Understanding Shamanism

LTRP Note: For those who think that shamanism is a far cry from the contemplative mysticism being practiced in the church today and that this warning has nothing to do with Christians, think again. The realms reached are the same, and the results can be the same too.

By Nanci Des Gerlaise
(author of Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality)

Basically, shamanism is the belief system that utilizes shamans in order to make contact with the spirit world. According to the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, traditional shamanism “is where the shaman functions as healer, spiritual leader, and mediator between the spirits and people.”1

Shamanism is found in most cultures. In Western society, Native Spirituality is the main venue, but it is not confined to Native Spirituality. The New Age movement began incorporating shamanistic rituals into their own New Age spirituality:

New Agers have felt attracted to shamanism for a variety of reasons. A major factor in this attraction is that, while the shaman is a kind of mystic, the focus is on the forces of nature rather than an otherworldy mysticism. . . . Other attractions are the use of mind-altering drugs, including peyote, and the romanticized images of nature. 2

Within Native Spirituality, shamans depend heavily upon drumming, singing, dancing, and chanting in order to get spirits to enter them and to help them. What many people probably do not realize is that shamanism is very dangerous.

Photo of Chief Shoefoot, a former shaman turned believer in Christ.

Photo of Chief Shoefoot, a former shaman turned believer in Christ. (see video below)

In biblical terms, shamanism is the use of supposed spirit guides to attain spiritual power, knowledge, and healing, but the cost is ghastly, and the “dangers of shamanistic initiation”3 are many. Some of these dangers and symptoms would be identical to what happens in Kundalini, which is a dangerous and powerful energy coming from deep meditation. This list shows what can happen when demonic realms are accessed through deep meditation practices in Native Spirituality, shamanism, and the New Age movement. Shockingly, Christians are now practicing this occultic meditation through the contemplative prayer movement:

Burning hot or ice cold streams moving up the spine.
Perhaps a feeling of air bubbles or snake movement up through the body.
Pains in varying locations throughout the body.
Tension or stiffness of neck, and headaches.
Feeling of overpressure within the head.
Vibrations, unease, or cramps in legs and other parts of the body.
Fast pulse and increased metabolism.
Disturbance in the breathing—and/or heart function.
Parapsychological abilities. Light phenomena in or outside the body.
Problems with finding balance between strong sexual urges, and a wish to live in sublime purity.
Persistent anxiety or anxiety attacks, due to lack of understanding of what is going on.
Insomnia, manic high spirits or deep depression. Energy loss.
Impaired concentration and memory.
Total isolation due to inability to communicate inner experiences out.
Experiences of possession and poltergeist phenomena.4

Other dangers would include insanity and psychosis. What’s more, the use of shamanism in contemporary culture is widespread and the results are often devastating:

[S]hamanism often involves the shaman in tremendous personal suffering and pain (magically, he often ‘dies’ in the most horrible of torments) . . . it often involves the shaman in demon possession, insanity, sexual perversion, and so on.5

Such a terrifying perversion of God’s merciful ways is completely unnecessary, for Christ gives the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of love and goodness—to all who call upon His name and put their trust in Him (Romans 5:5).

Colossians 2:9-10 states the truth for Christians:

For in him [the Lord Jesus Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”

(To understand more about the contrast between Native Spirituality and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, read Nanci’s book, Muddy Waters and watch the film I’ll Never Go Back by former shaman, Chief Shoefoot. Many Christians are involved with this same kind of occult practice through the contemplative prayer movement.)

An excerpt from I’ll Never Go Back:

Notes:

1.. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1996); (taken from http://www.ankerberg.org/Articles/_PDFArchives/new-age/NA3W0801.pdf).

2. John P. Newport, The New Age Movement and the Biblical Worldview (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Co, 1998), p. 34.

3. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Ankerberg Theological Research Institute (http://www.ankerberg.org/Articles/archives-na.htm, scroll down page to section on Shamanism – 8 parts).

4. “Kundalini, Short Circuits, Risks, and Information” (http://kundalini.se/eng/engkni_1024.html).

5. John Ankerberg, John Weldon (Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, http://www.ankerberg.org/Articles/archives-na.htm) quoted from Joan Halifax, Shamanic Voices, (New York, NY: Penguin, 1979), pp. 7-27.

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