- The use of intense visual concentration in order to focus on a guided meditation through an imaginative narrative is popular among many New Agers, Pagans, and neo-shamans. The experient is usually encouraged to sit comfortably or lie down, with eyes closed, in a safe space and to focus on a particular scenario, perhaps walking down a path into the woods where they encounter otherworldly beings who offer advice and instruction. The imagination is understood by these practitioners to be a powerful tool for self-help, improvement, and therapy and has much in common with the imaginal realm of neo-Jungian psychologists and psychotherapists. Visualization might also be used to approach soul retrieval, as it is taught by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, pioneered by Sandra Ingerman in particular, for “healing the fragmented self”—seeking out and healing the traumatic experiences of one’s past (understood as the lost parts of one’s soul) in order to become a healthy, whole person. Shamanic journeying, as taught by core shamanists, might also be read as a form of visualization, since the practice has more in common with guided meditation than exuberant indigenous shamanic rituals. By contrast, core shamanists often argue that since the visualization is free-form rather than stipulated step by step, journeying is shamanism, not guided meditation. While the power of the imagination (in producing healing, otherworldly experiences, art, and so on) must be acknowledged, the more introductory forms of core shamanism, soul retrieval, Pagan ritual, and New Age–style guided meditation are markedly different from the intense ecstatic rituals of indigenous shamans and contemporary Pagans drawing on such sources, as seen in the work of Gordon “the Toad” MacLellan, for instance.See also Vision.
Historical dictionary of shamanism. Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis. 2007.