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Possession and Self-Possession: Spirit Healing, Tantric Meditation and āveśa

Samuel, Geoffrey Brian 2008. Possession and Self-Possession: Spirit Healing, Tantric Meditation and āveśa. Diskus 9

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While much recent scholarship on Tantra has tended to distance it from the world of pragmatic ritual healing, mediumship and spirit-possession, and treat it primarily as an elevated mode of pursuit of enlightened consciousness, Frederick Smith’s recent book The Self Possessed is the most comprehensive presentation so far of the reverse position, that all of these modes of interaction with the divine, whether to do with healing, sorcery or spiritual liberation, share common assumptions and a common idiom. Here, and in other recent writing, Smith presents the idea of entry, pervasion or possession (āveśa) as a fundamental trope in Indic thought, encompassing everything from conception (seen as the individual jīva taking over possession of the embryo) to Tantric ritual, the temporary occupation of another body and malevolent spirit-attack. If this is true, however, does this suggest that we are applying the wrong set of categories to understand Indic and perhaps also other religious traditions? This article sketches an alternative mode of looking at the field of “possession,” broadly defined, and explores some of its implications.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Publisher: British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR)
ISSN: 0967-8948
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 03:40

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