A Shaman’s View Of Mental Illness And Mood Disorders
Patrick John Coleman

Hi Patrick,

I’ve not read any of your other posts so I apologise if this contradicts those, this is my response to this post.

First of all I’d like to say, to put it mildly- I have some experience of the things you talk about and agree that a shamanic perspective sees opportunity in adversity. To sincerely say- well done for getting to what I believe is the answer to mental health- http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/08/22/shaman-sees-mental-hospital/

I read Malidoma’s book many years ago on my path- which led me to a group teaching core shamanism http://sacredtrust.org/ under the lineage of Michael Harner http://www.shamanism.org/fssinfo/harnerbio.html. Since then I’ve met several shamanic practitioners including one from Siberia.

I have a few issues with some very subtle but important details in your post. The first- calling yourself a shaman. Don’t do this Patrick- ever. Firstly- it’s disrespectful to indigenous ancestors who were and are mostly murdered in the religion of contemporary society. A person’s abilities are measured by the healing that takes place, not on their titles. Secondly- it clearly infers that you are the healer, when you’re not. As a shamanic practitioner, you act as a conduit, as an intermediary for the healing to occur. Calling yourself a shaman is disrespectful to the spirits because it suggests you’re doing the healing, which you are not- they are- you’re simply inviting it in, to take place. Indigenous or not, if the spirits aren’t willing, the healing won’t happen, shamanic practitioners can only work in partnership and sometimes they can’t work at all. If you must- call yourself a shamanic practitioner- clearly inferring that you work with these spirits and energies, instead of claiming responsibility. The philosophy is to make yourself a hollow bone, through which healing can happen. Statements like “This is what a shaman does”, don’t write things like that Patrick- you make yourself a spokesperson for those that would never say such a thing and you make a false prophet out of yourself. You should never tell people what to do, the message lies in description, not prescription.

The second point is highlighted in Malidoma’s essay above- you make a clear separation and unbecoming statement when you distinguish between yourself and those “who were actually schizophrenic. They talk and interact with things and beings that aren’t there.” What do you think we do Patrick? We’re talking with things and beings that do not exist in this reality because they’re in what is termed non-ordinary reality or NOR. There is no difference between us and them other than that they have little or no framework with which to understand the information they are receiving so they’re lost down the rabbit hole. If you’re going to call yourself a healer, which personally I wouldn’t do, then I’d be more careful because you’re calling other people ill, who are just like you, in an article in which you argue that you’re not ill. That’s a major contradiction.

Thirdly, I’m genuinely sorry to hear of the difficulties you’ve suffered, but things like- “And that’s kind of the secret of all this. Your life is terrible because you have terrible people in it who are invested in your failure and they have carefully cultivvated a garden of lies and gossip that your truth could ultimately derail their nightmares for you”

No, no, no. In the context you’ve formulated- you make yourself the authority (by calling yourself a shaman) and you victimise yourself and externalise your responsibility and tell others to do the same. You chose to be born into this life and chose to suffer to transform into a person who can help other people. As Eckart Tolle says- “accept it, like you chose it”. Telling people that all their problems are because of other “terrible people” around them is harmful advice. Shamanic practitioners aren’t here to give advice, they’re here to present information that they are practised and sensitive enough to receive.

Finally to say Patrick I’ve a lot of respect for you and the journey you’ve been through, of course I don’t know you or pretend to but, I’ve been on a path with significant similarities and it’s extraordinarily hard for a good reason. I’d just say be careful, do not make yourself a spokesperson, because in shamanism there aren’t any. The spirits are all knowing, we as humans are not.

Every healer has to suffer to understand the nature of suffering. If you must call yourself anything, call yourself a shamanic practitioner. If you hear the language of experienced people- Malidoma Somé, Eckart Tolle, Michael Harner, Simon Buxton, Sandra Ingerman- they are careful with their words.

It’s important for me to hear stories of people becoming empowered- as you know- that begins in the darkness, confronting our own worst fears and nightmares, without drugs of any sort. Thanks for your writing Patrick. I apologise if I sound at all patronising, that’s not my intention.

Will in Northern England


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