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Healing States by Alberto Villoldo and Stanley Krippner

Reviewed by Julianne Blake, Ph.D.
In JRT Issue 4, Fall 1987

Spectacular Brazilian spirit mediums and Amer-Indian shamans—are they the bizarre fringe of psychic phenomena or the leading edge of spiritual healing? Villoldo and Krippner guide the reader through an exploration of some of the least understood and most intriguing forms of healing in the world today. As participant-observers of shamanic journeys and spirit-incorporation by mediums, through interviews, photographs, and accounts of their personal experiences, they bring us as close as possible to a direct experience of what has for many people been inconceivable. They implement this experiential data with their scientific expertise in documenting and validating and explaining the phenomena. In conclusion, they offer thought-provoking theoretical formulation, which begin to form a basis for integration of the principle of shamanic healing into modern Western medicine, including psychology.

The authors’ exploration suggests that spiritual issues are an important missing factor in the current healing approaches of Western medicine and psychology. The healing states described here, which are used by mediums and shamanic healers and are taught by these practitioners to their healees, are even recommended as necessary antidotes to blocked spiritual growth, which is seen as a causative agent in the disease process.

The first section of the book is like a new-age adventure—fantasy through the bizarre and chaotic world of Brazilian spirit mediumship. First we are introduced to Luiz Gasparetto, a psychologist who, through a trance state, reportedly incorporates the departed spirits of well-known artists like Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, and Picasso and produces works of art in their styles, complete with signature, within a few minutes. To make the process more improbable, Luiz paints in a dark room, often blindfolded, and sometimes uses only his feet. This kind of event is a challenge even to an open and curious mind, and the authors are sensitive to this issue throughout the book and take care to present the occurrences as they saw or experienced them and provide photographs when possible. They offer thoughtful comments and pose perceptive questions without trying to force conclusions.

Second, we are given ringside seats at the psychic surgery performed by a Brazilian obstetrician, Dr. Edson de Quieroz, who is said to incorporate the spirit of Dr. Adolf Fritz, a German physician who died during World War I. Dr. de Quieroz claims to be assisted by over a thousand other spirit guides, all of whom had medical training during their earthly lives. The spirit guides, he says, enable him to diagnose and prescribe treatment within minutes and to perform painless surgery rapidly, without anesthesia or instruments. (The authors point out that research data and carefully structured follow-up will increase credibility). Observation by the research team and interviews with patients immediately following surgery confirmed that no pain was experienced by these patients. Rather, they reported a feeling of upliftment from the experience.

This feeling of fulfillment and peacefulness forms a thread throughout the book, as it reappears in the experiences which many mediums describe. Even mediums who intentionally incorporate disquieting spirit-entities, who are purportedly possessing disturbed psychiatric patients, claim to be uplifted by their work. They see it as a healing service they offer as they pursue their own psychic-spiritual development. (The issue of the potential danger that might come from incorporating these disturbing entities is not addressed). Their confidence, dedication, conviction, and apparent success encourage interest in further exploration.

Reports of first-hand experiences of members of the authors’ research group, who themselves participated in the trance-dance-induction mediumship experience, while brief, help the reader to move into the experience. The objectivity and discerning wisdom of the authors serve to bring the experiences close on one hand and yet allow the maintenance of skepticism on the other. It is difficult not to use circus terminology in reviewing the menu of Brazilian psychic medicine because it is a collection of incredible events. The brilliantly daring intention of the book is to challenge the incredulity which such events arouse, which until now had no place in the rational mind-frame of Western culture. The authors seek to present and elucidate the power of these occurrences which are penetrating the cultural mind-wall and pushing seekers of true holism and healing to peer off the edge of our limited world view into a temporarily lost dimension which the collective psyche of the western world is now considering reclaiming. Different parts of the Western psyche bring forward different reactions to these incredible occurrences which are currently in the process of becoming credible through such accounts as are contained in this book.

Another of the spectacular experiences reported in the book is fire walking. I have had the opportunity both scientifically to research and personally to experience fire walking, and I have seen how capable the mind is of maintaining multiple and dissonant points of view about such an experience A sub-personality often persists in holding onto a certain skepticism despite an individual’s direct experience. Situations such as those related in this book offer Rorschach reflection of the balance of each person’s openness and skepticism. They also bring up a questioning of the assumptions that psychic phenomena are necessarily spiritual.

Villoldo’s presentation of the shamanic journey experienced by his group in Peru holds appeal because it is an honest account of an inner spiritual quest, not surrounded by ritual fanfare, and without attachment to results. Here we see the seeker coming to do his own spiritual work, rather than to be “done onto” by spirit doctors and mediums. The shaman speaks of becoming a “person of knowledge,” developing the inner knowing of harmony with all of nature. The mediumistic healers speak of developing psychic faculties as an important vehicle for releasing physical and psychological diseases.

This book goes beyond the merely descriptive level to offer an illuminating comparison of similarities, both in procedure and intention, of the allopathic and shamanic models of healing. It elucidates the common intention of the two models that would not be apparent to the uninitiated observer. With great sensitivity the authors address the similarity between shamanic altered states and psychopathological conditions, emphasizing the conscious control and purposeful, goal-directed use of the shamanic altered states for growth and healing.

The reader can be appreciative of such a rich and inspiring adventure and question-provoking experience as the two authors share with us!



ISBN-13: 978-0671632021


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