The Making of a Marriage

In 1980, Harley SwiftDeer Reagan was authorised by the Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society to publish ‘Shamanic Wheels and Keys’, thus making the teaching of the shamanic Medicine Wheel, held in secret by Native Americans for millennia, available to a wider world. During the 1980s, Nick Headley, a teacher at The Institute of Psychosynthesis London, and Leo Rutherford, founder of Eagle’s Wing College of Contemporary Shamanism, received a shamanic training from SwiftDeer. 

Harley SwiftDeer Reagan

My Foundation Year of Psychosynthesis psychotherapy training included a six day introduction to the shamanic Medicine Wheel, led by Nick Headley. I qualified as a psychotherapist in 1998. My continued interest in shamanism culminated in a practitioner training with Eagle’s Wing, under Leo Rutherford, where I qualified in 2014.

I am now faced with a dilemma. Should I keep my work as a Psychosynthesis Psychotherapist separate from my work as a Shamanic Practitioner, or should I seek to combine the two? The resolution of this dilemma, and its relevance to today’s world, is the subject of this article. A description of the content of the ensuing book is outside the scope of the present article, but is available on the Soulfulness page of Karnac’s website.

Psychosynthesis is a mainstream psychology concerned with the impact of past experiences upon the present. At the same time, Psychosynthesis is a psychospiritual psychology, concerned with the future, what may be emerging in a person’s life, its purpose, meaning and values. As I come to realise: a psychospiritual psychology which looks at the future as well as the past has a close affinity with shamanic practice, both being committed to the Care of Soul, the healing of Soul, and the expansion of Soul.

This realisation seems to be pointing me towards bringing together psychotherapy and shamanism. However, I can’t get away with throwing around ‘Soul’ without placing it on solid ground within mainstream psychology, lest I face a justifiable charge of supernatural belief. The definition of ‘Soul’ in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary is, ‘The principle of life ..; animate existence’. I extend this to form my own simple, rational definition of ‘Soul’, ‘The principle of life, being alive, and our experience of being alive’. In the light of this definition, the expressions Care of Soul, healing of Soul, and expansion Soul – of a person’s experience of being alive – make sense in a psychotherapeutic, psychospiritual context.

I am now hooked, facing an extensive research project, which I formulated as: to determine how to bring the wisdom of the ancient healing practice of shamanism together with the insights of contemporary psychology to provide an integrated approach to the treatment of developmental trauma. The research comprises two distinct shamanic threads: Shamanic Psychology, as expressed in the many aspects of the Medicine Wheel, the wheel of wholeness and energy for life, an ancient system of understanding the human condition that is highly pertinent in today’s world; the Shamanic Journey, a form of conscious dreaming, to the beat of a medicine drum, focusing on gaining insight into some personal concern that the person making the journey has.

Shamanic Wheel

To provide focus to my research project, I decide to write a book. I read up on key aspects of contemporary psychological thinking – infant and adult attachment patterns, developmental trauma, the survival personality, imagination and dreams, the inner child, the spiritual dimension in psychotherapy – and relate these subjects to the teachings of Shamanic Psychology and the practice of the Shamanic Journey. Finally, I bring everything together by formulating a detailed, practical, and psychospiritual approach to the integration of psychotherapeutic thought and  practice with an understanding of shamanic teaching and practice that is congruent with today’s world. I call the book ‘Soulfulness’, because I view psychotherapy as being fundamentally about a person gradually expanding their experience of being alive in today’s world.

Finally, I need to put my research into action, over a period of time: I have been introducing Medicine Wheel teachings into my Psychosynthesis psychotherapy practice; I have been teaching my psychotherapy clients how to make shamanic journeys and to benefit from them; the full realisation of the marriage of shamanic and contemporary psychology and practice, as I have formulated it, is work in progress. In line with these developments: I have renamed my Psychosynthesis psychotherapy practice ‘Psychotherapy for Soul’; I have created a new Psychosynthesis psychotherapy website,

Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis ‘Egg’ Diagram

The culmination of my research project is a contract with Karnac for the publication of the Soulfulnessbook. As a highly respected, academic publisher of psychological works, Karnac is the ideal publisher for a book which needs to establish solid ground for the inclusion of something so apparently way out as shamanism into the mainstream of psychotherapeutic endeavour.

Whilst the psychotherapy aspect of Soulfulness is the main theme of the book, there is a further theme that is worthy of mention, and which to my mind fits Assagioli’s commitment to the widest possible application of Psychosynthesis. Soulfulness can be part of a spiritual practice, enhancing our experience of living and enabling us to live more abundant and fulfilled lives. The Medicine Wheel, in its many aspects, provides boundless scope as a subject of focused reflection and meditation. Also, once familiar with shamanic journeying, a person can journey at home to explore day-to-day issues of concern. As a simple, personal example, whenever I feel blocked in my writing work, a shamanic journey into my current subject matter helps me to unravel and understand what it is that I am seeking to express.

David England is a Psychosynthesis Psychotherapist and Counsellor in private practice. He trained at the Institute of Psychosynthesis, where he worked for seven years as a course tutor. For five years, working alongside a Psychosynthesis colleague, (Simon Smith, author of Inner Leadership), David undertook Psychosynthesis-based business coaching and personal development work with business managers. David trained as a Shamanic Practitioner at Eagle’s Wing College of Contemporary Shamanism. He is also a workshop leader, professional storyteller, and public speaker.

His book, Soulfulness: The Marriage of Shamanic and Contemporary Psychology, has recently been published by Karnac.

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The Interrelatedness of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Thinking Disorders, and Depression


Psychiatric classification

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition, 2013), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the fourth most common mental disorder after depression, alcohol/substance misuse, and social phobia, with a lifetime prevalence in community surveys of 1.6%. The World Health Organization ranks OCD as one of the ten most handicapping conditions by lost income and decreased quality of life (Murray & Lopez, 1996). When the disorder starts in childhood or adolescence, young people may avoid socialising with peers or become unable to live independently.

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Sleeping Beauty’s Mother

Though I have written a book explorating fat and our culture, the fat complex that grips us, how the war on obesity is fought in the clinical setting, and how being fat is an ongoing traumatic experience, it is not the end of the story. Nearly every turn in the road turns up a new wrinkle in fat acceptance and dealing with weight bias for me. While I have been able to come to terms with my body, still I wished for my daughter that she not have to contend with being fat, not because I feel fat is bad but because I know how hard it is to be out of step with the culture.

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Carl Jung: BBC Television Interview

Posted on Mar 27, 2017

Interview with Carl Jung


Filmed in Switzerland at his lakeside home near Zurich, Professor Carl Gustav Jung was viewed as the greatest living psychologist. Interviewer John Freeman found Jung, although an old man, as sharp and clear thinking as ever. It proved to be a timely encounter; Jung died 18 months later (1959).

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Hanging between Heaven and Hell: Jung’s Pioneering Understanding of Integration


Jung’s Red Book records an extraordinary series of self-induced visions that Jung experienced between 1913 and 1917, together with his reflections and interpretations of them, which he continued to reinterpret and refine until about 1930. The book, which was only publicly published in 2009, takes us to the core of the personal experience on which Jung drew more circumspectly in his psychological works.

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The man doth protest too much methinks: Reaffirming Jung’s Gnostic heritage


Despite denials that would have left Shakespeare’s Queen Gertrude decidedly unconvinced, not to mention his repeated attempts to distance his psychology from anything that might be considered “metaphysical,” Jung could hardly be more deserving of the epithet “Gnostic.” A central aim of this book is to establish that there should be no doubt about the profound influence that the spiritual tradition generally referred to as Gnosticism had on both the formation of analytical psychology as well as Jung’s personal spiritual weltanschauung

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The Evolution of Consciousness


I would like to think of my book, Carl Jung: Darwin of the Mind, as offering a useful primer for the non-specialist who wishes to gain a general understanding of Jung. I also have, however, another objective: that of placing Jungian thought within the context of contemporary evolutionary science.

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A New Therapy for Politics?


Andrew’s new book, A New Therapy for Politics?, will be published by Karnac this year. Here he trails some of the ideas that are developed in the book.

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Healing Intelligence: The Spirit in Psychotherapy – Working with Darkness and Light

The origin of this book lay in a conference, while I was doing my training, in which some notable psychotherapists were giving an overview of the principles guiding their practice. The question of what is healing in psychotherapy did not arise, so I asked how they believed healing worked. None were inclined to reply until one remarked: “That is the $64.000 question and if I had the answer to it I would retire to the hills of Hollywood.” General laughter followed. Clearly, healing was not on the agenda for serious analysts. Individuation, yes, but healing, well … not quite. This was a more “alternative” topic – image rather than substance. It was certainly mysterious. The matter, however, remained, not just as a personal struggle but increasingly, in my view, a crucial issue in psychotherapy.
 In my early practice I was reasonably skilled at exploring the negativity and darkness in the psyche, having spent years investigating plenty of my own. However, it was much longer before I could work with the light in the psyche and to realize that darkness and light have to be worked with together to facilitate a healing outcome. Thus, I learnt to value the healing intelligence that can manifest as light in the inner world, to cherish and enjoy the light of inner awareness, to recognise the potency of healing energy, to listen, evoke, cooperate and work with it, to appreciate the higher powers of illuminative intuition and even, albeit infrequently, transcendental love. 

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Is Alcoholism Primarily a Spiritual Illness? The 12 Steps as a Spiritual Journey of Individuation


As part of my research journey for my book, Carl Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, I travelled to Akron, Ohio to visit the home of Dr. Bob Smith, one of the co- founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.  On a tour of his home, the guide asked if anyone knew what the peculiar black stick was in Dr. Bob’s bedroom.  I explained it is a blackthorn shillelagh (pronounced “shi-lay-lee” – a wooden walking stick associated with Irish folklore) given to Bill Wilson as a present for Dr. Bob when the former visited Ireland.

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Symptom as symbol: the metaphors of the soul’s true story

aboriginal-painting (1)

Many psychotherapists and general medical practitioners subscribe to the popular understanding that psychotherapy is a treatment for those suffering from mental health problems. They earnestly believe that psychotherapy might offer some relief and insight to those patients who are suffering from problems that do not respond well to mainstream biologically based medical treatments. They value the fact that its effectiveness can be demonstrated by an evidence base, and consider it to be an important addition to the repertoire of mainstream medicine. 

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How early traumatic experiences, and our primitive responses to them, become embedded in our personalities

marcus west v2 (5)

We live in fascinating times, where recent advances in trauma theory, attachment theory, relational psychoanalysis, and infant research not only allow us, but require us, to revisit and reconsider the fundamental tenets of our theory and practice.

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