Monday, 7th September, 2009 - Health, Mental Health and Exceptional Human Experience Conference
Liverpool Hope Univeristy, Liverpool
Forthcoming Talks:August 2009:
Paranormal Phenomena and Psychoactive Drugs:
Parapsychology: Magic and Science:
Luck as a Euphemism for Psi?Testing for Precognition
You Never Know Your Luck: The Psychology of Superstition
Altered States, Mental Imagery and Healing Dr. David Luke
10am, Monday, 7th September, 2009 Health, Mental Health and Exceptional Human Experience Conference Liverpool Hope University
The long-standing practice of using mental imagery for healing is inseparable from the use of techniques for altering states of consciousness, be it through hypnosis, ingestion of psychoactive substances, breathing, chanting, dancing, drumming or any other means. Dreaming is one of the earliest documented types of altered state used to induce imagery to bring about healing. The ancient Greeks, for instance, constructed dream temples, called asclepions, sacred to Asclepius, the God of healing. Patients would enter the temple after a period of ritual and lie on a sacred skin called a klínè (from which the term “clinic” is derived). During their dreams either the god would appear to them and, under auspicious circumstances, heal them directly, or else they would receive the rudiments of their own healing within the dream and in the morning an attendant called a therapute (from which the term “therapist” is derived) would help them decipher their dream to identify the appropriate treatment for their sickness.
Similar processes for invoking mental imagery for healing to those conducted in the Greek asclepions are still used today, particularly within the context of shamanism.
Virtually all shamanic healing rituals make use of altered states of consciousness to produce imagery, and shamanism has been defined by some as the ability to access such states of consciousness at will. This paper explores some of the issues surrounding these shamanic practices, such as the types of ways in which healing might be mediated through the use of mental imagery, be it through psychic diagnosis, psychic healing, catharsis, autosuggestion, or mediating entities. Considering the variety of ways in which healing through such imagery may or may not occur, special discussion is given over to the ontology and epistemology of the shamanic experience, especially in relation to the ostensible phenomena of encountering discarnate entities, plant and animal spirits, synaesthesia, extradimensional percepts, shared visions, out-of-body perceptions and psi. Additionally, in relation to the mental percepts derived from these practices, a brief discussion is made of the different theories that have been put forward to explain shamanism, such as the Ritual Healing Theory. Finally, a brief contrast and comparison will be made between traditional shamanic practices and modern psychotherapeutic uses of imagery in altered states, such as the recent revival in research investigating the use of psychedelic substances in the treatment of addictions and anxiety disorders.