The Placebo Effect & the Art of the Shaman

In the lab, Takeo couldn’t stand it anymore. The itching was driving him crazy. He watched his right arm turn red and wondered why he had decided to take part in this experiment. He knew he was allergic to poison ivy (Rhus radicans). So what was the point of re-exposing himself?

An hour later, Takeo refused to believe what Yujiro Ikemi, founder of the institute of Psychosomatic Medicine at Kyshu University in Fukuoka, Japan, was telling him. The Rghus radicans extract hadn’t been applied to his right arm (which, nevertheless had continued to swell) but his left, which was showing no symptoms.

What had made his right arm swell so much wasn’t poison ivy at all, but a harmless leaf. Takeo, like half the participants in this experiment was reacting to the idea of the allergy, not the physical reality

Are we supposed to contemplate this and whether we agree or just read it?

I don’t see this as either a placebo effect or the power of a shaman. It appears to hae something to do with the power of suggestion.

what are you saying?

maybe you can
define the difference
and explain why and how does such power evolve in the psyche
what is its survival significance

I’ve about people with MPD (now DID) who would have different bodily symptoms with different personalities. For example, one personality would have a cold and the other wouldn’t… the same for allergies and so on. That’s really weird, isn’t it?

The guy who originally wrote the OP
is a French psychiatric professor, David Servan-Schreiber
here is what he says
“So what is the placebo effect?
Everything we don’t know about the capacity of the brain to heal the body. Therein undoubtedly lies the secret of the shamans and other psychic healers. Their rituals and chants and restorative acts address the most archaic parts of the brain, those that regulate our organisms and participate in its healing”

It’s not all that “undoubted” to me. Scientists are way too limited in trying to make everything just physical.

I have always wondered why most ‘Western’ medical practitioners and researchers are, what seems to me, so blase about what they call the placebo effect. That they don’t try to enhance it with various forms of hoopla and see if they can up the percentages of positive effects.

A very simple test would be to have a control group that gets no medication, a group that gets the placebo, a group that gets whatever medication they want to test AND a group that gets a placebo that they are first told is an excellent drug that they unfortunately do not qualify for. Then later they get it.

From there they could move on to more colorful rituals.

I would agree
if he had said that “We don’t know about the capacity of “consciousness” to heal the body
perhaps by addressing the precise cells that are diseased and sending them positive reinforcement”
science would be more in line with how a shaman practices his healing art

African shamans diagnose their patient’s ailments without asking for a single symptom
(ie “where does it hurt?”)
indeed if one ever did ask a question
no ill person in Africa would visit him/her
his job is to divine the illness and the necessary cure simultaneously

During a documentary film on shaman training
I asked a Zulu shaman how he knew what was wrong with his patients
“I feel their ailment in my own body - sometimes even days before they arrive”
Now we are talking about the proper bedside manner!!!
Imagine the “miracle cures” if modern doctors took similar empathetic training

The thousands of shamans and herbalists still practicing their art around the wold
give us a clear indication
of how healing was dealt with and accomplished in the earlier Ages
prior to modern medicine

The inexplicable healing that goes on at Lourdes
while monitored by professional doctors
gives much food for thought

Yes but the fact is that one is either born a shaman or not. That is, it is, as far as tradition goes, not possible that one learns this art without being ‘called by it’, because it is not a skill, it is a gift. Shamans who carry the gift unknowingly, by the many accounts I’ve heard and read (and more than that!) and one point in their lives get confronted with their gift, which comes to them as if it is their own soul. They then face the decision of being what they are, or neglecting that. Few neglect it, of course.

So food for thought, sure, but do not expect science to catch up with this phenomenon too quickly. It is indeed not possible that this healing capacity simply resides somewhere in the brain, because then long distance or any kind of healing outside of the consciousness of the patient would be impossible.

Whereas matter is bound to energy, energy is not bound to matter. Shamanism operates at the level where energy and consciousness meet.

[size=85]Having expressed that, I want to express my appreciation of the OP, and acknowledge that the placebo effect makes use of the same capacities of consciousness to interfere directly with molecular structure. But I agree with jonquil that this potential is not necessarily embedded in the brain. For reasons mentioned - and as an indication of which we should take notice that shamans all work with a holistic view of the body, which rather sees consciousness as analogous to the structure of the body as a[/size]
microcosmos, analogous to the macrocosmos, the sum of all existing energy, which can be (is constantly) tapped when the microcosmos aligns with it. This makes it clear in turn why the most important technique of all shamans is dance. One moves to align with the ‘brainwaves’ of the cosmic mind, the pulse of the cosmic body.

An interesting parallel: Shamans are known as dragon-dancers - Nietzsche saw the world as a monster of energy, as a beast which hide is space-time.

To dance with the dragon means to transcend space time and become aware of the body of the beast, it’s flesh and blood - which is timeless energy, singular consciousness.

  • This means there is no reference, no adjective to being.

If these theorems (for which I can only take the credit of writing them down here’) are correct, then it should even be possible to overcome death. But under one condition: one has to ‘dance’ all the time. That can be tiring. Most will prefer to die.

We can imagine some people will just accept their disintegration and merger with what has always been their ‘true self’. All else is artifice. It can be beautiful, in the highest case art, in which case it refers back to the original dragon (Lacan understood that this existed as ‘the Real’) from which the properties of the personality, the incarnation, emerges.

  • Analogues of this relation are all over - the world seems to exist of nothing else. One comes to being in the moment one dances with the dragon. Those are moments where one embeds oneself into eternity, and happiness is the name we give to it.

Happiness as opposed to contentedness, which is being simply content with being the hide, which has no will but moves in gracious patterns through space time. The difference between the dancer and the dress.

I agree, magnet. Empathy is so important in healing.

True, he needs to partake in the consciousness, and transform that from within.
On the part of the patient, trust is the most important quality.

But shamanism is more than simply believing in the oneness of it all. As you both assumably know, the training of a shaman is more often than not violent and always painful. Nothing comes without a price.

The gift of the shaman-healer
is a special expression of Universal Love
and when it wells up
in fantastic dreams
and calls by ancestral spirits to heal the troubles of the tribe
the neophyte is compelled to answer

in Africa when the symptoms of the shaman appear
schizophrenia and hysteria for instance
some roar like animals when the psychic energy rises
they are automatically sent to become apprentices of the local shaman
who teaches them how to control and focus the rushing tides of energy

I believe we are all born with this Divine gift of Cosmic Love
it is embedded in the core of our being
We are all shaman initiates
in one way or another
gifted at birth
each with a special talent
that must be answered to and trained
some are medicinemen
others are musicmen
all contributing our art to the wealth and happiness
of the commonweal

the problem we all face
is self-realization
Each of us need to know
our special reason for being
and then answer that inner call
or remain frustrated

our one-sided left brain mass education system
focuses on making a business of our talents
and not on right brain love
and therefore does not fully tap into our individual talents
and allow us to be who we really are
we are trained to sell our gifts like whores on the market place
and not offer them freely for the good of all
this artificially imposed limitation on who we really want to be
is clearly apparent in a warring world
filled with angst
and every degree of
and paralysis

That was beautifully said, magnetman. I have always been partial to both the idea and the act of giving. In fact, it would suit me fine if our current economy were replaced by gifting.

I like gifting without strings attached. I am used to bartering in a rural area. But what can be done about our economies?

According to John K. Galbraith every 20-30 years you have the same problem of debt and people trying to get rich without working.

I think bartering is wonderful… and sharing… and gifting. I’m tired of the taking, grabbing, wanting more and more mentality.

I’m with you. I hate it. I can’t stand it. I want to throw up.

Thanks Magnet, your words come from a pure source.
You express a profound knowledge of shamanism. Only in the second instance are you compromised by the disempowering belief that all and everything is equal. A shaman is always a loner. He is not part of the group or collective. His purpose is to care for them, take away their burden, so they can live innocent lives.

The point you make which I think of as most important: Schizofrenics should not be put away or medicated to paralysis, but put under the care of shamans. If possible, they should be trained to control the dragon and to be shamans. We need them.

The shaman corresponds with the archetype of the Wounded Healer.

I think that’s why I’m such an inveterate escapist. I just can’t take too much reality.