Thursday, December 28, 2006

Is Polyphasic Consciousness Necessary for Global Survival?


Is Polyphasic Consciousness Necessary for
Global Survival?

Perceptual Diversity:
Is Polyphasic Consciousness Necessary for
Global Survival?


Tara W. Lumpkin

PO Box 2160
El Prado, NM 87529
tlumpkin@compuserve.com


Abstract

Perceptual diversity allows human beings to access knowledge through a variety
of perceptual processes, rather than merely through everyday waking reality. Many
of these perceptual processes are transrational altered states of consciousness
(meditation, trance, dreams, imagination) and are not considered valid processes for
accessing knowledge by science (which is based primarily upon quantification,
reductionism, and the experimental method). According to Erika Bourguignon's
(1973) research in the 1970s, approximately 90 percent of cultures have
institutionalized forms of altered states of consciousness, meaning that such types of
consciousness are to be found in most human societies and are "normal." Now,
however, transrational consciousness is being devalued in many societies as it is
simultaneously being replaced by the monophasic consciousness of "developed"
nations. Not only are we are losing (1) biodiversity (biocomplexity) in environments
and (2) cultural diversity in societies, we also are losing (3) perceptual diversity in
human cognitive processes. All three losses of diversity (bio, cultural, and cognitive)
are interrelated.

Cultures that value perceptual diversity are more adaptable than cultures that
do not. Perceptually diverse cultures are better able to understand whole systems
(because they use a variety of perceptual processes to understand systems) than are
cultures that rely only on the scientific method, which dissects systems. They also
are better stewards of their environments, because they grasp the value of the whole
of biodiversity (biocomplexity) through transrational as well as scientific processes.
Understanding through perceptual diversity leads to a higher degree of adaptability
and evolutionary competence.

From the perspective of an anthropologist who has worked with development
organizations, development will continue to destroy perceptual diversity because it
exports the dominant cognitive process of "developed" nations, i.e., monophasic
consciousness. Destroying perceptual diversity, in turn, leads to the destruction of
cultural diversity and biocomplexity. Drawing from research I conducted among
traditional healers in Namibia, I conclude that development organizations need to
listen to those who use transrational perceptual processes and also need to find a way
to incorporate and validate perceptual diversity in their theoretical and applied
frameworks. Keywords: Perceptual diversity,Namibia, traditionalmedicine, development.

Anthropology of Consciousness 12(1 -2):37-7O. Copyright © 2001 American Anthropological Association
37


3 8 Anthropology of Consciousness [12(1)]

Introduction to Perceptual Diversity

To perceive is to become aware. Human perception is created by the interaction
of human biology, the physical environment, an individual's personal development,
and a person's culture (Lazlo and Krippner 1998). Perception is a complex,
synergistic system, with numerous feedback loops, allowing for the generation of
meaning and subsequent communication of that meaning. Perception evolves and
changes as an individual, culture, or environment changes.

Individuals' "cognitive maps" map the topography of the relationship between
the individual, his or her culture, and his or her physical environment. Furthermore,
individual cognitive maps are affected both by personal experience and by the values
and beliefs that are dominant within a society. Cultures also have collective
cognitive maps (Lazlo and Krippner 1998). According to Lazlo and Krippner, "The
concept of the cognitive map is becoming part of the accepted terminology used to
describe human-environment interactions in evolutionary and adaptive studies"
(1998:66).

In this world there exist a variety of cognitive maps, which make up what I call
"perceptual diversity." Anthropologists are well aware of the fact that there are many
perceptual processes that lead to the creation of cognitive maps. Some cultures use
more than one perceptual process regularly; for example, a culture might use
dreaming, meditation, or trance as perceptual processes, as well as everyday waking
reality in its creation of a cultural map. This type of cultural map values perceptual
diversity, the whole, and the synergistic interrelationship between parts. "Developed"
cultures, however, acknowledge only one perceptual process, that of everyday
waking reality. This leads to a specialized cognitive map that values only one
approach to meaning and dismisses all other perceptual processes.

A growing number of psychologists and anthropologists have become interested
in the value of perceptual diversity, seeing the use of multiple perceptual processes
as positive rather than pathological. Anthropologist Charles Laughlin (1992) has
proposed that cultures are "monophasic" or "polyphasic." Polyphasic cultures value
perceptual processes that use altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming, lucid
dreaming, contemplation, ecstatic and trance states, as well as ordinary waking
consciousness (Walsh 1993). Roland Fischer (1970a; 1970b) presents a model of
altered states of consciousness based on neurophysiology. According to Fischer,
states of consciousness are based along a continuum of arousal of the central nervous
system. States of reduced central nervous system arousal (or hypoarousal) are
represented by tranquil meditation or the Yogic state of samadhi. States of increased
arousal (or hyperarousal) are represented by sensitivity, creativity, anxiety, ecstasy,
and mystical rapture. Arnold Ludwig (1968) presents a different model for altered
states of consciousness, organizing such states into five different categories of
induction: (1) reduction of external stimulation and/or motor activity; (2) increase
of external stimulation and/or motor activity and/or emotion; (3) increased alertness
or mental awareness; (4) decreased alertness or mental awareness; and (5) the
presence of somatopsychological factors. Whichever mcxdel is used, altered states of
consciousness are recognized by individuals and by cultures as being somehow
different from everyday, waking, rational reality. Cultures that value altered states
of consciousness (polyphasic consciousness) can be found throughout the world.


Mar/Jun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

However, according to Bourguignon, "The nineteenth-century view of progress, not

only from simple to complex but from a primitive mentality to a civilized one, is

associated with an evaluation of the ecstatic as savage and childlike" (1973:342-3).

She also points out that the Protestant Ethic cultural form does not value ecstatic

experience or any other forms of altered states of consciousness.

The Kalahari !Kung in Botswana are an example of a polyphasic culture.

Richard Katz lived with them in the 1970s and documented that one-third of all

adult !Kung "routinely and without drugs altered their state of consciousness, thereby

releasing healing energy to the entire community" (1982:3). Katz defines states of

consciousness as "patterns of human experience, which include ways of acting,

thinking, perceiving, and feeling." And he defines an altered state of consciousness

as being "radically different from the usual everyday patterns" (1982:3). When the

!Kung were camped at a permanent watering hole, they conducted their communal,

all-night healing dances as often as twice a week. If camped in the bush, the dances

occurred only two to three times per month (1982). Katz noted that the healers had

rich fantasy lives, which he pointed out were another type of altered state of

consciousness. And, according to Katz (1982), the !Kung healing process demanded

intuition and emotion rather than logic and rationalism, meaning such processes

were valued in creating the !Kung cultural, cognitive map.

In contrast to the IKung, modern technologically-complex American society
has no culturally-sanctioned role for altered states of consciousness except perhaps
relaxation techniques for stress reduction. What is valued is "normal," waking,
rational consciousness. Perceptual processes such as dreaming, meditation, and
intuition are not valued and are generally dismissed. According to Walsh (1993),
Western culture is monophasic, that is, its worldview is derived from a single state:
the waking state. Walsh adds that in the Western world there is a need to "reduce
this cultural myopia and to shift society, psychology and other disciplines from
monophasic to polyphasic perspectives" (1993:125).

Drawing from personal experience in international development, I not only
agree with Walsh but take his theory a few steps further proposing that when a culture
restrains perceptual diversity, that same culture reduces human adaptability, which,
in turn, leads to human beings living unsustainably. Unsustainable lifestyles result
in ecological destruction, including destruction of biodiversity (or biocomplexity).
In a feedback loop, degraded environments offer fewer choices to human beings for
adaptability, and a downward spiral commences. If, indeed, perceptual diversity
promotes human adaptability and indirectly promotes healthy environments, then
perceptual diversity has a practical application in everyday life. Yet the value of
perceptual diversity is not acknowledged by international development experts, who
insist that only a monophasic worldview is valid. In fact, one of the steps to
development is for a culture to jettison its perceptual diversity in favor of a specialized
approach based on the scientific method and economic progress. The scientific
method only acknowledges monophasic consciousness. The method is a specialized
system that focuses on studying small and distinctive parts in isolation, which results
in fragmented knowledge.

Systems theory emerged in the mid-twentieth century and takes a different
approach from that of the scientific method.


40 Anthropology of Consciousness (12(1)]

By contrast, the systems approach attempts to view the world in terms of
irreducibly integrated systems. It focuses attention on the whole, as well as
on the complex interrelationships among its constituent parts. This way of
seeing is not an alternative, but a complement, to the specialized way. It is
more all-embracing and comprehensive, incorporating the specialized
perspective as one aspect of a general conception. (Lazlo and Krippner
1998:54)

Furthermore, systems theory posits that when studying only the parts of

something, one may be missing the value of the whole.
Structurally, a system is a divisible whole, but functionally it is an indivisible
unity with emergent properties. An emergent property is marked by the
appearance of novel characteristics exhibited on the level of the whole
ensemble, but not by the components in isolation.

There are two important aspects of emergent properties: First, they are lost
when the system breaks down to its components—the property of life, for
example, does not inhere in organs once they are removed from the body.
Second, when a component is removed from the whole, that component
itself will lose its emergent properties—a hand severed from the body, cannot
write, nor can a severed eye see.

The notion of emergent properties leads to the concept of synergy, suggesting
that, as we say in everyday language, the system is more than the sum of its
parts.... (Lazlo and Krippner 1998:53)

In the same way, I see monophasic consciousness as one part of perceptual
diversity—the part based on waking rational thought and the scientific method. But
the entire system of consciousness is far more complex and, in breaking it down and
valuing only one of its parts, waking rational consciousness, one loses the value of the
whole. I propose that in disavowing polyphasic consciousness (perceptual diversity),
we may be losing the emergent properties of polyphasic consciousness. Coming from
developed Western cultures, which highly value monophasic consciousness and the
scientific method, we may not even be aware of what we are losing. And it is altered
states of consciousness, which speak through symbols and intuition such as dreaming,
imagining, and meditating, that often allow us to grasp the whole in a way that the
scientific method can never provide.

Cognitive Neuroscience, Embodied Knowledge, and Beyond

Psychological anthropologist Erika Bourguignon finds that the majority of all

cultures value transrational perceptual processes.
The presence of institutionalized forms of altered states of consciousness in
90% of our sample societies represents a striking finding and suggests that we
are, indeed, dealing with a matter of major importance, not merely a bit of
anthropological esoterica. It is clear that we are dealing with a psychobiological
capacity available to all societies, and that, indeed, the vast majority of
societies have used it in their own particular ways, and have done so primarily
in a sacred context. Yet some societies have not done so, or had abandoned


Mar/Jun200l Perceptual Diversity

the practice before the time period for which the report, on which our coding

is based, is valid. (Bourguignon 1973:11)

This means that transrational states of consciousness are statistically normal. In
contrast, Western culture (particularly the fields of medicine and psychiatry) is
exceptional in pathologizing all such perceptual processes, although recently there
has been a shift away from this attitude. Richard Castillo points out that how people
construct reality "is mirrored in the neural networks of the brain" (1995:22). He adds
that the gross brain anatomy of all human beings is similar; however, the ordering of
the neuron's dendritic branches and the structure and function of neuron synapses
vary culturally and individually. This is because the ordering of the neural networks
is shaped by experiences as a person develops. Castillo states that: "This means that
the organization of culture has its psychobiological correlates in the organization of
the mind-brain" (1995:23). In using the word "mind-brain," Castillo suggests that
the barriers between mind and body are not delineated and that whatever is
happening physiologically in the brain is mirrored in the mind. "Mind" to Castillo
means something more than brain and body; it is a system extending beyond the self.

Cultures that are polyphasic in their approach to reality will be made up of
human beings who have ordered their neural networks in such a way that they can
more easily access a variety of perceptual processes. The more a person practices
shamanic ecstasy, meditation, or spirit possession, the easier it becomes to enter these
states because the individual has ordered his or her neural networks psychobiologically
to access such states. Individual cultures will thus consist of people whose neural
networks are similarly structured. Sub-cultures, such as traditional healers who
practice divination, will be made up of persons whose neural networks are yet more
similarly structured. And there will always be individual variations in neural
networks because no person's experiences are exactly the same. The concept of
neural network plasticity means that we must now conceive of the brain as a mind-
brain because its micromorphology is constantly affected by experiences and, in the
larger context, by culture (Castillo 1995). The concept of the mind-brain being
affected by experiences suggests that knowledge is not only lodged somewhere in the
brain but that it is also lodged in the larger mind, of which the brain is a part. Since
the body is also a part of this larger mind, knowledge can be embodied; hence,
knowledge does not makes its home only in the human brain but also in the human
body. The body can house knowledge of which the conscious mind is unaware.

Robert Desjarlais offers a vivid portrait of how knowledge can be lodged in the
body as well as the brain. He had visionary experiences in the late 1980s when he
was apprenticed to Meme Bombo, a Yolmo Sherpa shaman in north-central Nepal.
Desjarlais concluded that his visions were an imaginal form of embodied knowledge:

Yet I believe they [Desjarlais' visions] reflect the learning processes involved
when a person participates in a series of rituals, frequents a tea shop, listens
to a story, and so begins to embody cultural practices. In my experience, much
of this learning occurs tacitly, at the level of the body; the trance images, as
I read them, crystallized embodied forms of knowledge. Meaning, patterned
within the body, took form through images, which were then absorbed anew
by the body. This was an ongoing process throughout my stay, for when a
fieldworker begins to participate in the myriad of moments that make up the


42 Anthropology of Consciousness [12(1)]

practice of everyday life, these interactions soon shape his or her understanding
of local values, patterns of action, ways of being, moving, and feeling.
Whenever I exchanged sips of tea, caught the gist of a joke, heard the guttural
sounds of a lama's chant, or felt the loss of a villager, I was participating in my
share of life in Helambu, and my body assimilated such experiences within
its fund of meanings. It is out of that fund of knowledge that my understanding
of Yolmo lives begins, and the trance imagery probably emerged. As I see it,
the trances gave imaginal form to my body's conversation with the other
bodies stepping about Helambu. (Desjarlais 1992:26)

Furthermore, Desjarlais discovered that his Western cultural methods of
perceiving and embodying knowledge affected his fieldwork in concrete ways. He
reflected that:

As a Yolmo shaman acquires his bidya or "learning" without the use of books,
villagers were perplexed by my preference to record Meme's teachings in
cassettes and notebooks, rather than to set them directly within my
"heartmind." I explained that, since we in the West had forgotten how to
memorize, I would lose the specifics of what I learned unless I jotted them
down on paper. This did not get me very far. "How can you play the drum
if you have to refer to a book?" a group of young men scoffed one evening
outside my cabin. When I joked that I planned to tack the chants onto the
drum's surface like a musical score, they laughed, but walked away unsatisfied.
I would never be a "true shaman," one novice healer said, shaking his head,
unless I knew everything "by heart." For quite some time I took this man's
response at face value: one must memorize the shaman's songs in order to
perform effectively. Yet now, months away from Helambu, I hear, with some
regret, a subtler message: it is the music as much as the surface meaning of
the shaman's repertoire that one must engage within the flesh. By incorporating
a mantra's magic within his heart, throat, and limbs, a melody echoing others
through its sinewy folds and assonant rhymes, an apprentice healer begins to
incarnate a sensibility that goes beyond the linguistic. The play of the drum
quickens into a kinesthesia of curing, a mumbled mantra summons the
presence of the sacred, rhythms of healing grow more tactile than cerebral:
if I had better realized this chemistry while in the field, I might have gone
about my apprenticeship differently, danced to another tune, and so expanded
my field of awareness. (Desjarlais 1992:29)

According to Castillo, experience can be embodied in the brain and can form
and alter the neural networks. And he adds that "the barriers between mind and body
have become permeable and the permutations of the mind-brain have become
observable" (1995:22). Desjarlais describes how experience and knowledge can be
embodied. In fact, he is struck by the fact that due to having been brought up in
Western culture, he has forgotten how to memorize, that is, he is slower to rely on
embodied knowledge than his Yolmo novice-shaman friend. There exists an entire
system that can cultivate tacit knowledge that contains, but is more than, neural
networks and that is also more than the body. Desjarlais cites Gregory Bateson as
having helped him to understand this system.


Marflun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

Bateson states:
The total self-corrective unit which processes information, or, as I say,
"thinks" and "acts" and "decides," is a system whose boundaries do not at all
coincide with the boundaries either of the body or of what is popularly called
the "self or "consciousness." (1987:319)

Rites of Passage

Rituals are structured performances of cultural mythic perspectives, within
which a "ceremony" is a maxi-ritual and a "rite" is a mini-ritual. According to van
Gennep (1960) rites of transformation (rites de passage) can generally be divided into
three phases: separation, transition, and incorporation. Van Gennep explored the
classification of rites and various transitional stages in human cultures such as
pregnancy and childbirth, birth and childhood, initiation, betrothal and marriage,
and funerals. He concluded that rites of passage allowed an individual who had
undergone transition to be reintegrated into the group with a new role and status. He
also pointed out that it was often the culture (and not just the individual) who had
to readjust to the rite of passage and find a place to put the transformed individual
into its system of social organization (1960).

What van Gennep called "transition," anthropologist Victor Turner (1967)
labeled the "liminal" meaning a threshold stage prior to a new way of being. Turner
illustrated that ritual broke down existent perceptual-constructs or cognitive maps
and replaced them with new ones. He explained that ritual process could involve
growth and transformation and the "reformulation of old elements in new patterns":

The arcane knowledge or "gnosis" obtained in the liminal period is felt to
change the inmost nature of the neophyte, impressing him, as a seal impresses
wax, with the characteristics of his new state. It is not a mere acquisition of
knowledge, but a change of being. His apparent passivity is revealed as an
absorption of powers which will become active after his social status has been
redefined in* the aggregation rites. (1967:102)

Rites of passage, then, are embodied by the individual, including changes in the
person's neural networks, and this process occurs with the aid of community. The
process of transition occurs not only within the body and mind of the individual but
within the community as well—a sort of fission of the two that is synergistically more
than either individual or community. And this holds true whether or not the rite of
passage is perceived in a positive light, such as an initiation into manhood in a tribal
society, or in a negative light, such as a woman being divorced and falling into
depression in a Western society. Both situations demand the interaction of
individual and community but are more than either entity; both situations are part
of an interactive synergistic system. As Bateson says, "The network is not bounded
by the skin but includes all external pathways along which information can travel"
(1987:319). The rite of passage is not bounded by the "skin" of the individual who
lives within a society but includes all "external pathways" between individual and
culture through which information can travel to create the process of transformation.


44 Anthropobgy of Consciousness [12(1)]

Ritual and Healing

Extrapolating from this, traditional healers are activating psychobiological
changes in ill patients when treating them by using ritual. And they also may be
activating changes in the larger system, or culture, that allow for healing to occur.
Hence, biomedical professionals should not dismiss the use of perceptual modes and
treatments used by traditional healers (such as divination, intuitive "seeing" or
diagnosis of illness, ritual curing) for several reasons: (1) traditional healers may be
accessing information about patients in a way that seems implausible to those trained
in biomedicine but that actually works; (2) ritual treatment of illness may be altering
patients physiologically through reordering the patients' neural networks and/or
through reordering other systems that cause the patient to embody illness; and (3)
traditional healers by working with the family or community as well as the individual
may be reordering social structures and relationships in such a way as to cause a shift
that allows the patient to heal physiologically, mentally, or emotionally. Indeed, it
is an accepted tenet by most biomedical professionals that the mental and emotional
states of a patient affect healing.

Desjarlais' interpretation of shamanic divination explains that the shaman is
more sensitive to the sensations of others (both physical, mental, and emotional)
than most people and that the shaman has been trained to have a strong empathizing
ability. Indeed, from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience, this ability to
perceive in a different way reflects a trained reordering of the neural networks in the
brain. Desjarlais writes:

My sense is that the information conveyed through shamanic divination
often relates to tacit forms of knowledge latent within the bodies of patients
and viscerally assessed by healers....Somatic sensibilities exist on a tacit,
visceral level; usually, villagers are only vaguely aware of the forces and
tensions that occasion them. It is for this reason that the afflicted ask
shamans to divine the causes of their malaise. (1992:180)

Yet why can only shamans divine? It appears that shamans are particularly
sensitive to bodily dispositions and have the ability, in trance, to convey the
underlying forms, tensions, and sensibilities intrinsic to a situation. Meme
[a shaman] has the ability to "read" the pulse of a family—the diffuse tensions
that can haunt bodies and households—as if the extraordinary state of trance
enables him to both hear and voice the basic chords of Yolmo experience as
they take form... [a] shaman's body admits a certain potential for empathy, an
empathy of form, where one body makes sense of another. (1992:182-183)

Shamans are particularly adept at reading others in an intuitive manner. At the
other end of the spectrum are those who have been educated according to the
scientism of Western culture.

It is necessary to distinguish... between science as a broad project of enhancing
and deepening human knowledge, and scientism as an effort to circumscribe
the scientific enterprise by positing criteria such as reductiohism, experimental
method or quantification as essential components. By such restrictive
criteria, Darwin's research would be excluded from science, along with many
other inquiries resulting in valuable scientific knowledge. (LeVine 1996)


Marflun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

This does not mean that such methods are not useful, only that they are not the
only criteria by which the world should be judged.

Richard Katz (1982) noted that the !Kung had a spiritual connection with each
other, with nature, and with the cosmos. The purpose of the IKung's dances was to
allow an individual to raise num, which boiled fiercely and then rose like kundalini,
allowing that person to heal other members of the community. Katz's (1973)
research with the !Kung led him to conclude that Westernized youths suffer from
identity "diffusion" as a consequence of living in a monophasic culture (that is a
culture that only validates one way of perceiving reality—that of waking reality.

Lacking an education in the transcendent or, to phrase it in another way, in the
ability to empathize kinesthetically, many Westerners do not have a sense of having
a place or role in the universe. This can consequently lead to people seeking the
transrational (what they perceive to be an "altered state of consciousness") through
drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol, in turn, often lead to addiction (Grof and Grof
1992). Addicts have found that a spiritual program is one of the best ways to beat
addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous, the most successful alcoholism treatment
program available to Westerners, openly espouses spirituality as a vehicle to wellness.
It is worth noting that this self-help group is highly ritualistic in its healing methods:
using twelve steps, a protocol for communication that insists there be no "cross-talk,"
having a structured social support system, and insisting that alcoholics acknowledge
(empathize with) others whom they have damaged by their abuse of alcohol.

In all cultures but particularly among non-Western cultures that are rapidly
undergoing change at this point in history, alcoholism and other forms of addiction
become pervasive as cultural breakdown occurs. Cultural breakdown includes a
creeping disbelief in the validity of formerly acceptable perceptual processes. Modes
of perception that were valid in the past, such as healing by using divination and
ritual, beseeching spirit animals for a good hunt, or conducting ceremonies to
increase agricultural fertility, are rendered superstitious and meaningless. Perceptual
modes that were previously in use in a culture, even if they were not used by all, are
devalued and slowly move to the margins of that culture. In essence, non-Western
cultures undergoing rapid change (due to being impinged upon by global economics
and global communication) start to replicate the dominant Euro-American cultures
that are affecting them. Just as in the United States where belief in dowsing, faith
healing, shamanism, and the like still exist but have little or no validity, in the so-
called developing nations intuitive perceptual modes lose their status to be replaced
by the reigning belief system, which is scientific reductionism. When intuitive
perceptual modes are denied status and validity, many people turn to alcohol or drugs
as a means to access "altered states." This is true even if the individual is not
personally accessing a transrational state but is benefiting from another individual
accessing that state.

For example, when Richard Katz (1982) lived among the !Kung, he found a
model for community healing in which one-third of adult !Kung altered their
perception in order to heal the entire community. But those individuals who did not
raise num (the healing energy) were not stigmatized by the community, because
everyone knew that there was plenty of num to go around and that it would be shared
by all. Furthermore, a good hunter, a good gatherer, or a good story-teller was as
valued as someone who was especially adept at raising num.


46 Anthropology of Consciousness (12(1)]

Using another example, when I conducted research on traditional medicine and
its use among communities in Namibia, I found that traditional healers often helped
patients to access transrational states (usually through ritual); however, sometimes
healers accessed transrational states for their patients in order to divine the cause o(
their illnesses and intercede on the patients' behalf. As with the !Kung, less
importance was placed upon individual access to transrational states and more
emphasis was placed upon the healing power that access to such states provided for
the patient. Among the hunter-gatherer !Kung, healing energy or num. was shared
by the whole community. Among the indigenous people, with whom I worked in
Namibia, who were agriculturists, pastoralists, and urban dwellers, healing power was
not always shared by the community. In some areas, healings were conducted with
patient, traditional healer, and some community members. In many situations and
particularly in urban areas, the healer worked with the patient and some members
of the patient's family, who usually accompanied the patient to the healer's abode.
And occasionally, when family and friends were not available, which was more
common in urban areas to which people had migrated without family, the patient and
healer worked alone.

Relationship between Perceptual, Cultural, and Biological Diversity

If people's health can be improved by going to a shaman or by using perceptual
processes such as ritualistic healing as I concluded in the previous section, then what
is the connection between using intuitive perceptual processes and maintaining or
increasing the health of ecosystems and the biosphere? I propose that cultures that
validate the use of a variety of perceptual processes, that is cultures whose realities
are polyphasic, are more likely to take better care of the environment than are
monophasic cultures.

As Bruce Wilcox and Kristin Duin (Wilcox and Duin 1995) point out, non-
indigenous and non-traditional societies usually do not have the same rational utility
approach to natural resources as traditional indigenous peoples. Non-traditional
peoples degrade and deplete their resources in an unsustainable manner (Wilcox and
Duin 1995:49-51). Conservation of natural resources among indigenous peoples is
"effectively based on a knowledge of functional utility and institutionalized in the
form of taboos." Wilcox and Duin have documented a strong positive correlation for
ecological diversity and cultural diversity. Regions that are biologically diverse tend
to have many distinct and diverse cultures, the exception being mangrove swamps,
which are biologically diverse but do not support a correlative number of indigenous
populations. Research conducted by Machav Gadgil of the Indian Institute of
Science in Bangalore and his collaborators revealed that traditional endogamous
groups in India divided the available biological resource base so that different groups
could exploit different niches (Wilcox and Duin 1995). For example, some groups
specialized in honey gathering, others in shifting cultivation, and so forth. This type
of resource exploitation is far more efficient than industrialized resource exploitation
that homogenizes the resource base reducing biocomplexity and cultural diversity.
Furthermore, as Wilcox and Duin explain, utility of resources depends upon the
perception of the user of those resources: where an industrialized resource user might
see only trees that can be cut into board-feet, a traditional honey collector might see


Mar/Jun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

trees that can hold honey.

Wilcox and Duin's research shows that people who derive their sustenance from
their immediate environment (generally indigenous peoples) are concerned with
maintaining the health of that environment. Western and non-Western industrialized
people who derive their sustenance from distant resources with which they are not
intimately connected do not maintain the health of those environments. Although
the latter may have knowledge that their consumption is unsustainable and may
suffer some angst over this awareness, they usually do not take strong steps to protect
the environments upon which they depend. Wilcox and Duin explain:

Industrial development generally results in the transformation of
environmentally heterogeneous landscapes into ones dominated by large
blocks of state or privately controlled lands used for intensive agriculture,
plantation forestry, parks, industrial activity, and urban settlements. There
presumably is much to be learned by societies engaged in industrial modes of
production from cultures whose production systems are compatible with or
may even enhance intrinsic levels of biodiversity. By "intrinsic levels" we
mean amounts of habitat, species, and genetic diversity comparable to that
which would exist in the absence of human activity. It has become a more
or less accepted principle among ecologists that moderate levels of physical
disturbance, such asoften imposed by traditional forms of resource exploitation,
enhances ecological complexity, landscape heterogeneity, and species diversity,
thus promoting overall biodiversity. (1995:49-50)

A forest-dwelling honey gatherer has a different way of perceiving a forest from
a lumber corporation chief executive officer (CEO). And a forest-dwelling honey
gatherer lives in a different culture with different values from a lumber corporation
CEO. Honey gathering demands an ability to observe nature, in this case bees, and
to follow bees to honey. It also demands a synergistic awareness of the environment
(nature) so that one can locate bees and honey. The perceptual process best suited
for nature awareness is a process whereby a person makes his or her mind very still
so that it can pick up what is occurring in the environment and then act on it. This
receptivity process may result in a specific awareness, for example the distant thin
hum of bees, or it may result in a less specific awareness (an intuitive pull) in a
direction that/ee/s Uke bees. The latter, a sense of bees being in one direction, is likely
the result of the honey gatherer's receptive mind picking up subliminally available
data. The honey gatherer has learned to use a type of perception that industrialized
people might describe as intuitive, receptive, or meditative. This intuitive capability
has a practical application for the honey gatherer, it makes honey easier to find.
Hence, the honey gatherer will hone this intuitive process. When the mind and body
are emptied of their plans and agendas, the mind-body can become receptive enough
to intuit where bees are, much as the shaman intuits what a patient is feeling and
what is going on in the community that contributes to a patient's illness. The lumber
company CEO on the other hand has no need to access multiple states of perception.
The CEO uses rational logic based on economic measurement, and leaves it at that.
In fact, admitting to using any other perceptual-construct would be considered
unprofessional.


48 Anthropology of Consciousness [12(1)]

A well-documented example of what can occur when a culture uses only the
rational logic prescribed by the criteria of "science" (reductionism, experimental
method, and quantification) was the experience of rural women cultivators in India
during the green revolution. Green revolution scientists promoted new high-yieldvariety
(HYV) crops. These new crops had a higher yield of grain seed and a lower
yield of fodder than the older varieties. In India, it is women's work to collect fodder
for animals. The new high yields, however, made this difficult. For example, the
commercial variety of sorghum produced only short and hard straw that could not be
used as fodder. Since it was women's work to find fodder, this increased their
workloads and had an adverse effect on animal husbandry, which, in turn, adversely
affected family nutrition. Furthermore, the new high yield varieties were meant for
export and were sent to market, rather than brought into the home, which further
reduced women's power within the household. Sandhya Venkateswaran quotes an
agroscientist in Mazumdar, India, in 1992 as saying:

When we (the scientists) were promoting the high yielding variety of paddy

decades ago, the only group who put up any resistance were rural

women... women from cultivating peasant households. Of course, we brushed

them aside as illiterate ignoramuses. What did they know? We were the

scientists. Today when I see the damage that HYV technology has done to

our granary, I am reminded of that resistance. I don't know why they were

resisting, because I never listened. (1995:169)

In conclusion, aspects of the green revolution disempowered women and
created or exacerbated rural malnutrition even though the intent was to do the
opposite: to reduce malnutrition and to empower poorer countries, although not
specifically rural peasant women. It has even been proposed that dowry-related
violence against women increased in those areas of India where the green revolution
flourished (the Punjab and Haryana), because the green revolution reduced women's
status within the household (Venkateswaran 1995).

Others have pointed out that development often has more negative than
positive consequences. One of the most damning books, The Road to Hell: The
Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity was written by a former Peace
Corps and aid worker, Michael Maren. It documents the negative effects of the aid
business (most particularly food aid) upon the environment, economies, and
governments of countries such as Kenya, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, and
Ethiopia. As Maren (1997) points out, dumping large quantities of food in countries
alters internal politics, economics, the environment, and cultural traditions. Those
who want power are quick to understand that controlling aid, often the primary
source of money in a country, is the way to power and riches. Corruption becomes
rife as aid is siphoned off into private bank accounts, used to buy arms, used to create
environmentally degrading projects, and used to control "refugee" populations that
can be maneuvered for political and economic gain. Countries that receive large and
rapid infusions of aid become politically corrupt, which eventually leads to political
instability. Russia has been suffering since the fall of the Soviet Union from too much
aid too fast as the United States attempted to create capitalism without democracy.
Gerard Prunier (1995), an historian of the Rwanda genocide of 1994, points out that
Rwanda was once a shining example of a country that aid had helped to build. Under


Mar/Jun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

the Habyarimana regime (1973-1994) the country was orderly, neat, and clean.
However, by 1991,22 percent of its gross national product was made up of aid money.
The aid game was the easiest way for local elites to make money. During the 1994
genocide, the ruling government made sure that aid money kept flowing into its
coffers, using that money to continue the genocide. Later, once the Tutsi-dominated
Rwandan Patriotic Front had taken Rwanda, leading to Hutu refugees fleeing into
the neighboring country that was then called Zaire, Hutu extremists (who had
organized and participated in the genocide in Rwanda) used Hutu refugee food aid
to control the Hutu refugee populations in an effort to stage an invasion to re-take
Rwanda. The examples of aid money being exploited by local elites and resulting in
destabilization are numerous in Africa and elsewhere.

Wilcox and Duin have shown a linkage between indigenous cultural diversity
and biocomplexity. And I have tried to link indigenous cultures' use of multiple
perceptual processes, including intuitive capabilities like those of the honey gatherer,
to an ability to take care of and know an ecosystem at a deep level. Katz has pointed
out that lack of access to transrational perceptual processes can lead to identity
diffusion, to a sense of feeling as if one does not have a place or role in the world, and
I have suggested that people who do not have a sense of their role in the world are
far more likely to destroy and degrade that world. It is interesting to note that
industrialized nations with their strongly monophasic cultural approach have caused
substantial environmental destruction. Furthermore, much of the destruction that
has occurred worldwide in the last half of the twentieth century has been caused by
well-intentioned but naive aid programs that disrupted local cultures, economies,
environments, and governing systems.

Social and Cultural Adaptability

Perceptual diversity allows an individual or a culture to look at an issue from
many different angles, using different ways of accessing knowledge relevant to that
issue. An individual or culture that uses a variety of perceptual processes to
understand change is better able to adapt to that change or to resist that change if
it is having a largely negative impact. Perceptual diversity, thus, promotes healthy
social and cultural adaptation. Western culture, with its validation only of monophasic
perception, undermines transrational perceptual modes—the very tools that most
cultures and societies need in order to survive transition. Education, biomedicine,
global economics—the tools Western culture offers to cultures it is in the process of
dominating and changing—are most often based upon an understanding of reality
as monophasic. The result is that these tools often end up destroying the perceptual
texture of the cultures they are supposedly trying to help.

Epistemology of Science

As previously noted, "science" is the belief system at this time that dominates
Western cultures and is upheld by the strategic elites of many "less developed"
nations. I prefer to use the word "scientism" to "science." Scientism is fundamentalist
in its tenet that there is only one acceptable perceptual mode: rational logic. The
history of science offers important clues as to how this situation developed. Scientism
posits that all scientific knowledge must undergo the tests of reductionism, the


50 Anthropology of Consciousness 112(1)]

experimental method, and quantification. But as Robert LeVine points out, science
is actually "a broad project of enhancing and deepening human knowledge" (1996).
Scientism suffers from an epistemological flaw—an erroneous belief in a dated
concept of objectivity that has its historical roots in the Age of Enlightenment,
which took place in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. This pervasive belief in
the absolute reality of objectivity and the concomitant belief in progress have been
transformed into an ideology that is thought to be scientific but that actually is not.

I paraphrase Lee Drummond (1995): Positivists who think of themselves as
following the scientific method and who believe in a simplistic cause-and-effect
determinism are actually less close to the world described by scientists investigating
physics, cosmology, and chaos theory than are interpretivists who have been
influenced by postmodern literary criticism and philosophy who often consider
themselves to be anti-science. Drummond adds, "Curiously, their [positivists' and
interpretivists'] discord arises from telling themselves the same myth: that of science
(or Science) as an ideological affirmation of a world of cause-and-effect determinism"
(1995:4) The fact is that science has passed far beyond mechanistic theories of
cause-and-effect determinism, but, nevertheless, the rest of the world has not caught
up. Objectivity, according to physicists and chaos complexity scientists, is
intersubjective and context-specific; objectivity no longer exists in science as a real
separation into object and subject categories.

A great deal of time, money, and energy has been wasted by the development
community in insisting that its programs be based on science, when they actually
mean based on ''scientism." Nongovernmental organizations and other groups who
are more grassroots-oriented may try and buck the system; however, they usually find
that donor agency purse strings and other forms of aid are controlled by the strategic
elites, who insist that scientism is science.

There is a need now to move away from scientism and the ideology of cause-andeffect
determinism toward a radical empiricism, such as William James proposed, as
an epistemology of science. James insisted (1) that science should be grounded in
direct experience, and (2) that no experiences should be excluded from investigation
by science (Taylor 1994:353-354). According to researchers Laughlin and McManus:

James was profoundly suspicious of rational exercises that were not grounded
in direct experience. He considered rationalism to be a fallacious epistemology
that reifies abstractions which may or may not be associated with instantiations
in experience. (1995:35)

For James, instantiations in experience were experiential instants—pure
experience that James believed the mind built upon to create a picture of the world.
This process occurs so rapidly that a person in the mode of normal, waking
consciousness is rarely even aware it is taking place. James's radical empiricism paid
attention to these instantiations and to how the individual created an experience from
them. Thus, the relations between instantiations had to be experienced relations not
merely abstractions. In this manner James countered Descartes and Kant whose
philosophical views alienated consciousness from direct experience. For James,
science had to be rooted in experience, not merely in abstractions. While working
during the first and second decades of the twentieth century, James noted that
rationalist science (scientism) emphasized fragmentation and disconnection. James,


Mar/Jun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

however, was interested in connective relationships, that is, relationships that pulled

the instantiations of experience together to ultimately create a worldview (Laughlin

and McManus 1995). Perception, then, affects meaning.

Over seventy years later (in the late 1980s) Vandana Shiva remarked upon how

science fragmented and disconnected knowledge. She also explained how scientism

oppressed women, pointing out that this fragmentation and disconnection of

knowledge was actually a "masculinization of knowledge." According to Shiva

(1995), science (what I call scientism) has three unique aspects: (1) its intrinsic

reductionism and fragmentation; (2) its separation of the knower and the knowledge;

and (3) its union with economic power.

She adds that reductionism has led to loss of biocomplexity and to "monocultures

of the mind" (1995:15). Separation of the knower and knowledge, as well as the

union of science and economic power has led to "the creation of monopoly in

knowledge, the latest expression of which is 'intellectual property rights'" (Shiva

1995:15). Shiva's linkage of agricultural monoculture to monoculture of the mind

is similar to my tenet that there is a need for perceptual diversity. I would also carry

the concept of "monoculture" beyond its agricultural meaning into a cultural context

by pointing out that as long as development remains a slave to scientism, it will

continue to leave in its wake a worldwide monoculture rather than cultural diversity

and biocomplexity.

Only recently has there been a burgeoning interest among the development
community in indigenous knowledge systems and ethnoscience. This interest is
primarily found among environmental non-governmental organizations and among
community-based resource management planners. The other groups that have
shown interest in indigenous knowledge are anthropologists, ethnobotanists, and
pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies are interested in indigenous
knowledge if it leads to "discovering" new chemical compounds to treat disease,
which in turn makes them money. There is far less interest in the fact that many
traditional healers discovered the medicinal properties of plants by using perceptual
modes such as intuition, communication with plants, trance, dreaming, etc. In
general, funding for research on perceptual modes is not considered to be the purview
of scientific medicine but rather of cultural anthropologists and folklorists. The
pharmacology of medicinal plants is deemed "real" because it operates under the
rubric of scientism (and can deliver a healthy profit to a pharmaceutical company as
well), whereas a traditional healer's transrational process of accessing knowledge
about medicinal plants holds little interest for those doling out scientific research
and development funds.

Sometimes plants are collected to undergo analysis by scientists working for
pharmaceutical companies. If a chemical compound is found that might be useful
in treating disease, the pharmaceutical company then claims to have "discovered"
the active chemical compound in the plant. Pharmaceutical companies can even
patent this discovery meaning that the indigenous peoples who have used the plant
for years receive no economic benefit from their plant merely because their discovery
process was not "scientific." As Michel Foucault (1980) has pointed out, power
determines what is knowledge and, hence, what is reality. Until the plant that had
been used by indigenous people for years was subjected to a specific methodological


52 Anthropology of Consciousness (12(1)]

analysis, it did not exist and was not "real." Once the plant was discovered via the
criteria of scientism, it belonged not to those who had used it for years but to the
"discoverer," the person or culture with power.

William James was careful not to merely reinforce power structures when he
looked at science. He believed that both connective and disconnective relations
were relevant for science, but he noted that connective relations were treated by
science as somehow transcendental or illusory and thus were not considered relevant
(Laughlin and McManus 1995). Today, in development, exactly the same problem
exists: Although there is a stated desire for participation, which demands connection
and crossing of boundaries, scientism has rendered it taboo for Westerners and those
trained by Western educational systems to accept that connective relations can be
scientific. Basically, even if a medical doctor's own phenomenological experience
shows that a traditional healer's diagnosis by dreams and divination results in
beneficial treatment of a majority of patients (particularly considering the tools and
medicines available to the healer), the medical doctor is not able to fit this into the
ideology of science and, thus, usually dismisses this phenomenon while simultaneously
espousing the need for collaboration between the biomedical health sector and
traditional medicine. No wonder traditional healers tend to resent this "collaboration,"
since it is usually one-sided and disrespectful. At the same time, being practical,
traditional healers have noted that biomedicine often works, and usually they are
willing to put up with a little disrespect if it means gaining access to skills and tools
that will make them better doctors. As James noted, science overlooks that
connective relations are phenomenologically experienceable and that these
connective relations constitute consciousness (Laughlin and McManus 1995).
Science as ideology insists instead that knowledge and experience must be reduced
and fragmented to be valid. This is the anti-thesis, however, of what physics and
other hard sciences are revealing today.

Neurognosis

Laughlin and McManus have taken James's radical empiricism even further,
forming a theory of neurognosis that draws heavily from developmental psychology,
a field of knowledge that was unavailable in James's day. They explain neurognosis
as ". ..genetically predisposed cognitive-perceptual structures, and the nascent
knowledge of self and world that is the functioning of those structures." They
theorize that these structures develop as children grow and are, therefore, strongly
affected by what children learn, that is, by culture. Neurognosis then dissolves the
nature/nurture dilemma by illustrating that there is an interaction between the two,
that the environment and culture affect the physiological wiring of the brain (the
neural networks) and of the body, and that at the same time there is probably a
genetic predisposition for certain types of processes (Laughlin 1992).

International Development

The concept that a variety of ways of perceiving reality is necessary tor human
and global survival has strong applied implications, particularly in the field of
international development. For example, while conducting research on traditional
medicine in Namibia, I became aware that the primary impasse to cooperation


Mar/Jun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

between biomedical personnel and traditional healers was the inability of the
biomedical and development communities to acknowledge that perceptual processes
used by traditional healers could be valid.

Unfortunately, the need for a variety of perceptual modes has yet to be
consciously acknowledged by most development theoreticians and project
implementers, who usually still try to enact policy and participatory projects while
relying upon dominant positivist scientism. Perceptual diversity and, in turn,
cultural diversity and biocomplexity are often unwittingly threatened by the very
people who believe they are trying to protect them.

In development, there is regular talk about "empowering" people and creating
projects that are "participatory." Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. What
does it mean to empower someone? Who defines what being empowered is? All too
often the process of empowerment means replacing polyphasic cultures with
monophasic ones. Even education can result in merely educating youth in the
Western, monophasic perceptual mode, teaching them that this specialized type of
perception is the only valid reality. For example, educated students who had
completed secondary school or who were in university worked with me as interviewers
when I conducted research on traditional medicine in Namibia. Only two out often
of those students (one who had masters level education from Finland and one who
had graduated from university in Namibia) were open to the possibility that
traditional healers could actually diagnose using transrational means. The others,
who had been "educated," which was supposedly going to empower them, dismissed
their own traditional healers out of hand as "superstitious" and "unscientific."

Robert Chambers states:
poverty and deprivation prove robustly sustainable. Why? The usual
response is to seek answers by analyzing poverty and deprivation themselves.
It is not surprising that we in power do not like to examine ourselves. To salve
our consciences we rationalize: The objects of development are the poor anyway,
not us. It is they who are the problem, not us. But poverty and deprivation are
functions of polarization, of power and powerlessness. Any practical analysis
has to examine the whole system: "us" as well as "them." ... .Whose reality
counts? The reality of the few in the centres of power, or the reality of the
poor, the many at the periphery? ....What is recorded as having been
measured—often low consumption—masquerades in speech and prose as a
much larger reality. It is then but a short step to treating what has not been
measured as not really real. Patterns of dominance are reinforced: of the

material over the experiential; of the physical over the social; of the measured
and measurable over the unmeasured and unmeasurable; of economics over
disciplines concerned with people as people While we have been quick to

grasp the potential of concepts such as "participation," "ownership" and
"empowerment," we have been slower to recognize the changes these
concepts demand of us. We have failed to understand that participation by
them means non-ownership for us. Empowerment for them means
disempowerment for us. Much of the challenge has to do with both power
and ownership. (1995:14-15)


5 4 Anthropology of Consciousness (12(1)]

Knowledge (and the education that provides it) is more slippery than one likes
to believe. As David Aldridge says, "Belief in mathematical abstraction is an act of
faith" (1993:83). Furthermore, if the former is true, then believing in economic
systems that are based on dated accounting techniques, which assume the natural
world to be an endless supply of resources, is patently absurd. Yet that is exactly the
philosophy that current global economics is based upon. Strategic elites believe
development will function best under free market economics. It is not surprising that
this economic ideology does not threaten their power. However, what if this is the
wrong approach?

There is, indeed, a great deal that points toward the fact that it is the wrong
approach. Economic development has in many cases resulted in overall poorer
health. It has resulted in migration of populations searching for wage-labor settling
in crowded shanty-towns. Sometimes, as with miners in South Africa, only the men
migrate resulting in family breakdown and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases
(STDs) and HIV/AIDS. Subsistence crops are replaced by cash crops and traditional
food sources become more expensive and are replaced by less nutritious foods.

Furthermore, neo-liberal economics does not acknowledge the existence of
women's unpaid labor (Waring 1990), nor does it have a method to account for the
value of unused natural resources (Murphy 1994). Both women's unpaid labor and
a standing forest are shadow-subsidies that prop up supposedly market-driven
economies. For example, a forest under current accounting systems is registered as
having no intrinsic economic value unless it is turned into board-feet. The value a
forest has in providing oxygen, habitat for animals, preserving watersheds, etc., is
utterly irrelevant to the current economic system. Free market economies are,
therefore, only "free" for the people whoare not being exploited by them. The homemaker
who is considered unproductive, a forest that has no value until a corporation
cuts it down—these are the entities rendered invisible in economic accounting
systems. Free markets without free and just societies that value women's labor and
natural resources are simply a license for the powerful to plunder. Nor should it be
overlooked that free market economies do not usher justice into a society (Dale 1995;
Murphy 1994; Waring 1990). The reality is that in no country on earth do women
have the same opportunities as men, including so-called developed nations (Haq
1995). In fact, home-makers in the United States and Canada are still considered
"unproductive" in economic terms and this is reflected in census-taking methods
(Knickerbocker 1995:13).

The World Bank and United Nations are developing a new system of national
accounts that will reckon the true costs of pollution and the worth of resources left
unplundered (Haq 1995:87-98; Knickerbocker 1995:7; Repetto 1992:12-20,43-45).
There seems to be little political will, however, among United States politicians and
among the people themselves to jettison the gross domestic product (GDP) and
move toward sustainable development accounting systems. The World Bank's and
United Nations' "green" accounting systems seem a long way off from worldwide
adoption. The reason for this is simple, in the short term, the rich and powerful (the
strategic elites), particularly transnational corporations, would lose money if green
accounting was adopted.


Mar/Jun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

Namibia—A Case Study

To illustrate from an applied perspective how perceptual diversity can be used
in development, I will now focus on research that 1 conducted in Namibia from 1993 1994
on traditional healers and community use of traditional medicine (Lumpkin
1996).

Survey Background

Eighty percent of the world's inhabitants rely on traditional medicine to keep
them well (Akerele 1990). There are numerous different types of traditional
medicine, and many people use both modern medicine and a variety of traditional
medicines either concurrently or serially to treat illness. Some traditional medicine
modalities rely on transrational constructs for diagnosis and healing. Whether
transrational constructs are acknowledged or understood by biomedical professionals
or not, a significant portion of the world's health care-seeking population comes into
contact with these transrational constructs. In 1977 the World Health Organization
(WHO), acknowledging that a majority of the world's population used ethnomedicine,
passed a resolution to promote the development of training and research related to
traditional medicine. The following year in Alma Ata, WHO issued additional
resolutions supporting the use of indigenous health practitioners in government-
sponsored programs. Seven years later, in 1984, WHO and the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF) suggested that governments upgrade traditional healers'
skills rather than replace indigenous healers with cadres of new community health
workers.

Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons by the end of the 1980s there had been little
progress in getting African health ministries to collaborate seriously with traditional
healers (Green 1994) One reason for this lack of progress was that African and
international biomedical health professionals had difficulty acknowledging perceptual
diversity. They resisted the possibility that intuition, divination, and ritual could be
valid methods of perception for diagnosing and treating illness, and believed only in
the scientific method. However, despite this strong belief in biomedicine, there were
not enough resources to provide biomedical health care to populations who needed
it. Clearly, some sort of new working collaboration between traditional healers and
biomedical professionals was necessary if health care was to become available to
those in need of it.

After Namibia obtained independence from South Africa in 1990, traditional
healing was no longer prohibited. However, because traditional healing had been
prohibited, little research was available on the subject even though such basic
research was necessary to promote collaboration between the modern health sector
and traditional medicine. In July through August, 1993,1 undertook a six-week pilot
study on traditional medicine in the capital city of Windhoek and in the nearby periurban
area of Katutura (Lumpkin 1993). UNICEF, in collaboration with the
Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS), subsequently agreed to support a
follow-up qualitative survey on traditional medicine in three regions: the North
East, North West, and Windhoek/Katutura (Lumpkin 1994). Fieldwork, data-
compilation, and report write-up took approximately seven months. The survey's
objectives were. (1) to gather qualitative data on traditional healers and their


Anthropology of Consciousness (12(1)]

knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices; and (2) to gather qualitative data on
community members' use of traditional medicine. The ultimate goal was to promote
cooperation between traditional healers and biomedical practitioners. This was
particularly important at the time because HIV/AIDS had just reached the country.
The survey used in-depth, key informant interviews to gather data from 88 traditional
healers. Focus groups were held with 112 community members to gather information
on community use of traditional medicine and to cross-check information gathered
from traditional healers. Non-random, purposive sampling techniques were used to
locate traditional healers and community members for interviews.

My research revealed that the transrational perceptual processes used by
Namibian traditional healers had a strong role in promoting an ecological concept
of illness. A majority of Namibian traditional healers regularly used a variety of
perceptual processes, including divination and ritual curing, to diagnose and treat
patients. Transrational processes facilitated placing illnesses in a holistic framework
and so improved community health.

Personalistic and Naturalistic Etiologies

George M. Foster argues that non-Western medical systems can be divided into
two groups according to the two principal etiologies involved, personalistic and
naturalistic. He states:

Correlated with personalistic etiologies are the belief that all misfortune,
disease included, is explained in the same way; illness, religion and magic are
inseparable; the most powerful curers have supernatural and magical powers,
and their primary role is diagnostic. Correlated with naturalistic etiologies
are the belief that disease causality has nothing to do with other misfortunes;
religion and magic are largely unrelated to illness; the principal curers lack
supernatural or magical powers, and their primary role is therapeutic.
(1976:773)

Personalistic etiologies assume that an agent (human, non-human, or spiritual)
has victimized the sick person. The healer uses transrational processes such as
divination, scrying, dreaming, communicating with spirits and ancestors, and other
intuitive modes to heal the patient by rooting out the underlying cause of the illness.
Such methods are not needed for naturalistic etiologies. These systems rely on an
equilibrium model, hence the healer need not focus on the underlying supernatural
cause of the illness but on re-balancing the patient who has become unbalanced.

Although Foster states that some personalistically-inclined healers such as
shamans do not differentiate between illness, religion, and magic, he overlooks the
fact that this may be because they are concentrating on process and are using a
transrational perceptual mode to "see" the process that has caused the illness. This
is quite different from merely believing in magic; it is directed inquiry using a
transrational perceptual mode. Yes, the healer has "supernatural" powers but the
word "supernatural" should not be read pejoratively but as having perceptual insights
beyond those of normal, waking reality.

In Namibia, traditional healers believed in both personalistic and naturalistic
etiologies. A little over three-quarters of the 88 interviewed traditional healers were


Mar/Jun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

diviner-herbalists meaning that they diagnosed using transrational processes and by
looking at patients' physical symptoms. They then treated patients by manipulating
the spirit world and by giving them herbs. These healers usually believed that the
etiology of an illness was personalistic and that even when treating a patient with
herbs, it was the spirit of the herb that healed the patient. However, most traditional
healers also said that there were some illnesses that just happened and these were
considered to be naturalistic.

Namibian biomedical professionals tended to dismiss traditional healers
personalistic paradigms because trained intuition was not considered scientific.
Such a conclusion seems hasty. Available data in cognitive neuroscience points out
that neurons' dendritic branches and the structure and function of neuron networks
are shaped by individual experience and by culture (Castillo 1995). This means that
traditional healers' training affects their neural pathways making them more adept
at intuitive processes for diagnosing and healing illness. Furthermore, Desjarlais' has
pointed out that traditional healers are also adept at kinesthetic empathy, making it
easier for them to diagnose and treat patients, including patient-community
interaction.

Illness and Disease

I would now like to explore the concept of illness and the biomedical concept
of disease. From a Western biomedical perspective, "disease is an undesirable
deviation from a measurable norm" (Scrimshaw and Hurtado 19874). Disease is
believed to be caused by a pathogen or pathogens that negatively alter the condition
of an organism, which, in turn, impairs normal physiological functioning. Emphasis
is placed on physical symptoms—on the concrete rather than process. Illness, unlike
disease, is simply an absence of well-being that results in the individual not being able
to function in the usual manner (Scrimshaw and Hurtado 1987). Not all disease is
considered to be illness. For example, people can suffer from hypertension (a disease
in biomedical terms) but not feel badly and not think of themselves as ill (Scrimshaw
and Hurtado 1987). And not all illness is perceived as being disease from an emic
perspective. For example, a man returns to his rural home and months later his wife
falls sick. A traditional healer, using divination, explains that the wife fell sick
because the man angered the ancestors by taking a town-wife. From a traditional
perspective the wife is ill, but she does not have a disease, hence she has no need of
biomedicine but does need a traditional healer who can intercede on her and her
husband's behalf with the ancestors. From a biomedical perspective, however, the
man, perhaps, contracted HIV in town and infected his rural-wife. Biomedical
health practitioners would all agree that multiple sexual partners increase the risk of
a person contracting HIV. However, they would dismiss the traditional healer's
dialogue with the ancestors. They would focus on the disease, HIV, and emphasize
the biomedical instead. From the perspective, however, of traditional medicine with
its emphasis on process, the traditional healer's personalistic diagnosis of the illness
is viable. The ancestors were angry at the husband because he had broken with
tradition and so the ancestors punished him by making his rural-wife ill. In fact, it
may be far easier to change behavior by relying on the personalistic why of an illness
(angering the ancestors by taking a town-wife) than by trying to introduce biomedical


Anthropology of Consciousness [ 12 (1)]

theories to populations that have minimal access to biomedicine and even less
understanding of disease theory.

"African" Illnesses

The Namibian survey revealed that communication between traditional healers
and biomedical health professionals was poor despite the fact that traditional
medicine played an important role in maintaining community health and well-being
(Lumpkin 1994). The vast majority of interviewed traditional healers and community
members believed that modern health workers treated the symptoms but not the
underlying causes of illness. From the perspective of social medicine and medical
ecology (which explores the interrelationship between human beings' illnesses and
their environment), this was entirely true because biomedicine did not focus on the
process that led to illness but on eradicating disease. For example, biomedical
personnel had no means to explain and rectify the personal, social, and cultural
tensions that might lead a man to take a town-wife. And in Namibia, in order to
protect patients' confidentiality, biomedical personnel were not legally allowed to
inform a person that his or her partner was HIV-positive without permission being
granted by the person who had tested positive. This permission was rarely granted.
Women were put especially at risk by this. Most rural women could not deny a
husband, who may have a town-wife or who may have visited prostitutes, his conjugal
rights without risking being tossed off the land. Also, polygyny was still acceptable
in much of Namibia, and Namibian men were averse to using condoms. Thus, a
woman had no means to insist that her husband be monogamous or that he use
condoms when having sexual relations with her (or others). Namibian women knew
they were in jeopardy, but reported that they were powerless to protect themselves
from HIV. And biomedical health professionals reported feeling helpless because of
the rule of patient confidentiality. Biomedicine could not address the process—the
social aspects—of rising HIV infection, yet the only way to combat this disease is to
address the process of infection. I believe that traditional healers could be particularly
helpful with HIV/AIDS, not by just providing care for infected patients, not by
merely relieving patients' HIV symptoms, but by addressing the social process of the
illness and coming up with their own methods to combat increasing rates of
infection.

Most indigenous healers and community members believed certain modern
illnesses had to be treated by biomedical practitioners, whereas illnesses perceived
by traditional healers and community members to be "African" had to be treated by
traditional healers. African illnesses usually had a social/spiritual etiology, meaning
that such illnesses occurred when persons violated taboos. A person who violated
a taboo could cause illness in another person by coming into contact with that
person—for example, by serving that person food or drink. Taboo violation was
linked to contamination. Children were often contaminated by parents because
they were in constant contact with them. Similarly, married persons or persons
involved in sexual relationships often contaminated each other. Sexual intercourse
provided a common point of contact for contamination. Many'indigenous people
classified African illnesses as sexually transmitted diseases that would not have been
considered sexually transmitted according to biomedical etiology. For example,
diarrhea in children and pulmonary tuberculosis were often categorized by indigenous


Mar/Jun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

persons and traditional healers as being sexually transmitted. If a person broke a
sexual taboo and then came in contact with someone else and contaminated that
person, the contaminated person was perceived as having been made ill by a sexually
transmitted illness even if that illness was, according to etic, biomedical etiology, a
disease such as pulmonary tuberculosis or diarrhea. Furthermore, violating taboos
that protected nature (and so protected the people who depended upon nature for
their sustenance) was also perceived as an act that could cause illness. Whole
societies could become ill if they violated natural taboos.

Illness as defined by traditional healers was seen as being a process that resulted
in lack of well-being; whereas, among biomedical professionals, illness was defined
as being concrete—as disease. These two different ways of perceiving illness resulted
in very different curative approaches. Traditional healers often used ritual (either as
divination or as treatment) and herbs to reverse the process that had caused the
illness to begin with. For example, a woman might give her husband tuberculosis (a
sexually transmitted illness according to African illness etiology) because she had
handled his food after having miscarried. The root of the illness was that process had
gone awry: first she had miscarried, then she had broken a "sexual" taboo and
handled her husband's food without first seeing the traditional healer for treatment,
the result being that her husband came down with tuberculosis. The focus is not on
transmitted pathogens, but on process gone awry and contamination of others. In
order to reverse this process, the traditional healer usually relies upon some sort of
ritual and perhaps herbs as well. Ritual deconstructs the process that caused the
illnesses (miscarriage and tuberculosis) and then reconstructs and re-embodies a new
more healthy process so there will be no more miscarriages and no more tuberculosis.

Biomedical medicine, on the other hand, attacks the object it perceives to dwell
in the body—the disease, the other that does not belong there. The husband is
treated for tuberculosis, a disease caused by an airborne pathogen. The wife is treated
for the physiological cause of her miscarriage or, more likely, told to try to conceive
again. Miscarriage and tuberculosis are not connected. Social and spiritual process
are basically irrelevant.

Illness in An Ecological Context

Modernization and development tend to upset existing human systems and
ecosystems, usually by reducing biocomplexity, cultural diversity, and perceptual
diversity with severe health implications for all. For example, an act as simple as
cutting down trees and leaving their stumps can provide a breeding ground that
spawns a yellow fever outbreak (Garrett 1994). And my research among traditional
healers in Namibia revealed that in all surveyed regions there was considerable
concern about the effects of deforestation upon people's health. One indigenous
healer mentioned that when a breeze blew off the Kavango River, people's health was
generally poorer. A focus group in the same area said that ever since the trees along
the river had been cut, the winds blew harder bringing illness. If someone
investigated the ecological causes for increased illness when the winds blew, they
might find less expensive ways to prevent these illnesses than just to treat them
biomedicaUy.

As previously mentioned, approximately 75 percent of all interviewed Namibian
traditional healers were diviner-herbalists who believed that illness primarily had a


60 Anthropology of Consciousness [12(1)]

personalistic etiology and secondarily a naturalistic etiology; however, some healers
(particularly in areas where traditional spirituality had been usurped by Christian
missionaries) believed illnesses only had a naturalistic etiology. These healers were
usually herbalists who did not commune with the ancestors or spirits for fear that it
would offend the Christian God and those who represented him. The naturalistic
etiologies of herbalists who did not divine still retained an ecological context. If a
healer believed a person became sick with yellow fever due to mosquitoes breeding
in cut tree stumps, then it made sense to try and find a way to remedy this problem.

Examples of Namibian traditional healers placing health problems in an
environmental context were numerous. As previously mentioned, deforestation was
of great concern. Both traditional healers and community members reported that
the ancestors were angry with people because they did not take care of their
homelands (environment) and so were punishing people by sending illnesses to
them. Here again we see society, environment, and health linked by people who were
not privy to what is called the scientific method but who clearly were capable of
empirical reasoning, which was further aided by transrational perceptual processes
that helped them to view the world synergistically and holistically. They also
explained that nature provided shelter, water, and food, and that people were in great
danger now due to environmental deterioration. Healers in one region noted that
they had to travel almost to the Angolan border to collect medicinal plants that used
to be available locally. Rubbish was also considered a health hazard by traditional
healers and community members, and it is interesting to note that rubbish was at the
same time a public health concern because it provided breeding pools for malaria'
carrying mosquitoes and other vector-borne diseases.

Some interviewed individuals volunteered that there were too many people for
too few resources, thus bringing up the issue of population pressure and environmental
deterioration. When probed, almost all persons (traditional healers and community
members) pointed out that population pressures were negatively affecting the
environment and depleting resources. Most indigenous healers and community
members cited that a growing population was leading to deforestation and to too
little grazing land. At the same time, culture predicated that women should bear
many children.

Missionary Influence on Traditional Medicine

Missionary influence in Namibia was particularly strong with 98 percent of the
population considering themselves Christian. Nevertheless, belief in the spirit
world and ancestors often co-existed side by side with Christianity. It should be
noted that since Namibian independence and the lifting of the prohibition against
traditional medicine, many churches had become more tolerant of traditional
healers although, according to traditional healers and community members, there
was a strong predisposition among churches to accept herbalist healers but to shun
diviner-herbalists because the latter addressed the spiritual as well as physical aspects
of illness and so competed with Christianity. Also, in Namibia-(as in many other
areas of Africa) Christian faith healers were on the increase. Faith healers
maneuvered around Christianity's negative attitude toward divination by
communicating directly with the sanctioned Christian God. Interestingly, this


Mar/Jun2001 Perceptual Diversity

group of traditional healers was the least willing to collaborate with modern health
practitioners because they believed that they were using the most powerful god and,
therefore, found biomedicine entirely unnecessary. Ordinary traditional healers
were much more likely to make referrals to clinics than were faith healers because
they divided illnesses into two categories: African illnesses that they were excellent
at treating themselves and modern illnesses that were best treated by biomedicine.
Furthermore, although women made up 50 percent or more of ordinary traditional
healers (both herbalists and diviner-herbalists), the emerging Christian faith healers
were predominantly male and were usually found in cities rather than rural areas
although their territory was expanding. Traditional women were, thus, losing one of
the few prestigious community roles available to them.

Communication Between Traditional Healers and Biomedically-
Oriented Professionals

For most Namibian traditional healers, the ecological context of health problems
meant looking at how illnesses fit into the world of humans assuming a priori that
humans related with each other, with the environment, and with the cosmos or
spiritual realm. Indigenous practitioners' primary means of grasping this holistic
picture was to use transrational perceptual processes such as divination, scrying, and
dreaming, which were considered unscientific by most biomedical professionals.

In general, the UNICEF staff and Namibian Ministry of Health had little
interest in the transrational perceptual processes used by the majority of traditional
healers to diagnose and heal. Clearly, in the area of perceptual diversity and multiple
consciousness constructs, ethnocentrism still prevailed. My experience indicated
the cultural distance between traditional health practitioners and Western-trained
health professionals. According to Edward C. Green this is not uncommon:

For their part, African government officials tend to regard indigenous
practitioners as a somewhat embarrassing anachronism, especially when
dealing with donor organization officials or other outsiders. Traditional
healers project an image of the backward, the primitive, the heathen, even
of the illegal. It should be remembered that most colonial regimes supported
medical missionary efforts to illegalize or severely curtail the practices of
"witchdoctors." Today, Western-educated African elites would prefer to
pretend that "witchdoctors" are a thing of the past rather than a genuine force
to be reckoned with. (199430)

The problem of bureaucracies, staffed by elites, having little understanding of

the realities of the populations they serve is an old one. In 1976 George Foster wrote:
The most successful medical and public health programs in developing
countries require knowledge about the social, cultural, and psychological
factors inherent in the innovating organizations and their professional
personnel... .Nevertheless, I am increasingly struck by the fact that many of
the apparent resistances to acceptance of health services commonly attributed
to villagers' apathy and their cultural barriers, are, in fact, the result of
administrative and professional inadequacies. International health programs
made significant strides when the importance of social, cultural and


62 Anthropology of Consciousness [12(1))

psychological factors in target group cultures was recognized. The next
opportunity for comparable progress lies, first, in recognizing (or admitting)
the limitations in present bureaucratic forms, and in many professional and
individual assumptions found in all health programs; and second, in being
willing to face up to these problems, even at the cost of professional
discomfort (1978:303).

And he adds:
The underlying assumptions of medical personnel about their roles,
responsibilities, and the structure of medical services sometimes constitute
barriers to the development of health services best suited to the needs of
developing countries. (1978:309)
My fieldwork revealed that the primary drawback to collaboration between
traditional healers and modern health practitioners was that African health
professionals devalued indigenous health practitioners' use of polyphasic perceptual
processes. It was less difficult for modern health workers to acknowledge the efficacy
of herbal remedies and to acknowledge that traditional healers were good
ethnopsycholgists. But health professionals had a difficult time acknowledging the
positive aspects of transrational modes used by traditional healers for diagnoses and
treatment. Rituals used to induce transrational perception in either patient or healer
were, at best, considered to be psychologically valuable. The notion that health
professionals could actually learn from these processes was dismissed. Traditional
healers responded to this summary dismissal of their talents by stating that modern
health practitioners only treated the symptoms but not the causes of illness because
they had no method or means to access the real cause of illness. Another way to
express this would be to say that traditional healers treated health problems in an
ecological context, whereas biomedical health professionals treated health problems
from a more limited model. Healers insisted that the transrational perceptual modes
that they used for diagnoses and treatment were reliable. Informal interviews with
community members also revealed that (as in the United States) even highly
educated African professionals sometimes went to alternative (traditional) healers,
often with positive results, when modern biomedicine did not work.
The fact is that even if modern health professionals believe there is only one
reliable perceptual process for diagnosis and treatment (waking reality), real
collaboration among biomedical health professionals and traditional healers will
occur only if the modern health sector acknowledges the role of perceptual diversity
in traditional medicine. Since Ministry of Health budgets are stretched tight in most
of Africa and since traditional healers are the de facto healers in many rural areas, it
makes sense for African health professionals to at least try to understand the different
perceptual processes at work, particularly when biomedical healers have no evidence
that intentional intuition and ritual do not help patients. Traditional healers were
eager to learn as much about modern medicine as possible since they believed it
would improve their healing skills. They were especially impressed by modern
technology such as x-rays, blood transfusions, and sophisticated surgery. Modern
health practitioners on the contrary seemed to feel that there was nothing for them
to learn from traditional healers, although they were generally ignorant of how they
worked or what they did.


Mar/Jun 2001 Perceptual Diversity

Some traditional practices were harmful to client health such as using razor
blades on more than one person, which could spread blood-borne diseases. However,
interviewed healers who had been informed by public health personnel that their
practice of reusing blades could spread diseases, including HIV, tried not to reuse
blades. If they could not use a new blade on each patient, they, at least, washed the
blades and let them dry before reusing them. Healers were likely to have been
ineffective at treating STDs, and since STDs can be a positive co-factor in
contracting HIV (Green 1994), this may have exacerbated the possibility of HIV/
AIDS infection. Furthermore, because traditional healers were repositories and
protectors of traditional cultural and sexual mores, which were predominantly
patriarchal, some were against contraception and empowerment of women to
varying degrees. In general, however, male traditional healers were far more likely
than their male peers to espouse empowerment of women. It also should be noted
that many Christian churches were against contraception and against condom use,
particularly among youth, even though condoms could prevent spread of HIV.

An Innovative Recommendation

Considering the rise in alcoholism, the rise in abandonment of women and
children by men, and a rise in the abandonment of the elderly by their children—
occurrences that have become synonymous with modernization and development,
it is no wonder that healers and community members were concerned with rapid
change. As modernization and development progressed, traditional healers took on
the important psychosocial role of being change-brokers, helping people to adapt to
situations that the healers themselves may initially have found baffling but that they
had dealt with successfully. By being multivalent or able to use multiple modes of
perception, traditional healers showed themselves to be adaptable persons, and it is
not a surprise that they made good change-brokers.

Because traditional healers were repositories of their culture's mores, particularly
social and sexual mores, I suggested a novel intercultural communication process to
the Ministry of Health and UNICEE I proposed that a group of traditional healers
gather together with a facilitator to explore issues of health, poverty, population,
oppression of women, and environmental degradation in an attempt to come up with
culturally-specific ways to address problems in these areas. The facilitator would be
comfortable with polyphasic perceptual processes. Such a person would need to have
had experiential education in intuitive processes and in the healing power of ritual,
although that person need not be adept at those processes. More importantly, the
facilitator would need to respect these processes and have strong intercultural
communication skills so that information gathered from traditional healers then
could be explained and disseminated to biomedical health professionals and
administrators in a way that they could use to positively improve community health.

After meetings with the healers, the facilitator would request that the healers
take the ideas born from these discussions back into their communities to discuss
them with community members and to explore these ideas through transrational
perceptual processes with the ancestors. The facilitator would, thus, encourage
healers to use the polyphasic perceptual processes that they are adept at using, rather
than encouraging them to jettison these methods of accessing information in favor


64 Anthropology of Consciousness 112(1)]

of science. After the proper length of time, the group would reconvene with the
facilitator to discuss what they had learned.

In addition, this group of healers would meet as regularly as was realistically
possible with local biomedical health professionals to discuss patients and compare
diagnoses and treatment. The facilitator would attend these meetings and encourage
improved communication between the two groups. Also, larger workshops would
take place once or twice a year, bringing together particularly respected healers from
different regions to meet with biomedical health professionals in order to improve
collaboration between these two groups. One methodology that might be used
successfully at these workshops among traditional healers and biomedical health
professionals is the Florence R. Kluckhohn values orientation methodology.

This methodology was developed in the 1950s by Florence R. Kluckhohn
(Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck 1961; Papajohn and Spiegel 1975). In 1951, using
Florence Kluckhohn's value orientation theory and Fred L. Strodtbeck's statistical
knowledge and skills, the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry at Harvard set
out to prove Kluckhohn's theory that:

Value orientations are complex but definitely patterned (rank ordered)
principles, resulting from the transactional interplay of three analytically
distinguishable elements of the evaluative process—the cognitive, the
affective, and the directive elements—which give order and direction to the
ever-flowing stream of human acts and thoughts as these relate to the solution
of "common human" problems. (Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck 1961:4)

The study was part of a larger Harvard project called the Harvard University
Laboratory of Social Relations. The researchers mapped the value orientations of
five groups in the Rimrock area of northern New Mexico: (1) Hispanics; (2) Navajo;

(3) Zuni; (4) Texans; and (5) Mormons.
This same methodology, in revised form, is now used by the Florence R.
Kluckhohn Center, based in Bellingham, WA. The organization's executive
director, Kurt Russo, has conducted value orientations research both in the United
States and abroad. He believes that value orientations are a fundamental aspect of
culture that are all too often overlooked. Using interviews, questionnaires, and
computer mapping techniques, the Kluckhohn methodology maps out value
differences between cultures. These psychometric paradigms are then used to help
different cultural groups understand how their perceptual reality-constructs differ
and how they misperceive the constructs of other cultures. This subsequently offers
a point of departure for improving dialogue and reaching conflict resolution.

The criteria used to establish value orientation in this methodology are: (1)
preferred mode of activity, i.e., being, being-in-becoming, or doing; (2) preferred
social relational orientation, i.e., lineal, collateral, or individualistic; (3) preferred
time orientation, i.e., past, present, or future; (4) preferred human-nature orientation,
i.e., subjugation-to-nature, harmony-with-nature, or mastery-over-nature; and (5)
general opinion of human nature, i.e., evil, neutral, a mixture of good and evil, or
good (Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck 1961; Papajohn and Spiegel 1975; Russo 1992;
Russo and Zubalik 1989). The methodology promotes an awareness that other
perceptual modes exist—a concept to which many people have never been exposed.
It would obviously be a useful tool to promote understanding between groups such


Mar/Jun 2001

as traditional healers and biomedical professionals in Namibia. However, I also
envisage this methodology as a teaching/training tool (in workshop format) to
introduce development organizations to the value of transrational perceptual modes
in general. Obviously, this methodology could be used for almost any issue that
affects local communities, not just health issues.

The Therapist>Spiritist Project in Puerto Rico

Joan Koss-Chioino (Koss-Chioino 1992), organized and co-managed the
Therapist-Spiritist Project in Puerto Rico from July 1976 to June 1980. The main
goal of the project was to create a bridge between espiritismo, or spriritism, which is
the traditional healing system found in Puerto Rico, and biomedical health
professionals, particularly in the area of mental healthcare. The project brought
mental health workers, doctors, and spiritists together to discuss treatment of women
who presented themselves as patients. Groups of spiritists and health professionals
met six hours per week in a seminar for three ten-month academic years in three
different areas that were all part of the western (largest) health region in Puerto Rico.
Three additional six-month programs were presented in each of the three different
areas and included medical residents, some of their attending physicians, mental
health professionals, and spiritists (Koss-Chioino 1992). The project was based on
a similar goal to my 1994 recommendation for traditional healers and biomedical
health professionals in Namibia, that of establishing meaningful exchange between
healers and health professionals in an effort to promote collaboration and improve
community healthcare. The project in Puerto Rico was successful, showing that such
collaboration is attainable.

As with most shamans found worldwide, the majority of Puerto Rican spiritists
(or mediums) first suffer from a serious initiatory illness before becoming a healer.
Having become a healer, they alter their state of consciousness at will to diagnose and
heal patients during ritual healing sessions. Using "possession-trance" as their
primary altered state of consciousness, they lend their bodies to the spirits allowing
the spirits to speak through them to their clients (Koss-Chioino 1992).

Koss-Chioino points out an inner healer (or mechanism) can relieve physical
and mental pain. Spiritists' patients access that inner healer through dialogue with
spirits, through developing their own spiritist capabilities, and by restructuring their
self, which, in turn, affects their illness.

We opined that ritual healing techniques in Spiritism can be viewed
physiologically as ways to mobilize endogenous processes within the central
nervous systems of clients. They may also be viewed from an experiential
perspective as a special variant of the therapeutic relationship, a ritual
encounter through which a distressed person in a highly suggestible state can
feel a sense of instant intimacy with another being through the sharing of
pain and distress. The healer, though action and appearance, is perceived
(also apperceived) as manifesting great love and concern. This perspective
on the Spiritist healing encounter agrees with that of the Espiritistas themselves.
They rarely emphasized the "material" causes of the illnesses they saw,
although they did employ remedies aimed at physically manipulating the
body. (Koss-Chioino 1992:65)


66 Anthropology of Consciousness (12(1)]

Furthermore, clinical symptoms are affected by the patient's cultural view of
healing and social representation of the body (Farr 1981). Spiritism sees illness as
being caused by spirits, but embodied by the patient; thus, illness is transpersonal in
nature (Koss-Chioino 1992). Distress is embodied, and it is the role of the healer to
help the patient deal with stressful interpersonal relationships and life situations so
as to heal the illness.

We noted that because Spiritists are able to look at cases of mental illness
from a multidimensional perspective, their interpretation of the somatic
leads to a more meaning-centered treatment approach, one that considers
complaints as metaphors, especially if expressed by people who otherwise are
unable to communicate about certain types of distress. In our view, the
Spiritists were not referring to the disturbances and abnormalities of the
cognition of mentally ill people but to the fact that their situations can limit
their openness of expression about conflicts with relatives and even about
their inner, personal distress. Spiritists point to the possibility that in these
cases the complaints themselves are both evocative and communicative.
(Koss-Chioino 1992:187)

Biomedical doctors look for physiological causes for illness. Mental health
professionals tend to treat patients with drugs to alter their affective states and to
treat them with a limited amount of psychotherapy. The latter rarely includes the
entire family and even more rarely acknowledges cultural influences upon a patient's
illness. But the primary role of an effective healer actually is to help the patient find
meaning in his or her suffering, which can alleviate the suffering itself or, at least, help
the patient find a new, more palatable, relationship with that suffering (Koss-
Chioino 1992). As Koss-Chionio explains, healing reconstitutes the self in particular
ways. The Therapist-Spiritist Project is an example of how acknowledging the
different perceptual processes spiritists, mental health workers, and doctors use for
healing enhances the healing capacity and knowledge of all three groups. In
addition, collaboration between the three groups benefits the patient who can be
referred to the appropriate type of healer at the appropriate time, which improves the
likelihood of a positive healing outcome.

Conclusion: Global Survival and Perceptual Diversity

Is polyphasic consciousness necessary for global survival? Perceptual diversity
allows human beings to access knowledge through a variety of perceptual processes,
rather than merely through everyday waking reality. Many of these perceptual
processes are transrational (meditation, trance, dreams, imagination) and are not
considered by science (which is based primarily upon quantification, reductionism,
and the experimental method) to be valid. In the past, perceptual diversity was
valued by a majority of cultures. Now it is being devalued and replaced by the
monophasic culture of "developed" nations. Just as we are losing (1) biodiversity (or
biocomplexity) in the environment and (2) cultural diversity among societies, we
also are losing (3) perceptual diversity among human cognitive processes. All three
losses of diversity (bio, cultural, and cognitive) are inter-related.

Individuals and cultures create cognitive maps to help them navigate the
landscape of socio-cultural and physical environments (Lazlo and Krippner 1998).


Mar/Jun 2001

These cognitive maps are used by individuals and cultures to adapt and evolve. The
cognitive map of "developed" nations is one of specialization that disavows multiple
perceptual processes, whereas the cognitive maps of most "less developed" cultures
are more holistic, providing for a multitude of processes with which to access
knowledge, including altered states of consciousness.

When societies devalue and lose perceptual diversity, they lose varied ways of
accessing knowledge. The loss of perceptual diversity homogenizes societies,
reducing cultural diversity. And the loss of cognitive maps that use a variety of
perceptual processes, including altered states of consciousness, results in navigation
of physical environments based only upon monophasic consciousness. When
humans interact with the environment using only monophasic consciousness (or the
scientific method), the end result is that they reduce biodiversity and biocomplexity.
For example, an obvious result of the monophasic perspective is the creation of
agricultural monoculture that has allowed the United States to produce a large
amount of agriculture for domestic use and foreign export. At the same time,
monoculture has reduced top soil dramatically and is very much at risk from disease
and pests precisely because it is all the same. Now there is concern about the loss of
plant and seed species that were previously available and which for many years fed
the human species.

I do not advocate that we jettison the scientific method. It is an extremely
valuable tool. What I do advocate, however, is that we acknowledge that the
scientific method is one tool among many available for accessing knowledge. In
addition, I propose that altered states of consciousness, such as meditation, dreaming,
trance, divination, imagining, etc., may be quite useful in accessing information
within the larger system of consciousness, because they do not break the system down
but address it as a whole.

From the perspective of an anthropologist who has worked with development
organizations, development will continue to destroy perceptual diversity because it
exports the dominant cognitive process of "developed" nations: monophasic
consciousness. Monophasic consciousness, most often embodied as the scientific
method, disavows the validity of any knowledge accessed through transrational
processes. Perceptual diversity is important for evolutionary competence and human
adaptability. Already, without it, the monophasic consciousness of Western,
developed nations has led to loss of cultural diversity and biodiversity. Without
perceptual diversity, the future survival of the human species and environment is
seriously at risk.

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