Archeological artifacts from around the globe indicate that healing the physical body through divine intervention is as old as humanity (Campbell, 1959; Winkelman, 2009). From prehistoric cave paintings in Europe to modern televangelism, one sees evidence of the model of a healer/facilitator in direct contact with the numinous miraculously healing a suffering person or group of people (Eliade, 1964; Winkelman, 2010). Consistently an individual healer/facilitator enters a mystical state of consciousness (MSC) to ask for spiritual intervention on behalf of someone who is ill or injured with the supporting presence of an audience/communal group of individuals who (a) believe in the ability of the facilitator to bring effective spiritual assistance to the person in need, and (b) have themselves entered an altered state of consciousness (mystical consciousness) as they drum, clap, sing and dance. This activity intensifies the energy enveloping the patient and the facilitator, which re-enforces the synergistic triad of spirituality-based healing protocols. These three elements are (1) Belief, (2) Empathy, and (3) Hypnosis (Bouse, 2019).

A mystical state of consciousness is a trancelike state of consciousness in which an individual has the ability to perceive phenomena not usually encountered during everyday sensory-driven consciousness (Rock & Krippner, 2007). This state (which includes MSCs) is frequently referred to as ASC (altered state of consciousness.) Psychologist Stanley Krippner defined an ASC as “…a pattern of phenomenological properties recognizable by an individual (or group), or by an external observer of that individual (or group) as representing a major difference in behavior and experience from an ordinary baseline patter of waking consciousness” (Krippner, 2011, p.33). According to Hood, Hill and Spilka (2009) altered states of consciousness can refer to a phenomenological set of circumstances induced by meditation, drugs, dreaming, and near death experiences all of which constitute what they refer to as “…a loosely knit area in which the focus is upon the empirical study of experiences previously assumed to be pathological or anomalous” (p. 308). These two views of ASCs represent the two poles of the spectrum employed by psychologists concerning the validity of the phenomena perceived during altered states, and thus defines the crux of the argument regarding their nature: Are ASCs in general and MSCs in particular forms of psychosis or other psychopathology, or are they legitimate experiences through which human beings can interact with and perceive the phenomena present in non-ordinary realms of consciousness for healing and communication with the numinous? This argument intensifies where matters of healing and religion are concerned, most likely since the concept of an imminent form of divinity that can be called upon at will to heal the sick or impart divine wisdom is opposed to the overarching belief of the Abrahamic religions that God is separate from creation and can only be petitioned by prayer and accessed through grace (Armstrong, 1993; Rao, 2005; York, 2002).

Neuroscientific research has provided psychology with empirical evidence of the validity of mystical experiences perceived during ASCs/MSCs (Newberg, 2012; Newberg & Waldman, 2012; Winkelman, 2010). Anthropologists and mythologists have understood for some time that not only is it possible for an individual to merge with the numinous while in a trance-like state (Campbell, 1970; McClenon, 1997; Winkelman, 2009) but that group rituals involving ASCs are part of our human genome and hard-wired into our physical bodies through transgenerational DNA transmission (Beauregard & O’Leary, 2007; Cozolino, 2010; McClenon, 1997; Winkelman, 2009). According to Winkelman chimpanzees were drumming to call their groups together for community rituals long before H. sapiens appeared, and refers to McLean’s “R-complex” (the reptilian brain) and premammalian portion of the triune brain (Cozolino, 2010) as the seat “involved in community bonding and attachment processes” (p. 463). Winkelman and McClenon noted that humans replicate this behavior in situations wherein the members of the groups surrounding the healer/facilitator in a ritual setting are themselves in a hypnotized state in which they also become part of the mystical experience.

Altered States and Group Mystical Consciousness

Focusing the power of the numinous to effectuate healing is part of our evolutionary pattern according to British evolutionary psychologists Anthony Stevens and John Price (2006). They describe the relationship between the charismatic healer/facilitator and the group participating in the mystical experience as “…the ecstatic merger of leader and led in a form of participation mystique which assumes religious intensity” (p. 149). This description is consistent with the observations of Winkelman (2009) and Baruss (2003) that the state of consciousness from which group mystical consciousness arises emanates from deep within the reptilian and premammalian regions of the Triune Brain. According to Baruss when people are drawn into a hypnotic state by an outside force such as a charismatic leader or shaman “our consciousness is altered away from attending to sensory impressions in an ordinary way, perceptual abilities may emerge that allow us to glimpse aspects of reality that we cannot apprehend with our physical senses” (2003, p. 238). Gebser (1984) theorized that humanity once lived in a magical state of consciousness which is replicated in ASCs, and that Paleolithic communities experienced phenomena such as telepathy, shamanic healing, and synchronicities as common occurrences. It is in this magical state of consciousness that we begin to see the emergence of the charismatic healer/facilitator becoming the group leader, and healings taking place as group functions with the healer/facilitator as the prime actor and crowd center. Interestingly, Stevens and Price (2006) found in their research that the traits of visionary, charismatic leaders are consistent with the presence of the gene for schizophrenia, and postulate that this gene carries abilities that were once needed for the survival of the group.

McClenon constructed a model connecting the elements of hypnotizability, survival, charismatic healer/leader, religion and healing as the basis for human collective consciousness (1997). He and Winkelman (2009) agree that the genesis of group hypnotizability in support of the undertakings of the charismatic healer/leader lies in the need of the community to defend itself against enemies and predators – the same trait that Winkelman observed in chimpanzees. McClenon constructed a model connecting hypnotizability, survival, charismatic healer/leader, religion and healing as the basic elements for the development of human collective consciousness. Whether one agrees with those who denounce the validity of experiences and perception of phenomena in an ASC or MSC, or those whose research has caused them to conclude that those experiences and phenomena represent bona fide realities different from that perceived by the physical senses alone and organized by the physical brain, the overarching experience of humanity provides us with a wealth of examples of healing by faith as a mystical event involving group consciousness. The transgenerational aspect of the ability of individuals and groups to enter ASCs/MSCs and perceive phenomena not readily perceptible in states of ordinary, waking consciousness has current validation in the reports of faith healings, shamanic healings, and the Marian apparitions such as those at Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje (Zimdars-Schwartz, 1991).


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