Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession

Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession

Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession

Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession

Synopsis

I.M. Lewis's wide-ranging comparative study looks at the psychological, medical, aesthetic, religious, and cultural aspects of possession, and covers themes including soul-loss, ecstatic trance, divination, erotic passion, and exorcism. Probing the mysteries of spirit possession through the critical lens of anthropological and sociological theory, this fully revised and expanded third edition is of crucial importance for students of psychology, sociology, religious mysticism and shamanism.

Excerpt

Since the last edition of this book in 1989, the 'possession' of human beings by alien spirits, an exotic condition that seemed to have virtually disappeared from Western culture, returned with a bang in the shape of what psychiatrists call 'Multiple Personality Disorder'. This striking phenomenon of contemporary, especially American, life, involving possession by an assorted collection of spirit entities (including frequently aliens), with its specialist diagnosticians and therapists, has become big business. It is legitimated and promoted by a mushrooming popular literature and by highly successful films such as 'The three faces of Eve', 'Rosemary's Baby', 'Alien', 'Others' etc.

The current appeal of New Age beliefs and practices has encouraged a similar, if more exclusive, market for 'Neo-Shamanism', as individuals and groups in contemporary Western society adapt what they take to be exotic shamanistic lore for ritual healing and other spiritual purposes (cf. Pen-in, 1995; Jakobsen, 1999; Ogudina, 1999). This is a kind of 'psychic aerobics' as Clifton (1989) dubs 'armchair shamanism', and if you have the money to spare, you can enrol in practical courses and not only at such famous sites as Big Sur in California. Successful Western entrepreneurs even finance international conferences for academic researchers on 'traditional' shamanism (the real mackay), as well as for practitioners like themselves. This is truly the era of guru globalisation!

For its part, Multiple Personality Disorder connects with another popular contemporary preoccupation: satanism. the standard explanation of mpd by its diagnosticians and therapists is in terms of childhood sexual assault, often in a satanic ritual context. Typically, therapy which is designed to recover repressed memories, often with the aid of hypnotism,

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