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d-1J.-O 1993

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Oxford_University Press ;, - .
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Orford Universi Press -1993 . - ,
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sent lo Oxford University Press_at the address below.
British _Library P,talogui~g lin Publication Data
Data avai/bble :
Library of Congress Catalogink in Publication .Data
Su,yani , Luh Ketut, 1944 -
Trance and possession in Bali : a window on Western multiple
personality, possession disorder, and suicide/Luh Ketut Suryani ,
Gordon D. Jensen.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-19-5 88610-0 (hard} :
1. Bali Island {lndonesia} - Re/igion. 2. Trance - lndanesia -
Bali Island . 3. Demoniac possession- Indonesia - Bali Island.
4. Spiritual healing - Indanesia - Bali Island. 5. Multiple
personality--Cross-cultural studies. 6. Psychiatry and religion.
I. Jensen, Gordon D. II. Title.
BL2120 .B2S811993

Typeset by Typeset Gallery Sdn. Bhd.; Malays ia

Printed in Singapore by Kyodo Pfinting Co. (S) Pte. Ltd.
Published by Orford University Press,
19-25,Jalan Kuchai Lama, 58200 Kuala Lumpu r, Malaysia

., .;

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Acknowledgem ents

TI-usbook would not have been possible without the help of many .
We wish to acknowledge the encourageme nt and critiques of the
following Americans: Ern est R Hilgard, Emeritus Professor of
Psychology, Stanford University; Eugene L. Bliss, Emeritus
Professor of Psychiatry, University of Utah, School of Medicine;
and Marlene Steinberg, Research Scientist, Department of Psychiatry,
Yale University, School of Medicine. We al~o wish 'to record our
deep appreciation of the warmth and kindness of the many Balinese
who graciously invited us to observe both private and community
ceremonies and who consented to personal interviews without
thought of remun eration . Grateful thanks are also due to the many
traditi onal healers (balian) for allowing us to interview them and to
observe, photograph 1 and videotape their practices and to the
Province of Bali Government (Pemeri!itah Daerah Tmgkat I Bali)
for granting us permission to study in the field. Dr 1jok orda Alit K
Adnyana, Lecturer in Pharm acology, Udayana University, was of
great assistanc e in the logistics of our studies and also conducted
sJme of the interviews. Last but not least; we are indebted to Jane
Derry for taking most of the photographs, to Made Rapini Ari
Hantana for helping with our corres pondence, ahd to Jane Rachford
for typing.

Denpasar, Bal i LUH KET UT SU RYAN!

Davis, California GORDON D . JE NSEN

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TRAN CE in Bali was fu-~t ~\1.ldiedover ?0 ; f al-s-~gp, by Belo, :an

Ame~can -antiyopologist and artistJiet_oo? k Tf-~ 1:.~e)1!BalU\~?f? )
proVI~ed detailed descriptions of many of tlle, c~rer:r,i,c;mi al ;d,<;l.llces
and h ealers who were posses~ed
time, Bateson and Mead (f942), two .of the
in' tranc e.;,~'( ~B?,Ut tl\~;; ~e
most .famous anthro-
~. ~ l l i : . . , I....... ~.
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pologists .of this century, _came ,_t9..Bli. a~~-w.ere fas~jateqJ?Y;,~e

people in trance and possession who peliorme d jn dram as . and
dances . They recogn~ed trance _in Bali a~ b~ing "e?se nti?lJ. y' the
same phenomenon as. hypnosis __ b1Jct ,did, not re~og11ize possi s~i'ori.
Jh~y.produced .a das~icfilm:_:_:s
. ;
_till usecf ,in . .co._..
e,s.) n
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anthropology---of the popular Barong . dari.ce:in.\vhich danc~rs .in

trance and possessed by_ gods ' stab the~selv es . with ~ ses
(daggers): Trance
possession {-thfse toijns ) ipcf ,inany;~tlir.r?
continue to occur in Balf and may be witnessed by visitors'lo the
island . . . , ' . , .. ' ' . ''. _.. ~; ' <~ij( ..::
, At the ~utset it is helpful to distinguish between the terms .'tra.rice'
_arid 'possess ion'; although these two phe nomeri1 'al,e'describ,~c(1n
~ . - -~\,,),'_I
. . !: -...; .

detail iriThapter 2. Both are states in whic,h th.e_ ;._;1,._

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.the individual is diffei:entfrom that .of his prJie r '-!- ?lJ.al_'stat~.~Tu -- ey

are traditionally called ~tered s9te,~ of .~onS~!PHSB~is".(AS~~ -i ~Y
of trance is essentially
. . -
and phenome
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the sam-~
.)J J-;ii~AJ L:, .~~.

the state _of hypnosis . ~oth ~an 1:,eman ~~s!~d ~t ,_;'f ~~ .,b~~tt s
from light ~o de~p~Possession i,s'.1fl ASC distin~ i~p.~ar ornJ fc!J! ff
be~ us e it is char acterized by the expe:ien c<:: . o,f 1\~in'~ .takf,% 9:y~r
by a power, spirit, _or god ~hich,.th,e n, ac~. ,tqr-9,p.~_th e i?Sf.S .-P!J: ;
causing the person to behave autotr1itic_ajly or, wif49Pt lc, elf;<;Q,RP--91-
In the Balinese, a state of trance -gener ally-:pr,ec~aes th e ..niarii-
festation of possession and then
the two states- co.exist. In contr ast
, ; IJ l , 1. f .... ~ ~, . ,

to people in trance, _persons possessed are oft~n ,amn esic fo_i:: . part
of or throughout the entire episode. The , term. ''tranc er' ipqy_he
used to. designate a person in :a. stat< 0~ }ra_pce or
r se-

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Reading the reports of what was referred to as trance-ceremonies

by Belo (1960),1 one wonders whether some of those ceremonies
still take place and if so, how much they have remained th e same .
As in other countries, Balinese culture is a living syst em that is
continually evolving. However, it is the authors ' view that in spite of
superficial changes, the .basic beliefs, customs (including religious .,
dances and trance-possession ceremonies), as well as the character
of the Balinese are essentially as they have been for at least five
decades Qensen and Suryani, 1992). Several other obse rvers have
form ed similar opinions . Belo (1960) felt that Balinese rituals and
charact er had changed very little betw een 1935 and 1960."Belo'.s
(1960) and De Zoete and Spies's (1970) descriptions of Balinese
dances of the 1930s are strikingly -similar to current descriptions,
including Jensen and Suryani's (1992), of the same dances and
ceremonies. Covarrubias (1937) concluded that the Balinese ' as-
similate new and foreign ideas into their trnditicinai' forms, thus
enablin g them 'to create new styles constantly, to'mject new life
steadily into their culture, which at the same time never lo~s its
Balinese char acteristics' . .More recently~ Ramseyer (1986) stated
tha t the Balinese absorbed material .culture' without' a break '.fu
tradition and that 'the basic values ~hapeci by religi6us and,'coh1-
munal social interactions have remained remark~bfyinta ct' . .-,"'('
Whereas the trance-possession ceremonies of Bali have reniain'ed
essentially unchanged over the years, 'scientific imow ledge'about
hypnotic phenom ena has increased treme ndousiy and the field of
psychi atric study has advanced to the point.whe re furthe r study of
trance and possession phenomena in Bali can only !~a d to a'-b~tter
understanding of such processes and their relationship with '.other
un usual psychic activity and psychopathoiogy .. '
Hypnotherap y, defined as the psych ~therapeu tic .tr eatm ent of
behaviou'ral and mental problems and di~orders by 'hypnosis, is
experi encing a revival or renaissance-the first since the wave of
popularity among psychiatrists about 100 years ' ago (Erikson, 1970).
The most famous of the early medical practit ioners utilizing hypno-
therap y was Charcot in France and his renowned pupil, Sigmund
Freud .2 The curren t surge of scientific interest in hypnoth erapy and
its use suggests that it has become better unde rstood, particularly
with regard to its functions. Nevertheless , although a great deal
has been learned about psychotherapy , which is irifogral to hy-pno-
th erapy, there remain glaring gaps in knowledge about the hypnotic
pr ocess itself. For example, it is still not kl.own_ wha t happens
neuroph ysiologically in the brain to account for the marvellous and


.. .'--.,
often fantastic changes that hypnosis brings 'about. The answers to
such question s may be found in studies of naturally occurring .non-
therapi st induced states of hypnosis or trance. .. :
Trance is bu t one of what has been popularly called the altered
states of con sciousness (ASC). Other exam ples<of,ASC include
meditation and possession . The phenomeno n of posses sioii,:which_
has been described in a number of cultures (Oesterreich, 1974)
and studied by several scholars of Balinese culture (Bateson ,and
Mead, 1942; Belo, 1960), is well known to the Balinese people.
However, Western medicine has paid scant-attention to possession
and little attempt has been made to.explain, how ,itwork s in ternis
of Western concepts of psychology and neuropsychophy siology.-:
Possession usually occurs with trance in .Bali .and ha~ ,been
woven into its customs since pre-Hindu and prehistori c times,as
evidertced by possession indances that date from tho se early
periods, such as the little girl trance dance; SaefHya ngJDedari
(Bandem, 1990). The spiritual, ethereal, mystifyirig;,and spedamilar
manifestations of trance and possession have long fascinated
Western travellers and scholars. At times, the concept of possession
had led to the unfortunate deaths of innoce nf individuals; as~'seen
in the persecution of 'witches' in the seve nteenth and eighteenth
centuries (Hansen, 1969; Oesterreich , 1974).3 In contrast, possession
to the Balinese is rarely a sinister happening rather, it isin most
i11stances a pleasurable and valued experien ce. Furthermore, pos-
session in a religious context is regarde d as a privilege .to ithe
possessed person and it is believed to give some traditio nal healers
special powers which can help heal the insep arable mind and body ."
Jensen and Suryani's interest in investiga ting trance and posses -
sion in Bali stemmed from their individual diriical experiences-fa
psychiatry. Suryani discovered that Balinese who tried to 'commit
suicide described experiences during the attempt that indicated
that they were in trance . This finding helped to explain the occur -
rence of suicide in a culture whose religious customs and,beliefs
forbid the taking of one's own life. Jensen's observations of patfents
with multiple personality disorder (MPD) in California suggested
that the basic process of this disorder might , bethe same ,as
possession and he recogniz ed that Bali would be an ideah:ulture
in which to study possession phenomena. After a &-year study of
Balinese customs and character Oensen and ~Suryl'tni, 199.2), the
authors were ready to focus on trance and . possessi on m'Bali,
combining both Balinese and Western appro aches and viewpoints
and using a common base of knowledge in Weste rn psychi atry .

_;.,.:.,, -.

,,. In this book the authors have brought togeth er a anumbe nrof
studies .of normal Balinese in various trance and possession ac;tivities
and of patients whose prob lems involved ASC. -Th e,data reported
were derived from interviews of more than 175 Balinese ,.conduc.ted
in .the ir native language; either Indonesi an or sBalines e. Although .
most of the interviews and observations were.. earrie d out 1ifrom
1988, in total they spanned a 16-year period. .. ,
Often a great deal of questioning of individual Balinese, as well
as of corroborative sources, was required in ,obtain accurate
data . .Different villagers sometimes gave conflicting ;information
about the meanings .of ;similar ,ceremonies . Eor ,.exampl e,;:at 'the
Jimbaran ceremonies, .it was necessary _to ask ..specific questions
not only of individual participants but also of the.priest .who pr.:esided
at the ceremonies: Several of the village ceremo nie.sireported on
~ere videotaped, as were most of the trad itional ..~ e~e rs treating
their clients . This enhanced the accuracy :of hand-rendere d ;uiter,
view data and en~bled updated observations of events, ; ;k :
Bali offers a particularly rich source for ,the stud)'--. of tran ce. and
possession because these occur in many_aspects of.daily life Gensen
and .Suryani, 1992). For these reasons and because .,the 'two authors
are psychiatrists .using hypnotherapy :both' in: Bali'iand America ;
they-elected to study trance and possess ion .inillaliin order to:gather
inf orrnation for ,a mor:e thorough .unders tanding ,oirttanc .e/ hypnosis
phenomena, possession, hypnotherapy , _and dissociative disorders 4
that occur ,in both Bali and Western ,cultur es ..:Th.e' ,:auth ors :b.~liev,e
that it is useful for Western mental health professi,onals, including
hypnotherapists, to become know;ledgeable:_abo_ut,p.ossessiqn sta_tes
becaus_e they are .aspects of some emotional d.i~orders w~h ,are
also:,encountered in Western society, , such '.:as~c a~e..sof ._
professing to ,be possessed and .per.sons h~liev~d:to,:be po~s.e ssed
ands ubf~cted to exorc ism rituals by..::
the Cat[loJjc,Ch-urch. .,..~ ;) ,: ::.:
-:1:Trance, and possession in Bali: are ,fascin.ating topics and merit
psychologic and psychiatric them s_elves/ Af .the least , .such
studies would describe trance/hypnosis and posses sion in a;culture
currently .attracting increasing interest among travellers, scholar s,
and scientists . There is no country in the .world mor~_beautilul .and
culturally rich in which to observe these pheno mena . Th e .legacy
of such studies could be the recognition by W e?tern psychology
and psychiatry of what has been called the possessi on syndrome in
normal individuals and the roles that trance an4 posse ssion play in
. the mental conditions and disorders ofvVestemer s. :

1. Although Belo (1960) used the word 'trance' and did not distinguish between
tranc e and possession in terminology, she described trance phenomen a as the gods
corning down, entering the persons , and speakin g through them, which is
tantamount to possession.
2. Early in his care er, Freud abandoned hypnosis as a techniqu e of therapy in
favour of free association because he did not feel he was a skilful enough hypnotist
and because patients were not generally hypno~ble . Later in his career, however,
he wrote an essay on occult phenomena .Gones, 1953) and noted in.a letter, 1f I had
my life to live over again, I would study psychical ~tates instea d .of.psychoanalysis.'
3. In New En"gland,'300 years 'ago, \inepidemic of trance an\:!posses sion disorders
result ed in the hanging of more than a dozen perso ns, mostly wom!'n, a result of
the notorious Salem (Massachusetts) witch trials. While most person s convicted or
suspected of witchcraft in that era in both America and Europe were women,
Aldous Huxley described in The Devils of London the case of a man convicted of
?racti sing ~tch .~raft op_a _1:un..!!1or?e1i" ~.~o ~o_ss:ss_,~er_-~ d -~e her __?.e~o~ 1
infatuated with bun. He was burned at the stake m 1634 (I::ewis/1971): ,_,, .tr -
4. 'Di.ssociative disorders'. the temi -used :by psychiatry -td :design ate a Iiumber
of mental disorders, including fugue .states, psychogep._i c !lll_!!Sia;anq muW-.mi;
personality disorder . A!J_hav~ in c~n,mo~ the psy;c~olo.~ sm~cl1_anismr~Ji'~f~,s?:
defined as . a men tal, -separation
. ! -
or split
of thoughts,
= ..
feelli:igs, and
;r 0"\'lf":
~~-,1 fftr-
from the perso n's u:sual state of consciousness and cun;ent ~ituatiqu (see Cliap_ter:'2)'.
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Bali and Balinese Backgr ound*
: .

BALIas a nation has experienced several major political changes

over the centuries . It was first colonized by the Hindus who left
Java in the fourteenth century and establis hed the ir kingd oms and
religion on the island. Then the Dutch began the ir colonization
with the conquest of North Bali in 1846, followed by th at of South
Bali in 1908. The Dutch were noted for allowing Balinese culture
to continue with relatively"little interference or reshaping in their
image. After the Dutch came the Japanese who invaded and
occupied Bali until their defeat in 1945. In 1946, Bali became a
,._ province of the newly independent Indonesian repu blic; its capital
is the city of Denpasar. -
The island of Bali is geograph ically located about 8 degrees
south of the equator and about 18 degrees. north of the western
end of Australia. It is a relatively small island , one of about 13,000
that make up the archipelago of Indonesia, often unrec ognized as
the fifth largest nation in the world . Bali extends over 5 633 square
kilom etres and is about twice as long as it is wide. A rang e of high
volcanic mountains divides it into northern and southern portions .
For the Balinese Hindu , the mountains are the palaces of the gods.
The highest mountain, Gunung Agung (2 900 metres), located in
Karangasem district, is sacred to the Balinese Hindus; on its slope
stand s the oldest and biggest temple in Bali, the mothe r temple ,
Pura Besakih.
The population of Bali in 1989 was 2,644,127, with about equal
numbers of males and females . Th is represe nts less th an 2 per
cent of the total population of Indonesia , but Bali is the destination
*The content of this chapter is based on 77zeBalinese People: A Reinvestigation of
Character Oensen and Suryani , 1992). A knowledge of the fundam en tal concept s
hel d by the Balinese people , particularly their religious pra ctices and ce remonies, is
essential to an understanding of their use of trance and poss ess ion.

-~:I .~ .
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of more than 50 per cent of tourists visiting Indonesia. ;: ; "-.
Approximately ninety-thre e per cent of the Balinese arerHihdu ,
About 5 per cent are Muslim , and th e remainde r are Buddhist,
Pro testant, and Catholic . Occupations include farmer s (animal
husbandry, cultivation of paddy and other crops), forest ers, and
fishermen, 50.74 per cent; government officers and public services,
15.33 per cent; tradesmen , hote l staff, and restauran t employees,
14.52 per cent; industrial workers, 9.84 per cent; and builders,
4.82 per cent
Earlier books on Baii (Krause, 1988; Powell, 1930) pictur ed and
described the island at the beg inning of this century as a paradise
in terms of the beauty of its lush trop ical landscape and the grace
of its people, often with an unreal -emphas is on lovely young
women bathing uude under falling water . The fonne r is still -very
much in evidence, but the latter is uncom mon . Although the:land
is much more densely populated now than it was a half century
ago , it remains incredibly beautifu l with vistas of terr aced rice
padd ies, some deep green , some brown, mirro ring mountains,
clouds, and palm trees, set agains t backdro ps of palms, bamboo
grov es, and an occasional house with a gras s roof. A rice h ar.v:esLis .
always going on somewhere owing to non-synch rorious planting;
rice is harvested in the traditio nal, rather primitive way, with
gr oups of people, predominantly women, cutting the rice plants-by
ha nd and carrying them on their heads to anothe r spot where the
rice plants are threshed agains t a board.
Th ere are eight <lisbicts (kabupa ten) in Bali. The villages (desa)
are made up of organizationa l units called banja r. The total
number of banjar is about 4,200. These governing and social
gr ou ps fom1 the basis of much of the commu nal life of Balinese
society . Balljar are a major institutio n in th e commun ity. Th ey-are
th e main link with the central governme nt and .th ey. tr ansmit
directives, as well as co-ordinate the customs of religi on. -Like,the
family, they are of critical importance in everyday lifeJ J'raditional
banj ar also deal with work, dances, music, and othe r art s .. }'!be
banj ar meeting hall, centrally located in every village; -is an open ,
pavilion , serving as a local clubho use and gathe ring place day' and.
night. Gamelan clubs often practise at vario us.banja r , attra cting a
few villagers who gather around, chatting and watching. B anjar
activities can draw large crowds , creating a fest ive atmosphere
occasionally resembling that at tempies during major ceremonies.
Members of the banjar are obliged to help one another perform
a number of duties, especially in religious ceremonie s such as.the

buri al of a desa citizen and. the constructio n and ;maint en ance ;of
buildings necessary for fr1e functions of the banjar_ Th es~ ;_are
obliga tory activities for banjar membe rs and take ,preced en ce .over -
regu lar jobs and duties, regardless of wheth er, ,such memb ers ace,
empl oyed py state instib:!_1:i.ons or private enterp rise. A man :may
ne ed .to-leave his job without notice and witho ut: pay ,for days, : ot
even weeks, in order to work for his banjar . One func tion of the
banjar is to interpret the written and unwritte n. laws..of th e qnin:try
and the banjar in order to ensure the sec urity and pea ce;~of the
desa and to up hold the hon our and good ,name ofbanjar and desa.
When problems arise, the mechan isms of the :batijar; rath er than.
lawyers .and . courts, settle disputes : and mete :out pun.ishme nt.:For.
example, if a desa member violates the decorum of!the comrunity, .
breaks its rules, or fails in his dl!ties .for .the .banjar, ,a.:Sacre d -oath,
taking ,,ceremon y . (mecor) , witnessed by the .men Jof the banjar uis,
held to determine his guilt odn.nocence .: It :h~,underat ood:,byc;all
that if the in error .and -fails, to punish .,the gu ilty, th~,
gods will do so . A guilty person is sanctioned, :fiped, or; if convicted ;
of a yery seri ous offence, isolated .from the . community. The -latte:r,.
punishment is indeed severe because it mearis, that JlO one.,io,.,the -_
communi ty,will talk to-him/her _(.puik) .or .help , him/.he,r:to perform ;
religious cerem onies, and the person .so , punis he d,amay not : take
part in the activities ofthe banjar . Anawaren'ess oLtl)ese san~pons_,
motivates the people to striveiaithfully :to _exec ute.:all ,th eir ,banjar :
duti es and follow the village rules which are clearly,kn.own to,:all.: ,, :
_, .:.'-,:~ .... ;{:_..:
Social Systems That Bind
#. ' :.. . ~ -.l~"!.f; -~: . -\~~-- '.r. I a.,-.

Four social systems bind .the Balinese toge ther : tb..e clan sy~e~
(dadia), .the .stratification system (kasta) , ;the .com.mnity sy.&tem
(banjar), and the interest and working gr p1.1psystem (sekq); !The
dadia system encompasses the combined exte nded.fami lies,and .w.l
the ancestors .=~ - this . relationship, unily, membe rs .
ban.cltogether in one place for ceremo nies dedi.catecl---tQ th e wor$hiP.
of God: at the house shrine (sanggah or mraj(;m) .for ;th e immediate ,
family or .at the . temple _(pura) ,for the exte nded Jamily. Be!?Ldes
strengthening the family -bond, these ceremo nies foste r th e feeling
of devotion 'to or re spect for elders; for,,e~amP,le, -at the cer:e.mony.
of death (nyumbah), family members eat food which h ad. :b.e~u
offered earlier to their ance stor ~. (nyurud). __
., -. / ,,.;, ;_.,
Thefamily; ancestors,.and cmp.munity are tightly e{lil1esh~cl;and
interdependent.- No one, except the wande r;;r or men tally .ill,Lc.uJ.

. . .,;
_ _;.-:

, _ _ :- .,-_;_~-
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fun_ction without being part of all three . Every Balinese Hindu, is
imbued with a sense of this trilate ral force .from birth and th is early ,
structu ring of reality, with . regular and frequent reinforcement, '
lasts throu ghout this life and the lives thereafte r.
The divisions of caste, originally of Hindu x igin, wer e based on
th eir .functions in the community : Brah mana ,.(the high esL caste
comprising high priests) were responsible for religious cere monies;
Ksatria had roles - in the governme nt; Wesi a. were
business and activities involving, public welfare; and Sudra were
farmers who performed tasks for the othe r castes ias well _;There
has never been an untouchable or .outcast group as,in Hindu India.
Beginnin g in the 1920s, some members :of _thdow~st caste; :Sudra ;
objected to the social _implications of '.the : caste te.rminologyr;and
changed it to Catur .Wangsa (meaning /four inhe rita\lces ') or; Gatur
Warna (meaning 'four colours') ; they also _cll.anged $dr a to Jaba.
In Bali, caste is determined by :inheritance aLbiI'th r but it :is \OO
longer significant for an individ ual's function in1s:Ociety or-.,in i.:c .m
occupation: Today caste is..functional only , stat;
inheritance. The priestly roles in ceremonies : are -,capi ed o.ut ;not
only by the high priest but also by priests from the lower castes ;:in
fact,most priests come from the. lowest .caste. -In-practic~, :.many
people of the Jaba caste regar d priests from their -.caste asJ 1.aving
high status, similar to._that of the high priests .from the Bralu1}an9-, :
Each community is ,.made up. oft.many-_groups ,; each1i~O.UP
consisting of individuals who . come togethe r . for co-opercative
activities involving specific interest s. Such groups ;are calle.d,dub.s
or seka. Each has a specific name according to its activity, TheFe
are .working group s such as seka manyi for,_c_utting rice and ~eka
numbeg for cultivating; and there are , gr oups iwhic;:h pur~e -,c:1p
interest in the arts and even in palm wine drink,ing such_,a_ '2r.Seka
gong -gamelan -.(orchestra), seka dram a ;:(theatr e), .sekq,:11
(responsibl e for the care and dances of the _baro.rz g) , ]J,e_qk_Jf!{a
dance), and seka tuak (palm wine) . Young peopl~, !;!,g. 1.l11.1JJ&rn-~d
adolescents, are . also members of .their ovm:speqi?)_gro\1:ii Wl.ft.9-
seka , truna-truni. Equality and co-operation of imemb ers. 9J:~the
prin1ary rul es of these clubs .,r .. --~, J;d",, De: ,-.; :
The irrigation groups (subak) (Covarrubias, 1937), presj9e q._oy1;r :
by the high priest and the goddess of rice , are ma<l~.iUP of
representatives from villages aff~cttd by, tlJ~ .rcgignal irrjg~tjon
systems . They control the distribution_of irrigatioQ.water that. flqws
from the mountains to.the sea aJJ.dmake ,dec,:isioo& iabout:p_l _a.n1;in g
crops. These complex networks of stream s, qm~ s, and dit~h~s,_so

esseptial to life, bind large portions of the island together: Allocation

of water is up to the subak . Villages hold elaborate cere monles
hon our of the rice goddess who protects the rice planting , makes
crops flourish, and ensures that rice storag e house s in individual
homes are full. The last-mentioned custom has recently dropped
out since the introduction of new strains of rice which are not for long-term storage, unlike the old tradition al rice. Subak-
may be considered a system of the larger ' community and an
expression of long-st.anding collaborative action on a gran d inter -
commu nity scale .
Per capita income is relatively low in Bali, currently- averaging
less than the equivalent of US$500.00 per year. However , poverty
is not evident in the way that it -is in other-dev eloping countries .
such. as India, Mexico, and certain South ,Ameri can countries,
There are very few beggars or homeless people, everi:in:th e capital
city of Denpasar, and even fewer . in the countryside. Th er e are no
shanty towns . Even the poorest can afford or manage to obtain
clothes, shelter, and food. In some villages, Weste rn-type medical
care is marginal. -However, .public health clinics exist even -in
remote areas . '
--Bali has no seasons in terms of.temperatu re or planting , only,a:
rainy season from December throug h March -and 'a dry season .'
During the rainy season it usually seems hotte r because of higher
humidi ty. In the mountain areas : it rains more -than on plains,:and
along the shores. Water is not a problem ,(except in:th e desolate
west ern part of the island); it flows thro ugh the rice padd ies : -and
in the streams, rivers, and ditches that run alongs ide th e roads
where people still bath themselves and the ir cows daily. These
streams appear dirty from soil they pick up along -the way,~nd
sometimes from refuse. :; ;,
Of cour se, food is a critical aspect of life in Bali. People -of all ages
tend to be thin-and obesity is very unusual . Noone goe s hungry
becau se of the low cost of food, the availability of natural .frui~
the food served at the frequent festivals, and family sharing . Rice 'is
a staple (two or three times a day), but veget.able3, meat (beef;
pork, and chic ken), and seafood 0ess in the mountains) are also
consumed. The food is spicy and often hot with choppe d peppers.
Spice Islands, a historical name for Indonesia, remai ns apt.
Each village has its market -place and some of the Jarger ones
draw people from several villages iri the area . One can buy all sorts
of foods and things : dried fish, live chickens, snacks, refre shm ents;
imported items for homes, kitchen articles, incense, perfume" oil
.. . 1;,,,\': ',::. . ":.1
....... .. ~.! ..~......
, -, t ~

from fresh blossom s, thongs, toys, woven mat s, and .hats . It is a
place to meet, to socialize, or to just while away time in a ,busy ,
festive atmosphere .

Religious ceremonies, which are -integr al . to the thinking and
attitu des of the Balinese, continue as frequently an d as importantly
as ever, and remain relatively unchange d over the years in spite of
modernization trends . Children are excused from school and
adults from work in order to participate in these cere.nionies. , .
.Balinese regularly perform a ,.mtiltitude , of. ,~erc;rponies .1
occupy a relatively large portion of.their time an d effort, constime a
substantial portion of their savings, and ar e of gr eat significanceJo
their lives. A number of scholars have des cribe d many of these in
detail (Belo, 1953; Boon, 1977;.Covarru bias, 1937; Hboykaas,.1977;
and Moerdowo, 1973). .Ceremonies usually involve th e extended
family, one's own ban/ar, or .the entire desa. Some ; such as ,pa nca
wali krama at the mother temple, involve all of Bali: during one
month in every 1.0years, cars, trucks; and buses bring people of all
ages to pray and make offerings . Almost all cerem onies involv:e the
partic ipation of many people. Generally, both men and womefftake
part and their roles are separate. For .exam ple,-women make Jh e
banten and other offerings, and help prepare and serv e food.-Men
prepare much of the food to be cooked for feasts, organize and
arrange the procedure for the ceremony, atterid to the construction
of all effigies and special buildings for the occasion, mak e costumes
for the dances, arrange _and repair orches tral instru ments , .and
manage the logistical probl ems which ,must be de;;iltwith in order
to ensure success.
Most ceremonies and dances take -place in and around the
temple structure s, as is strikingly evident to visitors to Bali. There
are more then 10,000 temples in Bali, 211of which :::;erv e a variety of
purposes (including those of the family, the . state, rice,di eids;
cemeteries, and the sea). The village temples . are: larg e enogh t o
accommodate almost the wh ole community at a single cerem ony.
Temples are walled-in, open-air areas containing mall
pavilions and shrines . Persons of all status , including the poorest
families, are free to participate in commu nity,festiv.als and :temple
ceremonies . - -"
An important grou p of cerem onies relate to the -individual's life
cycle (manusa yadnya) . Each milestone in :this cycle is marked by

., ; ..-

a ceremony, the purpose of which is to expiate ,past wrong .deed s

and thereby achieve greater perfection , in th iS<life,;as well as ,,in
future lives. These ceremonies are conducte d iat , birth ):; atr th e
separation and burial of the placenta, at seven days of age, at one
month , at one month and _seven days, at three months, at six
months, and at birthday celebr~tion~ every six mon ths thereafte r
(otonan) . Othe r milestone cer.emonies .occur at the -loss ofideciciu-
ous teeth, at menarche, . at adolescenc e- (e.g. tooth filing,:,now,,a
tokenfiling procedure to bring: the -uppertee th into a str aight-'line
in order to diminish the six evil qualities .of. human nature:'." ariger ,
desire, greed, jealousy, irresoluteness ; and :iritoxication)' at marriag e
and death . (e.g . ngaben;\'vhic h :includes cremation ,and ngrorasi n,
which -is held twelve days after death); and at.u nification.with ,God
(ngukur or mligia) .. An elective milestone in life is th e pr.eparation
(culminating in . the ,pawintenan cerem ony): ,ti):lbecome,Ja holy -
person : one who VOWS celibacy, is instructe d :in a:'certain-:diet (e:g. '
vegetarian), and . participates in other rituals in1order tOJ.(J'. emove
bad thinking and better serve God and -th e: god prepai:iition
isnotthe..sarrie asthatfor a priest. - : -- -,, - -;;[-; ,~\:,,.. ,._-~
i. There are many general -ceremon ies re lated .t9:time according :to
the Balinese calendar (e.g. galungan- and :liuninga n).<'s ix-
month , period there are at ' least five . tump~k , cer emonie~. ''Fhe
purpose of tumpek . landep is t6~give th anks ;for all m atemalrth.ings
made 'from metal; . tumpek uduh! . .for. plants, tump ek anda ngs.;or
tumpek .uye, for animals; tumpek wayang, for puppets ; and tum,pek
kuningan, for the well-bein.g of the world and its c ontents.I! -,..,.:;1,,
In addition there is the full moon' ceremo ny (pum am ~),;Cas :well
as the 'dark moon' ceremony (tilem); kajeng .kliwon, which .Gomes
every fifteen days, is a potentially fearful tirne1:heci us e on
the evil spirits abound and persons with ba d intenti ons may,easily
be possessed and, in turn, . disturb oth er:s1;Per son s with ;m.erital
illness generally date the onset of their symptom s to this day-:iqn;
The cer emony of nyepi marks the -n~w year) .accordingcto; th e
Balinese Isaka calendar and occurs apprnximately1.every 3,64tdflys,
usually in March. ALnyepi all.fires are extinguished , both -literal ly
in the real world and figuratively. in ,hearts tha t.-are.m alev.olenb:By
participating in this day of silence , the Balinese ,h ope to,,resto re
inner peace . The day preceding nyepi .is ; evenr1more importan t.
Exorcistic rituals of great power are cond ucted ,.and th ese-;are -made
,ii more serious by the Balinese notion that for the past five,month s
there have been an unusual number of dangerou s_demon5:roamin g
the villages causing illness, crop :failure, and, other disasters :.-Th e

~-z_:j:_:~ -::. ~-, ,

; ,"''
: ' .. : ~-7.,h:_~:~~

mecaru ceremony is performed with offerings and sacrifices.(such
as a chicken, duck, or cow) to placate the demo n -deities (buta-
kala) . The ngrupuk ceremony is held lo appease all .evil =spirits
which surround their homes, family, and membe rs of the banfar
and desa so that they will leave and peace will again_-
prev aiL ;;, .
The ceremonies ofgalungan -(every 210 days) anci 'kuni ngan r(ilie
tenth . day after gal~ngan) are major events 'celebratin g 'tnAfl's
victory over evil such as .anger, jealol!-:'>Y,
.ieve;ry,,crnc(yiolenc~: On
these festi_ve occasions, there . are , .r.nany.,col9n,ul ,.,cere m9nies
troughout the island which are ~;sy)odhe isitorto encounter
and atte~d becase .they ~e marked :!by pr~ c~~ iQ,n~of btightly
cloth ed, traditionally dressed people , acqJ mpflcled .-;by gamelan
orchestras , walking along the road or crowding around roadside
templ es , -- .. -, _;' ; - ,:-.-, - ,. '< '1 ' :
The C(:!remony of Saraswati is h~ld to thah'I{I . th
~/ -.,godd~~il .'
/ of ~ i ~

' t_o p 9~ for provid,~~

. . . . . I . . '... T .... 'l

kno wledge ; .Pagerwesi; to , make off_~Ij.t!gs

welfare and -giving happiness to the\vorld and'hllits corttedts ;Jand
' J \
Siwalatri; to give Siwa

,f ._. I

tlie dissolution o:tsiris, st.kb as

'( r, - . ,

being angry at a parent or failing make an offering'to th e 1' goos
. offerings to the gods : and God qre a .partot'ev~ry cer erildtiJ:
Th ey us4ally contain flowers_and b~t~~-nut a sm~ri at ~a~-~e(w
made of woven young palm leaf (banten) along with mcen se smoke
(dupa), and holy water (tirta), ac2ompanied by aj i::
: - J
l~igh ,pi-l'~st's
i , t - I:. ;
~; ? -
111antera (i.e. holy chanting to call the god s and . God) _ Offiet
offerings for ceremonies include not .only ba.'tlt<in but 'iJso
aestl1etically arranged baskets or stacks of fruit, 'egg;, chick~'n? or
duck, which women usually carry on their head s to the templti: _'''.-'~
In addition to the general community -wide arid individual
ceremoriJes, there are ' many othe r ceremonie s _such as those ;'at
home, at a banjar, at an anniversary of the const:ructioh or re pair of
a local temple, and even at a specific temple vn thegrou nds' ofthe
mother temple at Besakih. ' .; <,, ' :.
- Mead (Bateson and M-ead, 1942) has -successfu lly captuf etth~
flavour of ceremonial days : . -_.- ' - : --.-. _,-,-:,;-,;,
But at the New Year, these same roads are empty, stretching, up and down
the frequent hills, between terraced fields holding green ri.ce, to another
district where the rice is golden, on to a third where' the rice is so young
that the flood~dbeds seem filled mostlywith reflectionsfrom the s'ky, The
air on every other day of the year is filledwith sound, high -staccato vo1ce_s
shouting the clipped ambiguous words of familiar speech or artificially
prolonging the syllables of polite-address, quips 'of-passers-by to the
vendor girls who make a professionalart of repartee, babies squalling on

,---- :~
- t.' -

hips of their child nurses ; over and above and behind ,a11these human
sounds, the air on other days carries music from practicing orchestras,
from an individual idly tapping a single metallophone, frow children )
jew's-harps, and from whirring musical windmills set .on n_arrow sndards
high against the sky. On feast days, the roads are ,cr,owded with pro-
cessions of people in silks and brocades, walking in_- easily broken"lines
behind their orchestras 'and their gods; gods re'pre.sented by temporary
minute images seated in small sedan chairs; gods represen ted by images
made of leaves and flowers; gods which are masks or bits of old-relics .
With the processions mingle groups 'of people gnme dfrorrt,vork, huriyifrg
lightly beneath heavy loads; and theatrical troupes; 'their paint ana ' fine
costumes tucked away in little bundles, trudge wearily behind the fwo-man
mask, the patron dragon (Batong) who walks quietly with covere d'face.
. - . :' .! l ~ .- ; . ~- . .

To this may be added the heady image s of a roadside pro i::,essi9n

~omprising a group of 30 or more me n in chorus . singfug' iong
m~lodious cho rds, intersper~ed with a ban~ o( ~:C ):~y-rei _oi;iatjng
giant gongs, throbbmg drums, arid' cymb i ls; a-~-m all
coloured tassel -rimmed para ~ols high above the. c~.OV/'ds; lorig'.fih~~
of women carrying intricately arranged . qff~rings ~tacked on
the :h-
heads, -with on~ occasi onally ' appearing . to g~ spqn~n eo~1,?;.11?-~0
trance and . possession . by ~the ~gods ,.whil~ ; _ stju'_'miras,wo,qsly
maintaining th e balance of the ~ffering on he r liead; 'peop1e\ ;ittmg
on the temple grounds raising .th~ir hands irt .pray er as the' ifrle~t
casts holy water over them~ crowds of people' 'milling about iii' tlie
gathering darkness, lit only by lantern 'and ' moonlig ht; all seemmgiy
happening at once, raising the emotions to a "n.eigh te ne'd arid
sustained level. . , . , .. _ ,.,_.-
Trance rituals and ceremonies play a signj:ficant and enduring
role in dealing with evil spirits and \.vitchcraft.(Belo, 1,960) ..fu some
villages, almost the whole populace can _go -into trap.ce at~f~
ceremonies . However, ther e are individuals who cio' not experfonce
trance. 'Trance and possession ; 'states in ritu~ and dance .ar~
socially approved, facilitated, and controlled. McPhe e (1949}: an
observer of trance and possession phenome na in th e 1930s. that
exist today in the same manner and form , vividly desc ribed orie
such occurrence:
While, from the shadows, there came tl1e sound of animated music from
the game/an, a group of women stepped forth to dance _the gabpr, tJie
presentation of offerings of wine, oil, incense . Their shoulders were bru;~,
their breasts bound with woven scarves , and in their Jl.air were crowded
orchids, jasmine, gardenias . I recognized Nyoman's two wives among
them as they danced, seriously, tranquilly, as though in .their sleep. .In and
out of the shrines they wove, disappearing in the shidows, emerging into

...; .. .
:: a

. -':
/ _~

;. ..
'- . ~ .. :. -;.:_ .

the moonlight, until at last they paused before the altars , where a piiestess
stood, to fan the essence of the offerings in the direction of the gods. .
It was close to dawn when, in the now almost deserte d courty ard ...the
priestess fell once more in trance . In a hoarse, exhauste d voice :she
announced the presence of the god . It was the god now speaking. There
was a pause. The god called attentio~ to the poor conditi on of the .temple.
It was in need of repair. Another pause . The priest now asked advice ai:ioiit
certain village affairs. What must the offerings be for the next fe;ist?'Back
and forth the voices went, until at last the priestes s grew silent and would
talk no more . In the dim light of early morning she woke, looked dazedly
around, and we knew the gods had lefi; , :.:

Principal Hindu- Dharma Beliefs 'in .Bali

TI1e Balinese Hindu religion, which is of criticai importance :t~ a.ii
under standing of the Balinese (Geertz and _G_e~Iif.i
,ff1s),is);i qu,e.
It has its roots in India but was 'developed largely in Java:It has
been influenced by Buddhism, by th~ original Balinese (aborigJ,<!!)
culture, and by Balinese pre-Hindu animistic and ancestral cults .
The five principal beliefs (panca srada) are : (1) the existence of a
Supreme God (Sang Hyang Widi Wasa); (2) the ,existence of an
eternal soul (atman); (3) the conviction that every deed has a reward
(karma pala); (4) reincarnation (puna rbawa); and (5) eve ntual
unity with God (moksa) . . , .. -
Punarbawa is repeated rebirth into the worll .until on~ attairis
the perfect life, at which point rebirth ends beca use pne has
become unified with God. Punarbawa is not o~ly a belief bu a
prominent aspect of daily life. The Balinese believe _that the
of a person 's current life are caused, in part and often, by_deeds in
a previous life. One's . present life is oriented to expi~te past
undesirable deeds towards a better future life. .
In order for families to know what their reborn infa~f is lil5.e,
they take him to a spiritual specialist (balian matuu n) tp :qp.d .~ut
which ancestor's soul is .in the child and to find out the nature of
that personality. As Mead put'it, the body is the -clothin~ th e for 0

sou1. The balian becomes possessed by the soul 'of the.-ance sfor,
which teils the family what it needs in order to carryO l,\tits ~ew 0

life; for example, there may be promises that were ,

not fulfilled
,. 1
in a
previous life, such as holding a ceremonial pt1ppet perforgiance or
offering a roasted pig to expiate a sin. The purp ose of this visit is lo
strengthen the family's hope that their infant'~ ~r,:sent life will be a
d success . .
The people of Bali believe that it is bad to be born on certa in

~-?-:r; -,r
~ ~;~ ~- - ..f;:~
:: ..

,,. ..

- .f ,_~{.~;
. ._.:;,._ ~ ..

days . For example, tumpek wayang (a parti cular .Saturday, .wu.ku

waya ng by the Balinese calend ar) is considere d inauspici ous and a
per son born on this day is destined to su:ffer.ifrom em otional
distress and cause troubl e to others. To counteract th e - con-
sequenc es of this unfortunate situation, the ' Balinese perf ohn a
special cerem ony of atonement in the hope that the g6ds will confer
go.od fortune on the child and ensure that the unfortuna te birthday
circ_umstance ?-7111
not adver sely affect his future d~velopm ent
{, ,:-

The Sibling Spirits '

Four spiritual forces which interact .to fon n part of a person's
person ality . are called the 'four siblings' _ (kanda ,npat) (Connor,
1982). Th~ir physical manifestations at birth are blood , amniotic
fluid; placenta; and the vernix caseosa '(the :softtheesy~like material
that covers .the newborn's skin) . They are given ~~spect'and offJg~
by":the person concerned; failui-e"to do sci 2ouid ;e'su lt in"f'their
- I - . . . -
working against that J?_erssm and causjng illness. ' ' .-, " !- -

Factors in Balance and .Cqnc~pts of Illnes s lJ ,.t

The Balinese believe that three factors are crudal 'fo a p~r'son's
' '~ . . { ! \

well-being, happiness, ' and health : (1) the micro_co'sinos "(buq,na

alit)' which is the individual or the soul2, alicffo]thi anifeshitibp :;6
(2) the macrocosmos
(buaita agung)';,
' '
which 'iso;ti--ieuiJ.iverse;
..., . . ; -,. -- ._.,., - }

~ .d (3~. God (Sang Hyan~ :Widi Wa~a); I?their ,9f li_y_e s, at _h~m .~,
1h the market, or at th e office, the Balmes e striv2 to keepJhese
thr ee factors in equilibrium, _' conc ept called '.trniiia karatia:~.Aii
living "and working places have 'sfoall tem ples 'tb ena bJe th eJi~8ple
to make offerings and pray; for example, one"c:oulcl pray for'iafe
automobile travel by calling on God to' pres erve 'tn e balan ce'b f
vehicle s Oil the street (the macrocosmos) ' SQ that collision''wiJ.fb.e a
_avoided and one's soul will not be jeopardized: ; ,, -::; '. ,_..,.'
- The practice of harmony and balance from' the Balines g-Hliidu
principles (tri hita karan'a) results in not showing too_'much vigour
of emotional expression of ariy type 'and "relate"s; to the concept 1of a
centreJor all things. Kaja (towards the mountiun)' lea ds to~ards
the sacred; kelod (towards the sea) leads to demons or evil; and the
middle world, secular and without spe cial force s, is where "the
people live. The house is located between the house shrini?an 'd
the refuse pit (Bandem and deBoer, 1981). There is a m1ddle
colour made by mixing all colours, called brumbum , which is the

.:- J
--~ . . ~ ;~
\, -;

. -; z -~:

/-- ~
symbol of the god Siwa. The 'village has three temples to protect
the people-Pura Puseh (symbol of the god Brah ma, the creator of
all natural aspects of the wor d); Pura Desa (symb ol of the god
Wisnu, who maintains the natural world); and Pura Dalem Oocated
at th e local cemetery and symbo lizing the power of th e god Siwa,
who is responsible for destroying life). Centre, h arm ony, and
balan ce for all are unconsciously strive n for in many aspects of
thou gh t, emotion, and behaviour in daily living.
Th e microcosmos (the soul) also interacts with th e sibling
spirits . To the authors' knowledge ,.th ethr eefact ors (microcosmos,
macro cosmos, and God) and their 'balan ce' are .more :influential in
daily life than are the sibling spirits : Peace is a ttained by .doing
good deeds and by maintaining balance . ' Balance-.. determin es a
person 's well-being and imbalan ce , cause s symptoms such ;as
anxiety or depression , other mental disord ers , and~physical illness.
Th e Balinese believe that one's involved,in:illness andtha,t
th ey will become vulnerable to illness if th e three factor s ar e not-in
equilibrium . They believe that both natu ral factors '(e.g . fractures
and infections) and supernatural factors (e.g. evil spirits , mist;akes
in ceremonies , and sins of their ancesto rs) cause illnesse s.-They
regard the traditional healer (balian) as being able to understand
and treat problems arising from both supe rnatural and natural
causes, and thus able to restore equ ilibrium of the .thr ee factors.
Th ey are of the opinion that doctors are able to tr eat only diseases
caused by natural factors. For this reason, if a family member has a
mental disorder, the Balinese generally go first to the balian .
However, whether they go to a balian or a doctor, or both , family
members also attend ceremonies to help ensure balance and
equilibrium of the family and the individual (Connor, 1984).
Traditional healers (balian) are of several differen t types
(Connor, 1982, 1986; see also Chapter 3) and they use a variety :I .
techniques, including . trance (of the realer and/or client) ,.:;white
magic (to counteract black magic), ,.,holy water, medicinaj.;;,,con-
coctions, meditation, massage, and smok e tre atm ent :Smoke
treaqnent, used for both physical and mental disor ders, consists of
the client sitting for about 30 minutes in a closed , small tent made
of woven palm leaf mats with a smouldering sandalwood fire at th e
feet (Leimena and Thong, 1983). This is a method to rid the body
of black magic or evil spirits.
The range of disorders for which balian are success ful is wide
but not unlimited. They treat disorde rs cause d by natural causes ,
including fractures and infections, as well as those which Western

.. --
_"."x::;: ... :i. i:-! .!
. -~-~
.. :;~ :

_'i ,

physicians would regard as primarily psychogen ic and -psychiatrists

would regard as mental disorders. Balian are often able to recognize
mental and physical illnesses outside their scope of care and may
refer their clients to practi tioners of Western medi cine .

** *
The island of Bali has retained much of its natural scenic beauty in
spite of pres sure from a major tourist industry and a rapid infusion
of modem technology . More strikingly, ,the Balinese people have
maintained their fundamental customs oi centuries past This stable
culture has nurtured a society remarkable for its gentlen ess and an
extraordinarily -low prevalence of Western scour ges such as child
abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, homeless ness, and violence .
Several , Balinese Hindu beliefs are central to . the culture and
provide the key to the cognitive sets of the people: -th e Supreme
God; the eternal soul; -karma; reincarnation; and eventu al.-unity
with God. Spirituality is further extende d to include all natural
things, an extensive world of ancestors, and social syste ms that bind
the people together . The Balinese believe that the microco smos or
soul, the macrocosmos or universe, and God are bas ic to,health
and they strive to keep these three factors -in balance because lack
of balance can result in illness or problems -for the individual or the
community. Tra ditional heal ers (balian) utilize a nu mber of
techniques to cur e illness throu gh restoring balance.

1. God spelled with a capital G means the supreme God. Gods spe lled with a
sma ll g refer to lesser gods of the Hindu religion or ance stor gods which are
manifestations of God or holy ance stors who have become gods.
2. In Bali all kinds of mental activity, including thoughts , emotions, behaviour ,
and personality, are determined by the soul, while physical ;:.ctivityis a functio n of
the soul. In contrast, Westerners regar d mental activ.ty as p1imarily a function of
the psyche or as a mental process, such as cogn ition.

. :;;_

Chapter 2
Trance and Poss ess ion

Mosr Westerners know about hypnosis although there are many
popular misconceptions. Since it is not usually _taught in medical
school curricula, the majority of physicians are little more know-
ledgeabl e about hypnosis than the ge~eral public. Topiany people,
trance seems to be more mysterious than hypnosis becaus e the;term
is largely associat ed with the occult or foreign cultures '. Poss ession
is equally strange to westerners since not only is it rarely
observed ~ the West but it is generally associated -~th ]?j.zarre
happenings portrayed in the media as part of the religious rites of
cults, 'primitive' cultures, o'r voodoo ..Most Weste rn hypnotists are
unfamiliar with possession, and few have seeri ari.rexam ple "qf it

People from non-Western culture~, how~ver, tend to have different

experiences and views. The Balinese are a case in point ., In
contrast to Westerners, they regard Western hypnosis as a means
to affect a person negatively, not positi~ely. They ~e familiar y.,ith
possess ion (kalinggihan ) and regard it as an everyday event .yJiich
can be positive or occasionally negative, dependin g on the spjrit
possess ed . '.
Bali offers Western scholars a multitude of opportunities to study
the nature of possession . An understand ing of the subjectjs . of
consi derable significance to Western medic ine and psychology
becaus e possession phenomena also occur in the West. It is
important to be able to recognize when they eist in a normal form,
such as in certain religious groups , and when they are symptoms
of abnormal mental states, including posses sion disorder (see
Chapter 9).


" ;;
:,:- ~ . ; :_

Dissociation --;. -.,-...

In orderto understand trance and possessio n, one need s to under- -
.:... <-,:~
_ .....

stand dissociation. Unfortunately , there is lack of clarity about

dissoc iation because of its many manifestations and th e lack of a
precise definition (Frankel, 1990) . Dissociatio n is a psych ological
mechanism which operates in the everyday life of nonn al people
and in abnormal mental states as well. Psychiatry has defined it as an
unconscious 'defenc~' 1 mechanism ' through which emotional sig-
nificance and affects (feelings) are split off, separate d, or detached
from an idea, situation, object, or person (APA, 1984). With some
types of dissociation, aspects of experience are not consciously
perc eived or embedded in one's consciousness . Dissociation .is
also considered "to . be a disconnedtedness or lick of normal
integration of knowledge, thoughts, id.entity/ memory; and 2bntrol
(Frankel, 1990) .into . the streain of c6nsciousriess _'. (B'ern st~in. ~d
Putnam, 1986) . There is . a , disruption ~of the' ustialintegra tive
function . (Nerniah, 1980) 'so 1that 'for aperiod ' of liine, c:: erthln
informa"tion is not associated or integrate 'd with information
asit normally or logicaliy would be (West, 1967';
' 8.90). Ariother
'j .
. < .- . , . , C

definition is 'a structured separation of mental Processes' _(e.g.

thoughts, emotions, cognition, . memory, an.'d: ide ntity) that rare
ordinarily integrated' (Spiegel and Cardena, 1991). ; cli nically, dis-
sociation involves a fragm.entation of consciousnes ;Fand auto-inati-
city, usually for [psychologicallyj defensive purpos es:' (D. Spiegel,
i990 : 139.) .. . .' . 1 , ' '' . , . (; .

-.. Iri the aggregate, these definitions and desc:iiptions'are cons1stent;

they convey the quality of 'the (mechan ism ' and
'\:elate -t~ the
purposEis which dissociation serves ..It is co:mmori'fo( psyclifat:rft _o
regard dissociation .as a 'defence' against anxiety o'r''awarenes s of
events for which the individual has no voluntary e.scape (Spi~gel,
Hunt, and Dondershine, 1988): As Spiegel, Hun(an d Dondershine
(1988) put it:

. ' ' while dissociation serves the function of deferidihg 'c;~ns~iousn$.s~'fyo'm

the immediate experience of painful events-ph ysical pain, fear, anxfet:y,
and he1piessness-it then becomes an entren ched part ofthe overall view
of self. Once the self is divided in a powerful way, the experience of unity
becomes problematic, since ordinary self-consciousness is no ' longer
synonymous with the entirety of self and personal history. Rather, it
becomes associated ,vith the awareness of some warded-off tragedy, the
moment of humiliation and fear, the act of cowardice, the sense of having
been degraded.

-:However, dissociation is also utilized as part of everyday activities
iiLwhich one becomes absorbed. E. R Hilgard (197-7), emphasizing
the normal aspects of dissociation, formulated dissoci ation ,as an
e:?(tensionof normal cognitive functioning .
Normal dissociative phenomena are depicted in famous children's
poems such as those in A Giild's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis
Stevenson (1928) 2 and in children's stories such as the fairy-tales
of Hans Christian Andersen and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis
Can-oil. These depict the innocentfantasies of being in magical or
special places where one experiences perce ptions and feelings
different from those in the ordinary world ..
Alice's adventures and escape into a world of wonder and magic
repr esented or can be seen in part as Carro ll's :--personal -e~cape
from his conflictual real world . .This -is a common diss ociative
p_attern utilized by abused children .as well .as.those :capable 1ofrich
fantasy. Carroll's depiction of Alice's body : shrinking .and expqnd -
ing in size illustrates changes in body schem a ,which may,.occtir
when transiting from one state of consciousnes s .to -another, or
during the dissociative phenomenon of depers onalization. Accord-
ing to one of his biographers (R Wallace , 1~90: 192) ; Lewis Carroll
probably experienced sexual abuse as a child in, boardi ng ,school
and his conflicts of morality in adulthood were consist ent with the
interpretation that he led a personal life similar to , that -.of the
dissociated Jekyll and Hyde (R Wallace, 1990:-:154, 168; see
Chapter 9). It is notable that Hans Christian ,And erse n . also
experienced significant neglect and loneliness .as a child .
It is quite normal for people to dissociate in the activities of!daily
life. Examples include (1) driving a car and arriving at .one's
destination without being aware of familiar landmarks, (2) reading
a book and ignoring events which one would ordinarily h ave noticed,
and (3) _watching a movie and being totally -_ oblivious to _one's
surroundings. Such situations in which the perso r0 becomes so
absorbed by certain thoughts or stimuli that .he appear s tQ. lose
touch with what is going on around him can stretch .over relatiy_ely
long periods of time. Many types of behaviour which :are considered
automatic or absent-minded, such as putting bananas 1in the; wong
dish or placing a warm cup of coffee in a refrigerator iri the morning
and then forgetting where it was placed, may be attribu ted ,to .dis-
sociation.3 A proverbial 'absent-minded professcr'.f,demonstrates
dissociation, not memory problems . The husb and : who is so
absorbed in the morning paper that he totally -ignores his wife is
probably dissociating. A high frequency of dissociative experiences

~ -~--'~: - ~: -- .
.. ~-, . : ~

., " ._-_,__.: ::-,' .
:. ~ ..-

has been noted in adolescents (Bernstein and Putnam, 1986) and

college students (Myers and Grant, 1970; Sedman , 1966). Dre ams
are a form of dissociation in which one's thoughts are sep arated from
normal consciousness and take different forms . When awakening
from a dream, one may feel briefly that the events were real;how -
ever, on returning to a normal conscious state , cine rea lizes that
what has happened is only a dream . Dreams,- like hypn otic 'states
and unconscious thinking, follow non-logical patterns of thought and
images . This pattern in some aspe cts of hypnosis has been called
tranc e-logic (Brown and From m, 1986). Trance clearly involves the
'defence' m echani sm of dissociation . ': .:.'.
Ludwig (1983) pointed out that the mechanisms of dis sociation
have great individual and species survival value in that th ey pr.ovide-
(1) an escape from overwhelming reality, (2) a cathartic dis charge
offeelings,-(3) a resol ution of irreconcilable conflict s, (4) an ability
to perform some behaviours automatically . thereby permitting
simultan eous conscious engag ement in other behavio ur s, and (5) . a
beneficial enhancement of the 'he rd sense' , i.e. the hum an inclina -
tion to be affiliated with people engage d in similar activitie s.
Dissocia tion plays a predominant -part in normal beha viour ,.a,nd
sometim es in problematic sexual behavio ur as we ll, for example,
in their studies of th e treatment of sexual disorders , Maste r's. and
John son (1970: 65-6) discovered that dissociation is a com,mon
asp ect of male impotence.
Th ey described the 'spectator role' or 'spe ctatoring' : th e patient
beha ves as if he is visualizing his lovemaking outsi d_e ofhimself or-
as if he is-viewing his own sexual behaviou r from a com er of the
room. 1nis phenomenon involves depersonaliz ation and possibly
the hidd en observer effect of hypnosis, both of which ar e forms of
dissociation .
The Balinese recognize a pattern of beha vi' ur called ngramang
sawang which literally means 'absent thinking ' or (no em otions'. It
is char acterized by an absence of thoughts, a stari ng or vacant-like
facial expression, and inactivity, usually brief but lasting for about
l -5 minut es. Generally, ngramang sawang is brough t on by a
problem, such as a recent disagreement, or by frustr ation, disap-
pointmen t, or simply fatigue. It is not seen very frequ_ently. It ofte"n
evol_<esthe sympathy and interpersonal suppo rtive beh aviour of a
friend or family member. Ngramang sawang tend$ to termin ate
rather abruptly. It appears th at this behavi our is a form of
dissociation which may be likened to m~ditatio n or se lf:hypn cisis at
a s!iallow level.

, -
.The many kinds of perceptions and experiences th at typify
dissoc iation can be measured quantitative ly . by using th e . Dis-
sociative Experiences Scale or DES (Bernste in and Putn am, 1986).
It enumerates 28 dissociative behaviours and [e rves as an index of
the various kinds of behaviour, as well as a gaug e of how
freq uently U1ey occur .4 Studies of dissoc iation using the DES in
normal subjects revealed that over 25 per cent reported a
substantial number of dissociative experien ces (Ross , Joshi, and
Curri e, 1990). Bernstein and Putnam (1986) did not find any
difference between males and females in the ir capacity to
dissoc iate. Of all the dissociative disor ders, multiple pers onality
disorde r (MPD) scores highest on the scal~O-c- 50 per cent- in
terms of frequency and intensity of expe riencing, the behaviour
measured, which is far above the normal rang e. Person s with post-
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) score lower than those with MPD
but their scores are also abnormally high (Carlson and Rosser -
Hogan , 1991). The instrument can be helpful clinically in clarifying
the diagnosis of dissociative disorders .

'Hidden by the -Evil Sp irit'

A unique form of dissociation called 'hidden by th e evil spirit'
(engkebang memedi) occurs in Bali. This condition is seen
commonly in normal persons and also occasionally in psychotic
individuals. While serving in the psych iatric un it of a hospital in
Bali in 1976, Suryani observed engkebang memedi iri two nopnal
individuals and in six psychotic patients, all males . In all eight
cases, the person concerned disappeare d for a period of 7-3 0_days .
The disappearance was considered to have be en caused by an evil
spirit who had hidden the person because he loved him. The
Balinese believe that this -evil spirit is small , has red hair, and lives
in bamboo groves.
When a Balinese disappears, the first thing his family does-is to
approach a traditional healer who will usually say that the pet son
has been hidden by an evil spirit In an attempt to-drive awaythe
evil spirit, the family members walk throug h the village making -a
gong-like sound by striking a rod on a piece of iro~. 1n most' cases ,
when the missing person is found- in a cemet ery, in a market-place,
or near bamboo trees-he appears confus ed'and :h as diffi~ulty
talking. He may recount such expe rien ces as li1v'in g gone to a
beautiful home where he was treated like ~ king, wh ere a beautiful
woma n offered to marry him, or whe re he was asked to stay and

'.,- 3.

.. ;-~:
.. ~#.~

not go home. When confronted by his family ;,with the -,real .

situation-e.g . being found in the cemete ry or the marke t-plac~
the person is incredulous; as one afflicted person insisted~-'But I saw
a palace here!' A.t-9:er
the family conducts a purification cer emony to
bring the person back into th e.real world, he returns to his normal
state ..A person suffering from engkebang meme di ,is rarely taken-to
psychiatri sts and thus rarely hospitalized since the 'condition is not
regard ed as a mental disorder in Bali. By contrast, if such behaviour
had occurred in a West ern culture, it would likely have be~n
regarded as abnormal and dysfunctional and classified as a type of
dissociative disorder . ';
.. There is no condition -reported in: eithe r West ern or Eastern
literature that corresponds to engkebang meme di. ,It .-res embles a:
fugue state in only a few respects .5 No information is -availabJe-on
what actually happens to the afflicted person . during his dis-
appearance . The condition is a dissociative pheno menon .

To observe latah is to l;>e.stfuck. -by q.q, ~f C~tir).g,dram atic, and
puzzling condition (H.' Geertz, 1968).1.,atah is basically an uncon-
trollable behaviour reaction occurring in certain -individuals when
startled by others . Kenny (1985) described it as a ,. ,., ,
. . _ . -~ : ,.., .(f"' ;.,: , I; ,. . :-: :j I )'/

reduc tion in powers of self-control caused _by sudden fright or startle

reaction which leads to involuntary and nonnally 'inappropriate acts which
may include . one or more of the followi~gi(a) rnlmicry
';.(b) compul~ive
obedience to commands; and (c) the "utte'r ance of affect-laden worcis'
generally pertaining to sexuality.
j I :' ; _; .i . ' -
He also referred .to it as 'startle', which leads to t~mporary ,.dis;,
sodation accompanied ~y compulsive o~scepity a!).cl/or m~ c_ry;
Because spectators are amus ed by the behaviour, they .often inten-
tion~lly provoke the reaction in persons with_a knq;VIl h istqry of
latah . ,.. 1

In the literature, latah has been called a culture-bound synqrome

(Simons, 1985b) and even a mental disorder . . It .was origi_naijy
discovere d in Malaysians, but subsequently found in_Indonestans
(H. Geertz, 1968) and eventually in a number of othe r cultur es
wide\y distributed through out the world, 6 although this is the first
report of it in Bali. . ..
A of studies have atte1_11pted to explain the .natur e and
m~chanism of latah. A controversy exists betwee n psychiatrists and

J#~- ;-- ~- .. .,

anthropologists as to whether its origin is biologically (Simons,
1985b) or culturally (Kenny, 1985) bas ed. Simons , (1985q: 41)
proposed that latah 'is best understood as a culture-specific elab-
oration of the potential startle reflex' inhere nt in all persons. Latah
is included in this book because, in the authors ' view, it Js
fundamentally a dissociative condition. Two case-studies of
are given b,elow. ,. .

Case 1
This man of high caste (Wesia) is a respe cted teache r at the high
school. He is 48 years old and married .Jovial 'ari&friendly, he was
h appy to talk about his experiince ,-of Latah and--_ willing togive a
demonstr ation .'He explained ti1at if someone iuiexpectedly 'sfuiiliL
!ates him , su ch as by sticking h im in , th e ribs; !he becomes
uncontrollab le, automatically making sounds to indicate that he
wishes to avoid further stimulation; at the same tirrie; he directs his
attention to the causal stimulus and focuses on i( unaware :of the
people around him . Although he appears to be laughing and enjoying
himself, he is not. Immediately after he stops the uncon1:ro~abl~
laughing, he becomes aware of his environme nt again. The _first
time he experienced latah was in 1963, when he\vas at cbllege 'ili
Surabaya. At that time, if his peers continue d to stimulate him
intennittently, the uncontrollable movements and expressionS'could
go on for 30 minutes or more and he would feel tired afterward s.
According to this person, the reaction may be set off initj~ y by
someone touching him, but it can be contin..1ed sm:iply by a:i ,irnilar
threatening gesture . During the demonstrati on, he laugh~_d very
vigorously as he motioned and movt;d his arm? and body abgut,
if to avoid any further touching. He shoute d , 'De, de, de, A.' (No,
don't do it! Ah!) repeatedly. When . he was moying .abou( il}'..'tpis
manner, he was unaware of his surrounding s and felt as if h_e w,a s
being 'pushed' by someone . This man's sister_also suffir i /rp m
latah, as do sol!le members of his extended family. Neithet;:-P~_I_10r
his sister has ever had any experiences with tran ce or po~~~s~ion.
The latah reas::tionexperienced by him and hi s sister has remaine d
- , _ .) , ; l-~.4\.,./ .. -~

the same up to the present day. Neithe r one ,has ,a,nYpe~g p.ality
disorder ; they are perfectly normal and have no symptoms of
hypo~ania . He denied that latah ever conce~e d .him or.
.th at it
ever produced any embarrassment. On the ,cori~aiy , he ;~g arde d
it as an enjoyable situation in which t;he.,.p ~,9ple aro~n_c;l him
laughed and enjoyed themselves as well. His sist(;r describ (:! _d her

- :, : _;-_,


.--.,..-. . . .

- i:-. _,.

f -

reaction similarly, including the automatic behavio ur. Neithe r she

nor her brother has ever had any amnes ia regarding the event.

Case 2 .
nus 50-year-old unmarried woman of high cast e (W esia) was
. interviewed in the presence of a number of family me mbers at her
house. Her first latah experience was at th e age of 30. Speaking
cheerfull y and animatedly, she informed us tha t when she is
stin.ulated by surprise, she repe ats words that peop le speak to her
and says some obscene words . This state lasts for about 5 minutes
without repeat stimulation, but longer if the stimulation is repeated .
She does not always recall what she has said, and she has pap:ial
amnesia especially if the episode lasts for 30 minutes or more .
Dwing the .episode, her behaviour is not under her contro l ~d
she answers questions ip.coherently. for examp le, iI} re sponse to
the question why she behaved that w~y, she answered, 'Corpse'. The
obscene words she used spontan .eously in th~ episo de observed by
the authors were 'fuck' (bangsat), 'corpse' (bangke), .and 'vagina'
(teli). She also repeated short sentences or words spoken to her,
Latah .never strikes her spontaneously. She feels no embarrassment
over it and acknowledges that the people a,round .h er enjoy i:he
episode as much as she does . .Her personality is regar ded .as
normal and she 9oes not have any mental symptOfr!S.(?r qisorder. .

Latah is an Indonesian word; the Balinese word for it is gegean.

The condition is accepted in the Balinese culture in th esame way
that trance and possession are accep.ted. Far from cons idering it to
be a source of unkind teasing, the Balinese look upon latah as
being rather entertaining .
1ne descriptions of latah in the two case-stud ies above illustrate
several points about the condition:
L 'It is not a mental disorder in Bali, as persons with the condition
'never seek help for it from either psych iatrists or tr aditional
2. It probably has a partial geneti c basis as illustrate d m its
tendency to run in farnilies7 with an abrup t onse t in full-blown
form at a particular point in the life cycle of the individual
(usually young adulthood). 8
3. It presents as a constellation of behaviours in Bali as well as in a
variety of characteristic diverse cultures .
4. The mechanism is fundamentally dissociation .9

.:- ,..~-
'?-'> -1.;

-;,;-\.~: -~- .

-~\\~;" .~1. r


-r~;< :~
Factors that support the dissociation hypothes is are abrupt
onset and termin ation, the individual's loss of awarene ss of his
immediate environment, attention focused only on the stimulus,
automatic behaviour not in the stream of normal cons ciousness,
and amnesia (partial or complete) concerning the episode. When the
proc ess or mechanism of Jatah is viewed as a,dissociative re action
or condition, it seems more understandable. It can be interpreted
c;tsa basically psychobiologi cal response with spec ific patterns of .
behaviour acquired by operant conditioning -of the individual and
shaped by expectations of the partic ular culture in which it oc;:ctirs.
It need not be seen as eithe r a biologically or a c;:ulturally deter-
mined phenomenon but rather a,s_on_e_).nvolving both factors. A
genetic basis is further supported by' the 'fact tha t not all persons
~e capable of the response . In this respect, - it resembl es trance
and possession. . ... ,-
It may seem striking to a Westerner that most Bali.rwseindividuals
manifesting latah do not experience embarr assment or sha,me,
given that they exhibit sometimes shockin g and .totally out df
character behaviour, individually and culturally , includin g the use
of obsc ene language .10 -chara cteristi c of latah also points .to
dissociation as the basic mechanism. Latah behaviour -of the Bali-:
nese, like that in a state of trance-possess ion, may be totally out of
keeping with the person's usual behaviou r. It may ,be even highly
critical or insulting of individuals in the family or outside but-'it' is
never consid ered negatively by the audience . Because latah .is not
consid ered abnormal or symptomatic by the Balinese, th e .term
'syndrome', which signifies symptoms, and the term 'disord er'; .are
not entirely appropriate; consequently the term 'cond ition' has
been used in this book.

Dissociation in Mental Dis orders

Th e Western definition of a dissociative disord er is a partial or
complete loss of (1) the normal integration between mem ories of
the past, (2) the awareness of identity and immediate sensations; and
the control of bodily movements (WHO, 1992). Some ,dissodative
disorders may involve trance and possessio n; as described in
Chapters 8 and 9.
The dissociative phenomena manifest in menfal disorders take
multiple forms but can be defined clinically in terms ofconstellations
of five core symptoms (Steinberg, 1991h): (1) amnesia, i.e. a specific
and significant segment of time th at is unavailable to memory

..:._1- -

(Steinberg, Howland, and Cicchetti, 1986; Steinberg, : Rounsaville,

and Cicchetti, 1990); (2) depersonalization, i.e. a sense of.detachment
from self (Mayer-Gross, 1935; Steinberg 1991b); -(3),dere alization,
i.e. a;sense that one's surroundings are unreal .(Steinberg , 1991b);
(4) identity confusion, -i.e. a feeling of confusion, upce rtainty, or
puzzlement regarding one's identity (Steinberg, rn91b).;-,(5) identity
a.lteration, .i.e. objective behaviour faat indicates-a change in identity.
(Steinberg , Howland, and Cicchetti, 1986; Steinberg, Roun saville,
and Cicchetti, 1990). All or some of these symptoms , occur in the
various types of dissociative disorders (e.g. MPD and PTSD) . .

_osis -
Tr ance is an altered state of consciousness (ASC) charact erized by
changes in cognition, perceptions , and/ or physiologkal ly based
sensibilities .. In these aspects it is identica l to hypno sis, which
produ ces a state in which cognition and ,,per.ception are alter.ed
(Frankel, 1976). .Brown and Fromm (1986) have state d thaL'di&-
sociation is part of many hypnotic experiences' .
_Hypnosis is generally brought on-or induced by anoth er person,
the hypnotist, and involves a relationship betwee n,the two (Biown
and Fromm, 1986). Hypnosis induced . by the individual he rself/
himself is called self-hypnosis. Trance .states in most cultures do,not
involve intentional induction by another individual ,but occur
spontaneously, often in association wifa .music, chanting;,singing,.or
verbal encouragement (Rouget, 1985). Mind-altering or hallu-
cinogenic plants or drugs are used in -asso ciation ,with trance
ceremonies in some cultures and these may also hav,e supern atural
significance .11 The Balinese do not use 'mind-altering ' :subs tances .
or drugs in connection with trance. (In fact, th ey use very little
alcohol and few psychoactive substances except _,betel-nut.) The
balian usually lights incense sticks at the beginning of each
treatment _session and some smoke is inhaled/ The ASC.of tran ce and
hypnosis can be induced in a variety of circumstances, including
solitude, in groups, in ceremonies, and in the rapy. The .terms 'trance'
and 'hypnosis' overlap and can be .used intercha ngeably to refer to
the same biopsychological state . Both -show -similar aspe cts of
Trance/hypnosis has both subjective and objective manifestations.
Subjectively, the individual recognizes and can often despibe
changes in perceptions and feelings, such as a sens ation of darkness
or a sense of the body floating. There is.a constriction of attention

,'~ .
:!;. ........
. -...


with cons equent loss of awareness of much of the surrounding
environment (Brown and Fromm, 1986). Trancers may also
expe rience hallucina tions . They often describe ~a richness or
vi,idness of normal thought or visualization (generally with their
eyes closed) . 0 bjective signs of trance/ hypnosis include fluttering
and slowly closing eyelids (indicating a state of light trance);
abnormal postures (e.g. the arm rising slowly, but automatically,
and held steadily and comfortably in a raised position ,for a
prolonged period of time); decrease d sensitivity .to painfulstimuli
(e.g. walking on hot coals without feeling any cpain); cha nges in
physiological response to heat, cold, or piercing the ,skin (e.g. no
blistering after touching hot ,objects); little bleedip.g :when cut, as in
surgery oi tooth extraction; and";increased rserisitivity to "!,timuli
(e.g. perception of pain when the hypnotist:s uggests th at apencil
eraser is burning hot) . It is ,important to- note that . all of:{these
manifestations, including hallucinations and 'mes sages fromispirits'
while in trance states, also occur !in normal;rasyinptomati c/ non -
mentally ill people .. ;? ,.,
The 'psychological set' of the trance/ hypnosis subject is
characterized by ieelings of trust -and a desire to allow oneself to
enter and go freely into the state . Orne pointed out that 'th ~~skills
of the hypnotist consist largely in creating a-context wh ere the
patient can feel comfortabl e, trusting and willing to . allow hlr:nself
or herself to respond ' (Soskis, 1986). Jensen and 'Suryani (1992)
hypothesized that the stro ng sense of trust -belie f in the Balinese
personality facilitates trance induction. This trust -belief is derived
not only from a prolong ed period (by Western standar ds) spent in
the company of supportive and loving parents and caretakers in
infancy and early childhood, but also from .the closeness and security
imparted by one's family, ancestors, and sibling spirits th roughout
life. Jensen and Suryani (1992) also identifie d hypno tizability.,or
hypnotic susceptibility, meaning an .inherent fac_ility :in a majotity
of the population to enter trance easily, as .another trait pf the
Balinese . , : _ ., . ,..- _,;, }/_:.-.\;;_.
It has been commonly believed that under hypnoi;fs, people will
not dowhat they would not want t~ do when in tl).eir"non-hypri.otic
state; i.e. their morals and ethics are maintained .the trance sta(e.
The case of suicide while in tran ce _may be an exception to t:pis
general rule (see Chapter 7). ,, ,-;f ,,,;.
E. R Hilgard , (1977) discovered that under .hypn osis people can
experience events as if they are observing their -own beh aviour -and
are cognizant of what is happening to " them . .For example ; a

: :~~
. ~--; )::
-'' . j
_ '
':" :: -
. :;: ~::-~
-. : .~

hypnotized subject is told to be insensitive to pain. After ir.unersing

his hand for several minutes in ice water, the -person may be asked
by the hypnotist to touch that isolated part of himself tha t can feel
the pain. The hypnotized or dissociated pain response can be
-activitated by invoking a type of mental functi9n kno wn as. the
'hidden observer' . This 'hidden observer' is aware of the pain and
says something to this effect 'I know it is painful .but it does not
trouble me and I can endure it further .' A similar ph enomenon
probably occurs in Balinese in tran ce states who observ e the ir own
beha viour performed by the god or spirit possess ing them (see
'Individual Trance-possession' in Chapte r 5) .
After coming out of hypnosis or trance, the persons affecte d may
or may not recall what happened to them during :the hypnotic or
tranc e state . Subjects waking up from light tran ce states can
usually recall the events during trance . If a hypnotist sugg ests to his

hypno tized subjects that they will"' not recall some th ing on
'awakening', they will not be able to recall il
Whether experiences during trance or hypnosis are recalled
post-hypnotically or not, they often have a profou nd psychological
impact on the individual. For example,- a hypn otist's sug ges tion to
a subject that he/she is in control of. his/her ovm body (only one
among many statements made) may be regarded by.the subject as
.being particularly meaningful. This is one illustration of the poten-
tial therapeutic impact of hypnotherapy . In Bali, it i5 quite common
for a person's entire lifestyle or be chang ed as a result of
a single trance experience in which a god told him/ her to become
a balian .
There is a contagious nature of trance (Chapters 4 and 9) and
what has been called a 'field effect' of the ASC of me ditation,-i.e.
the effects on others in the vicinity (Chapte r 8). Contagion and
after-effects of trance in the audience of sham an were described in
the Eskimo Tungus culture by Shirokogo roff (1935:53):
The rhythmic ~usic and singing ~d later the of the shaman
gradually involve every participant more and more in a collective action.
'v\neii the audience begi~s to repeat the refrains tog eth er with the
assistants; only those who are defective fail to join the chorus . Th e tempo
of the action increases, the shaman with a spirit is not more an ordinary
man or relative, but is a 'placing' (i.e. incarnation of the spirit); the spirit
acts togethe r with the audience, and this is felt by everyone. The state of
many participants is now near to that of the shaman himself and only a
strong belief that when the shaman is there the spirit may only enter him,
restrains the participants from being possessed in mass by the spiril This


. -:~ . ..
~ ""'-.,'
is a very important condition of shamanizing wl}ich d_oes not how~yer
reduce mass susceptibility to the suggestion , hallucinations, and -uncon-
scious acts produced in a state of.mass ecstasy . When' the shaman feels
that the audience is with him and follows him he becomes still more actjve
and this effect is transmitted to his audience. After shamanizing; the
audience recollects various moments of the performance, their great
psychophysiological emotion and the hallucinations of :sight and 9-earing
which they have experienced. They then have a deep satisfaction...:._much
greater than that from emotions produced by theatrical and m~sical
performances, literature and general artistic pheno mena of the European
complex, because in shamanizing the audience at the same time acts and

One type of trance in Bali may be termed self-h~pnosis : thi$is

often seen in musicians playing traditional gamel~ m usic (described
in Chapter 6). Unlike most trances in Bali, this state ts .not associcl-ted
with possession. . .
There is evidence of brain wave changes in hypnosis , altho~gh
these have not yet been confirmed . In expe rimental stu dies. of
religious trance, Goodman (1972) reported a predominanc e ~ftheta
(~7 cycles per second) waves on EEG (electroencep hal ogram)
tracings. Beta-endorphin blood levels were .also _elev ated .qn . the
conclusion of the expe1iments which could accou nt for th e euphoria
often reported following religious _trance expe rience s. Th,e very
deep hypnotic state was correlated .with redu~tion s in EEG
The capacity to experience trance has been reg ar de d as a
p..,ychobiological heritage of mankind (Bourguig non , 1973: 11).
This is supported by an extensive literature on hypnosis in animals
which suggests tnat hypnosis or dissociatio n may be a primiti ~e
psychobiological mechanism of self-defence, evolutionaril y acquired
in a number of species, with genetic components (Gallup, 1975;
Gallup and Maser, 1977; Herzog, 1978; Klem m , 1966). $everal
species of animals, including monkeys, have been ob se ryed _to
engage in sudden changes in behaviour, .suc h as re so rting :to
immobility, as defence reactions against harm from oth er animals
in situations of attack, fear, and terror . This behaviour, also :c~ed
tonic immobility, consists of a virtual absence of movem ent (apart
from falling) and a degree of muscle rigidity . The sta te ;can _be
provoked experimentally in birds, chickens; and .cats by su bjecting
them to restraint and forced . immobility. It,urs in .natural
situations, sometim es in cock-fights, and in Balinese cerem onies in
which cocks are forcefully restrained as they are carri ed on poles,

-_ -.;.:

"':' .-~ -.,;


~ .-.
. -,....
. .t:.~-e.,,.._ ,, ~...

Darwin proposed that feigning death might protect ag ainst

predators reluctant to eat dead meat. Physiol ogicar conc omitants
of the condition include hicreased autonomic and ''EEG arousal
patterns, described as 'EEG-behavioural dissoci ation' . (Le. EEG
arous'al_along ,vith behavioural 'sedation'). The neurotran smifter

'serotonin h~ ,keen implicated in the neurop hysio logic ~e ch apisril

of tonic immobility (Wallanau and -Gallup, 197.7). -.-
If trance and dissociation are evolutionaril y acquire d biopsycho-
logical mechanisms of man, they may be expected to be evident in
some form in chimpanzees, man's closest evolutionary predec ess_ors .
The following pattern, usually termed a 'display' , may in fact. rep-
res ent a dissociative phenomenon . Wild chimpanzees occasion-
ally erigage in episodes of apparently unprovok ed : expl osive,
aggressive-like behaviour whil e in the presence of other anim als or
' j ,. J
humans; they suddenly charge through the forest or clearin g for
distances of up to about 50 metres, move their arms .wildly ab'o~t,
and hoot loudly with a characteristic -vocalizati on ' out do' ;not
directly attack other chimps or humans sitting or stand ing a
few feet of their path (van_Lawick-Goodall, 1967) .12 Je ns en's s_tudy
of wild chimpanzees at Gambe Stream .Reserve ih Tani~ a in 1974
showed that this charging behaviour,' like -dissociation , haci:lan
abrupt onset and termination and was relatively brief / me ch anical,
an_dstereotyped . It'appeared as though the ch~parizee 'h ad briefly
entered an ASC, possibly in an attempt to cope with' oi--to discnarge
an inner state of tension. This behaviour of the chimp anzJ es is
similar _to some human dissociative behaviours; -pai-tidilarl y those
~hich have arisen as a means to c~pe 'with'situ afidni of anxiety
and fear (see Chapter 9). - "
~,The . theoretical concepts of dissociat:ion'~aild 'Tepre ssiori'; as
'discussed in the literature with regard to hypnosis cari,be confusing .
As E. R Hilgard (197_7)poin ted out, 'In clinical settin gs it may be
expected that some dissoci ative phenomena and sofn repire~ ive
pheno -mena will be found together, and sharp distincti ons between
dissociative and repressive interpretations may be inapp ropn ate'.'
Strictly speaking, dissociation involves a separation ofthou ght 'from
consci 6usness; which can be ac~essed if amnesia _-is ; overcome.
Material regarded as repressed in the unconscio us may -be
expressed symbolically or illogically and is often .reveal ed only by
inference, e.g. the interpretation of the symboli c coriterit of dreams.
So-called repressed material is also expresse d during poss ession.
E. R Hilgard (1977) distingui shed two kindi; of repressi on: iri the
first one, the contents are concealed and have 'to be inferr ed ; in the


,i,-_ .. :..,

::~- i.. &.~::
,i f? 1:,J.11~-~
second, conflictual material , arising from the earlier stages . of
development and impulses are inadequately translated intg ,verbal
symbols . A third kind ofrepression could perhaps be, identified in
the repressed impulses an.clideas expresse d by posses sed Balinese
in certain ceremonials or by balian, in which th e conten ts :dearly are
and logically revealed ._It is probable ,that wha t :Fr.eud originally
referred to as repression is the a..'11.Il(:!Sia
of hypnotic sta tes .i~ While
the concept of repres_sion is prominent. in psychiatry .and particularly
in psychoanalysis, Holmes (1990) noted that .60 y ears of research
has not produced any controlled laboratory evid.ence supp orting it.
Frankel (1990) argued that 'the .concept.oL dissociation inci:easingly
preempts repression .and other , defense ,.mechanism_s' but :neveF-
theless cautioned restraint in too broad .use of .the concept ..of

, _,
and Tranc e -possession
~ , : . . . , ; \.1

In many cultur es throughout the world, posse ssion commonly

occurs with the . trance state. In a su~ey of 488 soc ieties w'qrld-
wide, 90 per cent had insti tutio nalized SOillP forrn .ofal ter ed ' states
of consciousness and 52 per cent . associate d these states ..with
possession (Bourguignon, 1973). Bourgu ign on (197 6) felt -that
these figures probably represente d an unde r-reporting ,,bf the
phenomenon. The common pattern desc ribed is given below:
An individual.s uddenl y-seems to lose his identity aJ!d: bec ome an9ther
person . His physiognomy changes and shows a striking;: e to
the individual of whom he is, supposed ly, the incarnation ..Yfith an aitered
voice, he pron ounces words corresponding .to the persqnality qt_)he.iie'f,'
individual. (Ellenberger, 1970: 13.) ' ,_ '
. . ' . . ' . ,. /'._,.,;.; . (.

Possession has a long history dating at least to the New Tes tament J4
An early work by Oesterreich (197 4), a Gennari phil osopher, Te-
viewed in detail many historical documentations of poss es~ion Jrom
the . second century to , the nineteenth century in .t Gr.eecci,
Mesopotamia, Western civilizations; and 'primitive' cultur esilirpugh-
out'the world. He noted the uniformity of the reported ph eh orriena ,
including observa ble manifestations (e.g. a typical',physi ogri.omy)
and subjective manifestations . Except for posse ssion .in the sbaman ,
almost all instances he reporte d were ass ociated i;vith religious
entities (i.e. devils and demons) and involved : unw ant ed, -sym -
ptomatic, maladaptive, negative states in the , individ ual and his
society . A more curr ent view of possession states in,.diverse cultures ,

,;. ;;

-. . .:, ~

however, indicates that most instances are not maladaptive, negative,

or symptomatic (Bourguignon, 1976) .
Oesterreich distinguished 'somnambulist' possession in which
the subject loses consciousness from 'lucid' possession in which
the subject does not lose consciousness and is not amn esic. -The
majority of cases involved treatment by exorcism. While he noted
that a numbe r of cases appeared to be -identi cal to 'divided
personality', the documentation provided was insufficient to make
a clear detennination . He pointed out that during posses sion, -most
cases took on a totally different personality .
-In cases of possession, Oesterre ich (1974) emph asized the critical
role of belief in spirits and demons, for the most part negative but
-sometimes positive. -He stated that possessio n usually produced an
impression of horror and something siniste r. On th e othe r -:hand,
spirits, alleged to speak through the possesse d, afforded 'primitive'
people a means for obtaining revelations, a value he felt was
insufficiently appreciated by academic ethno logy. As he put it:
By the artificial provocationof possession pri~t ive man ha~, moreover, to
a certain degree had it in his power to procure voluntarilyat a set timethe
conscio'us presence of the metaphysi~~l,_- and the desire to enjo:f that
co1tsciousnessof the divine presence offers a strong inc~iitiveto cultivate
states of possession quite apart from the need to ask advice and guidance
from.the spirits. (Oesterreich, 1974: 377.) ,,
. '
Oesterreich (1974: 378) went on to say that possess ion began to
disappear among 'civilized races' as belief- in such spirits lost its
Th e majority of indigenous American societies practised a
phenomenon that anthropologists have caUed the 'gtj.ardian spirit
complex' (Benedict, 1923). In some tribes, it was iliepractice for
an adolescent to obtain a lifelong supernatu ralhelpe r from whom
h e would gain for himself a name, as well as power thro ugh :a
visionary experience . In the Pacific North -west Coast area, the
Kwakuitl tribe once staged a dramatic performance of spirit vision
and possession during a secret society initiation Qilck, 1982: 10).
In the Pacific North-west Salish culture, an intimate relationship
existed between shamanism and the guardi an spirit doctrine
(Benedict, 1923: 67). Shamans may obtain their powers from several
spirits . Experienced Salish spirit dancers were able to exercise some
control over their spirits and to determine to a certain exte nt the
time of possession (Wick, 1941). Observations of the Vancouver
Island Salish have revealed the 'comatose' state oL new dancers
possessed by their spirits' power and the automatic singin g and
barking of the possessed dancers.

:;.: -'";". -


Psy chological and anthropologi cal accounts of possession

(Cardena 1989; Bourguignon, 1968; Frige rio, 1989; Goodman,
1988; Linton, 1956) rarely contain detaile d descripti ons of the
subjective experiences of the possessed per son. An exception is
Wick's (1941) record of a dancer's expe rience of possession:
'When you sin g , your breath starts shaking . After a wh ile, it goes
into you . You try to sing, your jaws start to shake, th en you sing
out, "Get over it When I dance, I don't act Ju st follow your powe r;
just follow the way of your power ."'
Although po ssess ion has been studied by ethnolo gists for m any
years, relatively little attentio n has been paid to it by psychiatrists
and psychologi sts . Janet (1898) was familiiif with the litera ture on
spiritualism and had discussed how the pheno men a of the
mediums of th.e era, as well as 'devil possessio ns ' ofan ear lier age,
reflected the same mechanisms of dissociatio n tha t he foun s
hysterical pati ents . Freud (1950) devoted one paper to an analysis
of a case of demoniacal pos sess ion which occurre d in the , seven-
teenth century . He called it a neurqsis , attributing it to th e inner life
of the patient, and believed it to be caused by rejected and repress ed
culturally evil wishes .
Linton (1956), an anthropologist at Yale Univers ity, reviewed tlie
known world -wide instances of possession, various form s of which
he referred to as hysterias. Th ese include t_he classic so-calle d
culture-bound syndromes of amok, latah, Arctic hyste ria, soul loss ,
and the 'hys teria of shamanism'. Curiously, he noted tha t possess ion
was extremely ,rare in American Indians. The Algonq uin tribe and
other northern Indian tribes had a form of 'intermittent pos se ssi on~
in which one's soul would make demands on an individual thr ough
dreams . For instance, if one had an overwhe lming desire, and it
was essential to satisfy this need, the so ul woul d bring about
temporary changes in one's personality . Linton (1956: 121) cited
the following example:
~ 1-

A woman would occasionally dream.that she wanted unlimited intercourse .

Since this was regarded as a d~mand of her soul, it did no't.interfere with
her social status as a respectable woman. She could, the refore pick out a
whole collection of men anywhere (from 10 to 20) and could procee d to
have intercourse with one after another until her soul (and pre suni..abiy
her body) was satisfied .
Acco rding to Linton (1956: 123), spirit possessio n is a means to
provide a temporary physical body for superna tural bein gs:
The supernatural being can become pro tem, a c, ntemporary member of
the society, so that people can deal with him, ask him questio ns, ask him
for favors. get him to use clairvoyance to tell the m what is happening at a

distance, and so on. Since there is a demand for these things, the
individual who shows the capacity .for such s~izure$ will:be enco~aged
and rewarded by the society. , ~~,,:
1nis statement fits possession in Bali except for the imp lication of
a tru e 's eizure' . .. :--;
Linton (1956: 131) further described mediu mistic -'h yst erias as
falling somewhere between regular possessio n by sp irits and the
mystic experience:
The idea behind this is t:4at there is a need _for ~omplete"passivify,, '~cl
complete withdrawal, in order to encourage the controls,-7hoeither' speak
through the . body of tlie subject or ' else draw upon his''Body energy' or
ectoplasm, which they can shape . in various ways: Such mediumistic
phenomena are widespread but are usually dern'onstr~ted only b'y'riiincir
practitioners. Although they rarely are the center of organized refigion,
they . do 'flourish at least on the outskirts of our culture' [and it is an
interesting fact that) the stories which are told about psychic phenomena
are curiously uniform all over the world.
Linton (1956: 132) concluded that
hysterical phenomena are ~verywhere, very decidedly culturally pa..~~ed.
In fact if one knows the culture, one can predict what f~rm
hysterias .are
going to take in that society--0r p~etty nearly so. This i~ the stro~gest
possible argument in favor of the thesis that; whate,.;er the etiolcigy'ano
Z't ,J , ' ) - , ) -~

dynamics of hysteria may be, its symptoms are extensively and intens ively
shaped by culture.
~ardenq (1989), a psychologist, and Frige rio (1989) , an ,anthro-
pologist, both proposed that ther:e should be a..range --of pos~es~ion
experienci;s rather than a unitary state of cons ciousn ess in ._whi~h
th~ individual is totally -amnesicJqr- the event;; oL J:he poss~~iOI). ,.
Card ena's proposal includes ., (1) . 'transitional posse ssi cm:; with
occasional changes in depth ot involveme nt r:athe.r1 th an :-~,.fuce9
state of consciousness or what some may caU parti al-pos ses ~t9-;wi.1;h
a con scious awareness and changes in body sensations; (2) 'alternate
identity possession' in which an altern ate identify, human '' dr
I. otherwise, takes .over the usual identity of the individu al ancither e
;I may ):>~co-occurrence of the usual identity of the individui1{~dri'g
with the alternate one which stabilizes the trans itiqn al possession
into a stable state of consciousness with pre cise limi ts as ,defined
by the spirit or force and the ritual context; and (3) 'tr :rnscerident
possession' in which the individual is totally :im mersed or
'su rr endered' and the individual does not perform the acts, sorigs, or
movement but becomes 'him/herself, the act the so ng an d _rpove-

ment' . In this dimension, the individual may expe rien ce a sense of
enormous energy. 'There is full absorptio n -into an experience
where inner and outer are indistinguishable' and the individual may
not fully remember the events transpiring . Common manifestations
found in various cultures include unus 11al vocalizations and
movements, shaking, apparent immunity from damage , unfocused
or fixed gaze, and eyes rolling upward. The individual may maintain
intermittent contact with the social/ physical context According to
Cardena (1989), it is difficult to induce this conditi on at will.
Frigerio (1989) also proposed three stages with . thr ee levels-of
awareness as reported by Afro-Brazilian religious grou ps observed
in Argentina: (1) the individual is aware of and later remembers
everything that happened during possessio n;: (2) th e individual
only remembers certain things; and (3) the individual re member s
nothing. Frigerio referred to the first stage as 'irradia tion!, where
.;ome of the entities' energy is reaching the medium but does not
have full control over his body. The medium may experienc e:strange
sensations in certain body parts or may ,have intuitions about
certain problems but he is still 'basically himself' . Th e second
stage is termed 'being beside'; and~here 'the spirit is leaning. against
the medium, . is by his side, is touching him and in this',way
controlling his body' . It may also cause the med ium to forget some
of what he is witnessing. This stage and stage 1-are sometimes
referred to as half-way possession . The ''third stage , knowii 1as
'incorporation', is that in which 'the entity has fully entered the
body ofthe medium and he is therefore completely pos sessed ' .'
Different types of trance-possession in Bali could fit some of the
three stages of experiences described by both Cardena and Frigerio .
For example, the people in communal trance-pos ses sion who ,are
unconscious and amnesic (Chapter 4), the dancer s in tranc e
(Chapter 5), and some trance-mediums (Chapter 3) could be
experiencing the third stage of possession. The individual.trance-
possession reports (Chapter 5) are comparable to the description :of
possession in the second stage; while the posse ssion expe iienc~ of
Suryani (Chapter 8) appears to fit the first stage . However/ becaus e
of the wide variability .of the trance-possessio n expe rien c'elin th e
same individual, or in the same situation, or tmd er the ~sam e
conditions, and the relative lack of knowledge of the basic psych o-
physiology of the states involved, there may be little heuri stic ;value
in dividing trance-possession into such types. Given th e variability
of the trance-possession states in Bali with respe ct to both .degre e
of amnesia and type of possession , it is more useful to categoriz e

. ..

, <I:-

them according to purposes served (e.g. healing) or to contexts

relevant to the culture (e.g . ceremonials) .
To the Balinese, trance-possession is a condition or state brought
~bout at the behest of a god or spirit in which the go d or -spirit
'comes down' and acts throu gh the perso n, i.e. possesse s him or her.
Th e Balinese have a number of different words for the phenomenon
of tran ce-possession, including kalinggihan, karauh an, kasurupan,
ngadeg, and katakson. The particu lar term us ed depends on village
cu stom. Although the Balinese do not recognize or have a word for
tranc e without possession, this condition does occur among them,
e.g. in gamelan musicians (Chapter 6)-and in some patien ts treated
by balian (Chapter 3).
During prayer, a Balinese may become spontaneo usly posses sed.
Usually, the person desirous of possess ion prays that the gods will
honour him and ente r his body, but h e and th~ society believe that
th e decision belongs - wholly and solely to the god s. When
possession occurs, the individual feels pleased and grateful . People
who witness the individual's change d behaviour attribute it to the
god who had possessed him; hence , if the behaviour is violent,
abusive, unruly, or wildly emotional , they will say the person:is not
being himself and will thus not sanctio n or condem n him. More
than one god or spirit may possess a tr ancer at the sam e time or
sequentially . Two posse ssed spirits may talk with eaeh other or a
spili t may carry on a dialogue or discuss ion with othe rs , as well as
with th e individual who is in trance -posse ssion (Belo, 1960: 33). -
The tran ce-state can vary in depth from light to dee p and .most
possess ion states appear to occur in dee p trance. In one type of
trance-possession, th e trancers may beco me uncon scious . fall, or
tremble and move as if having a form of ge neralized-convulsion or
th ey may perform unus ual feats such as dancing on hot coals,
stuffing hot coals into their mouths , or walking .on .fire without
suffering burn s.15 After coming out of trance , th e trancers may
report that they did not feel the heat of the fire that the y danc.ed on
or that they felt the fire was cold. In trance-posses sion little girls
can dance on the shoulders of men (Bates on and Mead ,. 1942;
Belo, 1960) and people can exhibit incredib lP strength or perform
amazing stunts . Men possessed by a monkey god can climb up to
tr eetops, execute extraordinary acrobatic feats, and jum p down on
all fours (Forman, Mazek , and Forma n, 1983: 98). Some possesse d
men may effortlessly scale a 2-metre concrete wall.
Tr ance-possession in Bali is usually termina ted _ by a priest
sprinkling holy water on the individual. Following most types of

-.~ ~- .
.: ~ ::.._-: - . -..; ..
..:.; :-~-;
'. ' -
trance-possession, the majority of Balinese experience pleasan t
feelings which they call peace, health , and calmness ; these feelings
may last for 1-3 days and the individual sometime s experiences
changes in consciousness which last a week or more and which
are terminat ed by th e conclu sion of the lengthy village cere monial .
Trance rs who have indulged in extraordinary physica l exertio ns
while in trance, evidenced by profuse sweating , do not recall being
fatigued during their trance-possession state but the y may feel
tired afterwards .
Varying degrees of amnesia occur durin g ..he tr ance-possession
state in the Balinese. Subjects who ente r into light tr ance. stat es
are usually able to recall the events of the trance . Th ose who stab
themselves with krises in ceremonie s and in the Barong drama
and many traditional heal ers or trance-med iums rec all very little, if
any, of their trance-possession experien ces. Individuals who
become unconscious during trance-po sses sion usually:have little or
no recall of the events that occurred while in trance.Xsee Chapter 4).
Th e Balinese schoolchildren who suffered from trance-possession
attacks had complete recall and were able to . describe th eir
hallucinatory experiences (see Chapter 7).
The majority of Balinese find it difficult to express the feelings that
they experience during trance-possession . On being first questioned .-
most of them say 'I don't remembe r' or 'nothing hap pene d' 16 but
after further questioning, many are able to recall some of. their
feelings and sensations . However, the words they us e to describ e
their experiences are often not readily or easily tr anslated into
English . Most of those who have entered into tr ance-poss ession
find it impossible or difficult to verb alize the ir ..and
experiences. Generally, the Balinese answer inte rview questions
with short sentences; they seldom explain fully or in detail: :Their
common response to questions, 'I don' t remem ber ' or .}I h,ave
forgotten' is a way of avoiding saying they are unable to explain. ~I
have forgotten' does not mean a specific memmy .loss; rathe r:,it
means that they are unable to contro l the mselves or that-Go.d _or
another spirit is responsible for their actions. However, und@r skilful
questioning, most are able to convey their feelings and experiences
during trance-possession and indicate that th ey are not actually
amnesic or unconscious of everything that happened . Th ey often
recall changed sensibilities and perceptions , such .as h earing only
the sound of the singers, or experiencing feelings of floating or th e
sensation that they were in another world, or sensing that they were
possessed by. a power which moved the m, or feeling tha t th ey

. j

, ..

moved automatically rather.-tlrnn -of their own' volitiorr.-"This is :in

contrast to some reports (Bourguignon,c11968) which fadioated,that-
the possessed are always arrinesic with regard -to thei events of the
trance experience. .. ,
:In som e areas of Bali, such -as the city of Gianyar ;many people
do -not ,re aclily believe a person's claims that he is poss ess ed ::.:ln
order to be sure , these people may test the individual by touching
him with a hot object such as a lit cigarette or even fire to see ifhe
cries out in pain. If he does, they believe that the perso n is lying
and is not in a ,real trance . This kind -of testing is not -done in the
Denpasar area and other localities where people readily accept the
belief in possession.

To a Balinese, the world is filled with .gods -and : spirits. It is
primaril y the supernatural phenomena that are at the core of many
activities of daily life, including ceremonies, rituals, dan ces, plays ;
pos session, physical and mental illnesses, and -h ealing . Thes e
supernatural phenomena include demons, ,;witchcraft or cblack
magic, and leak (spirits) . : Evil spirits are ' often 'Pre sent ,,For ,
example, one should not start a journey at high noon or at dusk
(abouf6 p.m .) because it is believed that evil spirits come out then-
and are more likely to disturb, capture, or possess , one att hese
times; Th ese spirits are the focus of exorcisti c treatm ent by balian.
Ph~sicians and psychiatrists in . Bali who practise . Western
techniques need to know about the superna tural ancl ,the work of
the balian in order to be effective. .,, .. -,v ..., ,
Leak (pronounced, 'lay ack' and often .spelled leyak or lejak) are
witch~lik:e spirits ,or creatur es that .are transfo rmatio ns of real
people .who live in the community .1~ People who have th e abilityt o
become leak can change themselves into other thing s,~such as an
animal , a light, or the wind, depending on .their power, and they .
can travel anywhere. The wind is considered to be the h ighest or
stronges t type of - leak . - Some individuals who -bec ome leak: are
believed to derive their ability from an amulet pur cha se d from .a
sorcerer. Some persons ina village are ge nerally r egard ed as -leak
while others are believed to be leak by certai n individuals. Almost
any disliked acquaintance presents a poten tial dang er. be cause of
the possibility that he/she may be transfo rmed into a leak at any
time . People who have special perc eption can recognize leak .even
whe n they change their forms . Leak can practise black magic--and
th ere by initiate illness of all kinds , and they can disturb people to

- -~- ---~-
.--~ ~ ,.
+. ;.-_A_

the point of causing death. They generally come out at nigh t and are
likely to frequent ceme ter ies . According 'to the ' beli efs of the
peopl e, Halloween -like activities occur : the goddess of death meets
at midni ght to dance and feast on the living blood of the dead
brou ght back to life; entrails hang in trees, cauldrons catch ci.npping
~lood, and the roots of trees wind in and out of the skuUs and
bones (McPhee , 1946).
McPhee (1946) desc rib ed one of his expe riences thus:

It was perhaps a week later that I awoke again, .late in the night, with the
same strange feeling that .someone had called . It was .an .nu sually wann
nigpt, and 1 went outside on to the verancia. I could not _be4eve my ~y.e~.,
. Across the valley, halfway dow-nthe hillside, a row of:lights glowed -with
a soft pure brilliance. They seemed to l}l~ve ever slightly, floiililg ~p
and down as though anchored. Suddenly they w~pt out, \ISsuddenly_w,eI;J.t
on again, but now to shine in a perpe lin,e,_one.,_ ~l?pve tl;t~,pther.
Th ey merged slowly, until only the central one remain~d, which now
began to float slowly up the vall~y. All at once it vanished. But within a
minute the lights were shining in a row once more , far to the north.
I went to rouse Durus and Sampih, who were sleeping in the next room.
Look! I said. What lights can these possibly be? They are too. pale for
lamps, and besides, there are no paths where they .are moving. , ,, ..
The leyaks, said Durus , softly, almost inaudibly. They must be from
Bangkasa [the village across the valley] ... or from somewhe re in the
north, he added after a while. ,. :, . ,' "'' .. , , :'l';',
We stood silently watching this magic -display ..The lights glowed and
died, came close together , spread rapidly out in a long line. Slowly .they
floated back once more to where I had first seen them: qne by 'One,they
went out, until on1y a single light remained. But all at once it was. gone.
TI1e valley was in darkness . . . , ., , ',',... :
All next day I was haunted by the weird l;ieauty of the sce nf! 'r .q.?,Q. ,
witnessed the nigh t before. It was as if the stars had ' descen ded. If ifliad
not been for Durus and Sampih I shoul d have .been unabl e to oelieve ;-1t
had not been part of a dream . But when I mentione d )t to Chokorda Rani,
and later to the perbekel in Pliatari; they were not surprise d. Had Pa-woken
out of an uneasy sleep? With a feeling of suffocation7'.Th~re was>-otilt;orie
explanation . Sorcery was in the air once .more . If had only begun;,.and no
one knew what was to follow. L, . ., 0
:- ,'. , .,

\ '. - ' . -. .
Such experiences are reminiscent of Westerners' reports of UfQs ..
Another of McPhee's (1946) expe riences .illw;;trates .tY.l)es
of leak phenomena : '

No one was surprised, the n, whe n all at once. things began to go wrong in
the house . Misfortunes occurred, one after an~the r, 'and as they ~ccumu-
lated everyone began to have a worried, hunte d look. ~tu n the cb'ok,

.. ..

- -::: . _,

~ .-:...

1,, -., . -

slipped .on the kitchen floor a...,dbroke her ann. Pugig:s_tepped on a thuml>-
tack and got an infected foot. The cat fell off the roof, actu<J.lly
fell, for no
reason at all, and was killed, while Kesyur and Sampih _:declared the
garage was haunted. Night after night they would wake; they said,
unaccountably rigid, jaws clenched, unable to make a soun'cl.They heard
the bicycle bells of Durus arid Pugig ring out in the darkness, alth'oJgh
there was no one else with them in the garage. Voices called their nfules
from outside, but they opened the doors to find no one: And late one
night, as Kesyur walked up the road alone to the garage, -he saw, sitting
silently among the bamboos, a great bird, large as a horse.
This, however, was not all.
In the morning, as Pugig brought up the coffee, he would point to drops
of blood that ran in an unbroken line all around the outside floor of the
sleeping-house. A fight between two tokes,the great lizards that now hid
and croaked in the thatch, I suggested; but Pugig did not agree, for he
would wash the spots away, only to find them again the following morning.
One night I awoke to hear the loud ticking of a clock almosfin my ear. It
was rapid and metallic, like an alarm clock, and seemed to come frorri
outside the wall. As I reached for my flashlight it began to travel quickly
around the four walls of the room . I ran outside, but there was no trace of
anything at all.
Everyone agreed, as I related the exper ience in the morning, that all
this was the work of leyaks.
These are excellent examples of ho}'/ Weste rners and Bal,J.nese
perceive and interpret phenomena differently because of: .their
different belief systems . The Westerner was startled and puzzled by
what he saw. The Balinese interpreted the events as commonplace
and readily understandable. !
Suryani has personally seen leak a numbe r of times in h~r life~
When she was 10 years old, she saw a monkey' leak on the wailof
her compound. .
At the age of 14, on three separ ate'occasions,
/. ... ,..
she was riding her bicycle home past a tem pk _in a1;1area ~ th _btg
tre es considered to be magic, she saw red, yellp:w, anc(. b\ue :
coloured lights . This frightened her and sqe rode swiftly hoII.le.J -
0's neighbours once repqrted a non-existe nt , light ,in the

backyard of Suryani's home . At the age of 15, when she was lying
in he'r room and could hear her family's voices outside , a woman
with blood on her hair appeared and wanted to kill her . She prayed
to God for help and after a few minutes, the woman disappeared.
The following example of leak may be considered 'aii instance of
euthanasia by the husband of a dying woman with the assistance
of a balian. A 50-year-old woman who suffered a ha emorrhagic
stroke and was comatose for a month had to be kept alive &-{tub~
feeding and _intravenous fluids. She developed bedsor es and was
severely emaciated. She showed no improvement, and her husband
felt increasingly hopeless about the situation . He went to the
balian and asked what her problem was. The healer told him that his
wife had become a leak--one at a very high level; he also said her
body was dead, but her leak remained alive and because of-this he
(the husband) must help her leave the world. 19 He advised the
husband to stand at the head of his wife's bed at midnigh t, take off
all his clothes, and recite a mantra Th e man did it, and a few
minut es later his wife died . The nursing staff was puzzled over the
event and reported it to Suryani . The husband said tha t he was sad
to see her suffering; he did not want her to go on in this manner
and he felt that this was a good way to .help her be near God more
quickly .
As mentioned earlier, leak may present themse lves in various
forms- a monkey, a human figure , light, or wind--d epending on the
degree of ability of the leak . It is believed that a sm all proportion of
the people who can see, hear, and speak with -leak are . mor e
vulnerable to their harm. Seeing a leak can evoke fear. Individuals
who are regarded as being 'warm' humans are deemed to have no
power or natural ability to see leak and do not h ave to worry about
them; people who are considered .'cold' humans are a,b le to see and
hear leak. Such visions and auditory phenomena are distinguishable
but similar to hallucinations manifest as symptoms in psychotic
persons in Western cultures (see Chapter 9)a In Bali, normal persons
can experience hallucinations in their usual state of consciousness
or in a state of meditation .20 People are not concern ed with leak
most of the time ; they take ordinary, sem i-automati c precautions to
be safe, comparable to the Western practice of washing hands
before eating.
Two Western psychological concepts may explain th e apparen t
hallucinatory aspects of leak phenomena. First, some of the sigh ts
and sounds could be illusions , i.e. perceptual misinterp retations of
a real external stimulus (Kaplan, Freedman, and Sad dock, 1980) .
Secondly, these sights and sounds could be hallucinations associ;:tted
with dissociation and trance or self-hypnosis. The contagious aspect
of trance is often involved, and the cultural beliefs also play a centr al
role in the form and context of leak phenomena .
A similar phenomenon, Western encounters with UFOs , is
structured on cwTent W estem beliefs. The followingrep01t of a UFO
is remarkably similar to some leak phenomena:
The UFO came close to her car one evening she says, and stayed above her ,
silent, telephone-pole high. It had four lights on each side. She stoppe d

:(' ~:.-.-~: ;
;.,--, :. ;,
. - ..; -_-,.-.,.


the car and got out so that she could see it bette r::While "she watched ; the

lights began to flow around the perimete r of the craft; th_e,way:the y do 1bn
a marquee , and music played inside he r head .After a few minut es she got
back into her car. The craft followed for a while , the lighq, .now back _in
their :original position . Over an arroyo it 'disengaged', the lights blin)ced
off, and it disappeared. (Gordon, 1991.)
UFO encount ers are experienced for the most part by notinal ,'
non-m entally ill persons. Persons who report UFOs -tend to regard
them as 'real' or an experience of"ordinary consciousness. Very few
consid er the experience to be a hallucin ation asso ciated with self-
hypnosis or trance . -
Suryani found that Balinese patients are easily hypnotized 21 and
und er hypnosis, about 25 per cent become posses se d. './Phis
possession is normally associated with a de~p hypnotic stat e -(see
Chapt er 8).
There are a number of similarities and differenc eif m"trance ,and
pos sess ion between the West and Bali.-Hypnos is in''Weste rners,
sometimes also referred -to as trance, is general ly 'induced;:con-
trolled, and terminated by a hypnotist; the 'gods, prayer , and the
supernatural are usually not involved:-Westerne rs urider hypnosis
experience changes -in, perception : similar to th ese 'of, Balinese -in
trance. In the West , trance is nirely accompa nied by posse ssion ,
whereas in Bali; it gene rally is. Trance-poss es s1on in"Bali usually
occurs in public or .in ;the presence of family: members '. Trarrc~m:
the se two vastly different cultures, the Western and the Balinese,
have important features in common: a trusting; willing subject,.artd
a dissociative state '. One is induced by the hypn.otist,' the oth et 1by
environmental stimuli, prayer, gods , or-spirit s . .Trantte-po sse ssion
in the Balinese often occurs in the presence Qf singirtg ;or rriusic_;
The biggest differenc e between possession in th e-west 'and that in
Bali is the highly positive, reinforcing, encouragi ng ; expec tant,!'artd
socially controlling environment in Bali. . ,, ':
The majority of trance-possession expe riences iri the Balinese
are accept ed as normal behaviour, but the re are occasio ns when
trance-posses sion is considered to be abnormal, such as in trance-
suicide ;,amok; bebainan, and kasurupan (see Chapte r 7) . , '
Amok has been described in a number of cultures, particularlyfa
Malaysia (Arboledo-Florez, 1985). It is a conditi on in which the
affected individual suddenl y becomes aggres sive an'd violent
(usually caused by some provocation), sometimes killing people in a
wild, uncontrolled spree . Am ok has been known to occur in other-
wise placid, non-aggressive Balinese (see Chapte r '7). Whittk ower
(1970) correctly reg arded it as a dissociative state . Thi s kind of
aggre ssive behaviour differs from the violent and_: uncon-olled
beha viour . of persons in trance-posses sion during religious:;Cerf!-
moni es (see Chapter 4). :, .
Dissociation, regardless of whether it occurs in a nom_1alcon~ious
state , in trance/hypnosis, or in a range of diso_rqers, inclu_ding
hyste rical paralysis _and multiple person ality disord<= r (MPD), . is
basically a type of psychological mechanis m . or 'defence' . .To
accommo date this range of behaviour and conditions, the various
forms may be conceptualized as representing points on two continua:
(1) normal states . raging fro!ll norm al, throt1gh trance, to
possession ; .and (2) abnormal states rangi ng frorr.ithe dissqciativ,e
disorders to MPD at the - extreme end (see Chapter 9). The
dissociation of MPD appears to be qualitatively different from that of
trance, pointing to the possibility of psychophysiological differences
between the two. This is further supporte d 1:-ythe sharp ly different
char acteristics of the two phenomena and by' the'fact that ,f much
higher percentage of people are capable of heing liypnotized than
of being possessed.

* * -*

Dissociation is a basic psychological process or mechanism,

operative not only in normal behaviours which do not involve ASC,
but also in the ASC of hypnosis/trance, posses sion, and ' dertain
conditions labelled as mental disorders , such as multiplepers~n~ ty.
The Balinese manifest a unique dissociative condition . called
'hidden by the evil spirit' . Dissociation is a primitive psychological
mechanism or 'defence', probably acquired through evolution; which
has value from the survival point of view. _Several animal species,
including non-human primates, demons trate a comparabl~ ,state
called animal hypnosis or tonic immobility . Trance/ hypnosis in the
West is generally induced by a hypnotist ; self-hypnosis :,is se1f-
induced. In most cultures trance usually occurs spontaneously,
whether in a public or a religious context, and it is ~ssociatecf'wj'
.. . ,... _th
music, often with a strong repetitious rhyt hm . Trance is probably
pan-cultural. The apparent hallucinatory phe nomenon .of the Balinese
involving leak (witch-like spirits) occurs in norm al Balinese and
may represent, in Western terms, self-hypn_osis. In states of deep
trance, possession may occur.
Possession is an experience of being take n over, psychologically
and behaviourally, by forces, variably sensed as a power, God, an
identified god, a spirit, or the soul. In Bali ritual poss ession is
common, controlled, desirable, socially useful, highly valued,


p .:.. -. --~-

"I, .. -:,::_ -;. :


...~: .: -~ .

positively reinforced by the society, and individually sat isfying.

- ~

Ritual trance-posses sion is tenninated by 'stan dard tech niques,

including the sprinkling of holy water by a priest In th e case of
trance-m ediums, the trance or trance -possessi o~ state can be ter-
minated at will by the individual. In the West, pos3ess ion is relat-
ively rare, socially isolated, gene rally conceive d (even by those 0

who have not experienced it) as unwanted, uncontrolled, mysterious,

evil, and the work of demons or devils. It is negatively regar ded
except in a few small religiou s groups and in the phen omenon of
speaking in tongu es . A few examp les of tran ce-possessi on in Bali,
such as amok and bebainan, represe nt mental disorders .

L The concept of defence , mean ing a process for dealing with anxiety,
originated in psychoanalysis . It can be misleading to conceive of dissociation .as a
de:2nce mechanism in abnormal circ~s tances beca~se it can also operate as a
'normal process . '
2. The following verses by Stevenson (1928) are illustrative of disso ciation:
When children are playing alone on the green,
In comes the playmate that never was seen.
When children are happy and lonely and good,
The Friend of the Children comes out of the wood. (p. 171)
When at home alone I sit
'And am ~ery tired of it,
I have just to shut my eyes
To go sailing through the skies-
To go sailing far away
To the pleasant Land of Play;
To the fairy land afar
Where the Little People are ... . (p. 87)
3. Many of the behaviours described by Freud (1901) in 'The Psychopathology
of.Everyday Life', which he formulated as directed by represse d th ough ts in the
unc onscious, are probably more correctly interpreted as example s of dissociation
(E. R Hilgard, 1977).
4. The first two questions on the scale give us an idea of the types of
dissociative behaviour measured by the DES:
(1) Some people have the experience of driving a car and sudde nly realizing that
they do not remember what has happened during all or part of th e trip. Mark
the line to show what percentage of the time this happens to you .
0% '----- ----- -~ 100%
(2) Some people find that sometimes when listening to someon e talk .they
suddenly realize that they have not hea rd part or all. of what has just been
said. Mark the line to show what percentage of the time this happens to you.
0% 100%
5. In fugue, a person travels to anothe r place, assume s a different identity, and
is amnesic about his real identity.

-t -: . ~...
.~" . ~ ~ .~:;~J:~.!:~ ~:_.:!"-:-:':
~~-;:.: _;.

' .. /::":-~/~

6. La,tah has been reported in Burma, Thailand, the Philippines (Yap;' 1969),
' Siberia (Czaplicka, 1914), South-West Africa (Gilmour, 1902) , Lapland (Collindei-,
'1949), the Ainu of Japan (Nakagawa, 1973), and in Fren ch Canadians living in
Maine (Kunkle, 1967).
7. Evidence of the hereditability of hypnotic susce ptibility supports the idea of a
genetic factor in /atah (Morgan, 1973). This does not exclude factors of learning and
8. A genetic component to latah does not discount the factor of learning in a
family setting .
9. In the earliest observation on latah, Clifford (1898: 189) noted that it
resembl ed hypnosis (a dissociative phenomenon) in many re spects but it did not
depend on an original voluntary surrende r of willpower. More r_ecently, Murphy
(1976) remark ed on the resemblance between some latah state s and hypnotic
states . Suggestibi lity, a cognitive change related to hypnos is (Cardena and Spiegel,
1991), shoul d also be considered as a factor in the mechanis m of l~tah. Against tliis
is the fact that latah is not communicable , as is trance.
10. Murphy (1976) reported that many of the females expres sing coprolalia were
embanass ed by the behaviour. Pres umably be was referring to Malaysians.
11. A naturally occurring psychedelic substance called ibogaine, derived from the
root of an African plant, has a long history of tribal use in Africa It has hallucinogenic
effects but is used by the indigenous people to induce an altered state in which they
'go back and visit their ancestors '. In this respect it has effects similar to those of
age regr ession in hypnotherapy . 'The Bouitis of Africa employ the drug in rites of
passa ge . Participants often describe .,,;sions of ancesto rs and past lives.' (Anon.,
1992: 89.) These effects are similar to those of balian acting in states of trance or
trance-possess ion while not under the influence of any drug .
12. By contrast, a wildly charging, silent chimpanzee may attack any animal or
person in its path. .
13. For a discus sion of the history and relationship between repre ssion and
dissociation, see Kihlstrom and Hoyt (1990: 99-:202),who claimed that the two terms
were used erra tically by investigators.
14. In Matthew (10: 19-20), Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what to
say when they are arrested: 'When the time comes, the words you need .will be
given you;-for it is not you who will be speaking, it will be the Spirit of your Father
speaking in you.' lri the Gospel of John, Jesus said that the Advocate, the spirit of
truth, would speak thro ugh his disciples (Hastings , 1991: 186) .
15. Examples of fire-walking were described by Gaddis (1967).
16. Frigerio (1989) also found that informants tended to repo rt that they could
not remember what happened during possess ion.
17. A large part of this section on leak is reproduced from The Balinese People: A
Reinvestigation of Character Oensen and Suryani, 1992: 85-8) .
18. For detailed descriptions of leak, see Covarrubias (1937: 322- 5).
19. .The Balinese believe that when leak die, they can pass :m their leak ability to
whomever they wish .
20. Psychotic Balinese also have auditory and visual hallucinations but these are not
as brief or transient as those of leak; they are assoc iated with other signs and
symptoms of psychosocial decompensation, and are not characteristic of, or identified
by the culture as, leak (see Chapter 9).
21. Suryani's technique of induction involves little verbalization in contrast to the
common induction techniques used by Western hypnotists. She first asks the cli.ent to

feel his or her breath travelling through the n9se and passing out.throu gh !,he feet,
and then with the next inspiration, passing from the feet up through the fontanelle of
) he ,fus _t trial. F~~ those
the head . About 50 per cent of her clients fall into tranc~ <1-t
who do not, the procedure is repeated several .times. About 85 per cent fall into trance
by the third or fourth trial.

. J :~

./ ~.

Trance and Trance-posses sion in
Traditional Healers and Their Clients

THE traditional he~ers. (baif~n)

, .J \
of .Bali:
..;_,erecho~ _n:. for de tailed
L 1 -,( - , .-. I ,

study because they are among the chief pr?,ctition ~rs of tran ce ,and 0

trance-poss ession and ha,ve. much to ' .r;ev;eal:abQu( th . natur e .Rf

possession itself, including . the inlie~ent . spe~i~ :\ffid un usu~
psychological and psychic abilities.1hls investiga tion .did
, I ~ j , ~ :.' fl i.
not fo,:c tis
,' ".
I '_), ; , : ;_

on the ntuals, psychophysiological mechanisrps, .o.r efficacy of the

healing ministrations of traditional healers; 1 rathedtc~nce ntr ated
on descrip tions of the background of the healers , the objec tive and
subjective chan~es that occur _inthe tr~~~ ~ .d~.H?PSEtI? ?~s es~iop
states, the physical, psychological , and psychi c proce~ses mvolved
in the trea tment of problems and illnesses, and th,eii place within a
Western psycholo gical perspective. ._
Th e traditional healers in Bali are the prim ary source Qf car e for
all sorts of problems and ailments, both mental and physj cal.2 is It
estimated that there are more than 2,soosu~Ji he&le~s in Bali.
They use a nt_{~ber of methods and .techniqu es for diagn osis and
treatm ent. Some healers limit themselves to one te~hniqu e, .but
most use a mixture or combination .3 Balian may he ide~tified p'r, a
name indicating their predominant method . For example, bcilian
. usada base their powers on reading the ton.tar (anciint' Balinese
sacred books inscribed on palmleaves). Balia?'f.apu /riuse _Qie
techni que of massage combined occasionall y with supe ma tili-al
manipulation of my stical forces through mantra s and offerin gs.
Such massage is employ'ed particularly for setting bones, he aling
sprains, and correcting dislocations. Balian taksu afe tr aifce-
mediums who contact .gods or spirits or are possesse d by th ese'::- in
. order to cure sickness, treat bereavement, or advise bn farrilly
. problems associated with deceased re latives. . Mosf .:
balian -W-
.;, {.'


physical illness, to ask for help regarding relatives who have died,
ar{d to learn who is reincarnated in their baby . 'In the treatm eiiP5f
grief or bereavement, she acts as a trance-me dium f~rthe deceased
soul to communicate with or to visit her client's family'. -,
-In practice, she prays to God and the souls 9f t:qe,dece ase cl,.who
may eith er appear visually to her_ and communicate with lj~ i :or
-enter her and speak through her . In 1990,"she claimed that .she
possessed by her god, t_he god of the client, ~d the holy
ancestor' s soul. (The soul of a person not yet cremated is unholy
and. ,is not able to .possess one.) At the , interview -in 1991;-she
contradicted t..his; saying that she . could not be ' poss es sed i:by
another god; only by her own god; she also said that the ancestor's
spirits appeared and spoke as if on television, and as she saw Them
she .imitated them in speaking'to her clients and the ir families::::
-. ' This balian likens falling into: . trance to; 'sli~p in'g-wi~~u t
feeliri'gs'. Wheh she is controlled py her god, ''her vofci js
a~tomatic, 'like electricity, ; television, .or radio; : . : 'wireon y.,h.ich
the curre;t travels'. She is _unaqle ' to recall mo!;,t'o.t.;;iiat h ~p;~~ s
while she is in trance-possession . She cannot disp_ense ~d,yi<;e
without being in trance-possession : only if a god or spirit enters
h er can she give advice. Most balian say that they do notknow
whc!t.they do in trance;-possess_iop; the y only}~-I1_ow_t.q3:t__t_heir ,qoility
depends upon the', deity . (God .or god) wno. 'enters them~ They
generally say, as she did, 'I'm sorry, -don'fask me -questi ons , [when
I'm] out of possession, ask me '[when I'm] in poss ession.' Probably
she would be able to recall some things if questioned appropii.-
ately, just like the . Balinese dancers and --cithers-,ini ceremoniq.].
trance-possession who initially, deny any :ability::- .to:;recall.;their
possession experience but who nevertheless procee d to give. some
description of it if more detailed questions are posed ., \~
! ' At her treatment sessions, this balian dresse s in'a white -coat
and white sarong and sits on a slightly elevated, covere d platform
which has a large shelf with offerings brought by her clients; , at
her side are jars of herbs and concoctions that. she dispenses t o
clients . The family, usually consisting of three to six, members ,--sit
cross-legged on a mat in front of her, looking intently-up at.her -as
she speaks .
She commences treatment by lighting . incense . followed by
prayers and mantra First, she asks the client ,and :his fainily.-if
they have obtain ed permission from their ancestor s to come to
the healer . They usually say 'yes'. If not, they ,have to pray for 0

permission . .Then the healer introd uces them to the gods. After
this introduction, she is possessed by her god which gives her a

. ''
';. ...

.. .-:, -~
special ability to know the purpose of t.he client's visit. She !:lite, ,
back a little and t.hen becomes possesse d by the_ so_uls of,,g~ad ,
persons (inatuun). Her voice and often her behavioural ge &tures
change to take on the characteristics of the particular holy anGestor ;
spirit. She asks t.he family very few questions but ;allows th epi_Jo
ask her .questions. The family members are often: enthr alled: cl.1}.cl
sometimes tearful, as the ancestor's spirit spe;iksth rough her .. Her .
(the gods' and holy ancestors') verbalizations and messa ges to the
family are often lengthy and they include a nwnbe r of action!>t;h~t-
could qualify as techniques of psychotherapy in-the Western ~n~
For example, she acknowledges the .c9ncern 9ftp~ f~y , r eij,~v~~ ,
anger -and guilt, assuages feelings of revenge, , eliGtt~)feelings -_qf,
loss or sadness, . explains prob lems, o:ffers:advic~ ,and suppoxt ..t:9
solve problems, interacts with the family, and acGepts thei.]rgtj_e(
abreaction . Each session with afamily ,takes,;30-9Qgiinte s. it !!f, =-'
At the end of the session she .c:tbruptlycomes . 01Jt1of tra na~ja.nq,
then acts .her usual . (non:p<;>ssessed)self again. ,, sh ~::I}Skl .
th e family if they have got the message ,-.(polih _baos). IfJhe y c_l.Q.S~~r.
affumatively, she will receive their offerjng . If tl1e fapilly doe,.IJ,ot-
receive a message or if the .god or soul of th~ dead ,pe.r,son f~ -to
'come down' for the -healer, she tells them tp , t:a.-e -their off~~g ,.
home. She gets up from . her platform and walks ; off to her _
compound to smoke a clove cigai,:ette, returning in .11:fewminutes
for the next session. .. . -', ;,' r ,-, ., !t :, ;
In the following case-studies of this balian's patien_ts (and!jn the
other case-studies in this chapter), an attempt has l;>eenmap.t t.9-
preserve the atmosphere of the treatment session and to keep as :
close to. the original language as possi~le . ~ c::
! ', ,'.

Case 1
The clients were six family members, including the widqwesl:
husband, offspring, and nieces . Toe , qalian we~t into tr@ ~~~ ;
possession, and after God appeared, commupiq1t ed;,as f~J.!o~s-.
'You have come here because you are worrie d__about one of .ygr-J
family members who had died,' alt.1}o _ugh thefapi ily_hsid not_giag~
any mention of the deceased. The balian then explained wh.y~tp.e
woman had died : 'She got black magic from people who did not
like her. She was ill for a long time, suffering from heaq~cl),_e, ;
epigastric pain, and recently, vertigo.' The balian then said, 'Now
the soul of the woman will talk to you.' Toe possess ed soul stan:ecf
speaking, 'My son, uncle, grandson, [etc.], thank you- for coming
to see me . I was pretty and slender before and now after I'm old, I

.__:. ,-

I. ~ .-

look bad, with no teeth and a wTinkled chin : Can yo u : give me

tobacco?' The family responded by han ding the balian 'a tobacc o
leaf which she put into her mouth to chew . 'Don't call me aunt Call
me Mom.' On hearing this , the family was very atte ntive, with
bright eyes, smiles, and laughter. (Later the y said that the:balian
I- sounded, looked, and acted just like the deceased woman when
sh e was alive.) She continued, 'All grand childre n should workhar d
I to earn money for the house and to keep the ir health. Kur.enan
tiang (my husband), give me your han d. I want to touch your han d.
I It's been a long time since I've seen you.'The elderly man took th e
balian's hand, smiling and chu ckling hap pily. She then went on to
say, -'Don 't think that I have died; I will protect, help, and -care -for
you from my world . -In my life you helped me, now I willhelp ,you .
Don't think about who wanted to kill me. Don't do bad, :beta.use it
is all finished . This is my future now, to be with God. Please help
my husband because he is sick .' The mothe rs ' soul then pro-
ceeded to joke about their lives toge ther which relieved the
sadness of some family members . The gran dchildr en asked ' her to
help the m to get good results from hard work and to advise the m
ori what to do in order to be a success in-life.-She answered, ',J)on't
worry, I will help .you eve1y time eventhoughyou don'ticisk;m e.
This is my job.' After the :30-minute session, the balian!abruptly
came out of trance-possession and expre ssed thank s to God.: ,:,.
In the interview with the family members after the treatment, it
I' was learned that the woman had died two month s previously at th e
age of 65 from heart failure. The family believed that sh e had died
because God ordained it The children said that they had come to
see the balian because they felt a deep sen se of loss at -their
'! mother's death and they wanted to ask the balian what mistak es
! the family had made and why they always have family problem s.
:i . They said that it was true that she was a slender woman and that
j! her soul's voice, movements, and gestures were similar tho se to
when she was alive. The family felt happy to be able to talk ,to:her ;
soul and said that all of their burdens had bee n lifted. They had
come with the intention of finding out if they had made mistakes in
any part of the death ceremony, includin g the cremation.QTh ey
werr satisfied with the soul's reassurance and by the balian's work.

There were five .clients in this family group . The bali~n fell into
trance and asked politeJy, 'Where do you coie from ad what

cas te are you? I have never seen you before.' She went on to .pass -
several other social remarks to make them feel comfortab le and to
establish rapport. She listen ed to their answers an d th en said, 'If
what I say is true, you can agree by saying yes . If you 're not in
agreement , please tell me.' In a state of possess ion by a go d; the .
family appeared to her and she said, 'I see that the family is quiet
There is no quarrelling and your income is ,goo d, .bu t you-feel
un easy, and for this you hav e come here to speak with th e god
(nunas baos). Th e [deceased] woman's illness was sudde n. There .
was pain in her joints, caused by an amulet someo ne put in your
hou se .' The god said they must make offerings to get rid of the
power or this amulet since the power ca~ses illness : 'Th e we>man
died bec;mse other people wanted to kill her . Don't flunk it\.:ra:s
her n1ind. It was the power of the amulet which killed her.' .l'fex:t,
the balian was possess ed by the souls _of the holy ~ces tor &-cthe
grandparents - a man .and a wom an who then spoke _and describep.
why the woman had died. He reassured them that all their
ancestors had a good place in h~a~en\t;;zgo sAe me ihfz.)'
and '?{Ould
a1,.,;ayshelp_ to care for ,their de~e~qaiits .:The . 6~1i~~~~ the ri_~aid
abruptly, 'I want some coffee.' netamily answer ed; 'We are sorry
bu t we did not bring ~ 1: The balia1/respon ~iea, '!fk okay. _Giv~
me som e when you get hom e. Put it in the slyine .' The soul the
dead person then spoke, 'Don't be upset about me becau se I catj
handle myself. This is not your business.'Do n't try to take revenge.
It's not good for you . ow my life here in this other worfd is good.
I'm happy; I have no problems.' The balian then gave her clients
some advice to prevent them from being disturbe d again: they
should p1:~pare a mixture of leaves and oils and put 'thi s in the
ground by the front gate of the house . Throughout this sess ion, rriost
of the family members looked sad and tearful , and app eare d gri eved.
At an interview -after this treatment, the ianuly reve aled: that
what the balian said was true: their re lative had died sud de nly._and
she .did .suffer from pains in the joints . They had worried th at their
moth er or grp.Ddmother did not have a good life in the oth er world.
Now rea ssured, they no longer felt the need for reta liation or
reven ge . They believed that their problems had been solved.

This case also involved a deceased woman . Whe~. the balian fell '
into trance-possession, the god appeared and explaine d to the family
that the woman's death was. not caus ed by God .
by an ancestor
.. ;



. .; .. :~

punishing her but by two persons. One was a woman and _the othe r
was a man. These two people , who were not relatives but neigh-
bours, had put something with magical power in their house gate .
This had caused her to lose interest in things, -fe el pain in , the
epigastrium, develop vertigo, become irritable, and eventually.-die.
The balian then said, 'Now the soul of the dead woman will come
to see you and try to discover what is the matte r with your family .
Do you agree?' The family answered, 'Yes.' The soul speakin g
through the balian then said:
11 I died because someone wanted to hurt m~. I am still distre ss~d ~n6ut
this. I want revenge; but d<?n't ~o it by you~self. I \\'.ill do it This Is my
business. I am s_orryI diea so-quickly .' ! only'care about my children, riot
my grandchildn;n. After my cremation; _I hope . you have a good relatio n-
ship with each other. Don't try to find out who killed me. You rriust try' to
have a good relati onship with everyone . Dot1'tworry about me ; I still have
a good chance to make a good life for myself. I wiJJ:help you from my ;World.
Next, the soul of an _ al)cest~~ .~poke, we kno'w you ~c!~e ap-
proached . many people-e .g. the .doc:tor and the trddrfi<;in al
I! healer - to help your mother, no avail.' 1Jie family aeth is
I I point asked the balian, ''Who disturbed :he'i?' .The ance stor\ i"soul
replied, 'A power i~a b~~e:' nai( o; stone d{;~fheiher . Th~:iput it
I in one place. Don't try to discover the name of the 'pers on-who did
l' it because this w~uid be hc:d f9_r\10~:_Uy9{(1rn~.,;;.the n~~ :.Yi?J.i'll
want to retaliate and this is not good for your family: Try to
' 'I,, rnaintaln good relationship _s .-~1ith others and believe tha(G()d ;will
help you.' . '
In an interview following the treatment, the family s~cl tha t it
was true that they did want .to get revenge b~au'se sevJtal. .fariuly
'i~ m:embers had _died recently and 'they wante d to''know .'wli:b'h ad
i disturbed them or caused their deaths . Mari i~ly me rtibers ~ so
believed that they knew who had distur}~edth~ decease'' ~i.1t; * er
speaking with the souls of the ancestors and h earing 'what they
said, they would change _their attitude and no longer think ''about
revenge . This case illustrates the degree the Balinese have
in their ancestors: if the ancestors ask them to _do something, j:bey
will obey.
Another female balian taksu living in Ubu d, and spe cializing
in helping relatives of th e deceased, demonstrat(;d psychic ability
during possession as she treated a Weste rn client, who 'soug ht
help in resolving grief over the death of he r husban d wliltii 'h ad
occurred 10 years earlier when she was in Bali._on .her h or{eyirioon.
The client only informed the healer that she had been married.
The healer, using some of the same techn iques as the fir st -balian,
told the client certain things -e .g. the fact tha t her hus ban d,.used
to read Shak espeare to her when he was alive-which convinced
he r that she (the healer) was indeed posse ssed by the deceased
husband's spirit Speaking throug h the heaie r, the hu sband said
that he now had a good life and hoped th at she would go onwith
her life separate from him; that she was free to choose a boyfriend
and lead a good life too. This was .the kind of resul t she was
seeking . His spirit also warned her not to. walk alone through the
rice paddies at night (which she had been doing) becau se he felt-it
was dange rous . This single session had a significant curative effect
on the client's prolonged grief. , "'.
A third female balian studied by the autho rs lives inDen pasai. A
46-year-old woman with 4 children and _a hus band ,who works ,for
the government, she has .been practising since 1976, when she had
a one-month illness with paralysis of both legs whi<::hrendered .her
unable to walk. Although she went to many phys icians and tradi-
tional healers, none could help her . Finally, one heal er told her
that she should not go to doctors -again becaus e .sh e could ,treat
her illness herself and that she would become a he aler . Soon :after.,
she received a message from a god that she shoul d treat her
paralysis with her urine, mixed with the bark of a certa in kind : of
tree at the cemetery. She applied the skin, felt better, and
one week later, was able to walk again. At this point, she per -
formed a special ceremony (pawintenan) to become a holy person.
Since then, she has been practising as a balian from 8.00 a.m. to
3.00 p.m. daily. ., . . .
Her method is to pray to a god from Nusa Peni da, an island .just
off the coast of South Bali, who appears visually to he r as a big
man with very dark skin, The god appears as on a -colour television
scre en and a voice relays messages (as over a tel eph one):-~ex-
plaining the reason the client has come to see he r.:(e.g illness, .a
deceased relative, or a need to communicate with the anc est o'rs).
She then feels that her body is changed by the god. At th is .point ,
she recall s nothin g further. At the end of each se ance ; she regains
conscio usness .
This balian was videotaped in entirety in a sean ce with a young
couple and their 7-year -old daughter . The healer did not know .the
family nor the rea son for their visit Gn the interview after the
seance, the family revealed that they wanted to find out who was
reincarnated in their newborn son, then 2 weeks old.)

. .;:-.-
.._.', l

The family sat on a bench about 8 feet behind the ;balian, ,who lit
incense , prayed , and then spoke,-'Your gr eat-gran dfath er has .been
reincarnated in your son . He wants to care for ,and help his des-
cend ants . All of you are poor beca use he did no_t leave any in-
heri tance and your life has not taught you goo d hab its. so "that i s
why the baby is reincarnated by him.'
Th e family asked, 'Who are you? Wh at is our rel ationship with
Th e balian (addressing the baby' s fath er) sai d, 'I am your grea t-
gr andfather. The baby is my grea t-gre at-gran dson. I never . gave
advice to you before . Now I can advise you. Do you want to kno w
th e name of your gr eat-grandf ath er?'
T he father an swered, 'Yes.'
The heale r then said, '.It is Ida _Bagu s Anom . I lived a fong tim e
ago and I wanted to see my descenda nts. I hope .th ey ar e not in a
bad way. You are living from h and to mouth and I want you to
learn a good way to live so that you will be a succ ess and will not
suffer from illness. That is why I am born into the wor ld th roug h
I th is baby . You must meet your ancesto r ,god. You must say good -
I '
bye to your mother (god) . Before, you always lose you r money an d
fall sick. You go to many doctors to ge t cur ed, but your .father is
still sick. Your father is a stupid person . You sh ould say goodb ye
to your family at the original family temp le. You w.ent the re -but .you
forgot to say goodbye . The father now trie sto ipfluen ce you but h e
is stupid . You neglected to say goodbye to yuur ance stor at th e
clan temple (kawitam), and [that is why ] you always have illness.
Now you have to say.goodbye to your ancestor at you r clan templ e,
to Batara Guru (a special god) at the clan templ e, and to th e
original human shrine (sanggah kamulan) .'
The father interjected, 'I have done it(
The healer said, 'You said goodbye to me mayb e bu t not at th e
original family temple. You must say goo dbye at both .'
The father said, 'No, I made two offerings.' .
The healer asked, 'Where.did you put the m?'
He said, 'In one place.'
The healer said, 'That was wrong; you must put one in one place
and the other in another place for the go d.'
The father said, 'I didn't know I had to make two separ ate offerings
in two different places . When can I do it?'
The wife now spoke up and said, 'Sorry, I can't do it now. Can I
do it after one month?'
The healer replied, 'Yes, but tomorr ow you mu st make a little
-Then she continued 'Your ancestor needs holy water and an all-.
white dress . When he was young, he was a high priest and he knew
the good days for ceremonies . This ancestor is born in your son, and
h e needs a pejati offering ceremony on his sixth-month birthday
This was the extent of the seance which lasted approxim ately
15 minutes . The healer prayed briefly and the n abruptly came out
of tranc e-possession; she -opened he r eyes and showe d a different
facial express ion as she spoke with the autho'rs. . : -
At th e interview after the seance, the fathe r said that .his parents
lived in Negara in West Bali; but his fan1ily originally came from
Denpa sar, where he now lives. He said tha is true -that th ey-nad
come to this healer to get infonnatio n about the reincarn atidn .of
thei r newborn child and that the heale r's comment about .their
difficulty with money was correc t.
Th e changes in perception reported by four other trance-mediums
furth er illustrate their ASC experiences . Three were women,:prac-
tising in villages in the city of Denpasa r. Each related ch anged
perceptions upon falling into their trance-possess ion state. Th e first
balian ;feels big, heavy, and 'like the spirit', i.e. if the spirit -feels
sick, she feels sick; if the spirit cries, she cries . She said th at =she
does not 'realize herself nor can she recall what she talks about .in
the trance state.
The second balian reported that in trance she feels as if she is '
floating and her mind is controlled by a spirit. She sees and hears
spirits, 'like they are on colour television', and is able to recall them.
She said that the possession state is more inten se than the spirit
trance state (i.e. a trance in which spirits appear), and she cannot
remember what happens in possession. Wheneve r she is poss essed
by a god at temple festivals, she only.knows that she scream s loudly
at the time.
The third female balian said that in trance she has the feeling
her body is lightweight, 'like smoke', without any contr ol. vVhen
spirits enter her, she does not know what they are saying, but<her
clients appear to understand these spirits . When the spirits leave
her, he r body weight returns to normal.
A 45-year-old male balian, who works as a tra ditional hea ler in
the evenings and as a hotel service employee in. Sanur during the
day, sometimes consults Suryan i about his puzzling cases: His
subjective experiences of trance resemble thos e of the foregoing
balian but are unique in some .ways. He first became familiar with
tran ce and possession during his personal posse ssion experi ences
at temple ceremonies . Since the n he has become very familiar with

possession and is able to describe his sensations clearly. Th ~se

include , a_feeling that he -is bigger than ..his . norrnal..self an d,:a
sensation of his entire body shaking . He is. nevertheles _s able -to
c~ntr;ol himself in this trance state . For example, he -said tha t in
tran ce he is able to drive a car to the temple with his eyes closed ..
When he is in trance-possession, he often asks peop le to ;give hlrn
fu:e (a torc}:i)which he puts into his mouth without sustainin g any
burns. On one occasion, he aske d his ancesto rs for permis sion to
visit the high priest, which he then did, and the pries t asked him-to
take some incense in his hand. He;said, 'No, give me fire', to which
the high priest responded, 'You are, not my student, you .are on a
higher level.[of trance-possession]:' . . .
All the healers who practise trance-possessio n _are .self-trained;
after a number of experiences, they find it easy to_fall into trance-.
poss ess ion and may do so quickly, However, shifting jnt o tra nc.e-
possession each time depends upon the choice of the gods.
Th e subjective experiences of balian in possessio n estat es and
the healing techniques used, as reported here, are 4lustra tive ~d~
typical -of other trance-mediwns in Bali. The autho rs'.:inter views,of
balian verified that their trance states were genuine. Dr Denny
Thong, former Director of the Bangli Men tal , Hospital in EaU,
studied Balinese balian and believed that trance could.bcdake d:_ by
some practitioners. However, the Balinese believe that.if a traditional
healer is not authentic, people will no longer go to him or her . .fT
The balian's work in healing is presente d here in .a -Balinese
context, but it can also be .viewed from~ Western -psychol ogical
perspectiv e. Balian taksu follow a standard procedure ; first, they
introduce the clients and their families to_,the -gop.~, Gq_d, or the-
ancestor.-s; then , they speak with the clients to-esta.l;> lish rapport;
next, .they tell the clients why they have come and, what tl:i.eir ,
problems are; finally, they give advice on how to solve 1the
problem s. The information and advice given -follow .t he Balinc:se
Hindu beliefs of. the clie,nts and have common, -e.g. prqb:-'
lems, illness es , or death due to offences agmnst the god~ or
magic from. other s_ourc es. The e~planations , offered ar:e reaqjly
understandable, and believable , to the Balinese, ,TI1e advice given
is generally consisten t with Western psychothe rapeutic techn iques
and concep ts, including support, relief of feelings of.guilt, suspicion,
revenge, and anger, motivation to build better fanilly, c!Ild social
relationshi ps , . and encouragement to form . construc tive, _not
destructive, interpe rs onal relationships . It appears tha t_the clients '.-
emotional experiences of contacting and interacti ng with- .the -

.... -..:;r

.. . -=-
; .:u

~-- ...'
spirits are extremely effective in res olving bereavem ent The
closest Western parallel is transfe rence to the psychothe rapist.

A Trance~meclium. (Balian Taksu)

A female balian taksu in Denpasar was interview ed both before
and after trance and observed during trance-medi um ses sions. Her
daughter and several neighbours were also interviewed . She was
51 years of age at the time of the first observati ons in 1981. A
Balines e Hindu who is unmarried, she lives in Denpas ar and has
three sisters, all of whom are married : Her parents; both deceased,
were poor farmers when she was young: Their .marri age was
describ ed as good with very few problems, .and Ltheirrel ationships
with their childr en were also good. Her grandfa the rwas a 'balidn
and his father was appointed by the gods to beco me a balian but
chos e not to do so. A few months -after he refused, 4 he became 'ill
and died, a consequence of having offended the gods . She left
school after the fourth grade because her family was poor and
went to work as a labourer in road and building constru ction. She
was very energetic and helpful to her neighbours and whoever
needed help . Interviews with her neighbour~ .indicated th at ,she
was an obedient, quiet person who had good relation ships with
-many friends and her behaviour was normal like .th at of her
friends. Every day when she worked as a labourer, she was
possessed by the gods . When possessed, she shouted loudly and
the neighbours thought that she was mad . She said -tha t su ddenly ,
at one point, her hair train (i.e. long hair) fell off and he r hair
became very tight and difficult to separate into:_strands . Because of
h er 'possession', she had to stop work as a labourer and after that ,
she lived for -3. years in a .very crude, dirty home, a farmer's
shed in the fields. She had no moneY'to live a better life. During
this 3-year period, she said that the gods tested her to se e if she
could do what they asked. She became a vegetari an . In he r ,i:oom,
there were many kinds of snakes : green, yellow, white, and other
coloured snakes, a cobra-like snake , and a snake with two hea<;is.
She said that the snakes did not bite and that she fed th erri;every
day by giving them offerings. She also describe d mor e th an,' 100
black birds, similar to crows, who came daily to her room -and;to
whom she gave offerings as well. The birds ate and th en left, ,She
also said her house was full of tokek Oarge lizards) , ,which 'never
bit or disturbed her and to these she also gave food and offerings.
Caring for these animals kept her very busy . For 3 year s, she did

:- .
_ J:

. .. i
r _,':.
i_( .. :~

what th e gods wanted and did not think about h er neighbours >Sp.e
felt that if she did not do it, the gods would punish .he r-.Her neigh-

bours were asked if they knew of the animals and th ey said they
did not and that the only people abl~ to see them were th ose who
were possess .ed and h ad a 'special'se~se' oft.he gods. She said that
'i once a god asked her to go to many temple s an d ,sleep in . tli:erh.
' She meditat ed at Pura Besakih and other temples in the mountains .
She said that she was at a mountain in Java (Mt Seme ru) and also
. at the Himalayas in India After this period of being tested by the
gods, she was entered by Ratu Gde Dalem Peed (RGDP), 6 the god
from Nusa Penida Island, near Bali. She said this possession by
RGDP was not like a balian's possess ion.
On 1 February 1961, she came home and obtained -guidance from
RGDP to make a shrine in her own house . RGDP gave her directions
on the form and location of the shrine in hP.r compoun d and ;also
provided pictures of the statues for . the . shrine, which he r family
members were asked to make . Peop1e in her-.neighbou rh ood con -
tributed money to build the shrine .' -When it was finishe d, there
was a big ceremony with offerings; priests came to the ceremony,
and a variety of forest animals were present (e.g. snak es and lizards).
After the ceremony, many people came to ask her to tr eattheir
illnesses, to help to keep their families harmonious, and to consult
her about religiou s ceremonies, for examp le, auspicio us days rto
perform these . After receiving treatment by.RGDP, grateful :clients
faithfully attended the balian's ceremonies and gave money to build
2 new house for her.
In 1969, she became pregnant - still unm arried and, sh e claimed,
without having had sexual intercourse - because the gods -needec:l
her to have progeny who could follow he r heritage. All he r ,neigh-
bours knew that she was pregnant but no one criticized he r:'Marty
thou ght that this was what the god decree d. Some felt it -was ,im-
f possible to conceive without having intercourse . Het daughter, -riciw
i! 23 years of age, is married; she has a child 1years of age andilives
i with a neighbour beside her mother's house . She and her husband
appear to honour her mother and to believe that she is controlled
At home, when she is not in trance-posse ssion, this balian wears
only a sarong or a sarong and a shirt . \he n she is posses se d-,.,she
dresses formally in male clothes : a white shirt, a wide sar ong with
a yellow cuff around the bottom, and a sash . Her hair is tied up
high on her head, similar to the way a high priest wears his hair,
with a flower in it, and she has grains of rice stuck on =h er forehead

~ - ~
r-:. .:.:-~
as is usual for people who have returned from a temple after pi:ayer
and being blessed. She .uses a walking staff. . Her attitude .in
possession is like that of an old but energetic man with a long
beard and moustache which she frequently 'twirls' ,with he r fingers
as if it were re al. -. . ,
According to the neighbours, this balian loves anoth er w oman
with whom she has a good relationship, a woman who is a priest at
anothe r .place in the city. She visits this priest daily and somet;ip}<:! s
th e priest comes to her home to pray and work togeth er wifu._her.
Neighbours .know of he r relationship .rith the woman pri~st ,but
th ey accept it by saying that the two go ds.)ove ea,c~othe r. _Wl).en
the people living in her house were asked -what she ,d oes at .home ,
they said that if no one comes to see her for treatm!=pt, she _; a.p,:s
around without apparent purpose and then goes to sleep- at 2.00
a.m., waking up around 9.00 or 10.00 a.m. After her bath, she
returns to her room and closes the door.. The people living at h er
hou se must prepare the offerings, the ho usehold shrin es , a.pd -the
altar to receive the god. She comes out of her room if th e god asks
her to see a client. .
- In daily life, she does not receive guests graci ously. She is .forget-
ful and does not remember people who have come to see h er.
Sometimes she asks her visitors why they have come. Then. she
.says, Tm sony, I do not know anything and _I can't serv e ,people
well because I'm stupid.' She may ask he r visitors ,whether th~Y
would like tea or a cigarette and repeat this a -few times. in p.;per-
sistent manner. In striking contrast when she is in trance-possession,
she looks happy and optimistic, speaks ,fluently in a friendly manner ,
and treats her guests and clients very grac iously; for example, sh e
chats cordially, asking people -:where they have come from, or- if
she knows the people, with whom they ha_ve.come. \Vhen. JJew
guests arrive, she invites them politely to sit down; she -is .very
pleasant and friendly, and follows rules of etiquette, for ex;mmLe,
by not asking people of higher. status what their sta tus is. lier ~y,es
are brigh t and alert, and she moves about quickly. Sometimes' ~he
can also be very humorous , joking with the guests, but she .is
.always respectful towards the_gods . .
She receives clients in the afternoon every day except marke t
day (pasah; the third day of the Balinese week) . Every per son
who comes seeking her help must bring a special offering, called a
pejati , consisting of coconut, rice, money, or some other pr.o,d,u~t
She goes into trance-possession when she sits in front of the ,altar
praying, with incense smoke rising in front of her, and maki.Q.gan

--._: ._....
i -:
~-;:.- __~

offering to God. Before she commences giving advice; -sh e asks .(

lier clients where they have come from , how many of ,th em -are -J
here, and how they have come . After establishing - rap port, she
turns her attention to their problems . She gleans her clients'
situations from a large leaf, which she takes in her han ds :and
studies, rather in the manner of some seers reading ' tea-leaves or t
looking into a crystal ball. From this she tells her clients and their
families what has happened to them, why they have com e to visit '

her, and what they must do to solve their problem . When sh e talks,
her clients must simply listen; only after she has :finished talking
can they ask her questions if they do not understan d or if they
disagree with what has been said . Usually if the clients disagree
with the balian, they seldom speak because they know th ey have
come not only to receive advice but also to learn if th e balian
knows about their problem .
In the treatment session, the family members usually come with-
out the patient, and they are free to discuss the problem and -ask
questions, which the balian answers patiently , talkin g like a parent
to her children . If the family members feel sad or -helpl es s, -she
makes them calm and optimistic. ff they feel sick, -she 'hel ps them
comba t their illness . She seldom says who has made the ~patie nt ill
or that she knows someone's mistake has caused illness; in this
way she does not imply a family member is -'bad' or guilty . She
usually advises her clients against trying to :find o'ut who wa s re-
sponsible for their troubles and instead encourage s them to become
calmer , healthier, and happier . Only once in the observ ations did she
identify a guilty person; her reason was' that the client's ance stors
asked her to do so because they were very sorry to see 'th e client
suffer. If her clients are of low education, she gives many examples to
illustrate her explanations. Discussions with the family-tak e about
2Q-:30minutes. Sometimes, she tells a story to help a client under-
stand ; and this may take up to 60 minutes . She is gene rally
successful at managing her clients' problems.
At the end of a session, she takes holy wate r near her sh rine,
throws it out, and abruptly comes out of trance. She then go es .to
her room and changes back into her usual clothes. Wh en -she
reappears, she resumes her non-balian personality : her vocalization
is slow and dull in contrast to her fluent and witty spe ech during
trance . She says she does not recall what she did or what
. happ ened during trance-possession, and she is relu ctan t to talk
about it further.
This balian's chang es in personality an d attitu de bear out Gauld's

~{i ,
.-<'l( . .. ~

,+. :., .
.( <
(1977: 580) statement that 'in the case of mediums '?{POpa~s. into
tranc e, the ordinary personality may often, after : cl. short,
seem to be complete ly replac ed by that of the de~eas~d per~n or
oth er discarnate being . The new personality may in .some in~tances
attain almost complete control of the medium's organism.' Qut .Qf
tranc e, this balian appear s abnormal but not psychoti c; she merely
withdra ws to her room for long periods . She shows no evidence of
delusions or hallucinations although the history of . her 'illness'
prior to becoming a balian indicates that she probably h_ad delusions
and hallucinations then . In normal circumstances, wpen sh e is not
possessed, she acts as if she is .d_emented .or of bor der line intelli-
gence and finds it very difficult . to_ ,focus ,iOP q.11ytype ... of
conversation . She does not realize wh~t she has said du ring trance
or at least denies any knowledge of it; in trance , she claims to be
God. Thes e observations are ..c9psiste nt with :.those of tranc .e-
mediums in other cultures . ., ;
The following case-studies provide further exampl!=s of h~y.rthis
balian works.

Case 1
A 25-year-old, single, male labourer , with no past psy~hiatric hl~tory,
and his family had apparently sought help to deal with his diffi~ulty
in forming relationships, his withdrawal, irritability, and anger if
the family advised him, his anxiety about the future, his we akness
and laziness, all of 1-month duration . The family came . bec ause th_ey
felt they had caused the problems by offending one of their ancestors
and asked what they must do to make ame nds. In ~ance-
possession, the ba[ian said, 'YOUcame here because you wartt tb
pray to God, because you want to mak e P- big cer emony _and
re quest that all will be a success.' The family all agree d and.said
'yes'. The healer then said, 'You are crying because your ance:5t9r
com es. Some of your ancestors stay-at the temple (Dalem Puri)'.'
She continued, The job is not finished . If you are sick, ymfg o 'to
the doctor but if you are sick b,ecause you have made a mistake
with regard to your ancestors: you must find out how to era se 'your
sin. You can do it in a big ceremony with tli.e complete offerings.'
The family said, We don't have enough money to ho ld a:.big
ceremony. If it is a small ceremony, we can do it.' The h e;iler said,
The ceremony is the biggest one (madudus agung) but in practice,
you can choos e which size of ceremony you are able to affr>rd . You
did not conduct a ceremony to get permissi on from th e god of

-~ -:-
~~ :.~..:..-~


Dalem Puri for your family to leave t.he temp le. The god is ari gry
because you did not do it' The healer followed this up with a long
recitation of advice on how t6 prepare the ceremony.
Follow-up visits to the client at his home were made at 3 days,
20 days, and 30 days after the balian's seanc e. At the initial visit
following therapy, he was shy but spoke easily . His family said that
at home, he fell calmer and seldom quarrelled; his relati onships had
improved, he seemed more peaceful, and he had become involved
in more activities. The entire family were pleased and were gra teful
to the gods . The family had held a large cerem ony which was quite
costly (1.5 million rupiahs or about US$1,000.00at that' time) ; but
the gods had helped them economize. At Suryani's next visit one
mpnth after treatment, many changes were evident in th eir home:
they had new chairs, a television, and a Vespa: motor scooter in th e
driveway. They attributed the improvement to their work and good
family relationshi ps. The client had returned to -work and was
energetic . He suffered from fewer headac hes, and he was
establishing more and better relationships with people. At the
interview he was fluent, smiling, and self-confide nt The family said
that all the things they and he did had yielded good results and
cons equently their income had increased .

This case involved a married woman, 42 years of age who had com-
plained of physical and and mental problems for the past 3 years.
Sh~ had an itchy skin and .a repulsive, ecze ma-like rash which a
derm atologist and a general practition~r had treated without succ~s's.
Her. facial appearance was another: cause for concern : the ~kinloo,:e
blue, with dilated veins, and her eyes :wer~ p~rpe~ally aver,t_e~,
making her appear frightened and 'dangerous', at the. sam e time.
Other somatic complaints included back problems (e.g: she bad
difficulty standing) and stomach pains . In addition, the woman
suffered from depression and she was talking less and less . Her case
history indicated that her husband had taken a secon d wife ap-
proximatel y 10 years ago, and Suryani's initiai clinical imprc ss~op.
was anxiety disorder and psychological factors affecting phy sical
This woman came to consult the balian with her mother and her
daughter. The balian said, 'You are here because you want to know
what is happening to yourself. You look pretty, but your h C'art .is
crying. You come here because you are sad and dep ressed. Your

:l;- ,,
husband has another wife.' The woman answered, 'Yes.' The balian
continued, 'You are the first wife. Don't be angry if-I say the tri.itli.
You are sad and don't know why and you want to die. If you don't
rememb er your children, you may kill yourself . You are always
anxious and tense, and recently you failed to get help for what you
wanted to do. Your livelihood is lost Many people borrow from
you and do not repay you, and all this makes you feel sad.' The
balian spoke in a solemn and serious manner, like a father talking
to a daughter . She continu ed, 'All your problems have arisen be-
cause of the second wife who wants to kill you by making you
confused so that you will kill yourself. She makes you feel itchy all
over your body. She makes .your husband i.mable to think anqjs
l, ( _._ -

scared of her and your husband forgot abo:uty:ou and yor chiJgr-en.
You are a good persqn. The god of,Dal_em .told you the tru th.' As
the balian said these words, the client look~d down a!}d,her dagli-
ter looked sad and held on to her mother -because ..she was ,afraid
that sh e might lose her . The client asked th~ . b;li;;n wh at .~he
r- ,._J,

should do to avoid suffering . The mother of the client said that .her
granddaughter and all the other .grandchil dr en ciependeci:;upon
their mother for school and so on. The mother .ofthe Elient l~ok~d
' - f J _.:

verJ scared and worried . The balian continued, 'PrE:tty woman,

you come here to get peace' and proceeded to adv_ise her on.what
she must do in order to achieve peace. ,
Suryani visited this client 10 days after her final treatm ent by the
balian. Initially the woman . did not believe that the balian ~quld
help her: it was her mother and daughter wh_o had asked he rto gq.
However, by this time, she already felt an improv:ement On a s~cond
interview 2 months after her treatment, she look1:: d .happy and was
able to talk but only in response to questions . Sh e said that her
thinking was calmer and less confused, she felt less sad, sh<:;cri_~d
less, and she was. no longer suicidal. One month and _7days after
her treatment by the balian, she was able to work calmly_..She
seldom scratched her skin, the blueness of her face had :disap-
peared, she was less shy, and she was able to estab lish, good
relationships. The Western clinical diagnosis in retro spe~t w,as
modera te depression (dysthymia) and psychological factors affecting
physical condition .

Case 3
The first clients of the evening, a mother and her daugh ter;pre-
sented the ms elves without saying why they had come, and were


- (,

told by the balian in trance-possession that they, had come because

he (and the daughter's brother) had bee n.:,s~bpei(by a ~;'..
This was, in Jact, their concern. He had suffered .a woun d in the
chest ..while periorming at a ce~einony wit.ti a kris ancf was in .the
h.9~,italrecovering . The client wo'nde~e~ ~h y _it h;clh app~~ed.
Tr~ balian explained that in a previous life, Lfe young man had
been asked by the gods to be a priest but he had ,decUned ori the
grounds that it did n~t pay .enoug h. ~d the 1ms acciden t w~s a
punishment from the gods. The balian assured the .young man's
motl:ier _th_at he would pe all right ' .:. , , ,
Sury'ani interviewed eight other clients of this balicin. PJ1bu t orie
had 'satisfactory results from the treatment One farmJ.y hada
problem of rats eating their rice "crop . The balii.zn advised the m to
place some rice at each corner of their field. As a cons equence ,
fp.eywere no longer plagued by 'rat's and their rice crop' mature d: in
ano6 er case which involved a dyi~g-husband, :the balian tol d the
famil y lliat she could ;nofhelp them as if was tim e'fot' bim to'die.
She advised the~ not to seek a cure because he would die the
following day. Instead; sh~ advised them to pray to God:to help;fiim
achieve a-good way to~die. The husband died the riextaay. w,:':
This balian's ability to foretell her clients' probleriis is typical.
Westerners may be sceptical of her ability as it is difficult for therh
to belieye that she could know the problems ofher clients withdtit
being told by someone . However, .in the case of'this balian , it does
not appear that she has gleaned information from comino n village
knowledge since many of her clients come from othe r are as:'' A
wes tern interpretation .of this phenome non .is psychic 'ability akj~
to.'th at demonstrated or claimed by Western clairvoyants. From
obse rvations of over 100 treatments by '"balian; Suryani estimates
that ab~ut 50 per cent of clients' problems are correctly divined'.. ',
This balian's initial 3-year experience of possession; with seclusion,
delu sions, and hallucinations, meets the criteria for a diagn sis of
psychosis. This is a common pattern among balian : a severe illness
and / or psychosis usually lasting one to several 'months prior to
bec oming a balian . Connor (1982) termed this ''divine madness'.
Although this balian no longer has delusions or hallucin ations in
her non-possessed state, her personality can best be char acterized
as schizoid.
The differences in this balian's appearance and per sonality
between her trance-possession state and her non-poss ession state
are striking . The change in behaviour is not re~ily..explained i,n

Western terms . Behaviour characteristi cs .of personality disorders

do not usually disappear under hypnosis . Her shifts from one .per-
sonality to another meet the diagnostic criteri a 'for the clinical
condition of multiple personality disorder . An incongrui ty peculiar
to this balian is her masculine manner under poss essi on; :but
perhaps this is understandable since she is possessed by a male
god . Similarly, patients with multiple personalitie s may sh ow such
changes in gender behaviour as their alters of the opposite sex
take over .

.'.Annotated Translation, of a Balian Taksu' s Treatni ent .

~ ,. _, ,. "i: i. :.. ''J . ' ,},)'. 'i{ Y.F.J \ '-'.
The following is an a(co~pt of the ,inte_raction J?ew, een a:,tem~~
balian taksu in Denpasar and her first clients of .the ~ay;:Jwo
women who presented themselves WJ.th9ut saying '.?i)ythin g :~~ -;-tit
wh the had come. .' ' ' ) '"_''"" ..,,;";.::"
y y : -' ,._.... .-: <'!'-" ',-,. r' v ,,,; I
The balian prayed in averyloud; strong vok;e;diffeient from 1i~r,
,~n" 1
, 1

usual voice, and announced to the go d that the .client s h ad -come

with an offering t9 see hi~ (the g~d). In"trance'stl k<ldre~~Jci 't'h,e_
; I ' ' l '' _;I ~- I! ~ ~ _,..

clients, 'You have come here because you nee d to kriow somethfug
. about your baby (neither wom~n was mc:iili:er;th ~y'\y ere _ ili; l

relatives of the mother) . The little childf is newborn.

. .. ,_
You"wfuit to
. ..._. _. ,. . ,_..,

know which god or goddes~ -[~pc_1;~to~] is.9or,ri .~n tJ;ii~ch ila:l:ps

was in fact the reason for th'eir'visit J Your aiicestor .has corA1
t1- ).< , !-

a man and a woman. The woman is urimarrie1- ~l:i, ,a child:J P~~'

balian was visualizing and was being addre ssed by""th e ~ce~tor
but she was not yet possessed.) 'Now about this baby: th(( r~iri:
ca.mated ancestor had a f<!,milytemple b1.i did n9t have a'.baby )n
her past life.' _ . . - ,_ ',': ; _':'
The first woman client then spoke, 'We don't . ,

who it' wli.b
'[ - -- ,.. t..,.<1
isnotmarri ed .' ,,, __ -;.- ~.''.,.. ..,_-,
The balian replied, 'Yes, it was a long time ago. Th e great-
grandmother of the baby is the woman [who is re incarnat ed): si{~
is not married. The baby is called by her.' . .- 'rI!tF '.--
The first woman asked, 'What is he_r name ?' ':-.:' '. /,: -'~!!'
The balian replied, 'People call her Nyoman .'
Th~ first I woman asked, 'Please

give me h"r full . .
e.' ' r

The balian said, 'I can't tell her full name because sh e is <!-.god.'
The first woman asked, 'If I don't know her name, how cari I kriow
which ancestor is reincarnated?' - ' -' -(
111e balian replied, 'She is a god n6w, so sh~ has rfoname~Ifyb~
,, - ' - ;:


still want to know her name, I'll give you only her firs t initial: S/
The second woman, trying to calm .the :first one, s.ud, ,/It's
enough that we know the name -is Nyoman .'
The first woman again asked, 'Who is Nyoman?' .
The balian switched topics and advise d them to perform a cer e-
mony at 1, 3, and 6 months and said, 'When you con du.ct a. cer e-
mony at 3 months, .bring white and yellow cloth, and at 6 month s,
when the baby's hair is cut, please bring me 30 pieces of Chine se
money.' [The &-month ceremony signifie s that the infant has now
becom e human; the ancestor then discontinues his life in the other
world and assumes a real life in the baby .]
Th e . balian, now speaking as .the ,ancestor posses se d,: told. th e
two women that when the _baby becomes an adol~scent, th_ey shoul d
'arran ge a "marriage ceremony" (masakci.pan) to be held a't th e
ocean'. [This means that the person willhave relationship with
the rriountains and the ocean .] ' ',
The women answered that they would do it if the y, had th e
money. ' ... , ' ' ,.,,, .,.
The balian replied, 'Yes, I know that you are sh ort of money .'
She then rep eated the advice for. the benefit of her client s. '. '

II Afterwards, when ~sked about her experien ce during the sessio n,

the balian said simply that she had fallen irito tran ce-po'ssessio n
(kalinggihan) a~d would"say no more about it ..
Connor, Asch, and Asch (i986) published 'a detai led; vtirb~tim

account; and also produced an ~thnogr~ phic film , of a:tr~c e-

t medium balian named Jero, who practises in South Bali. Jei-6 is' iiot
l able to recall the feelings or perceptions she e~perie n, es d~g a
I seance . However, she 'hears her own voice from afar coming from
above her head, as if it belonged to som~o ne else' . For e:i,;~_ple,
1 this would tell her the spirit's wishes for a crem ation or post-
cremation ritual and let her know if the family halo mitt~d 'certa in
offerings. Jero uses the word 'forgetting' (engsap) to refer to .th e
change in herself when she is possessed . During i;he possessio n,
the spirit may direct her to a particular potion for the :patie'n't to
take home to treat his or her symptom s .. 'In' achie ving X~tate' of
light trance, by praying and chanting, her _personalify is transforme d.
A supernatural being takes possessio n and conver ses ''with ' th e
practitioner.' According to Connor, Asch, and Asch, some Westerne rs
believe that J. ero is a fraud when she states that she is a. '.
for others. They note that Jero's voice changes entirely in charact er
when she is possessed by the son of a petitioner in ccintrast' to
when she is possessed by a deity . It is also noted th at much of th e

. ' '
__; spe ech of the deities and spilits relaye d through Je ro is am-
biguous. (See Connor, Asch, and Asch, 1986: 96, 102, 107, 116, 127.)
All the above characte ristics were present in the tran ce-medium
balian observed by the authors, including depe rso nalization .
phenomena, pos session by spirits, possess ion by relatives , .and
transfon nation of the voice to that of the posses sed entity.

A Balian Who Treats by Physical Manipulatio n

This balian at Bangli refers to himself as a balian usada. In his
view, a balian is a mediato r in the process of re sto ring health -to
clients . He treats clients with all kinds -of problems and ailments.
He regards himself as a specialist in helping people,r idth em selves :
of evil spirits (roh-jahat) and in balancing the -body energy ...His
technique involves knowing the ene rgy centres, meridi ans, ..and
pressur e points of the body (urat-saraf). He uses ~his '.en ergy to
cleanse clients of evil spirits, a special talent-give n to him by,,.God ;
temper ed by his study of the lontar (sacred palm leaf ;books) and
by medi tation. When he was 20 years old, he had an urg e to become
a healer and a strong desire to help_othe rs; this led -him to make
many offerings to hi s tem ple and to ask the gods if he ' sho uld pursue
such a path . He rece ived an enco uraging answer from th e gods
and was told how he should become a healer . In the tr adition of
the usada healer, he studied the lontar .serious ly for 5 years. and
through meditation he received answers to all his questio ns . It was
duri ng this time that he developed a spec ial gift for heal ing people
by usin g his spiritual energy. It is a metho d peculi ar to himself,
which he believes is given to him by God during me ditation . He_is
of the opinion that everyon e can learn to use his or her ~piritual
energy through meditation but unless one has a spiritu al calling,
one would not be able to do the type of healing that he does . He is.
quite well known and respected in his community. His son -has .
chosen to go into the field of medicine so that he may heal others
as well.
Patients, dressed semi-formally in sar ong and sash, come to his
office with offerings and donations of rupiah . Thi s balian always
dr esses completely in white . He treats about 20 patie nts in a, day,
the typical treatment for one client lasting about 20 minu tes. Clients
are always accompanied by friends or family memb ers.
He has regular methods for treating all clients. After his mantr a. -
introduc tion of the client to the god, prayer, re quest to th e god -to
cur e the client, and a ritual sprinkling of himself with som e .holy

water, he steps up to the client, who :is seated in-a chair in his treat-
ment room. --He begins by opening up a 'pos itive'energy channel'
on top of the client's head. This is done by parting the haii ,--puttin'g
two drops of coconut oil which has bee n blesse d on ,the head ,, and
rubbing the spot with -the ,middle finger of his righ t hand as :-he
chants a mantra. He then blows a .breath of 'unse en-.white fire' down
through the top of the head of the person, and quickly follows this
up by tou~hing the main pressure points on the patient's body.
Then he applies light pressure to the neck, shoi.tld ers'.arms, elbows,
legs, and knees, pointing wiH1his index finger's on:each side of th e
chest at the heart, the solar plexus, and the stomach. He then begins
to feel the spots where the -.evil spirit is residing, in the client,
beginning with the back of the neck;;w.ith :the right hand pressing
firmly on the muscles .Theri .he holds the patient's arm outstr.etched
and blows into the palm in a straight line down the length of-the
arm : He will know where the evil-spirit is when the white fire -that
is travelling through the person ..creates sparks at the point where
they meet Quite often, he .senses spots of imbalance in the neck.
He concentrates on the specific areas where the evil ,spirit is .located
by applying pressure with -his fingers on the arm and upper. body
or with his heel on.the leg,Jmee, or foobThis causes considerable
pain -as indicated by the patient's wincing and ;-cryfug out --; Only
when the evil spirit has left :the person will he <rio longer ex-
perience any pain.: The treatmei:J.Lis completed when thm -balian
touches those areas which ,were painful -before but are no 'longer
so, indicating that the evil spirit has l_eft. , ,__,.
This balian was observed on a number of occasions treating
more than a dozen clients for various complaintsi One of h is clients
was a 34-year-oldwoman, a Western graduate student in psyc;hology; ,
who had come to him for treatment of an ovarian tum our, He
asked the client if she wished to be treated .or be given advice;.and
she said she wanted to be treated . He did not ask-about her.-prob-
lem nor did she tell him. He prepared himself \ a ritual :mantra
and holy water blessing for the client. He first opened up .-an
energy channel on top of her head in order to esta blish a free flow
of energy. He explained that this was to open the fontanelle so that
he could see what was happening in her body.:,He was
visualize coloured smoke which told him wher e the .problem .was
and what it was- an evil spirit. He then blew on h er head and
started touching the pressure points, accordin g ito his ritual.
Palpation of her neck and shoulders elicited excrucia ting paili, --As
the recipient of the possessed god, he blew power on to his left

-~-= ,_
. :- .. ~ ;

elbow, then on to his right hand, and after tha t h e felt he r ,elbow.
He then stepped on the dorsum of his e,lient's foot ,with his heel
and said, 'She has a weakness, not an illness or, a ,pain.' Headded
that the client 'always complains about her ,weakness [fatigue and
lack of energy]'. Suryani asked him what the problem was and he
replied that it was 'caused by the supernatural', possib ly because
the patient had made a mistake in another place wh ich ,was
manifest by the evil spirit entering her. He continued; fFor
example, she might have gone to . a .. temple , during , her
menstruation and that is the reason she is tired. It is 'cause d by .the
evil spirit' Addressing the client, he said, 'Fortunately you .came
here . If you were to go home ,to America , no one could h andle ,this
there.' He explained further that 'Bali is magic . Sometim e$ visitors
who come to Bali get sick. Bali is different from the rest of
Indonesia: it has more magic .'. r .. ,",
He felt the client's neck again, causing -henr great deal .of pain :
He claimed that he did not touch ~her .,very ,hard. ~He:then ,fotiched
both her arms and commented, .'Now .yqur-don'.td eel anya.pain;
although I touched your -arms in the sam e way as-before .' -i,,-.::..<:: ,.
He then applied pressure on her, knee ,wjth his bare fooJj ..wlch
elicited severe pain. He said to Suryani , 'I touched her very. lightly.
After the evil spirit is thrown out, she will feel no pain.: He e~plaj.ned
that if she had no disord .er from an e~ spirit, she woull not feel
any pain. He then stood on her knee : againwith ,his foot i:ind this
time it was not at all painful.
Suryani then asked him about the .tumour .- 'It -willtak e, a,.long
time.' He said, 'Its cause is not supernatural but natur al. It is :better
and more quickly treated by doctors. Why not ' Th e client
responded that she was scared of surgery .. $uryani explained :to
him that her surgeon in America was planning to operat e ;on.this
tumour. He agreed to try to treat it and proceeded to blow on-,his
arm while touching the patient, felt her back again, blew:on his
hand, felt her arm, blew breath on her head, th en palpated ?her
abdomen and her head, none of which wa~ painfuJ..-H e asked ,the
client how it felt and she replied that it tickled. Holding her waist,
he blew again on his arm to drive out the evil spirits and asked her
if she felt any pain. Sherepijed, 'No.: He appe.are d t:0have_finished

his treatm ent and said that he thought he could treat her problem.
He asked her if she could come again for two more tr eatmen.'ts. __ _
After the balian came out of trance, he verbalize d aspects p{hls
treatment. As the smoke from the incense enter ed his body, h~felt
warm; he sensed his body getting bigger, and then he was imbued

i'. .

.,.__, - ...

with the power of the god to . treat illness and -other problems .
During treatm ent, he was possessed by the god Sara swati, a mani-
festation of the . supreme God. He explained .that each part of the
client's body which was painful at his touch was an encounter
between the god' s power and the evil spirit; he believed th at god's
power effected the cure by extruding the black magic.
After the treatme nt, the client admitted t11at she did in facLhave
a physical problem of weakness and severe malaise brought on by
ingesting sugar -in any form, such as. soff .drink s, candy, or
doughnuts. This condition, which had affected h er for abou t
10 .years, began around the time she lived for sever al months in
Indonesia. All sorts of medical tests and examinations in America
failed to yield a diagnosis and nothing had helpe d. Th e following
day, when she tested the balian's 'cure' by tak.irig. a soft drink and
eating cake, she did not experience any negative symptoms. Follow-
up on this client 6, 12, and 18 months later in the United States re-
vealed that the sugar/tiredness problem did not re cur . However,
~ecause of her brief stay in Bali, this client was not able to.return
to the balian for further treatment of he r tumour. It was subsequently
sur gically removed and proved to be endo metrios is.'.

A Balian Who Uses Trance, Chlnes ,e ci ~ins, an d L oh'tar

.fc<' :

This balian, a Balinese who practises in De npasar ,,utilizesdrance

and old Chinese coins in his treatme nt. According-to him,.the god
Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge) appears durin g h is-trance

and conveys to him the advice he delivers. When-the author s visited
him, he had no clients, so Suryani presente d herself as a patient.
First he prayed to request the god Saraswati to he lp him because .a
client had come to see him. After this brief ceremon y, he asked
Suryani to take some Chinese coins from ' each of two sta cks :on a
I plate. She took several from each stack and h anded them ,to.him.
He quickly arrang ed the coins around the plate and after looking
J. at this arrang ement for several secon ds, he picked up a lontar to
I. determine her reason for coming to see him. He sta ted:
l' Yo1:1want to know about a man who has a prolJlem with his job , His
't income has decreased; his livelihood has decreased; his effort" has

I decreased. He must avoidthe 'friends' who want to destroy his work if he

wants to succeed in his job because he has a good livelihood and hegets
good results from his usual work:He hastwo wives-but he does not have
I any big problems from them. He does not need drugs or treatment, but he
must take a holiday, a break, to becon:iecalm and relaxed, so that'he :can
make good decisions.

Halfway into his 'reading' of the lontar, Suryani obse rved that,
alth ough he - looked intently at the lontar and appear ed to be
following the words with hts index finger, the lontar was blank an_d
without inscriptions at all. On several subseq uent occasions, he
rep eat~d his performance : he appeared to be readi ng without hes-
itation, as if the words were written . This phe nomenon is compare
able to automatic writing in a state of hypnos is.
_'\.fter this seance , Suryani contacted he r brothe r and l~arned
that what the balian had said was true . She had not previously known
the extent of his problem s at work and she had wrongly suspected
that he had problems with one of his wives .

A Balian Who Extracts Bones from Clients

This balian was observed on a num ber of differ~~t occasio,ns
treating more than 20 different clients , ranging :,j.n age ,from
3 months to 65 years . There w,ere a]?pu_t equ?J,.Il"\lf!1bersof majes
and females . From about one-tl_iirdo( these, th~.,qaljqn extr ~cted
bones during his very p?-i,nful, massage -of the, cUent. On ,;~ach
occasion , 1--6 bo_nes wer,e extracted -, some l9ng and sharp , others
sh aped like kernels or small pebbles . The_se,us_ually ~e from the
umbilicus but there were some from the abdomen, beh ind the
knee and from the back of the head. During this procedure, all
these patients experienced or evidence d behaviour indicating
excruciating pain . Often tl1ere were signs of trauma to the skin
with some redness and swelling at the site of the bo11eextr action.
Although the authors and several colleagues watched this balian
closely during all his manipulations, it was not possible to establish
that he might have concealed these bones in his han d pr;ior J9
th eir removal from the clients . The balian explained that thes _e
pieces of bone and the associated pain of removal were
manifestations of evil spirits; the removal of such evil _spirits ;WOtJld
lead to a cure. Following treatment, clients were frequent ly given a
prescription or remedy that they could take . home, usu al).y ?TI
organic substance. For example, the balian's wife ,would ask the
client to name something th_ey, could -use. to help :-them selves,-to
keep them in balance . The client would usually choose the balian's
medication, 1usually a certain leaf or flower to ingest or a,noint
Clients interviewed immediately after treatment generally
indicated feelings of relief and satisfaction . . -
A young physician from America presente d him self as a clieqt to
this balian because he be treated for high blood pressure .
Suryani accompanied him and brought the appropriate special


.. .. "\ -~

,: --:,!_


offering to the temple at the balian's house .-The balian 's wife/w h o
usually prayed and ministered to the clients upon their,ariival ,
appeared to fall into trance immediately , as was' evident: by-th e
closing of her eyes, fluttering of her eyelids, flattening of her -facial
expression, and changes in her 'voice, manne r 'of' speak:ing/ -artd

gestures . She asked; '\Vhat do you nee d?':Suryani answered / W e

want to know what the problem is that he has', referrin g to' h~r
colleague and phrasing her ; statement so ."a:i,(to -'test' th e:balian to
see if he would know. She responded , 'I know that you arebere to
test me.' At that point Suryan1 denied it -The womart to nt:inue"d"; He
has a problem in the mind ; he has difficulty' conc~ntr ating, he , is
losing his memory, and he is confused . His main problem lies in
the food he eats.,It makeihim that V:J.Y SomeRW,~~his:.,, thought s
are empty. To treat his problem , he must eat more vegetables .'
The young physician told Suryani that what she had said:was tru e
to some -extent He said that his hyp ertension rwis redui!ed'.,whe n
he ate more vegetables . 'He proceeded with his trea tme nt: by<this
balian, who massaged h is abdomen io rcefully and "then !removed '
a small sliver of bonetrom his umbilicus ? a very pamful experienc e
indeed because of the deep, sustained pressure applied by '.the balian
to this spot Three days later, the umb ilical soreness ha d)Si'.ibsided
and he reported feeling calmer and less confuse d.-Suryani c;1dvise d
him to stop taking his "anti-hyperte ns ive medication becausk -She
felt that his hypertension ' was primarily~a 'psych'ologicalliproblem
and at this point, his blood pressure was nomial Daily repe at
blood pressure measurements over-20 subsequent days were also
normal. ,While he attributed this change mainly '.to th e ' balian 's
' ' treatment, another factor could have played . a-role: ever.y::day he 0
I ,
also performed Suryani's technique of 'heal ing,meditatiorr'fl(see
Chapter 8). . ,., ..,
The balian's wife, who was not a balian, also went into tran ce
and behaved in some respects -like a balian. In tranc e, sh e,appeat ed
to demonstrate psychic abilities; for example, she could .discern
the client's motivation and problems . According to the tli erit,.,she
was fairly accurate . This was the first time tliat th e authors have
observed a balian working with his wife as a team. ,,
Jensen and one of his Western colleagues submi tted themselv es
for treatment by this balian in order to experience his work at first
hand . Although he had not been briefe d by either client; the body
parts he worked on proved to be the area s for which;eaohhad
sought help. His physic:al treatment s included hard pressure with
the stone of a ring on the terminal bone of the 'client's fingers '.and

~;; .

toes; hard, deep massage on the abdomen; ard intense .pres sur.e on
body parts (i.e. back of the head or the umbilicus) to -'remove'. the
bon e, all of which produc ed excruc iating pain. Afterwards, .both
Jens en and his colleague were convinced that he did_not rew ove a
piece of bone from either of t.-iem; he surreptitj oqsly made _it
appear as if he did. He showed all observer s the sharp ly point~d
piece of bone that he had ostensibly remove d, about 2.5 centi-
metr es long by 1 centimetre wide, but he would not allow them to
handle or keep it, and he quiclsly concealed it ,The effects;_of the
treatm ent were bqth .p~l and traumatic (phy&kally and ,ewo-
tiorn~lly) _and were . not at all thfrap ,e~tis:. Wile Jensen W?? -~on-
v:'wced that the . 'hope wqrk' .wa~ Jri~kery,7 two, Biillllese rp.~,c:liqtl
colleagues did not this w,_ay. , Q~;the contrary, several q~~ts
indicated to them that he was genuin e,in,what be-did::they actally
:saw the . piece of bon~ _.b_eing ,remoY.~~;,-~s J-1~ ai-~r,h ad ~)~~g-
standin g reputation of ~ore than 25-:. ears_:t9r:~uc:c~_s;;ful li~?Ji_g;
clients came from far and .wide_-tp. se,e.him;. q., d--tlie-Yi
, t>eliev~ :tp~t
his treatments .had different effects on individuals: This evidence,
combin ed with belief, was so strong that it o"ve~od~ their Western
logic and scientific knowledge . .. . -- . '
Even if this traditional healer's bone removal tech nique was
'charlatanism' in the Western sense , this ir~ul d 'not nec~1sarily
detract from the healing power oi the entire .proced ur e for.~some
clients. The procedtrre could be ther~peutically .significant :~v: ~;~1
because of elements other than the ~one remov_al_per-se, su_~l;i,~s
the ventilation of emotions, the palpable and painful aware ne?_s ..l?Y
the client that something definite was being done; _,the emotional
exhortation associated with the pain, the belief u_1~e .supemat;ural
aspects of the problem or ill..'1ess,and faith in the healing,procedures ,

A Balian Who Uses Mas_sage

' : < _ ;r.7; .!t-:("~

This small, slender, wiry, 60-year-old man had _been -~f,arme! aU-!Jis
life at Batubulan near Denpasar when one day, 6 years ago,._hewas
spontaneously po.ssess ed at a religious ceremony and_y.,as tq~dJ?Y-~
god to become a balian. He _declined and .in ~e following year ,,his
crops failed, his cows and died, and he feared that he himself
would die unless he became a balian . At_the time, his sister;in-l~w
who had always had a difficult time with delaye d d~liveri~s;:-,and
now was pregnant for the fifth time, .was in her ninth m<?_nth _of
pregnancy. He vowed then that if s}:ie deliv~red now, he would
become a balian, and she promptly delivered .without any pro_bl_ems .


I Subsequently, many people .with illnesse s came 'to consult him and
I he has practised steadily since . A num ber 'of' Suiy ani's psychiatri c
I patients had been successfully treate d by him . _,'.. ' -
I His method of therapy involved mass age, for -which, he_- explalned,
he did not need to be trained, having been given the skill by th e
gods: The authors had a massage by him, obsei-ved nim' ti-eating
each other, and questioned him about what ha ppen ed as he mas-
saged . He said that his hands and fingers moved by th emselves as
if they were under 'another power' , and that h~ did not have to
think about how massage, even' when he set fractures or 'fepiaced
dislocated joints . It was evident that he-use d up a1ot of energy'and .
muscular strength while he was massagin g, but he said'he didnot
feel tired even when he 'treated up to five 'clients in mo'rn\~g .
Du1ing the interview before massage , he was .rath er distant and
socially awkward . In contrast during mass age/ he was frieiid1y'and
spoke fluently, arid he was ablJ; to conv~rse o_ii.' a"v'ariefy of social
topics. He reported experiences of possession at temple ceremo nies.
These data indicate that this balian was in tran ce and probably
possessed while carrying out his massage trea tr{,_en t. .. .
!I Clients of Balian Who Fall into Tran ce -pos se ss ion
At a small village north of Klungkung, a balian usada (wlic{ uses
lontar) specializes in treating clients possesse d by an evil sp'irit or
black magic which causes bebainan (see Chapter' 7). Many of his
clients fall into trance-possession during treatme nt.' He is'a wjp.ower
., with nine children, a very jovial, animated,' arid talkative iriari who
was happy to discuss his work, particularly when he learn.Eid that
Suryani is from the royal family''tt e wore :two large
rings inset with big stones on each hand . A ring with a very large ,
carved evil spirit's head , on it-:-the - hea q o_L Bqma, which looks
I, somewha t like Rangda- was placed on a shelf apove his heaq. in
view of his clients . This was one of his two _'test'-''{penuea) qofe'cts .
If a client sees this ring and it appears bigge r than it is in;realfty, it
indicates that the client is possessed by_~n evil spirit. Ario1;li. ef test
Ii a
object is a metal cylinder which appears to 'be pewter salt shaker
!~ about 2 centimetres in diameter and 4 centjmetr es !orig. 1:esting
with this involves placing it on the forehead _of the client and
holdipg it there firmly for several minutes'. Patient s wlio:are
. I
diagnosed by him to be possessed by an evil spirit or black magic,
' which is the cause of the complaint or illness which th ey pre sent,
; ~ I
fall into trance with eyes closed, shaking the ir bo dy. sometim es
screaming and crying, and stiffening the ir extremi ties, as if they
r N:'''
~:'.,- ,,
.: -
.' .-.:r . ,:,
are experiencing considerable pain. The metal cylinder is -pressed
against the client's forehead for abo ut 3- 5 minutes more, and the
client then comes out of trance if the black magic has been'catised
by an evil spirit from the island of Lombok or from East Java. If the
evil spirit originates from West Java, the trance lasts about 10rriin-
utes . If the evil spirit is from Bali, the trance may fast up to 3 hoiii-s,
which , according to him, indicates that the Balinese black magic is
exceptionally strong . During the time tha t the client is in trance,
the family may witness concrete evidence of the black magic ih.the
form of hair or a large beetle extruded from the client Duiilif the
trance, the client's verbalizations, crying, and yelling are regarded
as those of the evil spirit who possesses them . Following the
trance, the client . may have complete amnesia reg arding the
episod e, and experiences feelings of ;el ief'or cairn, presumahiy
from reliefof the problems ot symptoms. . : . . . J. ::'-. ,
An 18-year-old Balinese college ' studenhho accompahleo:the
authors submi tted himself for a 'check -up' . Suryanl'held tlie'metal
cylinder fumly to his forehead for sever'al 'minutes and th'eif the
balian placed a wooden peg; about 1 millimetre in diameter, 'with
small knobs on the surface, between the fingers of his left hand.
1hi s had no effect until it was place d between the thir d arid'fourth
fingers, at which point it immediately evoked excruc iating pain,
causing the young man to wince, writhe, and cry out The pain lasted
for about 2 minutes and then completely disappeared. Th e' balian
explained that black magic had been placed in him at his school by
a girl who loved him and wanted to cast a spell on him and that the
pain was due to the exit of the black magic -from.his body . When
the pain disappeared, he was declared free of the black magic. The
authors' Western explanation of the phenome non was that the
young man experienced pain as a manifestation of tranc e.
Half of the clients who experienced tran ce-possessi on with .this
balian were men and half were women; they range d from acioles-
cents to old people but most of them were young adults. One
elderly woman did not appear to the auth ors to be in tr ance but ,
:iccording to the balian, she was, as indicated by the paleness of
her face, a change in her breath ing, and sleepiness while the rriefal
cylinder was placed on her forehead . Th e total time that the cylinder
was placed on the forehead was approximately 5 minutes. This
indicated to him that she had black magic frorri a Muslim and
whatever problem she had did not need furthe r curative work
because the black magic had been remove d. Not allof the clients
who came to him fell into trance-possessio n and manifested
bebainan; with these clients he used the lontar to give advice.

',_ -
,._ .,-...,

The clients come to him from all over South Bali an d-are .awar e
th at~e is a spe~ialist in treating beb_ai~~'J,:,~ 's ed ~f.
ses sion of evil spirit or black magic. Perh aps .this is the ,:~a.son th at
~s clien ts are prone to enter; _trcice-possessi c;n1_,c;l.tgin g his ,rih!~ stic
.treatmen t pi::ocedure . Whe re as it is quite co~ pn to ,s~~ -clie nts
ent er a trance S1teduring tr eatment by a ba(ian,-_thi s is only o,ne of
two balian observ _ed .whose -patients -~nte r ,trance-po sse ~ion _:i:this
rathe r ritu~stic pattern qp.d apparentl y un some contro}_py th e
balian ..'.Th..i
s r epr,ese~ts a par-allelt o V,1.'.'
est<':rn _hypn9 the rapy ,., ...,
I _. Q_b 9E!_rvations-of anq14er b_alfan -irr-)5:ltig~ g J urt:4,~,:;iillj1strate
,trance in clients:1his middle-aged balian, also ..a:juni or high sch ool-
I \

teach er, treats patients in h._ishome .-He e~plitln_ed th at m~t ,qJLwhat

he knows _as well as his healing powers wa -gi~en to !umby,,~od
during .meditation. He b~lieves tha_t anyone -~ !earn -.ie1):l<;>;q s of
h ealing through meditation. 'fl1is balian_r.a~;~ -M of b):'.?.-y9-~p ,an.d
arrogaIJ.ce , ofte~ ~elling l:!veryone l1o~v._po.)V~r..ful,he is ~-.H!::enj oys
I r elating specifi c instances -of his ap q ,.5t9rie s a_q,cwt-pe ople
11 from around the world . who _have come to obs h im and , study
with him. He is ;;ery e~ge r -to t~ach 'wh~t l}e kn~ y,rs an tj~~o disc uss
l' i'. his work with anyone . In so doing, he is gene rou_9 an d p~ti~.nt-.
The .first client was a 70-year-old mci y.rho com plained;9fb,eada che
and stomach fullness of 10 years' duratio n -for whi ch he _had .s e en
many doctors and tr aditional healers with ou! ~ucce ss . H~
s~id h is
head felt like it was frozen , tha t it did not wo rk _right, ,.and ;he s till

had a head ache . Three d,ws- previo~sly , he pa ~ ,had hi\, ;fir,s/) :rea_t-
ment by this healer. After -his prayei:: and, mari-tr a, th ~- bq{ia1_J, _lit ,a
handful of inc ense and passed the smoke ove r th e ba c~ a.I).d-4pp er
,, body of the client He then placed stick -like instru me nts .('.wan ds' ),
one on the forehead and one on the _ba c~_in :df t ~~~~ . cwh iq_ h
caused the client to experience warm th an9 , l?ain , ancU 9s ry out
uncontrollab ly and scream, writhing with an extr . . .aor
- di.Q.ary
~ . .grun
, ,~ ..
on his . face , as if in severe pain . This .beha viour l~st~d idl,bo4t
3 minutes an d then gradually subside d, at whic h po int ,the ~qliari
said that he was pressing just as }:lard with the wan ds but t;h~y1.were
._no longer painful because the black magic had left. After ,the f ir st
'treatment, the client said that gi hea da~h~ ~; s som ~~~ ~t~J?ett~r
and afterI
this treatment , he felt even better . He sta te d-that he. felt
happier and more comfortable and that h_:could now ..rel ax in
contrast to feeling tense before the treatme nt. He appear ,e.d , ve ry
much at ease after the treatment an d was happy to ta).k-about the
treatment and his improvement
The next client observed .was a 28-year-o ld marri e d y.rqman , ac-

;~ !
' .
. .~--,:
,;. . '~

. ,7.,~--:r ['
...--Jri..,_J:-.- -

...., - _=
.,.. ...
.. . . .-'..:.~-~-
- ,
.::::. -_._

~- .>- ,--

compani ed by her husbarid, ,'Who complained of pain' all over .her
. body, including her head and her .abdom en; this pain ha d :.been
going on for 5 years and she had also sou gh t help from a number
of doctors, again without any sign of relief. This was her eighth
visit to this healer. Under observation two week s previo us ly,,she
re sponded much like the patient described above, with extreme
pain and emotional and uncontrollable crying as he placed the wands !
on her chest and forehead. On this visit; she experien ced re latively
little pain from the same treatment, although she cried a bit She
looked much healthier and more at ease than she had on ithe
earlier visit She reported that her pains were not compl etel y;gone
but were about 75 per cent cured, and she was able to eat better : .:
Both of these patients appeared to be in a state ottran ce diiririg
the treatment, as indicated by a change in sensatio n cresul ting in
pain at one point and rel ease of it at another, under sim ilar con-
ditions. They also express themselves _iq a very pri@tive,
uncontrolled manner, comparable to the way' irifanftri es ~ tlfuut
being able to say what is wrong with.himself . This kind .of emotiqnal.
expression is not seen in ordinary -Balinese life;. exc ept tunder
special conditions; such asotrance . In,tenns oWestern diagnosis,
it seemed likely that both the above clients had a sorilatoforrnf.dis-
order which in the West is generally treate d with psych otherapy
and medication, although it may also be treate d with hypn oth erapy.
A third client who complained of discomfort .in her .abd om en:was
treated by this balian in the same manner . as the first two clients
ab ove but experienced no pain from the t0uch ,of. his twan d~:iff;he
balian pronounced that she did not suffer- from black magic ; but
rather had a physical problem . . - . , , ,.,.: ,,
A possession disorder was observed in a client 'treat ed hy the
balian usada in Bangli who specialized -in prob lems caus ed .by ,evil
spirits . This was a 55-year-o1d woman who had a variety of somatic
symptoms. The balian first went through his ritual of pray er , and
mantra and the patient also prayed . The balian began with )his
standard massage technique to .the client's neck which .caused 1her
suddenly to twitch and shake .violently.'As he applied mor e pressure
to her neck with his hand, she -began to shout and a spiri t began ito
speak through her. It said it did not want to leave1her and<i.Mola
how it had been living in her body, moving . around :inside it Her
voice at this time was noticeably different from her -usu al and she
began to move differentl y too. The balian put more -pres sure on
her neck and he stated that the spirit -was now moving from rher
hips to her throat and that he was going to force it out of her mouth .



The sphit then began speaking in a high voice, soi.mding ,very

agitated: , After lli.e patient gave a final shudder ofrher. body~j the
balian , said that the e~J spirit had left and the _patien t felt , im-
mediate relief . The balian explained that the evil spirit h ad. been
iiisid~. her for 15 days and thaLshe was now cured becau se it:had
-left.her. ,. .. .!,'-
_: Part of the foregoing report represents .the balian's -inter-
pr etation but part of it is also consistent with a state ofpos se ssion,
.as indicated by the changed quality of the ,-woman'.-s :voic e as :an ._?
entity. spoke through her. Her closed eyes and los s of usual facial
expression are also indicative of a trance state . _The : trea tm ent in .J
this case consisted essentially __ofan exorcism of the i evil spirit .A
similar instance of possession disorder was observe d in a,.cas'e [(
treated with hypnotherapy by Surya1}.i(see Chapte r 8).
;, .:- .

A 'Balinese
.- .. Bati an'.
Experienc e ~. th -

A practising Balinese physician . trained in Weste m -medic in~rWas

interviewed . about his experiences with an attitudes towards
traditional healers . He rela ted .detailed personal expe rienc es similirr
to those of the trance-mediums' sessions reported abov.e whi crh-h.e
consi dered as valid, meaningful, and helpful contacts and me ssages
from the gods or spirits of his . ancestors: , Altho ugh .1he had . no
formal education regarding traditional healers and :no professional
contacts with .any, .he. kne w th em :through .his own childh ood and
family'experiences and he resp ected them.
He related . his personal experiences : with tradition al he aling as
follows U. Isherwood, personal communication) . After his yuwiger
sister was killed . in a motor vehicle accident, . he . and -the l dead
woman's husband and daughter . went to a balian ..The .healer.:;w.erit
into, trance-possession, and without being told .the reaso n focth eir
visit,- suddenly-cried out and, smacking : herself hard on the .Jiead,
said .that she , was dead. In this . manner. the, healer ..act ed out the
pairr and fatal. blow to th e deceased sister's head in th e inotor
vehicle accident. The sist er's sphit then spoke through th e healer
to her . daughter, calling her .by name and also , men tion ing: ~
incident known only to the husband : namely, 'thatthe dead woman
had been seen at home starin g into space and thinking about.death
just a few days before the accident
This physician related two other expe riences with tr aditional
healers .. After his mother's death, the family visite d .a. healer and
upon entering into trance-possession, the healer change d posture

, . -~
'!! ~-
7 .,

and sat just as his mother often did and spo ke with phr ases that
sounded . very much like hers . The physi cian -recoun ted an even
more remarkable event that oq:u,rred . at a visit to ~: balian .br,
family after he had been seriously injur~d in a moto r .vehicle
acc ident. Without being told anything about the accident, the
balian told the family that their son was se riou sly hurt, ' Bali
but in Sulawesi (an island in Indonesia) , that he would no t .die but
would take a long time to recover, and that th e accid ent was sent
to remind the family of an important ancest or, one of the sons .of a
king from Klungkung'. When the family aske d, why it h ad been
necessary to call attention to -their ancest or in .this way, th e healer
said that there had been a previous attemp t to draw_th eir attention
to this matter when a boy in the extended family had bee n injured
by a needle in his eye . After learning this , the family .made eIJ,gunies
at Klungkung, located the ancestor's templ e 1 an d mad e appn;>priate
offerings and ceremonies . The injured doctor recovered as pi;~dic;ted.
This physician regarded _traditional -healinK ~s a ;p.9sitive J;rr~ntal
health resource for the Balinese . His grandfathe r v.,: as a tr a9,itional
healer. In spite of his Western. m~dical edu~ tjon ,,-h~ mai nt;aw.ed a
firm belief in consultation with balian and woul d -se ek h elp from
them if he had similar problems in the future .

Balian and Shamans .: A Comparison

The phenomenology and methodology of the trance- me diums in
Bali are comparable in many respects -to th~ practices of shaman s
in China and in central India, both of which have an ancie nt history
(fseng, _1976) . They enter . into trance-pos~e ssion .and explaip th e
supernatural causes of the patient's probl ems or.ili ess anct!give
advice consistent with cultural beliefs in supernatur al caus-es of
illness and religiously based concepts of res toring , inte rper-s9nal
harmony . A vari ation of Hie practice of these tranc e-medium sh;unan
is a self-mutilation compol}ent (Fuchs, 1964; Li, 197p), which doe s
not occur in Bali.
,While the process and techniques of balian ,can be compare d
with Wes tern psychotherapy and wjth East ern -sha man ism; :in:.a
number of aspects it is additionally illumin ating to co mpare , th e
work of balian with that of American lndi an, shaman healers. Halifax
(1992) identified what she referred to as eight : 'modes' of trea t-
ments used by shamans, all of which rel ate to the 'pra ctical.proces s
of healing the rift between the self and .other' . All of the mod~s of
the shamans, except one, are strikingly similar to ,th ose obser,ved

?::~ .:.;,.=
.: . ~...

in the balian; this is especially astonis hing when one considers

that not only are the two cultures separated by half ' a world' 'out
they are unrelated and have no contact with each oth~r. Th e eignt
modes are given below:
l .' The aspect of enchantment is revealed in"the proces s of c~re-
..''" mony: the physical aspects of creating a sacred 'gr ound or place,
: songs or mantras, herbs, and the psychic aspect of concentration:.
Cer emony is further structured to create a 'field' wher e every-
thing is seen as magic; through concentr ation, the magic is
brought out. The power spot refers to the sacred 'pli!Ce where
' 'minding'; or concentration, allows the evocation of the power :-'
2. The shaman is awake and lucid, functioning as -if in a dream,
and he may become part of the patient's state of conscious ness .
It is essential that the shaman should be able to retai n or re-
store control of himself and return to a state of reality after' his
seances .
3. The shaman reconciles and counsels .He reconcil es opposing
realms of thought and counsels his ' clients on relationslups;,
such as the relationship with God. , :._.. '
4.- The shaman is able to see into the future, and can unders tand
the causes and effects of life's' experien ces.THe may be able to
predict how one lives and how one needs to live.
5. The shaman is a pathfinde r or guide . Metaphqriq1lly speaking,
- ~, .J .... ~-l-, ' ........
he is able to see 1J1epath in the darkest territory, just as a wolf
is able to find the trackless way. In this mo'de, the sham an helps
the patient explore 'territory' (experien ces) not previously
interpr ete d or described: . . -; ) ,,
6. 1t1e use of the 'plants' intelligence' refers to the natural botaru:ciil
medicinal s, of which there are many, ': . , .. , ,; i:;-,. ,"){.;f ! 'i

7. The shaman experiences an ~cstatic state or state -of trance''o'r

,posses sion in which he makes magical flights which '.involve his
-spirit leaving this world to jo'in othe r spirits: ,, .. cr-:.; 1
8. The shaman is also an 'ordinary' person . ' , , :, ,
All of the above aspects of shamans' work are similarly chru!ac-
teri stic of the work of balian except for the shaman' s magic flignts.
Another: -mode of the shaman not see n in the i balian ' is th at 'in
which the shaman goes on a journey in which he dies and is
reb orn. Balian may go on a journey through the client's bodyand
extract malevolent spirits that have intruded. An ability of some
balian which is similar to shaman journeying; and which is learned
from the lontar, is to travel to another town to visit a perso n whoin
he usua lly threatens to harm or kill. Such a balian is then regarded
as a leak. The Balinese people caution against learning this ability.

Western Channellers
Channelling is a relatively new term for a process -descri be d asthe
transmission of information which appears to come from li per
sonality sotrrce outside of the conscious mi.ridand which is purposely
directed towards an audience (Hastings, 1991). The phen omenon
of modem-day Aniericari channellers is similar to that of Balinese
tranc e-mediums in several ways. In one form of channelling a person
goes bto trance and another 'being' speaks through him/her; in
a manner similar to possession states (Hastings, _1991: 11, 12).
Hastings (1991: 2, 71) considered the possibility that channelling
may be a non-pathologic~ form of multiple personali ty or 'dis-
sociated subpersonalities', secondary personalti es, and he elaborated
on the theory that channelling is a process of the uncons cious 'inind
communicati ng with the conscious mind in the form of a voice or
entity. Chann ellers experience entities near t'1enis~lvds or entering
info their bodies, a process many refer to -as'!lble~ding' (by' wfiich
they mean a harmonious merging)' term they ' prefer in contrast
to the concept of 'domination by possession; (Hughes, 1989? They
exhibit varying degrees of amnesia foncerriing "their experiences
(Hughes, 1989). Some channellers' entities have ~haiact erist!cs 6f
modern Western culture (e.g. they may come 'from ' outer space)
and differ from other cultures in that they do not repres ent familiar
embodied persons who have lived on earth before .'This difference
illustrates how the experience of trance in channelling is culturaliy
determined : beliefs and ideas about trance states det ermi ne their
c,mtent. Hughes (1989) interviewed channellers befor e and after
trance and he also interviewed the channelled entities th emselves.
The latter report using the channeller's 'tool kit vocabulary and
symbol system' to give expression to their ideas: Both channe llers
and their . entities speak of 'signatory sensati ons' , 'which enable
them to identify each other . The channellers describe their motiva-
tion as 'personal growth' and as, being of service to other s'. Chan-
nelling can be viewed as an inherently religious activity (Hughes,
. 1989).

Western Psychiatric Treatment of Balinese P atie nts

. . .
Psychotic Balinese patients, those . who _manifest delusions,
hallucinations, thought disorganization, and changed affect (e.g.
mania)' such as is typical for schizophrenia, bipolar affective dis-
order, and certain acute psychoses, who are brought to traditional
healers and not cured, are often referred by the healer s or brought


by their family for treatment by psychiatrists and are likely to_be

hospitaliz ed .at either Udayana General Hospita Lin Penpas ar
the mental hospital at Ban.gli, Baii.TI1ere the y are ,treat~d ,vith '.con-
ventional Western pharmacotherapy, especially major tranq uillizers
such as TI_-loraziQe, chlopromazin~, and halopericloL M~st of th_~m
res pond to such therapy, by becoming asyrqptomatic but not
cop:ipletely well, and are return~d to their homes , after .a 1-2-week
hos pitalization. Their families again take them for trea tme nt by
traditional healers and carry out ritual ceremonies ,tl-iat are re-
commended : It is clear from the authors' clinical experien ce .that
the major psychoses are more effectively treated and managed
with the adjunctive modern -pharmacotherap y. How.ever, some
psychotically ill patients are resistant to pharmacothe rapy; they
become chronically ill and require long-term hospita liz?tion, as h~s
occurred in the West.
In the following case treated. by Suryani, a 31-year -old tra ditional
healer who lived near Besakih suffered fro~ daily attacks of panic
(with palpitations) lasting 1-2 hours, which made ,him feel as if he
was going to fall down .and die. Although he was reputed to .be a
very clev~r man (reportedly able dead .chickens back,,to
life), he was unable to cure himself and had been ~uffer.hlgfor -four
years. He worrried incessantly about the possibility of a repeat
attack. He came to Suryani as a private patient and she .,trea te d .l;\im
with the ~edication~ Amineptine and Clobasam. After tlvee months '.
treatment, he returped .to normal, relatively: symptq_mfr .ee. Sipce
th.~n, he has had only 011emild attack but he contin ues . to worry
that the attacks may recur. , .
If trance-mediums and other types of traditional healers of Bali
have implications for -Western medicine and mental health ., it would
appear to be in their demonstration of the effectivi=~~ss of M,C,
t:4erapists' intuition, and th_epowerful healing etfects of belief py
the .therapist, the client or patient, and the respec .tive families.
Th ese elements offered by Balinese culture suppo rt and _may
broaden the views and skills of Western medical practitione rs . ..

* * *

Some_of the thousands of traditional healers (balian) in Bali utilize

tr ance and trance-possession in their work \vith clients 'and families.
Most are referred to as balian taksu or trance -mediums. Th ey -are
given their skills by the gods and in therapy sessio ns bt'come
possessed by God, gods, holy spirits, or souls, enab ling clients and

.. ,;_-
- _,. i .
:--? .r.

.:..:._ ..
-=-;. ; .

~" ~ -......
family members to communicate with them and rece ive their advice.
Some balian .demonstrate psychi c ability in diagnosing th e prob:.
lem s of their clients without asking for such information from the
clients themselves . Balian give advice and trea t many types of
problems- physical, behavioural, and emotional, particularly
bereavement Many of their technique s have much in common
with Weste rn psychotherapy , including establ ishing rapport,
furni shi ng explanations of causes, allowing ventilatio n of feelings,
re lieving guilt, providing support, giving hope for the future,
assuaging ange r, discouraging revenge, and dispens ing advice for
pursuin g concrete , positive restorative goals and behaviour . Some
balian who go into trance use physical techniques such as
mass age . Tri cks or 'sleight of hand; are r arely use d: Tr eatm ent by
an individual balian often; but not always, helps with :problems and
cur es illness, even in a single session . The perso nalities of some
highly functional balian taksu rese mble th e Western condition of
multiple personality. Th e work of Chinese sham ans, Western
modem -day channellers, and Amedcan Indian shaman s shares
many similarities with Balinese trance-mediums; their differences
are culturally based . Occasionally, some balian seek Western
psych iatric help for their persona l problems and disor ders.
Th e work done by most balian, carri ed out in states of trance-
poss ession, is tied in with their cultural beliefs of the cause and
cur e of illnes s; it is always frame d in spiritual or religious terms.
Traditional he alers are quite effective in dealing with problems,
espec ially those concerning bereaveme nt and the family. Their
success in resolving problems, healing clients , and curin g diseases
attest to the power of Balinese spiritual ity. Their techn iques appear
to be no less effective when used in other cultu re s, including
Western cultures , in which spiritual or religious element s prevail.

1. Connor, Asch , and Asch (1986) provided a detailed account and produced a
film of one traditional healer at Bangli in South Bali, which illustrate s the ritual and
observed process .
2. The shaman or 'medicine man' is a parallel in other cultures . Th ir origins
may have been similar and could possibly be traced l<, the rock paintings of the
Lascaux Cave in France from the Old Stone Age (Goodman, 1990).
3. See Leirnena and Thong (1983) and Connor, Asch, and Asch (1986: 24-6) for
more details on types of techniques used by the healers.
4. The word taksu has several meanings. First, it means possessio n of a body by
a god. Secondly, it refers to an inner power- a spiritual power conferre d by the
gods - which gives an artist intelligence and genuine creativity (Bandem. 1990) and

- ...

( . - .:

helps him to_excel beyond what is customary by the normal pertorm:!l)~ ()r: ex~t;i()n
of bis art Every danc er strives to obtain taksu of this sort 'Thirdly, taksu means the
place where a balian receives a spec ial power from the gods for. th tparaphe' riiali'a
(e.g. ring and cylinder) used in treating his clients, as is the case with trad iti6nal.
heal er at Klungkung . .; '
5. It is believed .that if the family makes a mistake in the dea!h cerem ony, ,the_
ancestor god may be angry and fail to bring good fortune or help to the living family:
Because the death ceremony is elaborate , it is easy to make a 'rrristake' in some aspect
~~ - . .

6. Accor ding to Balinese legend, Ratu Gde Dalem Peed was desce nded from
God Siwa and bis wife who had intercourse whe n they J ew above the se.a -a:na
whose sperm and ovum dropped into the sea between Ba!Land the island of Nusa
Panida. The god (RGDP) is believed lo have the ability to harm or kill people who
have bee n bad and also to heip people b/p~otectin_g them <l!ldcuring .dise ase s:__,-__

7. Tricks are recognized as part of the practice of shamanism (, 1990: 101).
Th~ remark able cures and hoaxes of psychic surgery in the Philippin~s{
well described (Elaide, 1966; Leff, 1981: 109;Valentine , 1973).



-. .., ...~-

" ....
~ ....

Mass Trance-possession
in Ceremonies

TRANCERS involved in mass or communal trance-po ss~ssion fere-

monies offer another window on the trance-posse ssion 'phenomena.
They are "not characterized by the self-coritrofohlii traditi6tial
trance-medium but th~ as_sis~ce -ot;~:~lp~~s-~in thf~
mediate environment, particulariy for guidance and contr ol of'ilieir
beha viour and for termination of th~ tra:nce-pos;es;Ya~ ~i:ate. To ~se
tranc e-possession states are contagiou~:'Tue tr~c~ rs 9-_emon~~~e
unus ual physiological abilities during the tranc;e-pbsse'ssion ~rate,
such as forceful 'self-stabbing' by a kris (keris) and contacting fire
without injury, and they often experie nce the positive emotlo-nal
after-effects of possession.
#1 -

Mass Trance-possession at Timbrah

At the time of kuningan, whi~h occurs at inte~als -of 210 days by
the Balinese calendar, a small village in East Bali qas an il-~a y
celebration, one day of which involves a trance Qf80 or iore 6I ,the
villagers at once .1 This trance ceremony is one of the n'iost ri\i~ting
and emotionally climactic events a Wes tern er c~ 'witiiess. It ha s

been performed e~ery 210 days for. as long as the p~ople ~ -~e-
member. 2 Several village residents s~id that the present cerehiJriy
is on a smaller scale than the ones staged during their child~g'oa
bec9.use families today wish to spend their money on other things
such as education for their children . However, the re is no less
devotion and no change in their beliefs or values . ;'
Preparations leading up to the event include decoi-2.ting the t~mple
with banners and hanging colourful cloth a. ound . ilie .
preparing the receptacles for six gods- to be carrie
d on
~ -

f_,~- - --:.
"-. ~. ,.


frames (jolt), preparing food for all the youngste rs in the village
and for many of the adult men, making elaborate food offerings for
the gods, and practi sing the gamelan and gong . Th e day's even t
lasts all day, ending about 1.00 a.m. /
The temple ls foot, up natTow dirt paths with river
stone steps and inclines at intervals. Upon arrival at th e temple ,
one can hear the gong orchestra playing _ina pavilion at the corne r
of the outer temple grounds about 50 ri1etres , squar e, the leas t
sacred area of the temple. Just beyond this is the second temple area
and next to it is the most sacred part of the te ple. Its hig h gate in
clas sic Balinese style has six high steps gorng up and six goin g
down into the grounds.
At a mass trance-possession ceremony in this village witnessed
by the authors in 1991, about 100 people had gathe red outside th e
main temple by 4.00 p.m. Worrien were walking into th e teirtp1e
I with tall stacks of food offerings on , their heads; and J8 out _40
it 1 young boys and girls from 4 to '12 years of age wtre sitting''on the
I,, ground in a long row, stretching from the steps of th~t emple gate -lo
Il the outer temple .~grounds
~ .,,.
. 13etween

the two
'of childr en
1 ... .
\vas a
. I .1.- 1 ,

long 'table' of green banana leaves on the ground . Inside _the

r temple walls, all was quiet except for the sounds of
the ortl1e ~tra
and the _shouting of the chil_dre_n outside. Pavilions in th e tem_pl e
were stacked
. with hundreds of
: colowful
.-, food offerings.
. ~
At one side
- ; . c-, . ~

of the temple, arranged alrin a row, lay the six recep tacles'for th e
gods, each looking like a small grass house on two long bambo o
poles by which they would be carried. Just inside the tem ple gate s
were many offerings of food and rice laid out for .th e gods, who
would soon descend . In another pavilion of the _te mple was a p.gc
pile of cooked rice, presented as an offering to th e go ds; which
would ultimately be eaten by the children and the adults .3 : ' _
About 5.00 p.m., the temple priest, a woman in her sixties wearing
a white coat, came to the inner temple co blPss the offerings ad fue
rice; the 1ice was then carried on palm leaves by _five c;n _to th e
long palm leaf 'table' on t;he ground where the small children wer e
waiting to eat. They ate the rice along with roast pork (sate) and
vegetables (lawar) in traditional Balinese style, with th J fing~rs.
After the children had eaten, about six or eight group s of T-8 men
each ate rice, sate, and lawar served on palm leaves on th e ground.
The gamelan played off and 011, while villagers and a sp rinkling -
. '
tourists with cameras gathered around the edge of the outer temple
expectantly awaiting the trance ceremony . After eating , the men
gathered up the uneaten rice and cleaned up the palm leaves : Th e

_),. ; .
slit gong in the comer pavilion was struck about 30 times to call
the participants. After a few minutes; about 20 wome n with offer-
ings and effigies of the gods on their heads and the joli of the six
gods, each on bamboo poles carried by two Jo ung men (who felt
th ey had been specially cl19sen by a god to carry .it), passe d care-
fully out of the temple through t.enarrow temple gate. Th e men
moved out of the outer temple grounds, joined by-about 80 young
men dressed in sarongs with bare torsos,' by rows of women villa-
gers dressed in fine .traditional clothing, by the young girls, dressed
in beautiful costum es with fresh yellow marigold flower head-dresses,
who would be the singers, and by boys carrying flags and spe ar-s.
This stream of several huriclfed peop le wound its way thr ough
the narrow streets of the village, down the steep path to the' river ,
as the women chanted in monotonous tones. At the edge ,of the
river, the joli were set down, the men bathed briefly -in th e river ;
and the villagers sat down in a large semicircl e. The jou rney td'tne
river is symbolic of bathing the gods prior to :entering- the temp1e.
The gong, drum, and cymbal orchestra played :intermitt ently{while
th e group chanted and sang. This-type of singing -facilitates itrance
indu ction . The peopie prayed and holy water was sprinkled :,on
everyone . Soon, all the people at 'the river's edge rose and 'negan
the climb back up the cliff trail to the temple.'
When the group reached a clearing some 30 metres before the
temple, several men with long spears started performing ;-dance
steps which involved balancing on one leg, and the pairs of men
carrying the six joli charged about jostling and narro wly missing
each other in increasingly swift dance-like movements . It appeared
that these men were in trance as they covered the sho rt distan ceto
the temple where the many young men joined them and the young
women standing in a group next to the temple gate chanteo, 'in a
contin uous monotone, the words suryak (shout jubilantly) and sare
At dusk, that brief period before dark, the groups of -men holding
the six Joli circled the outer temple grounds three -times, andthe
atmosphere became more exciting, each gro up careeri ng wildly,:
often unexpectedly lurching into the surrou nding crowd. Sev.enrl
men in trance held long pole-like spears while others stood balanced
on one leg. The gong orchestra played constantly with an acceler-
ating tempo. At this point, increasing num bers of men went tmto
trance-possession as the y formed groups of about 10 men with each
joli. There was a contagion-like spread of the tran ce as ou-e man
followed another in proximity . The men shoute d noisily as each


< - . .(.
+ .,. -==.~ -'j

Joli was carried abruptly, unpredictably, and swiftly from one ,side
of the temple grounds to the other ;-in the pr.o.ces s, son;re..of th e
men fell and were trampled by the others but they picked the m-
selves up and grabbed the bamboo poles again to can:y, the Joli
further. As groups of men with each Joli i3-pp rp?ched th e steps; th eir
violent .moveme nts raised a lot of dust which filled the air and every-
one's nostrils . The dar kness was broken only by. a,lante rn 90 each
side of the tem ple steps and by tourists' camera flashe s. Each gro up
ofmen, most of whom were in trance-possess i01;1. , stru ggled.:'Vigor-
ously to get their Joli through the gate . Whei;-eas.C@YID~ jq/( ,he ld
by two men out of the temple gate-;-w~s a _relatiyely smooth and
easy task, canyin g it back in. surround ed by many men .acting in a
largely unc oordinated fas,h.ionwas a struggle . llis -part of.the cer e-
mony took about 30 minutes . As the men apd god wen,t.throug h,
so did a str eam of wom en and children, ,many JnOving ,silently in _
trance. : . .. ,.~.,,, :; ,
. The crowd gathered insi<j.ethe temple ~4 .s~np.etranc~i:s b~ e
subdu ed as th ey came out of trance-posses sion ..after the Priest h ad
sprinkled holy water on them . The Joli wer e set to re st, wher .e -th ey
had been placed originally. Soine _men 'in tr~ce ~er e gi"{~n ;!<rlses
and they _self-stabbed themselyes ntihe_str~ ~d by tlJ_e_ ,~;-,sp ns
surrounding them . In the crowd there ,were older ,prie sts and ipth er
village rpen trying to stay out_9~tran~~ so .fu?tth~;ssoul ~;phy,s.i<:;4" y
help to control the trancers ..A Ol!-ffi~er- of men who fell un~qnscjp us
were picked up and :carried into the tergpl~- ~ m~, of th em _.t nc,>ye d
violently in a convulsive-like manner . and rtq uin~c;lfirm pPC!:~~o ng
,.. physical restraint by about six men , who strugg led to carry , the :un -
conscious men up the _temple steps and into ttJ.~ sacr~q:_ten:iple.
1:-1 -yillagers reported that there hac! neve r bee _n any seri m~s.d.p.j,ri es
~ 1

from this rather dangerous-looking behaviour ,. ,__

of:the men,caqyi , . ng

the Joli in trance . One man in trance stood ,on .o~ leg W,i_
- _...,,_
th ,a,:live,
i. small chicken in his mouth, the neck held firmly between .h is
'I'I tee th. Later, he would bite off the head of the chicke n and '.suck .the
blood from it as a ritual symbol of drawing animal .blood ~ ~ offer-
ing to the evil spirits . In Bali, cock-fights are the most coromot)..ritual
to ,spill blood as an offering to the evil spirits -{buta-k~la) :in the
mecaru ceremony . .
Inside the temple, a tall, slender , young man- sh o_ting, and
gesticulating '' vigorously as if performing a long_:.,dr:an:iatic
monologue-walked _among the crowd, none of who m w_er~ now in
trance-possession. The crowd crouche d or sat down an d all look ed
towards him with quiet, respectful attention appro priate for the


: .:e::-
l, "'~-~~
a:~ . --
- 'i


divine because he was possessed, speaking as the god of the temple.
He said that he was very disappointed and angry that the villagers
had _placed the gong beside the offerings - of1' rice. Someone
respond ed with 'Where shall we put it?' and he answere d angrily,
~ou know where it goes.' He berated the villagers for several
thin gs,' one of which was that not all had come with -offering s~even
though some were poor . He said that they should -bring something
from their heart and not only the 'rich' people should make
offerings. 'I don't think you are a good person only becau se you
offer expensive things; the important thing is how you feel in your
heart.' The villagers listened to him with rapt and res pectful
attention as he stomped up and down a clear strip of groun d .in the
temple not covered by sitting people, sometimes 'POunding his
chest and sometimes bendh1g a banner on a long "bamb oo pole to
the ground in a violent gesture . He proceeq.ed in this manne r .for
about 20 minutes, all the while, holding _the_rapt-atten tion ;_Of the
villagers. Several villagers, commenting on th is man's pers onality,
claimed that he was usually quiet and not talkative. ,-; ,;:-,;, .
At a similar ceremony 210 days earlier, the auth ors had obser;ved
almost identical events with the exception _of the-m an posse ssecj
who had addressed the villagers towards the end. The priest helped
the trancers to regain consciousness by -sprinkl ing holy water on
them . After all had come out of trance-possess ion, the crowd moved
slowly, patiently, and silently up the steps, through the gate, arid into
the outer temple grounds . At this point, no one appeared to be.pos-
sessed. Many of the trancers were dripping wet with sweat and:the
bodies of some were covered with dirt frorr having fallen on ,_the
ground. By this time, the music had stopped ; so had the chanting
and singing . The villagers prayed to God and were blessed :by,the
priests, and all was quiet except for the shuffling of bare feet on
the dirt as they walked out of the temple . On the conclusion -of this
part of the ceremony, the people moved down the dark paths to-
wards their homes to bath. They -would then return to the temple
to pray again . Afterwards they would feel a sense . of 'peace' be-
caus e they had properly shown devotion to the gods.
Seven days after the ceremony, the auth ors return ed to -this
village to interview 10 male participants who had fallen into.trance
al the above ceremony . They were selected at random from agroup
of many men who were preparing a stage at the temple for a religious
drama to be presented as part of the 11-day celebration . r,,
Five of the subjects described their experien ces as follows>atthe
sound of the slit gong or the processional musi c and singing, they

.._ --1,
! ..,


I abruptly experienced cha...TJ.ged perc eptions , e.g.:the y felt that 'dar k-

I ness ' was comi11gand they could no longer see, although -they,.Jrnew
I there were people around tl1ern.-They could hear the -women .singing
which dominated their perceptio n. Tne y felt chee rful and ;full- of
energy . They felt the got.1coming i..'1tothem . Their beh aviour,seem ed
automatic. Suddenly, they felt . driven to carry th e jolbJbey , re-
called being tossed around by the men strugg ling to cany the joli,
falling down, and being trampled but th ey felt no discomfort or
pain. 1bis state. continued until they were sprinkle drwith holy water .
At that point, they felt they were back in ,the real world, with a
sense of peace and happiness thatwas unusual and n ot experienc ed
at other tin1es in their lives. This state gener ally laste d . 1773days.
The day after the ceremony,- they- became aware of br:uises ,;md
abrasions and felt some muscular soreness . Two me n said ey 0

felt different for 10 days, until the end of all-the celeb rations : an d,
during this tin1e, they had no motivatio n.,to work- th ey only felt
drawn to return to .the temple and felt happy at the temple withth eir
friends . At the end of the entire ceremonial , they return ed to: tlieir
usual sta te . These men regarded those _men who wer e in tran ce-
possessi on (kapangluh) as having been chosen -by th e gods. ,.
Five men intervi e',3/ed ,experienced a period ofc omplete :amne sia
and apparent unconsciousn ess dwing the cere mo"ny. Their tran ce
state began like the five described above , usually -with th_<;sound of
( the slit gong as they entered the temple . Some recalled ;cifcling
j around the temple. At the point when the joli ,we re be ing carri ed
up the steps into the temple, they became unconsci ous . When th ey
.. awal<:ened (from trance-possession), after being sprinkle d with -,h oly
J'' water, they realized there was a lapsed period :io r whidflhey: ;h ad
no memory. .,.'cc ..
,:; All 10 subjects interviewed had participated -in-this ceremony in
previous years and had undergone the same .expe rien ce each'ti m .
They felt very positive about these ceremonies and several 'said fu ey
r looked forward to each new year's cere mony. None felt any-negati ve
:[ I
social . ramifications, and they minimized the pain an d:,,abi;asions
:I sus tained in the melee.
Sometimes it. was difficult to be sure from a single observati on
whether or not a person was in trance . Those in tr ance had clos ed
eyes and a flattened facial expression . Two different state s -describ ed
by the 10 men were both consistent with the criteria for trance. -.O ne
is an altered state with changes in percepti on, cogn ition, and phy-
siological changes, and the othe r is an unco nscious state with
, .....

... ;: -

,,. ... .
.. , ::-~
.J' . ,.. .
"f;~ .~ ....
- ....
_ _ __


generalized convulsive-like movements. This .sugg ests th e need for
differentiating trance-possession into two kinds : . (1) tr.a.nee--
possession with loss of consciommess and inability- to perform
purpos eful actions; ai d (2) trance-possession with sufficient
consciousness to perform purposeful actions .
Sufyfuu has observed tliis mass trance-posses$ ion cer emo_ny. at
TlIUb!ah every kuningan since 1973 and has note d only one change:
, the men who entered trance formerly wore s~irts , but since 19 84
they have stopped wearing them because an anc_estor (thr ough
one of the possessed) informed them that the y should carry Ol,lt
the ceremony in the saine way as did their ancestor s, wearing oruy
a sarong .
Bateson and Mead (1942) and Belo (1960) believec;l tha t J:r:arJ.ce
for the Balinese was therapeutic, i.e. it allowed the expre $sion of
culturalJy unacceptable emotions, which, lacking an .outlet in _normal
life, might trouble the i,ndividual. Following this train-of th ou~ht;;.the
com munal or mass trance should also be th er:?peutic and r:~ t.JJ, t in
a better state of mental health and .fewer 1,11 ~ntal-.disQrder s 1i.q.~Nil-
lages whic4 hold mass ,trance ,ceremonie s ,co_mpared with vill~g~s
lacking in su ch ,ceremonies . To test this_hyp Qthes iijs-not fea$ible
because it is not possible to control the many;varia bles involverl. A
rough indication of the prevalence of mental disorde r in th e vill?ges
was obtained from village he<,idmen. There had qeen no known .cases
of psychosis, amok, or other problems for ;which '-villagers sought
help from any of the psychiatric services provided by th e island or
from balian. Two suicides have occurred be tween 1989 an d 1991,
but none in the 10 years preceding 1989. Thes e data nee d . to be
compared with data from a control village for a mor e definitive

Mass Trance -possession at :h.esiman

TI1e village of Kesiman lies at the edge of Denpasar , along the,main
road that leads to the south side of the islan d of Bali and towar.ds
the popular tourist town of Ubud. Eight days after kuningan,, a
cerem ony with mass trance takes place. The cere mony;witne sse d ,b y
the authors began in the morning at the outer te mple with a. cock-
fight as hundreds of men crowded together around the centra1 area
to watch and bet -Although cock-fights are outl awed by the Indo-
nesian government, they still occur frequen tly, and thi s -one - at
Kesiman is legal because it is accepted as a part of th e tra ditional


ceremony; the blood is used for offerings on-the ground to evil spirits
the mecaru ceremony at rrijdday so that they,-willnot disturb th e
members of the communit'j .. , s.,. i ;'. ' , , -, ,., "
In the afternoon; processions of people , several hu ndred men
and women dressed in traditional costumes, came from surro und -
ing villages to meet at the common large temp le. Ea2h woman
carried offerings for the gods or effigies (symbols of the : gixls) ,
accompanied by -a gong orchestra of drurris andcymbals;, Groups
from some villages ~plit off to go to their 'local temples to bring out
their Barong4 ,which would become " part ' of-, the ceremony.
Hundreds of people in a steady stream then ent ered through th e
narrow central gate of the temple to pray and give offerings : Th ey
returned through smaller doorways located on: each side io:f'th e
central gate . -~i
At about 5.00 p.m.,, the men -and Rangaa 5 enteredii trah ce-
possession wJ,.ile they were inside the sacre'd ' temple ',imd they
began filing through the temple gate: each trancer- was assisted by
a man on either side, both of whom had a firm and,..con::fi dent
manner and a. respectful and gentle dem eanour'., As the :tran cers
passed through the gate, .they began to thr ash-about violently with
their arms, legs, and heads, shouting with- eyes close'd r 'as.:the
helpers or assistants struggled to keep them from charging'Wi.ldly
and dangerously into the crowds of people watching outsiae- th e
sacred temple. A total of about 50 trance1 s came throug h tl.J.e::gate ,
interspersed with about 10 Rangdas also . in -trance-posse ssion
(kara t han), each assisted by a man on eithe r -side. Occi,
the men assisting the trancers went spontaneo usly i.nto:tr ance-
possession and men in the group rushed in to restr ain iand:-assist
them. Only two women were in trance-possession at this ceremo ny.
Two Barongs also came through the gate. After desc ending tl-ie
temple steps, the entire group of trancers, the ir helpers who were
not in trance, the Barongs, the ~gdas , the pri~sts, and th e gong
orche stra parad ed around tl:ie outer temple building. As they ,did
so, many of the trancers period ically became violent .as if; in
convulsions, arching their bodies, shakin g the ir hand s, and
shouting 'Kris, kris, give me kris' . Aman stan ding near by.hold ing
a kris up in the air would hand it to a trance r, who proceeded to
direct the point to his chest, lean back, and press the kris with 'such
force that at times the steel blade bowed or bent (Each kris --con-
sisted of a rigid blade, about 35centimetres long, ;with a sharp tip
and a handle.) As the men self-stabbed, they often fell to the ground
and were then surrounded by about six men. After 10- 30 secon ds

~- . - -.
of self-stabbing, these men tc,ok _the Im~ forcibly away -and gave it
to another man who held it up, ready - for the next self~stabber;
perhaps two or thr ee trancers further along in the para de.-IThe
crowd was tense, expectant, and pleased . The gong orchestra with:
loud, rapid, vibrating tones was part of the parade. Whe n a trancer
became violent and difficult to restrain, a priest splashed his ,face
with holy water to decrease his violence, or :to bring him out of
trance. The parade wound its way three times -around the temple,
passing through the gauntlet of spectators . - -.-. ,.
After this, the entire retinue came back tproug h the sacred temple _
gate. The men and women were still in_.trance-possession at this
point,- many uncon scious, some limp, and . some ..still lurching
violently or moving convulsively. Not all of the trancers were, un-
conscious; nor did all fall or feel convulsed or require assis tance to
walk or stand at the point of.passing through thetempJe gate.
showed signs of blood from kris stabbing thoug h o_n eJ iad a punc-
tured and torn shirt Inside -the sacred .temple, the trancer s, parti-
cipants, and spectators gathered for the final part of.the -ceremony
which included many men self-s~bbing, a _group of w9men dancers
(some in trance-possession), individual men -_ dancing :,in tr ance-
pos session, priests sprinkling holy water on trance rs seated in
front of an altar with offerings,
. .
. I.
_to bring them
out of trance-possess10n. The Rahgda head -dresses were removed
from the Rangdas and placed in the ir containe rs for the journey
back to their _temples of residence.
Bela's (1960) description of self-stab bing (ngurek), during com-
munal trance in 1937, is still valid today:
With a sudden yell, a young man, I Rapoeg, tears across the upper end of
the court, dashes up the steps of the same pavilion, and stands there doing
ngurek before the Barong and the Rangdas. Th e music begins again. More
people rush up to take hold of Rapoeg. Both he and Goesti. Gedjir are lifted
down to the ground, .where they ngurek . A woman shriek s, and beg4is'.io
hurl her body about, seizing one of the priests who is near her around the
waist. Immediately another: woman goes in trance; she -has a keris ~d.-
begins to ngurek . Simultaneously, the music changes tothe loud clanging
rhythrri called bat'el, which has 1;0 melody but beats and beats upon th_e
ears with hypnotic insistence. All over the court the women now oi:eak
into trance, screaming and thrashing their bodies till their hair comes down,
making leaps from side to side. If they have a keris, they ngurek; if no~Jthey
cling to the priests' hands or seize them round the waist till they are given
one . The scene, now at its climax, is wild and lurid. The women's screams,
shrill and high, have a quality of intense exciteme nt, akin lo a sexual
excitement which can reach no appeasement.

-"" J. - .~

~ ~ ..


Two men who had participated in this cerem<Yn{'described -e:xperi-

ences -similar to those of the tran cers 'at the mass tran ce cereiiiony
at Timbrah: They perceived a darkness, although it was daylight,
and then they became unconsc ious. One recalle d all of the kris
stabbing (ngurek) episode while, the other recalled nothing:,The one
who recalled it had suffered a skin laceration from the kris becau se
he was not fully in trance. It is generally believed that a person in
trance will-not be injured by the self-stabbing .
This cer emony represents a welcoming of.the gods back to the
temple, which is very important to the village becaus e the gods are
the protectors of the village and all its inhabitarits:The ceremon ies
which honour the gods -ensure their continued goodwill'to the vil-
lage. The men in trance are believed to be possesse d by the go ds
and the self-stabbing (ngurek) demonstra tes the power of-the god s.
Th is recalls the kris stabbers of the Barong dance, who attempt to
attack Rangda. However, the Rangdas of the Kesiman ceremoni es
are good and not evil,;unlikeRangda in the Barong dance. is
not inconsistent but rather is in keeping with the cultural -beliefs
that all things have two sides, good and ' bad. Wh at one sho uld
strive for isbalance. ':, ..
'\(: ..,,, .,.

" ~ .....
' ,,' . Mass Trance -possession at Jimbaran

i; This unique ceremony; peculiar to this village, lasts for 6 fu.ohth s

by the Balinese calendar and takes place at year ly intervals if the
II ,,i' ":
'gods need it' and the villagers have enough money to support it' The
purpose of the ceremony is for the gods of the Barong and Rang da
1,, . to be among the people of the village. It begins 50 days ,befor e-the
_ceremonial day, galungan; when the priest gets ,a message ,from
' ,.
'II the gods about whether they will perform the:cerem ony or not .On
j ::
the day before galungan, a c eremony is held to connect -the he ad
of the Barong and Rang<la.The gods of the Barong and Ra:ngda
are then pres ent among the people from the ' firsf 'day 'after
galungan until 10 days before the next'galung an, whicn occurs at
intervals of 210 days. Between these two
tirhes; ceremqnies ;are
conducted at every kajeng kliwon (intervals of 15 days) . , , . '
At the particular ceremony witnessed by the author s, the process
of connecting the head of the Barong to the Baron.g body and, .later,
placing the Rangda mask on the man posse ssed by the g~d of
Rangda took up almost the whole of the first day. The .ceremony
began at 4.00 p.m. and ended at 2.00 a.m. It took place both in the
sacred part of the temple, which is adjacent to the cemetery, and in

. ,,.-_,.
_ ; ,.}t;?~:
. : -~;_: :'
the cemetery. First, t11eBarong and many of the villagers dressed in
white traditional clothes paraded from the temple (where the Barong
and Rangda are stored) down the stre et to the cemetery. Th ere was
.-. great deal of offerings, praying, blessings performe d by the _priests,
both for the Barong and for the village participants . Th e villagers
believe that at this ceremony, many of the chief ministe rs to the
gods (patih) come to see them . Every patih has a special name and
tr ait One man was possessed by a monkey god and, in a state of
trance-possession, abruptly climbed a coconut tree on the grounds
of the temple, plucked a coconut, -carried it down, tore the husk off
with his teeth, stabbed a hole in . it with a kris ; and drank the
coconut milk . 111en Rangda atid her two' daughte rs re eeived a
message from the god of Rangd~that he was ' <:ormng andthey
danced to the temple and then to the cemetery to:r eceive 'their
masks . When the mask was placed on Rangda; she &:reamedl 6udly
and invited the Barong to come and fight, saying/ If you ar~Hmive ,
come here.' At the temple, many men began . to cty and moan >as
they bent over in a sitting position and rocked , 'muscles tensing
and jerking. At the sound of Rangda's voice in the cemete ry, about
20 men who had entered trance-possessio n (bebutan) sudd enly
jumped up and raced towards the seven -foot hig h conc.r efe' :-wall
that surrounds the temple . Many were restr ained by the villagers ;
others broke loose and managed to run to -the wall and cllinb it
s abruptly and swiftly as if it were a small hur dle, aii'd'th en ran t o the
cemetery where Rangda was. When they reached Rangda,-they fell
e down because they felt frightened at the sight of her eyes. There ,
a they were brought out of tram::e-possession by holy water from the
e priests . Men who remained in the templ e groun ds begant o stab
n themselves with krises and perform self-stabbing (ngu rek) :cef~
tl mon ies for some tin1e. Meanwhile , the Barong had return ed to. tlie
d temple and many of the men who were still in tranc e-possession
a and were considered to be his followers went up to the he ad of the
:r Barong, grasped the beard, and put it on their faces : Many of tliese
Lt men were brought out of trance -possess ion at this time by hoiy
e water from the priests as well. After an hou r or two-of these activ-
ities; all the people walked slowly and quietly out of the temple ana
went home .
r, On the following day, the ceremony began at 3.00 p.m: ihside
)f the grou nds of another temple located directly on the main road
.y that passes through Jimbaran: This roa d had bee n decoratec;l. -with
te many banana trees stuck in the gr ound at intervals along :fue :foad
n and with fue traditional long, bamboo ornaments specially hilng over


~ .t-r

- ..c_

l the streets for this festive OGcasipn. 1n~ide the ..te,rqple ,,s~ ;young
men were -being dressed in. the elaborate .eostum es ,:oi,-women
1 dancers. Some women sat arou~d, pr ~p~ g offering~ ; ~~c;l~ of
I woven p?lm leaves . A cerem~mial .cock-fight.wi:lsheld to:signify ,thy
spilling of .blood on the gro1:1nd, an -offering - Jhe , evil .?P,ii;it~ ..Jne
-Barong and the six adolesce nt.male -9ancer s, csan dar)} Jvith,,th eir
II white masks and fan held in one hand, all in iden tical:q>~tum es,
paraded out of the temple and walke d a short distanc e 90,wn, th e
s,treet The gamelan played continuously, :They s_tood new ,the _gate
of another temply .for abo ut an:_ hqur, ancUhen ,perfo~ed ,.i:dqllce,
as hel pers of the Barong :,The youqg m?,l~-dancers in tbejr,Jemale
co.stumes and m~sks ,appearect vei;y ff~e ,in !the ir ajov~~n~ .-
The er_.of this grou p of -ganc~r .~ -(felek an ,dar) perf9r,me d a
danc e following the dance by :th<;!Sandar,.who then sto od the~ear
Barong. Four more dancers, called . Oma,ng,;,;yhowo re .qia,sks:with
long black hair, tried to q.i~turb,tp.e,Barong .Ild the six m,e_I}:rV'hile
they were dancin g: _This per:fo.rmance fasted ,a bot an hOUfi,WlJ.enit
end ed ,, all the male dancers left and ,two ~daghter :Rangdas~.ep.tered
the temple . Itis b~lieved that they...,
cause bad things to hc!,PP~I].JO the
peopl e .. Rangda herself ,then appeare9 at tti.~ten:;i.ple d9.w withh er
magic white cloth draped over her head . She.-,a?ked her\ pag!l ter;s
to find her c1baby and if that was not po?sib\e, to give h~r .th_y,rnne r
organs of the baby's body becau~e....h~<i;i~~9:,e d_;.t9 eat"tp.~p:1~ :Aft~r
they had found the baby (a doll), they face d the -Baro ng 1;w:ho-.~aid,
'Don't do it,'. and took the baby from .
the& The
. two daughters' the n. ~ ~

fought with the Barong but -the _Barorrg won .. Angry ,,Jli.~y ,went
home and told their mother _(Ingda).- whal had ha ppened. _One
daughter , said, 'Yo_u must beat pn, (the Ba,r01;ig).I c~nor iio it'
Rangda agc;lin asked her two daughters to bru:ig food ..Thi,s ;time,
tl}ey brought the Barong, and . so Rangda ._was force<;i,:to ,fight;,
saying, 'Now I will kill you .: Suddenly, about 10 me n rw:i .th ise~
appear _ed at the other end of the -sho rt part ,-of th e str _e,e~ an d
approached Rangda with _menacing ge stures, as if t:Qr~~t~.~ng to
destroy her. Rangda move d towards them. At interv~ i;,,,og~ 1of the
fifeIJ.would suddenly charge towar_ds Rangda ,b_ut as r.e. r~ached
her and she waved her magic cJoth, he fell uncons cious ,~t J1er feet
Jl and remained unconscious for the res t of the cer em ony. Ea~h of
I these men had to be carried off the street by village rs .,and laid
;] down at_the side of the road ..To rre they -lay; eyes clo.s'~, .,mo tion-
le ss, and com pletely unconsciou~ in a tran_ce:-pos~_es sion .stcltE:,,M any
I;.... ,.1
of the men advan cing towards Rangda with krises turned ,th_e ~ses
on themselves and self-stabbed the _mse lves in fron t oLRan gda.
1" .,.
!(:; :::
i!:: hu ljl

..: ~.

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. .
~ .
~; ., , .
This behaviour is apparently a show of devotion tb the Barotig:
standing behind Rangda, as the Barong is believed fo haV'e ' the
ability of giving power to the men. - ' , ,- :;.
Finally, Rangda, no longer imbued with power, walked slowly back
to her temple . Inside the temp le, she spoke for :about 5 minutes :to
the throng of villagers seated around her on the-groun d. She ,then
sat down and her mask was removed and placed back in its con-
tainer, where it would remain in the temple. The man possessed
by Rangda was then splashed with a great deal of holy water-
particularly over his head - by the priests , after which he' slo'wly
came out of trance. He was able to walk slowly.on his own ,accord
and in a normal manner to-a pavilion in the temple. The spectators
went back into the other temple to witnes s an hour of kris stabbing
by bebutan . This ceremon y concluded at about 6.30 p.m. , -,
In these ceremonies, the individuals who are poss essed are,{re=
garded as special since not all individuals CaP be possess ed: Gertain
families are regarded as having. inherite d 'the ' ~bility, of being ~pOs-
ses sed. TI1e trancers 'rep ort that the ilower -god says ,to them, I:-will
possess (ngayah) you. I am 'the - god so-an'd-so'/ :giving ' one of
several names. Each tra nceri has al:different;type -,of experienee
depend ing on .which' god .possesses ,him- l?eople 1standing i.ar01ibd
give a kris to the posse sse d individuaHo execute -his-self-stabbing
behavi our. When the god gives his name as :Kobar Api, the indi-
vidual feels that he needs fire to complete the' trance : In this case;
assistants surrounding the ceremony light large torch es of straw
and bring them to him and he stamps -them outwith -his bare feet
If the god identifies himself as I-Belatuk Tariah, the 'tr ancer .needs
a chick to complete .the trance . He will-twist -of the heacl,:6Lthe
chick and suck the blood from its body; after. this he nee ds idrak
berem to drink ; followed by application of holrwat er, which bring,5
"' him out of trance . ,The same god may possess another person-after
the possessed person comes out of trance. Later, these individuals
usually daim .that they acted automatically and were out ,of fself-
control. ,,,, :1. >f, ,,, 1, ..
. _;-;;
At one of the previous ceremonies, a man .w ho was self-stabbing
himself with a kris injured himself whenth e kris enter ed his chest
to a depth of about 3 centimetres ..The priestlhan dled this;case by
asking the man to sleep at the temple, ancLtreated the wound :by
rub bing a red flower (pucuk bang) and sandalwoo d-treated :-water
over it The man rec over ed after 3 days . -
In this ceremony, unlike the ones afKesi man -and Timbrali, the
gamelan music was slow and soothing, a music eminen tly.suitable


. . ---./

for welcoming the gods, which did not appear to stimulate tranc e
iudu ction. Rather, trance-possession occurr ed at_the sightan'd/.o r
voice of Rangda . :. _
This ceremony is performed in order to bring _the gods back.t o
the people . Offerings are given every ~ay .and the gods are believed
to stay in the . village for a matter of month s.-Every kajen_g.kliwo.n,
the villagers may repeat some part of the ceremony, such as -making
offerings or placing the head back on the Barong and the Rangda
-A 35-year-old man, a bebutan , was interviewe d. He is .marrie d
with two children and has had five experienc es with this ceremony.
His parents were also bebutan. At the temple ,.he felf th e hair,on his
body stand up and then he -became amnesic; and :be .felt that som e-
thing possessed him .but he forgot what it was. After he was tgiven
holy water and arak berern, he felt normal again. During,.anothe r
experience, he described his .body feeling as if _it,was on-.fue, and
he was not -aware. of the situation aroun d him . .He.felt very happ y
when he saw the kris . He .itching .above _his.eyes _and :the n
on his neck and everywhere on. his body, He stabb ed ,the itchy
spots with the kris. He recalled the kris stabbing and felt he could
not control it. .Although he felt he did it, yet at .the sam e time h e
,i. believed it.was some other force or energy ---:a power of the gud,-
that made "him do it His thoughts were focused only on the ..kri s,
11 :.
but he felt as though -some other person or agency held the ikri s
! :
rather than himself.-When h~ was possessed, evecything"iappea.ued
shadowy to him. The priest looked like a referee .at a football-gam e,
! I. :i' one which he automatically followed. When some one brought-him a
I :
chicken or a flower, his feet turned cold and ,,he _aske d -.f9r fire.

i"., ;
Then he felt he wanted a chick; his body became hot and he neede d
the blood to suck. He did not-perceive the blood,as offensive. After .
he had sucked the blood, he drank arak berem and regained,,con-
sciousness . The heat of his body disappeare d , as he _becam e
conscious. ..J'"-.,.,:
When the man was possessed at the Uluwati.ttemp le, he .f~lt.his.
head was heavy and all his body was hot; he felt as if people wer e
h.\gging at his body and that they. were moving -like smoke ..After
his. possession was over; he felt very tired , asif he_:h ad carried an
extremely heavy load. Every timehe fell into posse ssion:;,the .ex-
p<=riencewas approximately the same, but the name of the god who
poss essed him was different and his feelings differed dependin g
on the god who possessed him. For example, the god who .wants
fire (I Kobar Api) makes his body feel cold. Whe n the white monk ey
god (Bojog Putih) possesses him, he needs fruit and Balinese cake.

..,,.--. :_
_ /'-; ... ,_ -
When the god illu Siwi possesses him, he needs coconut andthen
climbs a tree to eat Hie coconut like a monkey . .Sometime s th e god .
need s holy water and he then drinks more than a litre of water.
Relating his experience at the cemetery, he said that after hearing
the voice of Rangda, he felt angry, so he ran away to find he r:v,tith-
the aim of killing her. He felt a power or some energy pushin g ruin
as he ran to climb the 2-metre temple wall. Whe n he saw the face of
Rangda, he suddenly felt fear and wanted to retr eat He believed
he was not responsible for his actions. When he fell e ground ,
he knew he was himself and in control again, so he procee ded to
find Rangda He did not feel horrified by the decaying smell of
flesh and rotting offerings in the cemetery and passed th ese-with-
out thinking . When he was near the big tree, he felt -drug ge d; as-if
suffering from a hangover, and his body became hot; .th en he felt
weak and fell down to the ground . As many people carrie d hiin, he
experienced pain in .his body and he sense d soine people.were
bringing string to bind him up (a hallucinatio n) ; He-said tha to thei:
people did not see this process and that people could, not release :
his hands or his legs from the bands becau!'e theyd rnew he was
bound up by the god. People carried him to the Barong , and 1the
priest gave him holy water. He saw Rangda ,-and she ' turn ed:::li'er,
face away. He again felt brave and wanted to kill .her. Wh en h"ere-
gained consciousness, he felt tired and experie nced some soreness -
in his muscles. '
He described his experi ence during a second ceremoni al day.
When he fell unconscious on the road, he said he did not feel:any
pain. After awakening from trance and possess ion, he felt shy be-
cause his clothes were dirty and tattered , unlike the other people
around him who were neatly dressed . If he were to go home while
he was possessed, he might destroy the furniture of the house , so he
only went home when he was completely conscious . After awakening
from trance, he felt clear-headed, calm, and at peace. The se feelings
lasted about a month and during this time, it was very :easy to 1geta
job and to complete it . ,_,, ,,;:-... ,
The priest at the Jimbaran ceremony was interviewed several.days
after the ceremony. In his daily life, he regards himself as a hum ble
and quiet man . But in temple activities, his attitude and pers onality
change; he becomes more like a leader and the peo ple follow what
he says . He said, 'I cannot do it without the god .' .He ;prepar es him-
self by fasting for a day. On the day of the ceremony,- -he suddenly
feels unsteady, swaying with his body bent over ; he experiences a
floating sensation, he does not see or hear the people around him


, .

and everything to him looks 'em pty' (i.e. there is nothin g arou nd
him) ; and he perceives he has a':'new power, wh ich makes -him
feel strong and self-confiden t This contrasts with his feeling : im-
' ~ .
mediately after .he comes out of trance .when he feels tired, and
sleepy, bu t mentally normal . '
The above des cription pertaine d to.his experie nce when he ;was .
carrying out the ritual performanc e of placing the head of the:Baro ng
and the head of Rangda on to the h eads of the ' men possesse~ by :
the gods of these figures. He had the same experie nce at-the time
he severed the heads from the Barong and Rangda, which .h ad
rested in the temple for 7 moriths after the connec ting :ceremo ny.
At this head -severing ceremony whe re the Rang da mask rested -on
a skull in a box at the temple , he described how he su d<:l.erily took
out a kris which he felt he would throw at Rangda. At th at-time he
perceived the environment to be .very quiet and was apparentl y in
trance . He also described the feeling of another power .po_ssess ing
him and inciting him to cut off Rangda's head . Whe n he, slash ed at
her head three times, he suddenly felt weak, without any eriergy; he .
fell down and afterwards was given-holy water by another priest At
'. ~ this point, he .still did. not feel normal ; he experience d a cold sweat, ,
and some people ilirected hiin to the temple so_that h e could-make
' ,,
I ~: an offering to the gods . After.r ece iving the holTwa ter, h ey.ecalled ,
',!I I
everything that he had done and felt tired . ,After-wards he slept.fore
I 1:
1 I'
i :
a few days and then he felt normal again. ' ;,;,,; '.: r ;:,-
'.I I . The experiences of most trancers at Kesiman, Tunbrah,~alid Jim-
j! it'
baran -,who fell down unconscious appeared to be similar. ~All .ex-'
presse d violent emotions, and the aspect of devotion to th e rgods,
the social expectation, control, and approval see me d: to =oe -the
same. , .,; ,J::;
C. Muller (personal communicatio n) described a cer emonial :
trance in a group of balian gathe red in 1989 for the :;annu al
kuningan celebration on Turtle Islan d, near :.the capitah city of:
Denpasar . Thousands of Balinese come here annu al!y,for :tein ple ,
ceremonies (odalan) . The day before , effigies of the gods ;were :
brought to the island late at night and abou t lQ balian;-botp. Jn en
and women dressed in white coats with hair piled up .on ; .th eir
heads, assembled at the temple. They talke d about curr ent
i problems and the rituals to be performe d in order to bring -?bout
I harmony and balance into life. Abruptly , all the baliamw ent_.into
l trance-pos sessio n and began to talk in str ange-tone d voices in an
J ancient Javanese language called Kawi, which is very little
,i understood. At one point, one balian exec uted an asto unding feat
, '
s; :r,


. .,
_ \, _:..

' :;.

' \.;:
.:\f "t:1}1;
he suddenly sprang from a sitting position up into the air, his body
outstretched and rigid, only to be caught in-mid-air--by th e-others.
It appeared like an acrobatic circus stunl The tr ancer s did;not ~act
surprised and quietly resumed talking among the mselves.

Mass Trance -possession

. '
at Family Ceremonie~ ' I/

At periodic intervals, sometimes yearly, some extended families hold

ceremonies at the temples of the extended family for the purpos e
of honouring the gods and ancestor -spirits . Two .attende d by th e
authors in 1991, one in Denpasar and one in the south peninsula ,
were similar in form. At Denpasar the family invited 28 male priests
and 14 female priests. At the peninsi.1la,7 male priests can1e. A( each
ceremony there were offerings to the gods, including food;,
and arak berem (an alcoholic drink nqt drunk by the parti,dpa.nts),
and the offerings were blessed. Groups of won;ieri ;~ in rponotpp-
ous tones. A Rangda went into tran~e-possess ion;a,nd danc;ed. After
he had finished, he sat down; his mask-cum-head-dress was reniov.ed
and .he was slowly brought out of. trance-po ssession by .a__[ priest;s
,,,, , . - ,.' _,;,..- -, . :;..,_1 :_, 1
holy water ministrations . Some - family member
. . 1 ,..., ,- n ;;.r#:
,. -
s in,,,r
- ,
. . trance-
possession,. mostly
elderly,, danced
-,,r! ;. .
or: ~lh;. groups ""';
Th e
priests sat on an elevated platform of a pavilion, the .gong orch~str _a
at one end . As the gamelan played, the women sang.and th~ piie;:;ts
entered into trance-possession. Most' began to ~hake, with "'tlieir
arms extended in front of them, trembling, and :...nththe ir 'iate s
contorted, while some lurched backwards to _be caugh f' iind
assisted back into the - sitting .posture by surr ounding
members. The body spasms and trembling lasted about a miniite
and then the trancers sat quietly, .eyes closed, face impass ive:. :;'..
Sometimes, some of the posse;sed gods .spoke . AtDen p'asathv o
prie'sts sat quietly, head bowed, wi.fu'heav{ strands of mucti~,\ {b6\it
20 centimetres long, streaming 'd6wn from theh- rioses, the:strnb "ol
of being entered by a certain high-:god . 'The 'highes t go d\ :Ud':not
come down but the second highest.did:The .priests ':(now gods) \"ere
handed coats and head-dresses to put on, All accepte d dt ept 6ri~
who said sharply, 'This is not my dress.' The .people ' asked polit~iy ,
'Whlch dress do you need?' and he responded, 'YOUknow>-He \~as
then handed a coat and hat of the second god and he accepted it
and put it on. Finally the spokesman for the family politely aske d
the gods if their offerings and ceremonies were acceptable to them
and if they had done everything right. The priests (gods) assehietl
in each case and the family spokesman politely . said that thef . '
were !

- -~'
he su ddenly sprang from a sitting position up into the air, his body
outstre tched and rigid, opJy to be caug ht in mid-air--by -th e others .
It appeared like an acrobatic circus stunl The trancers did not act 0

surpri sed and quietly resumed talking an1ong themsel ves .

Mass Trance -possession at Family Ceremonie s

At periodic intervals, sometimes yearly, some ext~nde d families ,hold
ceremoni es at the temples of the extended family for th e purpose
of hono uring the gods and ancestor spirits. Two .atte nd ed by ,the
authors in 1991, one in Denpasar and one in the sou th peninsula,
wer e similar in form . At Denpasar the family invited 28 male priests
and 14_female priests. At the peninsula, .7 male_p11esM~e. A( e~cli
cerem ony there were offerings to the gods , includin g food, banten,
and arak berem (an alcoholic drink not drunk by the parti cipapts),
and the offerings were blessed . 9roups of womeri'.'~g -in.mop~t~n-
ous tones . A Rangda went into tqmce-p9ssessio n a,nd.dan ced. After
he had finished, he sat down; his mask-cum-head -dress was removed
and .he was slowly brought out of trance-posses sion by a priest',s
holy water ministrations. Some . family memhe rs in triric~
possession, mostly elderly, danced ~dividuall/ or' ifi.gro upl / To.~
priests sat on an elevated platforrri of a pavilion, the go ng or chfistra
at one end . As the gamelan played , the wome n,s_ang _and the prie~ts
entered into trance-possession . Most began ' to' shake; with "their
anns extended in front of them, trembli ng, and with th eir faces
coritorted, while some lurched backwards to be caug ht Imd
assisted back into the sitting posture by surro ~n'ding family
m embers . The body spasms and trembling lasted abou t a minute
and then the trancers sat quietly , eyes close d, face impas sive:'
Someti mes, some of the possessed gods spoke . At De npasar:two
priests sat quietly, head b~wed , \vith heavy stran ds of mucus .11'ioout
20 cen timetres long, streaming down from their noses, 'th e symbol
of being entered by a certain high god . The highest go d did not
come down but the second highest .did. The priests .(now gods) \"ere.
hand ed coats and head -dresses 'to put on . All acce pted exce pt on~ .
who s'aid sharply , 'This is not my dress .' The people ask ed politely, .
'Which dress do you need?' and he responde d, 'You kno w.' He was
then handed a coat and hat of the second god and he acce pted it
and put it on. Finally the spokesman for the family politely asked
tl1e gods if their offerings and ceremonies were acceptabl e to them
and if they had done everything right. The priests (gods) as sented
in each case and the family spokesma n politely said that the y were

..,- _-:;.:;,f
.,: :,:

:- ~--':-.
~- :-~1
-1~::?~-""::: -~~~ . .: ::;cl.
..... .,_. ..

, , -


free to leave now at which point each priest slowly came out of
tranc e-possession . Following this ceremony . a numb er of the mal e
priests and all the female priests danced . in trance-po ss ession as a
group. Then a number of priests and family memb ers in tranc e-
possession self-stabbed themselves with kriscs . Th e ceremon y,
which began at about 9.00 p.m., continued until about 2.00.a .m.
It is striking that the behaviour at a ceremo ny of fuis typ e
described over 50 years ago by Belo (1960) is similar to ,that see n
today. At a village she observed, Belo - claimed . th at all -of th e
members, including the smallest children , could ente r and ha d
entered trance :
The very youngest of the children's bodies a~ t~ey were grippi\1 'i:iy~ n-
vulsions, rigidity, tautness, or fell limp in collapse, produced an impression
stronger than any I had experienced in witnessing ' such a scene '. Th e
Balinese say the children are 'nearer to the gods, having just com'e from
there,' and perhaps it was the conception of this nearness which made' their
trance so fantastically unreal and at the same time a terrifyingly prese nt
actuality. ; , !v.:
Mass trance-posses~ -ion still :occurs iri a numb .er of villages Bali. i
ii, ,
The various types of trance desc-nbed by Belo 'exis t today insimilar
form s. This is underst:andable '.sinc 'e they !are ' h1tegral ,' p~ ~of
fundamental 'religious ceremonies . . . ' .. ' .
. The behaviour of these _trancers is ,unlike that citw est~m .~~s Jn
tranc e, even those in deep tranc e . Under hypnos is We ste r:ne:i;:sma y
exp ress profound emotions, p~ti2ularlx _crying, qut th ey _do n ot
be~ome violent; they seldom have c?nwlstye- lik,~,,9 ehavi ours,, :~ d

i, f;,
they do not . become possessed. It must, be conclud ed tha~ soc ial
l! expectation is critical - in determining sponta neous be havi_o:ur : in

trance states of Westerners , -~d : Balinese: The 'pos es~iori I ac-
I'. [
.. companying trance
. _.
anda rep-
in Bali is both a functio. n of belie fs 6 ,, - .- _, .. )

l, ~ resentation of a structured type of biop syc hosocial phe no.meni rt

r:., is different from the type of psychotic tho_11ghtandbeh ~y{oiir th at
asserts that something or someone outside .tliein has en tef~cl-int o
them: that is a delusion ca fixed, unrea listic belief) wh i~h\ s ' ~ot
considered appropriate, and is not subject to contr oi by th'e socie ty
and the group around them (see Chapter 9) . -

* * *

Tr ance with possession by God and god s occ.urs in parti cipants at

vqrious private and public religious _ceremon ies .:in m any. parts _,of
Bali. Communal or mass trance-possession in religiou s cere _m .onie s



-";,, '>.

; : .'4 -~~---=
continues to occur in the same villages and in much the same way
as describ ed over 50 years ago . Approximatel y 80-100 men and a
few women enter a trance-poss ess ion state at yearly cerem onies to
welcome the gods back to the village temple . When enteri ng into
trance, the subjects experience changed perceptio ns such as a 'dark-
ness' , a constriction of awareness 9f surrounding stimuli, happiness,
and increased energy . With possession they sense that a god is
comin g into them, taking over their body-mind and their behaviour
becom es automatic . The eyes close, the facial expr~ss ion becomes
flatten ed, and the mouth turns pale. After trance-posse ssion, there
is partial or complete amnesia regar ding the trance-possessi on state.
These trances with possession -are expecte d, controlle d, and highly
valued by the society becaus e they help maintain the prosperity,
securi ty, peace, and health of the community. Trance-po sse ssion
enables the persons possessed to carry out exceptional muscular
feats, to come into contact with fire'without sustaining burns : and
to perform self-stabbing behaviour without hucting"'tliems elves.' In
trance- possession, individuals express behaviour and emotions'ii'ot
soc ially permitted or accepj:able in their usual state ot consciotts~
ness, a catharsis that may be positive for mental health; in this w;iy,
trance-po ssess ion may be considered a form . of self-therapy.1'Fol-
lowing tran ce-possess ion, individuals usually expenence pleasurab le
of peace and calm lasting
several days .

1. This particular ceremony is held to give thanks to heroes who succ eed in
achieving good over bad (darma over adanna) .
2. The ceremony in this village was described over 50 years ago by De Zoete and
Spies (1970: 280--4) and appears to have been virtually the same as that obse rved in
3. The large mound of rice is placed in a pavilion as an offering to God. Aft~r the
priest blesses the rice, it is given to the children to eat. This ~~remony signifie~ that
God provides food to the villagers.
4.' A legendary mythical animal; the term is also used to denote the Barong
costume worn by t\vo men.
5. A classic witch in dramas and ceremonies, as well as a symbol of a goddess.
6. To the people in some areas of Bali, trance -possess ion in ceremoni es is an in-
dication that the gods or God has come down and participated in the .ceremony. They
will know that the offerings they have brought to lhe ceremony are complete and
well received by God and the gods and perhaps they will receive a message from
the gods about this coming into their life. For exan1ple, if there is an epidemic in
the village, they may be told to make a white cro_sswith stones on th e ho se gat~
and put a leaf of the pandan tree on it.

-. ;_

Chapters ..
Trance-possession in Dance and Drama
and Individual Trance-po~session ,,

DANCESand dramas, which are traditional. and_widesp re ad in Bali,

provide the most common examples of trance-possess ion on the
island. They are also a rich source .oi infoim.ation''abouf th e tranc~
pOSS(;S~i~nstate ...This chapter .1.~alys~d . descriptiv'e Gata 'from
Balii1ese dance and drama fo;chiiracteristics ~d c;n~i stencies m
the tr?n~e-poss es,sion pr:ocess in in~q.i>;
i~ual~, I?air;s,~ d._'~ou ps.~ .'

Dance has been associated with trance in,
_11_;. -":"J,..-
of div.erse
: H. t., 1

cultures, mcluding those of ancient -Greece, Africa, ,and,o.-

In Africa there are legends : about actors beiqg possessed Sy;tlie
, ,: : -- _ _; \. ~ I l .., )
spirits of the characters they impersonate (Yap, 1960). Balinese
dancers, actors, and persons wearing the Rangda or the Barong
mask in cer emoni es often go into trance-possessio n (katakson or
kalinggihan), usually at the point when th~ large, ~acr.ed
placed on their head. :,
-Belo's (1960: 57) -descriptio n ,oi Rangda at a village temple
ceremony in 1935 is similar to that seen in villages today:

The man placed in the Rangda mask was very violent in his trance.
Though the mask is heavy, and it is difficult to see through it;,,he danced a
gre at deal with a mincing step , waving his magical white cloth: .. . Rangda
continued calling upon the spirits of evil to come to her. 'Leak, leak Men
Gobleh, come here!' she shouted at the night sky with upraised arms and
guttural .noises interspersing the words. As she stomped out towards the
gate, Rekun was close behind her, shouting 'Who is brave enough to invite
Men Gobleh to come here?' Everyone remained absolutely quiet while the
eeriness of the whole scene made people crowd close togethe r and huddle
at the back. Her arms were flung high over her head, the white cloth was
waved to and fro, and she laughed the witches' laugh defiantly into the
~~ ~ '

't;.;. ~"'-
. ~f ~-
:-. . -~
....... ,._
.~ --:. ....
The Rangda dancers at the communal tra'l ce-posse ss ion cere-
monies at Kesi.n1an,at Jimbaran, and at the family clan cere monies
described in Chapter 4 were observed as the y were coming out of
tran ce-possession at the conclusion of the ir performan ces when
th e masks were removed . Each time, the Rangda dance r would sit
down in the temple, with his legs e~tend ed or crossed, eyes
closed, face expressionless, and body still, and a priest or 'his
assistants would then carefully lift the mas k off him. On~ to several
minut es after the p1iest had sprinkled or splashed holy water over
his head, the dancer's eyes slowly opene d, his. h~ ci'.moved slowly,
and he gradually regained cons ciousn~ss . MJ.n~tes.iater, h e arose
of his own volition and stood quietly subdue d, among the many
peopl e. The Rang da dancers reported being 'take n .over' during the
trance and they experienced partial amnes ia.

. - .i t .. : ~ . .-,
The Little Girl Tr~ce -poss~~~ ~Ol.lDan ce
(Sang Hyang Deda ri) . , :
Th is dance , dating back to the pre-Hindu pe1iod , is perform ed to
stop evil spirits from causing disease and cJeath in ;the comnJunity
and to drive them out It is performed by two girls of pre-pub.ertal
age to the accompaniment of separate choruses of men and women
seated on each side of the stage . Belo des cribed this . dance 11sshe
observed it in 1935, and Bateson and Mea d took movies of it in
1937. The performances they reported and photogr aphe d were
those in mountain villages. Sang Hyang Dedari is still performed
occasionally in some village ceremonies .
TI1e following trance-possession induct ion describ ed by Belo
(1960) is typical of a Sang Hyang Dedari pe.t:forman ce:
Th e putting into trance took place in the outer court of one bf the holiest
temples of the village. In a thatched shelter, lit by one dim light, sat an old
man, continuously uttering a discordant, wailing chant. A few girls,' one of
whom was the Sang Hyang, were busy with offerings bes ide an altar. The
Sang Hyang wore only a iong white kain, wrapped several times-round
waist and tied with strings attached to one end. She.knelt down before an
incense bowl, from which rose thick smoke, and sat with folded legs, per
hands lightly resting on the ground in front. For over an hour she leaned
above the smoke, occasionally swaying a little from side to side, or raising
herself languidly she would fall back into the arms of the atte_ndant~,.who
sat beside her. Her face remained entirely passive, her eyes shut. Gradu-
ally, one by one, childre n and older boys and men assembled, an'd sang
hymn after hymn with her attendants , against the backgro und of the old


.... ~:-,;

. -~.

'I.! -

man's monotonous, cracked chant. A certain amount of laughter anl con-

versation also mingled with 1J1esong. Now and then a woman wouldlean
over the incense bowl to speak to her, and she would shake her head or
lazily nod. At last her flower-coveredcrown was brought and placed before
her on the opposite side of the incense bowl. The song changed as spe
passed into the different stages of her trance (possession)_with sudden
yariations of tempo. During her moments of respite frorr;ithe smok~ her
body hung in a -lovely pose in the supporting arms of the women behlnd
her. Sometimes she would rest her hands actuallyon the einbei-s.At last she
was judged to be sufficien"tly in trance (possession): though .there -jvi!re
none of the usualconvulsions or sudden cries. Her clothes'were brought
in baskets; she put on the head-dress herself, her languid fingers seeming
to move intelligently. Then she .was stood tip and dressed, her arms suir
ported on each side by a woman: She kept her white skirt; but was bound
round and round from breast to hips with the cloth-of-goldbelting of the
Legong dancer, till she looked like some lovely golden idol. At last she
was seated in her carved and painted litter, sprinkling the people who
crowded round her with-holy water, and the singing procession set out
into the starry night Her flower-covered crown waved above the crowd,
her arms moved already in dance.
, Toda y, performances are given -regularly near Denp as ar , spe-
cifically for touri st s. When the authors first observe d thi s dance, at
th e village of Bona in South Bali, they question ed if the little girls ,
who danced in nearly perfect synchrony with eyes closed, were truly
in tran ce, but subsequent observations and interviews con need
them that the trance was real.
One dancer whom the authors interviewe d was an 11-ye ar-old
Baline se Hindu in the sixth grade. Although she had ha d two years'
experienc e, like other Sang Hyang Dedari dancers, she ha d not
been trained in the dance . This is in sh arp contrast to other
Balin ese dancers, such as those performing the legong, who ne ed
year s of intensiv e training. She said that she danced bec au se she
liked it. She came to the performance fully drest.e d in her costum e,
but worried (nyeh) about whether she would be possesse d during
the dance. This was evident from her facial exp ressio n and .her
verb alizations. During the interview just before the dance , sh e ai:r
pear ed tens e and had difficulty answe ring questi ons, her stock
resp onse being 'no problem'.
At the interview after the dance, she presen ted a very differe nt
mood and countenance. She smiled , answe red questions easily and
quickly, and appeared graceful and charming in her movem ents in
contr ast to her tense, strained appearance before the dance . She
said that at the beginning of her performance, the world became

. .:;.
dark (dunia tampak gelap), she heard only the women's chorus
singing, and then she lost consciousness . She recalle d a change in
percep tion during the dance : a hallucinatio n of a be autiful woman
in front of her and sometimes beside her. She paici no attention to
the audience and did not see it. She heard the sing ers whose
vocalizations encouraged her to dance and she danced automatic-
ally, as if controlled and moved by some othe r power, not her own.
When she fell down (falling is a regular part of the dance itself), she
felt that others, not herself, had caused that to hap pen .
Th e other dancer was a 121/z-year-oldBalinese Hindu, pre-pubertal,
in her second year of secondary school. She had been .dancing for
one year . The interview before her dance was difficult because she
appeared to be extremely shy, a' trait confirme d by other people
back stage . She had visible sweat on her face and neck arid liad
difficulty answering questions .
In sharp contrast, after the dance, she was smiling and appeared
happ y, and she answered questions directly . She said th at after she
heard the women singing she had a headac he, her vision becarrre
dark , and, after that, she had only patchy recall. She re ported
seein g an old woman with white clothes, and recall ed tha t when
she fell down in the dance, it was as if another pers on had fallen.
She felt that she danced automatically, with eyes closed , and she
found it very difficult to open them . Like the first dancer, she
believed that some other person had :given h er the 'power' to
danc e. She remembered being brought out of trance-p ossession by
the sprinkling of holy water from the priest.
It is significant that the religious aspect of Sang Hyang Dedari is
retain ed, even though the peiformance is for tourists : th e dancers
always pray beforehand and the priest is conspicuous . It can be
assumed that if the religious context is not presen t, the little girls
will not experience trance -possession .

The Fire/Hobby -horse Dance (Sang Hyang Ja ran )

This ancient dance, which is performed for touris ts 5 days a week
at Bona, near Denpasar, remains much the same as descr ibed by
Belo (1960). First , two men will prepare a fire made of coconut
hu sks, raking them into a mound of flaming embe rs just prior to
the performance. Behind the stage the dancer prays to the gods to
obtain permission for the dance. A hobby -horse with a wooden
he ad and dried grass on a pole for a body is the n placed on his
should ers, and he grasps it firmly with both han ds. As he enters

.\ ~~ ..

the . arena in trance-posse ssion, a women's cho.rus,-sitting on-Jl).e

rlow stage, .starts chanting. The -words , sung in a monotono us and
repetitious way, go something like this : 'Please don't worry , the re
is fire, it will not hurt you. Please jump into the fire.' H~ runs,_and
~kip~ quickly about the arena through the fire, SCcl.tteri ng the
em,b"!ri;,, which the fue builders perio dically rake . back into .a
ceq tral pile. He dashes to the side s of the arena whe re .the emb~rs
are scatter ed as if seeking to stamp them out His face is blankan d
expressionl ess, his eyes closed . After running around for aqout
5 minu tes, sweat covers his face and _bod y. At the coipletiop of
the dance whe n most of the emberi? are .ot, he sits dqym on-the
ground and two attenpants pry the .horse from his fi~ger s. Up .to
this point; his body and ,the h,orse are a single unit, D:Otsepayate
entities. As he -sits on the ground with legs outstret ched, his arms
jerk convulsively . After the priest sprinkles holy water pn himi he
relaxes, opens his eyes , and. slowly aw~ens . He the n ,th ank~.the
gods in prayer. The soles of his feet are coated with :.ashe s,;but
show no signs of bw-ns . .
A Sa ng Hyang ]aran dancer was intervieweq by th e auth ors .aft~r
.a perform ance . A 5Q-year-oldmarried man with elementary sc.hool
education , he has performed this dance since 1972.. He became :.a
Sa ng Hyang ]aran dancer because he was aske _d to do, so by
who possessed him when he _fell into tran c~. _durjn g a t~mPl!=
ceremony . Relating his experience, he said that after praying/ he
saw .the coconut husk fire being prepared . When .he heard 1the
female chorus, he had no fear of the f3-re. He felt happy :when.they
put the straw horse on his shoulders . Then the world ,turn ed dark,
and- his eyes closed automatically and he joyous ly foJlowed- the
singers' invitation to come to the fire . 'When _hesaw the fire, h_~J~lt
-that 'a pow~r had entered his body . He was happY.t9 ..see the,fu ,e
and he felt physically big and energetic . As the fire got _bigger,)1,e
be came happi er and more eager to begin his perfo nnan ce. While
dancing, his body felt light, his movements fJuid, and __ he enjqyed
touchi ng the fire. His attention was focused on 'the singing and the
god, w:howas acting through him . Immediately after coming out 9f
trance- possession, he was afraid to tou~h the fire and h.e no long<:!r
experi enced the happiness he felt when he saw the fire during his
The exposw-e to fire without sustaining bums is readily nd~r-
stand able when conceptualized in West ern psych ophysiolqg,ic;al
tenns: trance/hypnosis phenomena . offer sufficien.t explanation.
The mechanisms include dissociation of the parts of the nervous
system that register heat and pain, resulting in non-perception of

,. ...~:,.-.__
. '~~\_:;--;:.-
-::..'":-. ,
' .
-:; :.:.
.;, .,_;:.
pain and awareness in the brain, and therefo re non-elicitation of
respons es to the heat of the fire, such as reflex motor with'drawal
or inflarrunatory reactions of the tissues. Thus ' the skin may b'e
charr ed by the heat of the fire, but there is no redn es s (vaso-
dilation) and no blistering or consequential peeling ofth e sku:CThe
heavy plantar calluses and dirt on the soles add furt:h
'er prot ection '_:
Interviews with other dancers corifinned the isirriilarities betW~n
their trance-possession and communal trance : a religio us context,
singin g, changed perceptions, the sense of
a; power t aking over,
and termination of the trance by holy water .
'\ ',,:

The Kecak Dance

This popular dance-in its present form create d spec ifically for
touri sts in the 1930s- has its origin in an anci_ent Sang I-iyang'or
trance dance in which the dan cers are posses$e d ' by deities. The
story derives in part from the :old fudiari'Ram _ay_lkna epic:rl_ds-a
unique dance accompanied not by a gamefarr bu r b'ya ch drus (of
about 80 men, who sit in three concentric circles surr oun clliriflhe
actors. -, ,.,- .. .., -,!, -.
At a kecak performance observed by the: authbr:s, intb"\Ti.ews
were conducted half an how- before the perfo rmance witfi. '1some
membe rs of the chorus, a priest, the dancer .who pl_ayed the prince's
wife (Sita), the leader of the chorus (who alsordance d) , and;sever al
other actors, all farmers who work in the rice fields .during th:e'.day.
Prior to the dance, the priest in attendance prayed to God apdthe
gods for permission to stage the performan ce and to request a
good performance by all dancers . During the dance, the ineri of
the chorus directed their attention towards the foader: of: thi=
group . While singing, the leader periodica lly emitte d an tpiustial
sound, something like a blast from an antique car horn; 'a$ ;lie
suddenly popped up from a sitting position as if on a'spri ng; 'aifii~ost
unusual muscular action. The men interviewed clamie d that"'their
movements were automatic and required no -~o~c~ntrati on : The
chorus performed in unison, swaying their bodies _and emitting
monkey-like chattering sounds . Most of the time, their eyes were 0

open . Some of these men were in p-ance as evidenced b'y'th eir

changed--pfrceptions, passive countenances , unusual motorieats,
and automatism. They said that after comin g out of trance at the
completion of the performance, they felt tired, slept well ath9me,
and awakened the next morning, feeling happy; revitalized ;' and
ready to work. " .. ;:
Generally, the performers receive very little monetary payment,


only 75,000 rupiah (approximately US$40) every three month s for

their work. Some of the mone y derived from the performan ce goes
to the welfare of the community (e.g. for the upkee p .of th e banjqr
aIJ.d):h~templ e) . Pay does not concern th em beca use th ey e~joy
dancing and feel it is not only for themselves but for _the good pf
the community. Furthermore, they are pleased to make ili.t= audience
h~ppy. They . are glad to have the attention of the audience and
they de sire to perform well so thc,1 t th e dan ce will provide good
mei;nories for the audien c~ and will continu e its run .

A Combin ation of Modem Western and Balinese Danc es

In 1990, in Denpasar, an intern ational troupe of both Americ an and
.Balinese dancers performed a reperto .ire consisting . of a cpm-
bination of yrestern and Balinese dances which they had presen,tecl
on tour in America and finally in - Bali, primarily for a local
audience . The only part of the repertoire that was clear ly re-
cogniza ble as Balinese in type was that derived from the kecak
Following the performance, four of the Amer ican dancer s,
women .and one male chosen at random, were intemewed . 1 one
I . ' ,.

felt they had ente red trance while dancing but they often felt a
high or what they called an 'adrenaline rush' depen ding _upon the
audience's reaction and this good feeling lasted severa l hours. One
reailled that she had entered into trance on two previous occasii~ns
while performing Brazilian dances . She described these episo,des
as sudden and unexpected feelings of energy that cam,e over 'er
and made her dancing seem automatic . She said the sounds be-
came inore intense and described the -sensa tion as a wond eriul
feeling, nothing like her usual performance. The feeling lasted.for
several hours, and she felt no fatigue. During the . Balin.ese
perfonn ances, none of the American dancers expe rienced .this. ;.. '
Five Balinese dancers, four males and one fe male, wer e inter~
viewed separately following the performance. Each described feeling
nervousness before the performance , enjoyme nt during the p~r~
fonn ance, and emotions during the kecak <la.pee ,wqicl\ were entirely
different from these during other parts of the. performan ce. Spedal
ener gy engulfed them and their 'concentration and .thinki ng did
not work'; they 'just followed the leader'. and tended to "hear oly
the voice of the leader; and they danced and acted alinost aut;
matically as if their bodies were controlled by 'another power'. By
contras t, in the other dances they had to think about what they

were doing or what they were going to do. During the kecak dance ,
their ,facial musculature flattened, a typical feature of tr ance; this
was not evident in the other dances .
The dancers said that when they pertonne d the dan ce irlvolving
fighting, a mixture of Eastern and Western dance fonn s, they ,en-
joyed it but felt no special emotion as 'they played _wh at the story
and the rhythm called for' . They consciously tried to suppress all
emotions and felt lucky to be able to do so .
Although kecak is not recognized as a 'tran ce <lane~',the interview
data indicated that the Balinese dancers in this perto rm ance wen t
into a trance state, possibly with possession , during the,
the only part which is char acteristic of traditi onal Bali. Tho se dance s
which contained a mixture of both cultures ' or appear ed' more
Western than Balinese were not assoc iated with anAse.

Individual Trance-possess ion

- , .
Individuals frequently fall into trance,--possession during ordinary
and special religious ceremonies in which tranc e is :not p~ of th e
ritual. There may be accompanying music from '.a gameian in aa

procession of which the trancer is a part or ~usi c may nqt,.be i.p-

volved. This is illustrated by an .interview ,vith a physi cian ~ho had
vivid memories of his two trance-possessio n .experienc es. A faculty
member at Udayana University, he had spent several years studying
medicine abroad. The interview was conducted mostly in Epglish
in which he was fluent. He was cautious .and care ful ab.out the
interpretation and translation of Indonesian wor ds into En glislj . .
This physician had inherited the role of tem ple he lper from his
grandfather, and the group of priests (pematfgku) _ofth e:.foin~le
expected him to become a priest He had no difficulty .
a_ cceptin g-
- J. _,_.,
this role because it would allow him to go to medi. cal schciol !
the same time continue to function as a part -tim,e.priest or temple
helper . ,:,
He recall ed most clearly his second trance-po~~ession e~ _erie!).Ce
at the age of 26 in 1973, when he was a medi cal stud en t. O,n ~s
,: occasion he had gone with his family, ,vhich. inciud ed his father ,
aunts, and uncles, to the temple of their clan.for the :purpose of c~~ -
municating with and honouring their ancesto rs . The y ha d_.taken a
tape recorder to record any messages tha t any, one of th em~gh t
receive from the gods or the spirits. Before .the temple . keep~r
could begin his prayers, the young man , witho ut premo nition or
conscious intent, abruptly sat down, appare ntly witho ut control of


his movements. His eyes closed and he was unable tb open the ni
He tried to think but could not 'I couldn't think :wbat LV::~nt edjto
say.' However, he could hear people talkjng arour1cfhirri.He savi 'a
darkn ess closing in without images, just black' ...He felfliis body
was lighf and out of his control, which was ,ah' ,entir ely novei
sens ation for him. While he was sitting, he felt he couid not waik!
However; 11e recalled feeling that he was moved bya'.n.otlier power .
and forced to sit on the temple platform (bale)' where he ' grabbed
burnin g incense with his bare hands; "tliis wasnotpainful and did
nof'result in any injury: His eyes continued 'to rem:ilifl :losed arid
hit called his family by their nicknames, something li'e'' had hot
done before. He h'ad no 1IT1age of the- 'power . at tl:us"'fune and
report ed no hallucinations . He did not feei' he i1dd"_ entount ere d :a
god or a spirit; rather he felt 'a superpowe r that could contr cWa
human'. He spoke automatically but his words did not seem to
make sense to him. During the J:nmce-po;3sessi9_n, he believed that
he told his family some messages that he had obtained_from th~
ancest ors. In trance, he :was able to ponder on 'his sifuation
reinem bered thinking, 'Why QO I do this? Whyis this happe ning to
me?' However,' he was unable to exprtss 'hirp.self H~ recall ed th'at
the trance-possession state was terminated by sorpeone:s_prinklijig
hqly water on him . Prior to the trance, he had not experi enced any
- -
in his thoughts . or feelings
. . .
he_. y.ra-
: n"
l . ... -, happened. After the ' trance-possessio n, -h e - was rather
embarrassed about his rudeness in calling hi1, relativ~s -by their
nicknames: However, he also reported feeling a sense of peac e or
'emptiness', tiredness, quietness, and calmness, which lasted several
days. Following the experience, his family explajne dto :hii:n that he
had been possessed.-No other family members had reported such
a tranc e-possession experience. , . ' ;: :
,_This ' physician's first trance experience occurred a 'few years
before the second and was similar: He was with his family clan'iri
the family temple . He had sat down at the back of the fa:iily gr: 6up
wneu much to his surprise he _went abruptly _into '' tran ce iand
to'uched the burning incense without feeling anypain or, re ceiving
any burns . At the l;>eginningof 1;histrance , he movedto th e fronf of
the family group and sat down facing the -pagoda tower (mem): :'He
talked to his family in a kind of automatic speech which he-was
unable to control. The trance was terminated by somecin~sprinklilig
holy welter on him. After the trance, he had the same terrible fe~ling
_of ,having been rude because he had talked _impro perly to his
family;-he felt he had exhibited-some gross lack of respec t. How-

.. -...- .-.
~ _.f;....-

- -~--:. :i: .
.:-.:_ ~..-..s'...:i-;.,/
ever, 1:J.
is family accepted his behaviou r without comment. As in-his
second trance-possession experience, feelings of peace an d calm
f~llowing his awakening remained for ~everal days. _ .
This individual's episodes of trance-possession occurr ed during
his youth, which is the common pattern. His pqssess ion ex~ rience
was similar to that of many others . He did not feel a spirit or agod
entering him but an outside power controlfuig his body ari'd. his
mind . To the Balinese, this experien ce is equivalent to possession
by a spirit or a god. Furthermore , he did not have ii mental image
of th e power or any hallucinations, as may be expected with
posse ssion. Four aspects of the experience are consis te nt with
what is known as the depersonalization phenomenon : (1) feelings of
detachment, observing the self, and feeling ~nr~al; . (2) feeljn_gof
being an automaton; (3) feeling of the pody l;> ,~ing; light ; an{ (4)
retention of reality testing. :f{owe_ve
r, i_n.sever al respe~ts _the .tr~ce
experience differed from depersonalization:: _(l)" t1_1 f -~n satl.trt .cif
another power outside of himseif cono.:olling bir;;"(~),'chan$es ,in
external behaviour; (3) a change _in '.physi ofogk~ 're;;ponse . (no
pain -or burn from fire); (4) a subsequent emotiqnal chang f,:!;ind
(5) amnesia. . .,. _ ,. .
These data on individual trance with possess ior{are particuiarly
illuminating because they are provided by man 'Vfh O is highly
educated, articulate, psvchologically minded , and who -is intent on
givin"g accurate inform~tion because of his 'si~c~~e 'm~tivati<Jn"tci
provide useful data about possession in the Balinese . He expr.~s~eq
th e hope that the results would be translate d into In~one siary,~!?-lls
to benefit his countrymen who he felt would have mucp to gaip _by
learning more about their own behaviour and culture . :
t Suryani herself has had possession expe riences which have
hel pe d to shape her personality . She began at the age of 14, when
sh e was possessed by God and, at times, by a goddess who, over a
3-month period, taught her many things, including a philoso phy of
life, what it feels like to be sick, what one experiences when one
dies, and how to heal people. Her experie nces are mor e fully
described in Chapter 8.
Trance-possession also occurs in pre-pube rtal children and in
th e elderly (Belo, 1960). The physical 'afterglow' or spe cial feelings
of calmness which follow individual trance are similar to those
re ported by the traditional gamelan players in trance without
possession (Chapter 6) and in the trance rs who are possessed at
mass ceremonies, some of whom are uncons cious and amnesic for
most of the experience (Chapter 4).

- Th ese data on trance-possession in individuals are con~istent

with data obtained from the trancers in mass trance-posses-sk>1i
They indicate a process at work in trance-possess ion th at has:'riot
yet been defined or described in Western psychological term~ .
The trancer feels that the possession is not part of h is body or
hims elf, although he is aware that it enters him, an'd acts through
or utilizes his body. Western psychology and psychiatry haVe--'i10
term for the concept of an outs ide power or entity acting thr ough
or controlling a normal person as in trance-possessio n.

* * *
Tra.rice-possession in Balinese dancers at tourist peii ormanc~s a.nli
in the individuals studied helps to explain spectacular feats such as
synchronous automatic dancing, and handling fire and walkihg ' on
hot coals without suffering burI).S. These performanc es att'esFt o
the critical role of spiritualism/religion in the trance-possess fon.
process. The Westerner frequ ently poses such question s as 'Does
a spirit or god or some power of the uciverse really come info the
trancers? Is possession a demonstration of the reality of spirits?'
Th e answers are unquestionably 'yes' forthe-Balinese . Arn il'ys isin
Weste1Ji terms

and psychological concepts
poss essi'on;t~
.-., l ; ' \ ' '~
dissociation, a process by _which certain areas of th e brain'l min'd
a;e acc~ssed and made to express conscious . ancr'"uncon~cious
material. In taking this point of view, howeve r, it is not possible to
rule out the as yet scientifically unprovable spirit \.\'orld as a'_fa'r;:t 6:r
in the proces s. '

. : ..


--~ ~ ~ -

-;.: -

... .... i. ~-

.... --... - ,,: . i~-
. 'i_ ..,,.,~,
Chapter 6
Self-hypnosis in Gamelan Musicians

G AMEL.AN music is an ancient art which originated in Java and

develop ed its own distinctive style in Bali. The_.O
und s from a five-
note scale played on xylophone-like instrume nts , with cympals,
flutes, drums, and gongs, are haunting and ethe real. Th e mll sicis
familiar to almost all Balinese anct"capti~ating mariy Westerners .
. " McPhee (1970: 276), who .studied th~mus ic of Bali over :foye~s
ago, described gamelan thus :
. ,j '.
j .
The swift, aerial music of the Balinese orchestra ,.-:or. gam elan,.:fills the
open air with chiming re sonance. Innumerable little gongs , large and
small xylophone-like instruments with rj.nging-bronze , keys blend in. an
intricate polyphony that floats above the throbbing . drums and periodic
accen ts of deep and vibrant gongs . The air i~ ~hattered ,vith a contin1,1o~s
shower of bright, percussive sound as the difficult music is peii ormed by
thirty or forty carefully reh e~~ed mu;i cians. 111e music itself is bak~d on
a five-tone scale; beneath 'the compl~x orname ntal patte rns lies melody of
unique grace and charm, constructed according to m etric forms that have
mathematically balanced proportions.
The tone colour and instrum entation of the gamelan varies with the
nature of the peiiormance . Small flutes , a pair of drums, cymbals, -and a
bambo o gong are enough to accompany the dancing and light, delicate
singing of the arja operetta . The popular j oged str~et danc e takes place to
the gay, staccato sound of an .orchestra of xylophones. 'The large gamelan
that accompanies historical mask plays and the heroi c baris, or warrior-
drill dance, has a brilliant, heavily metallic sound and an almost ]iarbaric
splen'dor, while the music for the s~ humming -bird movements :o(the
little legong dancer s is filled with an indesclibab le, sensuous iridescerice.
In and out of the glittering figuration the melody weaves, str essed softly
from time to time by gongs of different pitches, while from be neath, the
res tless, agitated drums rise and fall, their syncopations intensified by the
thin clash of tiny cymbals .

~~~-> ~

Many village s have their own gam elan orchestras mad e up of

30-40 village musicians who work as farmers , labourers , mer chants,
hotel workers, or artists during th e day. The traditional music of
Bali, gamelan was originally restricted to ceremonial danc e and
religious ceremonie s. In re cent decades , it i:, not uncommon to
come across gamelan in non-religious c_eremoni es or to hear it being
played simply for pleasure . TI1e music itself is believe d to be close
to the gods . Gamelan has undergone nume rous modifications in
the cours e of its development However, th e traditional music
remai ns unchanged. It is possible to distingui sh three types of
gam elan music : (1) the ceremonial or traditi onal; (2) th e new
creation (kreasi barn) ; and (3) the contemporary (musik kontemporer).
Contemporary gamelan is 'currently new' music. Kreasi _baru refers
to 'previously new' arrangements of the older or traditional gamelan
musi c. Kreasi baru melodies anp arrange_i;nents, wich wer e new at
one'time , rriay have been per:formep 'over _many years decades.1 '
. Some background information on Balinese character and emo-
tional expression is necessary tc{ understan d the significance of
chapter and its hypotheses . The Bali~ese believe .th at it ,~s
essen tial to maintain good relationships in all aspects of life,
including relationships . with the Aamily, the ,, clan (dadia), the
community (banjar), animals, trees, ancestors, evil spir its, -the
god s, and God Gensen and Suryan i, 1992). Communication should
bi 'carri ed :out in-a manriEir that :makes "one -accepted 'J)y others.
Titlsen tails suppre ssing nearly:all emoti ons -that could disni pt a

s} '[elations hip, esp~cia11yanger, However, th .ere at(ou tletsJqr
the .expression ofvarious emotions in daily life'such as you th clubs
(seka truna-iruni), dance clubs (sekCJngigel), and music ~lubs (~e'ka
ambel). In religious ceremoni~s ,_emotion~ can .be expr ess ep,in
offerings to H1e gods, in feelings of devotion, and some times in
tranc ~possession (kasurupan), either individually or in gro ups: - .
Th e aim of the study reported in this chapte r was to explore the
effects of playing gamelan (instruments and music) on the expres..:
sion of emotions and trance . It was hypothesize d that gam elan is a0

vehicle for emotional expression, the contempor ary more th an the

ceremo,nial, and that it is a positive influence on mental health . Prior
to the study, it was not known if trance played a role in gam e Jan.- -
Selection and Interviews
In August 1990, 20 male subjects were studied : 3 comp oser s and
17 players or instrumentalists . They were associ ated with STSI

~ . -,

_;;_, - --~.. '

(Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia, the State Instituti on of th e Arts),
and they regularly performed all three types of ga.rnelan music .
These subjects were either professional music ians or conse~ atory
student s, and their lives revolved around music .2 All th e subjects
were Balinese Hindus. The players, chosen at rand .om from the
larger groups working with .each compose r, were fither stude.gts or
lecturers at srsr.In addition to questions about routi1ie inform ation
(e.g . age, sex, occupation, and gamelan experie nce), subjects iwe~e
given two checklists to complete: one concerning personal probkms
in the past three months and the other , sympto ms in th e p~;t one
month. Suryani then clinically evaluated each player in order .Jo
determine if he had any mental disorde rs . -All 20 subjects were
-~ subsequently interviewed on three occasio ns : at the conclusio
n of
tr aining; after recording; and after a perfo rmance of th e m~~ical
works . The aim of the semi-structured interviews , lasting ,ap:9ut
30 minutes each, was to learn abo_ut the expe rienc,es. and f~;~,llfigs
of musicians while playing and after. playing, the' .. '~
ee diffei:erit
,h ri
types of gamelan-traditional, kreasi baru , and conte mporWY'-
cl!1dto establish whether -'} particular typ_eof'i'pusk _~ff~cts a 'f anre
state . . r ' -

The composers were asked about the meanings of krea'/jJ ar,u

and contemporary ganielan music with regar d fo: (1) how. they
cr eate the music; and (2) how they transmit it to the players:l)i~y
were asked if they experienced different feelings wh~n p]ayll,lg'in a
public performance as contrasted ,.vjth playing in "a religious
ceremony and what feelings they experience d. In additiop, the
composers' training activities with the players were observ ed:.

Results of the study

The 17 Players
Th e players were first evaluated based on their "ariswers to the
questionnaires concerning personal problems and syhip tom's. The
personal problems they indicated over the previous 3 months are:
financial, n = 16; pessimism about the future; n,;=9; not plei3-sed
with their physique (e.g. too thin, too fat) , n = 7; and physical
illness, n = 6. Their main complaints over the previous one month
are: difficulty in sleeping, especially after a performan ce, .~ = 6;
1ecr eased interest in activities, n = 6; decreased mem ory, n,,; 6;
naus ea or stomach symptoms, n = 6; decrea sed self-este em or
inferiority, n = 10; palpitations, n = 7; difficulty in concen trating,


.I_, -:--_- _:-- --


n = ll; tiredness, weakness, or low energy, n = 10 ;and tinglliig of

feet while sitting, n = 6. On a psychiatric clinical evalu1ti6h,
dysthymic disorder was noted in one subjec t and generalized
anxietydisorder in one other . ..
Inthe interviews all subjects expressed dissatisfaction that the y
did not have an.exact timefor playing and that some times theyhad
to train for a few hours at a time or long into the nig ht As a result
of waiting and training they always felt tired . Th ey believed they
needed to sleep and eat more regularly in "order to feel better .
They felt different from their peers; they seldom exer cised and
they spent much of their time sitting: Most were from the lower
socio-economic group, and they felt there was a ccihfuct betw~eh
enjoying gameian and needing to earn more hioney" for a 'hett~ r
life. ,.--:
All players gave similar answers to question s regarding recording
and performance ..At recordings they =felt-- tense,
- .-_ ;
' iuid
they focused only onpJaying perfectly so that they would not have
to repeat. Not a single mistaice is allo.;,,ecfin reco rding ; othervtise
the whole piece has to be repe~ted . 'When playing, they ;:biliit
remember all the instructio _ns of the composer and th ey ca , . t:
" -rr-. :.,(: I

express emotion; they see only the quiet room and thecameraman.
" - _. i

In public performances they were more relaxed-.and no t so.ten se,

because even when they made mistakes, the audience usually ~oiiic:I
not realize it and they could cov~r upby adjusting fu eir playing/ A
performance is continuous without 'repeats . They felt that the
audience provided an environment which favoured the expre.s sicfa
of emotion and encouraged improvisation, activities which aid n'ot
disturb the harmony of the group .
All players were unable to differentiate their feelings (e.g. mood)
with regard to kreasi baru and contemporary game lan. Th e two
kinds allow freedom of emotiona l expressio n and improvisation.,
but there is a difference in concentration . Kreasi baru has been
kno wn to them since childhood and does not' require effort to
remember; it is 'automatic'. Contempora 1y gan1eian is eritireiy
new, so they must remember the composition and concentrat~ :
Contempora.iy gamelan is only tempora1y, perform ed only; i few
times and then forgotten. Kreasi baru is longe r lasting; it remains
'in the heart, and it is accepted by the public for repeat
Interview data rega.iding what they felt whe n playing contempor-
I ary and ceremonial music are as follows. With regard to cont em-
j t porary music, the players must use discipline and remembel"'ali
i ~




.;.._ .. _ ..
the notes; furthermor e, they cannot relax, as the time to play is
limited. (In a cer emonial periormance , they play for an how- or
mor e.) When playing contemporary musi c, they can experience a
full range of emotions while still keeping the 'harmon y' or balance
of the group . They may feel more relaxed , ene rgetic, or happy;
depending upon the music . After playing, they lose these emotions
and return to their mood prior to playing, often ,.ihysically tired:
Ceremonial gamelan music is for religious <::eremony. It has a
basic relatively simple unchangeable pattern .Whe n playing cere-
monial music, the players feel no tensio n, are relaxe d, and seidom
expre ss ariy emotion except at special times , particular ly during
emotional ly laden ceremonies such as mass trance or carry ing the
corp se at cremation. The playing is repetitiou s, and the rhythm is
the sam e; it tends to be monotonous in volume and intensity. Ail
subjects reported experiencing the sensation that their body is 'not
here '; they feel as if they are
Jloating above the groun d, 'nearer to
th e gods' and 'in another wo'rid' ~idst peace and quiet Th ey feel
a sens e of dev~tion to .the gods while : playing 'ii.3 This feeling is
especially strong in players of gender, a xylopho n~lik:e instr ument
used for shado w puppet plays .',They feel like 'they 'are ' 'follo~g
the gods who are coming to them'.'This feeling confuti es thr oclgh-
out playing, persists at home, and s'ometimes lasts for 1- 2 days .
Th ey do not feel tired or experience backache although ' they riiay
play for hours sitting cross-legged ~n the hard floor"with very little
body movement and no back support . AJ.1yfeelings of anger and
disappointment are lost after playing. All of them like to play .the
thr ee forms of gamelan but feel happiest whe n playing cer emonial
gam elan : Playing the newer forms helps to increase the ir creativity;
emotional range, and improvisational skills while playing ceremonial
gam elan provides them with the peace that they need.

The Composers
The thre e compose~ selected had had expe nence playing and
studyin g outside Bali and Indo~esia and had established relation-
ships with foreign musicians ..They were male 4 lecture rs at S'ISI,
and their ages ranged from 18 to 35 years . Their resp onses are
record ed below .


He re gards kreasi baru as the developme nt of cere monial

(traditional) gamelan music which still retains the pattern of the

-., ~::;tS .,;


,/--- - .

original music, comprising the concepts of head, body,_~d feet

related to t}1eBalinese FJndu _religion. This ne,v creation c_om~'_from
the composer's imagination and exper irnei-itatio_g '.- as \Y ~~'~{ :the
influence of others (i.e. through discussion s). He regar d~ cpp}em-
porary gamelan as the music for today, unrelated "to the 'tia:t:litional
ceremoni al form of composition : it does not show"Balinesit char ac-
teristics and it is not considered to be Balin~st by the] 3'a.Iihese.
Although contemporary mus ic is related to the types of uistruments
us ed and the culture of the composer'. _it does not !,:ciriforrn to
Balir1ese gamelan music. The compose r_tells a grpup of pJ_qy tz:& ' his
ideas for a piece of music, an,d they all w:ork togeth er c\tJ:h~_'pi'~ce,
sometimes for as long as 2 rrionths,:ll!1ru:t:4~'r.E:s .u\t is sap.sfistQ&- -
Vlheri he plays, his JeeliJ!gs arc: ..similar to _tlfi play~r~,"J.f hi
experiences -increased tension and emp tional e:k:1fre ssipn ~tli 'im~
pro"!sation when recording. He i_ s mqr~ -~~}5e~1,and _V-,~~ Jgi~"f?e_~~
formance . He feels engaged err,10tionallywitlt.GQn_temporil[,Yrps1~
if it is on a religious topic bu.Call
~._,. ; .,.:~,.I
'_d isappe_
t,-, ;,.~]~ ,;,>
stops playmg. He feels ~atisfied after a successfulcperfon:nap.ct .bu_t
qqi.ckly returns to his , normal .,stat~ - Wp,e_n, "pl,aying .,c~i;-~mqnial
mu sic, he also experiences asensation , of ~ a,~qg,_:a senp__, e :qp5~iri~
'in another world' apd at 'peace '. "This 1a~t~.. hour s for it cJ~fi
; !{~
prefers to play ceremonial gamelan " for _Cefe!Il,Onies 0_(~9~,~ ~ he
feels that in doing so heis expre~sing dev.9tio_nJo th e an.e$t<$i'!3 , t9
the supreme Ggd, and 'tp the Jesser _g9-d~_/fJ.e~{>:~s nofl {~~f tfies~
f~elings while playing. th,e other n;,1? typ~?cfgcfmtlan ~~~if,,;:.','. _:
- . '~ _; ~' _ ..; ...
He regards kreasi bam and contemporary ,garrielan as .itheJ;ame:
To him, kreasi baru is related to the composer's .per sorialitj1and
culture . He does not agTeewith the other.composers thakonte'm por.,.
ary gamelan is unrelated to their culture . He obtains new ideas for
compositions from his own imagination, and from :\read ing;
experim _enting, and witnessing others perform. He qelieyys that
outside cultures have also influence d his_jd~a-~: he ?fe'ri'
foreign influences with Balinese conce pt;, for _1;he
final:h!$ult : Tne
idea is a basic framework. He com~un icates it to his' grou p of
players and together they work on the id~a thr(l~gh trcii~ing until
they have a satisfying form. The final rernlt comes when'his p1ayers
understand what he means and then improvise on it. To tran smit
his ideas to the players, he combines West ern 'and trJditi onal
methods. He said that the players find it easy to deal with .Balinese
music al meth ods but difficult to use We stern musi cal tec hn iques .
This composer does not feel any tension when recordin g; in fact,
he feels more relaxed than in a performance beca use he can 'repep.t
if he makes a mistake. To him, recordi....rig and perfo nn:ing are the
same in terms of emotional expre ssion and improvis ation and
does not think there is a difference between playing cerem onial a:nd
contemporary gamelan . Both types . of music cr eate ' in him' the
same mood and feelings of happiness, peace, enjoym ent, and
freedo m to exp res s emoti on and impro vise~ wh ich . may continue
for some time at home. He does not appear to experi ence any
changes in sensation suggesting an ASC._


He re gards kreasi baru as the develop r_nent of garnel an wit:ha

cert ain amount of creativity but withthe -b~~ic gam.~lan patt~m pf
Bali . intact For -contemp9rary . g~el@ :r_nu~jc:J , h~ !'f,OJnbineS;,9}9
gamela n instruments which are" seldqm USf!9-t9 4~Yr'.'.Yith c~-ent
gamelan instruments of Indonesia anq other cultur~ s, cr eatjng a
new compositio~ which differs from the ,Balines e ga,I11ela n Patte~.
There fore, his COI) temporary music . is different i:s;on;ip ositiofuflll.P
sound from basic gamelan , resulting in music ,that is ,not ch ara<::-
teristic of Bali. Int ernational musicians _can_play the musi c and feel
thatit is familiar . It is not specific to any -one,,culture , as it inyplves
a mixture of instruments from different cultures with different
sounds . The comp oser's innovative ideas come from comqinmg
informa tion about gamelan with music or stories he ha s, ;read.
When he has sufficient ideas for a piec_e of music, he conveys tp.em
to the players and, by trial and error , both composer and P,~ay~r.s
develop a new piece of music. The result deii ves from . the
compos er's ideas worked on by a team of player s .5

Conclusion: Trance with Spiri tuality

Composers of Balinese gamelan can use the music to expn~ss
emo tion, imagination, thinking (beliefs), and devotion , as irnapi-
fested in the cultwe. All are bound toge ther in the life of th e Bajinese
as they are in gameian but because the content is influenc~d by
outside culture, changes have been effecte d in some resp ects. : , _, ,
The process of creation is revealed by the method of tr ans mitting
th P,composer's idea and framework to the players . This appr9 a_ch ,
novel to most Western musical compositions , is consi ste nt .with

__ ,

""-" "

Balinese character, i.e. decisions are based on cons ensus -and co-
operation by all (in this case, the players arid comp osers ).': " . .,
Although the composers had receivec their musi cal educati on
abroad and develop ed relationships with music ians from Weste rn
cultur e, they still use their own cultural pattern s. Suryani, -~. native
Balinese , knows relatively little .about Balinese gamel1U1 ',' but at
performances she could identify ~leme nts of Baline se g~elan in
kreasi baru and contemporary music ; the characteri stics:.are dis-
tinctive. To draw a par allel in medicine, Balinese medical sci~nce
comes from the West and is influenced by Weste rn practice but
the balian still use traditional Balinese method s. If th e two. m~o ds
are comb ined, the basic thinkii1g of each discipline rem ains . In the
same way, although kreasi baru is influence d by the West, it
nevertheless contains some basic elements of Baline se g~~lan.
Both contemporary gamelan and kreas i baru appear, to , be in-
novations from the traditional, , using part or all of -the -:basic
gamelan patterns and manifesting the cultural charac teristics -of th e
compose r. There is no distinct separatio n in form be tweeri't:lie two
types of gamelan. It is hypothesized that each will endLm~:for as
long as it remains interesting and accepta ble to the public ,and for

" ,j
as long as the gamelan still touches the people's -feelings, '-ooth in
terms of enjoyment and religious meaning .For exa mpl e ,'1:he-kreasi
baru called kebyar has lasted several dec ades (McPh ee , -194&}
This study of gamelan musicians; compose rs ,' and
1!. is presented to show the occwTence (and characteri stics)oftran ce
f ,, in a heretofore unrecognized setting. Balinese , mu sic hlorfel'does
not appear to be sufficient to .induce trance ; a religi ous context -and
the devotion of the musicians are essenti al~This 'stu dy aiso reve als
a number of effects of Balinese music that can be conce ptualize d in
Western psychological terms . There are two kinds of gam elanrrtu sic
according to usage : one--the traditiona1-is for religious-occas ions;
and the other-both kreasi ban-t and conte mporary- is for perform-
ances. These two kinds have different behavio ural and emoti onal
ramific;rt:ions. A psychological analysis of the' players' emoti onal
responses indicated that playing the two kinds ' of game1an' hfi ng s
out different feelings and behaviours . In non-cere monial ,garr.1elan
the players are allowed to express emotio ns such as haj)j)iness and
anger and to feel a sense of freedom, depen ding on the mus ical
content Ceremonial music, ~hich is repetitiou s with a sirig1errielodic
pattern and also longer with changing rhyth ms and cresceri dos,
has a special meaning: it is close to God and the gods; 'aria the
players feel a sense of devotion when playing it Add itional elem ents
that may contribute to an ASC in the players of cere monial mu sic

.:; -,;~ ' -:..:.:
:. ".. ~
are the crowding of the people (rame), incense smoke in the air,
blessings by the priests, and a generally heightened sens e of _ eipectc
ancy and excitement in the air often associate d with temple .
other ceremonial occasions . These factors facilitate th e induction
of a trance state in the players. The feelings and altered sensations
they reported fit the criteria for an Ase:.specifically a trap.c~/
hypnoti c state. Associated feelings of peace, quiet, arid happirie~
which continue later at home and last up to .several days are also
characteristic of trance-possession in the Balinese : In ce; e~ 'onial
gam elan, the players do not express emo~qri as the y dq -:in . the
other two newer types; instead th_ey . be~ome_:self-hypi;iopzed.
These data support the conclusion that playing .tra ditional gan\el;m
music effects a kind of self-hypnotherapy , which res ults 'inthe
disappearance of unpleasant feelings for a perio d of time. This
finding also supports the hypothesis that playing gam elan contri-
butes to positive mental health b! providing <i1} ou~~tfo r e~~~onal
expression . . . . _ .. - . ,,._._
-t .
..,.,-. .
d '-
It is surprising that in his otherwise thorough reyiew of trance
and music, Rouget (1985) did not describe trance in musicians. By
contrast, all of the players and two of th e three composers
_observed in this study experienced a trance{hY[)fl~~i.s stat~~?.~
traditional gamelan. The high _per centag e _of tranc e/ hy_pno~1s
among the Balinese musicians .is ,about equal to th e estimate of
95 per cent of Westerners being ,-hypriotizable ,to r some ,,degree
(Brown and Fromm, 1986).
This study raises several queries regarding self-hypnosis. Is self-
hypnosis induced by the specific environme nt (Le. the._);emple
setting); the particular type of gamelan music; the players' under-
standing of the meaning of ceremonial music (i.e. it is for the,gods);
or a combination of these factors? It is known that cultur al beliefs
play a fundamental role in the induction of trance/h
ypnosis'inid _the
.I; :.
particular forms it takes (e.g. trance, posses sion, or both),.,J.>.f:ial
answers to these questions may be obtained by comparing .these
data with future studies of gamelan music performe d by professional
musicians, village musici ans, Balinese in foreign countri es,' and
non -Hindu musicians.

* * *
The discovery that gamelan mus1c1ans ente r trance during th e
performance of religious music recalls to mind the spiritual factor
operative in ceremonial trance-possession and dances; ,vithout th e
spiritual context, there is no trance-proces sion . However, it is a

..;.,." ~

kn o,vn fact that a spiritual context is not a necessary condition 'tor

~ ducing all trance or hypnotic states . The questi on is raiseci:"Why
is the spiritual/religious factor essen tial for trance- posses .sioh' in
the Balinese, and is the same true for posses sion in Westerne rs ,
i.e. can We sterner s be possessed. irrespe ctive of
a spintuM ' con-
text ?' Thi s question suggests an important"di.mension clinicians for
to explore when evaluating patients or cliehts for whom posseisi on
is a consideration . Clinical implications are that when the patient
believes in the spiritual essen ce his condi tion, the clinician must
have a broad enough per spective to accept the spiritual.factor
commu:rucate with the .patient in "his or her owntenn s as wellas in
psychological tem is.c - ,_. ,,
.1 -.- ,

1. .fukreasi ba~ the shape of the piece remains. i.e. a three-p art s~ctm'e 'with
th e 'gong, cyclical, and repetitive 'form based on the ceremonial (tra ditiorialf type.
Kebyar, an example of kreasi baru, was described by McPhee (1946) as ,-follows:
'With the popular modern kebyar, a brilliant exhi bition dance P,erfonn ed by a youth
or small boy, we come to the breakd.own of traditional forms in both <4P-ce.and
music. Composition is free in structur e- a loosely connected series of melodi es in
different rno~ds that are given ~ ne,/ an.d glitte ring orche'stration. TI{~ _..;,j~}'{i
itself means a sudden release of forces- an explosion, "a flower bursting' sutld enly
open", the crash of many cymbals. It indicates to perfection th e explosive en ergy
and liberation of both dance and music. Musicians and dan_cer'a like find.~ting
freedom in the rhapsodic music and choreograp hies that are a spirit of
creative enthusiasm, for approaching festive occas ions .'_ _ .. _
Contemporary gamelan is derived from weste n , music:_The gong cycles are not
perceptible and the metric patterns are not dou ble or repetitive. .'
.t. I ..
In ceremonial music, the basic element is a single me lodic pattern ~of short
duration repeated over and over. ., _ _,
These descriptions of. the three types of garnelan msic were . pr_ovi.cjed by
ethnom usicologists Linda Burman-Hall, Sue Devale, and Elaine Barkin,;all professors
at the University of California,who are engaged jointly with the authors; lnethnom usic
research in Bali.
2. Professional musicians differ from the usual gamelan players in the .villages
who are primarily part-timers.
3. Co-operation-devotion, which is evident in ceremonial ga me/an ffil!Sic, is
generally acknowledged to be one of the characte r traits of the Balines_e people .
4. Playing garnelan is traditionally a male activity. '
5. This method of composing garnelan music i5 traditional in Bali and contrasts
sharply with a Western compose r's practice of writing a complete score and
presenting it to the musicians to play.


f_ .
Chapter 7
Dissociative Disorders, Trance-suicide,
and Trance-possessi on Disorder s

DI SSOCIATION, the psychological process involved in normal trance ,

can also be abnormal, _causing\;ymptpms ~(f.~{4~g in _1(
wr,er 8
of conditions or mental disorders,' including psychog enic\\ iniesia ,
fugue sta!es, musculru: p~ysis, 1_6s_~ qf '.~ighf 0}

h~ {:k~
anaesthe sia, muscle twitching; and selZtlres. The term mologies for
~ " ' r- .-, . -

these disorders have chm1ged over the years and canbe confusing.
Most of these .disorders are' referred .,
to. as hysterical netir'c5~s
,... , , -,.i., ,
ft: '-) ','. }.'
r -.

conversion disorders (Nemiah: 1980). Multiple persdnality

disorder (MPD) in the West, a type of dissocia tive disorder, is
consid ered by some theorists to be a form of self-hypnosis or
trance (Bliss, 1984a; see Chapter 9). Most of the se condition s
appear unde r the general heading of disso ciative disorders in
DSM-IJI-R (APA, 1987), which als~ covers trance disorder~'.:IC.D-
10 (WHO, 1992) has also included , for the first time, tn i~~e' and
possession disorders in its listing .
All dissociative disorders (as well as hypnosi s in norrn'aJ. -'indi-
viduals) involve the same underlying 'fundamfnttl pro ces~J o~i e_p-
tualized in psychiatric terms as the uncorisci6us psytli6~<igi~
'defence' mechanism of dissociation . 1t' is .'theorize d illaf\h ost
dissociative disorders develop as an unconst ious re\i~tlJn'; to
overwhelming situations, impulses, or feelings ' which cannot ' be
tolerated by the fully conscious mind, ajthough thes e are not
always discoverable in therapy. It is well known that th e s~ptom s
of conversion disorders are closely related to cultural beliefs.
The following case vignettes of mental _ disor der s (mainly
hysterical neuroses of the conversion type) in the Balines~ indicate
that some of these disorders are similar to those in th e West Th e
patients in these cases recovered relatively quickly after undergoin g

.-. _;

._/ .,:--

bri ef psychotherapy . This type of disorde r is often succ essfully

trea ted with hypnotherapy or Amytal interview s.1
l. An 18-year-old Balinese woman suddenly develope d par alysis
in one leg. Conventional neurological examina tion was ne~ tive.
Sup portive psychotherap y, together with the sugg estion that' she
would regain the ability to walk, plus brief non-specific tr eatment
with Valium relieved her symptom and feelings of tensi on . The
nature of psychological conflict underlying he,.. sympt om was not
rev ealed.
2. A 28-year-old Balinese woman collapsed . and experie nced
paralysis and weakness for three days pri9r to her visit to the doctor.
She recovered abruptly after supportive psychotherapy .
3. A young Balines e woman develo ped blindness seven days
prior to her visit to Sury ani. Medi cal examinati on was neg ative.
P$ychotherapy invol;ed suggesting that she was not ' blind , ihat
there wa_s ~omething she did not 'want to 'se~', .th~t -~he 'had s~me
. problem which she could talk about, and encoyn;gin g h er totajk
about it. The problem turned out to be conflictuai fe_elings tow?i ds
lier father, who had . thre e wives and who she felt did not 'pay
enough . attention to her mother ..: Her symp toms clear ed \li ter .
. se~eral psychotherapy sessions. . .. .. ." ~\:

Trance -suicide in .Bali "' .;-

Suicide is a serious problem in the West and in many Eastern
contries, The rate rang es from 5 to 20 per 100;9q9 in most
countri es (Murphy, 1982) but it is extremely high in certai n parJ:s
of Malaysia, 157 per 100,000 (N1aniam, 1988). The rate1?in Bali,are
.w1avail<'!blebut are believed to be relatively very lo\v, espm ati?d at
orily' about 9 per cent of the rate in Singapore (a cou'ntry with a
population equal to that of Bali) (Tsoi and Kua, 1987). .
Th e rates of suicide attempts in Bali for 1989 are prese ntt:(d in
Tab le 7.1. The rates for the year 1990 were not significantly diffei-'ent
for sex, age-group, and total . Each group under' .20 years w as
overrepres ented and the age-group over 60 was relative ly iow,
about 4 per cent.
In th e West, suicides and suicide attempts occur in association
with a variety of mental disord ers, including adjustm ent diso ders ,
borderlin e personality disord er, depressions, and psych ose? of
variou s types . Western suicide attempte rs give a variety of reasons
for their attempts, some rational (e.g. relationship pro blems,
attenti on seeking, anger or despair at being rejected , and feeling that

--~:}/,~ J;;
[if ..-"_;"::._~-~-
,_ :_..... _.,.~-, ~

: ....., ~ ; ,-._{"
; 11:


_ ~ '.f.. :
.. '-- .( -: J . .'.

l ~, .
Cases of Suicide Attempts Admitted to Hospitals in Bali in 1989 ..
by Sex, Age , and Marital Status 1

Sex/Age2 <20 20-f50 >60 Total

Male 45 55 3 103
Female 68 53 1 122
Totai 113 108 4 225

Sex/Marita l Status3 Single Married Separated Divorced Widowed Total

Male 56 30 0 0 6 92
Female 62 51 0 0 114
Totai 118 81 0 0 7 206

1n= 228.
2Sex and age unknov,;n = 3.
3Marri age or sex unknown= 17.

life was not worth living), so~e irrational, and .sq~y psycI-!citic;(~.g.
'command hallucinations' telling .them to ,do it). In the ,.grea t
majority of W estem stJ.icide,atte~ pts, .patie~-~:'-,r~I_?Ort
regarding the event; they- fully, incl~ding ithe ir bep.a,~5>H-f
and the feelings leading up to it, as well as their f~eling aftezy.rai:ds.
They generally give rational explanations of ho~ and why "tiiey :did
il Studies of suicide . attempts in Asian countrie s. (Maniam",l988 ;
Tsoi and Kok, 1982; Ts oi and' Kua, 1987) have pinpointed
interpersonal difficulties such as marital quarre ls and other family
conflicts as the major cause of such atte~pts bt gene rally provid e
no data on the thoughts, sensations, or feelings of th e individual s
at the time of the attempts. _ .-
t A study of suicide in Toraja , South Sulawesi, Inqon esia (Holl?Jl,
:l 1990) concluded that the primary reasons for suicide there -were
intense shame or remorse over any kind of wrong d~ing, especiajl y
1 deep feelings of injustice and mistreatme nt. How~v,er, the
datj1) 9r
.t these determinations appear to have been gained from talkil}v?4th
s th e general population and not from the perso ns who mad~:-th e
,, suicide attempt. It cannot be assumed that the beliefs expr.esseci:by
families or other members of the culture wer e nec_~>... ~ Y
n re presentative of the attitudes and feeling s of the suicide victims.
3, Ingestion of pesticides is the predominan t means used for suicipe
and attempted suicides in a number of South -East Asian countries .
IS Smyani was motivated to study suicide in Bali be ca1 se 'she w'as 1

3, puzzled about Balinese committing suicide sinc e it is s9 .deieply

:tt wrong (salah patt) according to Balinese Hindu belief. In Bali,

re ligious beliefs are e}d:remely powerful in sh aping and controlling

beh aviour . Two studies were canied out- th e firs t from 1969 to
1974, and the second in 1988 and 1989.

-Study 1
Seventy-seven case records of attempte d suicide- - all cases that
were admitted to Wangaya Hosp ital Department of Psychiatry 2
from 1969 to 1974--were reviewed . Thirty-nine availab le subjects
were interviewed regarding associat ed probiems ,-reason s, attitudes,
and experien ces during and after the atte mpt. Record s ! of the
remai ning 38 were also stt.Jdied. Forty-six were rriale an d 31were
-female . The cases came from all over-the -island -of Bali but -inostly
from two districts, Badung and T abana n, because th ey__have
h ospitals there. The age distributio n is as follows: 12- 20 years,
51 per cent; 21- 30 years, 28 per cen t; 31-40 year s, 30 per cent;
ove r 40, 8 per cent The mean::; of suicide c1; tt~m_pt are as follows:
ingesting pesticide "p0SOn, n "= 26; t.!Sing a kriife, Ln-= 14; li'.arrgin'g,

-n = 8; taking ~edication or drug , n = 9; juinpirig"fut~_a weu~,i_-;.. 2;

and drinking eith_er 'battery wat~r or brake fluid, 'n = 9:;These
"pati ents deniea they had previous suicide attempts; 'an'd no repeated
-atte mpts were noted in -th~ recor d~. Twerify~ne -were marned /' 56
were never married . Psychiatric diagno ses acco rdin g to' Ici5:.a
da;sification are as. follows: psychoses,.
n- ::16;
- .
reacti' ve
n = 60 reactive anxiety n = 1. ' ., ' - r -- !Oi--

: A -n~ber of the 23 'non-psyi;hotic suici de atteihpt~r s descnbdd

existing problems which were associated with re1atively mild stress
(e.g . father disagreed -about a boyfriend) but norie re port d-'inore
serious stress . When queried about why ' the y made the -'silicide
attempt, all gave simar responses: they had a peic"eption tnaf the
world was getting 'dark;' they were confused and un able to 'think;
their mind felt 'empty' and a 'power' controlle d and caused them fo
do it, i.e. a power that compelled them to drin k the poison, a power
that made them behave like robots. After the suicfrf attempt;' few a
'recalled hearing some family commotion and crying bu t they cifd
not have the energy to stand up. Then they forgot everything; rri6st
suicide attempters did not recall being brought to the ho spital'.'When
asked if they felt like attempting suicide again , th ey generally
replied, 'I pray to God not to give me an expe rience like th afagain.'
They also denied any responsibility for having done it th emselves .
All respondents, including the psychoti c patients, said th at they
felt afraid to recall the experience .

rrj - ::


~_; '.


When interviewed, th e 16 psychotic patients said tha t they were 1

confused and didn't know or could not explain why th ey 1had
atte mpted suicide. About 30 per cent of th ~m claimed th ey -had
responded to command hallucinations that told the m to do it None
described sensations characteristic of an ASC or a tranc e state; :

' .
TI1e second study was a replication of the first becau se g~n,erW,
informa tion suggest~cl that in recent years there may h ave been an
increase in the incidence of suicide and Suryani want ed to know
whether th~re were any changes sin:ce the prev ious study -~d
whether the patterns of attemp ts were similar . _ . '
All records of attei:npt~d ~uicide from the i Dep artm ent . 9f
Psychiatry, Wangaya Hospital , between 1982 and 1989.
reviewed- a total of 315 cases, 131 'males and l &{females. ' ~ .. 1J -,
,:T,,~,he J.
age distribution
is as follows: 10-14
, 'fJ =: 9; 1~9 years, 1J
, . ,>., :.:.:.
: } ,.{. ) '
20-29_years, n =: 137; 30-44 years , n 7 56; over .65 );e~ :s, n ".' ,f .Ji?~ ;
m~thods o~ attempting sui~id~ .ar,e: inge~~g : p 1st;i,c/de, n~ =11?, _~t;.
usmg a knife, n = 14; hangmg, n = 4; usmg a. gun .1,
, n. .= l ;,.~g11i ...
f 1,) ..-'

medica tion or drugs, n = 1s. pia _gnose s according to If/f 7:,~FB

9 ar, ti
reaction to stress, n = 158; depressive reactions .
, n 7,,
. 90; corus10n
Jz,. i. ,.
reaction, n = 20; conversion reaction, n = 4; anxiety r~action, n=-~0;
acute psychosis, n = 22; and personality disorder , n ::_-1. '.
Thirty-five patients were interviewed and ask;d the ' -s~e
questions as in Study 1. The interviews, which wer e 2ondt.:ct~d in' a
private room, were long and probing, without being sug ge sti~e, in
order to obviate the Balinese characteristic difficulty in expl~ g
th eir verbal and non-verbal responses. The patient's eye&'w.e~e
obs erved for r~sponses indicative of trance . In ~esponse t0_:ffiitj;u
questi ons about their feelings or experiences, subjects typ 1iallj
said, 'I've forgotten.' Furth er questioning of the non-p~i;f1 ot:i.b;
patients elicited es sentially the same responses : they 'did nof ~ ~;,:,, -
why they did it, they were unable to think at the ful e, tneyJ 4efe
confused, and th ey felt as if some thing , power, or energi, .)a _d
controlled them and influenced them to act as th ey did./ Ihe
psyc hotic patients' experiences differed' from thos e of the non-
psychotics in Study 1; however, the psychotic patients said they
- were scared (takut) by the suicide attempt anddid npt want 'ah ~peat
experience. None of the patients mentione d .the usu'aI reas o_n f th ai
Westerners give for suicide attempts . ..
The results of the first study were unexpe~te d ~d at tha( t;igi'e

"' .-

: :. ..

Surya ni did not know how to explain the proces s that could fe
accou nt for the data because she .was not yet familiar with hypno tic a~
states as defined and described in Western literature. After g<
beco ming a hypnotherapist, she recalled the ear lier study and . in b(
retro spect recognized that the suicide attempts involved ASC. th
With greater knowledge gained from interview s with balian and
individuals in trance, it was clear to the authors that the experienc es th
rep orted by the suicide attempters were those of trance-poss ess ion af
(kasu rupan). This finding has not heretofore been reported in th e y,
litera ture for any culture . The unifonnity of response of the :patients di
-Wasstriking. All had perceptions and experiences consisten t \vith SJ
tranc e-posses sion, i.e. the initial perceptio n of the world getting Ill
dark , confu sed thinking or an inability to think, the perceptio n o(i : w
power taking over and controlling them, automati c behaviou r, and 01
a 'p_eriod of amnesia regarding the events . They denied that they
acte~ con sciously of their own volition. Their conviction after cc
recov ery that they would never wantto have suc_h an experi ence aJ
again contrasts with the behaviour of Weste rri patients; some o f (.
whom con tinue to express suicidal ideation, although most of tl
them say they would not do it again . None of the Balinese patients . A
de scribed life as not worth _living; nor :di_d theyf'want to ilie: Orie . a,
had mad e repeated suicide attempts.
:The author s considered the poss ibility , that these suicide w
attem pters claimed th at their actions were ' beyo-nd theh-.'c6htroHit al
order to obviate shame or guilt about their behaviour . However , II
this is uniikel y in view of the fact 'that the 'subjects had "no contact h
with .each other and they \vere interviewed .in private; ye t all gave B
similar report s, each of which contained evidence of ASC. s
A few cases of attempted suicide in .Bali do riot involve tran ce and- 'r
are similar to those reported in Western literature . In 1990, a 17- v;
year-old girl took an overdose of anti-pruritic pills, but' she'di d not p
know that they were non-lethal . She said she wante d to die because 0
her father; often beat her at home and objected to her lifestyle and , Ii
her preference for spending time with boys. He called h r . a s
prosti tute because she stayed out at night and had many boyfriends: d
He objecte ,d to all her relationships with boys and seemed to be _ p
jealou s or somewhat paranoid about them. She reporte d that he r 0

par e_ntsalways quarrelled with each other at home . Her moth er had
attemp ted suicide ohce because of disple'asure with h er husb and . n
The reasons given by the Balinese as to why their people commit d
suicid e are similar to those reported in many cultures. Th ey b
includ e frustration, anger, disappointment with pare nts or'fri ends , 0

~. ,, .: f

.)ii : ~.

~ <:-.
~ ( ....-.
.... -. .-,.~

_:~-,~-. .f_-::
:j. "<"( 'V"':".'-
. ~t ,-.--: ----:__5~_t.~


Suryani ..did not know how .to explain the proc~ss ,tha t c.ould
acc;ount for the data .because she was not yet familiar with hypJ;1otic
states , as defined and described in Weste rn literature . After . ,
bec oming a hypnoth erapis t, she recalled the earlier stud y ad in
retrospect recogniz ed that the suicide attem pts .involved ASC.
With greater knowledge gaine d from interviews with balian and
individuals in trance, it was clear to the autho rs that the experiences
rep orted by the suicide attempters were those of tr_ance-possess ion
(kasuru pan) . This finding has not heretofo re been reporte d in the
literature for any culture. The uniformity of response ofthe patients
was striking. All had perceptions and expe riences consis tent with
trance-po ssession, i.e. the initial' percepti on of the world getting
dark, confused thinking or an inability to think, the perceptioi'ij3hC
power taking over and controlling them, automati c behavi our, a:nd
a "period of amnesia regarding tqe events .. They" denied that they
acted consci ously_of their , OW~ volition. Their conviction \ ui:er
recovery that they :would never want tc{have s.iich an'.experience '
again contras ts with the behaviour of'.West~rn Cpatients, sorle\ >f.
whom continue to express suicidal ideation, although most of
them say they would not do it again:---No ne of the Balinese patients
describ ed life as 'n ot worth living; nor did they want to die. Ncine
h ad mad e repeated suidde ' attempts .. . .. .,
. The authors considered the possibility , th,:[t" .these Sl.UC!de
attemp ters claimed that their actions were -beyo nd ilie ir"'contrcii;fu:.
order to obviate shame qr guiltabout their behaviour. However,
this is uniikely'in \riew ikthe fact' that th'e subjects had'no co'~tal
witli. each other and they W:ereinterviewed in private; yet all'g"ave
similar reports, each of which .contained eviden ce of ASC. . :.
A few cases of attempted suicide in Bali do not'involve trance ana.
are similar to those reported in Weste rn literature. In~1990, '17
.i -
year -oid girl took an overdose of anti-pruriti c.pills, but sh e diif n"ot
kno w that they were non:lethal. She said she wanted die because'
her father often beat her at"home and objected to her lifestyi<tanc1
her preference for spending time with boys. He called h~r ' a
pro stitute because she stayed out at night andhad many .boyfriends '.
He objected to all her relationships with boys and seem ed fo be
jealous or somewhat paranoid about them . Ste .reported that he r
par ents always quarrelled with each other at home. Her mother had
atte~pted suicide once because of displeas~re with her: hu sband : '
The reasons given by the Balinese as to why their people co'
suicide are similar to those reported in many cuitur es. They
includ e frustration, ange;, disappointment with parents or friends,
feeling of hopelessness , or insufficient money . Wh en relatives are
ask ed why a particular person has committe d suicide , th ey will .
gen erally not say that evil spirits are involved.even if they .believe itto .
be so. They do not want people to think that evil spirits are affecting
the ir family.
L Connor (personal communication) interprete d cases in which ..
the Balinese explained suicide by saying that 'the evil spirit did it'
as a manifestation of a projective personality trait. However, Sur-
yani's interviews with suicide attempters indicated somethi ng quite
different they were confused and a 'power'- sume thing .like an evil
spirit- made them do it. These .individuals indi,;:ated that they were
not functioning normally at the time of.the attempt, _that they were
unable to distinguish between good and evil, and th at they camed
out th e act without.thinking.
Th e question of religion as a major deterrent to suicide must be
considered . The main reason for a relatively low rate of suicide
among Malays is their Islamic religion; suicide is a .sin for Muslims
(Tsoi and Kua, 1987). One study of suicide in Americans suggested
tha t the ir religions -may not be a significant dete rrent to suicide.
American World War II veterans who com mitte d suicide . were
actually overrepresented in the Catholic faith, which regar ds suicide
as a mortal sin (Schneidman and Farberow, 1960). However, it
would be a mistake to assume that the Balinese Hindu religion
affects the beliefs, morals, and behaviour of th e Balinese ::in a
manner comparable to the effect the major religions in America
h ave on Americans or the effect Islam has on Muslims. Religion in .
Bali has broad and pervasive effects on the mind and person :
Specifically with regard to suicide, Balinese Hindu s regar d it as
'mis-death' (salah patz) with the consequence tha t the individual
will go to hell, not heaven. The people know that suicide (1) incurs
punishment from God; (2) causes God to send one to ,h ell instead
of heaven; (3) incurs bad karma resulting in a more difficult future
life; and (4) caus es the reincarnation process to tak e a con-.
siderably longer time .3 These are considered h ighly effeGtive
deterrents to suicide. Suicide rates in Bali are not yet availabl~ but
preliminary estimates appear to be very low compar ed with thpse
of most countries.
The findings indicate that most suicide attempts and probably
most completed suicides by non-psychotic Balinese are carri ed out
during ASC, specifically a state of trance-posses sion . Th is stud y
broadens the knowledge of the medical/psych iatric conse quences
of trance and identifies a heretofore unrecognize d tran ce disorder.

t, :


. '.,. ...?_r

The Balinese findings can be compared with datadrom qther

cultures, especially Western, in severalrespect s, incluping methods ,
of suicid e, suicide pacts, trance , and other psycholo gical factor s:'
Suicide and suicide attempts have been reported in many countries
and cultures - in the Western, Eastern, and Third Worlds-b ut this
is not the place to review the extensive literature on:.thi s subject
Mention, however, should . be made . of several pertine nt issues.
First, the patterns and rates of suicide differ and the meth ods used .
vary according to culture. For exainple; in- SrLLank a (Diekstra, .
1989), Malaysia .(Maniam, 1988), Singapore (Tsoi and Kua ,' 1987), .
Sulawesi, lrldonesia (Hollan, 1990), and in Bali; agricul tur al pesti-
cides are the most common means of suic ide: In the Uni ted States .
the use of medications or drugs is theJeading nietho d.:,The causes ,
of suicide have focused on interpersonal and socio-economi c causes,
as in India (Bhatia et al., 1987) or on psy chiatric disor de rs; par-
ticularly depression, as in the United States. Suicide ,pacts (double
suici des of lovers, spouses, or friends), which occur in many ,
countri es, are the most common in Japan (Fishb ain.and Aldrich (
1985), but are very rare in .Bali. Suicide pacts .indicate prem editatioi1-
and pro bably a conscious suicidal act:In 1991, the' 1news media .of
Bali re ported the case of a young couple whose pare nts .disappfbvecl!
of their marriage and who . committed suicide after : expr ess ing a :.
de sire to be buried . together. Because custom : ( pr evented ,,
this, th ey were buried separately with photos :of each iothe rn-nie
general ly. accepted . definition of, su icide , in Western literature
includes the concept of a conscious act to end life ::.(Schn eidman,
1987) :"The finding of trance-suicide in Bali indicat es that insteacf of ;
being a conscious act, suicide inay in fact be awunco nscious one. A
culture-sensitive definition of suicide musttakeitis into accounL :\ ,;
, A cro ss-cultural comparative , study- found suicid e .to be ,Jll,dst
common in countries which are 'stable agricultural types' and which :
cu stomarily expect very restrained or. very open ' expr es sion : of
emotion s versus moderate expression (Smith and Hackathorn,
-1982). Balinese Hindus have both charact eristics. Comparis ons .
am ong Balinese are not possible because of inadequat e data to
gauge the prevalence of suicide in the community . .,

The Trance -suicide Concept

There are no citations in the suicide literature that deal with ASC or
the concept of trance as a significant mechanis m. However, some
We stern and Eastern suicides suggest a trancL state. One example

~ .. -- ~
.-4 .

involves individuals who have doused themselves with gasoline and
immolated themselves while sitting quietly in a tower of flames,
usually as an expression of political protest. Almost all of .these
individuals died and there are no data from interviews with st..UVivors
to ascertain their psychological state at the time .
. Several mass suicide events , well known in history , have occurred
in both Eastern and W estem cultures .. In Bali; two , episodes of
what may be conside red mass suicide occurred in 1902 and, 1908,
when royal families marched ceremo niously into the of
advancing Dutch troops and turned their krises on the ir families

and themselves . At Klungkung in 1908, the entire royal family of

about 200 members were killed, and only one mem ber, a-'.rriale,
survived because he was out of town at the time . It was believed that
the self-inflicted death was choseri .by-the leaders beca use they
perc eived that they would be conquered by the armed Dutch .troops
and .as a consequence lose airthey had- mate rial goods as well?.as
religion. The authors hypothesized that these self-sacrifices oceurred -
in an ASC, probably in trance . Investigation ofthis hyp othesi s-could '
possibl y be pursued by studying -the films taken ' of. tlie massacre
which now reside,in Holland . > , ': CL,:,.
In Bali as in India prior to the twentieth century; itwas the custom
for a wife .of a deceased royal member to throw herself on 'to ~the
flaming crem ation .pyre of her . husband and die of immolation:dn :
Bali, this practice was outlawed by the .Dutch colonial government; :
the last instance occurring in 1915. Th e autho rs hypoth es ize :that
this act was accomplished in a trance state.
Durin g World War II at Saipan, Micronesia, thou sands , of
Japanese soldiers forced their families to climb to a high cliff where
th ey pushed them and then jumped to their own -death s on the
rocks below when it was clear to them that they would be ,.con-
quer ed and possibly captured by US Marines invading the island. .
In 1978 at Guyana in the Caribbean, Jim Jones, an Ainerican--: reli0

gious cult leader, together with about 900 foJ owers, . took cyaniae
in 'Kool Aid'. (at his directive) when he believe d that his group .was
thr eatened by the arrival of a US Congressman' s delegation
(Harr ary, 1992). Harrary (1992) reported that many of the deaths
were murders, especially in cases where children were forced to
drink cyanide . For months leading to the event, Jones had prepared .
his followers for suicide in' this manne r at the ir religiou s meetings . .
Nearly the entire settlement of over 909 people , men, women, and
children perished. It . can be hypothesize d tha t many of these
peop le from two divergent cultures - Wes tern, many with Black


heri tage, and Japanese-w ere in an ASC, particularly a contagious .

self-hypnotic state, during suicide.
After a suicide attempt, American patients gene rally rec all th eir .
experi ences. Very few cases involving amnesia have been reported.
However, amnesia following suicide attempts was identified in
three cases reported in Japan (fakahas hi, 1988). Six additional
cases of amnesia involving suicide attempts in Japan (fak ah ashi ,
1989) recalled hallucinations of people during the attem pts , while
two recoun ted personal histories completely different from their
own. The reports made no reference to dissociation, ASC, or trance . .
Thes e appear to be case s of disso ciative disorder and possibly
multiple per sonality disorder.
Th e one case reported in the world literature of a suicide attempt
while in trance was .a 37-year-old American Vietnam War veteran
who had post-traumatic stress disorder . (PTSD) . He:was also
diagnosed as chronically psychotic .although symptoms .of th e latter
were distinct from the acute dissociative disorder (i.e. tran ce) i of
his suicid e attempt (Haberman,1986). Two cases of Vietnam War
veterans with PTSD involved self-cutting which suggested disso-
ciation (Kim and Ainslie, 1990; Putnam, Zahn, and Post, 1990).
Non-schizophrenic PTSD patients related auditory hallu cinations
suggestin g that they comm it suicide (Mueser and Butler, 1987).
Vietnam War veterans with PTSD are at' high i:iskof-suicide and
those who have suicidejdeation or have .attempted .it.suffer signi-
ficantly from guilt over having lost control of. their beh aviour
becau se of being in a state of terror and rage (Hendin and Haas,
1991). Such 'loss of contr ol' is suggestive of dissociation and it

raises the question of whether their suicide .behaviour occurr edin

that state, possibly during a flashback experie nce. Lik e MPD
patients, PTSD patients have been found to be highly hypno tizable
(Spiegel , Hunt, and Dondershine, 1988). The psycho logical mech-
anism of PTSD involves an underlying dissociative process .
The follov.ringcase of what was considered a suicide atte mpt-by
an .overdose of Tranxene (a minor tranquilizer) and lithium (used
for th e treatment of manic depressive disorders) appears to have
involved dissociation . The patient was a 35-year-old divorced single
American White woman, who went to a genera l physician 2 weeks
prior to the overdose .episode because she showed sympto ms of
depr ession. He prescribed lithium, 300 milligrams, three times a day;
and Tr anxene. On the day after the overdose, the patien t could
recall her bottle of medication falling to the floor at her bedsid e and
two pills falling out, but after this, she remembere d nothing until

. -.~.." .'...-
she awakened in the hospital . Her boyfriend had brought her to the .
hospi tal emergency room because she could not _be - arous_ed.-
Ther e she was irrational, yelling and exhibiting uncontr olled motor
beh aviour which required restraint. Her iithium level was ..2.36,
which is considered a toxic level. The toxicology screen of her blood
was negative for str eet drugs and she denied taking any kind of
street drugs for the previous year. Her blood alcohol level was zero.
When interviewed at the psychiatric hospital 13 hours after the
overdose, she was alert and had a clear senso rium; furth ermore,
she exhibited rational behaviour and her thinking was cohe rent She
denied that she intended to take an overdose of. medicin e or-that
she ever had any suicide ideation . She seemed puzzled as to why
she had taken exba pills, which was what she was told sh e had
don e, and she had no recollection of it. She also did not recall her
irrational .behaviour in the emerge ncy room. On anoth er e:iqn-
ination 12 hours later, there was no evidence of a person ality .qis-
order. She denied any previous episodes of loss .of ,il}emo:ry,Jp r-,
events or of losing tin1.e.She had no history of mania, was happy to
accept the recomm endation that she would nolonger ,need med-
ication, and was .discharged from the return to;her
home that same afternoon. , , "'
Although this patient had an elevate d blood level of lithium at
the time that she arrived at the hospital and was irratio_oal, it is -not
pos sible for lithium to have produced amnesia at the point before .she
took the pills, and furthermore, excitable, uncontrolled, or irrational
beha viour is not a side-effect of lithium toxicity. Rather, lithium
toxicity is likely to produce sedation and coma. Th is patient's
hist ory did not reveal any reasons why she would have taken an .
overdose as an attempt at su icide. On the .other -hand, it was clear
that she had anmesia regarding the overdose and for a subse quent
period of approximately 6 hou rs. The episode would appear to .
repre sent trance disorder.
Suicide attempts and depression are reported to be char acteristic
of patients with fugue states, a type of dissociative disorder (Stengel,
1941). However, seemingly contradictory to this are ~everal patients
with fugue states (with amnesia) which the autho rs interp reted-as
deterren ts or alternatives to suicide (Gudjonsson and Haward, 1982;
Steng el, 1941).
Schn eidman's (1987) authoritative book on the psych ology of
suicide identified twelve psychological characteristics th at are
pre sent in most persons who commit suicide . Two of them suggest
ASC, dissociation, or trance : (1) a perceptual state of constriction;

and (2) egression, which refers to a person's inte nded departure

from a situation of distress . Schneidman pointe dout-th at suicide-is
the ultimate egression, a desperate attempt to escape . He folt'that
suicide is best understood as a 'transient psychological constriction
of affect and intellect' . In this state, the su icidal person-totally foes
the usual life-sustaining images of loved ones: The mind 'turns his
or h er back on the past and declare s that all memories areunteal'.
This type of change in thLr1kingcan occur in ASC and represent
dissociation. TI1e concept of constriction =would :appear to be
similar to that ofabsorption, which is a defining charact erist:h:: ofthe
hypnotic state (fellegen and Atkinson , =1974) . absorption ,has
b een described as 'a disposition for havmg ~pisodes of single total
attention that fully engages one's representati onal (i.e. perJeptual ,
enactive, imagin ative, and ideational ) resources 1 - (r ellegen . and
Atkinson, 1974). Schneidman suggested that -the coricepf ,-0
constriction has implications for' the .management of . suicidal
patients : there is a need to counte r th is constrictio n of thought by
attempting to widen the indivJdual's.thought process and to"remove
him from this fixed thought or idea; a state in which th ere are no
other considerations. He cited ~tlfe ,case of a young , unmarried
woman who was pregnant and had only one thought in mind; 'namely
suicid e, as her only option. As he talked to her abou t a number- of
oth er options, she came to consider these and at th is point gavi:!up
: 1 her singular fixed thought of suicide: .=' : ::, ,,
Egression and a perceptual state of constrictio n and absorption
appeared to have been present in the Balinese patients who
attempted suicide while in trance . Their tran..:e states , like hypnosis,
were characterized by a reduction of percep tions / an ignoranc ei<0f
environmental stimuli, and changes in cogn ition. Although the
Balinese suicide attempters did not describe a conscio us desire to
escape a stressful situation or affect, the ir behavio ur ;rcan be
interpreted as an unconscious intent and atte mpt to escape .,: '" ;
The following case of multiple suicide attempts by an American
patient is an example of dissociation and in a numbe r of respeets it
is similar to the Balinese cases of trance-suicide attempts and other
trance-p ossession states .
Jane is a 39-year--oldsingle White female, unemployed, with a
history of severe and prolonged sexu al ab:.ise in childhood.:She
has engaged in over 50 suicide attempts or episod es >of r=self-
destructive behaviour. These have included cutting h erself with
knives or a razor many times; usually on the arm, wrist s, back, and
vagina , and taking overdoses of medications pres cribed for pain,

:-:, ..
sleep, and anxiety . Some of the latter have been near -fatal episodes
and many have required hospitalization, . She describes the {is~al ..
episode as follows: initially she gets a sensation tha t things look
farth er away, like in a fog or darkness, and then a power take)'lover
her and carries out the behaviour, which her . b~dy perfo~s
automatically like a robot. This power l:ias been likened to a :'yery
angry little girl' . She also feels that this power is 'my own demon'.
It sometimes speaks, saying that she is bad and that sh e is going
to take an overdose. She also refers to this p~wer, or little girl,.as a
'cold-blooded killer' who wants to hurt her and feels .very happy
about doing so. At these times her mood is euthymic; sh e sh ows no
signs of depression hypomania, or agitation, When,.shy is abusing
hers. elf by cutting her own skin, .she does not feel' any .pain and:she .
sees herself smiling because she wants to do it. Wh en taken to the
emer gency room in a hospital, she is able to recall only sin.Ji
portions of events that happened during and after.. th e
atte mpt. Generally, she only leams -_abou~ what h_appep.s fu;q gh
someone else telling her what she did. The state . .may last sfor
several hours or upto _2 ,~ay~,~t?f<;>re ~~e_b~~~m~s-.?-:-iareoi~~ ~t
has happen ed. Following ,this, .she worries, feels .frighte ned, ,and) s
_,. 1- ~-

scared because she does not want to die. She said, 'I do noLknow
what would happen if I'm not aware of my behavio ur.' :; .:./
.. She describes the very angry little girl whp ,_ ~11ters -her as ~~jg
thin with brown hair and brown eyes and she claims ~hat this .e
girl does not like authority. She can talk to this little girl but she
cannot control her. She feels that the little girl is inside her . Thls
experienc e first occurred several years ago and has subs equ;n tiy
happened frequently, perhaps 60 per cent of the time . Th e exper -
ience lasts about 1-2 hours, and she recognizes this little girl. as
the one who wants to hurt her and who feels glad that sh e is hi'..u-l:.
The 'little girl' admits to being scared and will not show herself
very often. . ,
Jne patient experienced one such episode during an interyi~w
with Jensen and, at that time, she displayed a great deal of a~ecy-,
saying that she felt panicky and had a strong desire to hurt hers.elf.
These feelings were calmed to some exte nt by 2 milligr ams of
Ativan, a benzodiazepine. She said that she would like to be abJe to
'come to terms' with this little girl and even contract with her toavoid
panic and danger. She felt she needed to accept the little a
pers on with rights and she believed the little girl to qe 'the part of
her that was abused'. That abuse led her to ignore th;
little girl for
many years, something which she was no longer able to do.

In another type of suicide attempt, this patient felt panic-stricken

and out of control , and she would do anything to stop this feelirig,
including cutting herself . She said, "This is the other side of the coin.
rdon 't want to continu e and I do it to myself unde r self-corisdous
control. ' At that time, she felt 'scare d', and she descri bed Her
thou ghts as 'racing', and her mind as 'zooming':
This patient has written suicide notes to he r son on four or five
occasions, stating that she is sorry, that he will not understand, and
that she feels despair. At these times, she knows that sh e is -going
to make a suicide attempt and does so immediate ly afterwards : She
describes the nature of these attempts as 'the power entering her.
On the Dissociativ e Experiences Scale (Bernstein and Ptiiam,
1986), she scored nearly maximal- 95 per cent--()n th e nu111ber 'of
item s endorsed . The average score of'items endorse d is about 40.
This number of items endorsed is comparab le to typical scores for
patients with multiple personality disor der (MPD) . Th e average
scor e of items endorsed is also comparable to the scor es of 1PTSD
patient s. She probably has both conditions: She certain ly nieets
the diagnostic criteria for MPD . Her description of th e little gitl
taking over is similar to the Balinese experience of po'sse ssioii. < .. : :
This case report is similar'to other cases of MPD suicide aftem_pt
Ross et al. (1989) noted that self-destruc tive behavio ur and suicide
attempt s are very common in MPD patients : 72 per cent attempted
suicid e and 2.1 per cent killed themselves ! The metliods were drug
overd ose (68 per cent), self-inflicted bu~ns or other injuries
-(56.6 per cent), and wrist cutting (49.3per cent): In Ross's experi-
ence, cases of complex MPD involving over 15 multiple person-
alities with amnesic barriers were assocja ted with 'histories of
physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. He reported that these
patients may be amnesic with regard to the suicide attempt Th':!y
'may rep ort depersonalization while harming themsel ves arid
accuse an alter of being responsible for the behavio ur. The ii _- self-
destru ctive behaviour was not the usual 'cry for help' or 'attehtion-
se eking'. The MPD suicide attempt gr oup had a history of gr eater
pre valence and more severe physical and sexual abuse, rape, and
more acute psychopathology (Ross et al., 1989). '' '.
Given that the majority of these MPD patients have a history of
childh ood abuse, it may be expected that they would be prone to
dissocia tion (van der Kolk, Perry, and Herman, 1991). Th is-\.vas
support ed in a study of 74 subjects with perso nality disorde rs or
bipolar II disorder. Thirty-two per cent of these subjects ha d borde r-
line personality disorder and 79 per cent of them repo rted a history


.- - ~-;:

of significant childhood trauma. In the overal l stud y; childhood
traum a scores (as measured by the Traumatic Ant eced ents
Questionnaire) predicted suicide attempts, self-cutting and other
self-injurious behaviour, and anorexia. There was a link between
witn essing parental violence in childhood and suicide attempts .
Score s on the DES were highly con-elated with histo ries oftr aiuna,
self-cutting, and anorexia, and there was a trend toward s a cor-
relation with su icid e attempts. During follow-up stu dy of these
cases, the DES scores continued to predict self-cutting an d suicide
attempts . The authors conclud ed that ongoing dissoc iation is directly
associat ed with self-cutting . These results confirme d th e pr evious
studi es that dissociation is associated with self-injury, and that
many such patients report feeling numb and 'dead' prior to
inflicting self-harm (Bach-y-Rita, 1974; Favazza , 1989; Favazza .and
Conterio, 1989; Gardner and .Cowdry ,, 1985i Graff and,fvfallin ,. 1967;
Gru nebaum and Klerman," 1967; Leibenluft, Gardner-,,_apd Coy.dry,
1987; Pattison and Kahan, 1983; Rosenthal et. al.; ,1~72~Roy,j9.8 5;
Sim pson and Porter, 1981; Stone , 1987Y.
This study of the Balinese has implications for the man agement
of the suicide problem in Bali. It suggests that it would be help ful for
edu cators to include, in the regular religious teac hing in public
schools, concepts regarding the consequences of su icide and the
attitude of the culture. Psychotherapists' realization tha t a disso-
ciative mechanism operates in suicid e attempts of the Balinese can
pro vide an understanding of the need to direct efforts at increasing
self-esteem and confidence in suicide attempter ~. and to avoid
implications that the patient has deliberately done wro ng) while still
providing education in religious belief and custom . Unders tanding
the psychological process of suicide in both non -psych otic .and
psychotic patients helps therapists to provide appro priat e supp9.rt
to the patients and their families. Since most suic ides in Bali are py
ingestion of pesticides and appear to be impulsive (in tranc e), P.1:1blic
health authorities should consider practical technique s to .maj<e
pesticides less readily accessible .

Amok is a classic example of what has been called a cultu re-bound
syndrome; 4 that is, it is specific to a given culture and is not found
generally across many cultures, as is, for example, sch izophrenia .
Actually amok occurs in a number of South -Eas t Asian cultures,
particul arly Malaysia . Typically, amok is characte rized by a person,

...... ....

sudd enly and without provocation or warn ing, 1osig con/rol _9.fhi s
actions and behaving violently . It .may last min ut~s to houis ,and
can result in injury and death to persons who..fall vi~tim -"toth e
attacker . , _.,.
In Bali, amok occurs occasionally and is generally beli ev~d t~ be
more frequent in the areas of Karanga sem . Suzyani (1984) noted an
11 per cent incidence of amok among person s affected :~th th e
po session disorder termed bebainan . Suryani and h er h~sband, a
general medical practitioner in Denpasar, have examin ed .a numb er
of amok cases, three of which are dt scribe1 ,he!Q'r':- _,:;;: '.
' I
Case 1
In 1987, a 36-year-old policeman, off duty at hom e; wen t out int6:h is
neighbourhood one morning and shot five women on 'the stre et ,
se emingly afrandom. He was restrained -by oth_~r-policen'le1r llving
in the neighbourhood and brought to jail.: Sufy~ and :Dr 'Denn y
Thong, then Director of the Bangli Me ntal Hosp1tal, exarriin~d hlrn,
'I '
and found no psychiatric symptom s except com plet e amne sia
regarding the event They diagnosed am9k (a dissocia tive ;pisorde r) .
He had no evidence of an organ ic disoraer : EEG , psycli:oloiPcal
testing, and x-ray of the skull"were negative. Hisfory reve al~d 11;hat
! for several months prior to the episode, the man ' had been und er
( I
1 severe stress from his job and his wife, wh o had been admitt e i:}to a
hosp ital. The patient was sentenced to 6 years in jail.-In 1992; Smyani
met him at her private practice when he came with a' 'patient ; a
friend from his policeman days. He hoped that his frien d 'Yotilf n ot
experience what he did when he had severe stre ss. Suryaru,' ~ked
how he got free and he said that he did not go ,tojail becaus e -th e
highest court gave him freedom . But he felt _very sad and guil ty
because he did not kno w he had killed five women. He live d fEli a
year outside Bali. After he decided that this was his karnf' a, h e tried
to accept what the community thought about him, -and went'b_ack to
Bali to become a farmer. He continued living with hi~ wife;'as 'he :ha d
done prior to his attack. -:

Case 2
In 1970,, a 30-year-old male , who had no prior psychiatric histo ry,
sudd enly locked his extended family in the family temple -:and
killed the entire lot Psychiatric examinati on revealed that he -had
visu al illusions that his family members were pigs entering a
tem ple . The police asked, 'Why did you kill your family?'-He said , 'I

. r.>
.. ,:.. . . ,.. -:.-~


didn't I just saw pigs at the ~temple and wanted to make it clean.'
He spent 15 years in jail without exhibiting any mental sympt qms .

In 1990, an adolescent took a knife and - suddenly attacke d and
ltjlled hi~ father after he had quarrelled wi_th him reg arding his
desire to sell their land. The young man felt that the family would 'not
be able to survive without ownership of the f~ian d~ On exam-
ination, he stated that he did not know why he .did it He said that
the world was dark; and his thinking 'ernpty';and "he felf'.is if
someone controlled his thinking and behaviour."He wal remorse:ful
about the event and in jail
experien ced' visual
~ . :
. :-
.,. I .

father's face but did not manifest a psychotic disorde r. '

. '
In Bali, person s who have committed serious crimes while ex-
periencin g an attack of am ok may be' correctly diagn osed as amok
but neverthel ess are given jail sentences .'If amok br 'a com parable
behaviour were to occur in Western society, it would fit the criteria
for a court of law acquittal on the basis of insanity: the individual1.did
not know the significance nor was he aware of his :actcat the tim'e
and sometimes subsequently as welf The M'naghtel:i rule, which
still governs insanity pleas in many states of America, holds that ...
to establi sh a defence on the ground of insanity , it mst be clearly pro.ved
tha t at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was
laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not_to
know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it
that he did not know that he was doing what was wrong.

During amok Balinese lack the capacity to appreciate the wrong-

fulness of their conduct.
There are no known cases of recurrence of amok incthe Balinese
except for that which occurs in bebainan '(see below) . Similarly, no
evidenc e of recidivism was found in Malays ians who committed
amok (Carr and Tan, 1976). This is unlike the gene ral -pattem :.of
violence among most Western criminals in which violent behaviour
is r~curr ent In the West, it is well established that the best predictor
of violent behaviour is a history of previous violence by the
person. 5 While Suryani has not examine d patients durin g an amok
attack, she regards the disorder as identifiable by the sym ptoms of
amne sia following the attack, the lack of awareness of why"they
had behaved aggressively during the attack, and the abse nce of a
psych otic disorder. Amok fits the criteria of a dissoc iative state-or a

t-~ .


tranc e-like state. However, it belies th e gen eral rule of hypnosis

that-person s in trance will not do something they would not po
their usual or non-hypnotic state .

Bebainan : A Trance-posse ssion Disorde r'

11:ii;was ~n investigati~n of 27 cases ;f bebai~an ,_a_disord ~t i hld1
the Balinese b elieve to be caused by sorcery (Suryani, 1984). The
most commori ' symptoms were sudden -.feelings . of confusion~
crying, screaming, .and sh outing, followed by a~in~bility t~:d:dritrol
orie's actions. The victims, mostly female, reported ' sudd enl'' losing
control of themselves' . Some cried out continually for nc{re'ason
(82 per cent), soine spok~, giving voice to the bebdi _(see beio~ ) j:lt1it
they felt possessed them (44 per cent), whilst others were 'silent
(11 per cent), and a few ran amok (11 per cent) . Only a : small
numb er of respondent s could not say how th_ey felt or acted .during
an attack (7 per cent). In the majority of cau: s, attacks wer:ebri~{
_lasting to_l hour. . .: - - r: ,f
In an attempt to control troubled and uncertain feelings. ,
the prodromal _stage,_sufferers usually ~ent to a bedt:oom. After)ying
down, they suddenly:found that they _could no_t~ontrol the~el v,t~
anym ore. They cried out or $Obbed:or talked to the!Jlselves,ag_aj,t;Lst
all attempts to calm them down. Most (81 per cent) were lying down
at the time of-an attack, 15 per cent were standing orwalkmg';-artd
4 pe~ cent were running around aimlessly. If restraine d, 89 per cent
said that the more they .
were !restrained;
- ' the greater
. . . ' - waiFtheii-
~--, .,,.

capacity to resist None could say how they gained the 'extraordiriary
st:-ength. For example, a fen{afe sufferer who was restra ined by' six
!Jlen was still able to_struggle free . -. .. . ,:-. ,. . <2td-r,;O
Be bainan is an illness which the Balinese believe to be caJ.!~~ .Q.
by th e possession of the soul of the ill _by a m~lig:_11ant
spirit called the bebai. The term bebai (meaning .~vil spirit, in gJd
Baline~e) refers to .both the malignant spirit ~d its mat~ti~
representation. The latter is an embod imf nt of_Balinese
the supernatural characteristics of the newborn . In Balinese r~1Jgi9_11,
it is believed that at conception the 'sou l' ofthe moe r and tl)at of
the father intermingle to become the foetus . (rare- ring je.r9ning
ga rba) which assume~ the quality of a super:natural hman-.b.e~ ng
(manusia sakti) . This .quality -remains . with . th~ foets untj.1.) :1~~
newbo rn reaches the age of six Balinese months , i_.e.,about 210 day~.
Belief in the powers of the newborn has inspired som~ Balines_e, ~ho
seek to practise -sorcery or black magic (ilmu pengiwa), to capture
thos e powers and transform them into those of a bebai (Weck, 1937).
. Bebai may be made of different raw materials such :a&. an aborted
foetus, a baby which has died before or during deliv.ery, a placent:;l.,.a
bud of the banan a tree, which is still very you ng and is comm only
used in ceremonies (pusuh) , an egg of.a blac k hen, the water which
has been used for bathing a corpse, or the brain of a murdered
person. The type of material used determines . the power of b,e,bai.
For instance, a bebai made from an aborted foetus of a femal e high
pri est (pedanda istrz) would be much more powerfu l than another
made from the foetus of an ordinary woman . A very powerful bebai
is called 'king of bebai' (raja bebai).
Having found the material needed , the sor.cerer then proc eeds to
treat th e object as a baby . Like a real new bab y, the bebai undergoes
the normal series of ceremonies , perfonne d for it imme diately
after 'birth', after one (Balinese) month and seven days, at the age of
thr ee month s, and finally at the end of six months . Unlike a human
baby, after the last ceremony th e bebai is taken to th e cemetery
wher e a special ceremony is performed . At this cere mony; :Jhe
sorcerer makes offerings to the gods, entreatin g them to bestow
on the bebai the greatest powers possible. If the request is gr anted,
the sorcerer then gives the bebai a nan:ie, usually ,simpl y 'human
baby' or bayi wong . Afterward, back at home,.th e sorc erer pre pares
ric e and other dishes specially for the bebai; which is now .truly
tre ate d as a pr ecious and precocious child. Tne next perio d ,1asts
until it r eaches the age when a normal child begins to talk . Dtiririg
th is period, the bebai is not only fed regularly , but is also given
special offerings on kajeng .kliwon (an important Balinese religious
day which com es every 15 days) . Finally , now that the bebai can
'talk' and 'und erstand', it is regularly consult ed by the sorc erer to
ascertain its 'maturity'. _Only whe n it is fully mature is itr ead y,t0 be
u sed. At this sta ge, it is said to have acquired 30 powers or to.have
be come 30 bebai in one . These powers can be used eith er QYthe
sorcer er-owner, rented out, or sold . 0 -
Each of th e 30 powers or manifestatio ns of the ,bebai Jfas ,a
particular name and produces a particular symptom th rou glVthe
person it possesses . For example, I Bebai Bongol makes its victim
unable or unwilling to talk. On the other hand, J Bebai Sebarung
ma kes the person in its posse ssion very talkative and rude.
Another example is I Rejek Gumi, presumed to have 108 buta .{evil
spiri ts) under its command and therefore known as th e king of
bebai . Tius bebai attacks its victim violently in the pit of th e stomach,
maki ng the victim enraged before rendering him or her rm~
conscio us. The victim is likely to die unless he lp is quickly obtained .
Alth ough each power or manifestation of the bebai ha s a distinct

name and a distinct mode of attack, the various manifestations are

-,f supposed to be very co-operative, arid to b e ever -read y to' help 'one
another to subdue victims . .,. ,
Not every hated person can be attacked or possess ed by:bebai.
Th e impervious individuals are those who are free of sins:,wao~ e
wise, or who have powerful amulets . Th e vulnerable persons: are
th ose who are believed to be weak either in mind or body: and
th ose who .are sinful. ; : -,,,
Most commonly, a person falling into the possession of the bebai
is reported to experience a sudde n sense of blankn ess,f.loss , of
'. I' desire and will , and confusion . These feelings are accompariied fby
a stomachache or headache and ringing in the ears, followed :br a
loss of vision and a feeling of cold startin g from the feet upward ,to
th e pit of the stomach . Finally, the victim .loses . all control and
either cries uncontrollably, shouting and scr eaming, or incessantl y
talks angrily to himself or herself. Sometime s, the afflicted, perso n
becomes violent, exhibiting unusual strength . , -,, ,.,
Once in control, the bebai is believed to be capab le of harmin g
or even killing the individual. Usually, however, its. power can be
mitigated and overcome by a traditional he;iler (balian). Sometime s
a spiritualist - (ahli kebatinan) or a Balinese Hindu hi gh '1prfes t
(pedanda) is consulted . .But since the illness -is con side red .to' be
impure (that is, affliction by--a lower form of spirit) , help can;b e
obtained relatively easily only from ;.the .balian . The high -priestJ s
usually reluctant to come into contact with this illness . . . . ..
Puri Klungkung encompasses. the residenti al quart er stor .com-
pounds of the family of the former King of Klungkung. It consis~ :of
Puri Agung or the grand compound where the King and his principal
wives (including the queen) live, Puri Agung Semara Negara ,where
I, the younger wives reside, Puri Agung. Saraswati wh ere the :;still
vounger wives of the'l{ing have their quarte rs, and thr ee other,:_p.uri
(i.e. Puri Anyar, Puri Kaleran, and Puri Semarabhawa ) where ,the
brothers and sisters of the King and the ir, .families hav:e,,their
residenc es. At the time of the .fieldwork, cond ucted inJune ,and ,July
1980, the puri accommodated a total of 59 families or households
with a total of 296 members. .,. .. ,_,!i;,,,1u
In the past, a puri girl would at adolescen ce (following her first
menstruation) be taken out of school and . confuied to the -,puri.
From then on, she would be taught to weave , prepar e offerings ,
and behave properly in accordance with the intricate etiquette of
th e puri . For her, the outside world only appeared thro ugh -:the
cracks and open1ngs in the walls of the puri . In the past decade,
however, this tradition has undergone a slow decay. A number .of

: -~-t ......
puri girls have continued their education as far as the univer s~ty,_~cl,
some have outside employment in governmen t bure aucracy ~d in
private enterprise . Nevertheless, almost all of the female members :in
th e puri have been trained in the weaving of th e Balinese
tradi tional sarong (kain songket) , the Balinese hat (udeng), and the
shawl (selendang). And in general they are ~till unr ebellious .:They
seem to be complacent and willing to accept the decisions of their
pare nts and families .
In the puri as a whole, the older generation of men gene rally have
more than one wife while most of the younger genera tion have
monog amous marriages. All the wives in each polygamou s marriage
live together in the sam.e compound, apparently quite harmo niously,
each one putting the interest of the husband above ,her own . .Th ey
appear to comply with the expectation that they sho uld be
com pletely obedient to their husband apd, at the .same time, be al;,le,
ge nerally through weaving, dressmaking, or retailing, to s1,1_pport
themselv es and their children with minimum help _fr:om hin;i...At
any rate, none of the wives expressly expect s to be completel Y.
support ed by her husband . They accept suppo rt from hiI;I;r .,-Qf
course, but without exception they recognize the need to be1s~lf-
supporting. In effect, each wife, with children is the)1 ead ,,9f:her
own household .
Sury ani administered formal questionnaires and inte rviewed ,ajl
of the members (296 persons) in the compound of the desc eqdaJJts
of the former royal family of Klungkung . Twenty-seven individugls,
mostly female from 16 families, had experien ced bebainan at,Jeast
once . All these indivj.duals, who were betwee n 10 and 76 years of
age, were included in the sample. The contro l group consisted of
215 individuals, puri residents who were betwee n 10 and 75, year,s
of age.
When the first signs of an attack occurred, all family membe ;r~
who happened to be in the immediate vicinity of the victim rushed .to
his or her side to render assistance . As menti oned above, rela v,~s
always tried to physically restrain the sufferer who mig_h,t
shrieking, v,rrithing, crying, or running around aimles sly. AHtpis
stage, families had a lot of discussion about wher find a .s1,Lib\<;;
healer to treat the victin1. Close family me mbers usually had , no
hesitati on in making the diagnosis of bebainan as th e symptoms
were easily recognized and bebainan was regarde d as a common
illness. It was also considered a condition which must be treated
by traditional healers (because of the sorcery. involved) and which
lay outsid e the power of modern doctors and paramed ics to cure.
In 93 per cent of cases recorded in the survey, the family

.t- ~. /

:; -. .-:, ,

,, - ....
.' ;~,: ~-
~ '
, , I I
hntn ediately sought the help of a tr aditional healer . In 30 per~entof
I. cases, the help of a Balinese Hind u high priest was soukht iin
I addition to, or as an alternati ve to, the heale r's riunistrati ons . In only
11 per cent of cases was the patient taken to a doctor or paramedic:
In some of these cases, the close relative took the -suffeter :..toa
docto r (not accepting the diagnosis of bebain an) -while other
relatives sought the h elp of a healer as well . A mere 3.7 per Cehtt)f
cases did not receive any treatment at all.
In most cases, the healer would be summoned to th e house-yar d
of t.11.e victim. Several healers living close to th e puri wer e the ,ones
usually summoned to treat bebainan cases . On some occasi'ons;
close relatives would go to the house of a mo re distant healer fol'
advice and medicines, but rarely was the victim taken out side 'the
puri walls.
The healer usually arrived while an attack was in progr ess and
typically the sufferer would cry out in fright at seein g the he alet, and
ask for mercy . In fact, it was the voice of the crea ture possess ing
th e sufferer (the bebai) which was believed to be talking throUgh 'lts
victim . The bebai's utterances varied little in conte nt and to ne from
one victim to another. Sometimes the healer-interr ogat ed the br3bai
who had possessed the victim, asking, for exam ple-: 'Wh er e o<Y:,Yot1.
come from?', 'Why are you here?', and so on . After such a ses-si"o"n .;
! th e healer prepared to exorcize the bebai . Some healers use d ;froly
i wate t -, or certain ritual objects . Another common~lechni qu e w-a~ ' tb
t squeeze the thumb of the victim, so that the bebai was force d to tty
out in pain (through the victim), asking for mercy -and pro misihgn6t
to bother the person again . Often the bebai would only leave the body
of th e victim after its demands for certain foods or t>ffe1ings 'Wete
satisfied . When food was asked for, it was not necessarily footl~whlch
th e victim would normally have found appe tizing . After th e vitf:im:
h ad 'returned to hormal, the heale r gave the family a sup ply"ofl{6ly
wate r or oil, which they were advised to adm iniste r regul arly,'.sti that
th ere should be no recurring attacks. Du ring and after the'.~ttack ;
several close relatives of the victim were occupied with cafr.yin-g
out the healer's instruction, e .g. preparing food or making 1:he
small inexpensive offerings usually required .
In cases where the heal er was delayed in coming, th e disb-essed
relatives of the victim m ight seek help from othe t Puri hou seholds
iii. treating the attack. Close relatives sought out othe r -residen'ts'Who
h ad exp erien ce in handling cases of bebainan an d who might-have
reserves of holy water and other medicines on hand. Th us hebaina'n
ttacks provide opportuniti es for informal co-opera ~on between Puri
households, a temporary breakdown of other .vise rigid beh a\rl6ttral


. \;. .
codes. Some time after the attack , on a pred etermined d,w, the
afflicted person underwent a pwification ceremony which was
though t to have a calming effect on the suffere r: It was performed
by a very high-ranking priest who had a special relationship with puri
re sidents. The ceremony itself was small,. brief, .and inexpensive.
and was performed at the priest's house . Tilis ceremon y provides
an occasion for the fo1mer victim to leave the puri briefly.
Basically, the same procedures .were followed for first and
recurring attacks . Apart from the purification ceremo riy mentioned
above, no special attention was bestowed on the bebaina n sufferer
when not experiencing an attack.
Analysis of the psychological and social pressures acting on
thes e women suggested that bebainan attacks provided sufferers
with an opportunity to release feelings of frustration and an1;er.about
conflicts engendered by their social environme nt which the y had
no means to resolve. The victim benefited pcychologic ally from the
disord er because it was one of the few ways in: which women in
particular might give vent to negative feelings withoutri sk of wide-
spread disapprobation or stigmatization . Boweve r, bebainan was not
instrumental in altering access to resources within the restricted
environment of the royal compound, nor did it empower the victim
within this environment in any but the most transito ry ways.
From the psychiatric standpoint, the most compelling charac-
teristic s of bebainan are its sudden occurrence and th e temporary
ch aracter of its impact. During its attack, the victim suffers a
severe impairment of consciousness and sense of identity and loss
of control over motor functions. But these sympt oms disappear
comple tely at the cessation of the attack. There is no amnesia for
events during the attack. Bebainan cannot be regar ded as a form of
psychosis, even of the reactive or atypical type; it is neither an
organic mental disorder, nor a fom1 of neurosis . Ins tead bebainan
can be considered a form of dissociation, specifically trance with
possession, which is understandable only in the con text of. local
Balinese culture. The disorder fits the definitions of trance and
possession disorders in the newly published JCD-10 (W1-IO, 1992).
ltjs highly significant that within a year after Suryan i's study of
this long-standing disorder, it ceased to occur in the, palac e
population. Because of this, some families regarded Suryani as
having magic powers. The authors regard the disappe arance of th e
disorder under the circumstances as consistent with it being a
community -wide culture-related dissociative disorde r with posses -
sion. It is hypothesized that the families' relaxatio n of r striction :
on adolescents took the pressure off them and dec reased the ir


~ .


resentmen ts. Possibly this and related changes in th e community, C

which reduc ed the stress-producing customs and th e edu cation C
which Stuyani provided about the nature of the disorde r, removed ti
some of the mystery of the illness and wer e the prim ary factors n
respon sible for its curious disappearance . It still occurs sporadic- ii
ally in the wider Balinese population . d
7 k
Kas urupan: A Dissociative Disorder in_5c1?,
oolchildr en .
A clinical study of an outbreak of dissociative disorders (kasurup an) it
in 45 elementary schoolchildren (Suryani and . Jen sen, 1991) 0
illustrates a mass or epidemictrance disorde r and the .need-for n
Western -trained psychiatrists to develop an intima te and th orough s,
knowledge of the Balinese culture as it affects behaviour, personality t1
and mental disorders, and clinical strategies . u
In January 1984, a nwnber of schoolchil dren in a moun tainous s'
area of central Bali began to experien ce spells chara cte rized ,by 0
sud den onset, fainting, unconsciousness; crying , visual hallucina- 0
tions, anxiety, and occasionally automatic dancing (lasting minutes:to a
hours) with complete awareness of events of the spell afterTecovery. tl
The number of children afflicted (45 of the 215 schoolchi ldren) f G
th e frequ ency of the attacks (65 per cent had 6- 15 episod es; one t{
had 30; some had several per day), and the appare ntly contagi ous u
n-atur e of the disorder, interfered severel y with the functions of the d.
schools and caused fear in the children and comm unity. It was ti
apparent that this problem touched the entire commun ity, as well p
as th e childr en experiencing the mental disorder . Treatmen t efforts tc
by traditio nal healers and psychopharmac otherapy advised by SJ
psychiatris ts were ineffective. Education and governm ent officials b
from the re gion became concerned and involved. ., ..
The village heads and associated govemme nl officials invite d si
Suryani to investigate the problem. She visited the village on sc,eral rr
occasi ons and interviewed teachers, school officials, comm unity GI
memb ers, and afflicted children, examined one child during' ari fc
attack, and swveyed 19 victims by structured interview.
The spells consisted of three phases: prodromal symptoms , trance, SJ
and recovery. The prodromal phase was characterize d by weakness n
(90 per cent), a feeling of emptiness in the head, piloerection on (j
the neck, closing of the eyes and difficulty opening . them , and si
intense fear of impending events. This phase lasted from 2 to tr
10 minu tes. tc
The trance phase was characterized by hallucinations and disso- tl

.. -:,l'.:

da tive phenomena The experiences varied in details but had
common elements . Many victims lost their hearing and th e ability
to hear voices around them. Most (70 per cent) saw a woman or a
man , usually a big, 'horrible' woman with yellow or red-coloured
matt ed hair, a red or black face, hairy arms, and long hair hanging
down or fixed behind the head (45 per cent), sometim es appearing
like a giant or Rangda, the witch in classical Balines e drama well
known to all Balinese. Some saw a woman with light-shaded
beautiful skin . Some reported that this woman took them for a walk
in the forest (m front of the school) and spoke to them , but th ey
could not speak back. In the forest, they cried from fear , saw little
men and snakes with big bright eyes, and then were led baek-to
scho ol by the woman or man . A few experienced being tak en to
the forest along with another child from schoo l to.whom the y:were
unab le to speak . On one occasion when 17 _girls ha d a:ttac~s
simul taneously, two sixth-grade children suddenl y sat.-up and :t old
of being 'possessed' by the two women spirits who were sisters; the
older one lived in a large stone, partially buried in the ~choo lyard ;
and the younger one lived in a stone hidden under a classroom of
the school. The spirits asked for floral offerings to the supr.eme
God and for a traditional Balinese gamelan orchestra so th eyco'ttld
teach the children to dance . The teacher complied by turn ing on
taped gamelan music . At the first note of the game lan, all .the
children who were experiencing the attack.sudd enly arose and the
two girls danced legong, a classical Balinese dance th at most had
prob ably seen performed in the villagebut had not befor e learned
to do themselves. The other 15 children then performe d legong
spon taneously. When the music ended , all returned to sleep-like
beh aviour. The trance phase lasted about 40 minutes.
The recovery phase was characterized by sitting up, expres-
sionl ess, confused and anxious with weakness of neck and body
muscl es (70 per cent) . After a few minutes, most of th e victims
continued with their schoolwork as usua l but a small num be r,were
fearful and went home .
. A number of responses of the teachers and commun ity were
significan t Soon after the episode began, they recalled an episode
two years before when two children suddenly lost consci ousnes s
(pingsan) at school, were tak en home, and recovered after about
six hours with seve ral recurrenc es. They were treat ed by a
tra ditional healer (balian), who said the cause was a buried small
temple on the school grounds that offended the gods . At tha t time
the community promised the balian they would build a new tem ple

but had not done so because of a lack of funds . .With ,th e onset -of
this new outbreak of a si.i-nilardisorder, the community quickly,
built the temple on the school groun ds . . This effort along .with
ceremonies and offerings to the gods was fruitless . The 'spirit' rock
on sch ool grounds was fenced off. Teachers _became fearful -and
unable to teach effectively because of these interrup tions. The
school authorities trans ferr ed some victims to another school;
however, this caused additional attacks in othe r childr en in that
school and they were returned . The balian believe d the attacks
were caused . by the gods who were angered _by the villagers '
mistakes. Non-afflicted children feared being attacked, and the
news media expressed alarm.
Examination of a 13-yea.r-old child during an attack .revealed a
pale face, flickering eyelids, and resistance to efforts to operi her
eyes . Pupillary reflexes and deep tendon reflexes were normal. Her
extremities were cold, but her heart rate was normal . Fifteen minutes
later, she was crying and breathing slowly (five respira tions . per
minu te) . Eye movements res embling nystagmus were noted. After
another fifteen minutes, she sat up, was unresponsive .to que stions ;
and had cold extremities . Fifteen minutes after this, she spoke :slowly
with an expressionless face. Forty- minutes later, she re turned fu
her normal behaviour and could recall her experie nce well.
Interviews with victims included questions abou t their relation-
ships with parents, peers, and siblings, and about their life out of
sch ool. There were no reported changes at home except fear:-that
the 'big woman' would follow them home. They typically reported a
hom e life lacking communication with parents and with inadequate
opportu nities for play, because of the lack of immed:iate neighbours.
Workin g or doing school homework were the ir chief activities.
Th ey did not report sleep problems but some felt fearful at night
At school, the pattern of play with peers went on as usual but fear
of another attack persisted.
It was clear from these studies that the attacks repr ese nted ,a
dissociation phenomenon or trance. The stresso r for most victims
in this study was anxiety among the children and teach ers . A specific
stres sor for the children initially afflicted could not be identified.
There was evidently a high degre e of suggestibility involved as
evidenced by the 'spread' of attacks to new contacts, including two
Suryani observed that the temple built on the schoo l grou nd was
not properly 01iented in its location according to the tra d:itional
Balinese Hindu religion . She became aware 0f the -many visiting

,.: ..

strang ers (i.e. officials, news media, and curious outsiders ) and their
apparently disturb ing influence on the village and its people who
previously were relatively isolated from outsi ders. .
Variou s possible approaches to the problem were discussed.
First, diagnosi s was necessar y. Arriving at a diagnostic term
used in the management process with the communit.y involved
taldng into account its swtab ility not only for individual 'patients '
but for the community and even the country as a whole . It had to
be acceptable to the culture if it was to be workable . For example,
labelling the behaviour 'hysteria' wou1d insult or anger the people
and destroy rapport; using the term 'epidemic illness' would cause
fear in the Balinese people; the - diagnostic term 'dissociative
disorder' would be incomprehensible and if used with the people
would destroy confidenc e in the psychiatris ts. This situation pre-
. sented a dilemma to and generate d conflict an ,ong the psychiatr:ists.
The diagnostic term finally chosen was possess ion (kasurup an) ., a
concept known to the Balinese , and understanda ble as Welh-as
acceptabl e to th em . This term does not carry with it an implication
of illness or :stigma; rather, it is part of norma l life in Bali.
Next, a treatment and intervention strategy had to be developed.
There was no precedent for treatment of this kind of disorder in
Bali. Pharrnacoth erapy was ruled out because prior expe riences
had shown it to be ineffective. Individual and group psych otherapy
was considered but regarded as impractical in view of th e urgency
and extensiveness of the disorder . The epidemic natu re of the
problem suggested public health strategies . It was agr eed that
multiple aspects of the culture had to be taken into account afld
brou ght into harmony or balance with psychiatry. The final plan
developed combined clinical and socio-cultural elements . , ,
The main compon ents of the plan were outlined to the community
leaders, and to health, education, and religious officials at a meeting
held in August 1984, one month after initiation of the stu dy/ The
char acteristics of the disorder were explaine d, the diagn ostic label
of possession (kasurupan) was used, and specific mE\asures,wete
advised :
L The high priest (pedanda) was recommen ded cts th e primary
heale r . This decision was based on his traditional role in treat-
ment of mental disturbances, his high status in religious matters,
and the prior ineffectiveness of local bahan. The villager s would
regard the high priest's intervention as appropriate coi nte the
community believed the attacks were caused by su pematutal
force s (anger of the gods) and did not represent disea se .

~ -~


2. A new temple should be built to correct the .erro r in orientati on

. of the existing newly built temple .on the scho ol grou nds..-lThis
ra tionale adhered to the concept of 'balan ce' of .forces traditionally
believed to cause mental disoi;der . A prope r temple is regar ded
as the source of all community power ..
3. Teachers would allay fears . of the children by read ing : and
- teaching traditional stories from the Hind u epics, Ma habharata
and Ramayana, which feature positive -and benevol en t spirits .
. These stories are consonant-with Balinese Hindu belief.
4. The village should be closed to all outside rs including the
investi gators . This was intended to reduce confusion, stress,
andfear engendered by -outsiders .
5. Individual psychotherapy was offered if neede d; ;, . ! :-- >,

These suggestions :were accepted and , all were ,carri ed ,:out

immediately. The high priest directed the temple chan ge and .the
ceremonies of purification . Teachers _had more confid enc e .and , a
fresh direction of teaching; village life returned to its usual p~tt;em.
Within one month after the initiation of the plan,-all atta cks ceased.
At yearly follow-up visits during 1985-90, no furth~ r . attack s !were
reported. ,. . , ,/;

Spirit Possession in Other _C~ _tures

In north-west . Madagascar, tw9 type;; , oh~piri t po.sses sioq.-_ hqye
been described which manifest behaviours similar to th ose 9f.both
the bebainan and kasurupan types 9f possess :Bali (Sharp i
1990). . ,;_:,;,
One type of spirit possession called njariJiintsy is _a 'sickn,ei;; _s:
occurring primarily ip.,adole~cent girls -whiclJ.1s- ometim es Q&\J~e~
violence. It may typically begin -by a tea che r ~sking a stu dent to
p_erform a task, perhaps an assignment at the J ).9.ard; inst:!;! .a4 :9f.
responding , the student -suddenly starts to wailloudly, sob, scream -/
or yell obscenities and may stand up and run about the roo m.,;She,
may throw objects or swing her arms violently, and it may., mk~
four or five boys to catch her and hold her down. There have beei;i
mass outbreaks of tl1is type _of possession, which _is tho ugh t..t.o. Qe
contagious . Fifteen or twenty students, includin g someti me s _a few
boys, may become possessed at one time . It is reg arded as a fo~ of
possession or as a sickness caused by a bad or evil spirit Symptoms
include shaking and chills, uncontrollable scre an;ung and qying,
loss of memory, and mental confusion . During possessi on, . the
individual does not recognize anyone and has amnes ia with regard

-.:.;..: .
-.,,.~;' -- .
to .the events afterwards. It is believed that if a he aler is not obtained
who can drive the spirits from the person's body, he or sh e may go
mad or die. A study of outbreaks of the disor der among school-
childr en indicated that it was the outcome of culturally and socially
alienated youth in a rapidly changing society .
Another type of spirit called tromba primarily posse ss es women,
is troublesome, and makes demands on the tra ditional h ealers and
oth ers close to the individual. This altered state begins with an
ons laught of chronic symptoms, including -hea daches, dizziness;
soren ess of the neck, back, or limbs ; or pers istent stom ach pains.
Whereas the possession by njarinintsy is regarded as a problem,
possessi on by tromba is an important aspect of the cultur al identity
of th e women, a marker of status, and a means to enhance her :status
locally. A woman who becomes a traditional heale r for trqmba,
called a tromba-medium, is a powerful and respect eq .the
commu nity. Services and the techniques used -by,:the se h ealers
(Sharp, 1990) resembl e those of the tradition al-heale rs of
many respects. ,;-.,;
. Demonic possession has . been described as a..'frigb t~ning,,neg-
ative experience of some urunvited, evil entities. assu.r:ningcomplete
control over one's body' .(Goodman, 19S8). Go,odrnan describedrtwo
types of possession: African and Eurasian . In the Eur asian ,type,
the evil entities who have settled in torment their \7i. ctirns and attempt
to kill them. The feelings are relieved by dislodging , _expelling,,-i.e.
exorcizin g, the malevolent being (Goodman , 1988: 98) .8
There .are relatively few case reports of posse ssion disor ders in
th e West Since possession occurs in som e West ern religious
settings, it may be expected that possession would occur in1non-
religious settings as it does in Balinese ;rnd_in oer. {J. OnW.e~t~rn
cultu res. Only a few cases have been reported in W est erne :rs and
obs erved at first hand by a psychiatrist who is-,an exp_ert j n
diss ociative disorders and MPD (Allison, 1992). Five cases , of
possession were reported by a Jesuit priest (M_artin, 1976), ,two
cases by an anthropologist (Goodman, 1981, 1988) . In the .latter
two cases, data and examinations could not rule out a numbe r of
oth er . neurologic and psychiatric co_nditi0n_s. 'These included
seizure disorder, bipolar affective disorde r, mania, multiple
per;;onality disorder, and several other dissociative disorders . Jens~n
examined a patient in California in 1990 who se emed ,to by
possessed by the Devil for a period of years and attribu ted his
mur der of an individual to the work of the poss ess ed Devil. On
psychi atric examination, it appeared that this man suffered from a

- J
~ ,,..

psycho tic delusion rather than a possession disorder. On the other

han d, it can- be expected that persons who have grown up in' ,a
foreign country where possession and possessi on disord ers ',are
char acteristic are more likely to manifest possessio n disorder
while living in a Western culture.

* * *

Dissociative disorder is a general term applicable to a number of

mental disorders, including amnesia, fugue state, hysterical
paralysi s, deafness, blindness, and multiple personality disorder
(MPD). ICD-10 (WHO, 1992) differentiates trance and possession
disord ers from the others. Most types of dissociative disorders,
except MPD, have been observed in the ~alinese . A study .of
suicide attempters revealed that most non-psychotic patients :were
in a state of.trance-possession during the attempt, Thes e cases ,are
classified as a type of trance-p ossessio n disorder and represenf a
heretofor e unrecogniz ed psychologi cal process in suic ide:-:Disso-
c.iation is a significant mechanism in ' suicide attempts of patients
with MPD. Case-studies of amok indicate that trance is oper ativein
an acut e attack. An epidemic trance disorder (kasurupa n) affecting
sch oolchildren and a trance -possessio n disorder (bebainan)' which
occurr ed in a palace population were studied an d descri bed'. -They
rev ealed several cardinal aspects of the : tra:nce-possessioii 'state,
including the factor of contagion, hallucinations , and wild;' uti0
contr olled behaviour . The treatment of these two conditions involved
traditio nal healing and a combination of traditio nal (religion-based)
and Western psychiatric methods . -
0 ;._'

Delineation of trance-suicide has important implicati onsfor, the

mana gement of suicide attempts in W esteme rs (see Chapter ;:9).
The healing process used successfully with the childr en suffering
from trance disorder is a model for treati ng similar disorders that
occur in Balinese and other Eastern cultures, and in th e West.:The
current operating split of body/mind in Western medicine
compromises the treatment of many maladies of Wes terne rs. To
ignor e the spiritual realm of life would furthe r compromise
he aling. The Balinese cases of possession disorder bring into
sh arp focus the WHO definition of health : this would be more
complete when it adds the factor of spiritual heal th to its current
definition covering physical, psychological, and social health .

: ., :
J. An Amytal interview is one conducted while the patient is in a sedated state
brough t on by the controlled, slow, intravenous injection of the fast-acting barbiturate,
2. Wangaya is the only public psychiatri c hospital in Bali, apart from the mental
h ospital at Bangli, Bali.
3. An excepti on to these beliefs was the ancient practice of the wives of royalty
voluntarily throwing themselves and burning to death on the crema tion pyres of their
hu sbands (masatia) .
4. An alternative term is 'culturally recognized syndro me', indicating that it may
occur in cultures in which it has net yet been given the same degre e of attention.
5. Single episodes of mass killing by individuals also o~cur in the West but are
relatively rare compared with. the usual types of violent acts.
6. This section on bebafoan is reproduced from The Ba linese People: A Reinvest-
igati on of Character Uensen and Suryani . 1992: 113--45).
7. This section on kasurnpan is reproduced from The B alinese People: A
Rein vestigation of Character Uensen and Suryan i, 1992 : 163-7) .
8. For a description of exorcism rituals used by Catholicism, see Martin (1976)
and Goodman (1988: 120) .

.:,: '

;. ~ _.:_
..- ~ !;
and Hypnotherapy

MEDITATION is an ASC (altered stat e of consciousness ) that need s

to be differentiated from trance and posse ssion. The technique of
meditation healing used in Bali may prove useful to Western
practitione rs. The phenomenon of possess ion during hypnotherap y
of Balinese patients may contribute another dimension to Western
hypn otherapy .

Meditati on
Meditation has a long history of practi ce in both Easte rn and
Western cultures. It is an act or process of focusing one' s though t
to become aware or to engage in contemplatio n. Broadly, meditation
is understood as a specific practice which achieves a number of
different goals, including (1) self-developmen t; (2) self-re alization;
(3) the act of experiencing oneself; and (4) the discovery of
ultimate truth (Chaudhuri, 1974). In Bali, meditati on is usuall y
perfonned by persons who want to learn how to relate to God and
by older persons who are more inclined tc.,vards the spiritual life.
Balinese meditation has two objectives : (1) to beco me aware of
and improve oneself in the natural world (e.g. increas e one's ability
to solve problems and diminish ne eds stem ming from real life);
and .(2) to understand one's supern atural world (e.g. connect with
the gods to get messages or a lecture from them). Th ere is no
mind- body dichotomy in Balinese philosoph y such as the re is in
the West.
The various meditation techniques use d for heali ng and pro-
moting well-being have been described in the litera ture . Most of
thes e consist of imaging or focusing on th e distressed or diseased

L__ ________ --. -

( . -


part of the body (DeBerry-, 1992). It is believed that these

techniques are effective in relieving pain, restoring heal th, po~sibly
prolo nging life in individuals with AIDS, prom oting loc;.pized
healin g (Schwarti, 1983: 114), and ameliorating cancer (Meares,
1978). Meditation has been found to be helpful for patients , with
c.:.anrer _in terms of . in1proving sleep, relations hips, attitu des
towards death, and understanding the meaning and purpose ofUfe
(Magarey, 1988). There is experimental evidence that meditation is
effective in reducing anxiety and depression . (DeBerry, Davis, and
Reinhard, 1989). Despite these application~ of meditation to distres,s
and illness, in a critical compatisop. between m,editation . and
psychotherapy in terms of method ,:and . ain1s, Kokos zka (1990)
stated that the aim of meditation is primaril y--s~lf:;-development
thro ugh a specific way of life and practices,-,wherea.s th e aim of
s psych otherapy is to restore health . ~- . _, . ;:. ..
,f All forms of meditation are characterized by an{alterajjQp.. pf
1 awareness of attentio n. There are -two basic te_chniques of atte nti9.n
'y in meditation which produce ASC although both ~ to briI!g ,the
n persons concerned to a better understanding of their mental function
as they experience a c;hange in the level of consciou snes s froro.-their
sual state . Both techniques are _used in Bali. One is c;once ~tr.ation
with a single focus, using a visual object or an auditory stinmlus,
such as a mantra. This is analogous .to using a camera zoomJe!lS.
d Th e other technique is mindfulness, where the -in_dividual , allows
tt him self to . be aware of a situation i gene ral, such as mentally
n following the breath through the body . This is analogou s to a wide-
>f angle lens.
1; In concentration meditation, one's thinking and emotions tenq
>f to be subordinate; the focus of attention is lin1ited to a repeated
y stimulus such as a word, a voice, a prayer, breath , or a _visual
d object, and a passive attitude is maintained . Intru sive men_u
activities disturb .concentration. If the meditator is dis "bed; he
>f must refocus his concentrati on on the stimul us. When meditati_on
y phenom ena develop, his mood will change from relaxa on to_an
); emotional and cognitive stat e of ASC.
h In . mindfulness meditation (Delmonte , 1989; KeUy, 1955), ;the
.0 individual tries to observe his or her mind without ignoring thoughts,
n des ires, and moods . Th oughts are allowed to flow in d ot of
the mind and the subject acts as if he is obse rving these non-
0- ~udgmentally from outside himself. Tnis is analog ous to the hidden
)f observ er phenomenon of the hypnotic state .
:d . -In meditation, a number of psycholo gical ph<momena, which

<>: .-.--

occur in the normal non-A.SC state , as well as in abnorm al mental

con ditions, are encountered. These include hallucinations; delusions,
dep erson alization, and derealization (Castillo , 1990; Deikm an; 1963;
Kennedy, 1976) .
Medi tation is characterized by a nu mbe r of neurophysi ological
ch anges , including lowered consu mp tion of oxyge n, dec reased
heart rat e, slow ra te of breath ing , low blood pressur e, and
decreased se rum leve ls of lacti c acid, increased skin re sistance,
and chang es in blood circulation . Th ese change s are relate d to a
dec rease in sympat h etic nerv ou s sys tem activity (see Kutz;
Borysenko, and Bens on, 1985) .i A large reduction in resting
metaboli sm was recorded in Tib etan Buddhist monks in india
during med itation (Benson et al., 1990). Experime ntal evidence
has be en found for red uced beta -adrene rgic recepto r sen sitivity' in
subjects practising tr anscendental meditation which supports studies
postul ating that meditation is associated with reduced symp athetic i
adrenergic receptor sen sitivity (Mills et al., 1990). Other evidence a
of the effects of meditati on; on th e nervous system come from 1
studies of Qi Gon g meditatio n',-which has been kno wn for p
thousands of years in China and which-is widely practised (Liu et 'al., g
1990) .Thi s form of m ed itatio n -caus es an enhanceme nt of brain r,
stem audit ory evoke d response with a concomitan t depres sion of p
cortical re spo nses . Th ese change s are hypothesized to be related i:r
to the heal ing and othe r health be nefits of this type of medita tion . tr
Findings of brain wave changes during medita tion are not entirely
con siste nt. Kutz, Borysenko , and Benson (1985) found a'change in T
a and f3 rhythms of the EEG (electroe nc ephalogram) du ring
medi tation . Triman et al. (1978) studied 69 meditation subjects
who pr actised meditation for over 15 years and 69 non-me ditation ai
subje cts in Surabaya, Java. The frequency of breathing an d heart th
rate decr eased in the meditators but was unchang ed in the control hi
subj ects . The EEG of the meditation subjects showe d a ch ang e in fe
a rhyt hm, decreasing from 69.6 to 15.9 per cent, becomin g more G,
regular, an d moving from the occipital - parietal towards the ce ntral di
area of the bra in. f3waves decreased (68.1 to 52.5 per ce.nt) in the tii
frontal-c entral areas . e waves increased from 1.4 to 14.5 per cent. td:
After a quiet period e waves decreased from 1.4 to 1 per cen t. The th
control su bjects, who sat quietly concentrating without med itation, an
had incre ased a and (3 waves bu t in the sa me areas befo re and oc
after the quie t period . 0 waves we re not incr ease d. Respirato ry rate ila
and heart rate were significantly differe nt betwee n the med itators ex
and the con tro l subjects . Meditating Tibeta n monks living in India sil,
showed a marked asymmeby in a and ~ activity between the hemi -
sph eres and increased ~ activity (Benson et al., 1990) . In another
study, EEGs of non-meditating subjects came into coherence or
synchrony with those of meditators in the immedia te area (Travis
and Orme-Johnson, 1989).
It has been hypothesized that meditatio n has field effects that
link individuals, i.e. the meditation affects non-meditat ors in the
vicinity. In support of this, studies of population groups reported
that meditation in a group of individuals decreased crime in the
99 per cent of the community who do not practise meditation
(Dillbeck et al., 1989) .

Meditation Healing and Posses sion

Suryani learned meditation from a schoolteac her when sh~ was_
14 years old. At this time she sponta neously became posse ssed
and she knew of about 30 in several ~thousand in the meditation
group who were also possessed arid had visual haliucijlations during
poss ession . Several years 'after her experie'nc-E( of p~~sessioriYby 51
goddess , the healing component of ' meditation "tethniqtie '\~ils
re vealed to her by God. For ~th-e pa~t 25'y~ars ,"'efl-i'e has 1be~ri
perfectin g and improving this technique . She has used it with
many patients and taught it to mental health workers, edu cators,
medical students, psychiatry residents, and a senior citizens' group.
The technique uses a combination of bot h kinds of meditation:
The patient must sit in a comfortable position of his choice. He is
asked to relax all muscles and then focus on one point in front of
him (about 1 metre) \vith sustained concentr ation. He is tlie'n
asked to \vait, while focused, until his eyelids feel heavy and v;,:h 'en
they do, to allow them to close . Next, he is asked to conce ntr at~ on
his nose, to be aware of the sensations of breathing, and to tDi "and
feel the energy from outside (this refers to '1ealing ene rgy from
God) pass into his body and out through his nose . If he has
difficulty concentrating, he is asked to feel the energy move from
the nose out through the feet, or from the nose out through the
fontanelle, and finally out of the entire body, by which time all
thoughts and feelings are focused only on the breathing without
any change ' in the normal breathing pattern . When med itation
occurs, breathing will decrease in volume, resulting in hypovent-
ilation. 111e body will begin to feel lighter, and the pers on will
experience a feeling of peace . In that frame of mind, he can speak
silently 'in his heart' to himself according to his own beliefs, e.g. he


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may pray to God, saying that he wants to be he_althy ..or that -he ..
wishes to overcome sickness . This is a. "total.
of oiiJy . .. \,.-

10- 15 minutes . The purpose of this meditatio n is to increase one~

psychic ability to understand oneself, the envir~nment, ancf. G~d.
M~ditation is recommended in the mornini .:on__-~~ak en1i1gi1-to
prepare one for the day and in the evening before sleep for 'clearing'
the mind of the day's conflicts or worries and b-ur dens. It may be
done at any time during the day when one wish es t o res olve a
problem . There . are no dietary or othe r prohi bitions. It can ,be
perform ed irrespective of date , time, or place . . _ ,; . , "_'.,
' ' ;./
Suryani differentiates 'meditation healing' from hypnos is or-self~
hypnosis. She recognizes it as an ASC but one in which the
individual mixes an oute r power with his own inner power, and
uses them in combination to effect the h ealing. Th e individual feels
h imself taking the power from the outs ide as he go,es .~ oug}:t_..t:h,~
br eathing exercise. By contrast, Suryani perce ives th e individucil in
hypnosis as utilizing imagination from.'within himself . _ f _.
A state of relaxation without meditation is used for self-tre atment
of tiredness, sleeping problems, and also sickne ss . Th e indiyigual
sits down or lies down, relaxes all muscles, and ,emptiys his.mind.
The emphasis is on feeling the energy move from i:h_e feet, tlii-'01.,1gh
the body, and out of the top of the head (fontanell e), andj:hen
feeling the energy from outside the body enter .the fontane lle,"go
throu gh the body, and out through the feet. 1ni s is c~~tinued,imtil
the feeling of fitness is attained . If _there is pain or a problem in :qne
area of the body, the breath is visual~ed and .e~pressed as.gofng
Out throu gh tha t particular place, all,'t.he while focusing on',Jbat
place. If this relaxation techniq ue is used to treat a physical problem,
concentr ation is focuse d on the site of the problem in th e ;bpqy
until a feeling of relief is attained. If one feels sleepy; . it is alLrig_ht
to sleep for a few minutes or for whatever amount of.time is needeci
Pers ons who have difficulty concentrating may be helped by ~other
person in meditation : the individual can expe rien ce the PO,\V er qf
h ~lping and/ or healing from this other .meditat or .
Following the 3-month period in Suryani's youth when possessiqn
experiences were frequent, she worked with people who cq.Ille tQ

her with problems, essentially as a balian works witli clients, giving

advice, using her psychic powers, and sometimes divining .for a
lost person or things. For example, her brothe r, who was re p_qiring
electrical equipment at a hotel, was unable to get th e circuits to
work. He asked her about it. She consulted God, who told her that
they should make an offering at a certain place an d after this wa~
done, the electrical system began to work. She stopped practising


. -

~ :-
/- '-:-<'-
as a balian when she became a medical doctor. Curr entlyin.her
daily life and in her practice of medicine, she no loriger talks about
her balian powers because she does not want' colleagues or datients
to be confused about her role as a physician . A few close friends
still come to her house to consult her about problem s with their
family; in such instances, she may ask God what 'the probl!ni is
and provide counsel in the style of a balian . However, in her case ,
she meditates only for a few minutes and the goddess uses her
body directly; no special ritual is required for her to be possessed
by the goddess . Most balian perform a ritual in.order to eriter'i.nto
the possession state ., .
Suryani had an unusual experience of possessio nduring 'medita-
tion while visiting the high priest of Ubud, to whoni;she had gone
to accompany a friend who wished to observe his' technique!'When
Suryani asked the priest about her level of meditation, he fuade
extensive enquiries about her experience, askirig her ._,; here she
had learned meditation in the beginnirig and so ori:>. At:the !pries~s
requ est, Suryani proceeded to meditate -using .her own methocl..AA.t
that point she was suddenly overcome by a power:whichi she :felt
emanated from him, a power which became so strong and'Jliighly
energetic that she felt she could barely maintain herb sitting
position without falling over, collapsing, and poss ibly dying from it
In an effort to counteract this feeling; she breathed rapidly :and
deeply and clasped her hands together; pulling . th em i'strongly
apart against resistance. The total amount of time she :spent in
meditation was about 10 minutes and she woke up in th'e 'ustfal
manner. The priest comm ented that her level of me ditationwas
higher than her friend's andtold her not to relax her body,in deep
meditation . She and her friend noticed that the priest looked ather
intently with open eyes . During the ensuing .. five days, " she
spontaneously experienced the high -priest's appearan ce bn ' e~ch
day in a number of different situations, including -at h er home ; at
work, in the car, and at a store . Each time he appeare d, he ~spolte
to her, apologizing for his comment and asking her to giv~ liim
back his power. She declined and said that she did not wanHcFgive
it back. Her reason for refusing was that she felt'he might'<ltlse
the power to harm her in some way. After thos e five days> she
no longer experienced the hallucinations . This was her ..fiFst
experience of a power entering her or posses sing he:ri~during
) medi tation . ;, ;
t In Western terms, the 'power' Suryani describe d: durin g :medi-
;; tation can be interpreted as a possess ion phenomenon, 'ibutf:one
7 that does not occur in a state of trance . During this meditation ,

\- ,

Suryan.i did not have any of the sensory change s _or per ceptual p
experi ences that she usually observes when she enters trap.ce b
and which are typically associated with trance . The audito ry ancj. il
vi~1=1alhallucinations of the high priest on the days following J 1~r
meditation experience occurred in her usual state of conscio usness, a
not ip a trance state . 1rus is an example of the pl_1e~om enaj r(? tl
qu!=!ntlyseen in Balinese: auditory and visual hallucinations during 1
a normal, presumably non-altered state of consciousness . ., a
Suryan.i's possession abilities and tradition al healer tech niques
have affected the way she practises psychiatry . Forexample, after
a relatively brief contact with a patient, Suryan i often tells him/her
what she believes the problems ar~ and how _to solve __ the prog lem
with the family, based on intuition and the infolTI};itiq n she g,t;s
from the go(! who possessed her . She does _not tell the paqent
where sh e -gets h er ideas from but simply presen ts them . as Part 9f
her psychotherapeutic work, as she explains; advise_~, and giv~
support. Balinese patients find thjs technique familiar and reas sr-
ing becau se they experience something similar with -the .balian , to
whom they generally go for all sorts of prob lems . fun\:tionally, this
te~hnique resembles one used by -Western practitioners in,J:he
sens e _that Western psychotherapists often resort t9 intuitioq ~in
their work with patients.
Suryai feels that by using h~r psychi~ abili_ties it is -possibl!;!tq
det ermine if her patients have black magic;, it ~s.not necessary .for
her to us e any specific ritual or diagn ostic -techniques , as most
trqditional healers do. If sh e determines that he r patien ts h a~e
been affected by black magic, she will sometimes advise th em ;to
meditat e and may advise them to attend religious ceremo nies and
m?ke offerings as well. She does not tell these patients that thi~ i~
her working diagnosis because she feels it may make th em IJP\:!t
c!J1G confused about her role as a physic ian . A number _of tr aditi9nal
he alers who refer patients to her tell the clients that Suryani ha s
the skills of both a traditional heal er and a psychia trist.
A Balinese explanation of Suryani's possess ion states and its
consequences for her and her patients is straig htforward . Th.e..i:: e is
~o mystery about possession and it involves superna tural po,wer.
Some experience it and some do not. West ern accounts of it and
exlanati ons in the literature, however, are different from Suryani's
expe rience. For example, Connor (1984) describe d the cast; of.a
man who had bizarre and psychotic behaviour for som e month~
~d ~ubseque ntly became a balian, an epis ode which she c,led
divine madness (see Chapter 9). Belo (1960) -describ ed a: ~1/2:
month-l ong illness of a man who was subsequentl y inducte d. by,g

,- -

priest to become a balian. Suryani has known only one balianwho
began his career without such a severe and relatively prolonged
illness .
It is a truism about Balinese culture that the re are many vari-
ations in the cultural patterns . Villages may differ dramatically in
their cer emonies . Examples presented in this book are th ose at
Tunbr ah and Kesiman (Chapter 4). The gods for which ceremonies
are held may differ as may the days on which special ceremonies
are held. It is apparent that the patterns of trance-posse ssion are
also different to some extent Probably no two balian have the
same style of practice, although their beliefs may be bas ically the
same. Each balian develops his/her own style; the sam e can be
said about Western physicians and psychoth erapists.

Hypnotherapy with Possess ion

Suryani is the only practitioner of-hypnothe rapy in Bali. Sh e has
found the Balinese to be easily hypnotizable using a techn ique with
relativel y little verbalization in contrast to mai,y .Wes tern induction
techniques. She has used it primarily for the treatme nt of patients
with chronic disorders, including anxiety; panic disord er, depression,
and somatoform disorders. For patients with acute disorde rs, she
generally utilizes ordinary psychotherapy.
About 25 per cent of Suryani's patients become posses sed during
hypno sis. Possession in hypnotherapy has not been descri bed in
the literature . The case is an example .
A 25-year-old Javane se woman, married with two sma ll children
and living in Bali, had suffered tics or contracti ons of the facial
muscles , fluttering of the eyelids, and severe spasms of th e jaw
muscl es. She was worried that she might have a brai n tum our ,
although Western-trained Balinese physician s, including a neuro lo-
gist who had carefully examined her, reassure d h er th at this was
not the case. She also had episodes of collapsing on the floor (about
thr ee times a day at home), chronic headaches, and a sleeping
problem. All these symptoms, present over a 4--year period, had
been treated by many different traditional healers and a number of
W estem-trained physicians. One of the latter referred the patient
to Suryani .
A progr amme of psychotherapy at weekly visits was instituted
and carried out over a 3-month period . It was revealed th at several
of her problems were related to her lack of unde rstan ding of
Balinese culture:
1. She felt she was in a disadvantageous and unfair position at

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h ome because her mother -in-law; wh o visited he r every other .
week , complained to her wheneve r her husband r efused t o:,giye
her the money she requested for ceremonies. Th e mother-in~
lmv claimed that she and he r hus band car ed mor e about foern-
. selves than about his parents . (In Balinese culture, a :son.-is
respo nsib le for his parents .) She did not like he r mo t., ei-in-law
and he r behaviour but was unabl e to expre ss he r feelings, 'and
sh e could not tell her moth er-in-law that she did not want to see
h er. ' ,._ ..-: , , ,.
2. 'Her husband seldom talke d to her about any of her problems
and he was unwilling to discuss them :
3. She felt disappointed that her hus band was more atte ntive to;his
par ents than to her. She also felt bore d . She merely stayed at
h ome, did not work, and had few per sonal relations hips outside
h er home . Over time, she took progr ess ively less responsibility
for the care of he r childre ~ 'and hu sband: :. ; . '
Psy chotherapy included couple therap y and presc ription, of .a
minor tranquilizer for the facial tic, anxiety, and slee p probleril..oAs
a result of th ese treatm ent s, she started to show improvements .
Sh e began to sleep better; she . no longer had her episq.des: .of
collapsing; she stopped worrying about the pos sibility ohi brain
tu mour; she developed bette r relationships with her m oth er-in-law
and her husband; her h eadaches disappeared ; sh e felt she .eo.uld_
take better care of he r children; and her mood improved. Ho:wevef ,
th e disfiguring rigid facial mu~cle spasm,s continued. : ,,__., ,;:,,
At this point in therapy, SuryanL institut ed hypnoth er apyii:The
patient re adily went into hypn osis and, on the first session be:came
posse ssed by he r dead mother's souLit was :th en .reve aledJ or t he
first time that the patient was . conflictual and guilty ab0ub h en
change of religion from Islam; which sh e had grown up -with d n
Java, to Hinduism, her husband's religion . Her deadmotheg s,s6.til
told her that she and her husband should go to Java to undergo ,~
ceremony which would absolve her from gu ilt and assu red h er ;and
h er husband, who was present , that this would.not be an elaborate
or expen sive ceremony. Under hypnos is and in1mediately following
th e hypnosi s, Suryani discus sed th is with her; patient andr,her
husband , and it was agreed that she would travel to Java for ,tliis
cerem ony. ,, .-,.
During the se cond hypnothe rapy session, .the patient ; was
posse ssed by her hu sband's dead gran dfather 's soul, who spoke to
her about her illness and told her that she should make offerings
to God and tak e holy water in the hu sban d's familytemple:s.o that
; ,!, l
she would gain power from it to help herself. Suryani discussed
this recommendation with her and her h usban d durin g hypnosis ,
and they agreed to carry it out. '
During the third hypnotherapy session , the patient was possessed
by th e soul of a neighbour, a woman who she believed was trying
to take her husband away from her . The soul said that she :ilid bot
want to continu e to love he r hu sband and asked for help to leave
the patient's body. Suryani aske d the soul why she had come and
why she loved the patient's husband , and advise d th e soul not to
disturb .the patien t further. The patient made spontan eous hand
gestur es as if to remove the soul from her body. She awakened
from the hypno the rapy sess ion in a relaxed and pleasant mood. By
the erid of this session, her facial muscle spasms had completel y
disappeared and they did not subsequent ly recur .
In this case a number of Western techniques were combined:
psych otherapy , pharmacotherapy, and hypnothe rapy. Howev~r;
the psychotherapy and hypnotherapy incorporate d cultur al , con-
cepts of illness : religious healing ceremo nies were incorporate d<as
adjuncts . . ,.. , !!,,.~

. . ', . ~
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Yoga in Bali
Th ere are several types of yoga practised in the East and West: A
form currently taught in Denpasar utilizes some techniques , similar
to those of meditation, which may lead to an ASC. Th is form of
yoga purports that learning how to conce ntr ate by bre athing
corr ectly is one of the most important part s of yoga practice. n
teaches diaphragmatic breathing, with each breat h 'absorbing ;the
universal energy', called prana in India, which is regar ded as -the
origin of all forces . By breathing correctly, expone nts of this, type
of yoga believe that they are maximizing the amount 'Of:.vital
energy absorbed and feel filled with 'inner power. Th ey practi se
s1ow, gradual . movements which are conceived as accumulating
energy in -the person rather than expending it, as in vigorous
exer cise. They believe that these exercises (asana) affect the internal
organs, especially the endocrine glands . They relate the endocrine
glands to the chakra or subtle energy centres located along th e
spine. Th e physical poses take n during yoga, such as sitting with
the head down, are believed to affect the pineal glan d and develop
memory power and higher consciousness . A deep relaxation pose
relaxes muscles and reduces blood pressur e.

.-.: .,. "! ~ - ..
* * *
" .
Medi tation is an ASC employed widely in the East and West toprQ-:
mote healing, relieve pain, restore health, and combat disease . Ho~:
ev~r. th ~ basic aim of meditation is to enha nce self,development,
self-r:e alization, and self-experience . In Bali, the general aims 9f
medi tation are to become aware of oneself in the natural world and
to , understand the supernatural world . Objectives of meditation
differ from those .of psychotherapy . The Baline ~e use two .basic
techniqu es: (1) concel)tration of aw~eness on a specific stimulus;
and (2) mindfulness of one's entire situation. Meditation is associated
with numerous changes in psychobiology and neurophysi ology. _-
Meditation healing is a specific technique developed and ta_uglit
by Suryani . This technique includes awarenesr of breath ing, gppro-
priation of spiritual energy, and conscious focus on aspec ts of ,life in
which changes are desired. A similar breathing and CQncen tration
technique is used for relaxation only and also for trea tment ,qf
trou bles or illness. Meditation healing is not the same as hypnosis.
Suryani has utilized meditation, psychic abilities, and possessio n
abilities in psych iatric practice.
Hypnotherapy is particularly effective for the Balines e be cause
the y find it difficult to verbalize feelings, emotional state s, and
problems. Balinese patients , are easily hypnotiz ~d and apout
2{5_p~r cent experience . possession .unqe r hypn osis ..,Thi s po~{;S,
sio:1state can be utilized in psychotherapy . ,; "
-Some of the tec;:hniques of yoga and. ~xerci~es practis ed in ~qli
are similar to those of-meditation -(i.e. relaxatio n and breathing}
and may result in an ASC. They are useful for attain ing feelings -of
peac e and well-being . .., ,,
-_Meditation and -yoga are integral treatment modalities in ~orne
mind /body healing clinics in Ame1ican medi cal centres ,-espec;:ially;
in cardiac disease reversal programmes .. Meq.itation has gr~at
pqt~ntial as an adjunct to modern medicine, The phenome non; of
poss ess ion with hypnotherapy is little recognize d in the West but
an awareness of it may expand the heal,ing tech niques of Weste rn
hypn otherapy . ,,

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Chapter 9
Conclusions and Implications of
Trance and Posses sion for
Western Concepts of Multiple
Personality, Possession Dis order,
Suicide, and Mental Health

THE foregoing chapters presented descriptive _data on several ASC

in the Balinese, including meclitati.on, trance, and_trarn:;e-posses~ion;
(kalinggihan, kasurupan), both normal and abnormal. ,Th ey also
delineated the psychosocial characteristics of these states and drew
rela tionships to Western psychological concept s. These analyses
will facilitate the recognition of similar normal and abnorm al states
involving trance and possession in the West 111.isfinal chapter draws
gene ralizations about the trance-possession stat e, 1 conce ptualizes
two continua of dissociation phenomena, advances a theory of
poss ession, and presents diagnostic criteria for possess ion. Based
on this information, guidelines are presente d for differentiating
possess ion from psychiatric symptoms and_the newly re cogniz.ed
condi tion called possession disorde r is discussed. A p1in.iary
objective of this book is fulfilled by-comparing Balinese possession
with the predonlinantly Western disorder , MPD. This leadifto
insights into the psycho biological mechanisms 9f MPD and carries
implications for therapy. Finally, diagnosis and therapy for su icidal
idea tion and attempts are viewed with ASC in mind.
Tr ance and trance -possession are different states (Langness,
1976) . Trance can occur alone or in associatio n with pos session
(Bourguignon, 1976). However, Bourguignon has added a classi-
fication of possession withouttrance . In tllis regard, the authors have
seen patients in Bali and America who claimed to be per sist ently
pos sessed, who were not in trance, who showe d no eviden ce of
f .
; .U
ASC upon careful psychiatric evaluation, and also proved to be
delusional and psychotic . The only documente d instance of posses-
sion without Tance in Bali is that of Suryani's per sonal experience .
Although MPD patients appear to be possesse d without trance,
MPD can be regarded as a self-hypnotic state (Bliss, 1986) or as
tr ance-possession as noted in analyse~ pelow .

Characteristics of
-. ,
-possessi on
The most salient.characteristic of trance-possessio n in the Balinese
is the meaning it has for the cuiture. It is al.ways ;linke d to the
Balinese Hindu religion and -the ,supematura l .is par.amount in the
forms it takes . Possession has also beeri noted to 'be connec ted with
religion in the many cultures - studied . Almost exclus ively, all
trance-possession states known to the Balinese are associated with
positive possession by gods, spirits, or souls . The exceptions in Bali
are the trance-possession states of mental disorders, such as amok
I. and trance-suicide. The Balinese do not have a specific word for
trance. The words they use to designate rranc e-possess ion phe-
II . nomena literally mean 'coming down' (of the gods or spirits) : This
fact emphasizes the cardinal role played by cultura l beliefs--,m
trance-possession in Bali. ' !

Balinese society has its own, and in . many resp ects unique ,
repertoire of beliefs, values, and customs . Many', of thse 'are
t related to the Hindu religion but some are specifically Balinese : It is
f the particular religious customs and beliefs of the ' society, which
i give trance-possession its characteristic patte rns or forms inBali.:
, However, in spite of the cultural patternin g of the -trance-
possession state in the Balinese, most trancers experience the cot'e
'symptoms' of dissociative disorders in the West: .amnesia~"deper-
sonalization,2 derealization, 3 and identity alterati on-(Carde fia;:i989;
Saxena and Prasad, 1989; Steinberg , 1991b). Amnesi a is variabl~
with some trance-mediums professing complete amnesia and:otliEii's
none at all. Most persons unconscious in tran ce (in cere thbhies)
have only partial recall. It is clear that amnes ia is not a neces sary
requirement for possession (N oil, 1989). - , :
Among the various types of behaviours obse rved rin posses sion
states, there are probably some aspects which are common to most
cultures . One is the pattern of falling do\vn uncons cious, and ,another
is shaking and crying out as ii in a convulsive seizure. l b e latter
behaviour is easily distinguished from a generalize d epileptic (grand
ma[) seizure. It does resemble it in terms of the uncon scious state~

lo;_ ------ ..

4 -
the arched posture with head . falling back, and the occasional
tr embling of hands and legs, but the .writhing body movements,
facial expressions, and vocalizations are unlike a _true epUeptic
seizur e of any type. In addition, grand mal epileptic seizures areless
variable in form than unconscious trance-possessio n (beh aviour)
and epileptic seizures may include bladder or bowel incontirnmce
and salivation with foaming at the mouth . On the oth er hand,
hysterical seizures, currently called conversion disorder s or hys -
terical neuroses (APA, 1987), a dissociative phenomen on, .may
closely resemble epileptic seizures. : .
The quality of involuntariness is also present in th e Balinese
during trance-possession states . Spiegel, Hunt, and Donde r~hine
(1988) have identified involuntariness as a quality of expe rience
common to dissociation, hypnosis, and trance . Writing about PTSD,
they stated, The kinds of events that mobilize dissociatio n as a
defense also seem to be those in which the patient's volition is
physically overridden .' Whether _it is consciously dysired, as i;1):pe
case of dancers, ceremonial participants, and traditio nal heal ~rs,Jor
Llilexpectedly exR~rien ced, as .,has occurr(':d occapionally,, )t _is
regarded as being '.caused by forces other than on~'.s.;qwn wi)l,;i._e.
God, the gods, spirits , or some such power . ;., .,; n. . .
The content and f~rm of thoughf of th~ Bplin~se in tr,anci-
possession sometimes resembles that of Westerners in hypnosis,,;FPF;
example, they may speak clearly and coherently an:d/or-may;iyeal
cognitive material that is best understood as coming out of their un-
conscious mind. 4 A related pattern of thinking in the tranc e state has
been called trance logic (Orne, 1959) or tolerance of incongruity.
Orne (1959) believed that trance-logic is the 'essen ce' of hypnosis.
He referred to it as 'the ability of the S [subject] t9 mix freely ~s
perc eptions derived from reality vrith those that .stem frorp_,hi!,
imagination and are perceived as hallucinations. These perceptions
are fused in a manner that ignores everyday logic.' Tran ce-logic is
just one aspect of deep hypnosis . E. L. Bliss (personal con:unun-
ication) regards realistic fantasy as the predomi nant esse nc~ . of
hyp nosis . ,
Many Westerners are reluctant to be hypnotized because they,J~;-
th at they will give up conscious control of themsel ves, partiq 1larly
to the hypnotist The sens e of being in control of one's self is
prom inent and highly valued in Western personali ty and th ought
Thi s trait is not characteristic of the Balinese, whose lives have in
the main been controlled by their families, their ancest ors, and the
sup ernatural. The normal Balinese expecting or experiencing

.: ----

possession gladly and completely gives up control of hims elf.

The basic psychobiological processes of tranc e may well be
universal for mankind, regardl ess of culture . This is in keeping with
the theoretical understanding of trance as a fonn of hypnosis
involving dissociation, the ubiquitous norma l psychological activity
of the mind by which it separates or splits off one kind or aspect of
thinking, behaviour, or affect from a situation and from one's usual
pattern of conscious behaviour and thinking .
Possibly other pan-cultural or universal characte ristics of trance-
possession are psychic or parapsychological, such as the possession
of clairvoyance, ESP, the ability to divine, predict, or know aspects
of a person's life and problems without having hear d of them. All
the se phenomena are commonly observed in the various forrfrsin
which trance and trance-possession occur in the Balinese, especially
in traditional healers .
It is clear from interviews and observations that mos t possessed
trancers experience the ''power' of the gods, arid thls power takes
over the mind and the body; resulting in changes in senso ry per-
ceptions and motor functions which are generally out of keeping
with the individual's normal and usual behaviour: This switcli 'irito
the possession state generally occurs instantarieously or in a matter
of seconds, and is often dramatic . (An instantaneous sh ift into
hypnosis may also occur in excellent hypnoti c subjects .) It is 'astep
beyond hypnosis or trance without possess ion. Possi bly it occurs
only in states of deep trance. 5
. It is perhaps striking that the involved spirits in poss ession of
the Balinese are always positive and welcome spirits; except i.ri'the
case of dissociative disorders such as bebainan (see Chapter-7) .'
Althou gh the dancers donning the Rangda mask are poss es sed b'y
Rangda who represents evil in the Calonarang dra ma, Rangda is
nevertheless highly valued by society. The autho rs looked,:for
evidence of evil spirit possession , particularly by buta-kala , th e evil
spirit s known to all Balinese, but could not find any. Annual
cer emonies in the village of Jimbaran in South Bali involve thes e
two bad spirits but they do not possess the tra ncers : rathe r it is the
gods of the buta-kala spirits thatpossess them .
In contrast to the ritual possession in Bali which involves posit-
ive entiti'es, most of the possession states desc ribed in non-hea ler
individuals in many cultures throughout the world involve malignant
spirits except in religious groups such as the Shakers (Henne y,
1973). Malignant spirit possession also occurs in many ults iii
Africa; for example, Lewis (1971: 75, 82) has noted the poss ession
of Somalian women by malignant spirits which cause a range of
illness es and bodily symptoms, such as 'hysteria or light dep ression
to actual organic disorders'. Similarly , \>romen in China and Ceylon
are frequently beset by_ demons which cause sicknes s (Lewis,
1971: 84-5) . These differences between Bali and othe r cultur es point
up the factor of cultural determination in the forms possessi on takes.
Trance-possession in Bali is not only common, but desir ed, and it
serves a number of diverse functions useful to society. In cultures
wher e it has been studied, possession is usually associ ated with
religion or vvith healing by the shaman or 'medicin e man,' which
may be considered a religious function. The socia l role, meaning ,
and value of possession are significant factors in its occurrence
world-wid e. In Bali, the traditional healers, especially the trance-
mediums, use trance with possession very effectively in their
religion-bas ed therapeutic techniques. Trance-possession in Balinese
dance generally has a religious function, as in the cer emo nies
which involve Rangda (see Chapter 4) . Sometimes trance-po ssession
takes on a public health function, as in the little girl trahce-
poss ession dance which is traditionally believed ,to pr otect the
village from epidemics, pestilence, arid illnesses cau sed by ' evil
spirits . Dances involving trance-possession include the 'Barong' :(kris
danc e) and the 'Calonarang', which, in addition to being pre sented
for entertainment, are sometimes perforn1ed to honour the g ods in
religious ceremonies such as those in Kesiman (see Cha pter 4) .
11.e trance-possession of musicians (see Chapter 6) and cere monial
particip ants serves a mental health function (see Chapte r 4) .
In sharp contrast, possession states in Western so cieties are
relati vely rare. They occur as isolated events, and have ne 1 er oeen
associated with any particularly useful social function , exc ept-in the
case of some channellers (Hastings, 1991) and 'relati vely small
reli gious cults or groups such as the Holy Rollers , Jumper s (Linton,
1956), and Shakers who perceive that the Holy Ghost or Spirit enters
th em and shakes them from within (Henney, 1973) .6 Speakin g in
tongues, or glossolalia, occurs in religious contexts world-wi de and
con forms to the pattern of possession in that the practition ers report
that the Holy Spiiit, or the spirit of an ancestor or a deity, ent ers their
bodies, 'possesses' them, and uses their tongues to utter mess ages.
Int erestingly, their utterances are not related to thei r mother
tongues: Ameticans. Japanese, and Maya Indians all exh ibit the same
patterns of speech (Goodman, 1972). When possess ion o _curs in
individual Westerners, especially outside of a religious cont xt, _it is
almost always unwanted, relatively long-lasting, and usually r -gar ded
as pathological. Some authorities of the Catholic .C):u-cha!!ct-qtji.e.r:
denomination s recognize .possession . (disorde r) and still ,,utilize
lengthy ritual e~orcistic .techniqu~s to terminate, s~t~; which:I:WlY ) >~
prolonged and which they regard as possession by und esirable
demons or the Devil. . .
. Most poss ess ion states in Bali do not present any problems tq ,tjle
individuals or society because they are al-..yaysrathe r ea~ily and
reij~bly if not spontaneou sly controlled or terminate d by public ritual
behaviour . The 9-uthors know of no instances in which tr;~ ~f;-
posses sion in -the Balinese persiste d for prolonge d periQ<ll?; it
usu ally lasts no more :than . several hours with a _maxim~ of
20 hours. Thi s is also true of possession in other cultur es where ~t
is common. ,;- .
Ther e are no clear data on the sex distribution qf tranc e orJ r~ce
with possess ion in societies world-wide. Bourguign on (1976) g~ed
i the impressio _n from the literature th<!_tposse?si on:tran ce is P?-'?J :
.I widespread among women while tran ce without possessi on As,more
l likely to occur among men . In Bali,. contrary to Bourgui gnon's
obs ervation , the . persons . in tranc(;-possessio n in_,tl;ie COIDp).unal
ceremonies are predominantly men . A large _perce ntage of tra;:iGe;
m ediums \Vh.Outize trance and trance-p oss es~ion~~ WOffi e_n;(see
Chapter 3). Therefore, it appears that the sex distrib ution of trap.ce
and trance-poss ession in Bali is governe d more by .social consicl-
i, erat:iqns o:e. healing or_~eligio-~p cereivon i~sf thanjy ,.):he f;n,Jh(:/
tre:nce tak~s (i.e. _with 9.r;withqut posse;ssion) . -,,; --,~/. -;,;_-;,r :
Pathology is pfte~,mentiqn~~ by authors ,iCU~s.ip.g tranVi 1 a:qq
poss ession. A .number of scholars _considfr . these iphen ome_na ab-
norm al.while others consider one or the oth~r norr"al w.ithin,a_giye:n
1 culture . In }3ali,the matter of ):h.enormality of these ajtered ~t?~es is
based upon society's beliefs and upon Weste rn-derived psyr hiattj ~
,, definitions of normal and abnormal . Trance-possess ion.can repres~~t
an abnormal condition as illustrated by an _epidemic in ,school -
children (see Chapter 7), or it can be ,. and usuaijy is, -~ ptir~iy
norm al, culturally appropriate, and institutionalized as ~xemplifi,egJ?y
the trance-medi_ums and the communal trance ceremonie s. Whe~~!'
tranc\;"possessio n is deemed normal or abno rmal in .Bali is r~lat~q
to the social context and to whether or not it is a problem for th.G
individual or the community . It does not depend specifically, ~
stat e of trance-possession per se. Trance and ._ tranc_e-possessi9n_,a,r~
normal capacities of the brain/mind, proba bly in part ge netically
bas ed . - .
Th e thoughts and behaviours by persons in the tranc e-posse ssiq~
stat e may reflect those from normal conscio usness or th e un-

conscious mind. Examples -of the forme r are the cohere nt and
logical verbalizations of some trance-medium balian while examples
of the latter include automatic dancipg of .the schoolch ildr,~.n in
trance-p ossession (see Chapter 7) and the particular hallucin.ations
of the little girl trance-possession dancers -(see Chapte r 5). Just as
the data presented on trance-medium balian demonstrate conscious
and unconscious mental processes, the material expr essed "by
MPD alternative personalities indicates both processes at work.
Thus , the two different types of expression are possible in disso-
ciative states.

The DissQciation Continu~._ .~ . ; '

Because the psychological process of dissociatio ri8is. manifest _in

many different conditions, both normal . (i.e. ~v~r:ygay beh avioci-
and thinking, meditation, hypnosis, and possession) ' and abnormal
(i.e. dissociative disorders or hysterical neuroses, PTSD [Spiegel,
Hunt, and Dondershine ; 19881, and .cMPD);,it would-,be useful J o
clarify the concept by reconciling all conditions as manifestatio~53of
a single basic process. '. ,, ."' . r1;,,, , _,,:._
Bernstein and Putnam . (1986) and Putnam (1991) reviewed rthe
historical development of the concept of a dissociative contiimum
and traced it back to the work of nineteenth -ceritury clirriciaris,
including Pierre Janet, :.Morton Prince;- and WilliainrJame,s:bFor
example, M . .Prince (1909:123) ~characterized dissociatiom ,as ,a
gen eral principle governing normal psychology "but abnor.mal
when in an extreme form . More recently, a number of others
(Ludwig, 1983; Orne, Dinges, and Orne, 1984;--Shor; ,Orne;'-'. and
O'Connell, 1962; H. Spiegel, 1963; Tellegen .and .,Atkinson ,~I 97~)
-conceptualized dissociative disorders : as forming,, ~b spectiu.rrriof
increasing psychopathology. '" n. , d~' ;:.-;_ tiy.(~
Given similar -basic .mechanisms .of normal and,abnormal fdisso-
ciative conditions, two parallel continua,are .proposed);Manifestations
of normal dissociative phenomena rriay-be conceptualized qri one
continuum, ranging from everyday normal dissociation at one end,
such as fantasy and separation's ' ongoin g per ceptionsiI:om
one's environment, to' possession at the other end, with meditation
and trance in between (Figure 9.1). Each of the conditions on this
continuum has a spectrum: e.g. light to deep trance with amnesia or
light to deep hypnosis (Brown and Fromm, -1986: 46- 7). Those
normal states of trance and hypnosis may be regarde d as repres-
enting varying degrees; depths, or intensities .of the dissocjatiori,
or self-hypnotic9 phenomena, to use Bliss's term. Similarly,

FIGURE 9 . 1
- _Parallel Continua of Dissociative PhenOIT}~na :; . .; -~-.
- i ...., ..
-Normal Meditation Trance Tr ance-'.
Dissociation - (light to deep) - - possession

Deper sonalization PSTD Other Fugue . Po&se~si~n MI.'D -

Disord er Disso-. - -. Disor der.
. dative
Normal states above the line and abnormal conditions below.
DSM-III-R (APA, 1987: 277) includes the following under othe r dissociative dis-
orders (Dissociative Disorders Not Otherwise Specifie d): fugue witho ut ass ump tion
of a new identity ; more ..than on~ personality but thest? never ass ume compl ete
executiv e control; and dissociation associated with prolonge d and intense coercive
persua sion, e.g. brainwashing . -__.
, 3 Pos session disorder is newly included in' /CD -JO.and is proposed for DSM ~IV; to
'.be published in 1993. . ,.: ', , -

:dysfunctional, symptomatic; or abnormal dissociative conditions.can

.be placed on a continuum in ,terms of severity (mild to maxnu,m
or severe), with depersonalization disorder at. one ,end and :M PD
at .the other. There is consensus that MPD is the ,most s~vtr,e of
the dissociative :disorders (Putnam, 1985; D: Spiegel, 1984)/ These
,disord ers also have their own spectra; e.g. transient, brief episodes
of ' depersonalization to quantitatively . an d, quaj.itativ;ely,
.Tecurrent, and -prolonged . episodes ',_.(M. Steinberg , personal
:communication) .. . ,- -,.,. " - c:.i. ,i \'-'', ;;;,-,,,,;,_
- Writing - about . the relationship i between ;--- hypnotiz ability, ,and
'dissociation , Frankel. (1990) pointed out that thereJs a-lack of clarity
(on dissociation and quest;ionedequating ,:rpe?sures :bfhypno fuab_ility
;with dissociative .capacity.,He ~(1990f 828)._al.s o question ed t pe;p.~r,-
specti ve that dissociation lies along a continuum:, 'Dnna tic cnnesia
and dear-cut changes in or .discontinuity of consciousn ess;-;con.trol ,
or iden tity make compelling ,arguments for the pres ence :of l:>oth
the hypnotic state and dissociation . .It is considerably Jess d ear J hat
other, milder experiences with- some resemblance to th e '.core
-event are qualitatively similar.' Suggestip.g that th e nume t ~u_s
implications of dissociation could be -a detriment to the corioept
and might.eventually render it useless, Franke l (1990: 825-:-6) :noted
that 'common' hypnosis is different qualitatively from ;,th~
'.somnambulistic trance that yields a post-hypnotic amnesia''.:He
regard ed the two di'mensions as related but distinct and stated,that
it may be an oversimplification to 'reg ard -all hypnotic ,behaviour,_and
'~ >.

- ------,---:---

"!."':;," -:

experien ce as evidence of trance'. Such comments _emphasize,Jhe

lack of precise opera tional definitions of a variety of reiated termS:.
In the proposal presente d here of contin ua for. both normal ,and
abnormal dissocia tive phenomena, dissociation is regar ded as tbe
basic psychological mechanism . It is recognized that in the Balinese,
the differences between mild and maximum dissociation are nQtpuly
quantitative differences but also qualitative. The characteristics . of
possession suggest that there is a qualitative differe nce between it
and trance , analogous to the difference that Frankel (1990) has
observ ed between light hypnosis and trance with amnesia However,
in view of the awareness that dissociation is .multifaceted, such
differenc es do not necessarily vitiate the application of the general
concept of dissociation to all thes e conditions. The qualitative
difference b.etween trance and poss ession parallels that between
low levels of anxiety and panic or fear ..Although the latter two. states
are phenome nologically different, similar elements occur in both -and
they are linked by a common, basic, psycho biological, or ~neur0:-
phys iological process (Barlow, 1988: 206) . The variety of behayiotmi,
symptoms, or clinical manifestation s of a single psychobiologial
proc ess nee.d not -detract from :its conce ptual and,heu ris tjc ,y.alue.
~sycho logy, psychiatry, and cultural p11fur opology are replete'.F.ith
illustrations of this principle. Such unifying concepts are extremely
useful clinically and are particularly desira ble w hen they~_. are
scientifically resear chable , as is the case with.dissociation.and -the
forms in which it is manifest, espec ially hypnosis/tr ance and
tra nce-possession .
Wh ile both the nom1al and abnormal man ifesta tions of disso-
ciation take a variety of forms, the psycho biological mechanism .in
all is postulated as a related process and more importantly, .the
process serves the same psychologi cal function: nam ely, a split or
switch out. of a conscious state into .a state of thinkin g , behaviour ,
and feeling that is quite different, mor e comfortable or enjoyable ,
and/or protective. The s,vitch into dissociation wards off conflict ,
anxiety , or terror and/or provides an outlet for behaviour ,or
emotions that are not acceptable to or permitte d in the usual state 0f
consciousness. 10

Professional Recognition of P ossess ion

It is astonishing that Western psychiatry and psychology have not
recognized, defined, or given a name to the psychob iological phe-
nomenon of possession since it consists of objective and subjective

' ':,,;: ,': ~

- l..

-~,. ...

beh aviour that is describable , relatively consistent in manifestations,

and known to the laity and public at large for millennium s. 0ne
hundr ed years ago, William James wrote (in Oesterreich, 1974):
'The refusal of modern enlightenment. to treat "poss essio n" as . a
hyp othesis to be spoken of as even possible, in spite of the massive
hum an tradition based on- concrete experien ce in its favor, , ha s
always seem ed to me a curious exampl e of the power in
thing s scientific.' Only since 1992 has psychiatry consid ered . a
categ ory of possession disorder (WHO, 1992). That pos ses sion
phe nomena has not becom e a subject of. study by modern
psychiatry and psycho logy is all the more puzzling when one
cons iders that for nearly a century . Western . psych iatry -has
prbfes sionally recognized the phenomenon of deperso nalization,>1J.
a behavioural state or symptom that in some respects resem bles I
possess ion in types of behavioural and -em otional ,manifestati on s
{Levy and Wachtel, 1978; Mayer-Gross, 1935); is-no'.Jessmys terious
in origLr1(Steinberg, 1991a, 1991b),..and appears similar to ASG:' . I
Perha ps the reasons for-this blind spot of Weste rn science relate td ;a "'
! 1
wides pread perception that possession . lies in the .--:re alm'1of
metaph ysics, magic, occultism, religion; and 'unscientifi c'. tho ught, t .
'i (
areas , from which Western .. psychiatry . and .; psychology have
ende avoured to separate themselves. 12 The great psychoanalyst, Carl
Jung, who maintained an interest in the occult -.thr.oughout his

lifetim e,.wrote as follows in 1931 with regard to-religio n and par.a:. ,4 'J
I -:l

psych ology: The European of yesterday will feel a slight shudd er run
down his spine when he gazes more deeply into these delvings.
-l~foti;only does .he .consider the subject 'of this so-called res earch
obscur e and shuddersome, but even the methods employed seem:to
him . a shoc king misuse of man's -finest intellectual attainmen ts!
(Campbell, 1975: 468-9.) An unfortunate conseque nce ; of the tl
profes sional avoidance is the failure of mental health profess ionals
to recogn ize possession in most cases . It is unfortu nate whe n s
possessi on disorder is wrongly diagnosed or , worse, treated inapc
propriately as a psychosis , with antipsychotic medication. Ther e is no
que stion that Westem psychiatry and psychology need to recognize
the possession state, identify its characteristics, and study its clinical
forms. It is time that they accord profess ional recognition to 0
possession and catch up with the growing public aware ness of the d
condition, especi ally as it occurs in religious groups, tran ce-
mediurriship, shamanism, channelling, and mental disorders . I?.
Poss ession is an appropriate term for use in Weste rr . psychiatry a
becau se it is the word that best denotes a natural, ..:ulturally diverse r1
psych obiological process associated with trance, as well as with
1 \

' ~" .
-- :~ ~~ e.. ... :,:. .:/-.:


certain : symptomati c conditions in th e West ;On the -other -- hand .

poss ession is cons idered a lay term and until recently was nqt f~@d
in th e professional lexicon . The term 'dissociation' is corre ct :but
non-specific. ._. .
Perh aps an alternative term shoul d be used to. deno~ . the
ph enomenon of possession . The authors suggest, as a possibility, 7the
term 'intracorporal influence' which conveys the meaning of-an
identified entity, force, or alternative perso nality, percei ved by the
individual as coming from outside the self, or an entity aside from
the self or usual personality (perceived as coming from within -the
self), operating and exerting influence wit.1un the body/ rrJnd .of
the individual. This idea of entities is not incompatibl e with.the
psychological concept of dissociation.

Possession Disorders: Balinese and -Wes tern ,,,:;--.,-.-

~ . ~ :-.." r-: .~. ;_; ; 1 ;ri --~
-;~: ;
Possession disorders have been lqiown fqk} centuri~s anp.;ihav:e
been described in several cultures, parti cularly nqn;-Westem -on~
CT ensen and Suryani, 1992; Me-aux,,~_95~;,_Suryanj,,tJ_._984; Sucy.ani_
and Jensen, . 1991; ;Yap,,1960). Th~Y. were , the : fq~u.,s.of git;er~it
300 years ago in connection with the fits of New Englander~,:who
were subject to the witch trials -at Salem, Massachusetts (Hansen,
196,9: 36-8). One case-th _at of Anne Cole I in .:1G62 (I:I,an~~_n,
1'.)69)- was described in some detail. It was characteriz ed by~fits of
violent bodily movements and voices coming from her that~w~re
clearly not her own and that seemed to be plotting _tq :furthef1hann
h er. She had amnesia with regard to thes e episodes but confessed
'that the Devil had frequent use of her body withi much
but indeed horrible, hellish delight to he r' (Hansen,-1969: 37), After
the hapging of the woman accused of witchcraft, ,he.r fits i,<:s! 4 seq.,
and did not return for at least- 20 years. Crabtree (1985) reyi~w_e d
several reports of possession in Westerners who -did not des:e:or
consent to be possessed, dating from the .1860s up to th e pi;es~rit
Some of these were exorcised 13 by religiou s figure s and'.-,were
reportedly cured. .. _
Since possession disorder is to be included in the lates t revision
of ! CD, ICD-10 (vVHO,1992),14 as well as in a separ ate entry under
dissociative disorders in DSlvf-W,15 it is in1portant for mental health
professions to master the clinical presentation _of th e disor.der. -~
the new diagnostic category of posse ssion disorder gains recognition
among the professions and many more cases are identified and
reported, it will be possible to develop more comprehensive
descriptions of the disorder's clinical presentation in th e West

.J '
.~- 1:



The possession disorders in Bali, which predominantly in\rolve

,I evil spirits, are of two main types. One type is well-reco gnized lind
includes bebainan, described in the members of the royal household;
and kasumpan, described in the schoolchildren (see Chapter 7) .-
These are of sudden onset and terminatiou; they ten d to 'be' of
relatively brief duration 0ess than 5 hours) and involve a complet~
takeover of the individual, along with aberrant, seizure-like; some-
times violent behaviour apparent to all during the acute attatik.-A
second type is the possession disorder that becomes eviderit'iri
seizure-like behaviour only during treatment sess ions by -balia;;
which are declared to be responsible for a variety of pei-sisfont
somatic symptoms, some of relatively long dudi.tion ' (up to '.foui-
years), during which the possession is not evident. To e'sarhe"
.r long duration of symptoms is true of Suryani's case of posse~sion
j revealed during

hypnoth erapy.,_ (see Chapter
': . -..r I
8). In{'"..,;.such cases, 'the
I ~

patient complains of possession by an evil spirit, the soul of a relative,

or some other person .during treatment but .is una ware of-rthis
possession prior to treatment Possession is reveal ed only iti
hypnosis induced - by the- therapist The first type of possession
disor der is called overt, while the second is called covert >of
'. obscur ed. r,,,~-
i AB in Bali, possession disorder in the West usually involves a devil;"
:ll a dem on, or a malevolent spirit , although relatively few cases nav'e
been described (Allison,1980; Crabtree, 1985). Probable cases-of.the
overt type of possession disorder have appear ed in the literatute btit
have been labelled as psychotic disorder s (Blacker and -Wong ;
1963). A few cases of the covert type of-possessio n hav~'b _ee-rit
ident ified through hypnotherapy (Allison, 1980). . \,. ;
The. following is a case of possession disorder and f elafed'
diss ociative symptoms in a W estemer. The patient was a 32-yeaf-'
old divorced female, a devout Christian, who began heari ng :voice's
of 'evil spirits' approximately two months prior to admis sion t6 the'
psychiatric hospital in 1992, which she attributed to having 'had
sex p1ior to wedlock, listening to rock and roll music, and other -such
activities that she considered wrong according to her religioh: The
voices were clearly perceived as coming from within he{ ' ~d
spea king and behaving through her. They made 'faint, growlin~
noises'. There was perhaps more than one voice telling her, 'You are
going to commit suicide because I've got you. You can't do ariytliing:
about it.' She felt very suicidal prior to coming to the hospital. She
had no other symptoms of psychosis . Haldol medic ation was
pre scribed. At the same time she was praying to the Lord to 'delive:f:
her and confessing her sins . The voices became weaker and finally

i.._ _ - - - --T ----.---

ceased in five days . They did not recur in the subseq ue nt two
month s after the patient's discharge from the hospital despite her not
takin g any medication. This patient had two othe r similar
experiences. One day while walking down the street, she felt
'uneasy', as if the Devil (Satan) were creeping up on her and trying to
scare her or 'take her' . She put her Bible, which she regarde 'd' a:s a
shield against the Devil, in front of her chest, and the sen sation
sh e had of 'a power of the enemy' immediately disappeare d; She
attribu ted this riddance to the Lord: The other episode occurred
when she was sitting in church. She felt she was being spiritually
attacked by the Devil as she watched the ceiling fan above her
turnin g around. She believed that she could put a stop to this by
praying silently to herself, 'Satan, you have no hold over me. I:am a
Christian. I can stop this by the power of the Lord.' At th is point,
'the force' which threatened to 'take over' her disappeared. Thistype
of experience did not recur. The patient felt that her .'sensa tfon of
these two experiences was similar to that of the evil spirit posses-
sion but not as severe. ', , --,,. ,' i
Toe patient's hospitalization .experience meet s the ,criteria for
poss ession disorde r. In view of .her subsequent succe ss in-scon-
trolling dissociative symptoms through prayer and rreligi ous ritual,
it seems possible that her possession state was also relieved by the
same means and this raises the question of-whethe r- and,,if so,
how- the antipsychotic medication helped . The patien t was .con-
vinced that it was her prayer and strong religious belief that
delivered her from the evil spirit Such a termination of dissociative
symptom s by religious ritual may be considered self-exorc ism::
Crab tree (1985: 210) indicated tha t most cases . of pos session
disor der present with three types of symptoms :;,(l) the hearing of
voices; (2) a sense of something residing in: the body; and (3) a
feeling of regularly not being oneself . While .identification of these
sympt oms in a patient points to the existence of possession disorder,
more specific information is required for diagnosis b ecaus e these
symptoms are also characteristic of MPD .

Diagnostic Criteria for Possessio.1 Disorders

Based on 66 cases of possession disorders admitted to a ho spital in
Hong Kong, Yap (1960) gave the following operatio nal criteria for
what he referred to as the possession syndrome :
(1) short periods (a few minutes to a few hours) of change in the person's
identity manifested by change in voice, mannerisms, and beha viour- the


~ ~

new identit'J may be of a known person already dead ;_ or of a culturally

accepted spirit, qerp.on, god, _or rp.ythical .figun~; ~)_.sudden on~~.t ,a.I\d:
termination; (3) partial or complete amnesia regarding the new identity.and
events that occurred du.ling the possession episode; (4) distrb anc~'..not
due to an organic mental disorder; and _(5) associated featur es: atteIJ.'tiqn'
seeking and dramatizing behaviour during the possessio n ;episod~ biay
occ~r during religious ceremonies. i! '" _..

Based on the Balinese data and the literatur e on W estem cases,

the following diagnostic criteria for poss..:ssion disord ers ., are
presented: ,.,
1. There is an experience of unpredictable, uncontrolla ble;-,un~
wanted; and sudden takeover oL the subject by a
malevolent entity. ,,,
2. The observer(s) and the subject believe that the entity is the
Devil, a demon, a spirit, or a person . ,. .
3. The -entity speaks and acts through the subject who rnay exhjbit
.. . chan ged affects . J, ;
4. The entity speaks of itself in the first person and of the
the third person .Jt may argue and carry on a .dialogue with the
subject The discussionJoses normal progression, :and b~omes,
illogicalandincohe~ent ,. 1 .- ;_ . ;,1''.l,) 1;
5. Th e possession may be preceded by a brief period of perceptual
changes jn the subject such -as a .sensati on of darku es_&:,cm
constriction (i.e. the -subject experiences loss of.awareness -of
_ ,;aspects of.the .immediate environment or focuses .on restrict~d
, stimuli). ,-:: . ,;.,
6. During the possession, one or more of the following behavi9urs_
! are observed : _ ,
l: of
(a) Level .awaren~ss and psychologi cal .function
f,. , _ from conscious to unconscious. ,,,, r1
(b) _Falling or losing ;voluntary rnotor contro l,:or rnanif5= _sting(
It assaultive, -violent, or convulsive-like behaviour without
incontinence .
(c) Unusual speech (i.e. different in tone or content) . , , : , . .-:
(d) Inability to hold the eyes open .
(e) Physical movement perceived as automatic or not controlled
by the subject
(f) Hallucinations, auditory and/ or visual. .
(g) Unusual physiological phenom-ena such as feats of balance}
touching fire without feeling any pain or burning, anci'loss pf
allergic reaction . ,:, ,-: .,
(h) Unpremeditated behavioural actions totally out of characte11
for the person or different from his or he r usual state: ..

..-~- :;.-
_ __

~~ --~-:/
;. ~ ~-..~t.;:. ",c ~'

. - ,::.
7. Following the possession, the changes that had occurred
completely disappear and the subject may experience:
(a) Amnesia, partial or complete, with regard to the episode ,
(b) A sensation of calm or an absence of usual thoug ht lasting
a few hours to several days.
8. Th ere is no evidence or presumption of an organ ic factor
initia ting the possession .
9. The possession is not regarded as a normal aspect of th e culture
or religion in the society .
10. The possession results in social ; occupational disru ption ,
and/or personal distress.
11. The possession does not stem from a psychosis and is not due .to
a substanc e-induced disorder .

.. Differential Diagnosis .orPi>sses~ ion:Dis:or,de r

In Western psychiatric classification (APA, 1987); ;sym ptoma tic
'trance states' are included under the category 0,-'disso ciative
disord ers not otherwise specified' . Howeve r,,in a majority of eases,
Balin ese trance (which is usually associate d , vith posse ss iori:) is
not symptomatic nor does it represent a mental disorder. Ratner,
the individual and his society consider the behaviour norm al; -and
it does not result in his being brought to a .traditional he aler, a
psychiatrist, or a mental health clinic. These reasons expl ain.why it
would be inappropriate to apply the DSM-JII-R (APA, 1987) nosology
to most trance states in Bali.
If one looks at Balinese trance-possession from the viewp oint of
American psychiatric diagnosti c classification (APA, 1987), it appears
to meet the criteria for depersonalization disorde r. The .latt er includ e
a .sensation of not bein g in complete control of one's actions,Ian
altera tion in perception of oneself, and a feeling of bein g like , an I
automaton (APA, 1987; Castillo , 1990; Stei nberg, 1991b)i The
Balines e . in trance-possession describe sue}) sens ations. However ,
examin ation of the data in Bali in a variety of situati ons, both normal
and pathologic, shows a number of differences betwee n tran ce-
possession and depersonalization disorder . The most significant
differenc e is that the trancer does not feel estranged or sep arated
from himself. The trancer also does not exhib itassociated features I
of deper sonalization disorder, including dizziness , anxie ty, hypo-
ch ondriasis, fears of going insane , or disturban ces in sens e of .time
(Nemial1, 1980). In addition, trance-possession is marked by altered
outward social behaviour (e.g . stabbing oneself in cerem ony, and


- ;"#

: ~ ~c\
,. . :~~
- -:.:'!

dancing automatically), as well as inward social behaviour ;(e:g.

falling unconscious, changing one's voice and facies) which does
not occur with depersonalization (Levy and Wachtel,:.1978: .292).
According to M. Steinberg (personal communication), patients with
de personalization described changes in behaviour .associated with
feelings of 'going through the motions' and 'lack of affect' which
could be similar to automatic behaviour of the possessed . Patients
experi encing depersonalization do not report the -post-poss ession
feelings of calrm1ess and peace . These -differences separa te trance-
pos session from depersonalization disorder, even though the. two
conditi ons have some -features in common and share a basis .iri
dissociation . Possibly depersonalization , which is experience clby a
high percentage of normal young adults, up to 46 per cent (Dixon,
1963; Tru eman, 1984), and occurs during meditation -(Castillo, 1990)
bec omes distressing and symptomatic only when the individual
experiences _it repeatedly, over a prolonge d period, and cannot
assimilat e it into a framework of his or her society's beliefs or
acceptabl e myths (Castillo, 1990). '. J
During Jesus Christ's time, it was believed that possession by evil
spirits,"sometimes represen ting malevolent human :beings, caused
madness and that Jesus could 'throw out' these evil-spirits (Olarki
1977: 778). Since 500 BC, madness ha s often .beeri confused ,;- w.ith
possess ed trancers (Rouget, .1985) . _Some early anthro pologists
studyin g witch doctors , medicine rrien, or shamans who ,,were
believed to possess magical or paranormal powers -in their cultur,~
roles concluded that they must be delusio nal, schizophr enic, or
sufferin g from some mental disorder (Devere aux, 1956; Silverman ;
1967). Such views are no longer held (Lewis, 1971).:However , even
in Bali and in the West in the early 1990s., trance-poss essiom'is.
som etimes confused with psychosis . Some Balinese psych iatrists
have difficulty in distinguishing trance state s, includin g amok;
from psychoses . This is understandable, partinlarly since trancers
som etimes hallucinate. Vi'hen a Balinese develops a psychosis; for;
the first time , especially in connection with religious delusions; .the -
people assume that it is a trance-posse ssion state .. Only when the
symptoms persist do they realize that it is not. Some psychotic
Balinese have the delusion that they are possesse d by gods.
Although some psychotic patients in the West profess tha t they -are
pos sessed by the devil (Berwick and Douglas, 1977) and .other
men tally ill patients have attributed their episodes of violent
beh aviour to a possession state, they are not truly .poss esse d.
We stern psychotic patients may also suffer from the delu sion :that


- -Ji
. -.
they are God. The latter complaints and symptoms need to be
differentiated from possession.
There are several keys to differentiate psychosis from posse ssi6n:
the abrupt and .sharply delineated shifts in and )Ut of the possession
(disso ciated) state; the duration, which is generally not more than
several hours for possession states but lasts days in the case of
psychosi s; the ret ention of reality orientation when the possessed
person returns to his usual non-Ase state 16 in contra st to the
psycho tic's longer-t erm or persistent disorder of thinking and loss
of contact with reality; and the possessed person's .lack of other
associa ted symptoms of psychosis such as pers istent delusions,
hallucin ations, and sustained social decompensa tion. Balinese
tranc ers may feel that gods have entered them or say tha t they are
God in the trance-possession state but when they are out of the
state they retain their sense of reality and do not. believe that they
are God; they only believe that. God or a god used their--: body in-the
state of possession . Confusion of cases of possession with psychoses
has occurred largely because literature reports and case-stu dies of
possessed individuals .have seldom included psychiatri c evaluation
by experi ence d clinicians familiar with possess ion as well as the
full range of psychiatric disorders of the West and the non-W~stem
cultures under study .
The diagnosis of possession disorder is sometimes difficult to sort
out from a number of possibilities; it may be easily confusel1 with
both MPD 17 and psychoses, particular ly schizophre nia and mania.
A case of probable possession disorde r, originally diagnosed as
a psychosis, involved auto-castration by a42-year-ol d White, single,
Catholic male (Blacker and Wong, 1963). For 13 days, he was unable
to sleep and was tortured by 'evil spirits' who, he repo rte d, used
his body to 'perform unnatural acts'. On hearing both male and
female voices planning to possess his genitalia for their, own
purpo ses, he experienc ed a 'burning sensation' in his penis and
became anxious. 'Then, panic-stricken, he ligate d his scrotumwi .th
string and proceeded to incise his scrotum in an effort to:free
himself of the "spirit's" influence. Still not satisfied, he had begun
to amputate his penis with a razor when he was discove red by.bis
sister .' At the receiving ward of the hospital, he see med confuse d.
However, the amputation act effected a permane nt removal of the
feeling of being tortured by evil spirits, and subse quently he did not
have further hallucinations or psychotic symptoms (N . Wong,
personal communication). As an illustration of the diagn ostic
confusion in this case, Blacker and Wong (1963) repo rte d in the

... .
.. _ .. ,. .c

same paper several other cases of auto-castration that appeared to

be psychotic disorders. . '" ,- !r" ,, :,
If other mental disorders, including MPD, coexist, even greater
confusion . may arise. The prnblem of differentiating between
possession disorder and MPD was broug ht to the ._fore ,by :a ;.; 2,7-
year-old exotic dancer 18 who was brought to a psychiatric hospital in
Sacramento, California, in 1992, after she was found sitting :down in
churc h speaking loudly and incoherently. She complained :that :she
was possessed by devils and she desperately .wanted a priest to
exorcize them . She had a history of child abus~, but she was amnesic
with regard to the actual molestation , although she could recall the
events surrounding .it She also had amnesi a regardin g her ,,O:wn
behavi our that resulted in her children being remove d from her
custody several years earlier. She described the devils as having
been present for 17 months, and as being .very distressin g.-She had
never had such an experience or heard voices _before. At, times
durin g interviews, she appeared to dissociate as she broke into
!. outbursts of loud, rapid, unintelligible speech, doubling over at.what
r !
I: appeared to be hallucinations which she was unable to describe.
Thes e episodes . appeared to be provoke d ,by:her frustr ation(at-her

inability to explain the nature of her symptoms ,::but tlwy :alsci

occurred throughout the day without any obvious provocation. _She
was able to identify one of the voices as that of her dece ased.father .
She also described heaiing mumbling voices as ,if; there -was .an
argument going on inside of her. At intervals during the inter.view;
when she was able to recover from these distractions, she was,calm
and her thinking was logical and clear . In psychotherap y;rov~r-a
period of several days, she was able to comprehe nd th e contept ,6f
an entity taking over her and the possibility of learni ng to cqntr.ol it
or prevent it from possessing her. After,her discharg e from ljospital;
she persisted in her desire to find a priest to exor cize the entiti.esrc,.
..It was not possible to determine if this woman was suffering from
a possession disorder or had MPD of the posses sioniform type
described by Kluft (1991c) in which the alter that is most evident,i'Q~
the .sole one, presents itself as a demon or the Devil: , 11::.,/,
The difference in the course of symptomatology ',of MP.Dand
poss ession disorder is helpful in distinguishing the two conditions.
MPD generally has a chronic and unremitting cours e (although
the alter states may be intermittent). Possession disorder is supacute
with intermittent episodes, often terminates abrup tly, and rriay1no.t
recur. _ !! "'ff ::.:r'-~

Connor (1984), an anthropologist, described a man.who fell,ill for
two and a half months prior to becoming a balian. Her description
of the -man's behaviour, which she termed 'divine madnes s,' fits the
Western psychiatric criteria for a psychosis . He ha d-both delusions
and hallucinations and in that sense , the lay term 'madness' is apt
The man's behaviour after becoming a balian was no longer
psychotic and he continued to have possession experiences. In such
an instanc e, other balian may consider the person mad during the
acute manifestation of the psychotic behaviour but if he subsequently
becom es a balian, they regard his condition-as madness conferred
by the gods, who are testing him to see if he is strong enough fo
bear the burden of becoming a balian. 19 If so, they view'the
'madness' in retrospe ct to be normal .possession . This revision of
an assessment of mental phenomen on or illness, depend ing ion -the
subject's subsequent choice of social role sor occup ation , illustrates
how confusion can arise as regards an actual mental state. ,'
W estem -trained psychiatrists in Bali can m~e a ;clear distinction
between psychosis and possession, a distinctio n riotalways .cl~ in
the minds of balian . .,.. _.. , .;- '' ":':;. ;;; . .
. The following case of a Balinese illustrates how ;.psycho_tic-dis-
order can resemble in some respects the type of,illne sse simhich
afflict balian prior to becoming balian. A 20-year-old woman;with ,a
psych osis of three years' duration, diagnosed as .schizophre nia;-had
delusions that other people were in 1ove with her, .that she :was
pregn ant, that she had intercourse with others, ' and that ,~he
masturbated in a way Uiat everyone knew what she was doing. She
ha d auditory and visual hallucinations as well. At ho me. sh e was
afraid to leave the house; she also slept a lot ar,d was very lazy.
Psychiatric treatment included a number ot psychotropic medica -
tions including Haldol, Clopromazine, Trilafon, Tegret ol, tricyclic
antidepressants, and citicoline. AlL were given - with very: little
res ponse . She was last seen one year prior to a visit-in -1990, atwhich
time she returned by herself to visit Suryani and tell her that .spe_had
recovered in January 1990. She described the recovery process as
the consequence of an auditory hallucination telling her to work, .not
to care about what others say, to go out of the house regardless of
what the neighbours say, help her mother, and take a cooking class.
She did all ofthese things and expressed a desire to go to computer
,chool. She appeared to be establishing better interpers onal relation-
ships over the pasLmonths and seemed much -bright er . She still
had auditory hallucinations which asked her to find th e voicethat
said 'I want to marry you; try to find me.' She believed that it was .a
doctor's voice and asked Suryani if she lr,.newthe pers on. It is clear

<A_..... ,.~ zi.:

that this patient had auditory hallucinatio ns and an ongoing

schizophrenic process, but the recent hallucinations appar,eptly
helped .her recover her social adaptation in a remarkable. way..
Aspects of this illness that do not resemble the illnesses of bali4niare
the long duration of symptoms and the residual psychotic symptom
(hallucinations) following improveme nt. .. ". . .
. ). 't-

Hallucina tions : Normal and Abno rmal

, :, .
'lbe foregoing patient's psychoti c hallucinations are similar -tothe
auditory hallucinations of ba/ia1LWhO are not psychotic and in daily
life act normally in all respects . To correctly interpret hallucinations,
it is imperative to look at context and meaning. The authors e.stimate
that about 1 per cent- of normal Balinese in the population have
experienced auditory hallucinations. During meditation, people ~ ho
are nofpsychotic may also have visual and auditory h allucinations.
Suryani frequently encounters Balinese with visual hallucinations
who are asymptomatic and functioning normally. Her cook could
literally see spirits that keep the house safe. Another . ser:v:ant
r eported hearing people coming to the door of the hou se but found
no one there .20 .A person may report an awareness -of a very .bad
sm ell, such as that of a decaying ..corpse or animal, but cannot
locate it and then the smell disappears. Normal-Balinese people hav.e
r eported visiting and seeing people who ,have.--: died, appar ~_ntly
halluci nations. ...
Three factors may contribute to the hallucinatory abilities of
normal Balinese : (1) in their belief -syste m they .form a : c:::l ose
relationship with God and many ca..'1see Him and he ar His voice;
~ .(2) the supernatural is very much 'alive' and per.ceivable; (3)--: they

I may have abilities on a genetic basis . In support of the last--i's ;.the

fact that psychotic Balinese :frequently have visual hallucinatipns ,
while Javanese psychotics seldom do. CT ava is geogr aph ically:close
! to Bali and the two islands are also .historically close in customs

but not in religion.) This was Suryani's experience during the .,y ear
when she was a resident psychiahist treating psychotic patients in
Java . and was confirmed by Dr W. Maramis , a lifelong practising
1 psych iatrist in Surabaya, Java. Psychotic Javanese do; h owever, have
auditory hallucinations. Some cultures differ. in .manifesta tions of
hallucinations . For example, in Mexico, visual.,hallucination~ ,-bf
religious figures are relatively common in the norm al Mexican
population. A large-scal e survey in England in 1890 found ,9.9 ,j:}er
cent of 17,000 subjects had at some time in their lives experienced

L -~-- -- -~- -
. '~~- ..... r .
. ;;:._,:
; ~? ~ .-.~-~--
. .:_

. \, . .;,_ :
at least one hallucin ation tha t was not accounted for by illness and
1n 1948, a smaller follow-up study confirmed these findings.
_--Hallucinations in trance and hallucinations of normal people
seemin gly not in trance may appear to be similar to psychotic
hallucinations, but differ in a numbe r of respects (fab le 9.1).
Differences distinguish the halluc inations of different states and
sugges t different psychobiologi cal bases. Conversely , th e differ-
ences may help in clinically distinguishing hallucinations as mani-
festations normal persons not in .trance, possessed pers ons, or
psychotics .

Theories of Possession
Ther e have been few psychological explanations of the mechanism
of possession or theories of possession. Janet (1898) regarded
possession phenomenon as comparable to hyste ria and claimed
dissociation as the crucial psychological process (van der Kolk and
van der Hart, 1989). Sargent (1974) proposed class ical (Pavloytan)
conditioning as a mechan ism. Several authors and scho lar~ on
tranc e (Brown an~ Fromm, 1986; Fromm, 1979; Gill and Brenman,
196 1; Walker, 1972) have -elected to explain it by us e o( the
psychoanalytic concept of 'regressioff in the service of the fao;,
originally proposed by Kris (1952) to explain the ability of artists to
access symbolism from their unconscious for use in their creativ1
work. This concept itself, however, has been subject to controversy
over whether the phenomenon actually involves regres sion or is
mor e a type of 'relaxation of other ego functions' (MacKinnoti, 1a80).
Bourguignon (1976) suggested a similar concept as a the oretical
explan ation of 'possession -trance', termed 'regression in the ,service
of th e self . However, many of the trance states of the Balinese, for
exampl e, the musicians' and various kinds of trance-p osJes.ion,
which are regarded as normal in Bali, do not appear to !involve
regression at all in the sensE!of the definition of that defence, i.e. 'a
partial or symbolic return to more inf;mtile patterns of rea ~tirig or
thinking' (APA, 1984). This would appear to be the case with_the
Balines e trance-mediums. ,Persons -in a trance -possession ~tate at
com munal ceremonies may' be dependent "in the sense that :they
rely upon persons in their immediate environment to ass ist them
in order to function properly and safely, but it: is questionable if
their behaviour qualifies as ~egression. For thos<:: _who lean ~owards
psychoanalytic concepts, it would be appropriate to use termiology
such as 'dissociation in the service of the ego' to connote a
!:;'."'.;.:,: ____ -..--,12:;!m'
.~ .. - . - - !.:~ . _.-_
....-~--., ... -~ ~d.!!!,"IN<

.TABLE .9.1 .......

Characte ristics of Auditory and Visual Hallm;inations in lhe Balinese under Three Differei'1tConditions

Normal (NotPossessed
)t )2
Normal (Possessed Schizophrenia (Undifferentiated)
Not in trance In trance state Nol in trance

Auditory and visual Auditory and visual Mostly auditory; some visual

Religious meaning Religious meaning Often no religious meaning

Some have a religious context not Religious context not related to stress Some may but often do not have
related lo lo stress ,. religious meaning; may or t'nay
not be stress-related .

Exaggera ted in size or features , or Structured and.appear as if in real life Incompletely structured ; may be
diminutiv e, or unlike real life , fragmentary ; l~ck_s reality

Transitory ; associated with cohere nt May be lerigthy and assoc iated with Thoughts about ha!lttcinations often
. thou ghts s6'dally accepra.ble thought content idiosyncratic, incoherent or

Thoght association s normal 1110ughl associations normal Thought associations may be loose

, . ~ .,. .: ...,' ":.:.\~::_ <;i ~;;t ~-

:.-~'., ~ l _~:::
~- '.-~
(disconnec~ .d~:. ~; .- <\ , ;~\~
t 11' s.
Not~lated}elus~bn s,:or' ot?e ~,PS)'cfi:o~~. l'{o
symptoms .
fila{ed~tlelsi?n.s oi,7other
. PS}'.C~otie. M~Y
symptoms .
be assod ,;ite~ witlf pefs i~:te~t
. . -- 'delusions and other types
:::.:~- ..
of psychotic '
~7:;\ symptoms
i:} ,.
I . .JJ Ult.J\.VlH ~


,,'\ )
Normal affect Normal affect Affectlikely abnormal

No social impairment No social impairment Generally associated with social


Associated thoughts connected to Associated thoughts connected to Unrealistic content of behaviour and
reality of cultural beliefsor religion reality of cultural beliefs or religion thought

No change in social behaviour Individual operates within socially Associated social decompensation
accepted standards

Considered normal by the society Consiclered normal by the society Considered abnormal by the Balinese

Person deemed normal by peers Person deemed normal (not crazy) Person regarded as crazy by peers
by peers

Within sociaJly'approved and expett ed Within socially approved and exp'ected Outside'of society's approval and expected
bounds bounds bounds

Relatively common in general Common in some villagers and in some Less than 1%of population
population balian

(continued) IE
>.., t<


TAB LE 9 .1 (continued)

Normal (Not Possesse

d) l )2
, Normal (Possessed . Schizophrenia(Undifferentiated)
Dealt with rationally by the 'individual Dealt with rationally by the individual Not under rational self-control

Transient Transient Often persist for days, weeks, or months

No amnesia Mostly partial or complete amnesia; No amnesia

. some, "rio amnesia ' '

Normal (acies; no'paleness Flat facial exptd sion'; pale lips and Expressionless face; no paleness
11fouth ' '

Normal eye appeaiance and expression No foci.1sing ~{eyes (looks into Eyes foCLi
s but may appear as if looking
dista/1ce) " .' into own world
1Examples are leak (witch-like spirits) phenomena and seeing religious spirits.
2Exaii1ples are traditio11
al healers (balian), dancers, andce'remorita!participants.

theoretical concept of trance with possessio n.
Devereaux's (1956) theoretical concept of the 'ethnic unconscious '
appears to have merit in describing and understanding the 'form s
possession takes in various cultures . The concep t holds tha t
'conflicts are part of the ongoing but unrecognize d cultural-tradition ,
they occur in the "proper re~ctions" and can become ste~e~typed,
and are unconsciously learned by everyone' . As Langn ess (1976:
60) pointed out, 'Unconscious motives may well be involved - in
shamanism also; indeed it was in a discussion of sham anism th at
Devereaux first invoked the notion of the ethnic unco ns cious} Th e
conflicts regarding good and -evil, as espoused in dram as involving
Rangda and the Barong, are possible examples of an expression of
the ethnic unconscious of the Balinese .
Rouget (1985), a French ethnologis t, propo sed a th eory . th at
possession is a 'conjunction' of several constituen ts: (1) an innat e
structure of the consciousness, making it' sus ceptible to ',bein g
invaded by an emotional :evenCthat submerges -its normal '. stat e;
(2) social perpetratioll' oi the event as _a :3ign of ' th e will;of th e
presence of a spirit or divinity; (3) domesticatio n.of the eveht -with
the intention of establishing it as a mode of communica tioir -with
the divine; (4) identification of the entranced subjecf LV,li th :th e
divinity held responsible for the trance; and (5) theatrical iza-i:ion'of
the identificatory behaviour .
The data presented in this book lead to a theo ry of possession
(not including disorders) which contains one of Rouget's con-
stituents and several in addition: (1) a genetic or innate degree of
hypnotizability of the individual; (2) a religious context ;' (3)"eritry
into trance; (4) dissociative transformatio n into anothe r spirit or
power; (5) in trance-possession, semi-automatic actions of the perso n
with behaviour and emotions appropriate to cultural patterns ' and
enabling communication between the divine arid ilie, ' ~eciple;
(6) expressed behaviour and emotions which go -against1he rules
of the society governing everyday life; (7) overt of -covert
expectation, support, and encouragement by the society or grou p
and the individual's environment; (8) institutionalize d or self-
imposed controls on the duration of trance; (9) often partial or
complete amnesia with regard to the possessio n state. Th e autho rs
agree with Rouget that the behaviour of the possessed one -is often
theatrical in the sense that it is dramatic. Rotiget's idea that th e
trancer identifies with the divinity held respons ible for the 'tran ce
is conceivable as an unconscious process. It should be -borne in
mind the above theory utilizes Western psycho logy only and does


not incorporate the Balinese religious belief and conc ept of an

outsid e force or supernatur al en tity, which takes over and contrpls
the individual .

Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) Conceptu alize d

as a Trance-possession Proces s ' .
It is important for comparisons of behavioural phenomena i~ one
culture with those in anoth er culture to be clear that th e th,irigs
com pared are of the same categories of discourse . Coaj'usion could
arise , for some readers, when comparing normal . poss essi 9p,. in
Balinese with MPD which is regarded primarily as a mental disor.der
(and, inde ed, it is considered a disorder by psych.i~try). How;;~~;
persons with multiple personality are not affected by their conqition
for certain periods, especially early in their lives, in any case not;in a
mann er or to an extent that it results ip p_sychological and/ or social
disability , nor does it interfere significantly with their functioing;
Neverthe less , in Western practice, all such persons are ~~mveniently
and conventionally labelled_as manifes~g a disorder, MPD. ij~n <;:~ J
the term MPD might be confused with the phenome non of m~tiP.l~
personali ty. In the following discussion, -the .tr~dition ally acq~pt~d
term MPD will be used to designate both ITJ.ultip le .pers onality;t
non-impaired people and the clinically manifest _qispr9!_=!JC . ,c . ,d ,
, It is not difficult for psychiatrists and ps;:chol<;>g~~ts ~ rec Q_I).yile
qiay of the psychological commo,nalities of.;me~taHy:om1c}l.aIJ.P.
~bnorm al conditions becau se both non-syrppt9rpatis::_ipdividual~;?:fid
patients often manifest some of the same psychologica1,mechani$ms;
~erjng only in the degree of. di~tres ,that is -incury-ed by -( th~
individual or the situation . Examples . are -.dissociatio n and ,other
psychological mechanisms op~rative in a numb~; , o{p~ycho l9mRl
conditio ns such as some forms of depression, compulsive beh qyj.<;> ,ur,
ph o,bia, addiction, and anxiety; the mechanism~ invoh!:ed in, ea<;:_h
condition are the same, whether the indi~dal is symptorpatic 9r ,not.
Th e_data presented in this book_indicate that y occll.rrj9g
possession (e.g . in ceremonies) _ and the poss~ssio _;_ disorder~)n
Bali (e.g. beqainan and evil spirit possession) m_ar,iifest ~;s,yh~t
appears to be the same psycho biological processes . Tran ce in Bali
is the sam,e psychobiological process in both norm al.and abno'rmal
conditions and it is the same .throughout all cultures: A sir:rlilar
statement can be made about possession .
A number of dissociative disorders seen i.1 Balinese are sim.;ir
to those in the West. These include the psychogen ic amne&ias1


_~_;_ :; ,.. . "'

. ;.. :

conversion disorders (e.g . paralysis , blindness ,.. and deafness) ;
psychogenic fugue states (abrupt unannou nced :travel away.:from
one's home town with assum ption of a new identity and amnesia
regarding one's real identity), possess ion disorder , and deper-
sonaliz ation disorder (a perceived experience of feeli ng detached
from one's mind or body or feeling like an automaton) . -:' r. ,.
One dissociative disorder seen in the West th at does not occur in
the Balinese, or at least th at has not yet been determ ined; is
multiple personality disorder (MPD), defined as the existen ce within
the individual of two or more distinct personaliti es, each of which
at som e time takes full control of the individual's beha vioun (APA,
1987).21 The author s have looked specifically for MPD cases at th e
psychi atric hospitals, as well as in private practice, and have asked
other psychiatrists in Bali about possible cases . No clear-cut cases
have yet been identified . Suryani has not identified a1single;case in
the psychiatric service of the major hospital in De npasar in:the )past
10 years . It is curious that multiple personality has not occurre diin
Bali, since trance is so comm on there and MPD has been regarcied
as a form of self-hypnosis (Bliss, .1986). }l 1 ,-i;. ,.
MPD, formerly regarded as rare, has recently,,been recognized
as relatively common in Western countries .and it::has a relatively
stable set of case symptoms in North America (Ross, 1989)::Bliss
(1984a) reported on over 100 cases; Putn am et al. (1986) reported
100 cases ; Kluft (1984a) reported 171 cases ; and Ross, Nortorr;1and
Wozn ey (1989) reported on an assemble d group of 236 cases.
Multiple personality disorde r was found to be relatively frequent,
3.3 per cent, in a survey of general psychiatry inpatients .(Ross; Joshi ,
and Currie, 1990). This is quite high, conside ring the fact thatMPD
has been traditionally considered to be relatively rare and by,some
perha ps as infrequent as 1 in 100 patients admitted .to a psychiatric
ho spital. For every case of MPD there is prohably at least -:one
individual in society who has multiple person ality and has not-been
iden tified as having a disorder .22
The fact that there are only rare reports of MPD in persons from
cultures other than Western (Martinez-Tuboas , 1989; Putnam; 1989;
Stein berg, 1990) suggests that it may go unre cognized or rriay be a
cultur e-related syndrome of Western cultures .
The mental health profession has a history of sce pticism abou t
MPD based on ignorance and cognitive erro rs (Ross, 1990).
Phys icians frequently fail to recognize and diagnos e it and it is
comm only misdiagnosed as affective disorder, person ality disorder
(especi ally borderline personality clisorder, which may also coexist) ,



~ f.": ... ;._,:0.... :-


anxiety disorder , and schizophrenia (Ross, 1989). Coons , Bowman,

and Milstein (1988) found that MPD patients averaged 7 years:m
mental health systems before the diagnosis was made. Although
MPD generally arises in childhood it is not usually recognized
clinically until adulthood (Bliss, 1980; Braun, 1984a). Typically:MPD
patien ts are diagnosed after having received various prior psychiatric
diagno ses over a number of years . To complicate diagn osis, MPD
patients can be associated with any of the 11 person ality disorders
described in DSM-111-R(APA, 1987; Fink, 1991).23 Symptoms of
psychosis such as hearing and talking with other voices and various
psycho tic disorders must be differentiated frnm MPD whichiis ,not
a psych otic condition.
Although, classically, MPD has bee n described as occurrin g.with
rath er clear-cut and even polarized personalities, Kluft (1991c) has
explicated how the majority of patients represent a wide variety .of
clinical pictures. For example, most alters exert influen ce without
fully taking over the individual, the entities (alters) may not be overt,
and personalities may keep their existence secret from the ir-host:
Kluft (1991c) described more than a dozen different forms taken
by MPD patients, each of which characterizes the clinical picture.
In one type called switch-dominated, the switching proc ess occurs
very frequently and/ or rapidly so that no clear alter. dom inates the
patient at any one time and the patient may appear . bewildered ;
confused, and forgetful. This type of patient may be misdiagnosed
as havin g an affective disorder, a psychosis, an organ ic mental
syndrome, or a seizure disorder (Kluft, 1991c: 625). i ,
To further complicate ..diagnosis, numerous symptoms are pre-
sented by MPD patients including anxiety, depression s; som atoform
symptoms, sexual _dysfunction, suicide attempts, self-mut ilization;
eating disorder, sleeping disorder, or symptoms of post-traumatic
str ess disorder (Kluft, 1991c). ,~.v,/
The psych ological or scientific view of multiple person ality.has ;a
long history dating back nearly two centuries, beginnin g with the
concept of 'divided consciousness' which arose from demonstratic5ns
of hypnosis, then called 'artificial somnambu lism' (Puysegur,
1784)., This view recognized two conscious nesses of th e in.ind;
separate from each other, each having its own mem ories . The
concept was applied to MPD as early as 1816, with the idea:that
the case of Mary Reynolds (Crabtree, 1985) was a matt 0 r ofhef
en tering and leaving a state of somnambul istic trance . Pierr e Janet,
a French psychiatrist in the late nineteenth century, developed-a
mod el of 'consciousness and subconsciousness' and the notion that


,_;. '
subconscious fixed ideas such as a frightenin g experien ce could be
cut off, or 'dissociated' 24 from consciousness, and continue to exist
with an autonomy of their ovm and with thinking ability. Janet (1898)
explained multiple personality this way.
At the tum of the century, Jean-Martin Charcot, a famous.French
psychiatrist, and Janet developed a concept of split-()fffragrrf nts q~
the personality which they attributed to constitution al fad9rs
(Crabtree, 1985: 239). In 1894, Freud . identified hysteri a as one of
four types of symptoms representing an outcome of 'neuropsychoses
of defence' against a memory of a traumatic sexual event in,early
life. Somewhat later, Freud formulated dissociation as caused by a
conflict and representing a psychological defence .
In 1888, Robert Louis Stevenson (1937) pro duced his literary
tour de force, the tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It is a brilliant
depiction of MPD, with some literary licence, particularly tqe' aspect
of switching personalities brought about by ingestion of=if drug .
Dr Jekyll's expl~ation in his 'full statement'ofthe :bl ~e' refirt~t to
'dissociation' phenopiena (Steyenson, _.19}7.:.,,80) r.s~ tin~: ifh~i Q
persons with opposite morals, . good and horribly1 p,~d, s~ ~g
from a lifelqng conflict _This i~ typi~l of M~ D acLjllusf:r,q.~s.Jh .e
ethnic unconscious as well, i.e. the Christia n moral polacities-.,of
good and evil. An atypical aspect of Dr Jekyll's story of his early
childhood as far as MPD is concerned was his report of an entirely
happy childhood with no evidence of child abuse . (Biogra phers , of
Stevenson indicate that he himself did not have an abused or
neglected childhood.) Dr Jekyll explained : ,.
The worse of my [childhood] faults was a certain impatient gaiety of
disposition, such as has made the happiness of many , but such asi found
it h ard to reconcile with my imperious desire to carry my head high, 'and
wear a more than commonly grave countenance before the public-.'Hence
it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached :years
of reflection, and began to look around me and takestock-of my progress
and position in the world, l stood already a profound
duplicity of life. Many a man would have even blazoned sch irregulatjties
as I was guilty of; but from the high views that I had set before me, I
regarded and hid them with an almostmorbid .sense of.shame. It.w,asthu s
rather the exacting nalure of my aspirations than any particular degradation
in my faults, that made me what I was, and, with even a dee per trench
than in the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill
which divide and compound man's duai nature . In this case, I ~ ai( dri'ven
to reflect deeply and inveterately on that hard law of fife; wruch lies at the
root of religion and is one of the most plentiful springs ot distres s. Though
so profound a double-dealer, I was in no sense a hypocrite; both sfdes of

'-;,''::" #. --~:t"

me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself whe n I laid

and _plunged in shame, than when I l<)boured, in th i; ~y~-of day,_,~t )t~
furth erance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow an d--sufferi ng. And :.i .
chanc ed that the direction of my scientific studies,whi ch 1~lwho lly,~y{.ar1,
the mystic and the transcendental, reacted and she d a strong light _on .iliis
consciousness of the pererrnial war amo ng my 'me'"?be~~, ,With ev.~rx'.~ir 1,
from both sides of my intelligence , the moral
and the. intellecrual
.- ..
thus dr ew steadily nearer to that truth , by whose parti al _discovery rhaye
been doomed to such as dreadful shipwre ck: that man is not truly cirie, hilt
tru ly two. .., -, : :0 1
. . . even before the course of my scientifi c discoveries -had begun fo
su ggest the mo st naked possibility ' of su ch a miracle, I had learned 1m
dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream, on the th ought r_oJ i .the,
separation of these elements . If each, I told myself, couid -be hpu_se_dfin
separa te identities, life would be relieved of all that was_unbearable; t:Iw ,
unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspira tions anq re mor~.f -,()tm ~
more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and secur ely on. his
upwarq path , doing the good things in which )1e found )ti ~ plea~\1-t ~,_.~~
no longer exposed to disgrace and peniten ce by the hand s ':of 'iliis
e.xtraneous evil. It was the curse of mankind that these incongru ous:ti ggots
l were thus bound together - that in the agonized womb of consciou'sne s ';
these polar twins should be continuously strugg ling: How,:th en , were _:th~y
dis sociated? _; '_. :'ll'.J
Possibly Stevenson's creativity and i...1.spirationfor .this work :oW:.~
something to what appeared to be an MPD phenome non in ,himi,.elli
He experienced . a curious 'other .perso nality' thr ough out his ,-lifo-;
which helped him in his creative writing (Crabtre e; 1985:187~) 1-r
Ire described a conscious awareness of .'little people'. or 'brownie~
as hecalled them, and, -writing about hims elf in .the.,thir d pers'on,.J,i.~
stat ed, 'For the most part, whether awak~_or asle.~P,; he is_;sri.p). i
occupi ed-he or his little people-in_ corisciosly ;makir1g-r_sJ;orj~~
for the market' 'Who are the little people?' What shall I say they 1;:ir~
but just my brownies , God bless them! : . . who do. one-halLniyi
work for me while I am fast-asleep and in all human likelihood ;do;
the rest for me as well, when I am wide-awake and fondly supposeJI,
do it myself.' He also referred to these 'brownies' as 'uriseeii'
collaborators whom I keep locked fo.a back garre ., --
t; while r get :an
. , r,-
the praise and they but a share of the pudding':
In 1880, Breuer (Breuer and Freud, 1955) qegan the psychiatri _-~
treatment of a young woman, Anna O., who had a hysterical illriess'~:r,
two years' duration . This was an excellen t example of a hyst~riq).
(conversion) disorder including symptom s of paralysis and loss 9~
speech, and probably, in addition, MPD, ,vith the patient referring tQ

. .. .,_
th ese episodes as 'absenc es' and recognizing them as autohypnosis
with total .amnesia. Breuer (Breuer and Freud, 1955: 24) pefreived
these as selJ'.-hypnotic or hypnoid states .
Two entirely distinct states of consciousnes s were presen t which alternated
very frequently and without warning and which became more and ~ore
differentiated in the course of the illness . In one of these statei ' she
recognize d her surround ings; she was melancholy and anxious, but
relatively normal . In the other state she hallucinated and was 'naughty'-
that is to say, she was abusive, used to throw the cushions at people, so far'cis
the contractures at various times allowed, tore buttons off her bedclothes
and linen with those of her fingers wnich she could move, and so on. At
this state of her illness if something had been moved in th e room or
som eone had entered or left it [during her other state of consciousness ]
she would complain of having 'lost' some time and would remar k upon the
gap in her train of conscious thoughts . Since those about _}}ertried tp~epy
this and to soothe her when she complained that she wai(going mad, she
would , after throwing the pillows about, accus' of doing thirig~'io
her and leaving her in a muddle, ek. . ' 0
,: ., ., -

At moments when her mind was ' quite clear she would complain;'.of the
profound darkness in her head, of not being able to think, of becoming b lmd
and deaf, of having two selves, a real one and an evil one which forced her
to beh ave badly, and so on. ..
' Breu er (Breuer and Freud, 1955: 45), observing that in her wakipg
state the patient was totally una,ware of what had been going ,on
durin g her absences, noted:
... throughout the entire illness her two states of consciousnes s persisted
side by side: the primary one in which she was quite normal psychically, and
the secondary one which may well be likened to a dream in view ofits
wealth of imaginative products and hallucinations ; its largegaps of memory ,
and lack of inhibition and control iri its associations. In this secondary state ;
the patien t was in a condition of alienation .

Breuer des.cribed one aspect of her condition as similar , to

depers onalization or possibly the phen omenon Hilgard called the
hidden observer in hypnosis:
Th ough her two states were thus sharply separat ed, not only did ' the
secon dary state intrude into the first one , but- and this was at all events
frequ ently true, and even when she was in a very bad condition-a clear-
sighted and calm observer sat, as she put it, in the comer of her brain' and
looked on at all the mad business. Anna 0. was success fully treated with
psychotherapy involving expressing her feelings. She had bee n severely
physic ally impaired as a result of her muscular paralyse s. Her ideas


during her 'absen ces' wer e 'disposed of by being given verbal utteran ce
during hypnosis' . (Breuer and Freud, 1955: 46.)
McD ougal (1926), eminent Professor of Psychology at Harv ard, ll
dese:ribed how a person may succeed in getting rid of 1,1ndesirable b,
fantasi es or drives and splitting them off from consc ious awar enei s,
~hie ' h e called disso ciation . He believed that thes e disso '
units . could break thr ough ordinary consciousness into a 'psychic u
automa tism ', which resulted in either a 'hystetic al fit' or multiple h
person ality. Early psychologists described in detail th e case histories Vi
of a numb er of individuals with fugue , conversio n disorder , and p:
multipl e per sonality (Crabtree, 1985). tl
Any scientifi c consideration of MPD must take into accou nt the h
occul tists '25 views of multiple personalities (Crabtree , 1985). Th ese ai
have a long history dating from the ritual practices of ancient Greek
cultur es, extending through eras 'of ,vitchcraft, and up to pr ese rit- SI
day ch anne1lers. Occultists' views cover a large num b er of religio- p
philos ophical traditions and explain all human mys teries including (]
disease in terms of 'hidden' mystical forces in the individu al and Vi
the univ ers e, wh ich operate according to well-define d laws. Th ey tl
believ e that 'life-forces' such as God and human -cre ate d objec ts and st
human thoughts or 'thought-forms' have power whi ch can prod uce t:l
effects on others . Perhaps the Balinese beliefs in malicious black P.
magic an d bebainan (Chapter 7) are comparable to occultists ' con:: d
cepts of h uman -created objects and their views of power "whic h can p:
produc e effects on others . b
. Occul tists h~ve .held two vi~ws of rnultiple' personality, b o~ ai
invoiving possession. According to Crabtree (1985), th e occultist s' le
genera1 concept of possession is that an individual sp irit or centr e 9f R
conscio usness leaves the body to make room for anoth er en tity to rr
enter, who then takes full control and leaves the individual amn esic:
However , the occultists also postulate a 'lucid pos session' in wh ich
the individual has full memory of the possession event They b elieve . al
that th e intruders are generally malevolent. Possess ion in Bali p
differs in several aspects : the Balinese do not bel ieve in a leaving p
of the individual's spirit to make room for the posse ssi on. the ti
posse ssion ' is often positive, and, generally, the amne sia may be e:
partial or complete . . . u
Occu ltists see multiple personality as a special case of poss es sio~
Althq gh it is usually considered an outside intruder, it can also be a:
'a fragment of the individual's own psyche unconsciously crys tallized tI
aroun d some thought-form' . The victim may have given so me s

. ,, ~-

, :'!t
...: :..-
interio rly produced thought a specific personificatio n and charged
it with such energy that it has the power to periodic ally break
throug h into consciousnes s and. take control of him.' (Crabtree,
1985: 234.) This 'thought -form' or fragm ent of the perso nality may
be harmful to the individual or positive and -sympathe tic. -Toe
occultists' treatment methods aim to remove these creations but
consider it essential that the individual participate lest he simply
uncon sciously recreates the situation. 'Only if the victim recognizes
his part in thei r production and claims the hidde n thou gh ts.which
were the seeds of their formation can the pers onalities be
prevented from reforming.' (Crabtree, 1985: 237.) In contrast; if
the occultists believe that the alter person alities as possessions
have moved in from the outside , they take a different the rap eutic
approach, believing that these spirits must be removed.
Possession in states of trance has been considered operative in
some MPD patients (Ellenberger, 1970). 'Throughou t the. ages
people have encountered ghosts, divine spirits both see n ;:md heard
(DeBoismont, 1855), some of which may '"ell have been due to
what is now called MPD (Bliss, 1984a). Kluft -(199la: 161) -noted
that MPD provides a secular expression of many of the same'rriep.tal
struc tures found in possession syndromes: It is interes ting' t6'n ote
that many patients with MPD complai n of feeling s of' 'being
possessed or in trance (Kluft; 1991a: 173). Kluft (1991c: _622).
. . i.!- ' , . ... ..,

describ ed a 'possessioniform' type of MP D in which the_alter

presents as demon or devil. MPD and possesse d individuals pave
be en noted to have similar switching behaviour, personality changes,
and amnesias (Krippner, 1987; Ravenscro ft, .1965). An antl_rropo-
logical review of several case reports of MPD and similar states led
I-::enny (1981) to conclude that MPD and possess ion ar e .phcf no-
menol ogically similar, particular ly in the aspect of amnesia . ;.. ,, ..
The etiology of MPD is currently disp uted. A gene rally accepted
theory is that MPD is post-traumatic in etiology seco ndary to child
abu se, particularly sexual abuse, esse ntially PTSD (D. Spiegel,
1984; Wilbur, 1984). Sexual abuse has been documented in 79-83
per cent of MPD (Ross, Norton, and Wozney, 1989). A second
theory is spontaneous self-hypnosis (Bliss, 1984a) . A thir d theory
emphasizes MPD as created by repeate d dissociati ons which
utilize state-dependent learning (Kluft , 1984b) .
State-dependent learning is a notion tha t what individuals learn
and experience in one state of consciousn ess may not be r~adily
trans ferable to another state of consciousne ss (Weingartner, 1978).
Several studies support this concept as a contribut ion to the

. [;:1:,::~

amnesias and impaim1ents of memory across alte r sta tes (Ludwig,

Brandsma, and Wilbur, 1972; Nissen et al., 1988; Silb erm an 'et -al.,
1985). Work on state dependent memory (Bower, 1981) ha s'showri
that memories can be more accurately retrieved whe n th e pe rson is
in a mood stale similar to that in which the event :or learn ing took
place originally. Hence, memories associated with ;str ong fee1ings
might resurface only in a situation or psychologi cal sta te in which
the individual could tolerate experiencing these strong fee lings :. -
D. Spiegel (1984) formulated the PTSD theory of MPD as follows:
Patients with multiple personality di~order can b~ se~; _as havin~ l ad
multiple stresses in their early lives, and therefore this style of defense
against trauma becomes institutionalized throug h the need for repeate d
use. Such patients defend against the demoralization, fec;r, anxiety,and
depression of the unpleasant world to which they are-unusua lly sensitive
by saying metaphorically, 'I know it is happening_:..:_bufho t to me:' The
hypnotic dissociation becomes an attempt-to anesthetize :the pain byseeing
it inflicted on a separate part of themselves. Frequently, they internalize.the
role of aggressor in the second and generally hostile personality in an effort
to control the inflicting of physical and emotional pain anrj.-thereby preempt
the external source of discomfort. . . _ ...... ,_,. '! ;-.',:L:-!,
The connection between high hypnotizability_and multip_l e pew_qqa,q!};
symptoms has been repeatedly documented . The personality dissociati,pns
have been frequently reported to have begun after th'e' occurrence :of
physical or emotional trauma . Initially, in fact, the a issociated petsb'ii'ility
may comfort the primary one, offering solace and consolation wishecffor'
but unavailable from the parents . These dissociated aspects of the patient
can be seen as efforts to preserve some fomi of comfort, safety; and
identity in the face-of overwhelming stress . -
A good example of this type of dissociation IS a .case ;f child
abuse described by Terr (1991: 17): ,
. ' ''_
_ _.::
;~:;! I ,

Jamie was repeatedly abused by his alcoholic father: He had , Afso

repeatedly observed his father beat his mother. At age s; he Vvitne ssed-his
mother shoot his father to death . When he was 9, . the chiJd;;., was
psychologically evaluated. At that time he told me, 'I started some,plaets:
I made my planets up as a game. But it's real now. It's no game anymore,'
Jamie described a safe planet he had invented long ago, his owii planet
He also had invente d a number of very unsafe planets where people ;got
killed'. He said that he had come to achieve invisibility by repeatedly
visiting his own safe planet and avoiding the unsafe ones ..'Starting when
was 6,' he said, 1 began to feel invisible. When my Mom pointed -aguh at
my Dad ... I was thinking like "I didn't see it", like "This didn't happeri.." I
blinked to see if I was dreaming .. .. I remembe r at first pretending-1
wasn't there--that I was on my own planet I had gone there a lot befdr

'<~~ ;-.~

- ;=., :_:
\" ::,. ;;_
When Mom and Dad would fight, I would try not to hear, not to se e. rd Jry
to go to sleep . Normally I couldn't I'd try to get out of the roorn.wher.e
they were. I'd try to visit my planet But now my mind, yes, it jus( gqe~
blar1k.Mostly it happens at home. A few minutes at a time.' ' ,
Jamie repeatedly dreamed by night about his fat11er's death. And he
visualized the killing by day. But from the moment that his dad w~~ shot,
Jamie wondered if he himself could tum invisible. 'I know I can,' h e said; 'I
do it here on earth. I do it all the tin1e on my planet. You're just going'fo
have to believe me . My friends believe it ... When my father was being
shot I felt invisible. But if I turned invisible in front of everybody, they'd
take away my powers.'

Balinese mental disorders involving trance -posse ssion, such -as

in the schoolchildren and the women living in the palace compound
(Suryani, 1984; see Chapter 7) who entered into tranc e states at
unp redictable times but in certain situations . (i.e. scho ol and
palace), may have been precipitated by,anxiety , stressful events i or
recall of such events. Memodes .of or associations with anxiety-
laden or traumatic events are hypothesized '_to be:the triggering
factors in transformations of the personalities 9f MPD ,patients , -; ., :
Bliss (1984a, 1986: 1:36)_.proposed that personalities ofoMPD
patients are simply one among many possible prodll.cts of hypnosis
and that the basic process underlying the clinical sy drome of,MPD
is spontaneous self-hypnosis: 'a rapid unpremedi tate d withdrawal
into a trance, a dissociation, a pdmitive reflex .that .they expenience
when. anxious or fearful in response to some psycholo gical or
physical threat'. Bliss's work on MPD gives compellin g evidence
for the key role of self-hypnosis in MPD and is suppo rted by. other
auth ors (Braid, 1899; Moll, 1902; D. Spiegel, 1990:..139; Sutcliffe
and Jones, 1962). In addition to a high degree of hypnotizaoility,
MPD patients have an extreme range and .high degree of c.ommon
dissociative experiences (Bernstein and Putnam, ~1986). Hyp~osis
is a common and very effective treatment technique .,MP D -patients
frequently recognize tl1at they have spent a large parl of th eir lives
in altered states of consciousness (Bliss, 1984a). These spontaneous
transformations of the patients can be swift, .with -soi:ne patients
explaining that their personality simply disappe ars and the alter
ego assumes the body. Bliss (1984a: 138) asserte d tha t the process
begins early in childhood and that afterwards, self-hypnosis becomes
a dominant mode of coping with unpleasant experi enc es: 'Th e crux
of the syndrome of MPD seems to be the patient' s unre cognized
abuse of self-hypnosis.'
Several facts may argue against both tl,c child abuse and the

i' :.

~ .

self-hypnos is theories of MPD . Self-hypnosis has been learn'ed ;hid

practi sed by multitudes of Weste rners and in that state very 'few
!. switch into another personality . Self-hypnosis as a process 'could
accoun t for a number of aspects of multiple perso nalities but perhaps
no,t explain its major difference from hypnos is, name ly being tak~n
over . and controlled by an entity. Child sexual abuse is .not
specifi cally characteristic of MPD; it occur s with a high prevalence
in bor derline personality disorders without MPD, 71 per cent in
one se1ies of patients (Ogata et al., 1990). In a survey of 960~women
in San Francisco, 38 per cent reported sexual abuse before age 18
(Russell, 1983) but a minuscule proportio n of these would be
expect ed to develop MPD.
Neverthel ess, data presented in this bool, and other re ports of
trance with possession in Bali (Belo, 1960) indicate many similarities
in th e charact eristics of MPD and hypnos is as report ed by Bliss
(1984a, 1986) and others (Bateson and Mead, 1942; Coons, Bowman,
and Milstein, 1988; Gill and Brenmari, 1961; Hilgard, 1965; :Jensen
and Suryani, 1992; Kluft, 1991b; Putnam, 1988; Ross, 1990) .'These
includ e the following:
1. Patients with . MPD have unusual hypnotic abilities. 'It is
hypothesized that this is present in normal Balinese who'eiiter
into trance-possession at community festivals and cere monies.
About 15 per cent of Western adults are exce llent hypnotic
\'.: subjects (Hilgard, 1965). Western write rs have -believed' tliat
most Balinese are highly hypnotizable (Gill and Brenman,
i1' 1961). . ;.-./
2. MPD patients switch rapidly to their alters , many in less than
five minutes and most in a matter of seco nds (Coons;' 1986;
Coons, Bowman, and Milstein , 1988; Putnam, 1988; Putnam
et al., 1986). Observations in Bali indicate that villagers '-who
participate in ceremonial trance, trance- mediums, and :hypnd-:
th erapy patients enter trance-possess ion with similar rapidity;
the switch to the possession state appears to be instantane ous. '
3. Almost two-thirds of MPD patients report auditory hallucina0
tions (Kluft, 1991a) and also vivid visual hallucinations which
may involve complex scenes (Ross, Norton, and Wozney;1989;
Putnam, 1991). Possessed Balinese report similar experiences .'
4. Amnesia or loss of time is typical of MPD, in which the
patients have no memory of performing complex beh aviours
(Putnam, 1991), as well as other dissociative disorde r-;. This is
a prominent aspect of possession in Bali.
5. Putnam (Goodman, 1988: 20) regarded increas ed muscle

../_._{_:, - f"


tension as one of the most telling observabl e sign s of MPD

patients switching into or out of alternate perso nalities. Similarly,
a marked increase in muscle tension accomp anies the
possession states occurring in religious cererr.o nies in Bali.
6. A multitude of hypnotic-like episodes of MPD patients have
included almost every classical hypnotic feat (Bliss, 1980). For
example, an adolescent alter of a middle-ag ed adult may be
excellent at an athletic sport. Balinese in trance demonstrate a
variety of . unusual hypnotic feats, including autom atic or
synchro nized dancing, putting hot coals in th eir mouths,
dancing on hot coals, incredible balancing, and self-stabbing, all
without bodily injmy (Belo, 1960):
7. It is not uncommon for family member s and/ or th ose involved
in traumatizing the MPD patient to :be repres ent ed in direct,
derivative, or symbolic fashion within the system of pers onalities
(Kluft, 1984c). Similarly, Balinese ,fraditional healers (balian)
and a Balinese patient in hypnotherapy were posses sed by the
. spirits of more than one farnily member . . '
8. Some MPD personalities have included animals (e.g5'birds
and dogs), Jesus, sister Maiy, devils, ghost s, and God. Balinese
in trance are possessed by evil spirits, God, and sometimes
animals .
9. Statements by MPD patients show that one person ality using
the pronoun I talks about the other one iri tem1s of the
pronoun she or he (e.g. Tm a whore but she is very moral', or
'I'm a tease but she is very solemn'): The same type of address
has been observ ed in Balinese hypnotherapy patien ts when
they become possessed by spirits or other souls .
.10. MPD personalities may appear only once for a single mission
or they may continue to function . In Balinese under hypno-
therapy, possession may appear only a single tin1e in therapy
or may reappear in subsequent therapy ses sions . Individuals
who experience spontaneous possessio n may have only one or
two such experiences in a lifetime or they may have them
frequently, even daily.
11. Individual MPD personalities have spec ific and limited
functions, and their repertoire remains stati c. Similar charac-
teristics are true of Balinese possessed in tranc e (e.g. the
trance-mediums and kris dancers) .
12. MPD personalities have an 'unswerving dedicatio n to their
missions' (Bliss, 1984a) and they are consiste nt (e.g. one laughs
but cannot cry, one is promiscuous, and another is violent).

Balines e in trance show a similar dedication to thej.r missions .

. This is particulariy evident in the trance rs of the _kris dance in
which individuals undergo self-stabbing precipitat ed by the wave
of a .itch's (Rangda's) cloth (Belo, 1960). All trance dancers
perf orm similar bodily motions in trance and beha ve similarly
durin g revival from trance .
13. In therapy, MPD patients' feelings need to be rec alled,
, _rememb ered, and processed conscio usly if they are to recede
into -the past as memories . Suryani encounter ed th e same
proce ss when utilizing hypnotherapy with Balinese who were
-posses sed under hypnosis . , ,;.
14. When MPD patients switch from one personality to another,
they undergo a process identical to that in hypnosi s; specifically,
the individual goes into hypnosis and the personali ty seems to
disappear as if hidden, like a second _personality. ,Jne se.cond
'pers onality' (comparable to the possessed entity)J h.en appears
or emerges into the 'real worl d' al'df he is ,no:longer under
hypn osis . In Bali this phenomenon is obs erve d in perso n~ in
trance at ceremonies, in trance mediums, and in hypno th er apy
patients .
15.. MPD patients are often aware of _detachment . pr - a deper-
sonalization experience as if they are obse~g the .be haviour
of the second personality. Out-of-body .expe rience~-are rep0 rted
by -patients with MPD (Ross et- al., :1989). _Th e same
phenomenon is observed in Balinese tra,qcers _and pa~e~!S
possessed in hypnoth erapy :: they are awar e of the poss es sed
'person' (spirit) , and they may. converse _with him /h er and
repo rt their obsenrations of the possessed entity .
16.. The alters of MPD serve a variety of functions for. the person,
including acting out repressed or.split-off.desires or -impulses
that would occasion guilt or shame _(e.g. aggress iop; suicide ,
and sexuality). Possession in the Balinese and other cultures
demonstrates similar psychodynamics and probab ly serves
similar functions.
17. Pos sessed Balinese who are aware of their behav iour c:r who
are amnesic may feel compelled to behav~ in ways tha t are
contrary to their values, wishes, or ordinary judge ment as
seen in individual and ceremonial trances . Similar 'influence'
experiences are very common in MPD (Kluft, 1987a; Putnam,
1991; Ross , 1 orton, and Wozney, 1989).
18. MPDs regard alters as taking over , or sharing their bodies.
The Balinese view possession similarly .

.. ~ ;-
19. The personalities may h'ave considerable investmen t in .their
own separateness an.d express a pseud o-delusional degr ee of
conviction about their being separate and autonomou s (Kluft,
1984b) . The same quality is prominent in the Balines e trance-
20. The alters of MPD may be subtle, barely notice able , or clearly
evident and dramatic as in the case of possessic.n.
21. Patients' recogniti on of their personalities 1s variable: 'Some are
known to patients, but usually they exist in a twilight w ne of
dim conscious ness or are totally out of awaren ess.' (Bliss,
1986: 149.) The Balinese are generally only dimly aware of the
pos sessions and often not at all until aske d about the m.
22. Even ts experienced under hypnosis , such as a vision '.or :a
ghost , if remembered after coming out of hypnosis , may be
beli eved by th e subject This was true of the Balines e school-
child ren who experienced visual and auditory '.hallucinations
duri ng a trance-possession epidemic .
23. MPD patients come into therapy disavowing re spons ibility for
the actions of their alters (Ross, 1990). Similarly, the Balinese
beli eve that" their behaviour during , a posse~io n rs the
resp onsibility of the entity . !.. :,~

24. As many as 80 per cent of patients known to have . MPD have

periods (sometimes a year or more) in which the ir symptoms
are suppressed, or disavowed, and th us unrecogniz ed (Kluft,
1985, 1987a). Interm ittency is a characteris tic of pos sess ion.
25. Only a small proportion-10 per cent-of MPD patients are
exhibitionistic in their condition (Kluft , 1985). Similarly, only a
small percen tage of Balinese in possessio n show exhibitionistic
26. MPD patients have been described as influenced by the
cultural patterns and beliefs of Weste rn historical times when
life was replete . with mysterious spirits , deities, and powers in
the world (Frazer, 1935). The world of the Balinese is similarly
populated with spirits, deities, and other power s (Bates on and
Mead, 1942; Jensen and Suryani, 1992).
27. 'Ch aracterological factors, cultural influences, imagination,
intelligence, and creativity, make powerful contributi ons to the
form taken by [MPD] personalities.' (K]uft, 1991a: 166.) The
same factors shape the forms of possession in th e Balinese .
28. The Balinese frequently report that preceding trance-possession
they perceive a darkness, as well as a narrowin g of awareness
of stimuli in their environment, which is charact eristic of the

\: ~ .
_ ..

hypnotic state. A patient with MPD studied by Bliss (1986: 125)

rep01t ed a feeling of 'being pulled into darkne s~'- as the alter
took over. She stated, 'In deep hypnosis you give up, are calm,
totally numb, your body is relaxed _and you can't move. The
next and final step is you are gone-eve ryth ing is black. Wh en
Lisa (a personality) tal<es over it is the same thing.' Bliss
regarded this switch to an alter as a self-hypnosis phen omenon.
One of Jense n's MPD. patients descri bed a sensation of
'dar kness like a curtain' falling in front of her for a second or
two with switch es to some of her many alter s:. 'It feels cold,
dark, and forbidding . Everything seem s to be in darkn ess , even
on a bright sunny day.'
29. Many alters r eveal their names consc iously, and MPD patients
often give names to each of their alters, .similar to the way a
child name s favourite dolls who posse ss animate or lifelil<e
qu alities. and familiar 'personalities '. A god ,:who . ch ooses to
possess a balian is eminently:familiar to the balian and he/sh e
-may know it by its common name or the -name it reyeals to the
30. .The Balinese hypnothe rapy patients res embled .MPD patients
in th e manner of reso lution: the poss essio n states in hypno-
th erapy disappeared after the individuals became aware of the
nature of the possession and assimilat ed its .demands and
wishes into the ir cons cious activities ."
31. Th e possession state of the Balinese often provide~ secondary
gain to the. perso n, as for example by serving-as -an outlet for
emotions and behaviour not perm itted in the _ordinary lifestyle
of the culture . Similarly, the alter per sonality of MPD brings
secondary gain in the sense of avoiding pain or ,unb earable
distress to the individual (e.g. it allows the _per_sonto act _out
behaviour not acceptable to his conscio us self) . ,- -
32. Th e gods or spirits of possessed Balinese spe ak and/ or act
through the individual and may give tl1e appeara nce. of a
personality very different from the individual's usu al one-
characteristics sensed inwardly by the individual. Thi s was
evident in the trance-mediums and som e dar:icers, Th e alters of
MPD share these characteristics .
33. MPD alters (Kluft, 1991a) and possessed Balinese may
experience and represent themselves as being of different ages,
genders, races, religions, sexual orientations , 2.nd as h olding
contrasting values and belief systems .
34. Typically alter personality and possess ion state. switches of

Balines e are acq )mpanie d_by_ch_anges in fades, speech; witch,
n ite, accen t, and language usage ),. motor activity, cognitive
proces ses, affect, behavioural .r:epertoire, mem9ry -retrieval, and
se nse of self (Krippner, 1~87; Pattison and Wintro Q, , 1981;
Putnam, 1988, 1989, 1991: 152; Ravenscroft, 1965).
35. Severe hea dache is a common symptom of MPD patients , and
it usually becomes worse d,uring personality chan ges (Coons,
1988). A few Balinese reporte d experienc ing headac hes dwing
th e onset of possession states. . .
36. Th e triggering stimul us, for._the actual switch of the Balinese
. into the possession state is not generally. clear to th e individual,
although it is evident in cases involving the voice of Rm1gd a or
prayers used by the balian_and_J)riests . -Snilarly; the :;t:ngger
for MPD patients' switches into alters is ~so J 10t--u su alJy-clear
to the individual . _Often, it is as. if they Yfe re 1t-e n qyer by
surprise and unawai:e . of the internal or external -~,wn uli
precipitating the switch . : . r:.
In the Balinese possession state an entity take s over the pers on
and they believe that it is God, a god, or a spirit In MPD an ,entity
tak es over the person and he and his society bel,it:!v e tl::i
,aJ : it is
anoth er 'personality '.26 It is evident that the conventional cultuJ:al
beliefs play a large role in the form of express ion of th e two similar
condition_s . _,,:
Th e foregoing similarities support the , contention in this:book
th at norma l Balinese in trance with posse ss ion, persons ._with
possess ion disorders, and patients in hypnosis with possession
sh are many of the same experiences and conse quen ces ch aracter-
istic of MPD alter states.
However, while personalities of MPD patient s in, many.. ways
resen;ible Balinese il) trance states wjth posses sipn, it-is in1p_ ortant
to note a numbe r of differences betweep MPD and pos ses siom
1. MPD alter states sometimes last longe r th an th e Balinese
possession states . An alternate perso nality may last a month or
sometimes a year or more (Bliss, 1984a) .
2. In the Balinese, the duration of the . state is controlled
(terminated) by traditional techniques .
3. MPD alters are generally children or people and MPD rarel y
involves supernatural entities as does possession. Th is char ac-
teristic of MPD is understandable since the .alters gener ally
developed in childhood or youth as split-off parts of .the
individual's personality, whereas posse ssions gener ally manifest
themselves in adulthood in religious contexts .

-} ..

4 . . MPD is believed to be created out of repeated di~cfciation

expe rienc es that occur under extre me stress, whereas 'pti'sse~-
sion in the Balin.ese appears to be a process ithat can spontan-
eously and suddenly appear without ; appar ent previous
dissociations due to stress. A possible explanatibn is that I~pirits
have already- been created and they existiri 'th e 'ethriic un-
conscious' (Devereaux, 1956) and in each Balinese unconscious
over a:lifetime. : -: -:,',l: ,
5. The poss ession state is often followe d by;a peri od of peade and
calm, . an experience infrequently "n'oted and/ or of "sh orte r
duration than that feltby MPD patients after switching-from
their alters. ' ~ "
6. Possession occurs in a rriuch higher proportion in the cBalinese
. population than does MPD in Western 'po.pulatioris. This'iri1ybe
explained by the society's facilitation and support; and the v alue
and usefulness that it serves in Balinese society . By6'iiitrast,
in the West, possession and .MPD are conside red pathological
and und esirable. The only exceptions to this are the ' l:lrccine
~ Western trance channellers, Western tran ce-mediums ,' arid
some religious cults. . ,>
I 7. Possession s are generally believed by the person to come-itfofu

outside her/him self, whereas most MPD patients perceive that
most of their alters are harboured within thems elves1?11:This
diffe'rence appears to--be "primarily :,a -functi<fa:'of per-sotiality
development and cultural beliefs: most possess ed spirits ex:ist

I in the supernatural world 'out there' ;iand the alteri of MPD'lfave

developed over time (as ;dissociations) within ' th e indivi'diiill.
Western psychological theory can regard entitie's in bofuccase-s

i - as dissociated components of the .personality: r,:.: ,+

8. Possessed trance-m ediums demonstrate psychi c abilitleifsti ch
as clairvoyance and extrasensory per ception, 28 whereas M PD

patients do not. :i r< ~
9. Most possessed Balinese are not self-destru ctive or-''stiiddal ,
whereas MPD alters frequentl y are : ' , '; --
10. MPD-patients show a degree of impairment from P-liniriial to
11 profound (Kluft, 1991a), although in earlier<stage s there ' may

~!l be no impairment. With the exception of possess ion constituting

a disorder (e.g. bebainan and kasurupan), posse ssion does not
result in impairm ent. : ,;
11 While alter personalities in MPD and Balinese in posse ssion are
in many aspects similar, phenomenol ogically, thepsychosocio-
ti cultural causes of each and the ways in which each culture"regards
ll them are different.

1. In the West, the alter of MPD is regarded theciretic~y . ~ a

defence (i.e. dissociation) _against o.r a psychol ogical re spo_~ ~
to affects associated with emotional traumas; in th e Balinese ,;
poss ession is a response to (and is expecte d by) the cul~e .-It
is concei vable that possession in some Balines e, parti cularly
when it represents a di~order , such as bebainan, may : }?e a
mech anism or 'defence' to deal with fearful beliefs or anxiety;-
.laden conflicts. .. :
2. In t;he West, most types of possession r epre sent a sym ptomatic
state, ~hereas fuBali most represent normal b~haviour , either ip
ceremonies or as used by balian.
3. The Balinese have socialized .the pheno menon . of possession
occurring in the pres1=nce of others, wher~a s .in the West, .the
alter of MPD remains .a ~ially isolated pheno menon, generally
e~pressing itself withi.g.the indiyi_duaL .., . ..: .. . . _
. Similarities and differences _in tht:: psycliologi catpro ces~~s-of
MPD and trance-mediw: possessi01). are)isteg -in Taple 9.2. ,. ; ,
Psychological Process Similarities and Differences in ;:..
Trance-medium Ppssession _and ~PD Alter Perso~ali ty

Trance-medium Possession MPD Alter Personality

Occurs in religious contexts Occurs in non-religious contexts.
Enters trance by self_ Enters self-hypnosis .'
Power or spirit takes over Alter personality_'<;::omes out'
Poss ession perceived as Alter usually perce ived as
coming from outside self existing within self
Believed to be chosen by Chosen by alter or unpr eme d-
gods; may be unpremeditated itated
Psychic abilities No psychic abilities
Accesses individual's conscious Accesses individual's consciolls :
.and unconscious and unconsciou s. . ,, : ,
Acts through the individual's body Acts through the individual's-body
Switches at will with prayer Occasionally may switch into _an
alter at will but .genera lly npt .
consciously contr olled .; .
Not self-destructive or suicidal Often self-destruc tive and suicidal
Duration of minutes to hours Duration .of minute s to hours but
may last for days
Abrupt onset and termination Abrupt onset and termin ation .
Terminated by the possession Terminated by the alter;
and/ or by conscious will generally' no consciou s control of
terminatio n

.:- '-!

If MPD is posited as a process similar to possessio n,-the question

about duration arises : why would some MPD dissociative episodes
last so much longer than trance-possessio n, some times weeks or
month s?29The answer may lie in the lack of institutionaliz ed socio-
cultural control of possession in the We st and -of dissociative
disorder s in Bali and the West. In Bali, the perso n is genbrally
bro ught out of trance-possession by ritual sprin kling of holy water
over him by a socially recognized spiritual perso n, such' as a
priest Because tran ce-possession is socially and publicly controlled ;
everyon e present, including the person in trance, trusts , expects,
and is aware of the termination. Balian have practised bringing
th ems elves out of possession at will, just as they have -learn t to fall
into trance-possession, essentially at will. They enter trance-
possession by ritual prayer, mantra, and incense smoke.-.and
tennin ate it when the possessed God or god says he is finished by
carry ing out a brie f ritual with prayer . By contras t, persons with
MPD have developed relatively little conscious control over th eir
alter states . Rather , the unconscious mind contro ls coming out of
an alter state, in the same way that it generally controls switching
to an alter. Although some of Jensen's MPD patients could switch to
an alter at will, only one was able to temtlnate them af-will,i.e. to
consciously and reliably switch back to his/her usual pers 6riality'.
MPD patients are at the mercy or behest' of -the alter(s )..' One
adolescent MPD patient could switch out of some alters at Jens en's
requ est or suggestion.' Two adult patients could sometimes prevent
an alter from taking over by exerting great consd ~us effort or by

I, .
getti ng support from the therapist. It can b~ hypothesized' that if
the patients with MPD had the internal ability, or if th er e were
institu tionalized (cultur ally accepted) standard procedures
termi nate MPD alter states, they might not necessarily la~t .so
II long . With regard to duration of alter episodes, MPD can . he
considered a possession process out of contro l, both societally and

r individually. Hindrances to assisted termin ation are that often the
MPD herself/himself is the only perso n who is aware of the
man ifestation of the different personality states, and conversely,
some MPDs are not consciously aware of their alters .
The fact that there are a number of phe nomenologi cal differ-
l ence s noted between MPD and possessio n in the Balinese, in
addition to the broad array of symptoms and wide variations in the
clinical presentation of MPD patients, does not detract from _the
hypothesis that both represent fundamentally the same psycho-
biological process. It must be borne in mind that MPD represents

lL__.__ .--- --
~- ~ - .....>f.


~ ~-:-
... '
\ ..~- ..
the outcome of a basic psychobiological process overlain with
complex psychosocial, developmental, .personal ity, and cultural
factors. The cultural overlay and psychological factors detennining
the behavioural patterns of possession in the Balinese are much
fewer and simpler than those of MPD patie nts .
Although MPD does not appear to occur as a clinical disorder in
th e Balinese at the pres ent time, such cases probab ly exist; however
th ey are likely to be regarded as possession . One type of balian
that might appear to be a multiple personality is the tranc e-medium
described in Chapter 3. 1bis woman takes on a totally different but
consistent personality as manifested by her behavi our , speaking
voice, and attitude on a regular basis when she is invited by her
god. She has a special name for the god that take s over in -her
trance-po ssession state. When she comes out of tran ce-possession,
she is amnesic with regard to the episode. In he r usual state, she
knows that she is a balian and she .and,her assistan ts make elaborate
preparations for her work in healing but she does .not know-wha t
she does in trance-possession. Similarly, most 'M PD patients:have
'named' personalities and many are amnesic with regar d to .them.
In contrast -to' MPD, however, this .balian's ,switch es -to her
possession state are - very predictable , structu red; ,and socially
congru ent, and she is rewarded by ,her clients' in 'th e for.m-of
oJ'erings of money and status. These factors - distingu ish '.her
possession state from that of MPD, in which personali ties generally
switch unpredictably without preparation and engage in behaviours
which do not have a socially sanctioned and institutionalized role in
the society . This balian is not regarded by the Balinese as having a
mental disorder. Nevertheless, she fits the DSM -III-R (APA, 1987)
diagnostic criteria for the mental disorder called MPD: specifically,
the existence within her of two distinct personali ties or per sonality
states (each with its own relatively enduring patte rn of perceiving;
relating to, and thinking about the environmen t and self),,which
recurrently take full control of her behaviour . It is obviom~',from
th is incongruity that the W estem psychiatri c definition of MPD is
not completely appropriate for Balinese culture . In such cases of
seeming multiple personality and possession state s in Balinese,
the culture as etiologic and the cultural context as determin ant of
form must be taken into account in ord er to corre ctly compre h end
them in Western terms.
Since self-hypnosis or spontaneous trance is very commo n in the
Balinese, and their trances generally include possess ion, the authors
hypo thesized that, if self-hypnosis is the cause of MPD as proposed

'.: .-.-.-

..- -
.-... .-
. ~.;,-
;,:C --~ -_.":"-;.i.r::

by Bliss (1984a), it would be very common among them . There-

fore , it came as a surpris e not to find any cases of MPD,in Bali. ;. t ,
_One possible exp lanatio n for. the apparent. absenc; ofMP D jn
the Balinese deriv ed from a stu dy of juvenile delinquen cy in_B.aJi
(D. Rosenthal , person al commu nication). In a su...ryey.of all juvenile.
delinquency cases in 1990 and from interviews with counsell oi:s of
sch oolchildren, no cases or even indications of child abu se .were
found. It appear s that this abno rmal child-rearing practice, which
is a common underlyin g etiologic factor in MPD, is extrem ely;rare
in Balines e so ciety . 1ru.s finding indirectly supports the .the ory -that
MPD_ is comm only an outcome ,of. traum ati~ child sexu al abuse.
However, not all cases of MPD have :a history of sexual abuse; _the
abuse can be sexu al, physical, or psychological, consider ed separately
or together. A few cases are jus t unhappy childre n with excellent
hyp notic capabilities who feel estranged and periodically turn , to
their hypn otic world and/ or imaginary playmates for social
interaction (Kluft, 1984c). .., _
.It has been noted in India that the possess ion syndrom e is very
common (Varma, Srivastava, and Sahay, 1970) while..MPD is,very
r.are (Adityanjee and Khandelwal, 1989: 1610): The hypoth esis:.. w~
advanced that 'possession syndrome in India and multiple perso nalify,
disorder in the West represent parallel dissociative disord ers ),Yith
similar etiologies despite -. some major difference s . in clini<;al
P,rofiles'::The cases of MPD report ed in Indians differed _from most
Western case s;_in that they __ exp erience d oajy ,minor ,_stre ss _j~
adolescence and had not suffere d massive trauma or child abu se._:,
The que stion of the existence of MPD in Bali remains ~pen. ;The
Western expe rien ce may be illuminating : Western ,psych iatris~
who would have , assumed that MPD is rare 20 years _ago _have;up~
com e to see it as being more common . It is no longer . unus u.ilLin
the : United State s. To date, most cases have been .identified ;;by
us ing descriptive pheno me na. An objective assessm ent instrument
to ,h elp diagnose MPD, the Stru cture d Clinical Interoew for D,$M,
III-R Dissoci ative Disor ders, is now available (Steinberg, Rounsaville,
and Cicche tti, 1990). Another scale tha t can corrobo rate, the
diagnosis of MPD is the Dissociative Expe riences Scale. (Bern stein
and Putn am, 1986). Th is provide s quan titative meas ure s of 28
comm on types of dissociative experiences and MPD patien ts score
in the ran ge of 40-50 per cent, significan tly higher than normal
subjects . Th ese instruments could be b-anslate d into Indonesian
and us ed in Bali to better identify now obscure cases. Loewenstein
(1991). described an intervi ew protocol for asses sment of diss5_>~i :

--. r".,
ative disorders, including MPD, which greatly incre ase s- .the
probab ility of clinicians identifying them . ,
Given that it is common for the Balinese to be posses se d and
that some trance-mediums when possesse d act like alter personal-
ities of MPD, the question of whethe r the psych ological processes
of poss ession and MPD are alike was aske d. The answer is 'yes '.-in
the Western sense that both are similar forms of dissoc iation-in
which the individual changes into and tempo rarily acts as an other
entity, personality, or spirit But one wonders why th e Balinese
h ave one characteristic pattern of dissociation, i.e. tran ce. y,ith
possessi on by gods or spirits, while Weste rners manifest another,
i.e . an alter personality . The answer to this question lies partially in
the significan t differences between the characte risti c pe rsonality
structur e of Westerners and that of the Balinese . .
An apparent absence of MPD in the Balinese would sug ge st that
Westerne rs have certain psychosocial characteri stics nece ssacy ,.to
manifest MPD . One such possible characte ristic -to be cons idered ,j s
the psyc hological concept of a 'unitary' . perso nality. A ~uniqiry'
person ality may be necessary for the emerge nc e of multiple
personali ties, i.e. the emergence ofan alte r personality de~ nds ~on
the concept of a personality unit from whic h it can:separ at~ ln te
case of the Balinese, C. Geertz (1966), a cultur al anthro pol0gist,
theoriz ed that the concept of personhood, or pe rs onal identity,
which may be synonymous with personality, is con cealed, anonym-
ous, and 'depersonalized'; thereby, individual 'pe rsonality'_ is
subm erged, unidentified, muted, or concealed . Geertz l::5 elieyed
that social interaction of the Balinese is high ly ceremon ialized, ,and
feelin gs of lek (fear of embarrassing onese lf or an ever~present
conce rn about making a faux pas) tend to keep individual
'personality' or personal identity of the Balinese from showing.
Based on his view, it could be hypothesize d that a factor re sponsible
for MPD being virtually absent in the Balinese is a 'personali ty'
that is not readily accessible to them. Howeve r, questi ons
raised about the validity of C. Geertz's view of Balinese 'pers onhciod'
on the issue of lek. There is no doubt that lek exists but it probabl y
does not play a pervasive or dominant role in every day social
interac tion Qensen and Suryani , 1992).
Connor (1984), a cultural anthropologist, set forth a relevant view
in her analysis of Balinese 'personhood' (perso nality) . She proposed
the concept of 'unbounded self: i.e. Balinese personh ood is not
unitary, as in the West, but a personality composed of a fusion of self
and macrocosmos (buana agung), both natural an d su pernatural ,

e.g. sibli ng spirits or souls and an intermed iary spirit (taksu) . Such
_ an 'unbounded' self would constitute a signifi cant differen ce 1be;
tween Balinese and Western personality . ...;.i
Th e authors' data from persons in trance -po ssession raise
questi ons about whether the consciously expressed person ality,of
the Balinese is entirely 'unbounded' with respe ct to some spirit!,.ial
exp eriences . For example, persons with trancE>-possession experi =
ence spoke of a force, spirit, or god, outside of themselves, who
'com es down', influences their behaviour, or acts .for them bu t who
is not part of them. Consistent with this is the fact that balian and
the -society in general regard the acts of a person in tr ancer
poss ession as being done not by the person but rather by ,the
pos sessor for whom the individual has no responsibility . In Suryani's
view, the Balinese consciously consider most aspects of th e macro-,
cosm os as parts of their world and as influencing them but not-as
aspec ts of their own personality . The authors ' _data indica te that
balian can access their own intermed iary spirit (taksu) , who may
help th em communicate with the gods; bu t contrary -to Con nor's
view, they do not regard their taksu as part of themselves. -:: ,,
Neverth eless, it is true that the Balinese live in an intercon nected
worl d and universe of all things and, in this sense, they ar~ 1less
separat e from and are more accessible to both nature and the
spiritual world than are W estemers . This psychoso cial differ ence
between cultures is significant and is difficult for most W estern ersi:o
fully comprehend because they have not grown up with (and thus '
intern alized) such religious beliefs . The autho rs view the Balinese
as havi ng boundaries in some respects, but as .being closer to th~
natural world than Westerners and more susceptib le to shifts into the
supe rnatural world, as may be seen in their possess ion experienc es. 1
In support of the unbounded self concept , the - Balinese
perso nality can be described as non-unitary in that it incorp orates
man y supernatural entities. From birth to six months of ag e,. a
perso n is a supernatural human; he/she has an ancestor 's spirit; as
well as spirits of his/her own (i.e. sibling spirits; see Cha pter l J; (
and th roughout life he is an integral part of various groups and his (
comm unity. The Balinese have long perce ived spirits as bein g pan t
of th e self in a manner comparable to the MPD's percep tion of
alters. The sibling spirits offer a good example . The infant is born f
with four 'sibling spirits' which after the &-month ceremony unify ii
and bec ome one with the spirit of the soul. The 'siblings' then p
becom e t\vo kinds of spirits, Kala and Dewa. The spirit Kala is t:l
respon sible for a person's bad thoughts, emotions, and deed s; if,a p

- 'I
.-. ....-.,,
~ 7,-.. -
-~- ' :- -/:,
person is angry, it is believed that Kala has influenced him: Good
emotio ns, thoughts, and deeds are attributed to the othe r ;spirit,
Dewa: when one is calm, Dewa is in the ascend ant. Thes e spirits of
the individual continue to influence the soul throug hout life an'd
they have the power to help him at work and guard him aga:ihst his
enemi es . They are given care and offerings by the individual.
Failur e to do so properly could result in the spirits caus ing illness '.
At death the individual's soul (atman) becomes unified with God
or awaits reincarnation and the sibling spirits of the individual
return to their source (i.e. water, fire, soil, arid air). A Balinese
traditio nal healer or an individual dissocia tes in tran ce and , in
W est em conceptualizati on, accesses entities like th e lifelong
. person ally known aspects of themselve s, such as spirits or gods,
and other culturally res pected spirits which have always been
integral and intim ate parts of their perso nal world.
Th e theoretical concept of multiple 'ego states' -of We sterners
discuss ed by Klemperer (1965) and Watkins and Watkins (1979~-is
relevant to the conce pt of unitary and multiple personaliti es:-Tuey
viewed certain ego sta tes (i.e. certain configurations of thinkrng,
feeling, and perception integrated aroun d a comrrion' prin d plb} a:s
re pressed; dissociated, or split off from consciousnes s but exert:in1ir
influenc e over behav iour and feelings of the main ego sta te ::sorne
of th ese ego states may be involved in symptom formation and in the
cas e of MPD, such a dissociated ego state may act aut onorriously.
The se ego states may be contacted during trance/hypnosi s.
What may be termed the unitary and the non-unitary personalities
of the Westerner and Balinese res pectiv ely could be cruc ial in the
proc esses of multiple personality and possessio n. Given that the
pers onal ity in Westerners is unitary, existence of mor e than one
perso nality in the individual implies separa te en tities. Although in
theo ry, a multiple persona lity dissociates in tr ance to cair upon
parts of oneself, i.e. personalities or 'configura tions' of consciousness
(Kluft, 1988: 51; Putnam, 1989: 103) which have developed as aresult
of repeated dissociation .in earlier life, for the individual the se parts
or reconfigurations (alters) develop to virtually take on a life of
their own.
This book proposes that the psychobiologica l mecha nism and
the phenomenology of MPD and possession both in th e Wes t and
in Bali are similar i not the same; MPI.J alters are viewed as
psychological entities equivalent to Balinese posses sions . From
the point of view of process, they are similar . MPD patients an d
posses sed Balinese report similar experiences : som e oth er entity




or part of the self that to them has a real existen ce takes over.,,The
two states may also serve the same ends in term s of th e health
expression of feelings and behaviours not otherwise permitt ed by
th e individual's ego or conscious state . . .,
:However, the thought content of the two conditions.- differs a~d
. , -
important to recognize that the particular cause of and motiy~pn
for the 'like-kind' posses sion take-over in the two cultures d.iff~r; In
the West, the multiple personality person's motivation to diss ocia,te
gen erally appears to be anxiety, fear, _or avoidance of intolei;ab_l~
str ess, terror; or distress stemming from reverbe rati_ng traum11tic
experiences of ~arly.childhood, partic~larly sexual abus e. In:~iili,
the possessed one is motivated to dissociate by strong , po~iv,e~
cultural sanctions to receive the privilege and to .enhance family.a.I_!..q
community . As a conseq uence of these causal and motivational
differences, it could . be expected that the behav:ipur an9-/2Qf
sym ptomatolog:ies of the conditions in the . two cultures
. would differ
in _m any ways. _,-,:':.'''
;Based . on the findings presented in the foregoing chapter s, th ~
c!Uthors propose to expand the self-hypnosis the ory of the proc;~
of MPD (Bliss, 1984a) to the following: self-hypn osis or trance:v,.ritl_!
the possession process . The term self-hypnosis is used 1i.q;the S~P,<r
spe cified by Bliss (1984a) : a rapid, usually unprem editat ed v,,jt:p. :.
drawal into a trance, a dissociation. This theory rea,dUy
with the PTSD th eory of MPD (D . Spiegel, 1984). ,p ., -;
Th e concept of possessions as comparable to MPP -alters n~~d
not-be negated or confus ed by Western psychologic al <::on cepts of
MPD, including that of 'dissociated components of a single person ,
ality' as argued by Ross (1990). He viewed MPD patien ts as having
only one personality, as they are only one person in one body and
pointed out that 'the term personality is simply a convenient
ls torically sanctioned label for the dissociate d states characteristic
of th e disorder' . The Balinese view possessio n as an aspect of th~\!"
individual world of self. .,, ,
-It could be argued that the use of the concept of posses sion-for
upd erstanding the alter states of MPD could be counter -produc_tive
if it implies that a supernatural outside-of-self entity (i.e. not a paj
of th e individual) has taken over the individual, since the long-term
goal in the treatment of MPD is to help the patien ts deal witl}
alter s as parts of themselves in a unified personality .. Per hap s;th!f
important concept for the MPD patients to develop is that they
diss ociate into apparent separate entities , which perio dically tak~
over t.11.eir behaviour and bodies, without viewing them as having @ t
existence outside of their true personhoo d or personality. Trance-
med iurnship is a suitable model of MPD in this resp ect because
tr ance-mediumship is a positive and useful process of possession
(take-over) and, furthermore, it incorporates self-<:ontr ol. It can
also be harnessed and utilized for the good of the individual, .the
family, and the community.
It is recogniz ed that advancing the concept of MPD as a process
of tr ance with possession carries the risk of confusing MPD with
possession disorder. The two conditions are different clinically but
shar e the - same mechanism of dissoc iation. There are as yet
insufficient clinical , experiences and case repo rt s of possession
disorder in the West to enable clear differentiation from MPD,
except in classical cases of each conditio n. Two h elpful generaliza-
tions are: (1) in contrast to MPD, possessi on disor(iers are of shorter
dur ation ; and (2) o~_ce the po~sessi9p _l~~v_~,~uhe pers on, it does
not usually recur. ' '
For most Westerners, the term 'posse ssion' conjures
mind certain , characteristics, especially: an intru ding malevolent
spirit Unfortu nately, this idea.can be misleadihg inrterm s of.MFR.
However , .there does .not .see be a simple, be tter ten rnfor,the
possession -like phenomenon -of MPD . Basic'Clinical elements .of
MPD and possession are the takeover phe nomena with ch anges in
identity , but this awkward and 1engthy termi nology would -be
limiting if it were to be used for the shorthan d labelling of the
mechanism of MPD .
Although a case has been made h ere to view MPD and
possession as a similar psychobiological proc ess, it re mains to ,be
proven. A conceivable way to do this is by neuropsychoph ysiblogical
study (Braun,-1983; Putnam, 1984; Putn am, Zahn , and Post;1~90):
Preliminary attempts have been made by utilizing .concept s of.state
dependent learning to explain creation of alters , -switching,~and
psychophysiologic characteristics of MPD (Braun, . 1984a) ;co MPD
subjects have shown distinct physiologic differences across , alter
states (Putnam, Zahn, and Post, 1990). Coons's (1988) review of
the literature on electroencephalographic (EEG) stu dies of MPD
indicated that changes in alpha rhythm probably reflect 'the :degree
of arousal and tension across different personality state s'. The":EEGs
(alpha, beta, and theta waves) of ch2nnellers while -in tr ance and
'possessed' by an entity are distinctly and, statisti cally, significantly
different compared with EEGs of persons in hyp nosis (Hughes and
Melville, 1990), who have not shown any clear-cut changes .from
'Ji.e normal or non-hypnotic state (Putnam, 1991). Th is supports the

.-' ' -
~ ...,.
~- . . ...
. .~..

concept that the trance-possession state is a neuro physiological state

qualitatively distinct from simple hypnosis. Evoke d potential
mea surements on EEG were found to be different for alters ,:of
MPD patients (Putnam, 1984). It would be desir able to do ,EEG
stu dies on Balinese in trance-possession states but-to purs ue these
at presen t presents technical and cultural proble ms. It must .be
recognized that all physiological studies so 'far have not .been
replicated and EEGs are not yet reliable indicators of MPD. Further
res earch will be required to confirm and ,interpre t EEG findings
(Coons, 1988). Advances in biobehavioural resear ch including .the
neuro transmitters (Demetrack et al., 1990) may eventually add to
basic explanations.
. '._:.<,

Therapeutic Implications of MPD as a

Tr.:ince-posse~sion Proc ess : :_' - .
A final considerati o1i is the hypothetical and/ or.- practical, thera -
peutic, and clinical implications of the relations hip between
p_osses sion and MPD ..The treatment of MPD patients ,is a highly
arduo us and taxing endeavour for both therapist and patient. Many
ther apists are unwilling to undertake - it, . and those 'who do so 0

continu ally seek to upgrade and add to the ir skills . Whe n trance-
possess ion of normal individuals is viewed as a psychob iological
pro cess like that of MPD patients, new question s may be asked
about this disorder which can lead to a better under.stand ing 'of it,
both in terms of etiology and therapy. :!!.'
, _;It is possible to generalize that a knowledge of the posses sion state
of-the Balinese, including the helping and controlling-techn iques of
th e persons who assist possessed persons, can help th er apists :in
several ways : (1) gain a sharper focus on a numbe r of the chara c-
teri stic patterns which are exhibited by MPD patients ; (2) provide
a perspective that alerts therapists to things they have ."not yet' s~en
be cause they have not thought of them; and (3) suggest idea s:-for-a
ther apist's demeanour and armamentarium for manag ing switches
of difficult-to-control MPD alters . There are several ,issue s : tha t
th erapis ts should bear in mind: : , :-'
1. It is necessary for the therapist to ask the patien t specific
questions which will identify the alter state(s) of MPD' and
differentiate it from possession disorder, other : disso ciative
disorders, syndromes, or psychoses. , :;-;
-2. The instantaneous, as well as the more gradual, switching from
one state to another by possessed Balinese and MPDs helps


,.. ~ . ~

.. ~-

v-: .::.:_.,_

therap ists appreciate ~d gain insigh t .into the underlying

psychophysiology . . ., . .
3. The involuntariness and lack of control , sometimes ..with
associated bewilderment of .both the posse sse d Balinese and
MPD patient, helps the therapist understan d the phenomenon
of take-over of the body and the patient' s inability to -switch at
4. It is useful to appreciate the realness of the experi ence of.both
possessions and alters of MPD and the ir power to influenc e
the behaviour and of t:h_eperson .
5. There is the conc:ept of a shred body .
6. The patient has a ,ra;1ge,,Qf:,degrees qf consc:_iousness in th e
. presence and activitiesofapossession and/ or alter(s ) ..
7. The patient exhibits c;lggr_ees o.famnesia, ranging from p~al to
complete , and .there 'are possi_biliti~ for.the therapis t to enhanc e
8. There is a need fqr;:psychosqciq.},suppq rt and un derstanding
and sometimes positive -physical assistan cf ~cl -restr aint, espe-
cially.when a possession or ,an alter is )lrreate_ning or vi9lfnt
9. There ; is a, need . -pos,s~s;,iol);,~an.d _alters;,to trus t
that they will,disappear , and to maintain ,ong's (optimisrp, abi:mt
a favourable outcome .. ... , , ,1 ., ..,; 1 ... , ;,
10. It is necessary for therapists and personsw.hp ,assist possessed
persons or alters to be :friendly, strong,' unafra,id, andir.espeqt-
ful of them in these states whether they re q:ropetati.v;e;Qr
physically uncontrolled and violent It is hel pful to th~:rnti _e:ot
when the therapist shows an understanding of the possessio n
or alter by not reacting to his or her threat ening behaV:ior
with fear or anxiety . In the management oL acute and qrisis
conditions of MPD patients, K1uft (1989) emphasized.that,Lt;is
important for the staff to be supportive, consisten t, predictable ,
and [firm within) set limits. These technique s are vividly and
graphically evident in the Balinese who . hel p persons in
ceremonial trance-possession. In additiori .to all this ; th e
'assisting' Balinese offer the possessed persons fi rm contro l
.and guidance, which prevent them from going wildly ot of
control or hurting themsel ves . It is illuminating to . see th e
'assisting' Balinese maintain such control and not be led into
traps by the possessed individual. The poten tial for .such
problems as splitting of staff (e.g. staff taking opposite sicks in
response to patients' complaints about staff beha viour), .sexual
seduction by the patient, 30 or failure to predict ,seriou s


consequences by alters is amply demonstrate d in men tal health

personnel's management of MPD patients -(Watkins and
Watkins, 1984) .
11. There is a need for therapists to acquire and use timely effective
state-terminating -techniques, including hyp nothera py and
'Amytal interview, to- switch the patient's self-destru ctive ,
threatening, violent, and socially decompens ating alter s.
12. It is useful to bear in mind both the psychosoci al ben efits and
hazards of dissociative states for the possesse d person an d the
MPD patient (Watkins and Watkins , 1984). For : poss esse d
Balinese and MPD patients; the dissociative state often has a
secondary gain (e.g. personal attention) . While some patients
view dissociation as a coping mechanism , they can also stop
using it and utilize other less problemati c mechanisms, as seen
with successfully treated MPD and other dissociative disorders
(Goodman, 1988: 85).
Th e concept that possession, as described in this book, and
MPD are equivalent in tenns of process has other th erap eutic
implications . MPD patients frequently lament that for years doctors
and therapists, as well as family and friends, did not recogn ize the
tru e nature of their problem and did not understand them . Th is is
no wonder in view of the puzzling behaviour they usually present and
the scepticism, misapprehensions, and confusion .surroun ding the
disorder (Ross, 1990). These distressed patients des pera tely want
the ir hapless plight to be understood by someone, esecially mental
heal th professionals. Tne therapist may acquire an increased degre e
of understanding of the process of MPD by acquiring a knowledge
of and familiarity with the allied normal process of tran ce-possession.
Suc h an understanding will be sensed and appreciated by the
patient and help build his trust and confidence in the the rapist,
thereb y strengthening the therapeutic alliance .
General basic long-term aims of the treatment of MPD are to
help the patient develop an awareness and acceptance that he/ she is
fund amentally one personality, just as he/she is one . body, by
enabli ng he/she to resolve conflicts and to gain contr ol of
pre cipitating and associated feelings so that they no longer re sult
in the uncontrolled dissociation of the dysfunctional alter(s) (Beahr s,
1982; Bliss, 1986; Kluft, 1984a; Putnam, 1989). To accomplish these
goals, a therapist generally helps the patient abreact (re-experience)
painful, often repressed, unconscious memories and deal with
psych ological issues that are avoided or coped \\-ith by dissociating.
Such objectives are not necessarily inconsistent with a conceptu-

- - -~---- --

.;.: .Jo



alization of MPD as a possession-like phen omenon., In the :lpng

term, there is the 'devilish' problem of the chroni c us~ of s~lf-
hypn osis: it is a long-practised entrenched habit and old h abits .ru:~
hard to break (E. L. Bliss, personal comm unication) . ,:
MPD patients may require acute hospitalization becaus e .of self-
mutilation, suicide .threats or; attempts , or aggressiv e antis,oc.ial
beh aviour. Some patients have a .his tory .of 5Q or mor,e.,.such
ho spitalizations of relatively ,brief _duration over a period -of. a
numb er of years . It is generally their alters that cause the crises and
they may be precipitated by, perceived rejection, often seem.u_igly
slight, such p.egl~t by.a family membe r or the ,absence .oftheir
therap ist due to vacation:In these instance s, a short -term
stabilize the patient so that he/she is no longer , suicidal and :self-
mutilating . A ; number 9f ; hypnotherapy techniq ues hav.!:!- : been
explicated , such as putting the alter , !to sleep ' :and calling .forth
protec tive_alter_s (Kluft, 1989). Generally, the patients must .:&, witch
out of their threatening alters and ,facilitating this is a short-term
thera peutic goal. Under these conditions, therap ists may utilize the
Balinese concepts of a strong network of social support ;and co-
oper ation with the patient and possession '(alters); and unswerving
expectation of the switch . ' , _ . ,; '' _.
The phenomenon of Balinese switching out of pos.s ess ion' stafes
may have a parallel in MPD switching. The following \Tigrnittf :Qf ap
MPD patient is mustrative. A 45-y~ar-old woman with a hisJ,oti ~pf
multiple hospital admissions because of suicide attem pt~ arid self-
mutilation was admitted to the in-patient psyc_hiatri c unit.J:>ecause
of suicide ideation . After one day of hospital _service , the alti:!r.ihao
left her and she seemed ready for dischar ge:.,.Howey~.r,1r~h~
sudd enly relapsed with anxiety and suicide ideation ~ie d:aQY
another alter taking over; this continued unabate d for fouc days;in
spite of support, encouragement, and psychothei:apy. $Yii.te
was finally accomplished by an Amytal interview-c,onducted'."
by the patient's regular psychotherapist (fromoutside the{l:iospital)
and Jensen serving as the hospital psych iatrist Cc <!-~i stering .:: the
Amytal. The psychotherapeutic interview ' unde rr.the -influence of
Amyta131 succeeded in relieving her of tlie 'posses sion.}d>y ~th e
threatening alter, and allowed her to switch -,back to her;rusu al
personality, permitting resumption of her usual state and discharg e
from the hospital the following day.
Selected patients may find it helpful in understandin g their -con-
dition by conceptualizing their alter personalities as possession -
like processes in some respects (i.e. valued, respect ed,..or even

~ --
~ .. ,. ;

frightenin g entities that take over their body/rnind) .32 It is import-

ant to caution that this approach would be advisable , only with
patients for .whom the term 'possessed' connotes a positive concept
and for whom it does not have a negative or frightening connotation,
as it has for many Westerners and particularly for MPDs who have
suffered in Satanic cults. The next step would be to help the patient,
possi bly by suggestion, to accept such inside-based entities- or
'poss essions' (i.e. alter personalities) as split off parts of hims elf/
herself , and as potentially reintegratable part s or compon ents :-of
his/her whole self. The ultimate realistic and optimistic aim of
psychoth erapy is to help the patient reconstitute a single person ality,
or alternati vely to bring about co-operation among the conflictual
or destructive entities .
In the follO\vingcase , a psychotherapist or hypnotherapis t might
conceivabl y utilize the concept of MPD as . a benign type. of
possession phenomenon to develop the patient's insight An MPD
patien t relat ed part of her experience .this way: ,
All my life I )mew I lost time and it seemed like I ,was watching [mys.elf]
from afar -and I experienced the arguments [of the alters] ,.but I didn't
know they were entities . I didn't know I was a m'u.J.tiple
personality. AJr:nost
all of my alters have come to realize it by now although ther~ -are stlti a
few scepti cs. This idea [of entities] made sense and explained all that I
couldn' t explain all my life. No one helped me unde rstand it I came to this
view by myself. . .. ,

Th e issu e of responsibility for one's behavio ur has conceptual

and therapeutic significance for possession and MPD. B oth the
norm al possession and abnormal (disorder) states of the Balinese
and . the alters of MPD are characterized by a reiative lack . of
perso nal control (involuntariness) of the switch into or out of the
state s and by denial of personal responsib ility for behaviou r in 'the
stat e. Non-disorder possession in Bali is a socially responsibl e action,
while MPD in the West is not In Bali, and other societies in which
poss ession occurs as a socially integrated act, it is contro lled and
supp orted by the family and the commun ity. It is also h ighly
accep table and valued and it works very well for society and the
individual . MPD has not been integrated into society. Patients
gener ally receive too little support from their family, friends, and
comm unity. It is not an acceptable or valued behavio ur, and _it is
ofter. incapacitating to the individual. A perspective on Balinese
pos session suggests that it would be usefu l in the manag eme nt of
MPD .for the patient, families, mental health worke rs, clergymen,

"'! :.
social agencies, and society in general to accept and assume greater
res ponsibility, as well as to develop techn iques, for sup porting : and
assisting patients in the control of . their disso ciative states and
behaviours. MPD patients need a consistent, reliable resourc e
network, ancillary to therapy, preferably with an in-patient facility
safety net lbis network would further help .individual MPD patients
develop ways to take personal responsibility for their states ~in a
manner analogous to the Balinese trance-medi um, i.e. creatively
and without guilt or blame . .. J

The case of a 39-year-old woman with ,MPD illustrates the :need

for a positive, therapeutic, family and ;communi ty support net-
work for the patient In the course of over 100 hos pitalizations ,
mostly for self-mutilation or suicide attempts: lier pastor.., -Was
generally tolerant of her, her son tried to help butrfelt frustrated ;:a
counsellor told her that it was all her fault, suicide prevention
crisis workers asked her about her suicidal impulses and,-referred
her to the usual sources of help, the clinic psychiatrist :iidicbno t
believe that she had MPD, and the mental hospital s and psychiatry
clinics diagnosed her as a combination of borderline personality
disorder, dysthymic disorder , and adjustment disord er, for;whkh
she had been prescribed neuroleptics and --ntidepress ants; rlone iof
which helped. None of her friends or relatives wer e helpful:Jand
nobody really understood .her plight, pain, frustration, and need to
und erstand what was really happening to her. She was unable to
find anyone in the mental health system who could understand
her. Her recent experience with psychiatric car e in which she was
diagnosed and managed as a case of MPD was highl y reassurin g
to her and consequently she sought out therapists who understoo d
MPD, and resources in her community which could :provid e
supp ort, particularly at times of anxiety and suicidal crises.
Consequently, she began to trust others and be mor e open rathe r
than withdraw into herself and conceal her alter states .
Another area of possible application of the non-Western
possession concept pertains to MPD patients' potenti al for self-
control of dissociation. Kluft .(1989) has pointed out the thera peuti c
value in helping MPD patients develop a sense of control over
themselves, including their alters which may 'run away' with them .
Extrapolating from the Balinese trance-medi um phen omenon, th e
therapis t may introduce the concept of termination when contacting
and exploring each alter 's personality with the patien t, especially in
hypnotherapy. It is conc eivable that by so do'ng the patient could
be helped to develop control of dissociation tende ncies by learnin g

.~ -. --- -:

to self-terminate (i.e. switch off) the alter personalities as trance-

medium s do in a state of possession. Such control would be helpful
in-reducing distress from alters and limitin.gepisodes of psychosocial
dec0mpensation, including suicidality. Ibis becomes .,of critical
thera peutic import.ance because one of the serious problems of MPD
patien ts iis created by an alter who resists leaving (Le. switching
off); and threatens to torture or kill the. patient.
The contagious quality of trance-possession may have implications
for therapy. Trance by contagion was obse rved in- a numbe r,.of
situation s in Bali, including communal tran ce-possession (Chap-
ter 4), dance (Chapter 5), and . mass hyste ria in schoolc hildren
(Chapter 7). It afflicts a person or person s .:in immediate
ass ociation with the possessed person, it is generall y unexpected
by the individual, and it is often dramatic . Given that -MPD patien~~
switch to an . alter personality :is a disso ciafare mechan ism , or
tranc e-possession phenomenon, and that dissociati on ls a normal
psychological mechanism of Westerners, it could be expec ted that
ther e is the potential for contagion . It js conceivable:that W esteni
staff and therapists working with MPD patient s are , at riskifor
diss ociating and experiencing self-hypnosis when deal.Jng directly
with .the , MPD patients and that this could contribute to various
probl ems in therapy, such as staff splitting (e.g. the ;adoption_iof
pote ntial polar views of certain staff as being good or bad therapis~
or as being right or wrong in behaviour), failure to protect patients
adequ ately against threatening alters, 'over-involvement'-expresse.d
in the form of unusual or excessive contact 01:1tsideoffice hours;
and submission to alters' sexual seduction . Such phenome na Gould
bee termed counter-dissociation or counter-tran ce, In a parallel
phe nomenon, the great hypnotherapist Milton..Erikson discovered
tha t he inadvertently underwent self-hypnosis .while ,he trep.ted
patients with hypnosis. Subsequently he cultivated.thfa,phenomenoti
for positive use in therapy : 'When there is a critical issu e with -;a
patient [in trance] and I don't want to miss any of the clues;-1,go
into trance.' (Erikson, 1977: 42.) , :',ff
.Th e. foregoing implications of Balinese possess ion state s , for
trea tment of MPD patients do not imply a full range of the principle.s,
techn iques, or concepts that have been developed for successful
the rapy with MPD: these have been prese nted by slplled psychQ-
tj:lerapists such as Bliss (1986); Bowers et al. (1971); Braun (198~
1984a, 1986); Coons (1986); Fine (1991); Kluft (1984a, -1989, 1991a,
1991b) ; Putnam (1989); Turkus (1991); and Watkins and Watk41$
(1984). However, a number of the many principles and tech nique_s

cited by these authors are consistent with friose brought forth;,and
thrown into a fresh or highlighted perspec tive by the data presented
on the Balinese possession phenomenon . Perhap s -these data cari
serve to emphasize issues such .as contag ion and th e network of
family-community-society support.

: ,""f:r

The data presented in this book l~d to the co~clusion that the
Balinese generally ,;_ttemptsuicide whil~ ;-~ "a lstate . of ~c~
possession: This finding 'has :impli~tions ' for ;evaluating;:u"rider-
standin g, and treating 'Balinese and Westem '1patierits wl:fohave
suicidal thoughts or who makesuicid~ :ittem 'pts~::i
q:f:beh"otes ;'all
men tal health clinicians to be alert to the possib~ o:ftlus proce~ 1in
the . patient and get a precise history ' in" o~der ':-1:o rec oghfre
dissociation or exclude it in diagnosis .' This ~?a.ii sposse ~inifah
awareness of the disorder and giving careful t}fo{ign.t in dfagn'osis
to the possibility that the suicide patient. may -= be isuffenn'g l-f?gih
MPD, possession disorder, borderline personality; PTSD",3:-- ~ci
psychogenic amnesia. Failure of the clinician -to'_conceptuafue
dissociative suicide attempts correctly would dimirilsli"!:: -ffie
effectiveness of psychotherapy aimed at the symptoms. In cliruciil
prac tice it has been evident to the autjlors that ..Balinese 1'afd
American patients who have made trance ' suicide 'atte mpbf are
relieved and reassured by a better understa nding of the 'process
itself. Some suicide attempters who have adjustme nt disorder with
depre ssed mood appear to have dissociate d during the acute phas_e
of suicidal ideation and the attempt. The DES may be useful'in
supp orting the diagnosis . Psychothera py . for -.,1.\,i f::ide a~temP.Fs
would take on very different objectives in the case 1I1 which ,tran<;:e
or dissociation is critical as contrasted with a cas e -in which .the
suicid e attempt is related to depressio n, adjustme nt disorder, or
other psychiatric diagnoses most commonly asso ciated with
suicidality in the West. No one has yet studied a large series ;of
:i.ttempted suicides to see how many have heighten ed dissociation
ability or higher degrees of hypnotic sus ceptibility and/ orwho
went into trance states during suicide attempt s. Such ' fresh
investigations are merited.
The phenomenon of trance-suicide may broade n one .popular
concept of hypnosis . It is generally believed that .nd er hypnosis
(trance) the subjects will not do anything that they would not do in
their usual state; that is, their morals and self-prote ctive in~tincts

prevail. The Balinese cases of attempted suicide which occur in :a

trance state would appear to be an exception to this rule . It may, be '
that on the unconscious level the suicide attempte r wante d to doit
in a mann er similar to the alter of an MPD. MPD patients who
descri be suicide attempts and self-mutilation behaviour by alters also
claim they have no conscious desire to carry out these actions .

Trance-p ossession and Mental Health
, . . .- . .;; . "\
The inves tigations of Balinese trance-possess ion presented in this
book have shown that these phenomena, both normal and abnorm ctl,
p~rrneate, and are more entrenched in, th~ culture than her etofore t
suspected or documented . They are present in individuals, musician~, I
d~cers, healers, and probably many other sectors or. group s not t
yet inves tigated. This concurs with the opinion of Bateson and I
Mead (1942) and Belo (1960) that the Balin~se and t.!1eircultur e
are partic ularly disposed to trance . For substanciati on, i_t will be _ l
desira ble to conduct objective tests of hypnotic suscepti bility on: c
Balinese populations for comparison with Wes tern data . .. l
The emo tionally expressive, often violeI?t, socially unc,ontrolle~i., r
behaviour which occurs in trance-possessio n but . which is not . a
p~rmitted in everyday social life, followed by states .of peace ~d c~ . t
lasting 1-3 days, supports