Voices of Spirit, Voices of Madness
They seem like strange experiences — a voice whispered on the wind, a god who speaks from on high — but voices are far more common than we think. In this talk, I argue that voices — the sense of being called by another — are at the heart of the human experience of mind. Our minds are deeply social — less interior inner universes, more like dinner parties with noisy guests. Religion is a way of using that social dimension to your advantage — crafting an inner coach who is not the self and who, by being other, manages the inner cacophony. Sometimes of course this process goes terribly wrong. I hope we open a discussion about how people use social practice to shape inner worlds and moral purpose, and about the complex relationship of spiritual experience and psychosis.
About Tanya Luhrmann
Tanya Marie Luhrmann is the Albert Ray Lang Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University, with a courtesy appointment in Psychology. Her work focuses on the edge of experience: on voices, visions, the world of the supernatural and the world of psychosis.
She uses a combination of ethnographic and experimental methods to understand the phenomenology of unusual sensory experiences, the way they are shaped by ideas about minds and persons, and what we can learn from this social shaping that can help us to help those whose voices are distressing. At the heart of the work is the sense of being called, and its possibilities and burden.
Luhrmann was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003, received a John Guggenheim Fellowship award in 2007 and elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2022. When God Talks Back was named a NYT Notable Book of the Year and a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. It was awarded the $100,000 Grawemeyer Prize for Religion by the University of Louisville. She has published over 30 opinion articles in The New York Times, and her work has been featured in The New Yorker, Science News, and many other publications. Other books authored by Luhrmann include The Good Parsi, Of Two Minds, and How God Becomes Real, and is currently at work on a book entitled Voices.
Professor Luhrmann will also host a methods workshop "What Counts As Data?" for faculty and graduate students at 10 am on Sept. 20 in 366 KMBL. Find out more.