Thinking about Trance Over a Century: The Making of a Set of Impasses
CitationHarrington, Anne. 2016. Thinking about Trance Over a Century: The Making of a Set of Impasses. In Hypnosis and meditation: Towards an integrative science of conscious planes, eds. Michael Lifshitz and Amir Raz. New York: Oxford University Press.
AbstractDespite differences in methods and (usually) goals, both hypnosis and meditation involve an
unusual state of awareness, generally known as “trance.” Yet, the idea of trance, as an object of scholarly and scientific study, turns out to have been marked, historically, by confusion and controversy. Is trance one thing or many things? A regression to a pathological, primitive state or ascent to an elevated state? Noisy or quiet? Biological or social? Meditation researchers, hypnosis researchers, and anthropologists (interested in phenomena like shamanism and spirit possession) have all, historically, struggled with questions like these in surprisingly similar ways. This chapter uses historical evidence to demonstrate this point, all with the end of suggesting that it could be enormously useful for these different communities to overcome their disciplinary isolation from one another, and see if there is a way in which they could make progress together.
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