The Wisdom of Mental Illness: Shamanism, Mental Health & the Renewal of the World

This book explores how the ancient path of shamanism can help us to understand the nature of mental illness, recasting psychological breakdown as a potentially transformational experience. What we label as pathological could actually be an initiation into a better relationship with ourselves and the world.


Written for those who are experiencing mental illness, or whose loved ones are going through such episodes, or who are mental wellbeing practitioners, this is a guide to the potentially transformational experience of that which we label mental illness. It explores the ancient concept of the “shamanic sickness”, whereby the prospective shaman underwent many years of mental distress as part of their initiation, and looks at what this can teach us about mental health. It argues that, in some cases, what we seek to medicate could actually be a calling to a path of service and healing.

The book also explores our cultural biases around mental illness. What we define as pathological, many cultures see as a sign of being inspired and in touch with greater powers. It looks at our uneasy relationship with altered states of consciousness and how these might hold the key to healing many symptoms of mental illness. Finally it looks at how we, as species, have come out of balance in our relationship to nature and the devastating affect this is having on our mental health. By learning from ancient indigenous cultures who have remained in balance with the natural world, this book looks at solutions to heal this modern imbalance and find a way forward for the Earth and ourselves.

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