Here’s an exercise to begin: bring to mind someone who you might call a ‘shaman’. What do they look like?
It’s an incredibly broad term. Every continent has cultures with its own shamans. There are good odds, though, that you imagined a man clad in wolf pelt, dancing and chanting around a fire.
Of course, there is a lot more to shamanism than this. But even this iconic image in our minds tells us a lot. Before you dismiss these as primitive religions born from ignorance, take a moment to ask what they got right.
It turns out, there’s a lot of psychology in that scene. And human nature hasn’t changed, so that psychology is still relevant today.
How many ancient spiritual practices involve fire? Fire matters to humans.
It provided warmth and light during the cold, dark childhood of our species. A roaring campfire scared away predators and scavengers. More importantly, cooked food is easier to digest – without fire, we couldn’t have the calories to fuel our mighty brains.
Fire is a force of nature that we harnessed – the first technological revolution. It provides food, protection and light in dark places. No wonder humans worship it.
A campfire is beautiful. The flickering flames are hypnotic. (My pet theory is that humans evolved to be hypnotised by fire. That way we’d become fixated on it and nurture it when the flames burned low.)
Think of how often our ancestors built fires. Staring into flames alters your conscious experience – something shamans know all too well. We share this unconscious eagerness to enter a different state. But how many of us gaze at burning logs every night?
Are we, as modern citizens, living in a world without hypnotic stimuli? Hardly. Think of an activity that absorbs your full attention, dissociates you from your body and creates time distortion. I just described meditation and engaging hobbies. I also described watching TV, browsing Facebook and playing video games.
Only meditation and fire don’t contain ads. Ever wonder why advertisements earn such good money? In a strange way, we’ve replaced rituals meant to guide and heal us with shallow, corporate-sponsored entertainment.
The moral is to be careful where you place your attention. Shamans use fire to put you (and them) in an altered mental state. From there, their rituals foster group cohesion, create experiences that feel mystical and encourage healing. Hypnosis is a power over ourselves, built into the human brain. If you don’t use it, someone else will. I just hope that they, like a tribe’s shaman, have your best interests at heart.
If you’re curious or concerned about how all this works, then learn self-hypnosis. After all, the best way to understand a punch is by learning martial arts. With my eBook, you will see just how easy it is to be hypnotised – and how easy it is to take back control.
Grab this modern take on a proven, ancient idea here: