You are on page 1of 26

The Western Psychic as Diviner: Experience and the Politics of Perception

Deeno i.J. Newman

I'nivtrsity C ollc;;'.', Lnndoii, l"K

'r Diviuation has been a ivell-studicd subject in the field of anthropology. Yet drcincrs within Wcsteni societies have been curiously ignored. Van Dijk's and Pels' {-n:)<.:)G) concept of the 'politics of perception' is discussed as a means ofunder standingzvhy this is the case. Redressing this gap. I study the practices and experiences oj an American psychic. This ethnographic material helps to move us beyond the paticnt-clicnt dialogue to address the internal processes oj the diviners t/icn/si'lvcs. The njlcxrvc exegesis ojRlizaheth. an America)! diviner, reveals the spontaneous, visual nature oj her practice and also highlights the role of the senses and emotions in divination. Other examples oj'scnsoiy experience, such as in cases of blindness, s/wiV that those senses deemed 'lozvcr dozvn' in the hierarchy of pcrccptioii can Inaccurate modes oj gaining launvlcdgc of the ivorld. KEYWORDS AnthropolofQ' of the senses, divination, embodiment, pcnrption, Nnv Age

n Orientalism, published in 1979, l'Alward Said took Western scholars to task for their unselfconscious depictions ot the 'Otber.' Aecordingto Marcus and Fischer (1986), this eritique, together with social, political, and economic ehanges in the 19B0S, helped hring ahout profound chan<:^e.s in the field oi anthropology, one being that many anthropologists tui'ned their unvilytic gazes on their own societies. Despite an expansion of the types of sites con.sidereti legitimate for fieldwork, however, certain subjects are still avoided, and divination in tlie West is one of them. Divination is hroadly definetl in the Shorter OxjordDictionary as 'the fbretelhng of kiture events or discovery oi what is hidden or obscure hy supernatural or imaginai means.'' While an extensive anthropologieal literature has ar cumulated on the subject (see, e.g., Hvans-Pritchard 1937; L,ienh;irdt 1961: (Jiuckman 1972; Turner 1967. 1975; Bascom 1969: Werbner 1973, s. vol.. 64:1, 1999
tliL- NLit\oii:il M\is<-um ol l',ilinuj;r"aj>liy, pji S,; lod

The Western Psychic as Diviner


1978; and Peek 1991a, 1991b), few of these works address stich practices in the West. In the United States, divination not only exists, but thrives in burgeoning New Age mass market publications, radio and television shows on psychics and the paranormal, horoscope columns in most magazines and newspapers, Internet sites, and 'how to' workshops and 'expos.' Curiously, for anthropologists, the subject often works as a potent truth serum which compels them to confess their beliefs. Luhrmann (1989:18) distances herself from her subjects, British witches, by asserting, in terms reminiscent ofthe McCarthy era, 'I never have and do not now "believe" in magic' Many scholars openly derided African divination a few decades ago (Peek i99ia:9),- and those who wrote neutrally were often assumed to have 'gone native.' Brown (1997:10), for example, reports that he was met with scorn by academics when he was researching channeling in the United States, tiess (1997) in a review of Brown's ethnography, airs his own grievances over skeptics who 'are out policing social scientists to make sure we are not too neutral ... Skeptics are all too ready to confuse a method of cultural relativism with epistemological or moral relativism and to conflate a sensitive interpretation with implicit support' (1997:846-847). Another approach entails pulling the covers o\\ of'magic' in the hallowed institutions ofthe West: Taussig (1997) has written on magical tactics used by state powers, Luhrmann (1997) has presented work on the magic in psychoanalysis, and (jeschiere (1997) has compared American political spin doctors to Cameroonian witch doctors. In these instances, the scholars seem to be engaged in 'studying-up' or debunking tactics. Geschiere makes his agenda explicit: Since 'witchcraft is seen as the sign par excellence of Africa's backwardness ... it is important, in order to "desenclaver I'Airique" as Achille Mbemhe puts it, to show that ... "we" are not different from "them."' Here, 'magic' is used strategically as an equalizer. Van Dijk and Pels (1996), exploring the 'politics of perception,' provide a way to understand these tactics and affidavits. In any society, they assert. there is a struggle over whose perception and even mode of perception will prevail-^ and the question is what is at the top ofa hierarchy of often incompatible discourses of perception. If anthropologists are eaught in the politics of perception, with science and scientism determining what constitutes admissible evidence in the Western tradition, then their tactics vis-a-vis magic and the supernatural are maneuvers of placement, indeed survival, in their own societies.' Their entanglement in this politics is evidenced by the questions they choose to explore and equally important, to ignore. Although their
ETHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , 1999



overlooking diviners' experiences may he understandable where divination involves interpreting objcetively preexisting signs rather than subjectively produced symbols, or where diviners are mediums who claim amnesia while possessed, the main reason for it may well be that they have considered that experience either scientifically irrelevant or fraudulent. Recently, however, a number of anthropologists, working primarily in Africa, have demonstrated that an attention to divination's experiential aspects can produce new insights. Peek (1991b: 193), in a volume devoted to African divination systems as 'ways of knowing,' suggests that the defining feature of divination is its unique employment of two opposing cognitive modes, fbr example, careful reasoning and analysis accompanying the apparently haphazard process of throwing bones, or the citation of ancient Odu verses conjoined with the casting of palm nuts. The synthesis of cognitive modes. Peek stresses, occurs during the crucial dialogue hetween diviner and client. Parkin (1991) similarly prioritizes the dialogiie hetween diviner and client, asserting that it is through their joint effort that diviners' 'schizophrenic-like... jumbled speech' is 'straightened out' to produce precise instructions. The client is not only led by the diviner. Parkin (1991:183-84) emphasizes, but guides the diviner 'hy his nods, cues, and statements of agreement... in this attempt to reach a satisfactory diagnosis, converting an unmanageably large number of interpretations into a more limited number.' Client and diviner are thus conceptualized as mirror images, each being 'both doctor and patient.' Fernandez (1991:22) takes issue with Peek's and Parkin's analyses, playing down the client's role and stressing the diviner's exceptional sensitivity and skill in mediating between these diflerent cognitive processes - which, following Freud, he refers to as primary and secondary. In the end, F'ernandez emphasizes, it is the diviner who must effectively bring his counsel to clients. While the dialogical nature of a session is highly important, I concur with Fernandez that the underrepresented aspect of divination is diviners' internal processes. Where I start, then, is where Fernandez leaves ofl. We know little ahout how these primary proeesscs are experienced and have missed the role of sensory experience in the construction of meaning and the work of healing. In what follows, I begin to redress this omission by exploring the imaginal/embodied practices of an American psychic."' Methodological Issues The challenge, of course, is how to gain access to, comprehend, and represent divining experience. As Bruner (1986:6) has pointed out, we can only , voi.. 64:1, 1999

The Western Psychic as Diviner


infer experience from its expressions (representations, performances, objectifications and texts). Access to a diviner's subjectivity may be particularly diffieult because it is seen variously as private, secret, lucrative, taboo, habitual or unconscious. In each case, eliciting narratives requires a specialized type of questioning, sensitive to the circumstances. Ots (1994), for example, in his fieldwork on ql-gungha-aSmg in China, found that his first interviews evoked stereotyped descriptions of 9/and oiyin and yang. It was only after he had repeatedly interviewed his subjects that their descriptions revealed a complex emotional world. He concludes that the normative methods of ethnography do not lend themselves to uncovering this type of information. Csordas (1994:4) also takes issue with standard ethnographic methodologies and advocates cultural phenomenology as a 'counterweight and complement' to 'anthropology's emphasis on sign and symbol.' More specifically, he proposes the method of'retrospective experiential commentary,' which involves asking patients and healers to reflect on the healing session afterwards. Without this elicitation, he contends, the imaginal dimension of healing may be inaccessible. In addition, focusing on the healing session proper may mean missing out on aspects ofthe therapeutic process which occur afterwards. The potential contribution of an approach which conjoins anthropology and phenomenology has been further explored by Jackson (1996). Ethnography's contribution to phenomenology, he suggests, is to call into question the notions of intuition and ahistorical essences that characterize the phenomenological writings of Husserl and Heidegger. Taking issue with Bourdieu and Foucault, who resist giving personal experience and existential power the same value as political power, Jackson underscores that the individual is, at the very least, the site where the forces of history, language, and upbringing find expression. Like the above theorists, I draw on phenomenology for my research into imaginal/embodied practices. My study focused on an American female psychic, white and middle-class, named Elizabeth (Newman 1994). Research was carried out from 1990 through 1992 in Southern California. The contexts of research included life-history interviews, a weekly class that took place at her home, in which she trained eight apprentices and which I observed for a year, weekly television and daily radio shows, the random settings of daily life, and the counseling sessions in which she worked as a psychic Gaining access to counseling sessions was initially problematic; Elizabeth worried that my presence might compromise the patronage of clients who paid $100 to $150 an hour. My solution, which she accepted, was to ask her to counsel several acquaintETHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , I 9 9 9



ancc's ol mine who were vvillinji' to have me observe their private session.s in exehange tor my paying part ol her tee. My presence, ot eourse, had its cfteets; aware ot my reseiirch interest, Klizahctfi altered her usual manner of delivery, sharinj^ more ol her internal experience than she would have imdcr normal eircamstances. Interrupting .scssion.s wilh questions proved disriip tive and therefore, most ofmy questioning of I'^lizaheth took place privately after session.s. An American Psychic in Southern California Born in the 1930s, Elizabeth was able to merehandise herself as a psychic in one ot the most receptive times in recent history for persons involved in the occult: the New Af^e ot the 19803 and 1990s. The New Age, as Badone (1991:535) underscores, 'is not an organized movement with well-detlned boundaries' hut a confluence of persons (primarily middle-class and wclleducvited [Brown 1997I) '.iround activities 'as diverse as crystal healing, meditation, spirit "channeling," tarot reading, neopagan magic, and eolor therapy, amting others' (Biidone 19911535). New Age philosophy is radically individualistic, to the point that personal j^rowth and selt-tvansfovniaUon are i\dvi.>eated as panaeeas (Brown 1997] and lhe purpose of life itself is configured as individvial growth (Ross 1992). Value is placed on other than rational torms ot thouglit or social knowledge; adherents express ambivalence tou-'ards sci ence, hut commonly use it, particularly physics, to buttress their views (Alhanese 1992; McGiiire T988; Wagner 1983). There is an emjihasis on holism and the eonnectedness of individuals, animals, and nature, challenging the mainstream view of selves as utterly separate (McCjuire 1988:244: Melton r99o:xx). Sue cess in the marketplace is seen as compatible with spiritual progress (Heclas 1993:107). l^lizabeth distanced herself from the New Age whenever possihle. Rather than rcterring to herself as a psychic, she variously called herself a minister (of divinity), eounselor, sensitive, or researcher (of parapsychology). Ail religions were, for her, equally tvue, and she drew on clients'own religious philosophies in her counseling. For legitimacy she often relied on the language of science. Thus, psychic consciousness, she explained, involved getting one's brain waves into alpha or theta, the states of sleep or near-sleep. Her interpretations displayed an open endedness that corresponded with the concept of the 'hypothesis' ot the scientifie method, and she telt that it was scienee that would one day explain why she was psychic; unlike many ot her New Age peers, she rejeeted the idea that she hatl been 'eliosen' in any way.

The PVesteni Psychic as Diviner It would be incorrect in any case to situate ber entirely against the backdrop ofthe New Age, because she sligbtly preceded it. As a child, sbe was already baving experiences tbat made her "different.' For one tbing, sbe 'got ahead in time,' forseeing or experiencing events that witbin a few hours came to pass. Threatened by her extremely emotional descriptions of fires, illnesses, and otber disasters, her family was determined to keep ber silent about her 'vivid imagination.' Eventually, she realized that ber perceptions, sbared with tbe wrong person, could land her in a mental institution and learned to be reticent about them, considering berself as "a freak of nature.' It was only when she participated in a parapsycbologieal/mental health research project as a subject in the 1950s that she learned that tbere were otbers like ber. Altbough the experiments themselves were a disappointment in that she felt herself turned into a 'human guinea pig,' they marked a turning point in ber life in terms of a new-found feeling of legitimacy. The next turning point occurred years later, in the 1970s, when sbe was in her third marriage, raising three children, and running a successful clothing business in Florida, One of her sons fell ill witb stomach problems tbat mystified his doctors and resulted in a three-year stay in the hospital and undergoing dozens of operations. Exhausted from long vigils in the bospital and faced witb tbe agonizing decision whether to discontinue his life-support system, Elizabetb fell into a coma-like state. Wben she awakened, twenty-four hours later, she was a 'different person.' Without hesitation or emotion, she allowed her son to die and began to live with a different orientation - a 'mission,' a commitment to service. She gave away a good deal of ber property, completed a degree in a spiritualist ministry, and threw herself into work. Sbe worked for the police as a psychic infindinglost cbildren, taugbt intuitive skills to juvenile deliquents and drug addicts, and began counseling clients. It was within a year of her son's deatb, in the 1970s, that sbe began to have frightening visions of tuture earth cbanges and social disruption. After being bombarded with scenes of devastation for a year, she moved to a farm in Arkansas 'to begin preparing for the disasters abead,' taking otbers with her to form a community dedicated to self-sufficiency. To her surprise, tbe project was a complete failure; members grew overdependent on ber and sbe became ill from overwork. She then moved back to CaJifornia in the 19S0S where she worked as a psychic on radio and television and developed a counseling praetiee. Having heard her on the radio, I approached ber in tbe late 1980s with my researcb proposaJ. By this time, she was suffering from emphysema and unable to work full-time and she agreed to participate in my study. By the end of 1992 she was
, VOL. 6 4 : 1 ,




too ill to work or participate in the research in any regular way and in October 1997, she died. Tracking the Imaginal/Embodied Counseling sessions took plaee in Elizabeth's home, a tall apartment complex on the ocean front in L<Mig Beach, California, torty-five minutes by freeway from Los Angeles. Clients were admitted to the building by a buzzer and greeted by a secretary and tben escorted into a small room turned into a home office, with hooks, desk, and computer. Two chairs were placed fiicing each other. and bere Elizabeth and the client sat. Eaeh session began witb P^lizabeth asking to hold ber client's bands. After doing so for a few seconds, she spoke. ln contrast to a diviner who interprets eowry shells, cloud patterns, or entrails, Elizabeth internally produced ber own material tor interpretation, fn tact, the word 'produced' is not quite fitting, since for her, it was not so mueb an active as an involuntary process: 'I put me aside. Something else takes over,' and 'It's like pushing a button. 'I'he information is just there.''' She descrihed the experience as "tbinking in pictures.' She would witness a series of images, accompanied by a mix t^f sensations, souiids and emotions. This type of internal visual experience while awake has been variously referred to as the imaginal world (Corhin 1972), imagination (Preston 1991), waking dreams (Watkins T986[i976]; Price-Williams 1987), the mythopoetic function (EUenberger 1970), primaiy proeess (Freud i960 [1900]: Kracke 1987), active imagination Qung T959), hallucinations, bypnomantictbought (Obeyesekere 1981), autonomous imagination (Stephen 198911,1989b), and visions (Noll 1985). Whereas many diviners openly articulate their cryptic symbolic language (perhaps, Maurieio [1995) suggests, to highlight the otberworldliness of their experience) F.lizabeth rarely identified images, instead reporting the gist of tbeir meanings. For example, discussing a client's worries about a group ot friends, sbe had warmly consoled him, telling him that everything would work oat all right, but he should keep bis distance from tbis group. After the session, she elaborated for me on the image that had prompted ber advice: in her mind's eye she had seen "wild and filthy animals' leaping fiercely at the client who was protected from them by a circular wall and eventually sprouted wings and flew away. She had blocked her client from imaginatively participating in her imageiy, and, assuming that she might use the 'evidence' of imagery for legitimation, I found this perplexing. Wben I asked about it her answer was definitive, C'lienLs will m.isunderstand images. By interpreting lliem herselfshe controUetl their understanding and buffered the information they conveyed with a sensiS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , 1999

The Western Psychic as Diviner tive delivery. In her view, imagery was only a tool; tbe real work of a counseling session was 'putting clients back together.' Tbis perspective brings to mind Sperber's observation that interpreting symbols tbemselves is like looking at the light source instead of what it illuminates (Sperber 1974:70). Tbere was also a logistical reason that Elizabeth screened out images from her narratives: they moved too quickly to be described individually: 'The minute I verbalize it, it's gone. Sometimes it moves so quickly that I can't even verbalize it, and 1 lose it, and then I don't even try at that point.' Tbe process bad become so habitual that she compared it to "an automatic mouth' or to "being bilingual' What she meant by this became clear in a session with a young writer, dealing witb the sales potential of his novel. Elizabeth commented, 'Tbe first book will move very, very slowly, very slowly. I wisb I could tell you it will pick up and move quickly, but everything's like at a snail's pace. It's like a snail moving along with a book on its back, but it gives you the credibility." After the session, I questioned her privately about this turn ot phrase and learned that sbe had been seeing tbe image she described. In tbis case, then, she bad divulged the image but had not made it explicit tbat she was actually seeing an image. At this point I began to listen carefully to Elizabeth's narratives and I found that what I at first bad understood as rote verbal metaphors were often based on or productive of internal images. Sometimes images seemed to precede conscious tbought. For example, in one counseling session that she described in retrospect sbe saw an image of ber brother, who was a dentist, and this led her to ask the client if sbe was a dentist (which she was). In another session, she was viewing an image ofthe elient whirling in the costume of a mime, and as she studied it a blur at tbe mime's mouth became a zipper, leading ber to say, 'It's like your moutb is zippered shut. You can be more vocal.' Sometimes, instead, images worked as illustrations, accompanying the 'text' of ber tbougbt or her client's discourse. For example, once a client was telling ber about his dream of starting a musical instrument business, and sbe interrupted him to say;


You're complieating it, and as you were talking, I saw you actually creating problems witfi tbese strings, like tying them in knots and then trying to untie them. You're complicating tbe whole situation. U is not as difficult as you're describing. Now, my question tbat 1 bave to ask is. Why are you complicating thisP And the sense tbat I have about it is that you're questioning the success of it. As long as it can be a dream ... then you don't have to see whether it will really work for you. Does tbai make sense to youP KTHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , I 9 9 9



.Another feature of l^lizabctfi's imagery was its link with linguistic expression. For example, her description of an issue's "tying in' with anotber issue, upon probing, turned out to beacctjmpanied by an image of a rope tying two objects together. When she characterized a situation as 'rocky' but predicted it would 'level off,' sbe was seeing a rocky road that heeame a smooth one. Her assessment that a client hungered to have her 'name up in lights' was generated by an image of a lighted theater marquee. She recognized a new client's inner strengtb in an image in whicb, though slight of build, he was represented as a 'muscle man.' Weak family 'ties" were represented by a frayed rope. Sbe understood tbat one woman was going 'back and forth' on the issue of where to reside because an image depicted her moving between two countries on a map. Sbe described a person 'at a erossroads' in her life upon seeing an image ot her standing at an interseetion. A man "overshadowed' in his family life appeared in an image in shadow, and a client wbo had no options but persisted in looking tor one appeared m -an image vepcatedh' "hitting her head against a wall.' Altbough KHzabcth described the 'translation' as automatic, sbe also emphasized that tbe symbolic language was contextspecific, images not always having the same tiieaning. Her deseription of herseli as bilingual, then, referred not to her eommand of a language with a set lexi con hut to her ability lo produce, comprehend, and translate a symbolic language. This notion is strikingly similar to tbe idea mentioned eariier of diviners moving back and forth between two cognitive modes (see Fernandez 1991; Peek 1991; Parkin 1991) and it has interesting correspondences with the reports of the early psyehoanalysts as well. In addition to distinguishing two modes ofthought (primary and seeondary process). Freud (i96o[i9oo]) used metaphors and figures of speech to deeode imagery (in bis case, the imagery of dreams). Wben faced with symbols that seemed nonverbal, iie went to great lengths to establish that tbey were verbal after all.' Silberer (Freud i96o[i9oo]:38o) also wrote about the correspondenee between images and words. When on the verge of sleep or fatigucd, he found that thought escaped him and in its place a picture appeared. Unlike Freud, who postulated hidden meanings, repression and displacement, Silberer easily tracked the transformation ofthought into pictures. Thus, when he contemplated 'having to revise an uneven passage in an essay,' he viewed a mental image of himself 'planing a pieee of wood.' When he considered bow to "work his way through' to certain eonccpts he saw an miagc of fiimself pushing a long knife under a multilaycred cake as though to lift out a slice (Freud i96o[i9oo] :38o). Ameriean metaphysical and religious groups , vt)!.. 64:1, 1999

The Westem Psychic as Divt'ncr


demonstrate a similar reliance on metapht)rs for decoding visual or embodied imagery. For example, a woman who could not rise from her bed concluded that sbe had brought on the eondition witb ber careless use ofthe phrase 'I will not stand for that' (MeGuire 1987:368) and another participant reported, 'My bearing problem was telling me that God had sometbing to say to me. and 1 needed to listen' (McGuire 1988:230). These examples show quite explictiy how metaphors are embodied (secJohnson 1987; Csordas 1994).** What Elizabeth gained by translating internal images into verbal metaphors was a seamless linking of tbe two that allowed her to communicate with great speed. It served another purpose as well that Lakoff and Johnson (1980) bave written about at lengtb, belping her to grasp abstract concepts hy means ofothcr concepts that were less so. Schon (ig7g) observed that the metaphors people used determined the way in whicb problems were pereeived and resolved; changing the guiding metaphor in approaching a problem often contributed to its solution. Similarly, Elizabetb's metapbors served tbe purpose of framing and in many instances reframing clients' pereeptions of tbeir situations and thus helping to resolve them. Many anthropologists have considered diviners' rhetoric deliberately enigmatic and strategically ambiguous, depicting their metaphors, for example, as a means 'to retreat from an unpromising lead and take up another through the use ofthe same words' (Parkin 1991:181). Elizabeth's report suggests that the use of metaphor may instead be an attempt to aecurately represent internal imagery. ln addition to tbe fluency it atTorded ber, Elizabetb's system demonstrated other economies as well. She bad a way of distinguisbing wbether images referred to the past, present, or future by tbe relative brigbtness, clarity, and fixity of the image. For example, in one session sbe told a client that a cousin with whom he bad had a falling (jut would approach him again. After tbe session, she explained, 'When I said to him that tbis cousin will be back, I was picking up on tbe future. Now, I saw a door opening. It was very clear, a very sharp image, much clearer than tbe door closing. Tbat's wby and how I knew that it [tbe relationship] wasn't over, wasn't ifinished.' Images from the past were faded, 'almost like an old photograph.' Images that were very bright consistently referred to tbe present, sometimes signaling 'things you need to deal with now.' Occasionally, a still photographic image represented tbe fated dimension of a client's life. Wavy images referred to ebange: 'When I was working on someone wbo was very ill, if I could get them [a mental image ofthe person] moving, then I knew there was a ebange. If 1 couldn't get tbem to move, then it was fixed. They were going to die. So then I would
, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , 1999

9 2


see tbis in other situations ... like someone would ask me about a marriage and I would bave a picture of a bride and groom, but it was wavy, tben I'd know there was something else going on.' An image obscured by fog, covered witb an X, or erased meant that she was 'not supposed to know' or 'tell.' In some circumstances, a voice commanded 'Not now,' and sbe took tbis to mean that she should hold back on wbatever she was about to communicate. Conversely, a voice saying 'Now you know,' signaled that she had enough information and needed to stop and think. Occasionally her system would be jammed, so to speak, by a 'lingering image,' an image that would not go away and blocked ber flow - 'like a pause button on a VCR.' This freezing ofthe image was somewhat autonomous, and she basically had to wait until the flow resumed. It might signify tbat sbe bad not correctly grasped the meaning of an image. Alternatively it might serve to emphasize and bigbligbt a topic, point to something that could not be changed, or indicate that tbe client was in denial about the trutb of tbe content of tbe image. Wbatever the case, the lingering image created a break tbat prompted her to elicit more information from the client until the flow of images resumed:
ELIZABETH I'm Seeing three lights, and they move in and out, and this would represent for me siblings. Do you have brothers and sisters. A family of three?

ELIZABETH There's a fading of one of these lights. Is one ill or not around? CLIENT Um, that's possible, one of them is in the military. ELIZABETH Okay. The lights come and go based on you, hut one is very dim and that's why I'm questioning the physical condition [Lengthy pause]. I ean't get away from the one that keeps fading. I'm going to try to leave that alone hecause you're not particularly concerned with the one that fades, but you should be. I want to leave the lights alone [Silenee]. I can't move the one away. I can't move these lights avi'ay, so I have to clear this. The one who is away, did you have some kind of falling out, or some kind of problem? [Client intercedes and reinterprets the images, suggesting that the lights represent his roommates.] ELIZABETH Let me clarify this all ... I'm having trouble with three lights. Okay? They would represent to me siblings, hrothers or sisters, or close family memhers. All right, after that, in trying to move them away to move on to something else, I couldn't. I had one continually fading away as though they were dying or a wish for death ...
CLIENT U h huh.

ETHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , I 9 9 9

The Western Psychic as Diviner


ELIZABETH Do you understand? Then I bad a eoffin. That's why I don't... didn't want to frighten you. The coffin does not mean that they're dead. It means that in your mind ... do you understand [Client nods]? There's a completion with this. Now with a completion, there's no reason for you to be afraid.

Here a lingering image caused Elizabetb to break witb ber usual pattern of silence about specific images. As often bappened, sbe failed to get closure on the reason for the lingering ofthe image. One difficulty of Elizabeth's system for my researcb purposes was tbat she had little or no recall of particular images after interpretation, suggesting a type of trance or dissociated state. As Gregory Bateson observed, amnesia is extremely economical, for 'no organism can afFord to be conscious of matters witb wbich it could deal at unconscious levels' (quoted in Stepben i989a;4849). After a session she remembered its content in general terms but could not retrace bow she had come to know what sbe knew. The images were gone. In an effort to gain access to more of her internal experience, I came up with tbe idea tbat sbe migbt simply sit down witb me and report wbat sbe saw witbout interpretation. She agreed to try this, to 'talk in symbols';
Okay ... in taking your hands, the first thing I saw was a eandle, an old-fashioned candle, the children with the nightgowns and um, it's ... the candle light is flickering. It's just sitting ... [Long pause]. It continues to flicker. Nothing changes. There's a certain amount of residue or smoke eoming from it. Now, I'm going to try not to interpret this [Long pause]. Hmmm. There's, ah, this is like something out ofthe ... probably seventeeth or eighteenth eentury. There's a pen with a feathered quill and a hand writing like in a journal, and it's right beneath the flickering candle, so this work is heing done by eandle light [Long pause]. I have to interpret it hecause I can't move beyond it.

Once she began to interpret tbe scene, sbe regained ber fluency and was able to move out of it, but in interpreting the images retrospectively she felt that she did not have the same clarity as sbe would bave if sbe bad interpreted immediately:
I think the, ah, and this is not a past life carryover ... the symhol ofthe candle flickering with smoke means there really wasn't enough light for the clarity of this writing. This I believe is you writing, and it's in a masculine analytical style, and that's why the hand is male, and it's almost laborious, so I would have to say you're having trouble with your writing right now heeause it's in the now even though it ETHNOS, VOL. 64:1, 1999


DEENA NEWMAN appears to be something very, you know, several hundred years old. But it's showingyou it's diftleult to see and do things and this is all at night. Also, men were the acceptahle authors, so the style is that of a man, which f think gives you some directions, hecause even at that point, women who did write had to write under men's names and what have you, so you're going to almost have to take a man's approach to your writing ... This is just showing you that you're having dliTieuhy with it [the writing], and it's, am, conditions arc not good for it. It's not really conducive, beeause even the feeling I had was, it was cold. It's not your writing which is cold and it's not you who is cold. It's just your whole environment for this is not making it easy for you. And the male concept could also be why it's laborious. See, iff had interpreted it as it went, I might have gotten more clarity on that. It was definitely a masculine male hand that was doing the writing. So it eould be cither way, that that could be what's making it laborious, or that that's the way you should he working with it, so stay open with it.

Interestingly, her uncertainty or even apparent errors never led her to doubt her credibility. She hclicvcd that ifsbe was in the proper neutral state of mind, her information was always 'correct,' though she might be 'wrong' about the 'interpretation.' As she put it, 'When 1 say "The information is always correct," T don't question that. It's as real to me as you sitting there. If I'm losing in the translation, that's me. I bave absolute eonfidenee about that.' Wlien clients flatly challenged or denied her statements, however, she eould be 'blocked' in her flow, 'clouded' in her clarity, and even 'shut down.' 'If I start denying what I pick up, then I'm going to set up blocks and not have the clarity that I do have, because I'll be questioning, "That isn't right," and then get consciously involved.' After the session, we talked about why it was atypical: It seems that withotit your interpretation, the images don't progress. I:LI/AHH'1H By interpreting them, I ean get another picture. I ean let go (jf the pietare, fjccaiisc I've dismissed it ... it's like an automatic mouth ... It's so second nature ... !ikc another language is there. It's as though f speak two iaiigLiages ... Iftherc's a t]ow, it's an aatomatic translation, like you would see when someone translates a news broadcast from Hiis.siiin to English ... But today, I was looking ior symbols. Before the session, I really conditioned myself by saying to myself, 'f^rcscnt what you can in symbols.' See, 1 usually don't do that. DEKNA It's not the same as a counseling session? i-:i,T'/.AHK-rH No, hecause I'd he doing symbols, voices, feelings, and I'd he constantly interpreting, and the only time 1 would stop for a symbol is ifl'vc got ETHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , 1999

The Western Psychic as Diviner


this [symbol] and 1 don't know what it means. [Then 1 would try to figure out] what does it mean to you. DKENA So, I actually limited you today? ELIZABETH Right. DEENA But the prohlem with not limiting you is that otherwise you don't have any recall [of your experience]. 'We can't recapture what's happened here, what information you got. ELIZABETH See, if I said to you, 'Deena, I heard this,' that's when you're going to get it. But I may just say something to you that I've heard and not quality it. Now ifl'm in that flow where I say it to you and 1 haven't qualified it, then I'm onto the next thing. So if I stop [to explain wbat I heard specifically] I stop the flow. It's like putting the VCR on pause, and I'm not going any further. I'm stuck. So I really fbeused on just the symhols and being ahle to do it. But if I were doing a reading for you ... you would have collected ten times more [information]. DEENA But I was interested in not only the information that you were picking up on me but more on your proeess. ELizABKTii HmHm. That's why I took the position of, let's go with these symbols, but you see, it's like stopping with a pause button. That's the best way I ean explain it. If I leave it alone, the flow just keeps going and it unfolds itself. If something is holding and I can't interpret it, then I'll ask you what it means to you, or ifthere's something in question, I'll say, '1 heard this,' hecause I have a pause in there too, a name heing repeated, or I may say, 'I'm hearing this and 1 don't have a name tor it.' So it may have meaning for you. But the proeess is so second nature that if I stop to analyze it, then I lose it, because I normally just allow it to flow.

Much later it occurred to me that, given tbat so many of her figures of speech were linked to images, it migbt have been possible to jog her memory of images after a session witb a collection of tbe metapbors tbat studded ber speech. More significantly, sbe bad construed my request that sbe report what sbe saw to mean limiting herself to images and had screened out the otber aspects of her sensory experience. Operating without ber usual full sensory engagement was like trying to work witb ber bands tied behind her back. Normally, as Elizabeth often described it, her body 'talked' to ber. In addition to seeing images, she experienced emotions, sensations, tastes, smells, and sounds, all at the same time: 'You see that man over there, in tbe far booth.^ He bas prostate problems. How do I know? Because I'm feeling a groin pain, and I know it's not mine. So, wben I feel it, I use my eyes to scan across a room, and wben it passes over the source ofthe sensation, it increases.' Sbe
ETHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , I 9 9 9



claimed to absorb emotions as well. As persons passed us, she commented on their emotional state, whether that of anger, depression, or happiness. With tbis emotional sensitivity, sbe found it extremely uncomfortable to be in crowds. 'It's like a sea of negativity,' she explained. 'I have to work at keeping myself separate. It's like being erowded with vibrations. You ean't spill oven' She likened herself to 'an open wound.' Yet it was tbis very sensitivity that was so useful in counseling. Sbe claimed to 'pick up on' the emotional state of clients as well as their significant others in a layering of emotion that she called 'cross-vibrations.' As tbe emotions wasbed over ber, she let the nuances resonate until she reached some kind of understanding and tben she 'cleared' or 'dismissed' them so that she could pick up more information. Pllmotions also oflcrcd commentary on ber internal images. Her first step in a counseling session was to search for the positive aspects of a client's life. Since the negative aspects of clients' lives so predominated, she explained, if she started there, sbe might never get to the positive ones tbat were therapcutically important. Elizabeth acknowledged tbat distinguishing between ber own emotions and sensations and those of others eould be difficult. Sbe felt that she knew herself - her emotional makeup and persona! symbols - and because of this could reeognize emotions and sensations originating outside berself, the 'not me.' She recognized that sometimes she and her clients shared 'fertile ground,' an overlap of common psychological and emotional issues. Images from her own past sometimes surfaced, and in such cases she attempted to determine whether her own unresolved issues were being triggered and 'clouding' her objectivity or whether tbey were presenting themselves preeisely because tbey encoded symbolic information of relevance for her client. When two contradictory messages appeared back to back, she canceled the second, which she took to represent her own response. The possibility of projection resulted in an interesting inversion: The more bizarre, unfamiliar, or unanticipated, the more sbe trusted its veracity, for it was clearly not stained by any projections, desires, or opinions on ber part. In a world of free-floating emotion and indefinite boundaries between persons, her statement 'Emotions are a luxury I cannot afford' amounted to a strategy for minimizing her potential input into a confusing heap of impressions. 'Ninety-nine percent of wbat I do is nurturing,' Elizabeth said. Indeed, many clients came to her as a last resort and needed comfort as much as any partieular advice or information. The emotional alchemy ofthe session took priority over all else; 'It's not what you know, it's how you say it.' This meant tbat
ETHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , T999

The Western Psychic as Diviner


sbe beavily edited herself as sbe sensitively delivered advice. I saw tbis in the careful way she broached difficult topics, prefacing her statements with disclaimers such as 'This may sound bizarre' or 'This sounds contradictory.' In this way, Elizabeth explained, clients would not fee! threatened and might remember her words later, when they were 'ready.' Whether she involved clients in recognizing their strengths and achievements, replaced their selfdefeating discourse with self-affirming langLiage, or reframed tbeir life situations or assessments witb a positive east, in essenee sbe was working toward helping them become emotionally buoyant so that she could steer them cither toward practical action or toward acceptance of their situation. In a description that could not be more to tbe point, Elizabeth summed up her work in tbree words: '1 sell hope.' At the opening of a counseling session, as we have seen, Elizabeth would ask to bold her client's bands. Taking both bands lightly in ber palms, she would sit in silence for approximately ten seconds, her eyes closed, while subtle expressions passed over ber face and her coloring changed. She described this as 'deepening' or 'intensifying.' Immediately before or after this brief tactile interchange, she offered an explanation to the client - 'It helps me to pick up what's going on witb you more clearly' - before launching into her first impressions or questions.'' Sbe did not explain that with toucb she felt the client's feelings, thought tbe client's thougbts, incorporated them into berself;'" this might bave been too disturbing. Wbatever tbeir feelings and ideas about what was happening wben they joined hands, clients participated in an exchange of feeling. Througb touch they not only transmitted sometbing to Elizabeth but felt something as well; they often commented on tbe feeling of'lightness' or 'energy' in her hands. With eyes closed, elient and counselor, joined together in a posture culturally reserved for intimates, focused on tbe nonverbal modalities. Tbe linking ot hands can be compared to Alfred Sebutz's views on music. Schutz observed tbat un!ike ideas, music cannot be grasped all at one time and consequently the composer, the performer, and the audience are linked in a sense of'weness' in tbe 'vivid present' througb 'sbaring inner time' (Neitz & Spickard 1990:27-32). Similarly, Elizabeth and her client, in linking hands, brought the present into clear focus. Their sbaring of'inner time' by means of a somatie exchange prepared them for the communication and sbaring of meanings tbat followed. Of course, there is an asymmetry bere, for what clients comprebended through toueh differed from Elizabeth's understanding. Yet, this gap in unETHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , T999



derstanding served the purposes of tbe session. Briggs {1994) has suggested tbat the nonverbal vocables, gestures, and movements ofthe bealer play a very important role in the healing process, indicating to patients tbat the healer possesses knowledge of and power over a realm of wbich they are ignorant. Like a Warao healer's, Elizabeth's touch reinforced clients' faith in her ability to see beyond appearances into tbe unknown. Finally, not only was there an exchange of feeling but clients figuratively and symbolically placed tbemselves 'in ber hands,' relinquishing their 'hold' on the self and thus increasing their receptivity to new ideas. As Jackson (1996:32) reminds us, 'meaning should not be reduced to that whicb can be tbought or said, since meaning may exist simply in the doing.' " Whereas anthropologists tend to overlook sensory experienee or dismiss it because of its idiosyncrasies and variations, insigbts into Elizabetb's world of free-floating emotions, images, sounds, and sensations - a world in which, sbe suggested, we are all 'at sea' can be drawn from the work of others. For example, Grandin (1995) who is autistic, bas written about ber own visual skills and problem solving tecbniques, Luria (i987[i968]) on one man's synesthetie and highly visual memory. Sacks (1990) on the way in whicb persons witb many different sensibilities and disabilities function, and Lusseyran (1963), blind since the age of eight, on bis receptivity to sounds, smells and touch. For Lusseyran, sound could be a 'blow to body and spirit, because sound is not sometbing bappening outside us, but a real presence passing tbroagb us and lingering unless we have beard it fully.' Voices similarly 'entered' him and stimulated images that seem akin to Elizabeth's report:
Sometimes, ior minutes at a time in class, I lieard nothing, neither the teacher's questions nor the answers ot my comrades. 1 was too much ahsorhed hy the images that their voices were parading through my head. All the more since these images half the time eontradieted, and flagrantly, the appearance of things ... How should I explain to other people that all my feelings towards them, feelings of sympathy or antipathy, came to me from their voices? I tried to tell a few people it was so, that they could do nothing about it and neither eould I (1963:54-57).

For Lusseyran, odours expressed emotion, particularly emotions of frustration;

A group of huinan beings who stay in one room by compulsion - or because of soeial obligation, which conies to the same thing - begins to smell. That is literally the case, and with children it happens even faster. Just think how mueh suppressed anger, humiliated independence, frustrated vagrancy and impotent curiositj' can be aceuinulated by forty boys between the ages often and fourteen! (1963:48). ETHNOS, VOL. 64:1, I999

77/1? Wester?! Psychic as Diviner Lusseyran's sense of touch was similarly receptive: '^


When I had eyes, my fingers used to be stiff, ha!fdead at the ends ofmy hands, good only for picking up things ... Movement ofthe fingers was terribly important ... Yet there was something stiil more important than movement, and that was pressure. If I put my hand on the table without pressing it, I knew the table was there, but knew nothing about it. To find out, my fingers had to bear down, and the amazing thing is that the pressure was answered by the table at once ... As soon as my hands came to life they put me in a world where everything was an exchange of pressures. These pressures gathered togetber in shapes, and each one of the shapes had meaning. As a ehild I spent hours leaning against objcets and letting them lean against me. Any blind person can tell you that this gesture, this exchange, gives him a satisfaction too deep for words (1963:17-19). The similarities ofthe narratives of Elizabeth and Lusseyran are suggestive. Are tbese merely chance correspondences, flourishes of creative minds witb receptive audiences, or arc they evidence of bighly developed sensory skills.'' Conclusion Tbis article bas focused on two distinct but interrelated topics: the phenomenology ofthe divinatory experience and tbe politics of perception. The first of these constitutes a neglected aspect of divination - the imaginal/embodied experience of diviners. I aetually began my research focusing primarily on her visual imagery, but Elizabeth corrected my perspective by providing descriptions of a full sensorial range of experience - tactile, somatic, auditory, emotional, and visual. Although she arrived at her techniques on her own, without a teacher, I suspect tbat ber system was not entirely idiosyncratic. This can not be demonstrated, however, until we accumulate more pbenomenological ethnographies on similar practices in America. The works of Csordas (1994) and McCiuirc (198B) are a start in this direction. Such consistencies in somatic techniques of divination have been observed ill a number of different cultures. Tedlock (1982) reports that Mayan diviners' lengthy apprenticeships result in their internalization of knowledge so that they experience sensations - called lightning of the blood - in particular areas of their bodies. Tbese correspond witb set meanings. Blcck and I./loyd (1911) write about the 'beating' or 'tapping' that some South African 'busbmen' fee! in their bodies when in proximity to game, enemies or kin. For example, a tapping in the calves or backs ofthe knees indicates tbat a springbok is in the vicinity, for this is the sensation a hunter feels after a kill, as he carries the carcass bome, and its blood drips down his legs. Another man feels a prcsETHNOS, voi,. 64:1, 1999



sure on his shoulders as bis wife approaches their bome; the sensation corresponds witb tbe position of a strapped thong tbat secures ber child to ber body.'^ Among the Navajo, hand trembling is tbe recurrent somatic mode of diagnosing illness, locating lost objects, and identifying witches (Levy et al. 1987:2). It is evident from the above cases that pbenomenological studies of the divinatory practices of'other' peoples are well ahead of studies of similar practices in the 'West'. Tbe recognition of a 'politics of perception' belps explain this paradox. Somebow, tbe closer to bome a study is conducted, tbe more implicated are the researcbers wbo carry it out (Wagner 1997:94-97). In writing about divination or shamanism witbin Western society, a sympathetic account is likely to be mistaken as an endorsement and tbus a reflection of tbe gullibility ofthe researcher. In writing about the stakes involved in a hierarchy of perception, van Dijk and Pels focus on the risks for antbropologists, but the people we write about find themselves in similar predicaments. In Elizabeth's case, she felt ambivalent about being a psychic and rarely used the term to refer to berself. There were aspects of her experience that she tried (often unsuccessfully) to repress and that she did not sbare with clients in order to avoid being associated with stigmatized groups such as New Agers, the mentally ill, or UFO 'abductees.''^ Perhaps it was the internalization of this conflict that caused her difficulties in interpreting the imagery ofthe session when she commented on my writer's block. I wasn't aware ofthe source ofmy writing difficulties at tbe time, but I was struggling, botb to fit my data into current (male?) anthropological paradigms and with tbe potential stigma of studying a Western diviner. In retrospect, it is interesting tbat Elizabetb missed noting tho obvious bere - that tbe social disapproval of psychics was possibly tbe source of wbat was blocking me. Perbaps this was because such a recognition would bave involved revisiting her own marginality and any discomfort associated witb it. If so, tbe session ended with us botb caugbt on the borns of tbe current politics of perception. Elizabetb's example raises difFerent questions from the ones van Dijk and Pels address - questions tbat emerge from tbe bottom of tbe pereeptual bierarchy. How do members of a society manage wben they have 'outlaw' or 'illegitimate' experiences that deviate from tbe norm or the desirable or place them at risk? How do we access these sensitive experienees? The topic requires no less than that researchers become aware of their own blind spots wben it eomes to the senses (Stoller 1989). Anthropologists have failed to
ETHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , 1999

The Western Psychic as Diviner


write about diviners' experience because tbeir own beliefs have prevented them from recognizing any such thing as that experience. Ethnographies would be better representations of tbe world if tbey were to take such experience seriously.
This paper is dedicated to Elizabeth's memory. I wish to thank the readers of eadier drafts of this paper: Jacques Maquet, Doug Hollan, Michelle Stephen, Rob Lemelson, Joseph IXimit, Cynthia Seheinberg and Charles Stewart. I delivered a version of this paper at a University College London Medieal Anthropology Seminar and thank the participants for their helpfiil comments. Notes 1. Peek's (19913:2) description is similarly broad: A divination system is a standardized process deriving from a learned discipline based on an extensive body of knowledge. This knowledge may or may not he literally expressed during the interpretation of the oraeular message. 'lTie diviner may utilize a fixed corpus, such as the Yoruba Ifa Odu verses, or a more difRise body of esoteric knowledge. Divining processes are diverse, but all follow set routines by which otherwise inaecessible information is obtained. Some type of device usually is employed, from a simple sliding object to the myriad symbolic items shaken in diviners' baskets. Sometimes the diviner's body beeomes the vehicle of communication tbrough spirit possession. Some diviners operate self-explanatory mechanisms that reveal answers; other systems require the diviner to interpret cryptic metaphoric messages. The fmal diagnosis and plan for action are rendered collectively by the diviner and the client(s). 2. Peek (19913:9-10) records some ofthe disp3r3ging eomments directed at divin3tion: Be3ttie (1967:64) assessed that a particul3r diviner w3S well aware th3t 'he was simply putting on an aet.' Middleton (1971 .2-ji) referred to 3 spirit-possessed diviner's speech as 'gibberish; Parrinder (1976:122) could not believe that anything was revealed by divination's 'haphazard methods.' 3. 'ITie literature on the anthropology ofthe senses has illuminated how different senses are given priority both historic3!ly (Classen 1993) and culturally (Feld 1982; Stoller 1989; Howes 1991; DesJ3rlais 1993). 4. Compounding the st3kes involved in perceptual polities is the controversy associated with the subject matter of religious/extraordinary experienees ever since the publication of C3rlos Cast3neda's (1968) writings. Marton (1994) discusses how Castaneda's reputation has negatively afFeeted anthropologists who research religious or subjective experience (also see van Dijk & Pels 1996). He asserts that Cast3neda's credulous accounts of paranorm3l experiences se3ndalized anthropology even more tfian the ethical questions raised by the putative fhiudulence ofhis accounts (1994:297). 5. For the time being, 1 prefer to use the more general terms of 'imaginal/embodied practices,' rather than 'primary' and 'secondary' processes. Altbough the eoncept of primary process has been revised since Freud first created it, it is often associated with some degree of repression and regression. Furthermore, the notion of primary and secondary processes is too restrictive; it is likely that there are more th3n two processes to human thought. Hilgard (1977), in his theories on dissociation, suggests ETHNOS, VOL, 6 4 : 1 , 1999










that consciousness cannot only be multiply divided, but that the dissociated parts, far from beinjr atavistic, can often he more high fiinctioning than ordinary consciousness. The 'otherness' of these kinds of experiences, the sense that they arc not created' but autonomous, has been singled out as liie salient feature of what Micheic Stephen (1989a, b) calls "the autonoinous imagination.' For example, he once wrote to Jung: 'On the scientific side just an oddity, I have two )")aticnt.s with nuclear complex involvinjr their witnessing acts of infidelity on the part of their mothers (the one historical, the other perhaps a mere phantasy), liiey both tell me about it in the same day and preface their stoiy with dreams about ivood ... Now I am aware that boards mean a woman, also cupboards [both these words have sexual ctjnnotation in (ierman] but 1 have never heard of any close connection between wood and the mother complex. It occurs to me though that wood in Spanish is madera - matter (hence the Portuguese name of the island of Madeira) and undoubtedly //w/c/Mies at the loot of matnia (matter). fHjrcc and matter would then be father and mother. One more of our dear parents' disguises' (quoted in Forrester 1980:99). Freud also wi'ote about embodied .symbols. Sec his discussion ofhow the phrase "a .slap in the face' en-dbleil the memory of an argument to beconie lodged in a patient's face as trigeminal neuralgia (quoted in Forrester 1980:67). In her research on tlfly American psychics, Clalanti (1989:6) similarly reported that niany psychics commented that 'reading a client was simply a matter of "becoming one with" that client and then "reading themselves."' (Jalanti concludes: 'What p.sychics do, then, is predicated on the ahility to literally or metaphorically "let go' of their ego boundaries.' The idea that touch is linked tt> understanding has an etymological hasis. Classen (1993:58) ha.s suggested that the roots (or many Knglish terms for 'thought' and "intelligence' derive from the tactile or kinesthetic senses, leading her to conclude that thought 'Is, or was, experienced primarily in terms of touch.' She traces tlie following terms for 'thought' to derive from the tactile or kinesthetic senses: apprehend, hrood, cogitate, comprehend, conceive, grasp, mull, perceive, ponder, riiniin ate, and uncierstanc!. 'fernis connected with intelligence are also commonly touch based, such as acumen, acute, keen, sharp, smart, clever and penetrating. 'A knowlcdj^cable person does not simply illuminate a sufijcct but cuts into it." After a se.ssion, clients often reported that they felt better, both emotionally and physically. They spoke of feeling 'refreshed,' "energized,' or even cured of symptoms of illness. It is possible that touching and co-prescnee, as mucrh as Elizabeth's counsel, playetl a role in their new sense of well-being. Even when objects did not actually touch him, Lusseyran (1963:21-23) felt as though they exerted a type ot pressiiie similar to that ol being touched: How should I explain the way objects approached me when ! was the one walking in their directionr Was I breathing them in or hearing them.?... as ! came closer, their was modified, oiten to the point of defining re;il contours, iissuming a real shape in space, acquiring distinctive colour, just as it happens when there is sight. As I walked along a country road bordered by trees, f eould point to each one oi the trees hy the road, even if they were not spaced at regular intci-vals. I knew whether the tree.s were .straight ;nid tal! ... or gathered into thickets and partly covering the ground around them ... KTHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , I 9 9 9

The Western Psychic as Diviner


As with the .sense of toueh, what came to me from objects was pressure, but pressure of a kind so new to me that at first I didn't think of calling it by that name. When I became really attentive and did not oppose my own pressure to my surroundings, then trees and rocks C3me to me and printed their shape upon me like fingers leaving tbeir impression in wax. 13. As Bleek and Lloyd put it, for those who have this divinatory skill, the beatings inform them 'which way they are not to go, and wbich arrow they had better not use, and also warn them, when many people are coming to the bouse on a wagon. They inform people where they can find the person of whom tbey are in search, i.e., which way they must go to seek him successfiilly' (1911:331). 14. Tahoo aspects of Elizabeth's experience included her lapses of consciousness, difficulty in distinguishing between spirits and persons, experience of holding hands during sleep with a strange bony creature, uncertainty as to whether she experienced 'love,' and 'getting ahead in time.' References Albanese, Catherine. 1992. 'Hie Magical StafF: QuanUim Healing in the New Age. In Perspectives on the New Age, edited by j.R. Lewis & J.G. Melton, pp. 68-84. New York: New York University Press. Hadone, Ellen. 1991. Ethnography, Fietion, and tbe Meanings ofthe Past in Brittany. American Ethnologist. i8(3):5r8-545. Bascom, William. 1969. Ifa Divination: Communication between Gods and Men in West Africa. Bioomington: Indiana University Press. Beattie, |ohn. 1967. Consulting a Nyoro Diviner: The Ethnologist as Client. Ethnology', 6(i):57-65. Bleek, W.H.I. & \.,X). Lloyd. 1911. Specimens ofBushman Folklore. London: George Allen & Company. Briggs, Charles. 1994. The Meaning of Nonsense, the Poetics of Embodiment, and the Production of Power in Warao Shamanistic Healing. In The Performance of Healing, edited by C. Laderman & M. Roseman, pp. 185-232. New York: Routledge. Brown, Micliael F. 1997. The Channeling Z^one: American Spirituality in an Afixious Age. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Bruner, Edward M. 1986. Experienee and its Expressions. In The Anthropology of Experience. edited by V. Turner & E. Bruner, pp. 3-30. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Castaneda, Carlos. 1968. The Teachings of Don Juan. New York: Ballantine. Classen, Constance. T993. Worlds of Seme: Exploringthe Senses in History and Across Cultures. I,ondon: Routledge. Corbin, Henry. \c)-]2. Mundus Imaginalis, or the Imaginary and tlw Imaginal Spring :i-i9. Csordas, Thomas. 1994. The Sacred Self A Cultural Phenomejiology of Charismatic Healing. Berkeley: University of California. Desjarlais, Robert. 1993. Body and Emotion: Vie Aesthetics nf Illness and Healing in the Ne{)a} Himalayas. Pbiladelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. EUenberger, H. 1970. The Diu-ovcry ofthe UncoJiscious. New York: Basic Books. Kvans-Pritchard, E.F^. 1937. Witchcraft. Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Feld, Steven. 1982. Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics and Song in Kaluli Expression. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ETHNOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , I 9 9 9



I'crnandez, James W. 1991. Afierwoi-d. In African Divination Systems: Ways of Kjitnviug. edited by P. Peek, pp. 213-222. Bloomington: Indiana University- Press. Forrester, John. 19K0. Language and the Oiigins ofPsy'choa?ialysi.y. New York: Cokiiiibia University Press. Fretid, Sigmund. 1960(1900). The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Avon Btioks. (iaianti, (.ieri Ann. 1989. Psycbics and Shamans: Psyehotics in Control? Assnciatiim for the AnthwpniogicalStudy afConsciouxness Quarterly, 5(4):5-7. (ieschiere, Peter 1997. On Witch-Doetors and Spin-Doctors: The Role o f Experts' in Afi-ican and American Politics. Paper presented at 'Magic and Modernity' Conference, C^eiUer for Religion and Societ)', Amsterdam. Gluckman, MLUX. 1972. Moral Crisis: Magical and Secular Soiutions. In The Allocation of Re.-iponsibility, edited by M. Gluckman, pp. 1-50. Manchester: Manchester University Press, (irandin. Temple. 1995. Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports from m\ Life with Autism. New York: Doubleday. Heeias, Paul. 1993. The New Age in Cultural Context: the Premodern, the Modern and the Postmodern. Special issue of Religion. Aspects of the Ne^.v Age, 23(2): 10:^-116. [ less, David J. 1997. Review olllie Channeling Zone: American Spirituality in an Anxious Age. American Anthmpologist, 99(4):846-847. Hilgard, Krnest R. 1977. DivuifJ New York: [ohn Wiley. Howes, David. 1991. The Varieties of Sensory Experience: Toronto: University of'f'oronto Press. Jackson, Mithacl. 1978. An Approach to Kuranko Divination. Human Relations, 31(2):

T989. Paths Toward a Ch-aring. Bloomington: University of Intiiana Press. 1996. Introduction: Phenomenolog)', Radical Empiricism, and Anthropological Critique. In Things as They Are: Nezv Directions in Phaiome?wlogical Anthropology, etiited by M. JacLson, pp. i-go. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Johnson, Mark. 1987. The Body in fhe Mind: The Bodily Ha.m of Meaning. Imagination and Reason- Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Jung, C. 1959. Arciietypcs ofthe Collective Unconscious. In The Collected Works ofC. C. .hiiig, voi 9(1). New York: Random House. Kracke, Waud. 1987. Mv-ths in IJreanis, Thought in Images: An Amazonian Contribution to the Psychoanalytic Theory of Primary Process. In Dreaming: Anthropological ami Psychological Interpretations, edited by B. Tedlock, pp. 31-^4. C amhridge: Camhridge LIniversity Press. LakoH; George & Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Cliicago: University of Chicago Press. Levy, Jerrold K., I^aymond Neutra & Dennis Parker. 1987. Jland Trembling, Firnzx Witcharift. and Moth Madness: A Study of Navajo Seizure Disorders. Tueson: University of Arizona Press. Lienhardt, (Jodfrey. 1961. Di-viiiity and Experience: The Religion ofthe Dinkn. Oxford: Oxiord University Press. Luhrmann, Tanya. 19H9. Persuasions of the Witdi\'i Craft. Oxford: Blackwell. -. 1997. Magie and Modernity. Paper Presented at 'Magic and Modernity" Conierencc. Amsterdam. Luria, A.R. 1987(1968). The Mindoj'a Mnemonist. New York: Basic tSooks.
r/i'HNO.S, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , 1 9 9 9

-. -.

The We.Uem Psychic as Diviner


Lusseyran, Jacques. 1963. And There Was Light. Edinburgh: Floris Classics. Mareus, (jeorge & Michael J. Fiseher. 1986. Anthropology and Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Scienees. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Marton, Yves. 1994. 'l"he Experiential Approach to Anthropology and Castaneda's Ambiguous Legacy. In Being Changed by Cross-Culturai F.ncounters. edited by D.E. Young & J. Goulet, pp. 273-297. New York: Broadview Press. Mauricio, I. 199(5. Anthropology and Spirit Possession: A Reconsideration of the Pythia's Role at Delphi. Joumal of Hellenic Studies, cxv:69-86. McCJuire, Meredith. 1987. Religion: The Social Context. Belmont: Wadsworth. -. 1988. Ritual Healing in Suburban America. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Melton, J. Gordon et al 1990. Introductory- Essay: An Overview ofthe New Age Movement. In New Age F^ncyclopedia. Detroit: Gale Research. Middleton, lohn. 1971. Oracles and Divination Among the Lughara. In Man in Africa, edited f>y Mary Douglas & Phyllis M. Kaherry, pp. 262-278. New York: Doubleday Anchor. Neitz, Mary Jo & James Spickard. 1990. Steps toward a Sociology of Religious Experience: The Theories of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Alfred Schutz. Sociological A?mlysis, Newman, Deena I.j. 1994. Selling Hope: The Experiences and Practices of an Urhan American Seer. Ph.D. dissertation, Anthropology Department, University of California at Los Angeles. Noll, Richard. 1985. Mental Imagery Culturation as a Cultural Phenomenon: The Role of Visions in Shamanism. Current Anthropology, 26(4):443-46i. Oheyesekere, Gananath. 1981. Medusa's Hair Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ots, Thomas. 1994. The Silenced Body - The Expressive Leih: On the Dialectic of Mind and Life in Chinese Cathartic Healing. In Embodiment and F^xperience. edited byT.J. Csordas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Parkin, David. 1991. Simultaneity and Sequencing in the Oracular Speech of Kenyan Diviners. In African Divination Systems: Ways of Knowing, edited by P. Peek, pp. 173190. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Parrinder, Geotfrey. 1976. African Traditional Religio?i. New York: Harper and Row. Peek, Philip M. 1991a. Introduction: The Study of Divination, Present and Past. In African Divination Systems: Ways ofKnozving, edited hy P. Peek, pp. 1-22. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. - . 1991b. African Divination Systems: Non-Normal Modes of Cognition. In African Divination Systems, edited by P. Peek, pp. 193-212. Bioomington: Indiana University Press. Preston, James. 1991. The Trickster Unmasked: Anthropology and the Imagination. In AjithropologiealPoetics, 1. edited hy Brady. Savage: Rowman & Littlefield. Price-Williams, Douglass. 1987. The Waking Dream in Ethnographic Perspeetive. In Dreaming: Anthropyological and Psychological Interpretations, edited hy B. Tedlock, pp. 246-262. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ross, Andrew. 1992. New Age Technoculture. In Cultural Studies, edited by L. Grossberg, C. Nelson & P. Treichler. New York: Routledge. Sacks, Oliver. 1990. Awakenings, A Leg to Stand On. The Man Who Mistook His Wifefor a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, Seeing Voiees. New York: Quality Paperback Book Cluh. ETIINOS, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , 1999



Said, F^dward M. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Random House. Schon, Donald A. 1979. Generative Metaphor: A Perspective on Problem-Setting in Social Policy. In Metaphor and Thought, edited hy A. Ortony, pp. 254-283. Cambridge: Cambridge L^nivcrsity Press. Sperher, David. 1974. Rethinking Symbolism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stephen, Michele. 1989a. Seif, the Sacred Other, and Autonomous Imagination. In The Religious Imagination in New Guinea, edited by G. Herdt & M. Stephen, pp. 4T-64. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. -. 1989b. Constructing Sacred Worlds and Autonomous Imagining in New Guinea. In The Religious Imagination in Nezv Guinea, edited by G. Herdt & M. Stephen, pp. 211236. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Stoller, Paul. 1989. Vie Taste of Ethnographic Viings: Vie Senses in Anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Taussig, Michael. 1997. The Magic ofthe State. New York: Routledge. Tedlock, Barbara. 1982. Ti?ne and the Highland Maya. Alhuqtierque: University of New Mexico Press. - . 1991. From Participant Observation to the Obsei-vation of Participation: The Emergence of Narrative Ethnogi-aphy. Joumal of Anthropological Research, i\j{i):(-t<)-()^. Turner, Victor. 1967. Muchona the Hornet, Inteipreter of Religion, fn Fore.'it ofSymbols: ylspects ofNdembu Ritual. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. - . 1975. Revelation and Divination in Ndembu Ritual Ithaca: Cornell University Press. van Dijk, Rijk & Peter Pels. 1996. Contested Authorities and the Politics of Perception: Deconstructing the Sttidy of Religion in Africa. In Po.stcolonial Identities in Africa, edited hy R. Werhner & T. Ranger, pp. 245-270. London: Zed Books. Wagner, Melinda Bollar. 1983. Metaphysics in Midwestern America. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. -. 1997- The Study of Religion in American Society. In Anthropology of Religion: A Handbook, edited by S.D. Glazier, pp. 85-101. Westpoit: (Jreenwood Press. W^atkins, Mary. 1986(1976). Waking Dreams. Dallas: Spring Puhlications. Werbner, Richard. 1973. The Superabundance of Understanding: Kalanga Rhetoric and Domestic Divination. American Anthropologist, 75:1414-40.
-. i()%i). Ritual Passage, Sa<red Joumty: The Process and Organization of Religious Movement.

Manchester and Washington, D.C".: Manchester University Press/Smithsonian Institution Press.

ETHNO,S, VOL. 6 4 : 1 , I 9 9 9