Northern Illinois University Press

Wondrous Healing

Shamanism, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion

James McClenon

"Provocative and challenging.... Fascinating reading."—Journal of Religion and Society

"An important contribution to religious studies, anthropology, and evolutionary psychology ... there is nothing like it."—William Irons, Northwestern University

"A valuable fresh perspective on the intersection of religious and anomalous experiences, the behavioral sciences, and evolutionary theory."—Transcultural Psychiatry

For thousands of years, spiritual questions have haunted the hearts and minds of humankind. Do higher powers exist, and if so, what is our relationship to them? And how else might we interpret seemingly miraculous events such as faith healing, out-of-body experiences, and extrasensory perceptions?

Wondrous Healing traces the human capacity for religious belief to the success of ancient healing rituals, such as chanting to calm women in childbirth or rhythmic dancing to reduce trauma from wounds. Those who accepted these hypnotic suggestions were far more likely to receive positive benefits from the "healing." The apparent success of such rituals, McClenon argues, led to the development of shamanism, humankind's first religion.

Controversial and daring, McClenon's theory is based on his extensive research and firsthand observation of modern shamanistic performances across Asia and North America. His evidence supports the argument that evolutionary processes developed a biological basis for religion. McClenon's historical and anthropological analyses of these issues explore the relationship between science, society, and spirituality.

(2001) 226 pp., illus.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-284-8
cloth $44.00

ISBN: 978-0-87580-590-0
paper $22.00

Table of Contents

Introduction: Evolution and Religion
1. The Evolution of Wondrous Healing
2. Fertility, Childbirth, and Suggestion
3. The Anthropology of Wondrous Healing
4. Wondrous Healing, Hypnotizability, and Folklore
5. The Seeds of Religion
6. When the Seeds of Religion Sprout
Conclusion: Criticisms and Challenges

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-284-8
cloth $44.00
ISBN: 978-0-87580-590-0
paper $22.00