A Neuroanthropological Comparison of Anomalous Experiences During Meditation and Ethnographic Accounts of Shamanic Flight

M. Diane Hardgrave (Southern Methodist University and College of Southern Nevada)

Accounts of anomalous experience during meditation in an earlier study (Hardgrave 2010), revealed a striking similarity with characteristics found in shamanic traditions. Meditation practitioners report phenomena that include out-of-body experiences and communication with animals, elements of nature and anthropomorphic beings. Shamanic flight is traditionally culture-bound and associated with an agenda of accessing information from the spirit world and bringing this information back for the benefit of healing. Through coded content analysis of narratives from novice and seasoned meditation practitioners, I suggest in this paper that they too accessed information that was ‘brought back’ to their conscious waking state. These data support the idea of a panhuman capacity and inclination to utilize altered states of consciousness as a vehicle to reevaluate current lived reality. Such conceptualizations often provide the basis for behavioral action or modification. A neuroanthorpological platform accommodates both culturally constructed and cognitive/biologically grounded paradigms of these phenomena that is long overdue and warranted.   [Originally Published in the AAA 2013 Conference Program]