By Patrick McNamara
From the start of civilization to the current day, and throughout all significant religions and cultures, there were documented situations of individuals doubtless overtaken by means of an unseen entity. The invading force—whether strong or bad—appears to exchange the possessor's soul with the spirit's personal personality, leading to mystifying signs comparable to levitation or different supernatural feats, conversing in tongues, or even awful and inexplicably speeded up actual distortion and deterioration.
This is a two-volume chronological heritage and exam of spirit ownership that addresses its phenomenological, mental, and neurobiological points, and its results on societies. quantity one reports spirit ownership from the higher Paleolithic period to fashionable instances, whereas quantity specializes in case stories and rites of exorcism.
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Extra resources for Spirit Possession and Exorcism: History, Psychology, and Neurobiology
Masks depict various sorts of identities so that people can refer to and operate on those identities. But ritual masks do something a bit more than the semiotic perspective can handle. How does one identify conventional signs/symbols of the godhead or of a supernatural being? Clearly myths about that divinity must be used to carve the mask in question. Myths only change slowly over time so ritual masking cannot be used to change the mythic lore of a people. Instead ritual masks use mythic accounts of the gods to embody the signs and symbols of a particular god in order to operate on the identity of the masker not the identity of the god (as described in myth).
When men were recruited by younger women into ecstatic fertility cults these groups inevitably led to civil conflict within a society. Examples abound throughout history—some of which I will recount in other chapters. For now it is important to note that ritual masking when it involved possession was largely a preserve of men. According to myths the world over this was due to the fact that women had discovered the power of the mask to induce possession but then abused that power—so men had to take it over, and learn to control it for the good of the community.
In the special case known as counterfactual processing, we simulate alternatives to actual states of affairs. We simulate “what might have been” if what actually happened had happened in a slightly different way. It is easy to see how all of these sorts of simulation abilities help us to think religiously if religion involves the posting of alternative realms and counterintuitive agents. Perhaps the most important of these cognitive abilities for religious consciousness is the so-called theory of mind or ToM capacity.
Spirit Possession and Exorcism: History, Psychology, and Neurobiology by Patrick McNamara