International Journal of Transpersonal Studies




This article reviews the origins of the concept of the shaman and the principal sources of

controversy regarding the existence and nature of shamanism. Confusion regarding the

nature of shamanism is clarified with a review of research providing empirical support for a

cross-cultural concept of shamans that distinguishes them from related shamanistic healers.

The common shamanistic universals involving altered states of consciousness are examined

from psychobiological perspectives to illustrate shamanism’s relationships to human nature.

Common biological aspects of altered states of consciousness help explain the origins of

shamanism while social influences on this aspect of human nature help to explain the

diverse manifestations of shamanistic phenomena involving an elicitation of endogenous

healing responses.

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Creative Commons License
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