Soulfulness : The Marriage of Shamanic and Contemporary Psychology
by David England, published by Karnac in October 2017
This book brings the wisdom of the ancient healing practice of shamanism together with the insights of present day psychology to provide a joint approach to treating trauma symptoms.
The book’s backstory ‘The Making of a Marriage’ is below.
Click here for David England’s Biography.
Roots of Shamanism
‘Soulfulness’ has two historic shamanic roots:
Mayan and Native American psychology. This psychology of Self is expressed in the many aspects of the Medicine Wheel, the wheel of health and wholeness.
The Shamanic Journey and Soul Retrieval, as practiced in tribal societies throughout the world.
Summary – Wisdom of Shamanism and Psychology
The ancient wisdom of the theory and practice of shamanism is presented in the book in a form which is fit for use within the main stream of twenty-first century therapy. This includes:
A detailed explanation of Shamanic Psychology.
A practical description of the ceremonies of the Shamanic Journey and Soul Retrieval.
The book reflects on key aspects of present day psychological thinking. These include: Infant and adult attachment patterns. Childhood trauma. The survival personality. Imagination and dreams. The spiritual aspect of therapy and counselling. The book relates these subjects, in extended discussion, to: The maps and models of the psychology of shamanism. The practice of Shamanic Journey and Soul Retrieval ceremonies. The psychotherapeutic application of both.
Everything is brought together in the book by offering a practical approach to bringing together therapy practice with a present day form of shamanic practice, when working with clients’ childhood traumas. ‘Soulfulness’ is the resulting marriage of shamanic and present day psychology and practice.
A reflection on a Russian folktale ‘The Bold Knight, the Apples of Youth, and the Water of Life’ is a counterpoint to the main text. This folktale both implicitly reflects the shamanic landscape and has a powerful psychological resonance.
The Making of a Marriage
In 1980, Harley SwiftDeer Reagan was tasked by the Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society to publish ‘Shamanic Wheels and Keys’. As a result, this made the teaching of the shamanic Medicine Wheel available to a wider world. This teaching had been held in secret by Native Americans for thousands of years. During the 1980s, Nick Headley, a teacher at The Institute of Psychosynthesis received a shamanic training from SwiftDeer. As did Leo Rutherford, founder of Eagle’s Wing College of Contemporary Shamanism,
My Foundation Year of Psychosynthesis psychotherapy training included a six day introduction to shamanic ideas. Moreover, this was led by Nick Headley. I qualified as a psychotherapist in 1998. Thence, I continued my interest in shamanism. So, this led to a shamanic training with Eagle’s Wing, under Leo Rutherford, furthermore. I qualified in 2014.
Consequently, I am now faced with a dilemma. Should I keep my work as a psychotherapist separate from my shamanic work? Or, should I seek to combine the two? The resolution of this dilemma is the subject of this article. Also, its relevance to today’s world.
Psychosynthesis is a mainstream psychology. First of all, like other therapies, it is concerned with the impact of past events upon the present. Especially however, Psychosynthesis is a psycho-spiritual psychology. Which means that it is concerned with the future. In particular, what may be emerging in a person’s life. Its purpose, meaning and values. A psycho-spiritual psychology looks at the future as well as the past. I come to realise that this has a close affinity with shamanic practice. Because, both are pledged to the Care of Soul. The healing of Soul. And the expansion of Soul.
Now, about my dilemma, this insight seems to be pointing me towards bringing together psychotherapy and shamanism. However, I can’t get away with throwing around ‘Soul’. Not without placing it on solid ground within mainstream psychology. Otherwise, I face a just charge of supernatural belief. The definition of ‘Soul’ in the Oxford Dictionary is, ‘The principle of life. Animate existence’. I extend this to form my own simple, rational definition of ‘Soul’. This is, ‘The principle of life, being alive, and our experience of being alive’. Thus, in the light of this definition, the expressions Care of Soul, healing of Soul, and expansion Soul – of a person’s experience of being alive – make sense for a psycho-spiritual therapy.
Hence, I am hooked. Moreover, I now face a big research project. Which I framed as: To resolve how to bring the wisdom of ancient shamanic healing practice together with the insights of current psychology. Also, to provide a unified approach to treating childhood trauma. The research had two distinct shamanic threads. Firstly, Shamanic Psychology, as set out in the many aspects of the Medicine Wheel. The wheel of wholeness and energy for life. An ancient system of seeing into the human condition that is highly apt in today’s world. Secondly, the Shamanic Journey. This is a form of conscious dreaming. To the beat of a medicine drum. Focusing on getting insight into some personal issue that a person has.
To give focus to my research project, I decide to write a book. I read up on key aspects of current psychological thinking. Infant and adult attachment patterns. Childhood trauma. The survival personality. Imagination and dreams. The inner child. The spiritual aspect of psychotherapy. I relate these subjects to the teachings of Shamanic Psychology and the practice of the Shamanic Journey. Finally, I bring everything together. I do this by setting out a detailed, practical, and psycho-spiritual approach to bringing together psychotherapy thought and practice with shamanic teaching and practice. In a way that fits today’s world. I call the book ‘Soulfulness’. Because, I view psychotherapy as being essentially about a person gradually expanding their experience of being alive in today’s world.
Finally, I need to put my research into action. Over a period of time. I have slowly brought Medicine Wheel teachings into my psychotherapy practice. I have been teaching my clients how to make shamanic journeys. And to benefit from them. In line with these changes, I have renamed my practice ‘Psychotherapy for Soul’. I have created a this new website.
The outcome of my research project is a contract with Karnac. This is for the publication of the Soulfulness book. Karnac is a highly respected, academic publisher of psychological works. Karnac is the ideal publisher for a book which needs to create solid ground. For the inclusion of something so apparently way out as shamanism into the mainstream of therapy work.
The therapy aspect of Soulfulness is the main theme of the book. However, there is a further theme that is worthy of mention. Which is that Soulfulness can be part of a spiritual practice. Enhancing our experience of living. And enabling us to live more abundant and fulfilled lives. The many aspects of the Medicine Wheel afford much scope as a subject of focused reflection. Also, once familiar with shamanic journeying, a person can journey at home. To explore day-to-day issues of concern. Here is a simple, personal example. When I feel blocked in my writing work, I make a shamanic journey into my current subject matter. This helps me to unravel and grasp what it is that I am seeking to express.