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At the outset, Walsh sets four goals for this book 1) introduce shamanic practices; 2) examine them using modern research techniques; 3) evaluate shamanic claims; 4) provide an historic overview. Essentially, this book is a psychology text focused on shamanism.

 

The reader is never quite certain whether Walsh is a believer in shamanism or not, he certainly does delve deeply into shamanic practices; his tone is very clinical. There is a discussion of psychology and current issues. Walsh then adds or applies some of the same conclusions to shamanism. For example, he discusses the Rorschach (ink block) test and states that this is a flawed test. Confusingly he then discusses studies which used this test and the exciting results. I had to wonder: If the test is flawed then aren’t the results unreliable?

 

Walsh spends three pages trying to determine whether spiritual practitioners create their experiences based on their culture or if the culture influences the experiences.  This is a typical what came first – the chicken or the egg discussion.  There is no way to determine an answer yet he spends a great deal of time on this discussion.  As he delves into this topic, he attempts to examine how the mind works, how spirituality works, psychology, and shamanism.  He speaks in general terms; however, all of these topics are dependent on the individual.

 

Part 4 Shamanic Techniques seems the ideal section to discuss in depth different practices of shamans – the how to section per se.  The reader will be disappointed if they are expecting this.  Instead Walsh presents biases of modern sciences towards shamanic practices.

 

This book is a good psychology text book.  Walsh presents and critiques psychological issues and practices.  However, he fails to present the world of shamans.  He gives only brief glimpses into what shamans actually do for their communities.  If the reader is in the psychology fields, this would be a good read.  However, if the reader is looking for in depth discussion on shamanism, they should look elsewhere.

 

~review by Eileen Troemel

 

Author: Roger Walsh

Llewellyn Publications, 2007

pp. 336, $19.95

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