signs of dispiritedness, a shaman will take steps to restore the spirit through shamanic interventions including direct interaction with non-ordinary reality.

Vuckovic et al decided to put the shamanic perspective to the test. They recruited 23 women suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) who had not responded to conventional treatment. They randomly assigned each woman to 1 of 4 shamanic practitioners. Each woman attended 5 shamanic healing sessions.

The team evaluated the outcome using several measures including change from baseline to posttreatment in diagnosis of TMDs by Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) exam and participant self-ratings on the “usual” pain, “worst” pain, and functional impact of TMDs subscales of the RDC Axis II Pain Related Disability and Psychological Status Scale. They performed evaluations at 1, 3, 6, and 9 month follow-ups.

As a result of this intervention, of the 23 women who started the study, only 4 had a clinical diagnosis of TMD at the end of the study, an 83% cure rate. Self-rated usual pain and worst pain declined by about 50%, and functional impact of the pain declined by about two-thirds.

Keeping in mind that these individuals did not respond at all to conventional medical therapies for TMD, shamanic intervention had an astounding cure rate. In fact, given that most of conventional medicine only achieves chemical management or surgical removal of a diseased process or tissue, not cure, this shamanic intervention may actually have greater therapeutic power than the conventional approach focused on ‘physical’ reality. Its like the difference between managing diabetes with medications, and curing it by use of a paleo diet.

Thus, it appears that shamanic practices, like paleo diet, may qualify as evolutionary medicine, that is, the medicine to which humans are naturally adapted.

Source: Primal Wisdom

The Drugs Won’t Work if you Don’t Believe in Them

Pain really is all in the mind, according to scientists who have discovered that positive thoughts can double a painkiller’s effect while negative thoughts can cancel them out.

Researchers from Oxford, Cambridge and two German universities made their conclusions after a novel experiment examining the role of conscious thought in pain perception.

First, 22 volunteers had a pain device put on their skin that was too hot for comfort.

Each then had an intravenous line attached to deliver a powerful opiate-based painkiller.

The volunteers were asked to rate the pain before any painkiller was introduced. The average score, from 0 to 100, was 66.

Then the researchers started providing the painkiller, without telling the volunteers they had done so. The average score dropped to 55.

But when the scientists told them they had started administering the painkiller the score dropped again to 39.

When they said they had stopped providing the painkiller, the score rose to 64 – even though the opiate was still flowing.

At the same time the volunteers’ brain activity was monitored using MRI scans. These showed their brains’ pain networks were more active when they thought the drug was not being administered, while ‘positive’ thoughts that the painkiller was flowing inhibited such activity.

Professor Irene Tracey of the Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain at Oxford University, who led the research, said: “Doctors shouldn’t underestimate the significant influence that patients’ negative expectations can have on outcome.

“For example, people with chronic pain will often have seen many doctors and tried many drugs that haven’t worked for them.

“They come to see the clinician with all this negative experience, not expecting to receive anything that will work for them.

“Doctors have almost got to work on that first before any drug will have an effect on their pain.”

The research is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Stephen Adams
The Telegraph, UK

To Talk With Aliens, Learn to Speak With Dolphins

The Kepler Space Telescope announced a new bonanza of distant planets this month, reconfirming that solar systems, some possibly hosting life, are common in the universe.

So if humanity someday arrives at an extraterrestrial cocktail party, will we be ready to mingle? At the Wild Dolphin Project in Jupiter, Florida, researchers train for contact by trying to talk with dolphins.

Behavioral biologist Denise Herzing started studying free-ranging spotted dolphins in the Bahamas more than two decades ago. Over the years, she noticed some dolphins seeking human company, seemingly out of curiosity.

“We thought, ‘This is fascinating, let’s see if we can take it further,’” Herzing said. “Many studies communicate with dolphins, especially in captivity, using fish as a reward. But it’s rare to ask dolphins to communicate with us.”

Dolphins have large, sophisticated brains, elaborately developed in the areas linked to higher-order thinking. They have a complex social structure, form alliances, share duties and display personalities. Put a mirror in their tank and they can recognize themselves, indicating a sense of self.

When trained, they have a remarkable capacity to pick up language. At the Dolphin Institute in Hawaii, Louis Herman and his team taught dolphins hundreds of words using gestures and symbols. Dolphins, they found, could understand the difference between statements and questions, concepts like “none” or “absent,” and that changing word order changes the meaning of a sentence. Essentially, they get syntax.

Some tantalizing studies even suggest dolphins share their own language (see “Easier Language Through Math”). All are qualities we’d hope to see in an alien, and no daydream of contact is complete without some attempt at communication. Yet with dolphins, our attempts have involved teaching them to speak our language, rather than meeting in the middle.

Easier Language Through Math
Laurance Doyle of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, also studies animal communication in preparation for extraterrestrial contact. Doyle uses information theory — a branch of math that analyzes the structure and relationships of information — to analyze radio signals, hoping to better detect intelligence in space.

“Information theory is an example of an intelligence filter we can use to sift the signals we get from space,” Doyle said. “Otherwise, we might miss them.”

Using information theory it’s possible to separate binary code from random 0s and 1s, for examples. By analyzing dolphin sounds, it’s possible to know that adults send information when they whistle, but not babies. Like human babies, they just babble until they’ve learned language. Information theory also shows that humpback whales have rules of grammar and syntax.

“At SETI meetings we always ask ‘Are we alone?’” Doyle said. “No, we’re not alone. There are many animals communicating right here that we don’t understand.”

Doyle is interested in applying information theory to bees. Social bees are capable of complex group decisions, it seems, but their intelligence is a product of the hive. He also plans to study the communication between trees, because they share information about pests and threats via chemicals.

“Who knows? Brains might not be necessary,” Doyle said.

Herzing created an open-ended framework for communication, using sounds, symbols and props to interact with the dolphins. The goal was to create a shared, primitive language that would allow dolphins and humans to ask for props, such as balls or scarves.

Divers demonstrated the system by pressing keys on a large submerged keyboard. Other humans would throw them the corresponding prop. In addition to being labeled with a symbol, each key was paired with a whistle that dolphins could mimic. A dolphin could ask for a toy either by pushing the key with her nose, or whistling.

Herzing’s study is the first of its kind. No one has tried to establish two-way communication in the wild.

“This is an authentic way to approach this, she’s not imposing herself on them,” said Lori Marino, the Emory University biologist who, with Hunter College psychologist Diana Reiss, pioneered dolphin self-recognition studies. “She’s cultivated a relationship with these dolphins over a very long time and it’s entirely on their terms. I think this is the future of working with dolphins.”

For each session, the researchers played with the dolphins for about half-an-hour, for a total of roughly 40 hours over the course of three years. They reported their findings of this pilot study in the December issue of Acta Astronautica.

Herzing’s team found that six dolphins, all young females, were interested in the game, and would come to play when the game was on. Young males were typically less social and less interested in humans. “This is when the females have a lot of play time,” Herzing said, “before they are busy being mothers.”

To Herzing’s surprise, some of her spotted dolphins recruited bottlenose dolphins, another species, to the game. This shows their natural curiosity, Herzing said. In the wild, dolphins communicate across cetacean species lines, coordinating hunting with other dolphins and even sharing babysitting duties.

Herzing found the study sessions were most successful when, before playing, the humans and dolphins swam together slowly and in synchrony, mimicked each other and made eye contact. These are signs of good etiquette among dolphins. Humans also signal their interest in someone with eye contact and similar body language. Perhaps these are universal — and extraterrestrial — signs of good manners.

Before we hope to understand extraterrestrials, then, perhaps we should practice with smart animals right here on Earth. Astronomer Laurance Doyle of the SETI Institute was struck by this thought at a recent conference.

“From the way the presenter was speaking, I thought he was going to announce that he had found a signal of extraterrestrial intelligence,” Doyle said. “We’ve been waiting for this for years, but I thought, ‘We’re not ready!’  We can’t even speak to the intelligent animals on Earth.”

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/seti-dolphins/

What Are Afformations?

Editors note: Afformations and “The Secret” are nothing more than recycled new age biblical beliefs of prayer as noted from the quotation below.

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Is 55:11 KJV)

“Afformations: Subconscious Mind Power”

“Afformations are empowering questions (NOT “affirmations”) that immediately change your subconscious thought patterns from negative to positive. The staggering realization I made was that you create your reality in two ways: by the statements you say to yourself and others, and by the questions you ask yourself and others. Traditional success teachers have focused a great deal of energy telling you to change your statements; no one had fully realized, or shown how to harness, the awesome power of what happens when you change the questions.

Your mind has an Automatic Search Function, which means that when you ask yourself a question, your mind automatically begins to Search for an answer. (Psychologists have referred to this function of the human brain as the “embedded presupposition factor.”) Even as far back as Biblical times, we’ve been reminded, “You have not because you ask not,” and “Ask and you shall receive.” If you only change the statements you say without changing the questions you ask, you’re missing out on one of the easiest, yet most powerful ways to change your life that’s ever been discovered.

The 4 Steps to Create Afformations That Can Change Your Life:

Step 1: Ask yourself what you want. You’ve probably done this step before. In Step 1, you can use goals you’ve previously written, or start from scratch. You decide. Please note that traditional success literature stops right here! They told us to “set your goals”, and then say “affirmations” that attempt to convince your brain that you will have what you want… sometime. For example, in Step 1, you might decide that your goal is to be happy, healthy and wealthy (hard to imagine anyone NOT wanting those things). So, you would write: “I want to be happy, healthy and wealthy.” Now we go to the breakthrough step…

Step 2: Form a QUESTION that assumes that What You Want is already true. In Step 2, you ask a question that assumes that what you want is already so, has already happened, or is already true. This is the key to creating Afformations that can change your life. Your Life is a reflection of the unconscious assumptions you make about life and your relationship to it. If you could find a mechanism that could record your subconscious thought-seeds and play them back to you, they might sound something like this: “Why am I so broke? Why don’t I have enough? Why aren’t I more successful?”, and so forth. Well, a mechanism does exist that records and reflects your subconscious thought-seeds – that mechanism is called Your Life! This is the fastest, most effective way I’ve ever seen to immediately change the quality of your communication with the world inside of you the world outside of you. Using our example above, you would ask yourself, “Why am I so happy, healthy and wealthy?”

Step 3: Give yourself to the question. The point of Afformations does not lie in finding “the answer”, but in asking better questions. When you ask better questions, your mind will automatically focus on things you’ve probably never focused on before. When you do this, the results will amaze you. Let’s say you want to find a new restaurant in your city. You go to Google and type “restaurants” and the city you’re in. What you’re really doing is asking a question you don’t know the answer to, yet. It’s the same with Afformations. You do not need to know, for example, why you are rich. You do, however, need to ASK why you are rich. Why? Because asking that kind of empowering question automatically focuses your mind on what you HAVE vs. what you LACK. Once you ask a question of your mind, whether you know it or not, your mind automatically starts to Search for the answer without your conscious volition. Which brings us to the fourth essential step of The Afformations Method – the final one you MUST do if you want this method to work for you…

Step 4: Take new ACTIONS based on your new assumptions about life. You are, right now, making hundreds, perhaps thousands of unconscious assumptions about life and your relationship to it. These assumptions form the basis of how you go through life – positively or negatively, with confidence or shyness, from lack or from enough, from Love or from Fear. For instance, if you assume that life is for you, you will naturally take actions based on the belief that “things will work out for the best” – and your results will naturally follow. If you assume that life is against you, however, then your actions will be hesitant, based on fear and “why bother” – and your results will naturally follow.

The Afformation Method makes conscious and clear that which has, until now, been only subconscious and hidden. For example, a confident person will have an easier time in life, whether building relationships or building a business. Traditional teachers told us that we should “be confident”. But where does the behavior of confidence really come from? It comes from your hidden, subconscious assumptions about how life is going to treat you.

The point of The Afformation Method is not to find “the answer” to your questions. The point is to change what your mind automatically FOCUSES ON. Since you are now going to FORM positive questions that assume that what you want is already true, your mind has no choice but to find a way to make it so. Can you see how this process must, by definition, change your life? I know of no other method that can yield such dramatic results with so little effort. Using Afformations, you can take direct, conscious control of your subconscious thoughts – change the questions, change your results, and change your life.”

by Noah St. John, Ph.D. @ http://www.SuccessClinic.com

Puma Punku, truly startles the imagination.

It seems to be the remains of a great wharf (for Lake Titicaca long ago lapped upon the shores of Tiahuanaco) and a massive, four-part, now collapsed building. One of the construction blocks from which the pier was fashioned weighs an estimated 440 tons (equal to nearly 600 full-size cars) and several other blocks laying about are between 100 and 150 tons.

The quarry for these giant blocks was on the western shore of Titicaca, some ten miles away. There is no known technology in all the ancient world that could have transported stones of such massive weight and size. The Andean people of 500 AD, with their simple reed boats, could certainly not have moved them. Even today, with all the modern advances in engineering and mathematics, we could not fashion such a structure.

Just out of the aerial picture (right) to the bottom left is the site of the Puma Punku. This is another ‘temple area’ with many finely cut stones some weighing over 100 tonnes. Its position to the south of the Akapana may have been important because it gave a good view to a sacred mountain far to the east.

How were these monstrous stones moved and what was their purpose?
Posnansky suggested an answer, based upon his studies of the astronomical alignments of Tiahuanaco, but that answer is considered so controversial, even impossible, that it has been ignored and censured by the scientific community for fifty years.

Carved stone block at Puma Punku. This precision-made 6 mm wide groove contains equidistant, drilled holes. It seems impossible that this cuts were made with use of stone or copper tools.

Puma Punku doesn’t look impressive: a hill as remains of an old pyramid and a large number of megalithic block of stone on the ground, evidently smashed by a devastating earthquake. However, closer inspection shows that these stone blocks have been fabricated with a very advanced technology. Even more surprising is the technical design of these blocks shown in the drawing below. All blocks fit together like interlocking building blocks.

This stone technology plainly contradicts what official archaeology suggests about the general state of development of the ancient peoples of South-America.

The architectural achievements seen at Pumapunku are striking in light of the presumed level of technological capability available during its construction. Due to the monumental proportions of the stones, the method by which they were transported to Pumapunku has been a topic of interest since the temple’s discovery.  The largest of these stone blocks is 7.81 meters long, 5.17 meters wide, averages 1.07 meters thick, and is estimated to weigh about 131 metric tons. The second largest stone block found within the Pumapunka is 7.90 meters long, 2.50 meters wide, and averages 1.86 meters thick. Its weight has been estimated to be 85.21 metric tons. Both of these stone blocks are part of the Plataforma Lítica and composed of red sandstone. Based upon detailed petrographic and chemical analyses of samples from both individual stones and known quarry sites, archaeologists concluded that these and other red sandstone blocks were transported up a steep incline from a quarry near Lake Titicaca roughly 10 km away. Smaller andesite blocks that were used for stone facing and carvings came from quarries within the Copacabana Peninsula about 90 km away from and across Lake Titicaca from the Pumapunka and the rest of the Tiwanaku Site.