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Chapter 6

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Western University
Psychology 2011A/B
Imants Baruss

Alter States of Consciousness: Trance • Trance as the juxtaposition of apparent awareness without actual self-determination Shamanism Characteristics of Shamanism • Shamanism – practice in which a person deliberately alters their consciousness for the purpose of interacting with spirits in order to serve their community • Two forms 1. Soul journey – shaman travels in otherworldly realms in which spirits are encountered  May experience flying or falling through an opening of the earth, arriving at another reality, having imaginal adventures and encountering various spiritual entities in that realm, and remembering the events when returned  Involves fantasy 2. Possession – spirits work through the shaman’s body  Sense of dizziness, alterations in body image and a not infrequent experience of weight or pressure on the shoulder or neck, frequently explained as being mounted by a spirit and an inability to recall the events that occurred during the time of spirit incorporation  Characterized by dissociation • Study of 42 societies - shamans in 10 societies engaged in journeying, 18 societies used possession, 11 societies had both (such as Tungus of Siberia and the Tamang of Nepal) and 3 had some other different altered state • Initiation – marked by ordeals of death and rebirth, whereby beginners are often isolated from society, subjected to deprivation, and experience exhaustion, suffering, and symbolic death, resulting in access to another realm of existence - E.g. Bhirendra’s described as encounter with ghost in cemetery who picked him with spears, pulled flesh of him until he was saved by a white light - Can include psychedelic drugs, changed sexual orientation Shamanism and Schizophrenia • Schizophrenia - psychological condition characterized by disorganized speech and behaviour as well as the presence of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions - Positive symptoms – an excess or distortion of normal functions - Negative symptoms – a decrease or loss of normal functions • WALSH, phenomenological mapping – experiences in different states of consciousness can be compared along a number of dimensions. This was used to compare soul journeying and schizophrenia - shaman’s regain control and are socially reintegrated as a healer, whereas a person with schizophrenia often have reduction of control and becomes a social outcast - Concentration increased in soul journeying, thoughts moving freely from object to object, whereas schizophrenia primarily characterized by disorganization of thought - Shaman’s self of self resembles and out-of-body experience, whereas schizophrenia have a disintegrated send of self, rarely out-of-body, however overall those with schizophrenia have more out-of-body experiences than the general population - Shaman can have positive or negative affect, schizophrenia is often negative - Shaman content of experience is coherent, schizophrenia content is disorganized • Similarities include; high arousal, low environment awareness, limited ability to communicate with surrounding people Shamanism and Hypnosis • CARDENA, study of 12 hypnotic virtuosos that went into as deep of a state of hypnosis possible and every 5 minutes were asked what they were experiencing - Found during light level of hypnosis there were alterations in body image followed by imaginal experiences, deep level particpants hear music, saw colours, and reported synesthesia (the experience of a stimulus in sensory modalities other than which is received) - All saw a very bright light and in some cases become one with it and had positive effect • Experiment suggest that the alterations in consciousness found in shamanism and deep hypnosis are likely the product of innate biological/cognitive dispositions Shamanic World View • The Tamang shaman’s cosmology is animistic in which good and evil events result from the influences of spirits that live • A shamans purpose in entering alter states of consciousness is to retrieved a stolen soul or to exorcize a person from a possessing spirit • From a materialist point of view, there is no such thing as spirits, however there is an insistence that they are real, including seeing a large grey blob about six inches across emerge from a sick woman’s back during a healing ritual • Quantum mechanics, a theory about the composition of matter, is a myth invented to talk about an unseen level of reality - WOLF, a physicist, participated in shamanic ritual, maintained that the shamanic and quantum worlds are virtually the same  In this sense, the unseen realms of the shaman may be the unseen realms of contemporary physics Possession Characteristics of Possession • Possession – a condition in which a person has been taken over by an external entity • Possession trance – possession in which alterations of consciousness are evident • Anthropologist, LARRY PETERS, went to become a shaman under the tutelage of the Tamang shaman Bhirendra - Purification ritual to see if the gods would come to possess him, handed a drum to play along (drumming is thought to induce alterations of consciousness), he started coconsciously shaken until is become automatic, however he never felt the presence of an alien power - Another time while drumming he felt his coconscious leave his body, found himself flying over a quiet valley towards a green light. Turned out to be a torso of a green figure, light coming out of their eye, visible through the open window of a three story house, realized it was a dream as he was awakened by water being poured on him - Bhirendra himself is often possessed by a tiger spirit • Pentacostalism practices glossolalia – speaking in tongues • Sumitra, a woman who lived in India, after seemly having died and been revived, believed that she was Shiva, a woman who had died violently about two months previously in a village 100km away Channeling • Channeling – the communication of information or energy from apparently nonphysical sources such as spirits - Trance channeling – possession occurs - Conscious channeling – possession does not occur • Most popular entity to be channeled is Jesus • JANE ROBERTS, known for channeling Seth, also channeled William James • Example of a cold wind that moved into the center of a person’s body, talked through them and answered the questions (which the person could see in the people’s minds). The entity names itself and then left leaving the person exhausted • For materialist, Shamanism, possession, and channeling are products or fantasy and dissociation Dissociative Identity Disorder Characteristics of Dissociative Identity Disorder • DID – a condition whose primary characteristic is the presence of distinct personality states that take turns being in executive control of the body and separated by varying degrees of amnesia • More women than men (nine times more) diagnosed with DID - Men with DID may end up in prison given that a high number of DID have been found with sex offenders - Prevalence rates: 3% to 5% of undiagnosed DID for psychiatric admissions to hospitals and 1% for the general population • DID is more macroscopic, in that basic functions of the psyche continue to be operative but there is a fragmentation of self-identity • People with DID spend an average of seven years in the mental system before being diagnosed - People with DID are most often misdiagnosed with schizophrenia (41% of 236 people) - Problem Is that many physician do not believe it exists  41% of people in London don’t believe it Description of Alternate Personalities • Each alternate personality appears to have a distinct personal history, self-image, identity, and separate name • Some of the 29 personalities ex
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