"God sleeps in the rock, dreams in the plant, stirs in the animal, and awakens in man.” ~ Muhyī d-Dīn Ibn Arabi
"What you seek is within you, if only you reflect." ~ Ali Ibn Abu Talib (as)
Hidden Chains of Transmission
In 2011 Stanford University geneticist Anne Brunet and colleagues published a paper that described a series of experiments that caused worms raised under the same environmental conditions to experience dramatically different lifespans. It lead them to the conclusion that the human DNA system has it's own environment and metabolic system that affects the behavior of genes. The science of the outside factor affecting the behavior of genes is called "Epicgenetics". Genes are not static and as such not the only authors of inheritance. Trauma sets a set of chain reactions into motion that inform our genes to give forward our experiences to our children. Not by social behavior and learned behavior, but through our genes. It is an important adaptation and survival mechanism within us. It enables us to learn without language. It enables us to learn without words. Our bodies and our brains carry as such with them the experiences, traumas and struggles of our ancestors. We are forever interlinked and part of a chain of ancestors. They live within us. In our cells. Our genes. Our mind. Our body. Our soul.
What is the Soul?
In order to understand possession we need to first look at the concept of the soul.
The behavioral sciences such as psychology, psychiatry and anthropolgy, consider human beings as bio-psychological systems. In their view there is no soul at all and all experiences - however spiritualized they may have felt - are just imagings of our minds.
For those favoring the soul as driver of the body hypothesis, one soul owns one body. It does not share the car and hence no other soul - or spirit - can enter it. The relation between those who favor the bio-psychological explaination and those who favor the soul is the driver theory is obvious. They do not believe that another soul, spirit, or consciousness can enter a human's mind.
The third hypothesis, is that every fibre of our being is infused with soul and that soul is consciousness present in every cell, every organ, and is present in all beings, including plants, animals and rocks, and all the elements and every atom. In such cosmologies soul is everywhere and spirits are all around and can enter a human's being, his or her mind.
Possessions many Faces
The takeover of a body by a spirit can not happen at any time or any place. Possession comes about only if certain specific pre-conditions are met.
- Only the "right" spirit can be involved in a particular possession.The respective spirit has to be culture-specific. Certain spirits only exist in the Amazon cultures, just like certain Djinn only exist in Central-Asia or Northern Africa. However, spirits and stories around them often share their roots and folklore, going back many 10 thousands of years, before major climatic and geographical changes tore our ancestral humanity, homo sapies, and the African Ur-plateau, apart. Our DNA connection with Africa leads us to the our ancient spiritual homeland.
- Second, the door to a soul does not open without a key. The door can be opened with a ritual that involves trance. In religious trance or ectasy humans begin to act in non-ordinary ways. They can display extra-ordinary talents, a different voice, they can speak about things they should not know about. Another way for the door to open is through psychic (psychological and physical) trauma.
A interesting study of possession is to look at the so called "Multiple Personality Disorder", that is a person has a number of distinct personalities. These personalities can be so different that one has allergies and the other doesn't. Brain pattern scans demonstrate similarities when people are in ritual trance or in multiple personality episodes. Both groups show hyperarousal, muscle tension, and altered perceptual state when possessed.
In the 1950s the US psychiatrists Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley studied the case of a woman and published their experiencs in the very popular book "The Three Faces of Eve". The study describes a woman who showed evidence of having three distint personalities. The quiet Eve White - her "core" personality; the frivolous, sexy and bright Eve Black; and the mature, thoughtful Jane. Eve White came to Dr Thigpen initially only to seek help because she was suffering from severe headaches. She was entirely unaware of the presence of Eve Black. The psychiatrist describes her possession by Eve Black as follows:
"She had a severe headache... then.. The brooding look in her eyes almost became a stare. Eve seemed momentarily dazed. Suddenly her posture changed.. she sat ridigly erect. An alien, inexplicable expression came over her face... for a moment there was the impression of something arcane. Closing her eyes, she winced as she put her hands on her temples... then.. she relaxed easily.. a pair of blue eyes popped open. There was a quick reckless smile. In a bright, unfamiliar voice that sparkled, the woman said: "Hi there doc". Eve White was gone and another, totally different personality calling herself Eve Black had taken her place Eve White, the mousy, modest host personality was gone, she became "inoperative" and had not the faintest idea what Eve Black was up to. Eve White got possessed by "Eve Black"."
Where the multiple personality disorder differs from ritually induced possession is that the ritual possession is controlled. However, Eve White did not have this kind of ritual control. Eve White got "possessed" through childhood trauma (she had witnessed very brutal accidents). There is a report of an incident by Dr Thigpen, when Eve White became a patient in a mental hospital that is also very interesting. Eve Black would come out and walked to a male patient who was there for addiction treatment and started dancing with him. Although the encounter was brief, the male patient spoke at length about the experience. "Though he was not exactly dizzy, the floor and walls seemed far away and he found himself unsure of his balance." In other words, his own perceptual state had been altered.
In ritual possession, like it is celebrated in Haitan voudou the take over (mounting) of a person (the "horse" in Voudoun language) through a Loa (Spirit, Djinn) is described very similar. Trance is induced in people through drums, singing, prayers, dance and the Djinn move in. A person who is possessed by a Loa can display entirely different talents with astonishing abilties, vast insights and knowledge. Some of them work as spirit healers in a state of possession, while being in their not-possessed states they live mundane lives. However, spiriual possession by ritual can also have vastly negative effects. Some spirits refuse to leave after ceremonies and the people possessed are dependent on spiritual leaders to "disposses them". However, when social contracts break down spiritual leaders become corrupt and unreliable and the handling of spirits can become dangerous and a tool of oppression. In societies like Haiti that is marked by centuries of enslavement many stories circulate of spiritual enslavement (zombiefication), bondage and slaughter of the innocent through secret societies. All of these are expressions of historical trauma and abuse and ongoing suffering. It is however very interesting that the symbol of the Greatest Name of God, the Ism Allah Al A'zam is known anf feared throughout Haiti and the Americas. It is the very same symbol you see as "logo" on this blog. It is the famous "Seal of Solomon" or Khitam Suleyman. It rules over all Djinn and is at war with the oppressors.
Psychological treatment as it is known in the West - talk therapy and/or medical treatment - has only limited abilities to help people caught in the chain of trauma. Worse so, psychiatric medication can be totally debilitating and can make illnesses of the mind (the "body-spirit" to be correct) much worse, because it chains the spirit even further and can even kill a person. In Bavaria, German in the 70s unfolded the notorious case of a Catholic girl (Anneliese Michel, see Wiki) who was exorcised by priests while still being on psychiatric medication. The girl died. Many speculate that she died because the psychiatric medication shut down areas of her brain that could have helped to "dispossess" her. Instead the illness was further locked into her through medication.
Islam as Narrator of Chains
In Islam we utilize old knowledge of possession and the "chains of transmission" that effect our core being (our soul) since the days of the prophet. Arabia is part of Africa-Asia and African-Asian rituals were known and practised throughout ancient Arabia. Many spiritual practises however became sickening, tyranical and socially subversive, and a new order had to be brought in, including and foremost a new mental, spiritual order. Spirits (Djinn) were no longer allowed to possess and to be worshipped. They were made subservient to people and bound by the Quran's power. The words of the Quran forced the unseen forces into submission. A friend of mine who was a Sufi healer in Pakistan and mixed Quranic recitatations with many ancient spiritual rituals from the subcontinent and Africa, knew when a person was possessed, through the eery chill he felt down this spine, a certain tingling on the skin. He treated people with surprise attacks of Quranic recitations and slaps in the face (that were felt by the spiritual entity but not the actual person acccording to him). According to him these treatments were entirely successful. He also prescribed special prayers and baths for ritual cleansing, fasting and special diets to positively affect the metabolism of his patients. He also spend much time with this patients and had an actual relationship with them, their history and the history of the spirits that possessed them.
The Power of the Arabic Language
Western medical science has so far paid very little to no attention to the Arabic language and how it is utilized to control possession and mental illness. I personally made many highly remarkable experiences with the power of the Arabic language. My impression is that the Arabic language can enter those regions of our mind that can be "possessed", and that are spiritually interlinked with old knowledge and our ancestral history. In 2009-2011 I was caught an extremely abusive situation and almost suffered a pychosis due to the ongoing, inhumane stress I was under. By learning to pray and do Dhirk I protected myself from more mental harm and was able to heal.
What I take with me from all this, is that we have regions in ourselves, in our minds and bodies that are interconnected to a vast invisible system of spiritual transmission. Islam is like a map through which we can explore the interconnected spirit of humanity.
How about Demons, Possession and Exorcism in the Modern World
Felicitas D. Goodman, Indiana University Press, 1988