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Shamanic Healing, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion

James McClenon
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 36, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 345-354
DOI: 10.2307/1387852
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1387852
Page Count: 10
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Shamanic Healing, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion
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Abstract

It is likely that "Homo sapiens" practiced shamanic healing for many millennia. Studies within anthropology, folklore, hypnosis, medical history, psychoneuroimmunology, and religion support the argument that suggestions embedded within shamanic rituals have therapeutic effects. Shamanic/hypnotic suggestions may reduce pain, enhance healing, control blood loss, facilitate childbirth, and alleviate psychological disorders. Those more responsive to such suggestions are hypothesized to have a survival advantage over the less susceptible. As a consequence, shamanic rituals selected for genotypes associated with hypnotizability, a trait correlated with frequency of anomalous and religious experiences. With the evolution of psychophysiological structures associated with hypnotizability, modern forms of religious sentiment became possible.

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