When Angels Speak with Tanya Luhrmann

April 21, 2017
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This talk examines the phenomenological features of voice-hearing in different settings—religious and secular, modern and medieval. Prof. Tanya Luhrmann drew from hundreds and hundreds of interviews with people who do, and do not, meet criteria for serious psychotic disorder and who have experiences of hearing voices. On that basis she asked: what kinds of inferences might an anthropologist draw about the possible phenomenology of the events being reported? We will never know what “really” happened to (for example) the early Christians. But as a phenomenologically oriented anthropologist, Prof. Luhrmann reported on specific patterns that seem to be represented again and again in a variety of social settings.

This talk makes the argument that the way we think about our minds matters, and may shape our mental events. It makes the case that people find evidence of God’s presence in mental events; that different practices of attending to mental events have identifiable consequences; and that different cultures and different theologies emphasize mind and mental process in distinctive ways.