Core-Shamanism: the Shamanism of the New Age

To make classic shamanism available to lay people, Michael Harner developed Core-Shamanism (Note 1) from his field studies. He distilled a set of techniques for Westerners of how to be a shaman. Furthermore, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (his organization) indicate that they intend to recreate European shamanism (Note 2), which (according to them) is virtually extinct. (Note 3) Therefore, by using the core techniques of classical shamanism and by consulting the spirits, Core Shamans can rebuild this lost tradition.

However the writings of Core-Shamanism as presented by two noted practitioners -Sandra Ingerman in “Walking in the Light” and Evelyn Rysdyk in “The Norse Shaman” reveal a strong New Age/Theosophy influence. Ingerman writes, “A way to evolve your work is to acknowledge the unlimited power of your helping spirits. … This adds exponentially to the outcome of whatever spiritual healing practice you engage in. You can be a vessel of this unlimited power when working for yourself, others, and the planet.” (Note 4) Moreover, Ingerman claims that people can transfigure and experience their divine light, which is considered to be an ideal state of being in Theosophy.

None of this echoes European cultural ideas but is instead a mixture of Theosophy and New Age beliefs. Core-Shamanism promises the power of divinity, and union with a great moral purpose. Ingerman writes “Transmute the energy behind your thoughts and words…Dream the world you wish to live into being.” (Note 5). She and other Core-Shamans speak of dreaming a new world of light, harmony, peace and abundance into being. This is the ideal of the New Age religions to bring about the New Age of Light and Love.

Rysdyk alludes to the same thing in her book, “Norse Shamanism.” She urges people to move towards the light. Rysdyk says, “Since Urd (one of the Norns) functions as this action of transforming potential into reality, it would suggest that Urd is a representation of the Divine Mind manifesting physical existence.” (Note 6). She describes the Divine Mind as “All That Is.” Although Rysdyk titles her book, “Norse Shamanism,” it is really Core-Shamanism with a Northern-European flavor, and not actual shamanism practiced by the Norse.

These writings by Core-Shamans reminds me of Ufology, another Western belief system. After studying reports of encounters with alien beings, Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman, investigators of the unknown, noted that people would experience UFOs in the context of their culture and era. Some saw fairies, others angels, and modern people space aliens. Understanding what these beings are is to “understand the incomprehensible.” They summarized it as (emphasis theirs): “The UFO mystery is primarily subjective and its content primarily symbolic.” (Note 7)

Jerome Clark (ufologist) and Loren Coleman (cryptozoologist) described the continuing fascination with UFOs as being rooted in “future shock.” (Note 8) They define this as “the acceleration of changes has become unbearable and the future unimaginable.” This makes living in the present problematic. Therefore, in their opinion, some people seek liberation from Western materialism by having UFO experiences.

I see the same impulse in Core Shamanism, which instead of recreating European shamanism, offers people relief from their awful present. It gives them a picture of a utopian future. It allows them to feel that they can do something to ensure that future. In fact, Rysdyk ends her book with “we can become the new humans who will contribute in bringing forth a verdant new world. (Note 9)”

Note 1: From the Foundation for Shamanic Studies: “Core shamanism consists of the universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism, together with journeys to other worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism. As originated, researched, and developed by Michael Harner, the principles of core shamanism are not bound to any specific cultural group or perspective.”

Note 2: From the Foundation for Shamanic Studies: “Since the West overwhelmingly lost its shamanic knowledge centuries ago due to religious oppression, the Foundation’s programs in Core Shamanism are particularly intended for Westerners to reacquire access to their rightful spiritual heritage through quality workshops and training courses.”

Note 3. Medieval scholars such as Claude Lecouteux have studied ancient and medieval folklore of Europe. In their research, they point out that European shamanism is often reflected in Christian mysticism and European folklore.

Note 4. Ingerman, “Walking in the Light,” page 198

Note 5. Ingerman, page 213

Note 6. Rysdyk, “The Norse Shaman,” page 78.

Note 7. Clark and Coleman, “The Unidentified,” page 236

Note 8. From Alvin Toffler’s book “Future Shock” (1970): A condition of distress and disorientation brought on by the inability to cope with rapid societal and technological change.

Note 9. Rysdyk, page 204.

Works Used:
Clark Jerome and Loren Coleman, “The Unidentified.” San Antonio (TX): Anomalist Books. 2006. (Reprint of 1975 edition.)
Cooper, Diana, “The Archangel Guide to the Animal World.” Carlsbad (CA): Hay House 2017.
Foundation for Shamanic Studies,
Ingerman, Sandra, “Walking in Light.” Boulder (CO): Sounds True. 2014.
Rysdyk, Evelyn, “The Norse Shaman.” Rochester (VT): Destiny Books. 2016
The Theosophical Society,
Toffler Associates,


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