My Writings. My Thoughts.

Biogenetic Structural Perspectives on Shamanism and Raves: The Origins of Collective Ritual Dance

// October 12th, 2017 // No Comments » // Uncategorized


The worldwide development of raves and similar collective rituals characterized by all night communal rituals involving dance, drumming, music, and often the use of psychedelic substances can be understood as a modern manifestation of the same biological principles underlying shamanism. The shamanic ritual was a nighttime ceremony which engaged all of the community in a powerful interaction with the spirit world as the shaman beat drums or rattled while singing, chanting and dancing. The common underlying biogenetic structures of shamanism and raves involve: the social functions of ritual; the effects of dance and music as systems for social bonding and emotional communication; and the effects on consciousness that produce alterations of emotions, identity and consciousness and personal healing.

Download chapter here: Winkelman Chapter 1

Shamanism: A Biopsychosocial Paradigm of Consciousness and Healing

// July 25th, 2017 // No Comments » // Publications

Winkelman’s newest book provides an extensive revision of Shamanism (2000) and extends our understanding of the evolutionary origins of humanity’s first spiritual, healing and consciousness traditions. Shamanism A Biopsychosocial Paradigm of Consciousness and Healing (2010, Praeger Press) addresses: cross-cultural perspectives on the nature of shamanism; biological perspectives on alterations of consciousness; mechanisms of shamanistic healing; and the evolutionary origins of shamanism. It presents the shamanic paradigm as a biopsychosocial framework for explaining human evolution through group rituals that provided bases for enhanced group functioning.

The new subtitle emphasizes that what has been conventionally considered a spiritual practice has ancient biological, social and psychological roots. This book distinguishes itself by: 1) addressing shamanism in cross-cultural perspective; 2) explaining the biological roots of shamanism; and 3) providing biological and social evolutionary models of the development of shamanistic healing practices. These approaches illustrate why shamanism was central to ancient societies and provides healing in the modern world. Analysis of the relationship of shamanic ritual to primate rituals reveals the phylogenetic origins of shamanic ritual and illustrates why shamanism must be central to explanation of humanity’s religious impulses.

1. Provides a cross-cultural and biological perspective on the nature of shamanism

2. Presents a shamanic paradigm for interpretation of shamanism in the past

3. Develops biological models to explain shamanic universals

4. Illustrates the biological bases of shamanic alterations of consciousness and healing practices

5. Develops an evolutionary model of shamanic practices

6. Provides a general foundation for understanding the biological bases of religion


“Winkelman’s Shamanism has replaced Mircea Eliade’s classic text as the most authoritative and innovative book on the topic. Winkelman demonstrates shamanism’s adaptive functions and why its study must be central to any comprehensive explanation of humanity’s origins.”
– Stanley Krippner, Professor of Psychology, Saybrook University

“The second edition of Winkelman’s  Shamanism is a must read for any serious student of shamanism or the evolution of religious systems.”
– Charles D. Laughlin, co-author of Brain, Symbol, and Experience

“Shamanism breaks new ground in our understanding of the origins of religion, and the qualities that uniquely make us human. Essential reading for anyone interested in shamanism, human evolution, the origin of religion, and traditional healing practices.”
– David S. Whitley, author of Cave Paintings and the Human Spirit

“Shamanism explores how the development of shamanic rituals was a key factor in human evolution.”
– Paul Devereux, founding co-editor, Time & Mind – The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness & Culture

Buy Shamanism: A Biopsychosocial Paradigm of Consciousness and Healing

Ensenada as a Birthplace of Mexican Democracy: A Political History of Baja California

// July 26th, 2015 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Missionaries and English colonists
Clube Democratico
Casinos and opium dens
Anarchist socialist invasions
Renegade colonels
100 million dollar generals
Ruffomania and democratic revolutions
Find it all in Ensenada!

This book, conceived during the years I directed the Ethnographic Field School in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, provides a historical account of how Ensenada, Baja California Mexico became the “birthplace of Mexican democracy.”
The principal purpose of the book is to show through a historical analysis that democratic tendencies are deeply rooted in Ensenada’s past and how historical developments provide support for the claim that Ensenada is the birthplace of Mexican democracy.
It details how Ensenada, from its early inception, was distinct from the rest of Mexico and how foreign influences contributed to its’ democratic tendencies.  This foundation eventually gave rise to a peaceful democratic revolution, first in Ensenada, then in Baja California, and finally in all of Mexico when the institutionalized party was swept from power in the 2000 elections.
The information regarding this interesting historical and political process has been previously available only in Spanish.

Available on in paperback and kindle.

Altering Consciousness [2 Volumes]: Multidisciplinary Perspectives edited by Etzel Cardeña and Michael Winkelman

// April 23rd, 2011 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Altering ConsciousnessFrom prehistoric caves to current raves and virtual reality technology, humanity has always sought to alter its consciousness. Altered states of consciousness can be achieved through dreaming, drumming, dancing, meditation, hypnosis, fasting, sex, and a number of other human activities. These strategies affect consciousness by mimicking the natural responses of our nervous system.

Altered consciousness is one of humanity’s most mystical and life-altering aspects. These remarkable changes in mental state have understandably been a topic of general interest and scientific inquiry across time. Beyond simply satisfying our curiosity, however, studies focused upon altered consciousness can also bring valuable insights into our experience, biology, and culture.

This unprecedented set of books will intrigue anyone interested in psychology, biology and neurology, science, history, arts and the humanities, and literature on consciousness, from general readers to scholar and researchers. An impressive collection of international contributors address altered states of consciousness from the perspectives of history, evolution, psychology, culture, literature, human biology, contemporary science, and society, seeking to illuminate the causes, effects, and meanings of altered consciousness. The first volume provides an introduction and centers on the importance of altered states in history, culture, and the humanities, while the second volume presents biological and psychological perspectives on altered consciousness and examines their potential for healing and pathology.

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Psychedelic Medicine

// November 23rd, 2009 // No Comments » // Publications

Psychedelic MedicineMichael Winkelman & Thomas Roberts eds. | Greenwood Publishing 2007

Psychedelic substances present in nature have been used by humans across hundreds of years to produce mind-altering changes in thought, mood, and perception—changes we do not experience otherwise except rarely in dreams, religious exaltation, or psychosis. U.S. scientists were studying the practical and therapeutic uses for hallucinogens, including LSD and mescaline, in the 1950s and 1960s supplied by large manufacturers including Sandoz. But the government took steps to ban all human consumption of hallucinogens, and thus the research. By the 1970s, all human testing was stopped. Medical concerns were not the issue, the ban was motivated by social concerns, not the least of which were created by legendary researcher Timothy Leary, a psychologist who advocated free use of hallucinogens by all who desired. Nationwide, however, a cadre of scholars and researchers has persisted in pushing the federal government to again allow human testing and the moratorium has been lifted. The FDA has begun approving hallucinogenic research using human subjects. In these groundbreaking volumes, top researchers explain the testing and research underway to use—under the guidance of a trained provider—psychedelic substances for better physical and mental health.

Buy Psychedelic Medicine – Volumes 1 & 2

Supernatural as Natural

// November 23rd, 2009 // No Comments » // Publications

Supernatural as NaturalMichael Winkelman & John R. Baker | Prentice Hall 2008

This book provides a general introduction to the biological and evolutionary bases of religion and is suitable for introductory level courses  in  the anthropology and psychology of religion and comparative religion.
Why did human ancestors everywhere adopt religious beliefs and customs? The presence and persistence of many religious features across the globe and time suggests that it is natural for humans to believe in the supernatural. In this new text, the authors explore both the biological and cultural dimensions of religion and the evolutionary origins of religious features.

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Cultural Awareness, Sensitivity & Competency

// November 23rd, 2009 // No Comments » // Publications

Cultural AwarenessMichael Winkelman | Eddie Bower’s Publishing 2005

This text provides a general orientation to adapting to cross-cultural differences that is applicable across all fields of life, especially in the helping professions such as social work, cross-cultural psychology, medicine, nursing, public health and education.  The text provides perspectives that are useful for addressing the adaptations to cultural differences that are addressed in sociology, anthropology, social work, psychology, education and health sciences classes. The text addresses the fundamental aspects of intercultural relations including: race, ethnicity, culture, prejudice, discrimination, and the process dynamics of intergroup relations. Course introduces assessment tools for determining levels of cross-cultural development and specific educational strategies for promoting development of cultural awareness, sensitivity and competence.

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Culture and Health: Applying Medical Anthropology

// November 21st, 2009 // No Comments » // Publications

Culture and Health BookMichael Winkelman | CA:Jossey-Bass Wiley 2008

Culture and Health offers an overview of different areas of culture and health, building on foundations of medical anthropology and health behavior theory. It shows how to address the challenges of cross-cultural medicine through interdisciplinary cultural-ecological models and personal and institutional developmental approaches to cross-cultural adaptation and competency. The book addresses the perspectives of clinically applied anthropology, trans-cultural psychiatry and the medical ecology, critical medical anthropology and symbolic paradigms as frameworks for enhanced comprehension of health and the medical encounter. Includes cultural case studies, applied vignettes, and self-assessments.

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Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing

// November 20th, 2009 // No Comments » // Publications

ShamanismMichael Winkelman | Praeger 2000

Cross-cultural and neuropsychological perspectives on shamanism reveal that it produces an adaptive integrative mode of consciousness. Shamanic altered states of consciousness (ASC) are related to brain organization and processes, showing shamanism’s concern with socioemotional and self functions of the paleomammalian brain and cognitive capacities based in presentational symbolism, metaphor, analogy, and mimesis. Integration of cross-cultural and neurological perspectives illustrates homologies which reveal the psychobiological basis of shamanism and soul journeys, guardian spirits, death and rebirth, and other universal forms of shamanic cognition.

Shamanic contributions to sociocultural and cognitive evolution are examined. The integrative mode of consciousness produced by shamanic ASC is related to general brain functions. Specific psychophysiological functions of ASC and their variations cross-culturally are illustrated. Shamanic soul journey, possession, and meditative forms of consciousness are examined from phenomenological, neurological, and epistemological perspectives which reveal them to be innate forms of cognition and practices for manipulating perception, attention, cognition, emotion, self, and identity. Shamanistic healing involves physically and culturally mediated forms of adaptation to stress which are reinforced by procedures eliciting opioid release. Therapeutic effectiveness of shamanistic practices are illustrated by clinical research. Shamanistic healing includes procedures for altering physiological, psychological, and emotional responses. Contemporary spontaneous religious experiences and illness characterized as spiritual emergencies have shamanic roots and illustrate the continued relevance of shamanic paradigms.

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Divination and Healing

// November 19th, 2009 // No Comments » // Publications

Divination and HealingMichael Winkelman and Philip M. Peek | University of Arizona Press 2004

Divination is normally thought of as attempts to tell the future, but it can also encompass any efforts to derive information from an unseen spiritual realm. In cultures all around the world divination has been used for diagnosing ailments, prescribing treatments, and solving all manner of problems. How does divination work in these situations and how effective is it?

Some of the world’s leading authorities draw on their own participation in ritual to present detailed case studies demonstrating that divination can have therapeutic effects. In this wide-ranging volume, readers will find coverage of classic Ifa systems; Buddhist-influenced shamanic practices in the former Soviet Union; the reconciliation of Muslim beliefs and divinatory practices in Thailand; Native American divination used in diagnosis; Maya calendrical divination in Guatemala; mediumistic and chicken oracle divination among the Sukuma of Tanzania; Ndembu divination, focusing on the process of collective healing; and divination among the Samburu (Maasai) of Kenya.

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