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Shamans and Acute Schizophrenia

Julian Silverman
American Anthropologist
New Series, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Feb., 1967), pp. 21-31
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/670483
Page Count: 11
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Shamans and Acute Schizophrenia
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Abstract

Acute schizophrenic behaviors in our culture and shaman inspiration-gathering behaviors of certain primitive cultures are considered in terms of several core psychological factors. Significant differences between acute schizophrenics and shamans are not found in the sequence of underlying psychological events that define their abnormal experiences. One major difference is emphasized - a difference in the degree of cultural acceptance of a unique resolution of a basic life crisis. In primitive cultures in which such a unique life crisis resolution is tolerated, the abnormal experience (shamanism) is typically beneficial to the individual, cognitively and affectively; he is regarded as one with expanded consciousness. In a culture that does not provide referential guides for comprehending this kind of crisis experience, the individual (schizophrenic) typically undergoes an intensification of his suffering over and above his original anxieties.

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