The Self Possessed: Deity and Spirit Possession in South by Frederick Smith

By Frederick Smith

The Self Possessed is a multifaceted, diachronic learn reconsidering the very nature of faith in South Asia, the end result of years of in depth study. Frederick M. Smith proposes that optimistic oracular or ecstatic ownership is the commonest type of non secular expression in India, and that it's been linguistically exotic from unfavourable, disease-producing ownership for millions of years.In South Asia ownership has regularly been broader and extra various than within the West, the place it's been virtually totally characterised as "demonic." At most sensible, spirit ownership has been considered as a medically treatable mental disorder and at worst, as a that calls for exorcism or punishment. In South (and East) Asia, ecstatic or oracular ownership has been greatly practiced all through heritage, occupying a place of recognize in early and up to date Hinduism and in yes different types of Buddhism.Smith analyzes Indic literature from all ages-the earliest Vedic texts; the Mahabharata; Buddhist, Jain, Yogic, Ayurvedic, and Tantric texts; Hindu devotional literature; Sanskrit drama and narrative literature; and greater than 100 ethnographies. He identifies numerous varieties of ownership, together with competition, initiatory, oracular, and devotional, and demonstrates their multivocality inside quite a lot of sects and non secular identities. ownership is usual between either women and men and is practiced by means of contributors of all social and caste strata. Smith theorizes on notions of embodiment, disembodiment, selfhood, own identification, and different key matters during the prism of ownership, redefining the connection among Sanskritic and vernacular tradition and among elite and renowned faith. Smith's learn is usually comparative, introducing enormous fabric from Tibet, classical China, sleek the United States, and elsewhere.Brilliant and persuasive, The Self Possessed presents cautious new translations of infrequent fabric and is the main accomplished examine in any language in this topic. (127.3)

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Example text

No one can doubt that people as well as cultures and civilizations experience in some sense, and that they experience all the time. Several scholars, however, including Wilhelm Halbfass, Wayne Proudfoot, and Robert Sharf, have noted, or even reinforced, certain relatively recent doubts cast on the “notion” of experience, particularly religious experience, positing that its validity can be situated only within highly specified cultural contexts. 51 Thus, when I speak of experience in the ways mentioned above, am I injecting into the personal and cultural networks of possession in South Asia an epistemology that threatens to bury the subject beneath fragile and dissembling layers of modern discourse?

34 But I preserve it because the broad semantic boundaries of the terms under study here provide no attractive alternative. Consistent with this, I also suggest, in agreement with Gombrich, that the disregard or oversight of possession is a product of its construction (or lack thereof ) by orthodoxies. In spite of concerted efforts at ideological exorcism, possession is frequently found in Sanskrit texts, but locating it, thinking about it, and understanding it cannot be undertaken by applying our usual category of possession, even if Gombrich is quite correct given his assumptions of what possession actually is.

Nor can they ever fully identify themselves as that Puruùottama, as ātman can with brahman. Buddhist texts, as Steven Collins clarifies in his providentially titled book Selfless Persons, distinguish between “individuality” (attabhāva) and “person” or character type (puggala). While other Indic texts, particularly within the vast medical literature, engage in protracted discussion of personality or character types subsumed within the rhetoric of demonology (see Chapter 12), early Buddhist texts, which preceded the extant medical literature, speak of an attabhāva, a uniquely composed and constantly mutating edifice of khandas (Pali < Skt.

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