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Spirit Release Therapy, as a clinical alternative to religious exorcism and traditional shamanistic practice is largely unknown by mainstream medical practice and psychiatry. This is due to several interrelated factors. Primarily, materialistic science does not recognise any concept of a spirit world and doctors are therefore not yet trained in SRT principles and techniques. SRT sits uncomfortably between the disbelief of a materialist secular society and the subjective experience of spirit possession: whether that experience is a symptom of psychosis, symbolic representation, socio-cultural expectation or a veridical manifestation. In contrast to the monism of mechanistic science, every culture and religious belief system throughout human history has its traditional beliefs of spirit possession in some form or another with corresponding rituals for the release or exorcism of spirit entities. It is common knowledge that Christianity has its angels, devils and demons (although the majority of modern so-called Christians probably don’t believe they really exist). Islam has its Jinns and the Hindus have a variety of evil spirits.
The conflict between the epistemologies of modern science and religion lies in the conceptual differences in perception that are arrived at through empirical data and radical empirical experience. In short, it is a difference between what we believe to be true and what we know to be true.
The belief in the validity of the multiple personality concept is discussed in this article. Two scaffolding constructions are analyzed: dissociation and repression. As generally employed, these constructions grant no agency to the multiple personality patient. The claim is made that the conduct of interest arises in discourse, usually with the therapist as the discourse partner. In reviewing the history of multiple personality and the writings of current advocates, it becomes clear that contemporary users of the multiple personality disorder diagnosis participate in a subculture with its own set of myths, one of which is the autonomous actions of mental faculties. Of special significance is the readiness to transfigure imaginings into rememberings of child abuse, leading ultimately to the manufacture of persons. The implications for both therapy and theory of regarding the patient as agent in place of the belief that the contranormative conduct is under the control of mentalistic faculties are discussed.
In this paper I draw parallels between multiple personality, spirit mediumship, and hypnosis from historical, anthropological, and clinical perspectives. I emphasize Milton H. Erickson’s view of multiple personalities as not necessarily pathological but as potential resources. He employed hypnosis to gain access to personalities and to transform their behavior from involuntary to voluntary actions. I discuss similarities between this view and the use of spirits as a resource with mediums. Natural trance therapies in other cultures offer a new perspective for viewing the normalcy or pathology of “other selves.”
An auditory hallucination shares with imaginal hearing the property of being self-generated and with real hearing the experience of the stimulus being an external one. To investigate where in the brain an auditory event is “tagged” as originating from the external world, we used positron emission tomography to identify neural sites activated by both real hearing and hallucinations but not by imaginal hearing. Regional cerebral blood flow was measured during hearing, imagining, and hallucinating in eight healthy, highly hypnotizable male subjects prescreened for their ability to hallucinate under hypnosis (hallucinators). Control subjects were six highly hypnotizable male volunteers who lacked the ability to hallucinate under hypnosis (nonhallucinators). A region in the right anterior cingulate (Brodmann area 32) was activated in the group of hallucinators when they heard an auditory stimulus and when they hallucinated hearing it but not when they merely imagined hearing it. The same experimental conditions did not yield this activation in the group of nonhallucinators. Inappropriate activation of the right anterior cingulate may lead self-generated thoughts to be experienced as external, producing spontaneous auditory hallucinations.
Anthropologists, exorcists and psychiatrists all approach the enigmas of spirit possession from differing perspectives and unsurprisingly fail to arrive at a consensual explanation for the phenomena. This creates problems for therapeutic interventions for perceived spirit possession cases. However, the 19th century researcher F.W.H. Myers developed a conceptual framework using rigorous scientific methods that provides a unified theory to explain all forms of spirit possession across all cultures, religions and societies. Myers declared that all so-called paranormal and supernatural phenomena are natural and normal, and all such experiences exist on a continuum of human experience. Discarded, forgotten and denied by mainstream science until now, Myers is being re-discovered by 21st century psychology. Using Myers scientific framework, this book fills the gaps in knowledge left by the inadequate theories of anthropology and psychiatry, and gives religious exorcism and clinical practice an alternative approach to research and intervention that is grounded in pragmatic and proven clinical experience.