Shaman Harvey – My Shocking First Encounter With a Modern American Shaman
Harvey Bevier was a visionary healer who worked in Denver, CO. For over forty years, he treated hundreds of people each month, sometimes seeing more than a hundred people in a single day. I first met him when I was a visiting professor at Boulder College, which offered graduate degrees in spiritual education and different healing.
I was teaching Jungian psychotherapy, group dynamics and the I Ching. I can only imagine what my professors from U.C.L.A. and the University of Michigan (where I earned a Ph.D. in Psychology and in Social Work) would have thought. Pretty far out stuff,this mystical psychology, but my personal journey had barely begun.
The grueling, six year, double Ph.D. program at Michigan had cost every participant their health and/or marriage. Barely half the doctoral students already completed the program. I graduated with disabling back pain and a harsh aggravation of post traumatic stress disorder that originated in childhood abuse.
One day, Sandy, one of my Boulder college graduate students told me I should visit the different healer she had been seeing for several years. He was “really unorthodox” and the treatments could seem pretty scary, she informed me, but he was a real magician. After weeks of internal argue, and unremitting physical pain, I decided to consult the unfailingly wise guidance of the I Ching. I decided to give this Harvey person a try when the I Ching assured me that it was a great opportunity.
Sandy drove me the 30+ miles to an unimpressive little two bedroom house on Hooker street in Denver. The yard-less house was surrounded by a blacktop parking lot on a commercial side street. We entered the front door where the former “living room” was nearly vacant. Ahead we saw in the small dining room area, the man I had–with apprehension and doubt–come to see.
The former “dining area” had folding chairs around the walls and two stools at one end for Harvey and the client to sit on during treatments, but from the front door, only the small reception desk was visible. Then came my first glimpse of the storied Harvey, a trim, fierce-looking, impeccably-dressed gentleman near 70 years of age who was just starting to get up from the desk.
He was holding his back and groaning as he very slowly stood up from the desk. Sandy rushed over to help him as the thought flashed by my head, “This is what you might expect from someone his age…” followed by: “This is the guy who’s supposed to heal me?” He looked like he had exact same problem I did! Except that half way by this little drama of painful arising–and to my total amazement–Harvey suddenly leaped high into the air and came down laughing like a madman. He glanced briefly over at me and then went about his business. Being as bright and educated as I am, it only took me about six months to realize that this had been my first Harvey lesson.
Somehow he knew all about my ailment, and he had perfectly imitated my behavior, which admittedly may have been understandable for some seventy-year-olds. The problem was that I was only in my forties at the time, while the 70-year-old was the one laughing and leaping for joy. I now know his message made it clear that one can be free of pain at any age, or disabled by it at any age and it also demonstrated that he knew me before he already met me.
His tricksterish stunt capsulized my secret goal of many years: to progress from how he started to get up to how he finished that movement. He had visually enacted a the transcendence of disability in a way I can nevertheless see to this day. Holy cow, I thought, who the hell is this guy?!
I have since had dreams of being fined for parking my car in a disabled parking identify (since I didn’t really qualify as disabled) and there are many dreams in which I joyfully run and suddenly realize I can jump over objects. Harvey acted out the eventual wisdom of my dreams in the very first minute of our first encounter. He was planting seeds of healing years before those same messages began appearing in my dreams. I took a seat on a metal folding chair and watched this suspicious character like a hawk.
Standing at one end of the room by the two treatment stools, Harvey would often just look around the room and point wordlessly at whoever was next. The client (or was it victim?) would sit on the black stool and Harvey sat on a white stool right behind them. I couldn’t help thinking about the color of the hats worn worn by the good and bad guys in old cowboy movies.
He generally started by taking the person’s neck in his vise-like grip and cranking it one way and then the other. He would often close his eyes a moment as if receiving instructions from some other vicinity or maybe looking right into the person with x-ray vision (both later proved to be the case) and then he would spring back into action.
Harvey moved with a fierce and absolute certainty. Sitting or standing behind you, he often, told stories or jokes, generally to someone else in the room or to the whole group. I later discovered that these tales were multi-layered instructions that often had very different meanings to each person in the room. Dreams have this same universal quality, carrying rare messages to all who hear them. Harvey produced stories with the profound complexity of dream wisdom, stories which I nevertheless continue to decode and learn from, many years later.
sometimes, Harvey would describe the problem he was working on and how it had originated as if we were all young interns doing medical rounds. Next he would sit behind them and put one knee in their low back and pull their complete body back against it, realigning the vertebrae and blasting chi (or palm healing energy) from his knee right into the regions along the spine. Soon his other knee went to the other side of their spine and another fierce yank would pull them back against it. Slowly vertebra by vertebra he worked his way up the spine.
Often, he would then work on the neck again, cranking it varying degrees in either or both directions. Finally, mercifully, he would be nearly finished. For his finale, he would signal you to stand up, he would step behind you and take you in a complete nelson head lock, tell you to relax and then yank you completely off the ground (including many 300 pounders). This blasts the loosened energies and broken-up obstructions up by the crown chakra and upward away from the planet (he once explained to me). I believe it did just that, not to mention terrifying the newcomer.
The huge woman whose Harvey “treatment” came just before mine, was an achieved screamer. She yelled and wailed and begged for mercy while shrieking repeatedly: “Oh Harvey you’re killing me” after every jarring blast of his special blend of karate chiropractic. (It turned out she did this every week and was deeply loyal to Harvey!)
It was no coincidence that Harvey’s unmarked business formation–called unobtrusively the “Herb Shop”–was located right behind a Karate school. Harvey already made sharp chi exhalations of his breath that resembled karate sounds with every healing blow he delivered. He later told me that the violent blows at the karate school provided cover in the invisible realms for his activities. He also said that the sounds he made provided a kind of overflow or release valve that kept him from delivering too much force and breaking something (you have no idea how much I grew to appreciate those strange sounds).
It did not surprise me already slightly when I learned that Harvey had been a bomber pilot in WW II and was often the spotter for enemy targets. He was now using his knees to deliver a bomb-like explosion of the energy that is typically applied ever so gently in the healing arts called palm healing (or Reiki or Therapeutic Touch) to blast regions of impacted energy along the spine.
I have never seen anything like it before or since and on my first visit I was truly terrified. (On all later visits I was only marginally terrified–in addition as deeply grateful to him). I told Sandy, “This is so intense (by which I meant violent) that if he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing, he could cripple me for life!” I clearly had a huge decision to make, sitting nervously on my metal chair.
When Harvey finally turned and pointed at me, I knew with great certainty–in that moment–that he did know exactly what he was doing and I decided to risk my mobility and my health on that fact. I have always been an intuitive truth teller and I know immediately when certain things are true. It may have something to do with being born a double. I was born at 11:44 pm on 8-8-1947. I had two mother figures and two father figures during my childhood and grew up to get two masters degrees and two Ph.D’s, etc. etc.
I took my place on the stool in front of Harvey and said, “Do you want me to show you where my problem areas are?” After several years of chiropractic treatment with two different doctors we had pinpointed the specific vertebrae that were the source of trouble; I wanted to give Harvey the assistance of all that effort. Harvey said the weirdest thing in response: “You can talk if you want to.” Which I (ultimately) would learn was his second lesson for me and it referred to my hyper-verbal doctoral-trained approach to everything. Harvey relied a great deal upon mind to mind communication and direct knowing, both of which worked all the better the less one spoke. But in that moment, I was so surprised I just sat totally quiet for a moment.
Before I could speak, Harvey put his finger exactly on the first trouble identify and said, “This is the lower one.” Putting his finger exactly on the second trouble identify, he said “this is the second one,” and perfectly pinpointing the third area he said “and this is the third one.” Then he pressed on a point on my upper neck from both sides and (just as soon as I finished shouting a bit), he said, “And that’s the one you don’t know about.” After a pause to digest all this I said, “Why don’t you just go ahead and work.”
During my wild and intense first treatment–with vertebrae leaping into new locaiongs, stagnant energies getting blasted and clenched muscles being stretched, Harvey chattered happily away. He talked about a psychiatrist friend of his who had various problems and discussed how he was working to resolve some of them. It took me a year to realize that everything Harvey had said was truly about me! I told you I was bright.
Since I had recently earned doctorates in psychology and in social work, he knew that my specialized prejudice against psychiatry as a profession was sufficient that all he had to do to hide the meaning of all his insights about me from my conscious mind, was to say that this imaginary person he was discussing was a psychiatrist. He knew I would never clarify with “one of those people” and that he could then directly discuss my own case with me without me, having the slightest hint that I was the topic.
He proceeded to plant the seeds of my growth in my unconscious without my ego debating or resisting whatsoever! By the time I figured out this cheap trick, I had already come to see the truth of each of his points! How unprofessional: to have a case conference about the doctor with the doctor without telling the doctor. Talk about a trickster!
When the treatment was done, Harvey cranked my neck so hard that 5 vertebrae moved all at once; I was terrified I might never move again. However, I soon found that my neck now moved freely and painlessly for the first time in years. Then came the finale, the standing complete-nelson in which I was jerked completely off the ground which stretched and decompressed every vicinity of my spine. I was very, I average very glad to be done with the time of action. I mumbled a hindered “Thanks” and headed back to the security of my folding chair.
Harvey waited for a moment or two, looked around the room, and then–to my shock and horror–he pointed straight at me for a second time! In all the years I would later go back to Harvey, I never again saw him give anyone two complete treatments in this way. I initially felt a wave of terror at having to go by the complete course of action a second time as if I had not just been treated (or was it mistreated?!). And at the same time a ray of hope was ignited thorough within me: Harvey was the first person who had ever known at first to peek briefly that I was a double and would require two separate treatments.
When I was finished, (and boy was I finished!) I put the suggested $5 donation in the basket on the table (paying only once, thank you very much, for the double treatment) and left with a few simple instructions that he gave me. In the car heading back to Boulder, I felt remarkably pain free except for one place atop my left shoulder (at a meridian for chi energies). It felt like a chunk of the exact pain I know all too well from the low back. A “chunk” of “low back pain” was somehow “stuck in the channel” on my shoulder. The area felt “as sore as if it had been hit with a ball peen hammer,” I ingemination telling Sandy… but the pain was definitely low back pain.
Sandy said to wiggle and stay loose so anything Harvey had “broken loose” could “flow out.” After a day this weird, I figured I would give anything a try. I knew from past experience that it would take several days for a pain of this level to go away, however after a few minutes of wiggling, I felt it move up by and finally out of the shoulder suddenly and completely. I had never felt pain behave that way, but it was suddenly gone. How, I wondered, does low back pain get broken into chunks and then how does it flow up by the body and then how can it escape by your shoulder? Not that I was complaining about it being gone! Only about my fractured world view and the disruption of my doctoral-strength false certainty. What would be next, I wondered, and rightly so.
Back home in Boulder, I had Sandy excursion us straight to Liquor Mart where I bought a bottle of champagne and we went to 4 mile creek and drank it all. I sat on the ground for the first time in 20 years and I felt no pain, no clenching, no discomfort… only the ecstasy of complete health. And any worrisome, negative attitudes had left along with the pain! I lost the pain in my neck and stopped being one at the same time! I was ecstatic. I falsely assumed (that didn’t take long did it?) that this single, well double, treatment had completely cured me, as I was to see happen to many other people that Harvey worked on in the years to come. But that was not Harvey’s purpose with me.
For the next three days, Harvey held all the negative forces affecting my body and mind under control. I was mobile, flexible and intensely joyous for 3 complete days. I awoke each morning thrilled to be alive, deeply grateful to be living in Colorado, and eager to jump into one constructive task after another all day long. I ingemination asking myself out loud, “Wow, who is this cheerful character I am waking up to each morning… and where has he been all my life?”
After the initial 3 days, my condition very gently and very little by little returned to a state one large step better than where I had begun, but I had been shown the goal state. I have been given the unforgettable and irrefutable, experiential evidence that I have carried with me ever since and which I will never forget: In this lifetime, in this body, I can be totally healthy and ecstatically joyful… not to mention deeply grateful. That extraordinary direct experience and the hope it instilled has consistent my efforts for these many years since, as I learn by my own efforts–with many crucial Harvey lessons and hints–how to heal myself and how to teach others what I learn.
I saw Harvey heal many others completely, sometimes in a single session or within a month or two. Some came in with crutches and walked out carrying them. He did all the work and they just had to show up. At first I felt cheated, when I compared myself with with these folks. Until I noticed that Harvey never compared. He gave each person in any case was for their highest good and it was never exactly the same for any two people.
I finally realized that Harvey was paying me an extraordinary compliment. He saw me not as a wounded expert, but as a beginning wounded healer. He expected me to activate and develop my own healing powers. He was refusing to do for me what he knew I could unprotected to myself. A warrior by character, he would not weaken me by doing for me what I came here to learn to do myself. And for this respect, and for the rare help and guidance I received, I am forever grateful.