Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Michael Harner

American Anthropologist, Shaman, Author, Founder and President of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies

"In shamanism there is ultimately no distinction between helping others and helping yourself. By helping others shamancially, one becomes more powerful, self-fulfilled, and joyous. Shamanism goes far beyond a primarily self-concerned transcendence of ordinary reality. It is a transcendence for a broader purpose, the helping of mankind."

"The shaman typically experiences ineffable joy in what he sees, an awe of the beautiful and mysterious worlds that open before him... He is a self-reliant explorer of the endless mansions of a magnificent hidden universe. Finally, he brings back his discoveries to build his knowledge and help others."

"He (the Shaman) is a self-reliant explorer of the endless mansions of a magnificent hidden universe."

"People ask me, 'How do you know is somebody's a shaman?' I say, 'It's simple. Do they journey to other worlds? And do they perform miracles?'"

"'Nagual' refers to both a guardian animal spirit and to the shaman who changes into that power animal."

"A shaman may be called up to help someone who is dis-spirited, that is, who has lost his personal guardian spirit or even his soul."

"The word shaman in the original Tungus language refers to a person who makes journeys to nonordinary reality in an altered state of consciousness ... Although the term is from Siberia, the practice of shamanism existed on all inhabited continents. After years of extensive research, Mircea Eliade, in his book, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, concluded that shamanism underlays all the other spiritual traditions on the planet, and that the most distinctive feature of shamanism—but by no means the only one—was the journey to other worlds in an altered state of consciousness."

"For several hours after drinking the brew, I found myself, although awake, in a world literally beyond my wildest dreams. I met bird-headed people, as well as dragon-like creatures who explained that they were the true gods of this world. I enlisted the services of other spirit helpers in attempting to fly through the far reaches of the Galaxy. Transported into a trance where the supernatural seemed natural, I realized that anthropologists, including myself, had profoundly underestimated the importance of the drug in affecting native ideology."

"I'd had these experiences which were so incredible, and then I went to the shaman, and he dealt with them quite matter-of-factly. There were certain creatures who said certain things about how they were really running the planet, and he just smiled and said, Oh, they're always saying that, and so on. And I realized, from that and many other things, that he was quite familiar with the terrain that I'd been to."

"If you see something frightening, you must not flee. You must run up and touch it."

"One of the remarkable things about shamanic assumptions is that they are very similar in widely separated and remote parts of the planet, including such regions as aboriginal Australia, native North and South America, Siberia and central Asia, eastern and northernmost Europe, and southern Africa."

"Nagual refers to both a guardian animal spirit and to the shaman who changes into that power animal."