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Shamans, mystics etc (Kakar, 1982)

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007 @ 11:32 am
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As i am looking for some quotes to prepate my presentation for the counselling conference in India this January, i came accross this book, written by an Indian psychoanalyst:

Kakar, S. (1982) Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: a Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions. the University of Chigago Press. I am recording some useful extracts:

“From the first birth cry to the last breath, an individual exists in his soma, his psyche and his polis; in other words, a person is simultaneously a body, a self and a social being. Of course, the body, the self and the polis do not possess a fixed, immutable meaning across cultures.” (p. 4)

“An understanding of how psychotherapy works in a particular society usually requires an explication of the way psychotherapy is related to the broader cultural context and its symbolic structures”(p.6)

As Simon and Weiner have pointed out, the introspective element of Western civilisation is ancient and can be traced back to later Greek thought, where the definitions of self and of identity became contingent upon an active process of examining, sorting out and scrutinising  the ‘events’ and ‘adventures’ of one’s own life. The activity of introspection became closely connected to the idea of ‘the true self’, as typified by the Socratic use of the phrase ‘Know Thyself’. (p.7)

The India injunction ‘know thyself’ = atmanamvidhi has a different meaning than that of Socrates ( a self uncontaminated by time and space)

There is a contradiction in simultaneously pursuing cultural relativity and psychological universalism. Perhaps its best to accept the truth of both

Lionel Trilling writes: “Generally our awareness of the differences between the moral assumptions of one culture and those of another is so developed and active that we
know moments when these differences, as literature attests to them, seem to make no difference, seem scarcely to exist”

Kakar (1982) writes about the consequences faced by the India analyst who “has at one time or another consciously faced and reflected on the conflict between an absorbing intellectual orientation – psychoanalysis -  which is the mainstay of his professional identity, and the workings of a historical fate which has made the ‘mystical’ the distinctive leitmotif of a dominant Indian cultural tradition and thus a part of his communal identity”

Cultures, it seems, differ with regard to which of the major universal human concerns they pick and choose to highlight (p. 164)

My Greek heritage: in transit, in the borders of East and West, deeply historical, also liminal

this is something useful for me to remember and see how i write as i move between cultures: homeland Greece, host UK and other travels

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