Voices of Madness, Voices of Spirit

Location: Irving K. Barber Learning Centre

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They seem like strange experiences—a voice whispered on the wind, a god who speaks from on high—but voices are far more common than we think. In this talk, I argue that voices—the sense of being called by another–are at the heart of the human experience of mind. Our minds are deeply social—less interior inner universes, more like dinner parties with noisy guests. Religion is a way of using that social dimension to your advantage—crafting an inner coach who is not the self and who, by being other, manages the inner cacophony. Sometimes of course this process goes terribly wrong. I hope we open a discussion about how people use social practice to shape inner worlds and moral purpose, and about the complex relationship of spiritual experience and psychosis.

Dr. Tanya Marie Luhrmann is the Albert Ray Lang Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University, with a courtesy appointment in Psychology. Her work focuses on the edge of experience: on voices, visions, the world of the supernatural and the world of psychosis. She was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003, received a John Guggenheim Fellowship award in 2007 and elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2022. When God Talks Back was named a NYT Notable Book of the Year and a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. She is the author of Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft, The Good Parsi, Of Two Minds, When God Talks Back, Our Most Troubling Madness, and How God Becomes Real, and is currently at work on a book entitled Voices.



This talk is made possible with the generous support of Database of Religious History, Department of Anthropology, Department of Asian Studies, Department of Philosophy