Interview with Hank Wesselman (excerpts)

by Deepak Chopra PhD, 2001


- What exactly is a shaman?

All true shamans are men and women who can achieve expanded states of awareness in which they can perceive and communicate in ways not possible in our ordinary waking state of consciousness. Through training, shamans typically learn how to induce these expanded states in which they separate their conscious awareness from their physical bodies and journey into the timeless inner worlds where they encounter entities or personalities that the traditional peoples call spirits. With the assistance of compassionate spirits, shamans are then able to accomplish various things, initially on behalf of themselves, and then increasingly on behalf of others.

- What sorts of things do shamans do?

Well, that depends on what is required. In traditional cultures, shamans may work with individuals, with families, or even with whole communities. They typically journey into the inner worlds to access information from the spirits through divination, to restore power to those who have lost it, and to engage in healing work at various levels. Directed by strong altruistic motivation and furnished with their guardian spirit helpers, the shaman is a spiritual activist who is able to restore balance and harmony in those who are suffering. As practitioners of spirit medicine, their goal is to nurture and preserve the soul of the individual, facilitating the shift from disharmony and illness into a state of healing.

- What are the classic causes of illness in the traditional perspective?

There are three classic causes of illness from the shaman's point of view, and interestingly, they are not bacteria, microbes, and viruses, but rather internal states. The first of these is disharmony. This is what occurs when individuals lose an important connection in life or when they are deprived of their sense of belonging to. Disharmony is what happens when you have an elder couple who have been together for most of their lives, and suddenly one of them dies. Within six months or a year, the surviving spouse often comes down with something serious like cancer, and before you know it, they are gone too. Disharmony causes a diminishment of our personal power that in turn renders us vulnerable to illness.

- What is the second cause?

Fear. A person who is walking around with a chronic core of fear gnawing away at them is vulnerable to illness because fear diminishes the ability of their immune system to function. This is, of course, no great news to Western medical practitioners who know full well that fear and disharmony can manifest themselves as illnesses recognizable to modern science.

- And the third?

The third classic cause of illness is the phenomenon known as soul loss. And here is something curious. Soul loss is regarded as the most serious diagnosis and the single greatest cause of premature death or serious illness by the traditionals, and it's not even mentioned in our Western medical textbooks.

- Just what is soul loss and how does it happen?

Soul loss implies serious damage to a person's inner core--to the inner essence of who and what they are. The damage usually results in a fragmentation of this essence, parts of it often dissociate and do not return to the one who has lost them. In a traditional society, soul loss or damage often occurs through the practice of negative witchcraft or sorcery, in which individuals try to eliminate their enemies by attacking them through the psychic channel. In our culture, soul loss is most often associated with trauma. Examples might include a child being mercilessly teased in school or molested by the one who is supposed to be caring for them. Soul loss occurs in response to abuse as in the case when someone is raped or assaulted. Soul loss can happen as a result of a serious betrayal, a bitter divorce, a traumatic abortion, a terrible car accident, or even surgery. Many of those young men and women we sent to Viet Nam and Kuwait came back as damaged goods because they had suffered terrible soul loss. Unfortunately, our modern Western doctors had little to offer them in terms of true healing, and many of them are still traumatized by what happened to them.

- What are some of the symptoms of soul loss?

Feelings of being fragmented, of not being all there; the inability to feel love or receive love from another; blocked memory in which an individual cannot remember parts of their life; a sudden onset of apathy and listlessness; a lack of joy or initiative, or a failure to thrive; addictions and suicidal tendencies. The loss of parts of the self often manifests as melancholy and despair, which brings up the classic symptom of soul loss--depression.

- And how is illness perceived in relation to these classic causes?

Illness in the traditional perspective is seen as an intrusion--as something that enters the body from without and which doesn't belong there. This is true whether we are dealing with a virus, an arrow, or a negative thoughtform. But the primary problem is not the illness intrusion. The primary problem is the loss of power or the loss of a soul part that allowed the illness to enter and manifest in the first place. That's the problem and this is where the shaman does their best work.

- How do shamans accomplish healing in spirit medicine?

In the shaman's tradition, healing occurs in stages. The first stage involves what we might call power augmentation, a process in which the shaman empowers their patient by augmenting their personal power supply with the assistance of their spirit helpers. This is very easy to do if you know how. The second stage involves diagnosis of the problem, divining the cause, and perceiving the effect within the person's body. Often this involves accessing the expanded state of shamanic consciousness in which the shaman can perceive the illness intrusion. The third stage involves extracting the disease-causing intrusion from the patient's body while in the expanded state, and once again, this is not difficult to do if you know how and if you have spiritual healing masters working with you. The fourth and final stage is the critical one. This is the mysterious practice known as soul retrieval.

Excerpts from the website: http://www.sharedwisdom.com/index.html