Jung & Shamanism
About the book

JUNG AND SHAMANISM IN DIALOGUE: Retrieving Soul / Retrieving the Sacred. By C. Michael Smith, Ph.D., 2nd Edition; Trafford Publishing;  ISBN 1-4251-1543-8.

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From the Back of the Book


In this highly original study, C. Michael Smith draws on phenomenological resources and hermeneutic dialogue to explore the affinities and distinctions between shamanism and Jungian psychology, both rooted ultimately in a heart-centered way if life, and both having highly intricate maps of the human psychic interiors. As the reader adventures through this book he or she will encounter shamanic initiation, dismemberments, disassociation, grief, despair, and soul loss, the healing power of ritual, ecstasy and other altered states. The book explores many rich topics including the role of talismans and amulets, the various levels of the collective unconscious, the archetypal and imaginal perspectives on such phenomena, and implications for psychotherapeutic practice today. In the new preface, the author argues that in the end "It isn't the fascinating and powerful techniques that are the essential thing, but the person inside, its capacity to live from the heart in Earth-honoring and Nature- attuning ways that is the essential center of the Jung/shamanism interface."

In Jung and Shamanism in Dialogue, C. Michael Smith has written a "must have" classic for all students of shamanism and Jungian psychology. Thorough, clear and authoritative, Smith writes from first-hand perspective, drawing on his own depth experiences in studying and teaching shamanism and Jungian psychology for decades. As in his previous book, Psychotherapy and the Sacred, he is psychological and spiritual, phenomenological and historical in his unique perspective. Jung was often described as a "shaman" by those who knew him well, but few have had the courage to openly make this claim, and none has presented the case as thoroughly as Smith has. This new preface to this second edition adds a richness of wisdom worth the price of the book.

-Tess Castleman, Training Analyst, The C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich

274 pages; quality trade paperback (softcover); catalogue #07-0007; ISBN 1-4251-1543-8; US$26.00, C$29.90, EUR21.36, £14.95



                   The Heart of Jung and Shamanism

                          Preface to Second Edition


This book is the second in a series of three books that elaborate a common thread. The first book was Psychotherapy and the Sacred, which tried to open a theoretical and clinical space for the spiritual dimension in psychotherapy. The third volume, now in process is entitled A Little Psychology of the Heart. It develops a theoretical and very practical framework that bridges the differences in the vocabularies of depth psychology and the indigenous path-based healing system known as shamanism. The second edition of this book provides opportunity to say a little about Jung and Shamanism in Dialogue from the vantage point I now have with the psychology of the heart. It is the opportunity to say what the heart of this book is. The book is, viewed from a content perspective, a study of the rich and complex interface of a range of experiences and technical practices associated with the healing dimensions shamanism and the analytical psychology developed by C.G. Jung. But this is not its core.


Neither shamanism nor analytical psychology are mere healing professions. Their concerns spread out over many dimensions of life, including the way of life itself. The common ground of this way of life is earth-honoring and attuned to Nature, it is heart centered, and holds to the sacred value of the inner being, call it soul, or simply the person inside, or what have you, and not the symptoms and problems that come to the healer’s attention. This fact is discussed at various places in the book but I feel a need for more emphasis on the path of the shaman, the path of individuation, as the context out of which a shamanic or Jungian approach to healing must be understood today.


 Neither shamanism nor analytical psychology can be gotten simply from studying books. A book, or a class room course can give you the lay of the land, but it cannot provide the living experience. So the question arises, why another edition of a book on these topics? The answer that comes has the same urgency it did when I penned the first draft fifteen years ago: to help us in the Western health care professions, and particularly in the psychotherapeutic professions, to keep open a space for the sacred being which wants to come alive, develop, expand, creatively contribute and bring its own calling and purpose into society. That being can come alive, become whole, and live a healthful and satisfying life if it is aligned with its own center, its own heart, from which the life forward energies arise, and if it is solidly connected to body, and earth, society and Spirit.


In an era of managed care, insurance companies put great pressure on psychotherapists to use empirically validated treatments [EVTs] for resolving specific problems and symptoms. Psychology operating in this way has surely lost its own soul, and its sense of soul, and is in need of its recovery. That there is therapeutic value in such validated techniques is not in question. That one must focus only on the troubling problems, symptoms and diagnostic patterns to expedite therapy and save costs is put in question. Such an orientation can easily influence the therapist to lose sight of the person inside, that being who has those problems or symptoms. If that inner person is not cared for, supported, helped to find their own fertile core of aliveness and live from it, then its health is not addressed, and the fundamental life issues that could result in solid psychological health are missed.


Psychology, etymologically speaking, is the expression or study of the soul, this inner being we are talking about. Yet the pressure today is increasing to treat contents [symptoms, problems, diagnostic patterns], and the patient is not any of those things, but the one who has them. To be soul-full and not soul-lost, as it is often put in the shamanic vocabulary, that inner being needs consideration, support, and space, to  stir, breathe, come alive, move into the world more deeply and solidly, and this requires a great deal of genuine and loving care on the part of the therapist. In our healing efforts, whether they be shamanic or depth psychological, finding the one in there who is lost and helping restore it to life is a matter of helping that being find its own core of aliveness, its own center of being, and begin sustaining and nourishing its life by living from there, mind aligned with heart, and servant of it.


The common ground of sacrality in shamanism and Jungian psychology is a path of the heart that realizes that all life is sacred [not just human life] and that each life form, including the human, has a center, a core of aliveness in which the Sacred dwells. Black Elk, the Lakota Sioux medicine man put it this way to Joseph Epes Brown: “Peace comes in within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.


In Jung’s psychology it is the archetypal Self, and its symbols which refer to this deep center of the person, its potential wholeness and source of development. To individuate, that is, to become a developed, distinct, and whole individual you had to live from this deep center and font of your being. This is Jung’s equivalent for a path of the heart, in which the ego-consciousness becomes subordinate to and servant of the Self. In shamanism this same truth is often expressed as walking a path of the heart, in which the mind finds its proper relationship as its servant, able to enact and carry out its vision. Hence both are essentially psychologies of the heart. The way advocated in both traditions also asserts the value of living in humble, respectful, right relationship to the earth and the elements of nature. The way Black Elk suggests can only be realized in humility before even the tiniest creatures. Jung found nature alive and brought great reverence to it, and his path of individuation was a human expression of what he saw going on everywhere in nature. In a letter to a friend he wrote “everything living dreams of individuation.” Jung believed one could only get right with oneself if one got right with nature. Often, when he felt out of sorts he would retreat at Bollingen where he could once again find his “true life”, by playfully absorbing himself digging canals at the water’s edge with a stick, and entering into mystical participation with wind and waves, trees and an open fire over which he cooked.


As the reader progresses through this book, and looks at many details of the shamanic and Jungian perspectives and practices, the uses of ecstasy and imagination, altered states of consciousness and efforts at soul recovery, at ritual forms, and possible psychotherapeutic implications, he or she will do well to keep in mind the real heart of it all, that we have but hinted at here. It isn’t the techniques that are the essential thing, but the person inside, its capacity to live from the heart in earth-honoring and Nature-attuning ways that is the essential center of the Jung/shamanism interface.


C. Michael Smith

Crows Nest Retreat

Dowagiac, Michigan

January, 2007