DOI: 10.14704/nq.2011.9.1.386

Across Cultural Boundaries: Psychophysiological Responses, Absorption, and Dissociation Comparison Between Brazilian Spiritists and Advanced Meditators

Joan H. Hageman, Stanley Krippner, Ian Wickramasekera II

Abstract


A psychophysiological study was conducted with two Brazilian claimant mediums and a non-medium living in Recife, Brazil and 7 North American advanced meditators from the esoteric school, Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, located in Yelm, Washington. Results revealed specific incongruence in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and central autonomic nervous system (CNS). For Brazilians, there was a general reduction of sympathetic PNS vasoconstriction and increased muscle tension (EMG) during the imagined incorporation of spirits, and an increase in (EMG) and alpha wave percentage (EEG); both were paradoxical. Increase in frontal EMG while imagining spirit incorporation is consistent with a hypothesis of increased muscle tension possibly driven by intrusive cognitions and/or affect; however, the mediums reported feeling calm, not agitated. The non-medium control showed a large increase in EEG alpha wave percentage and decreased EMG in the eyes closed conditions. The mediums’ imagination condition was discrepant from what is typical during an eyes closed imagination condition, and EMG and EEG were positively correlated contrasting research findings from other studies revealing a negative correlation. This supports previous findings that physiological incongruence are frequent outcomes of individuals claiming "mediumistic" abilities; they are described as living episodically in two worlds (i.e., critical, rational, and practical; expansion and deepening of fantasy and emotional reactivity). As such, medium/mediumistic-like practitioners may be "at risk" for psychosomatic illnesses, but these descriptors do not particularly apply to the Brazilian control showing no noticeable incongruence. The advanced Ramtha meditators were not tested with an EEG, but also showed sympathetic activation during the meditation session and reported minimal/none negative affect. Incongruence between CNS and ANS are not unusual among spiritual practitioners, and other studies have noted sympathetic activation during meditation styles that use cognitive faculties and/or accelerated breathing (voluntary hyperventilation) techniques. The findings suggest medium/mediumistic-like practitioners may need to create “buffers” to maintain physical and emotional well being.

Keywords


mediumship, channeling, psychophysiology, Umbanda, Kardecismo, Candomble’, Ramtha

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