Initiation and Psychotherapy Nepalese Shamanism
Essays on Tamang and Tibetan Shamanism
by Dr. Larry G. Peters
Dr. Larry G. Peters is an internationally acclaimed scholar and an initiated shaman.
Result of lifetime’s researches in the Himalayas, Trance is a meticulous study exploring the hidden terrains of Tamang and Tibetan Shamanism. An exquisite fusion of creative writing and anthropological research, the book evaluates the relevance of shamanic practices in a modern-day Nepal. Divided into four major sections, the book opens with a study of phenomenology of Shamanism as a spiritual discipline.
Shamanism, Dr. Peter claims, is humankind’s first mystical tradition. It is a cross- cultural phenomenon. Shamans were the first to explore the inner space in a disciplined way. Shamanism, he adds, overlaps with, and is at the origin of other younger spiritual traditions, like yoga, Vipasana and Tantra, which had continued the development of the disciplines of spiritual transformation. “The shaman’s mystical path,” in Peters’ words, “is an archetype, a universal pattern. It is not a prehistoric or a dead artifact but a living fossil possessing the same vital psychological foundations as later mystical traditions.
Against this ideological backdrop, Peter ventures to study the cultural archetype of what it is to be a shaman in a Nepalese society and finds out that Tamang shamanic initiatory process comprises a psychotherapeutic system. The chapter that follows documents rare letters he sent home to his friends. These letters tell us of remarkable shamans that he met during his anthropological fieldwork in Nepal. The chapter next effortlessly sketches the visions of Nepalese mindscape during Peter’s journey to Kalinchowk shrine with Aama Bambo, a Tamang shaman.
Focusing on the transformative nature of mystical experiences in Tamang shamanism, he then moves ahead to discuss the Tibetan healing rituals of Dorje Yadronma, a fierce manifestation of feminine cosmic force. Despite reservations on Lhamo’s intensely aggressive style of healing, Peters seems to be in awe of her magical abilities and her paranormal knowledge. Peters interprets Lhamo’s violent exorcisms as psychotherapeutic procedures aimed at breaking down the patient’s ego defenses and introducing psychological crisis. A full-length chapter is devoted to Karga Puja ritual, a dramatic event, successful in treating indigenous categories of mental illness.
The book ends with a survey of shamanism and medicine in developing Nepal. Shamanism, Dr.Peter suggests, is not antithetical to modern medicine; “In fact with proper training the shamans can even come to spread medical aid inasmuch as they already recognize their limitations in the treating of certain illness and take an active part in getting their clients to seek such treatment.”
- Dr Peter’s is also author of ‘Shamanism and Medicine in Developing Nepal’ which is available as a free download (pdf).