Talking With the Spirits, 4



Metaphysics and Folk Models of Mind and Matter

Jack Hunter


pp. 100-1 ethnography about spirit-possession

p. 100

"Ethnographic parallels of spiritualist mediumship can be found in the many varieties of ... 'spirit possession' traditions (Schmidt & Huskinson, 2010; Dawson, 2011)".

"Spirit possession can be broadly defined ... as :

[quoted from Boddy, 1994, p. 407] the hold over a human being by external forces or entities more powerful than she. These forces may be ancestors or divinities, ghosts of foreign origin, or entities ontologically ... alien."

p. 101

"there has been a distinct lack of research into contemporary Euro-American spirit mediumship (see ... Nelson, 1969; Skultans, 1974[;] and Emmons, 2008 for notable exceptions), and even less on contemporary ... physical mediumship."

Schmidt & Huskinson, 2010 = Bettina E. Schmidt; Lucy Huskinson (editrices) : Spirit Possession and Trance : New Interdisciplinary Perspectives. London : Continuum.

Dawson, 2011 = Andrew Dawson (ed.) : Summoning the Spirits : Possession and Invocations in Contemporary Religion. LIBRARY OF MODERN RELIGION, 15. London : I. B. Tauris.

Boddy, 1994 = Janice Boddy : "Spirit Possession Revisited : Beyond Instrumentality". ANNUAL REVIEW OF ANTHROPOLOGY 23:407-34.

Nelson, 1969 = Geoffrey K. Nelson : Spiritualism and Society. London : Routledge & Kegan Paul; NY : Schocken Bks.

Skultans, 1974 = Vieda Skultans : Intimacy and Ritual : a Study of Spiritualism, Mediums and Groups. London & Boston : Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Emmons, 2008 = Charles F. Emmons : "On Becoming a Spirit Medium in a "Rational" Society". ANTHROPOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS 12.1:71-82.

p. 102 anthropological literature concerning spirit-possession/mediumship, emphasizing social-protest movements expressing indignation against oppression and against repression

"Lewis (1971), for example, has argued that spirit possession rituals often serve as '... protest movements directed against ... any ... dominant group ..., because ... responsibility lies ... with the spirits' (1971, pp. 31-32) ...

{The divine worlds whence the possessing-deities issue forth certainly tend to express indignation against impious and atheistic governments imposed by capitalist-materialist hypocrites. [written Feb 5, 2015]}

Functionalist analyses of spirit possession is this vein have been very popular among anthropologists and have been applied to numerous societies worldwide (Giles, 1987, p. 235). These include accounts of

{It is a fact that anthropologists generally are not only sympathetic with indigenous populations, but also seek to encourage anti-governmental protest and subversion by inciting mass-insurrection through publicizing such factors as divine dissatisfaction (against atheistic capitalist-materialism) expressed by way of mediumship in oracular spirit-possession. [written Feb 5, 2015]}

the Zar possession cult of northern Sudan (Boddy, 1988),

spirit possession amongst the Digo in Southern Kenya (Gomm, 1975),

amongst Brazilian mediums (Fry, 1986),

in ... spontaneous ... spirit possession in Malaysian factories (Ong, 1988), and even

in a Spiritualist home-circle in 1960s Wales (Skultans, 1974)."

Lewis 1971 = Ioan Myrddin Lewis : Ecstatic Religion : an Anthropological Study of Spirit Possession and Shamanism. Harmondsworth (Middlesex) : Pelican Library.

Giles, 1987 = Linda L. Giles : "Possession Cults on the Swahili Coast". AFRICA : J OF THE INTERNAT AFRICAN INSTITUTE 57.2:234-58.

Boddy, 1988 = Janice P. Boddy : "Spirits and Selves in Northern Sudan : ... Possession and Trance". AMER ETHNOLOGIST 15.1:4-27.

Gomm, 1975 = Roger Gomm : "Spirit Possession on the South Kenya Coast". MAN 10.4:530-43.

Fry, 1986 = Peter Fry : "Male Homosexuality and Spirit Possession in Brazil". J OF HOMOSEXUALITY 11.3-4:137-53.

Ong, 1988 = Aihwa Ong : "The Production of Possession : Spirits and the Multinational Corporation in Malaysia". AMER ETHNOLOGIST 15.1:28-42.

Skultans, 1974 = Vieda Skultans : Intimacy and Ritual : a Study of Spiritualism, Mediums and Groups. London : Routledge & Kegan Paul.

p. 102 matted hair in deity-media as indication of socio-oikonomic repression

"Obeyesekere's (1984) seminal {i.e., instilling the seeds of insurrection} study of spirit-possession in S[`]ri Lanka ... interpreted {deity-}possession ... as outward symbols of ... negative life experiences. ... spirit possession emphasize '... distressful experiences' in the lives ... (Budden, 2003, p. 28)

{A possessing-deity may readily suggest to a frequently-possessed mortal medium to keep the hair in a state of disarray in order to indicate that the oikonomic lives of the faithful are in a state of disarray due to oppression of them by an impious and rapacious ruling class. [written Feb 6 2015]}

Obeyesekere, 1984 = Gannanath Obeyesekere : Medusa's Hair ... and Religious Experience. Univ of Chicago Pr.

Budden, 2003 = Ashwin Budden : "... Possession : an Essay on Mind, Self and Experience in Dissociation". ANTHROPOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS 14.2:27-59. {The oikonomic "dissociation" desired is, of course, a seeking to be liberated from exploitative oppression by a ruling class.} {A. Budden's 2010 Univ of CA at San Diego PhD diss concerned the Lower Amazon. }

pp. 103-4 cognitive & functional understandings of spirit-possession

p. 103

"Cognitive approaches to spirit possession have been gaining increasing traction within anthropology, following the lead of pioneering work by Stewart Guthrie (1980; 1993) and Pascal Boyer (2001) on cognitive approaches to supernatural belief. Specifically, the work of Emma Cohen (2008) has been particularly influential. Cohen discerns two primary forms of spirit possession :

pathogenic possession {or obsession, i.e., seige}, in which possession by spiritual beings is understood to be the underlying cause of illness, and

{In this mode (not usually designated as "possession" in the literature of Siberian shamanry), the "health" of a sick client is understood to have been carried off into a Netherworld by a sickness-goblin, who must be negotiated withal (praeferably in a dream) by the curer-shaman into order that the abducted "health" may be recovered and restored to the material body.}

executive possesson, being the deliberate, and desired, incorporation of spirits, often called spirit mediumship."

"Functionalist models frequently fail to take into account the experiences and understandings of the possessed themselves (Bowker, 1973; Boddy, 1988, p. 4), and do not always correspond with the ethnographic facts (Wilson, 1967; Rasmussen, 1994,

p. 104

p. 76). Similarly, cognitive approaches have been criticised for their reduction of particularly complex ... experiential phenomena to highly specific, ... speculative ... processes (Halloy, 2010)."

Guthrie 1980 = Stewart Guthrie : "A Cognitive Theory of Religion". CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY 21.2:181-203.

Guthrie 1993 = Stewart Guthrie : Faces in the Clouds. Oxford Univ Pr.

Boyer 2001 = Pascal Boyer : Religion Explained : ... Gods, Spirits and Ancestors. London : William Heinemann.

Cohen 2008 = Emma Cohen : "What Is Spirit Possession? Defining ... Two Possession Forms". ETHOS 73.1:101-36.

Wilson, 1967 = P. J. Wilson : "Status Ambiguity and Spirit Possession". MAN 2.3:366-78.

Rasmussen, 1994 = Susan J. Rasmussen : "The 'Head Dance,' Contested Self, and Art as a Balancing Act in Tuareg Spirit Possession". AFRICA : J OF THE INTERNAT AFRICAN INSTITUTE 64.1:74-98.

Halloy, 2010 = Arnaud Halloy : "Comments on The Mind Possessed : the Cognition of Spirit Possession in an Afro-Brazilian Religious Tradition by Emma Cohen". RELIGION AND SOCIETY : ADVANCES IN RESEARCH 1:164-76. {Emma Cohen's hypothesis is also discussed in "GFLEXPC", pp. 178, 195-7.}

"GFLEXPC" = Arnaud Halloy : "Gods in the Flesh : Learning Emotions in the Xang"ô Possession Cult (Brazil)". ETHNOS 77 (2012).2:177-202.

pp. 107-8 physical mediumship of D. D. Home

p. 107

"Scottish-born American medium Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886) ... By 1856 ... was conducting se'ances in Britain. Se'ances with Home were said to feature ... the levitation and apportation (spontaneous appearance) of objects. ...

p. 108

Using specially designed laboratory equipment Crookes tested Home's ability to change the weight of physical objects and to play tunes on an accordion suspended out of reach in a cage (Lamont, 2005, pp. 204-207; ... Melechi, 2008, pp. 198-200)."

"he was proficient in four different forms of mediumship :

the direct voice (whereby spirits communicate verbally independent of the medium),

trance mediumship (whereby spirits communicate verbally through the body of the medium),

clairvoyance (the ability to see visions of the spirit world, the future and distant locations) and

physical mediumship (the ability to psychically manipulate physical objects) (Doyle [1926], p. 206)."

Lamont, 2005 = Peter Lamont : The First Psychic : the Peculiar Mystery of a Notorious Victorian Wizard. London : Little, Brown & Co. (reprinted 2006 London : Abacus)

Melechi, 2008 = Antonio Melechi : Servants of the Supernatural : the Night Side of the Victorian ... . London : William Heinemann.

Doyle, 1926 = Arthur Conan Doyle : The History of Spiritualism. vol 2. London : Cassell. (reprinted 1989 London : Psychic Pr; reprinted 2002 Oxshott : Spiritual Truth Pr; reprinted 2006 Fairford : Echo Library)

p. 109 report on the Scole experiments

"The ... discarnate contacts had facilitated the manifestation of spirit lights, moved furniture, created apports (objects appearing from no known source and by no known means), displayed ... angelic forms, and produced films ... (Keen, 2001, p ... 168)".

Keen, 2001 = Montegue Keen : "The Scole Investigation". J OF SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION 15.2:167-82.

pp. 110-2 Bristol Spirit Lodge

p. 110

"The Bristol Spirit Lodge was established in 2005 as a centre for the establishment of trance and physical mediumship when ... a mother and housewife in her mid-sixties, became convinced of the reality of spirit mediumship following a physical mediumship se'ance at Jenny's Sanctuary, a well known Spiritualist circle in Banbury. During the se'ance, ... heard a voice she recognized as belonging to her deceased father. ... a short ... autobiography ... describes the profound effect of this se`ance experience on her worldview :

[quoted from di Nucci, 2009, p. 23 :] I now had no option but to believe ... . ... I knew I couldn't ignore reality. ... We simply cannot see all that exists."

p. 111

"Originally ..., the Lodge was constructed ... according to simply rules recommended by ... the circle leader at Jenny's Sanctuary. ... To this end all the materials used to construct it were blessed, kissed and treated

p. 112

with great respect. ... The Lodge was aligned so that the se'ance cabinet, a curtained off corner of the room in which the medium sits while in trance (... used by physical mediums in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries),

was located in the North corner,

{In the Chinese Imperial Court, the emperor is seated on the north side, facing toward the south.}

a position deemed conducive to the flow of vital 'energies' necessary for the successful development of physical mediumship."

{In Taoist cosmology, the Heavenly Emperor is considered as located in the North Star.}

Di Nucci, 2009 = C. di Nucci : Spirits in a Teacup : ... the Reality of Life After Death ... . Bristol : Bristol Spirit Lodge.

p. 112 team of spirits co-operating with group of mortal "sitters"

"the medium enters a trance state and allows members of their spirit team to communicate with the sitters (Gauld 1982:29). Spirit teams at the Lodge generally consist of between six and sixteen individual spirits with distinctive and consistent characters ... . Individual members of each medium's spirit team are usually differentiated through the use of distinctive bodily postures and exaggerated vocalisations that allow them to be recognised as distinct personalities (Hunter 2013b), and each spirit usually works towards the production of a specific physical phenomenon, depending upon their own interests."

Gauld 1982 = Alan Gauld : Mediumship and Survival : a Century of Investigations. London : Heinemann. (reprinted 1983 London : Granada Publ)

Hunter 2013b = Jack Hunter : "Numinous Conversations : Performance and Manifestation of Spirits in Spirit Possession Practices". In :- Angela Voss; William Rowlandson (edd.) : Daimonic Imagination : Uncanny Intelligence. Newcastle-upon-Tyne :  Cambridge Scholars Publ.

p. 113 expanding possibilities

"belief at the Lodge ... represents an ongoing process of learning, interpretation and re-interpretation."

"she has a problem with the word 'belief' being applied to her, explaining how ... that without evidence she has 'difficulty believing in anything.' Her conclusions about the nature of mind and matter, therefore, are founded upon her own experiences with mediumship. She says :

[Mediumship] expands the thinking. It certainly expands the possibilities."

pp. 114 some spiritual truths

"that consciousness can survive the death of the physical body,

that personhood is partible,

that the body is permeable,

that reality is non-physical, and

that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe."

pp. 114- 22 commentary on those spiritual truths

p. 114

"1) Survival of Consciousness after Death. ... experiences developing mediumship ... have led ... to a fuller understanding that personal consciousness survives the physical death of the body ... . ...

p. 115

It was only ... after being introducted to mediumship ..., that ... came to realize that consciousness survives after the death of the body. ...

2) Spiritual Augmentation. ...

In her study of Afro-Cuban Spiritism, for example, Diana Espi[`]rito Santo argues that mediumship is

p. 116

a 'type of partnership between a person and a series of spirits' and that the 'person' {more specifically, the material body} of the medium is a 'meeting-ground for the unique abilities of each of the spirits belonging to her spiritual cordo[`]n' (Espi[`]rito Santo, 2011, p. 102). Spirit mediumship can be ..., therefore, ...

a process whereby the medium's person is expanded through the incorporation of other spiritual beings, thus creating ... a composite, or multiple personhood. ... .

{Possessing spirits are in possession of the medium's body only one-at-a-time; and only when the medium is not particularly self-aware : therefore, "a composite, or multiple personhood" (i.e., sensation of one's consciousness being a composite of supernatural deities) can hardly at all (instead of always or usually) awarely come into existence specifically via the route of spirit-possession. The very term "multiple personalities" is misleading.}

p. 117

... human consciousness has evolved along side, and under the influence of, non-physical entities (Rachel, 2013). ...

{Yea, for (though there be never much a direct sensation of compositeness of consciousness), there is much supraconscious communication amounting to co-operation of each mortal's soul, mind, and intellect with veritable councils of deities.}

3) Porous Bodies and Field-Like Selves ...

p. 118

Experiences with mediumship ... lead towards a ... perspective on the nature of ... personhood ..., in that the person is ... porous and susceptible to the influence of external agents (Steffen, 2011; Smith, 2012, p. 53)."

"the body, in the context of Spiritualist trance se'ances, as a 'shared territory, holding the physical life-force of the medium and the conscious intelligence of visiting spirits' (Bowie, In Press, p. 14)."

p. 119

[quoted :] "Then ... I will feel a presence around me kind of like an enveloping feeling, the first thing I feel is ... a ... standing unseen nearby. I have an awareness of there being someone there, near me, that is a friend.

{This sentiment would be a experienced in the mental plane, through one's inchoate mental body.}

I then feel them {him or her} come closer into my personal 'space in some quiet gentle way ... . ...

When they actually make a personal entrance into your body, that's pretty bizarre.

It would normally happen in the middle of the night I'd wake up and there was ... a sort of odd feeling,

{This is transpiring when, as with "sleep paralysis" (or even with continuing to hear, after having awoken, the dream-person whom had been conversing with one before awaking), the connection with the dream-universe is not as yet severed.}

it's like ... taking off a polo necked jumper, but

{This would be a 2-dimensional structure, which when sensed as layered, may be responsible for the description of the maya-kos`a sheaths surrounding the atman. They would also be the s^kinata of the Manda< description of the soul.}

from inside of yourself. ... something's pulling,

{Because this sense of attraction must emerge from within the body, therefore in Taoism the deities needing to be activated are said already to be praesent in one's body, such that initially "the Kingdom of Heaven is within you".}

it's kind of gone in, and then

it's kind of pulling out, and

{This may be related to the Taoist emanating of deities out from one's body, in order to send them forth to fulfill various tasks.}

it's, oh, the weirdest, weirdest feeling."

{The feeling mentioned would be that of retroversion, a turning inside-out, which would happen in removing clothing.}

p. 120

"Where once the experience of spirits moving through her body had been unpleasant and spontaneous, it is now both deliberately induced and enjoyable. ...

p. 121

Where they differ is in the porosity of the self : the belief {experience, not mere "belief"} that the self can be influenced by non-physical entities, that the physical body ... may be entered by non-physical beings .... and that the self {in its astral body} can leave the physical body during altered states of consciousness. What we seem to be dealing with ... calls for further investigation (Lillard, 1998).

p. 122

4) Panpsychism ... defined as ... the idea {experience, not merely "idea"} that consciousness {/psuche/ 'soul' is not identical with "consciousness"} is inherent in all matter (Velmans 2007, p. 279)."

{The consciousness inhaerent in "all matter" can be allocated to the elemental spirits, or some variation thereof. Psukhe is, in isolation, nearly lacking in consciousness, which must remain with the noos while they are separated (or so according to Neo-Platonic doctrine).}

Espi`rito Santo, 2011 = Diana Espi`rito Santo : "Process, Personhood and Possession in Cuban Spiritism". In :- Andrew Dawson (ed.) : Summoning the Spirits. London : I. B. Tauris & Co. pp. 93-109.

Rachel, 2013 = Alex Rachel : "Daimonic Ecologies : an Inquiry into the Relationships between the Human and Nonphysical Species". In :- Angela Voss; William Rowlandson (edd.) : Daimonic Imagination : Uncanny Intelligence. Newcastle-upon-Tyne :  Cambridge Scholars Publ.

Steffen, 2011 = V. Steffen : "Intrusive Agents and Permeable Selves : Spirit Consultation in Denmark". In :- Sylvie Fainzang; Claudie Haxaire (editrices) : Of Bodies and Symptoms : Anthropological Perspectives ... . ANTROPOLOGIA ME`DICA 4. Tarragona : Publ URV.

Smith, 2012 = K. Smith : "From Dividual and Individual Selves to Porous Subjects". AUSTRALIAN J OF ANTHROPOLOGY 23:50-64.

Bowie = Fiona Bowie : "Material and Immaterial Bodies : Ethnographic Reflections on a Trance Se'ance".

Lillard, 1998 = A. Lillard : "Ethnopsychologies : Cultural Variations in Theories of Mind". PSYCHOLOGICAL BULLETIN 123.1:3-32.

Velmans, 2007 = M. Velmans : "The Co-evolution of Matter and Consciousness". SYNTHESIS PHILOSOPHICA 22(44):273-82.

p. 124 rational interpretation of first-hand personal experiences

"Ideas that might, at first glance, appear outlandish

need not necessarily be classified as irrational or unscientific, but

{The only philosophy which is truly irrational and unscientific is materialism (which is in denial of any possibility of existence of consciousness).}

can be understood as logical conclusions drawn from first-hand personal experiences interpreted rationally (Hufford, 1982; Turner, 1993; Bowie, 2013).

Hufford, 1982 = David J. Hufford : The Terror That Comes in the Night : an Experience-Centred Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions. Philadelphia : Univ of PA Pr.

Turner, 1993 = Edith Turner : "The Reality of Spirits : a Tabooed or Permitted Field of Study?" ANTHROPOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS 4.1:9-12.

Bowie, 2013 = F. Bowie : "Building Bridges, Dissolving Boundaries : Towards a Methodology for the Ethnographic Study of the Afterlife, Mediumship and Spiritual Beings". J OF THE AMER ACADEMY OF RELIGION 81.3:698-733. {building bridges between immaterial and material worlds; dissolving boundaries between immortal and mortal entities}


Jack Hunter & David Luke (edd.) : Talking With the Spirits : Ethnographies from Between the Worlds. Daily Grail Publ, Brisbane, 2014.