The experiential foundations of shamanic healing

J Med Philos. 1993 Apr;18(2):107-27. doi: 10.1093/jmp/18.2.107.


An experience-centered approach reveals empirical foundations for shamanic healing. This article is based on data derived from surveys of Chinese, Japanese, Caucasian-American, and African-American populations and participant observation of over thirty Asian shamans. Respondents reported anomalous events such as apparitions, extrasensory perceptions, contact with the dead, precognitive dreams, clairvoyance, and out-of-body experiences. Based on folk reasoning, these episodes support belief in spirits, souls, and life after death. Shamanic healers have a far greater propensity to experience anomalous events than general populations and to use their beliefs arising from these episodes to produce ceremonies that change clients' perceptions of their illnesses. Although the foundations supporting shamanism differ from those sustaining Western medicine, both traditions provide experiences that convince clients that specific procedural methods alleviate illness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Asia / ethnology
  • Black People
  • Black or African American
  • China / ethnology
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Japan / ethnology
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Mental Healing* / psychology
  • Parapsychology*
  • United States / ethnology