My piece in the magazine this week looks at Jesus as a shaman. I look at the ways in which Jesus' shamanic identity was too often suppressed or plum forgotten about by the later Christian church. But there have always been pockets, if small ones, that have carried on this element of Jesus' legacy. I'd like to share a personal story of one such encounter.
When I was a freshman in high school I badly broke my leg playing soccer. I was in a full leg cast and a wheelchair. I spent a few weeks in the hospital and then about 2 months in the wheelchair. The tendon in my big toe had gotten wrapped around the broken bone preventing the bone from being able to be manually re-set (though the doctors tried twice!). I had to have surgery (from which I had serious trouble awakening from--but that's a different story). Anyway, my toe was in excruciating pain. Worse the doctors feared I would have to get skins graphs--like what burn victims receive--a horrifically painful process no doubt.
So one Sunday I was in the back of my family's Roman Catholic church in my wheelchair and a man whom I didn't recognize came forward and touched my cast. I thought maybe he was a doctor or something. People were always touching it so I wasn't really paying attention. Then I noticed my leg felt incredibly warm. It was hot to the touch but not scalding--it was a pure emanating heat. I mentioned the heat and the man said he was a healer. As a Christian, he understood the heat to be the power of the Holy Spirit at work in my body. The heat lasted for about an hour or more. Afterwards the pain in my toe was completely gone and a few weeks later when I had the cast removed lo and behold the skin was healed, eliminating the need for skin graphs.
I saw the healer the next week in church and I talked to him conversationally but something seemed off. He finally asked me, "Do I know you?" I said something like "Yeah, uh you healed my leg last week..." To which he replied, "Oh when that happens I go into a trance and don't really remember what happens." Dude was the real deal in other words. (Trances are commonly described in shamanic literature).
So people like that man do exist within churches, but I don't know that he had any students per se or taught his practice. It's certainly an experience that has always remained with me and has played a role in my own studies in energy work and so on. The healing was real and had enormous beneficial consequences, but I wouldn't say it was 'miraculous' or 'supernatural.' I didn't that moment, drop my cast, jump out of my wheelchair and walk. The healer didn't wear a white suit coat and strike me down until I was rolling on the floor for example.* I wasn't instantly enlightened. It didn't solve all my flaws or problems with being a human. But it was a beautiful thing. My own view is this process is one that is somehow native to the human bodymind system and healers are ones who somehow activate it. To me, that is the miracle.
As it turned the individual who facilitated my healing was also an arch- conservative Roman Catholic--as I detailed in my Jesus as shaman piece these modalities are often seen in more conservative forms of Christianity. This conservative worldview worked as a barrier to me experiencing more charismatic or Pentecostal (i.e. shamanic) forms of Christianity. This is why I think it's very important for churches from the liberal/progressive side of the street to reclaim these dimensions of their faith tradition.
* The reference there is to Benny Hinn. If you haven't seen this mashup video of him as a Sith Lord, you haven't lived.