I’m working on a post about channeling and mediumship, but it’s a hard delivery. One of the topics it relates to though is that of managing the unconscious.
Our psychologists are learning a lot about this topic. For instance, in learning anything we’ve always been told repetition is important. What we now know is that rest is important too. A good night’s sleep will give the brain time to integrate what’s been learned today. This is why when learning a language it’s so important to spend an hour a day, instead of 7 hours on one day and then nothing. This helps the unconscious brain – the brain that goes on working while we busy ourselves with other things – have the time in between sessions to get organized.
In the field of anthropology possession is one of the topics that can’t be reduced to ‘culture’. The general pattern is that someone who is of low social status gets ‘possessed’ and brings messages from spirits. The people around that person have to figure out whether the spirits possessing that person are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In that process the result is usually that the low status person gets more of what she needs, and then the spirit attacks stop. Some people graduate from being possessed to being able to control the spirits. These are called shamans in the anthropological discourse on the topic.
Shamans use their connection to the spirit world to serve their whole tribe. When social structure is changing, you will often find that the culture of possession changes as well. In Sri Lanka for instance more women are finding a position of status through becoming possessed at will. These priestesses have no place in the traditional order, but instead find a niche in the new city scape.
I think what this is partly about is that when someone learns to delve into the subconscious, into states of consciousness that ordinarily we don’t have access to, and learn to control that process, the result is a more integrated personality. That is: such a person has conscious access to cultural forces and emotional aspects of life that other people get guided by unconsciously. This is also one of the values of psychotherapy and one of the reasons people who come out of hard times stronger than before are worshiped in US culture.
People like that transcend the ordinary limits of life, and go on to create something new. Something better. Society rewards them by giving them status and listening to what they have to say. Though honestly, sometimes the message is no more than: ‘you too can overcome adversity’. Which is not always true after all, because part of the reason we’re so in awe, is that it IS hard to transcend what IS.
The debate about mediumship is hard – because the question is: is this person at the mercy of their subconscious, or have they integrated and transcended it? In other words: is what they bring merely emotionally comforting, or do they have something new to add? Have wise insights to add, or are they dressing a poisoned wound without cleaning it?