by George Schwimmer, Ph.D.
The author describes the three major shamanic healing practices of the Peruvian Q’ero shamans—illumination, spirit releasement and soul retrieval – and shows how these very ancient practices differ from Past Life Therapy and spirit releasement therapy in practical application
I first began doing Past Life Therapy (PLT) in 1984, taking part in the training offered by the Association for Past Life Research and Therapy, eventually becoming the first graduate of that program. I was very impressed both with what I was learning and with the results I was getting with my clients. During the same time, I learned to do spirit releasement therapy, acquiring that technique from the work of Dr. William Baldwin. Back then, I couldn’t imagine any faster or more effective techniques than these. Yet within two years a thought came to me, “This is fantastic stuff, but there is something beyond this—some sort of energy healing.” I had no idea what this might be, so I put the thought aside.
Fast forward to 2003. I was living in Los Angeles now and one evening decided to attend a free talk on modern shamanic healing practices given by psychologist and medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D., although I had been unimpressed by what little I had read about shamanic healing in the past: it seemed to be practiced mostly by people living—often barely—on the land, and shamans appeared to keep their ancient knowledge to themselves. In any case, I decided to hear Dr. Villoldo, who by then had been studying with the Q’ero shamans of Peru, the Laika, for twenty years and had modified their techniques for Western use.
The room for the talk filled up quickly, not a seat was empty when Dr. Villoldo began to speak. I listened to him intently but by the end of his presentation little had caught my attention. Concluding his remarks, he briefly described the school he had set up to train shamans, The Four Winds Society, then mentioned a book he had written, Dance of the Four Winds (1995). Although his talk hadn’t impressed me, I was curious enough to go to the Santa Monica Library the next day, take out a copy of his book and read it. The book blew me away—this was what I had intuited almost twenty years before, what I knew had to exist.
It was the summer of 2005 before I was able to attend the first of five six-day trainings, held in Park City, Utah, El Capitan Canyon, Santa Barbara, and Joshua Tree Retreat Center. I completed my training early in 2007, becoming a “full-mesa shaman.” Some of what I learned/experienced can’t be communicated, but I later wrote a Kindle eBook about my training, Shaman’s Path: Becoming a Modern Shaman (2012), which described what could be communicated.
The main problem with shamanic healing for modern science is that what’s taking place can’t be perceived by the five physical senses, nor can it be measured by any current device. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that at one time there were no devices to detect x-rays, ultraviolet rays, infrared rays, atomic particles, etc., and, in fact, these were once unknown energies. Yet, throughout time there have been and are now individuals who could and can perceive the human energy field and heal it, can ‘see’ or sense the spirits of dead humans and communicate with them.
There also have been individuals—other than ‘psychics’ and ‘mediums’—who have found ways to perceive human energy fields. Dr. Harold Saxon Burr of Yale University conducted over forty years of research to establish that everything, including rocks and humans, has some kind of energy field(s) (Burr, 1973). In addition, an English physician, Walter Kilner, in 1908 invented a screen—made of a flat glass container filled with an alcohol solution of a coal tar dye called dicyanin, through which, he wrote, he was able to see and describe some of the human energy (Tansley, 1984, pp. 65-75). In 1982 I took a course in chakra healing, during which I learned to feel the different layers of the human ‘aura’, which under certain conditions can extend up to twenty feet from the human body. At a later one-evening training in New York City, I was able to perceive bits of other people’s auras and ten years later was able to show my ten-year-old grandson and eight-year-old granddaughter how to do this—so it can be learned. Former NASA scientist Barbara Ann Brennan has a school providing extensive training in energy healing (Brennan, 1988).
In 1924 Carl A. Wickland, M.D., published the first U.S. book about spirit releasement, 30 Years Among The Dead, (1974). Dr. Wickland had discovered that attached spirits were causing some of his patients’ ailments, and he used a static electricity device of his invention to dislodge these spirits, who would then enter the energy field of his wife, a medium, after which Dr. Wickland would speak with these generally uncooperative and surly spirits through his wife and direct them to move on. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, Dr. Baldwin and Dr. Edith Fiore released many thousands of spirits, taught these techniques to thousands of other therapists, and wrote books about their work (Baldwin, 2003; Fiore, 1987).
Looking back, I can see PLT work, except that they are faster and require no client stories to effect healing. It warrants emphasis that all shamanic work of my Laika lineage is based on energies: that of the human energy field, that of the energy field of a deceased human, and that of the energy field of a detached “soul part.” That all of this is energy work should come as no surprise, since 99.999% of the human body is empty space, the rest some sort of energy.
So, I’d like to match up the Laika shamanic techniques that I learned with the techniques used by all or some past life therapists. I need to stress that the shamanic techniques which follow originated from the Laika and a few other Peruvian shamans and that I am not familiar with other shamanic lineages and their healing practices. Incidentally, the Laika don’t call themselves shamans but “paqos,” and the equivalent word to “shaman” in Quechua, the language the Q’ero speak, is “chakaruna.”
The first technique I’d like to look at is past-life regression, of course. Interestingly, even in my PLT work, I devised three energy strategies: healing the past-life body, rescripting a past life, and communicating with the Higher Self. In addition, I soon noticed that some sort of energy shift was taking place during regressions (and I could clearly perceive an energy shift in a client after spirit releasement therapy as well).
Before I get into a comparison of techniques, I’d like to mention two processes that are always employed by Laika shamanic practitioners. First is the opening of sacred space. The shaman opens sacred space by eliciting the assistance of seven major forces, called the Winds of the South, West, North, and East, along with the Earth, the sun, and, finally, the Great Spirit. In practical terms, sacred space protects the client during delicate healing processes and also permits Laika shamans in spirit to enter and help with the healing. The second process is the opening of the shaman’s viracocha, or eighth chakra (positioned just above the head), which surrounds the shaman and then the client. Within the open viracocha, shaman and client are outside of time and space, which facilitates the healing process. All shamanic events take place in sacred space, and all shamanic healing is performed inside the shaman’s open viracocha.
The first shamanic technique I’d like to compare with past-life therapy is illumination. As any past-life therapist knows, somewhere in a far past some event, series of behaviors, traumas, etc. took place and was/were never resolved, was/were brought into future lives to create havoc for an entity and its human projections. What people generally neglect to consider is how this is possible: to bring an issue into a future life. The answer is very simple: the energetic expression of a trauma or issue is imprinted in the energy field of an entity, which issue is then brought forward into the energy field of the new human. If you look at the human energy field as a software program, then you can see that when a computer virus (energy imprint from a trauma or issue) is introduced, the functioning of the program is impaired. Of course, positive events are also imprinted in the human energy field, but they do not need therapy.
One of the most fallacious beliefs of early PLT practitioners was, “To relive is to relieve,” as if just recalling a past life were enough to effect a resolution. Not so. The original, underlying, issue also has to be addressed. Here is where PLT and shamanic illumination differ in practical application. PLT and associated therapies depend on the client talking, depend on their stories, real or symbolic. Let’s keep in mind, however, that words are symbols for thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and that thoughts, beliefs and emotions at bottom are energies. So, the core of any issue troubling a person is what can be characterized as an energy gestalt, requiring a spiritual electrician to repair and clear out whatever is causing problems.
Enter the Laika shaman, who is a master electrician for the human energy field. This shaman will diagnose where the problem lies, clean out corrosion, reattach connections, and recharge the batteries. What the Laika shaman uses for this is termed illumination. The Laika shaman’s process is to open sacred space, open the shaman’s viracocha, and determine in which chakra (or energy vortex) the issue is lodged—this is done with the client prone, either with a pendulum or muscle testing for each chakra, the most commonly affected chakras being the first, second and third, followed by the fourth and fifth, rarely the sixth, and virtually never the seventh.
Having identified the chakra needing help, the shaman moves to the client’s head and begins some energy therapy, then opens the affected chakra, followed by more energy therapy and the removal of the heavy energy (hucha) clogging the affected chakra. The shaman then illuminates the chakra by sweeping light from the shaman’s eighth chakra into the affected chakra. When this was done for me during training, I could ‘see’, with my eyes closed, a shower of tiny drops of light. Once illuminated, the chakra is tested again. If needed, this process is repeated two or even three times in a session, and further sessions may be needed.
So, the bottom line for both a past-life regression and a shamanic illumination is the identification and removal of a ‘negative’ energy from a person’s energy field, which reconfigures that energy field. However, PLT may require traditional follow-up therapy, whereas illuminations do not, having addressed the energy malfunction directly. In addition, a shamanic client does not even need to know or understand his/her issue—only energies are identified and dealt with in the shamanic healing. This does not resolve everything, of course – it only removes what is hindering the client. The beaver damn may have been removed, but the client has to keep paddling his canoe down the river. So, for instance, a person who has been unable to work for a couple of years, now must make a determined effort to get a job.
There are two aspects of both PLT and shamanic energy work that should be mentioned. Years ago, on more than one occasion, I spiritually experienced the image of a spiral. I believe that a spiral is a symbol for the entirety of an entity, with all of its human earthly projections. Think of this spiral as an electrical conduit, through which flows all of an entity’s spiritual energy. If the spiral is damaged at any point, it cuts down, sometimes drastically, the flow of energy in the spiral, and, conversely, when the spiral is repaired, the flow of energy is greatly increased for all who are part of the spiral, throughout time, since all time is simultaneous. The second aspect concerns the energetic constellation of individuals currently associated with the client. Once the client is healed, all the people closest to the client in this life are affected, for the better. So, relationships are like energy configurations, and if the energy field of one component is affected—for better or worse—the entire grid is affected.
The second technique common to a Laika shaman and a past-life therapist is the release of attached spirits, which my shamanic instructors call “liquid energies,” since spirits can move around in the human energy field. Once again, the difference between traditional release and shamanic release is that with the former the client/spirit has to speak—give a history, speak as the spirit—whereas the shamanic client does not. Shamanic release is pure energy work, and all the spirits are released at once, greatly decreasing the time required. It also removes the need to negotiate with a stubborn spirit who doesn’t want to leave.
As with illuminations, sacred space and the viracocha are opened, and the client is muscle tested for attached spirits (there always are some). The next technique bears a close resemblance to Dr. Wickland’s static electricity device (Wickland, p.33). The shaman places his hands at the top and bottom of a client’s spine and images bringing fire up from the center of the earth and running this energy up the client’s spine to dislodge the attached spirits. This is followed by shaman and client ‘pushing’ the spirits down the left arm of the client, into a 2.5” to 3” clear quartz crystal. Once the spirits are in the crystal, the client is given the opportunity to say goodbye to the spirits (keep in mind that one or more of the spirits may have been with the client for dozens of years). Shaman and client then go outdoors with the crystal and send the spirits off to their needed destination. The advantages of the Laika shamanic method are the ease and rapidity of locating and removing attached spirits, without the need of discussion or dealing with resistance. To clear out the energy imprint that drew the spirits to the client an illumination is performed—sometimes more than one is required.
The third primary shamanic technique is soul retrieval. I know that Bill Baldwin practiced soul retrieval, since he wrote about it in his instructional manual, so I expect some other PLT practitioners do as well. I won’t get into the technique of doing this, just want to reemphasize that this is again a matter of energy, with a portion of the person’s energy field “splitting off,” which results in the person being unable to fully pursue, or even begin to pursue, the game plan it brought to earth. What is interesting with this technique is that the “soul part” which has left often refuses to come back until its human has got her act together. One of my split off soul parts said it would only come back if I would have more fun. Apparently it thought I was a wet blanket.
As with spirit releasement, in order to help clear out the energy imprint that came with soul loss, an illumination is done in conjunction with the soul retrieval. There is one last technique, again based on energy that is common to all three Laika shamanic techniques, which is the ceremonial fire after each procedure. The underlying energy of an issue is blown into a twig—placing the energy of the issue into the twig—which is then placed into the ceremonial fire. Although that may seem just symbolic, I believe some sort of energy transfer or transmutation does occur.
Some PLT practitioners may find these shamanic techniques useful in helping to resolve client’s issues. Traditional therapy is somewhat like a car getting a flat tire from a nail stuck in it. The therapist will ask where the driver thinks he picked up the nail, under what conditions, who was with him, how he feels about the nail, etc. The shaman simply takes a pair of pliers, pulls out the nail, plugs the hole and fills the tire with air – the back story is not relevant to fixing the tire. The above shamanic techniques are of most value when other approaches fail to get desired results. If a therapist does not wish to learn the shamanic techniques herself, she can use the services of a Four Winds trained shaman. Shamanic healing does not depend on time and space. A client does not have to be present. I get impressive results doing distant healing. Check out the author’s Shaman’s Path: Becoming A Modern Shaman (2012) for examples.
Baldwin, W. J. (2003). Spirit releasement therapy: A techniques manual. (2nd ed.). Terra Alta, WV: Headline Books.
Brennan, B. A. (1988). Hands of light. New York: Bantam New Age Books.
Burr, H. S. (1973). The fields of life. New York: Ballantine Books.
Fiore, E. (1987). The Unquiet dead: A psychologist treats spirit possession. New York: Doubleday.
Schwimmer, G. (2012). Shaman’s path: Becoming a modern shaman. Santa Fe, NM: Phoenix 11 Productions.
Schwimmer, G. (2013). My past lives & life plan. Santa Fe, NM: Phoenix 11 Productions.
Schwimmer, G. (2013). How to regress yourself to your past lives and heal yourself. Santa Fe, NM: Phoenix 11 Productions.
Schwimmer, G. (2013). Earthbound spirits are attached to you: How you can remove them. Santa Fe, NM: Phoenix 11 Productions.
Tansley, D. (1984). The raiment of light. London: Routledge, pp. 65-75.
Villoldo, A & Jendresen (1994). Dance of the four winds: Secrets of the Inca medicine wheel. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books.
Villoldo, A. (2005). Shaman, healer, sage. New York: Harmony Books.
Villoldo, A. (2005). Mending the past and healing the future with soul retrieval. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.
Wickland, C. A. (1974). 30 Years among the dead. Van Nuys, CA: Newcastle Publishing.