Interview with Joseph Polimeni, MD on shamanism and schizophrenia

Joseph Polimeni, MD, is a Canadian psychiatrist and the author of the 2012 book Shamans Among Us: Schizophrenia, Shamanism and the Evolutionary Origins of Religion. The central premise of the book is that schizophrenia patients are the modern manifestation of tribal shamans, people who were vital to the success of early human cultures. “Shamans Among Us is the most detailed and comprehensive evolutionary theory yet assembled to explain a specific psychiatric diagnosis.”

I learned about Dr Polimeni’s work when I read Dick Russell’s memoir My Mysterious Son: A Life-Changing Passage Between Schizophrenia and Shamanism. I highly recommend both books.
The idea that people with schizophrenia are the modern manifestation of shamans is gaining a certain currency, to whit Phil Borges 2015 documentary, Crazywise. Borges spent many year documenting and filming tribal cultures and began to question why it is that ancient and tribal cultures reserve an honored place for the same kinds of persons who in Western cultures are labelled schizophrenic or bipolar, promptly medicated, and then largely degraded and ignored.

Dr. Polimeni’s belief that “the inborn cognitive factors or personality style that would have predisposed certain people to become shamans is the same psychological mindset that underlies schizophrenia ” seems entirely reasonable to me. As because it also seems reasonable to me that any mother would know her child’s inborn cognitive factors and personality style that might align themselves with shamanistic traits, I sent him a copy of my book. In it I flag several traits I noticed about my son that might work well with this theory.

RF: Dr. Polimeni, as it happens you didn’t read my book. I thought a psychiatrist with your research interests would be curious enough to do so. When I contacted you after I didn’t hear back from you, I let you in on a not very well kept secret, that male readers in general don’t want to read memoirs written by women. We were both somewhat amused, but I’m guessing you still haven’t read my book? Is that correct? Continue reading “Interview with Joseph Polimeni, MD on shamanism and schizophrenia”

Shamanism and the Evolutionary Origins of Schizophrenia

Enjoy this 2013 presentation by Joseph Polimeni, MD on his theory about why schizophrenia (and bipolar disorder) persists over time.

In my next post, I’ll interview Dr Polimeni about his book,
Shamans Among Us: Schizophrenia, Shamanism and the Evolutionary Origins of Religion.

Jeremy Narby

Anthropologist Jeremy Narby is from Montreal, lives in Switzerland, and is the author, amongst other books, of The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge.

“Investigating the connections between shamanism and molecular biology, Narby hypothesizes that shamans may be able to access information at the molecular level through the ingestion of entheogens, specifically ayahuasca. Biophysicist Jacques Dubochet criticized Narby for not testing his hypothesis. Narby and three molecular biologists revisited the Peruvian Amazon to try to test the hypothesis, and their work is featured in the documentary film, Night of the Liana.” (Wikipedia)

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