Started in 1979 as the Center for Shamanic Studies, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies presents the world’s foremost training programs in shamanism and shamanic healing. They are based on the pioneering work of anthropologist Michael Harner, who brought shamanism to contemporary life in the West after extensive field and cross-cultural investigation, experimentation, and personal practice. He originated, researched, and developed core shamanism, a system designed for Westerners to apply shamanism and shamanic healing successfully to their daily lives. This system is based upon the underlying universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism—together with journeys to other worlds—rather than upon culture-specific variations and elaborations.
Since the West overwhelmingly lost its shamanic knowledge centuries ago due to religious oppression, the Foundation’s programs in core shamanism are particularly intended for Westerners to reacquire access to their rightful spiritual heritage through quality workshops and training courses. Training in core shamanism includes teaching students to alter their consciousness through classic shamanic non-drug techniques such as sonic driving, especially in the form of repetitive drumming, so that they can discover their own hidden spiritual resources, transform their lives, and learn how to help others. Core shamanism does not focus on ceremonies, such as those of Native American medicine men and women, persons who do both shamanism and ceremonial work.
When invited by indigenous peoples who have largely lost their shamanic knowledge, the Foundation may send a team to help them establish firsthand shamanic contact with their own spirits and learn from them. With this work done in short time, the team leaves. The Foundation has done this by invitation in various parts of the world, including the Arctic of Eurasia and Canada, and in central Asia.
Where the survival of indigenous shamanism is threatened by outside forces such as religious and political persecution, the Foundation may designate elderly shamans as Living Treasures of Shamanism and provide lifetime stipends to help them pass their precious knowledge on to their peoples.
The Foundation also maintains a great archive, the Shamanic Knowledge Conservatory, containing irreplaceable documents, books, audio-visual media, and artifacts to preserve endangered shamanic knowledge for future generations.
Income from donations, workshops, and other activities of the Foundation help support these and other projects of the Foundation, which is a nonprofit public charitable and educational organization.
Michael James Harner (April 27, 1929 – February 3, 2018) was an anthropologist, educator and author. His 1980 book, The Way of the Shaman: a Guide to Power and Healing, has been foundational in the development and popularization of Core Shamanism as a path of personal development for adherents of neoshamanism. He also founded the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
Harner was born in Washington, D.C. in 1929. He initially worked in the field of archaeology, including studying the Lower Colorado River area. As a graduate student in 1956-57 he undertook field research on the culture of the Jívaro (Shuar) people of the Ecuadorian Amazon and began to pursue a career as an ethnologist. His doctoral dissertation, "Machetes, Shotguns, and Society: An Inquiry into the Social Impact of Technological Change among the Jivaro Indians" (U California-Berkeley 1963), became the basis for his book, The Jívaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls.
In 1960-61 he experimented with the Amazonian plant medicine ayahuasca with the Conibo people of the Peruvian Amazon, which he wrote about in the articles "The Sound of Rushing Water" (1968) and "The Role of Hallucinogenic Plants in European Witchcraft" (1973). Harner returned to the Jívaro in 1964, 1969, and 1973 where he learned the use of the entheogenmaikua (Datura brugmansia).
In 1983, Harner founded the Center for Shamanic Studies, which is today known as the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. In 1987 Harner left academia to devote himself full-time to the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. Walsh and Grob note in their book, Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics, "Michael Harner is widely acknowledged as the world's foremost authority on shamanism and has had an enormous influence on both the academic and lay worlds.... What Yogananda did for Hinduism and D. T. Suzuki did for Zen, Michael Harner has done for shamanism, namely bring the tradition and its richness to Western awareness."
After traveling to the Amazon where he ingested the hallucinogen ayahuasca, Harner began experimenting with monotonous drumming. In the early 1970s he started giving training workshops to small groups in Connecticut. In 1979 he founded the Center for Shamanic Studies in Norwalk, Connecticut. In 1980, Harner published The Way of the Shaman: a Guide to Power and Healing. Students in the United States and Europe began to take his classes in what he was now calling "core shamanism" (as differenced from traditional, Evenkshamanism, or other indigenous and historical practices that have been referred to as "shamanism" in anthropological texts).
Anthropologist Joan Townsend has distinguished Harner's core shamanism from neoshamanism. However, most authors in the field, especially Harner's critics, consider Harner's core shamanism to be the primary influence on, and foundation of, the Neoshamanic movement.
Harner later integrated his Center for Shamanic Studies into the nonprofit Foundation for Shamanic Studies. The Foundation received financial support primarily from the Core Shamanism courses and workshops he taught, supplemented by private donations. From the early 1980s onward, he invited a few of his students to join an international faculty to reach an ever-wider market. In 1987, Harner resigned his professorship to devote himself full-time to the work of the foundation. He largely ceased publishing, except for occasional articles in the publication "Shamanism."
^E.g., Kroeber, A.L., and Michael J. Harner. (1955) "Mohave Pottery", Anthropological Records, Berkeley: University of California.
^ abcdWallis, Robert J. (2003). Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Ecstasies, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415302036.
^Harner, Michael J. (1972) The Jívaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls. New York: Natural History Press. Second edition 1984, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
^Harner, Michael J. (1968) "The Sound of Rushing Water." Natural History 77(6).
^Harner, Michael J., ed. and contributor (1973) Hallucinogens and Shamanism. New York and London: Oxford University Press. OL5702197M
^Haviland, William A., Harald E. L. Prins, Bunny McBride and Dana Walrath (2013). Anthropologists of Note: Michael J. Harner. Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge (14th ed., p. 307). Belmont: Wadsworth. ISBN 978-1-133-95597-9.
^Walsh, Roger, and Charles S. Grob, eds. (2005) Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics, pp. 159, 160. State University of New York Press. Albany.
^Harner, Michael (2005) "The History and Work of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies," Shamanism 18: 1&2, p. 7.
^Townsend, Joan B. (2004) "Individualist Religious Movements: Core and Neo-shamanism" Anthropology of Consciousness vol. 15(1), pp. 1-9. doi:10.1525/ac.2004.15.1.1
^Hobson, G. "The Rise of the White Shaman as a New Version of Cultural Imperialism." in: Hobson, Gary, ed. The Remembered Earth. Albuquerque, NM: Red Earth Press; 1978: 100-108.
^Aldred, Lisa, "Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality" in: The American Indian Quarterly issn.24.3 (2000) pp.329-352. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
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