Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The logic of the trance

with one comment

John Dominic Crossan

Trance…can be produced by any critical change, be it increase or decrease, in the external stimulation of the senses, internal concentration of the mind, or chemical composition of the brain’s neurobiology. It must, therefore, be accepted as a human universal, as another gift of neurobiological evolution, a possibility open, like language, to each and every human being. But, also like language, its actualization is specified by psychosocial patterning—by cultural training, control, and expectation. Little children who grow up in Portugal will, in language, speak Portuguese with local or regional accents and will, in trance, see the Virgin Mary with blue and white robes. They will not see the god Krishna or the prophet Muhammad. They will not learn anything they do not already know in their fondest hopes or deepest fears, but they may well know it thereafter with an intensity unobtainable in other ways…

There is a clear distinction between good and bad [trance] states, and what is hidden behind that polarity is, in every case, control or noncontrol—whether the phenomenon is under psychosocial control or is not. Consider the phenomenon of entranced speaking in tongues; it does not interrupt the sermons in Pentecostal churches and does not happen to people en route to or from the services. It happens only at certain marked times within the service. It is, in other words, under ritual control. Trance is, therefore, a perfectly natural human experience, but its control is a perfectly natural human necessity. Societies that have such processes do not need to apologize for themselves. Societies that have no such procedures may have to consider whether there is such a thing as unhealthy trance deprivation or pathological trance substitution within their borders. It may well be the absence rather than the presence of trance that is pathological.

John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography

Written by nevalalee

May 2, 2016 at 8:24 am

One Response

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  1. This is an amazing article! Keep up the work!


    May 2, 2016 at 8:58 am

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