The Story of Everything: A Synopsis of The Urantia Book
Paper 90: Shaminism - Medicine Men and Priests
As rituals became increasingly complex, people came to believe that only medicine men and shamans could communicate with the spirit world, and religion became a second-hand experience. Since abnormal human behavior was attributed to spirit possession, qualification for religious leadership included such things as epilepsy, hysteria, and paranoia. Some shamans were deliberate frauds, but many truly believed that they were possessed by spirits.
Shamans helped people control the hazards of their lives. They also specialized in rainmaking, healing, and crime detection. Shamans were great believers in chance as a revelatory tool. They frequently cast lots to arrive at decisions; evidence of this practice survives into modern times in children's rhymes. Other tools of a shaman's trade were astrology, interpretation of dreams, communicating with the dead, and fortune-telling.
Shamans were the original aristocracy, exempt from all tribal restrictions. They often functioned as doctors and surgeons. Injuries and illnesses that could not be attributed to obvious causes were thought to be caused by ghosts, magic, or a violation of the taboos. People greatly feared the sick, believing that ghosts had become displeased with the sufferer. Remedies for illness included chanting, howling, laying on of hands, breathing on the patient, massage, bloodletting, vapor baths, drumming, fasting, dieting, and purging.
Superstitious fears of the unknown and dread of the unseen were scaffolding for human concepts of God. Shamans eventually evolved into modern-day priests. Priests have done much to delay scientific development, but have also contributed to the stabilization of civilization and have sometimes been invaluable in pointing the way to higher realities.