Jesus the Shaman – Soul Retrievals – Chris Dierkes

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him…While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5: 21-24, 35-43).

Continuing our exploration of Jesus-as-Shaman: Soul Retrievals are yet another common form of shamanic healing. The idea behind soul retrievals is that through certain traumatic events, people may experience the loss of a part of their soul. It’s as if that part of the soul breaks off and is lost. The shaman journeys to retrieve this lost part of the soul and return it to the person. This is typically enacted by the shaman blowing the retrieved soul-piece back into the heart, the mouth, and/or the top of the head of the person.

I read this story of Jesus’ as a soul retrieval. While everyone else thinks the young girl is dead, Jesus intuits she is sleeping–i.e. she might be in a coma. The barrier between death and life is thinner than people believe. Even in our own day with advanced technology, it actually be difficult to determine when someone is actually fully dead. (Please – no Princess Bride references!) Death is more a process not an end state…death isn’t an on/off switch.

In other words, I don’t think Jesus has brought this girl back from the dead. Rather I think he’s retrieved her soul and this has re-animated her – animate coming from animus/anima, meaning soul.

The story does not include any specific mention of Jesus going into a trance or journeying to retrieve the soul, as is usual in shamanic literature. It is common, however, that when a soul retrieval journey is undertaken that family members can be there in the room with the shaman as in this story.

Jesus speaks directly to the girl – very close to her body. Since he takes her by the hand and she is laying down, presumably Jesus is seated next to her or bending down. The breath that blows“Talitha Kum” would go right into the girl’s face and in particular, her mouth. This is classic soul retrieval technique. The words Talitha Kum might then be what shamans call “power words.” They are words that effect what they say. Talitha Kum (Rise up, little girl) is not simply a didactic command from Jesus, like someone telling you to close the door. He is calling her to awakened reality. The words have force and spirit behind them and effect the ‘waking’ up of the girl.

touching jesus cloak

This hypothesis is bolstered by the fact that there is an intervening story between the announcement of the girl’s illness and her supposed death. An old woman who has suffered from a disease for 12 years (note the girl is referenced as being 12 years old) touches Jesus’ cloak and she is instantly healed. Jesus whirls around and notices that “power had gone out from him.” This power is shamanic energy. And he can feel that some went out of him, just as a Reiki healer can feel when the flow of Reiki passes through his/her hands.

As with the healings and the exorcisms, we see here a potential for good work in our day. Persons who have experienced highly traumatic events – car crashes, war zones, child abuse, and more – may seem after the trauma that they are never “quite themselves.” People say that something is missing – the look in their eyes is vacant somehow. Soul Retrievals are often required in such cases, but since our society does not recognize these modalities as valid, people suffer.

As with exorcisms, soul retrievals can be beneficial for all kinds of individuals, whether they have been through highly traumatic events or not.

Coming next week in the Jesus the Shaman series: Jesus the Psychopomp.

chrisChris Dierkes is a long time student and practitioner of the Christ-consciousness mystical path. After receiving his MDiv., Chris worked in parish ministry for three years (Anglican Church of Canada) and now maintains a private practice in interspiritual soul work. In addition Chris has studied energy healing, intuitive arts, and shamanic practice. He writes frequently on subjects of spirituality in the contemporary world. He lives in Vancouver with his wife Chloe and their daughter Sage. You can check out his writing and practice here.

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9 thoughts on “Jesus the Shaman – Soul Retrievals – Chris Dierkes

  1. This post bugs me. I can see why it was written – the idea of souls being broken off and needing to be restored is an intriguing one. But overall I don’t like how much the author goes to lengths to revise stories or even insert details in order to get the stories to match up to his theories.

    1. Hi Heather, thanks for the response. You do name something important about the piece, at the heart of it really. Namely, did I impose an artificial reading system from the outside and then jam the text to make it fit my assumptions? Or (as I’m hoping I did) I actually used a system that helped reveal to me what was actually always before my eyes but I couldn’t see because other artificial systems had been imposed upon my reading–namely my secular, liberal upbringing.

      Psychopomp (descending into the realm of the dead, preaching to souls in hell), exorcist (casting out demons), apocalyptic prophet.

      Another argument I didn’t mention in the piece which comes from historical Jesus scholar Bruce Chilton is that of Jesus as teaching an early version of the merkavah mysticism – the chariot or throne of God–that dominates later Kabbalah. Were this argument valid (or close to the mark in some way), then that opens up an entire other line of shamanic argument: namely shamanic journeying. Merkavah mysticism is an indigenous Jewish form of shamanic journeying (one journeys to the upper world to unite with the throne/chariot of The Creator).

      So I think overall the shamanic is a very rich line of inquiry, even if we may disagree with my interpretations of this or that particular story. I think when we look to the whole set of themes and images it all begins to fit together.

      1. Hi Chris, nice to meet you. 🙂

        I’m open to learning more about Shamanism and the lens through which shamanistic cultures would view things in the Bible, particularly the NT.

        But in your peice, Chris, – it seems like a shamanistic hegemony is being imposed upon Jesus and the entire NT. I like your eclecticism, I too find Kabbalah interesting (I chew the meat and spit out the bones there) and even the shamanistic line of inquiry, but realistically I wouldn’t assume Jesus in his earthly life knew anything about Shamanism proper as much I wouldn’t assume him to have known a thing about quantum physics or even the fact that the earth is a sphere or that stars are other suns. 🙂

        1. Hi Heather – for sure, shamanism is (of course) a grab-bag term. It’s a term used by contemporary Western scholars to describe (imperfectly at best) a set of commonalities, similarities, and connections between aboriginal spiritual traditions the world over.

          So yes, Jesus would not have used the word ‘shamanism.’ But I think his practice would have been understood by other shamanic practitioners from other parts of the world. They would (and indeed do) recognize both the differences/uniqueness but also similar/congruent underlying patterns.

          I wouldn’t say I’m imposing shamanic hegemony on The Bible. Though that is a nice phrase smile emoticon. More that the Bible is itself rooted in the cosmology of shamanic traditions the world over. Though we could call them by many other names than shamanic (which is admittedly an only so helpful term).

          e.g. The Bible is very clearly a polytheistic text (or rather texts). i.e. That’s shamanic cosmology. The God of the Hebrews is the God (or rather god) for/of the Hebrew people. There are clearly many other gods, as the name for God in the Bible is plural. Adonai Elohim—Adonai of the Elohim, Adonai of the council of the gods. St. Paul clearly picks up this theme in the NT, with his description of the powers and principalities, the cosmic forces (of both light and darkness).

          What The Bible is advocating is monolatry –latreia, or worship of one god among many of those gods. And condemning the idolatry of worshiping those false gods.

          Everything we might label shamanic basically flows from this fundamental reality. How one relates to that god (worship, obedience), the nature of the reciprocal relationship (devotion), the empowerments and responsibilities both to the deity and to the worshiper, the community that forms in relationship to said deity. Plus how to expose the deities/spiritual energies opposed to Life: e.g. exorcism, anointing with oil, etc.

          There’s also an overriding concern with the deity’s desire/plan/impulse/dream/action on behalf of life: namely the kingdom. The entire apocalyptic theology could (I think) be fairly summarized as a cosmic version of alchemy or transmutation (again a shamanic or rather aboriginal spiritual insight).

          Shamans breathe their spiritual essence in strong exhalation. Jesus breathed the Spirit on his disciples. Whatever names we want to call things, that stark repetition can’t be denied (in my estimation).

          So I guess what I’m saying is that the Judaic world from which Jesus springs is itself congruent with, or a version of shamanism. (Or shamanism is a version of that self-similar pattern seen in ancient Galilean Judaism). With all kinds of distinct facets and flavorings but enough cross over that the comparison is not artificial. Also I think practically it helps to open the mind of those raised in the secular West to see how profoundly animistic The Bible. I think we need to recapture an animistic undergirding for our day–else our ecological work has no true depths to it (I fear).

  2. I think the author is exploring a new understanding of soul retrieval and energy healing that will be very good for him but that these stories don’t necessarily need that specific twist. Yes, Jesus said the girl was sleeping and brought her back, which could have been soul retrieval. But she was sick, not just traumatized, so she could just as easily have been in a coma or dead and that was a euphamism.

    And yes, Jesus would have felt power go out from him when the woman grabbed his cloak, but that would happen if he was a channel for divine healing energy regardless of the form. Reiki is just one form of channeling natural energies for healing.

    Still, he’s onto something here. In a general sense Jesus was very much a shaman, because he stood between worlds for the purpose of channeling healing energy and wisdom for his people. I have been the recipient of a soul retrieval to heal child abuse and near-death experience trauma and have also benefited from various energy therapies including reiki, and I am unspeakably grateful for all healing I’ve received and found, but these are just two forms of healing out of many.

    Jesus was a healer, on every level.

  3. Correlation doesn’t equal ‘conclusion’. People used to believe that still water was filled with malevolent gods because they got sick from drinking it – and they did actually get sick. Now we know it’s filled with bacteria.

    It’s possible that healing from mystics is a placebo result – there’s no way of knowing otherwise is there? (serious question, not rhetoric)

    This sounds very Gnostic – that “spirit” is ethereal rather than a way of thinking/state of mind.

  4. This was ‘my’ story as decided by my evangelical parents after I recovered from a brain tumour at the age of two. Perhaps it really is, my life fell into the deep end again when I was 12 too! I’m often talking about going somewhere to retrieve my wayward soul, usually the west coast.
    I see no conflict with claiming Jesus as a shaman as he knows and utilises the mechanisms shamans also use, and is the only person who really understands quantum mechanics anyway.

    In fact its much more in keeping with the gospel for him to honour humanity by entering into human tradition to work through it than to transcend it.

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