Tag Archives: shaman

212 – Miracle Worker? Faith Healing with Josh Tongol

The first thing I think of when I think of faith healing is psychic surgery, a form of bloody theater where a practitioner digs into a body without the use of tools and pulls out what’s ailing the patient. It was popular in the mid-20th Century in the Philippines and Brazil and even comedian Andy Kaufman underwent a 6-week psychic surgery regimen before he died of lung cancer in 1984 (how much he did it for show versus actually hoping to be cured is unknown.) It’s an unusual tradition that’s been called a “complete hoax” by the Federal Trade Commission. 

The Amazing Randi performing psychic surgery on The Tonight Show

The first thing Wendy could think of is Steve Martin in the movie Leap of Faith, where he plays a traveling huckster preacher going from town to town to “heal” people desperate for a little bit of holiness in their lives.

I’ve always thought the idea that God could heal you and just chooses not to completely absurd. I’ve always had a materialist bent and in this area particularly because it’s so easy for people to take advantage of the desperate and the sick, much like Steve Martin in the movie. 

But then I thought a little more about it. Faith healing is humanity’s oldest form of medicine. Before a shaman could figure out medicines, before there was chemotherapy, before there were even leeches(!) there was just the basic belief that you will get over your sickness and return to normal. There was the faith that you were going to get better. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, but isn’t that belief part of what helps you get better?

Even Dungeons & Dragons has clerical healing.

My father grew up in the Christian Science tradition and we all know the stories about how Christian Scientists don’t go to Doctors (which would be a good follow-up episode to this one) and the “laying of hands” was a Christian as well as Jewish faith healing tradition for centuries. According to a Gallup poll in 2013, 39% of Americans go to church every week. And when you’re in church you pray for people that are sick. Even if we’re not believers, we know that good wishes probably can’t hurt them and a positive attitude might help. Now, I’m not making excuses for charlatans, but I am saying that while it might be different verbiage, a lot of us deal in “faith healing” a lot more than we think we do.

I think about a study that was done when I was in college in the 1990s where we were told about kids with cancer playing a video game that would fight their illness and how it had promising results. That was actually the aspect of the field that I was most excited about. But isn’t faith healing just another form of psychological therapy to go along with modern medicine?

Joshua Tongol

Our guest in this episode is Joshua Tongol. While he comes from a Filipino family that was raised in a Christian tradition where they believe in miracles like you would have seen at Steve Martin’s church in Leap of Faith. Josh was born missing a hand and all his life he prayed to be healed. He went to Christian revivals and services when he grew up in California purposely trying to heal himself, he truly believed that God would re-grow his hand. 

It didn’t happen and Josh found himself at odds with his faith. That is, until he started seeing healing in his own life that neither he nor his doctors could explain. Josh’s journey might have taken him away from the church of his youth, but it brought him towards a new understanding of spirituality. In this conversation, we talk about:

  • How Josh’s life was ruined by debilitating sciatica 
  • What transformed in his life that made him a believer again
  • The first steps anyone can take in using their belief to help them heal
  • More than healing, astral travel and how Josh started having out-of-body experiences as well

Josh Tongol has a podcast called The FlipsideRethinking Spirituality and is the author of two books, So You Thought You Knew: Letting Go of Religion and The Secret to Awesomeness: Creating the Life You’ve Always Wanted. He currently resides in the Philippines and you can visit him at his site. JoshuaTongol.com.

For this week’s song, we were inspired to sing about the televangelists of our youths. Guys like Jim Bakker and Oral Roberts were always making promises if they just got a little bit more money. God would provide more for you if you provided for them. And since we were hearkening back to the 80s, we went with some classic 80s’ Heavy Metal style. Here’s Sunspot with “Miracle Worker”.

You say I’ve gotta God Complex,
I don’t think you understand
there’s a millions who know the truth,
they’ve seen my bleeding hands.

The more you believe
the more you will be healed
the more you accept
the more it is real
Faith in mysterious ways
How much can you pay?
Miracle Worker

I feed on trust, maybe placebo
Some use anesthetic, I’ve got the opiate of people.

The more you believe
the more you will be healed
the more you accept
the more it is real
Faith in mysterious ways
How much can you pay?
Miracle Worker




132 – Paranthropology: An Interview with Jack Hunter

From Near-Death Experiences to spirit possession, Jack Hunter has been finding the commonalities of paranormal experiences from cultures all over the world. As a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol in Anthropology, Jack has devoted his academic and professional life to understanding how different peoples across the planet use ritual, ceremony, to alter their states of consciousness to interpret the world and their place in it.

jack hunter paranthropology
Fancy a pint with British Jesus?

Jack Hunter’s journal, Paranthropology has been publishing since 2010  and it’s a free online academic journal that features articles written by researchers  interested in exploring the paranormal through  a social science lens.

In this interview where Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts once again joins us, we discuss the importance of ritual in many societies, how we’re missing out on a lot of those rituals and ceremonies in modern Western Civilization, and how those rituals can help induce psychic and paranormal experiences (and also, how psychedelic substances from Magic Mushrooms to LSD to Ayahuasca can accelerate or shortcut the process.)

Jack even takes us through a modern psychic medium experience that he wrote about for his original dissertation and how the present-day Spiritualist experience is alike to the classic Victorian and Edwardian seances that we envision from TV and movies.

jack hunter paraanthropology
Jack Hunter doing the academic thing and giving a presentation!

A big concepts of this episode is about feeling connected to a place. In Wales where Jack lives, he talks about the folk tales of a dragon in every valley or just how so much of the small towns have so much history and folklore. For example, a modern geologist will talk about a rock formation that was left by a glacier,  the folk tale might be that giants left the rocks there. They’re two different ways of trying to understand why your environment is the way it is, and while they’re very different explanations, they’re also two different ways of reaching a truth that you feel comfortable with.

Jack has edited and written several books on the subject as well, and with titles like The Paranormal: Why People Believe in Spirits, Gods, and Magic and Talking With The Spirits, and of course, Paranthropology: Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal, if you enjoy the interview, you’re going to want to check those books out to learn more.

One of the intriguing concepts that Jack discusses in this episode is “Ontological Flooding” which is the concept that when you are exploring a phenomena or even just your relationship to your environment around you, to embrace all possibilities. Consider the materialist aspect (the physicality of it), the spiritual aspect (how it affects you emotionally), the mythic aspect (what is the story of the place you’re at) , and how those things all contribute to understanding it.

Ontology is the “study of being” and ontological flooding is the idea that you will let all the information in and not judging the information as “crazy” or “magical thinking” but synthesizing all of it to find a way of living that excites you and a way of finding and accepting your place in not only the ecological system, but of the story, of a big world. This episode’s Sunspot song  is called “The Flood”.

A subtle change and your head spins
flip of the switch, it all makes sense
an arrogance you can pretend,
To reduce it to just elements.

Synapses fire
with chemistry
But we can break up
reality
to share far more
Than flesh and blood
A new way of knowing
Here comes the flood

When you’re in the space that’s in between
You can redefine what you believe
No time to waste
no place to judge
Better get ready for the flood.

Look for who’s pulling your strings,
Are you just defined by your things?
Embrace what this knowledge brings,
And this is where the balance swings.

Synapses fire
with chemistry
But we can break up
reality
to share far more
Than flesh and blood
New way of knowing
Here comes the flood

When you’re in the space that’s in between
You can redefine what you believe
No time to waste
No place to judge
Better get ready for the flood.
Better get ready for the flood.

131 – Mother Earth Mysticism: Past Lives and Shamanic Healing with Rachel Mann

Rachel Mann took a long and winding course to finding her calling as a healer and spiritual teacher.  Originally studying the Russian language and Slavic folklore and preparing for an academic career, she switched paths as the Cold War ended in the early 90s and university positions teaching Russian dried up.

rachel mann
Rachel giving somebody the Mother Earth Mystic Once-over!

While working through her own issues,  Rachel was getting traditional “talk therapy” as well as getting “energy work” done. But it was during one of those sessions where Rachel discovered her own history as a warrior monk in Medieval France and relived his dying moments in battle. The way she describes the experience is simila to Philip K. Dick’s  Exegesis and the strange connection he felt with the prophet Elijah and John The Baptist. But it’s interesting because it’s the idea that your in their head and they’re in your head, even though you’re separated by centuries. Rachel could feel his pain, his love, his hopes, and his faith. Meanwhile, he was poking around in her brain as well.

And that experience started leading her to where she is today, as a teacher of what she calls The Great Medicine Wheel of Mother Earth Mysticism, where she takes bits and pieces of the different spiritual traditions that she’s studied from Buddhism to the customs of the indigenous people of the Andes Mountains to the Cherokee to modern psychological techniques like psychodrama.

A Medicine Wheel in action!

Rachel’s work is a blend of the Ancient and the Modern and she teaches the connectedness of all things, living or otherwise. You can find more info about her on her site, Rachel Mann PhD, you can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Her vulnerability and fearlessness in discussing the  challenges in her own life is what inspired this week’s Sunspot demo. We strive to be perfect and we often ridicule the sick as if somehow they’re “responsible” for their condition. That striving, that criticism, often just leads to even more suffering. Admitting that there’s something wrong and that it’s okay there’s something wrong is usually the first step in learning how to fix it. The track is called “To Accept Is Not Defeat”.

Scrape the skin ’til you see blood
Rub the flesh until its sore
Bang your head against the wall til your brains fall on the floor.
Cry til your eyes are red
til you find a moment of clarity
That this striving beyond surviving just more futility.
And the more that I struggle
the more I seem to ache,
 And the more that I struggle
the more I seem to break.
I surrender.
I throw myself before your feet.
I’ve tested every limit,
To accept is not defeat.
The tighter that you grip,
The looser that you hold,
And all that you have lost, you’ll find when you let go.
For the more that I struggle
the more I seem to ache,
For the more that I struggle
the more I seem to break.
I surrender.
I throw myself before your feet.
I’ve tested every limit,
To accept is not defeat.
I surrender.
I throw myself before your feet.
I’ve tested every limit,
To accept is not defeat.