Author Topic: Michael Harner and The Way of the Shaman  (Read 38607 times)

A.R.

  • Guest
Michael Harner and The Way of the Shaman
« on: April 04, 2007, 12:40:35 am »
In another thread Educatedindian wrote:

Quote
While I agree very much with networking on similar issues, I've never cared much for the idea of trying to find similarities between very different traditions. It's too easily transformed into the pseudo shamanism ideas of people like Michael Harner, that it's OK to exploit any tribal tradition because somehow they're really all the same.

It is some years ago now, that I read the book The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner, and was actually totally horrified.
Called it mutant, Frankenstein form of shamanism.
Now I read, that he does workshops called: "Core Shamanism"

Personally I don't think that there is anything wrong in finding similarities between different traditions per se, but the problem I found with Michael Harner's approach, was that at the very core of it IS "Western thought", or "Western model for Reality" or "Western Reality Orientation" (of which I've spoken earlier).   
What Michael Harner then does, is to pin outer "Shamanic" expressions and practices onto that "Core Grammar of the Western Thought", in a manner that can be likened to that of  decorating a Christmas Tree. 
Hence the quotations and the beliefs expressed in his book become terribly distorted.

Could have picked the book to pieces, pointing out these distortions from almost every page, but didn't want to get into it, wanted to push that book right out of my mind as it was just too sick to dwell on any further.   
There is a huge difference whether you are describing "shamanic" anything  from the viewpoint of the insider of that tradition to  the explanations of an outsider-looking-in .....


In The Regional Conference on Circumpolar and Northern Religions & Shamanism held in Helsinki, Finland 1990.... Sandra Harner was also a guest speaker.
Michael Harner's take on "shamanic drumming" was a study of the emotional and psychological effects "shamanic" drumming had on his study subjects:

Excerpt from Harner's speech:

"Each participant using his or her own tape recorder and player with earphones and Dolby sound reduction made a journey to the accompaniment of taped drumming (Harner 1980b:Side A, a steady regular beat at the rate of about 257 beats per minute) for twenty-seven minutes (cf. Harner 1988a) with the express purpose of activating the immune response. Saliva samples were collected in sterile plastic cups with lids, labelled, and immediately refrigerated. Participants also completed Speilberger's State Trait Anxiety Inventory, STAI, (State version only) and Schlosser's Well-Being Scale WBS-58. WBS-58 is a preliminary, refined version of WBS-36. Filler items in WBS-36 were omitted in accordance with Schlosser's proposal (Schlosser 1990: 137) as were three items not appropriate to current state and 35 new items added".

Many people have been "taken" in by Harner, Buryats and Finno-Ugric academics alike, thinking of him as a person helping in "Shamanic revival".  And I suppose there are no problems, people taking "saliva samples" what not,  but when the near universal (Harner's words) techniques and methods of shamanism are practiced without traditional cultural  perspective, then very core essence of these so called "shamanic techniques" is ignored and arrogantly bypassed.

Nothing "shamanic" can even be attempted without the full inner comprehension of the Traditional Cultural Core Cosmological Shamanic Worldview.

So if the Traditional Cultural Core Perspectives are ignored, how can Harner possibly be aiding in preserving "Shamanism".

A.R.



Offline Jallan

  • Posts: 7
Michael Harner
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2011, 01:54:50 pm »
Hi guys, this is going to be my first post on this forum so....

I have recently decided to order Harner's book "The Way of the Shaman" but apparently there's been a lot of criticism on his work on this forum. I seem to be unable to post in the "frauds" section of the forum so I'll ask here. How big a fraud is this man? After all if the practical aspects of what he describes work (I'm referring specifically to journeying and the like) then it isn't a complete waste of money is it? Are there at least some useful things to be found in his book? I want to make sure I'm not just wasting money, paper and energy here. But in the end, practical experience beats any book.

thanks.

Offline Defend the Sacred

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 3426
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2011, 03:31:49 pm »
If you go to the main page and search on "Harner" or "Michael Harner" or "Core Shamanism", many threads will come up.

Main threads and info on Harner: "Core Shamanism" http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php?topic=236.0
(the links in the first post are down, but accessible via the Wayback Machine. Links updated further down the thread)

The Michael Harner foundation "Foundation for Shamanic Studies" http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php?topic=1295.0
   
Harner's Foundation Becoming a Cult? http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php?topic=161.0

Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2011, 03:44:44 pm »
Hi guys, this is going to be my first post on this forum so....

I have recently decided to order Harner's book "The Way of the Shaman" but apparently there's been a lot of criticism on his work on this forum. I seem to be unable to post in the "frauds" section of the forum so I'll ask here. How big a fraud is this man? After all if the practical aspects of what he describes work (I'm referring specifically to journeying and the like) then it isn't a complete waste of money is it? Are there at least some useful things to be found in his book? I want to make sure I'm not just wasting money, paper and energy here. But in the end, practical experience beats any book.

thanks.

Hi,

I understand what you're saying, regarding there might be something true or
of value in his books, which make it not a complete waste of time.

Thing is, all frauds/fakes use a bit of truth. The best lies are founded on a
very small bit of truth. It doesn't make it better or worthwhile to pursue.


press the little black on silver arrow Music, 1) Bob Pietkivitch Buddha Feet http://www.4shared.com/file/114179563/3697e436/BuddhaFeet.html

Offline educatedindian

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 4638
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2011, 05:14:15 pm »
I'm not certain what you mean by practical. If you mean does it have accurate information, the answer is no. It's so general and generic as to be useless. Academics don't use his work. It's impossible to accurately or even respectfully condense thousands of traditions into one book.

If by practical you mean can it help you find a spiritual path, again, how could an inaccurate work possibly do that? I always recommend people look first to the traditions of their ancestors. If you use the search button at top, look for threads like Alternatives to Nuage, NAFPS HIghly Recommends, For Those With Recently Discovered Indian Ancestry, and the like.

Offline Jallan

  • Posts: 7
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2011, 08:30:42 pm »
What I intend to do with this book is take only what is useful. What I mean by practical information is information that is practically applicable and useful. After all, if it is just his journeying methods that work well for me, it immediately becomes something of value does it not?

Apart from that I study the ways of my ancestors, but comparatively little is known about these ways (celtic and germanic) that isn't new-age flowerpower bullshit. I am currently reading Eliade's book on shamanism (he is supposed to have had "fascist" ties but I see no evidence of this yet, it seems to me simply an academic work and he appears respectful towards the things he describes) and believe in the idea of a collective consciousness. There are many phenomena that appear universal among religions and traditions, but of course they can not all be thrown on the same pile, and must certainly not be exploited and marketed. I had expected Harner's book to be an analysis of this collective consciousness in shamanistic practices and that it would provide some practical techniques, from which I can build on myself. I'm sure there will be useless material in there, but I will take what is useful, and I have people close to me who can help me. I expect no book will be able to match practical experience here, and of course studying with an indigenous shaman, for which I will be spending some time in the mountains of Nepal this coming summer.

I was just wondering if any of you had read the book and could tell me if there was anything worthwhile in there (especially for someone who is new to this). I suppose the best thing to do is to simply read the book and make my own judgment.

Offline Laurel

  • Posts: 139
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2011, 09:44:33 pm »
What I intend to do with this book is take only what is useful. What I mean by practical information is information that is practically applicable and useful. After all, if it is just his journeying methods that work well for me, it immediately becomes something of value does it not?

No, Jallan, it does not. If I stole money from you and bought something very helpful to me with that money, it wouldn't be OK because it helped me, would it?

Apart from that I study the ways of my ancestors, but comparatively little is known about these ways (celtic and germanic) that isn't new-age flowerpower bullshit. I am currently reading Eliade's book on shamanism (he is supposed to have had "fascist" ties but I see no evidence of this yet, it seems to me simply an academic work and he appears respectful towards the things he describes) and believe in the idea of a collective consciousness. There are many phenomena that appear universal among religions and traditions, but of course they can not all be thrown on the same pile, and must certainly not be exploited and marketed. I had expected Harner's book to be an analysis of this collective consciousness in shamanistic practices and that it would provide some practical techniques, from which I can build on myself. I'm sure there will be useless material in there, but I will take what is useful,

When we "take" from those who never gave to us, we're stealing. Period. If there are phenomena that are the same across all religions, then we should learn/experience these phenomena from a religion that wishes to share them with us, not one that wishes to keep its ways for its people.

and I have people close to me who can help me. I expect no book will be able to match practical experience here, and of course studying with an indigenous shaman, for which I will be spending some time in the mountains of Nepal this coming summer.

Wow.

I was just wondering if any of you had read the book and could tell me if there was anything worthwhile in there (especially for someone who is new to this). I suppose the best thing to do is to simply read the book and make my own judgment.

Or you could open your mind and listen to people who know more about this than Harner does, or than you do. It's a simple matter of respect. These ways were not given to you or to me or to Harner to "take what we can use" as we will. That's...um...kind of the point of this message board.

Offline Defend the Sacred

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 3426
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2011, 09:47:29 pm »
Jallan, if you're trying to connect with the ways of the Celtic and Germanic ancestors, you won't find your way there via Harner's fantasies about Native Americans. You also won't find your ancestors on a mountain in Nepal. Look to the living cultures - the folk practices, songs, prayers, poems and beliefs that still live in the languages of the individual Celtic or Germanic cultures. (Note the plural there. Multiple cultures under each of those liguistic/cultural umbrellas.) If it's not enough for you that some of these earth-honoring, polytheistic, ancestor-revering ways survived alongside Christianity, and you need to be certain something is pre-Christian and written down (because, well, anyone who was alive before Christianity isn't here now, and if you are distrustful of the conservative oral tradition you're going to be relying on vellum manuscripts) look to the materials that were written down in the native languages, in the time period in question, when writing first came to those lands. You will have to learn the older dialects and written forms of the languages, if you don't know them already. I am going to take a leap here and assume you don't know the languages, otherwise I don't think you'd be asking this question. If you like, I can refer you to some good language-study programs.  It's more work than imitating Harner et al's outsider fantasies of NDNs, or dabbling in other newage workshop experiences, but I think you'll find it more rewarding.  :)

As for traveling to lands where your ancestors are not from and doing pay-to-pray with "shamans". You might want to search from the main page on "spiritual tourism". The spiritual traditions and lifeways are particular to specific lands, specific cultures, specific spirits. Harner's mistake was to think these things can be wrenched out of cultural context, outside of a traditional system of training and the necessary checks and balances needed to keep people sane. Without that context it usually veers quickly into fantasy and illusion.  

Many of us here have read Harner and Eliade. I read "Way of the Shaman" when it first came out, and Eliade's work around the same time. Still have the books around here somewhere (probably in a box in the basement). My conclusions about him are based on reading his work, and seeing what their work has spawned in the decades since they first published.

Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2011, 12:25:06 am »
You can't just pick and choose what is useful. There's no such thing as that.  If you're choosing a particular religion/belief to follow then you have to learn from within that, and it's not about what "you" think/feel/believe is useful or not. I mean, how on Earth could you possibly know what is "useful"?
press the little black on silver arrow Music, 1) Bob Pietkivitch Buddha Feet http://www.4shared.com/file/114179563/3697e436/BuddhaFeet.html

Offline Jallan

  • Posts: 7
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2011, 07:06:15 am »
You can't just pick and choose what is useful. There's no such thing as that.  If you're choosing a particular religion/belief to follow then you have to learn from within that, and it's not about what "you" think/feel/believe is useful or not. I mean, how on Earth could you possibly know what is "useful"?

Yes, I know what you mean, but what I mean is that the small bit of truth I can find in the book could still be useful, if I can cut through the bullshit. (In reality Im probably just trying to convince myself I haven't wasted money here lol)

Anyway, thanks for all the comments, they're very helpful.

Offline czech

  • Posts: 77
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2011, 09:19:46 am »
Quote
I want to make sure I'm not just wasting money, paper and energy here.

Quote
what I mean is that the small bit of truth I can find in the book could still be useful, if I can cut through the bullshit. (In reality Im probably just trying to convince myself I haven't wasted money here lol)

If the purchase of that book has led you to this forum, you can find plenty of truth here. You haven't wasted money or energy. In the future, perhaps you will not waste paper (or fuel), either.

Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2011, 01:52:38 pm »

Yes, I know what you mean, but what I mean is that the small bit of truth I can find in the book could still be useful, if I can cut through the bullshit. (In reality Im probably just trying to convince myself I haven't wasted money here lol)

Anyway, thanks for all the comments, they're very helpful.

I know what you mean, what I'm saying is that if you're trying to learn then you know nothing of the belief
system you are trying to learn and so there's no possible way for you to know what is true. And why muddy
your endeavor by reading material that has been ousted as fraudulent? It's not real, so there's nothing to
learn, only confusion. Put it down and take up Kathryn's advice, learn for real.
press the little black on silver arrow Music, 1) Bob Pietkivitch Buddha Feet http://www.4shared.com/file/114179563/3697e436/BuddhaFeet.html

Offline Jallan

  • Posts: 7
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2011, 04:15:20 pm »
Thanks all for your replies, you make valid points.

As for the jankhri in Nepal, I will be learning from him next to doing volunteering so it's not exactly "tourism" as my primary objective is to help those less fortunate in the village but I realise that adopting and performing his rituals in my native land would be meaningless.

Offline Jallan

  • Posts: 7
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2011, 04:36:47 pm »
Quote
I am going to take a leap here and assume you don't know the languages, otherwise I don't think you'd be asking this question. If you like, I can refer you to some good language-study programs.  It's more work than imitating Harner et al's outsider fantasies of NDNs, or dabbling in other newage workshop experiences, but I think you'll find it more rewarding.  :)

I am studying Irish language actually. I speak Dutch and English and some German. I have read the Eddas (prose and poetic) and Irish mythology, but due to the fact that there are often some christian elements present in these texts, I tend towards looking at traditions that seem "uncorrupted" first. I was simply hoping to find some kind of "basics" here from which I could rediscover the traditions of my own ancestors, but perhaps I am looking in the wrong places.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2019, 06:53:19 pm by Defend the Sacred »

Offline debbieredbear

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1485
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
Re: Michael Harner
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2011, 05:49:01 pm »
One thing I have learned is that much of the traditions are retained in the culture, even when Christianized. If you take for example the Carmina Gadelica, and change the Christian words to older Gods/Goddesses, you get a feeling for it. In fact, one Christian friend said the Carmina was TOO pagan. LOL!