It does not always feel good to reflect on challenging times, suffering, or loss, but our Ignatian tradition constantly reminds us that reflection is a practice that can impact our present. This has been a peculiar year, and so taking some moments, one year from when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, may give you some insight on how to keep moving forward.
Lord Jesus, you came into the world to heal our infirmities and to endure our sufferings. You went about healing all and bringing comfort to those in pain and need. We come before you now in this time of illness asking that you may be the source of our strength in body, courage in spirit and patience in pain. May we join ourselves more closely to you on the cross and in your suffering that through them we may draw our patience and hope. Assist us and restore us to health so that united more closely to your family, the Church, we may give praise and honour to your name.
Father of goodness and love, hear our prayers for the sick members of our community and for all who are in need. Amid mental and physical suffering may they find consolation in your healing presence. Show your mercy as you close wounds, cure illness, make broken bodies whole and free downcast spirits. May these special people find lasting health and deliverance, and so join us in thanking you for all your gifts. We ask this through the Lord Jesus who healed those who believed. Amen.
It is important to recognize that patients come to physicians to seek care for their medical condition. In delivering this care, physicians can be respectful and understand the spiritual dimension in patients' lives. But to go beyond that, e.g., to lead prayer or provide in-depth spiritual counseling, is inappropriate. Physicians are in a position of power with patients. Most patients come to us in vulnerable times. If the physician suggests a certain religion/spiritual belief or ridicules a patient's belief, the patient might adopt that physician's belief or lack of belief out of fear of disagreeing with a perceived authority. Therefore, it is critical that when discussing spiritual issues with patients, the physician listens and supports and does not guide or lead.
Spirituality is recognized as a factor that contributes to health in many persons. The concept of spirituality is found in all cultures and societies. It is expressed in an individual's search for ultimate meaning through participation in religion and/or belief in God, family, naturalism, rationalism, humanism, and the arts. All of these factors can influence how patients and health care professionals perceive health and illness and how they interact with one another (30).
The greater the conflict, the wider the difference between what the inner self believes is right and what the outer self does. This conflict ultimately causes stress that can be damaging to the mind, body, and spirit.
Depth psychology accounts for the full range of possession phenomena without having to posit any outlandish beings. Depth psychology refers to any theory that posits a layered psyche with hidden motivations and processes and which is capable of deceiving itself or, in extreme situations, of fragmenting. For instance, a typical explanation for DID would cite the impact of childhood abuse on ego development such that splitting (dissociation) becomes the primary response to severe distress. Conversely, a typical explanation for DID by a Qur'anic healer in the Western desert of Egypt is, in some ways, simpler: the person has been possessed by a spirit that had targeted him or her due to sorcery, attraction, bad luck or some such reason. There is no splitting in this case, distress need not be a precipitating feature, nor are childhood experiences necessarily relevant. For the psychologist the 'entity' is part of the ego (where else would it come from?), while for the Qur'anic healer it is external to the subject. This is reflected in treatment strategies: psychological treatment usually consists in managing the different personalities by fostering awareness and communication among them, seeking their integration, or cultivating the original 'core self' (see Littlewood 2004). While in spirit possession interventions range from exorcising the spirit to developing an ongoing relationship with it by which the host may become a medium.
Having partially approximated the notion of pathogenic and executive possession within a naturalistic worldview, there remains an important question: what about the spirits? Is spirit possession a dissociative identity disorder in which the alters are conceived as super-natural? Is spirit possession a phenomena in its own right mediated by other-worldly entities? Can spirits be blamed for the illnesses and maladies they supposedly cause? The answer to these questions will depend on many things but mainly on our metaphysical commitments; they amount to asking if spirits and spirit possession are possible. A materialist ontology, naturally, would deny this possibility. In fact this is the assumption implied by almost every single scholarly work on spirit possession.6 Something like: given that spirits do not exist, how then do we explain/understand what is going on when people say they are possessed by spirits? The psychological theory of dissociation is, at present, a popular answer for executive possession. And for pathogenic possession there are numerous theories at our disposal to explain the effects in question. But, really, what about the spirits?
The assumption in the previous discussion has been of a one to one correspondence between a person and a living organism (see Braude 1995, 199). However, certain conceptions of the person do not require this. Of note is the fact that in many cultures and religious traditions entities considered persons can inhabit many bodies and one body can be inhabited by several persons. Moreover, personhood and embodiment come apart. Spirits, as indicated earlier, are regarded as disembodied persons who are able to acquire executive control of a human individual. But acquiring a body does not add to their status as persons. This status is evident if we consider the manner they are represented and which fulfills several of the criteria listed above. The jinn are members of a significant and ordered collectivity: they are socially organised, work, marry, and procreate. They are gendered, have human-like traits and concerns. They are capable of goal-directed action and possess moral agency which renders them subject to trial and punishment. It is by virtue of these features that it is possible for the healer to reason with them and to appeal to their sense of right and wrong as the vignette above demonstrates. The jinn also enjoy recognition as persons in the forensic sense. Thus, healers are wary of harming the spirits in so far as it is not necessary to do so, and this stems not only from fears of retaliation, for instance, but from an understanding that spirits are persons and are, at least, worthy of respect on that basis. By contrast to the jinn, in Islam, angels are not persons; they are emanations of god's will and hence are incapable of agentic behaviour.
The spirit stance is adopted to explain a wide range of behaviours and is certainly not limited to 'illness.' Table 1 illustrates some examples from Dakhla, together with an indication of the normative distinctions that the behaviours or mental states are deemed to have failed. In each of these cases, un-understandability, unreasonableness, inappropriateness, etc., signal that the mental state or behaviour in question is imposed from without, hence deployment of the spirit stance.
4 Prototypical definitions of spirit possession divide the phenomena into those in which possession is invoked to explain illness or misfortune, and those in which possession manifests in altered states of consciousness (trance) (Bourguignon 2005, 1976). More recently, the domain of possession has been parsed along different lines which turn not on the presence or absence of trance but on whether or not the host's agency is displaced by the spirit (see Cohen 2008). Thus, pathogenic possession involves no such displacement and spirits are understood as entities that cause illness and misfortune. On the other hand, executive possession does involve displacement of the host's agency, which may or may not be associated with trance.
12 Two further possible responses: (1) The subject reports nausea which indicates that magic might have been ingested. (2) Nothing happens; in such cases the problem could be a capricious 'flighty' jinni or else the problem which brought the person is not spirit-related and, depending on its nature, may be a physical or mental illness or a consequence of mundane reasons.
Certain illnesses are more likely to have a spiritual component that may respond to shamanic healing techniques. These include psychological diagnoses like depression and anxiety, ADD/ADHD, autism, and addictions.
Illnesses that manifest physically may still have significant spiritual underpinnings. This is especially true for illnesses that have atypical or premature presentations, such as a degenerative illness that normally occurs in elder years occurring in a young adult.
For individuals who live within an indigenous culture, shamanic practitioners are readily known and easily accessible. But for the majority of contemporary westerners, shamanic practitioners are not known. As shamans are called to their practices through direct spiritual initiation, there is not a certifying body to register practitioners. That said, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies does post a registry of Certified Shamanic Counselors who have completed a training program in Core Shamanism through the foundation.
Because shamanic healing is individualized to each unique person and their illness, it does not lend itself readily to conventional research designs. Additionally, there has been little interest in or financial support for research in these practices. 2b1af7f3a8