ARC-16: Where (fragmented) selves meet cultures: Theorising spirit possession by Taves, Ann
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Author(s): Taves, Ann
Title: Where (fragmented) selves meet cultures: Theorising spirit possession
Category: published article
Keywords: hypnosis; dissociation; mediums; spirit possession; spiritualism; suggestion; involuntary experience
Abstract: Cognitive theories of religious experience, while helpful in explaining some aspects of spirit possession, do not provide a means of accounting for the experience of mediums whose ordinary selves are `absent\' during possession rituals. Using the late nineteenth century medium, Mrs Piper, as a case study, I argue that hypnosis provides a means of inducing involuntary experiences similar to those experienced by possessed persons, and that models of how hypnosis works in both hypnotic `virtuosos\' and ordinary subjects can be utilised in thinking theoretically about involuntary experiences in religious contexts. In conclusion, I suggest that phenomena of interest to scholars of religion might be subsumed under the heading `auto-suggestive phenomena\' and contrasted with the `hetero-suggestive phenomena\' associated with hypnosis proper and the `autosuggestive disorders\' associated with hysteria in the nineteenth century, and conversion and dissociative disorders in the twentieth century.
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