If you have ever spent any time around people struggling with schizophrenia, you might be aware of how often their delusions and hallucinations are religiously contextualized. People suffering this form of psychosis may believe they are Jesus, or Mary, or God, or that their therapist is Jesus or God. There can be frequent apocalyptic imagery in their delusions.
In my limited experience, psychosis is often a form of wish fulfillment that is intolerable to the person. For example, someone might believe powerful people are looking out for him and keeping him safe because he is so special and important. This delusion may represent an unconscious need to have someone or some people keeping him safe (maybe even from himself), who believe that he is special (as we all are special) and worth assistance.
Because I see psychosis as a form of acting out unconscious needs or wishes, my sense of the religious and spiritual content may represent a form of spiritual awakening, albeit shrouded in paranoia, magical thinking, or other thought disorders.
In this talk, Borges gives examples of "shamans" he has met, some of who were identified by their "visions" (i.e., hallucinations). In our culture, this young person (often adolescents or teens) would be diagnosed as schizophrenic or suffering a manic psychosis and given copious amounts of powerful antipsychotic drugs. In these primal cultures, the apprenticeship to a master shaman allows them to make sense of their visions and reframe them as journeys into the spirit world. In the U.S., we would medicate the hell out of the person and s/he would suffer for decades with mental illness.
The great scholar of comparative religion, Mircea Eliade, in his classic text, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, details many similar examples of "the calling" and how the crisis of the calling is resolved through initiation into the shamanic mysteries. Rather than being dependent on the culture for survival (as in the U.S), these people are of service to the community, they have status and specialized roles. That alone can make all of the difference.
Published on Feb 23, 2014
Phil Borges, filmmaker and photographer, has been documenting indigenous and tribal cultures for over 25 years. His work is exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and his award winning books have been published in four languages. Phil's recent project, Inner Worlds, explores cultural differences with respect to consciousness and mental illness.
Here is some more information on Borges - seems like a cool guy who has been doing some important work documenting indigenous cultures for a few decades now.
For over twenty-five years Phil Borges has been documenting indigenous and tribal cultures, striving to create an understanding of the challenges they face. His work is exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and his award winning books, which have been published in four languages, include Tibetan Portrait, Enduring Spirit, Women Empowered and Tibet: Culture on the Edge. He has hosted television documentaries on indigenous cultures for Discovery and National Geographic channels. Phil also lectures and teaches internationally.
Phil’s recent project, Inner Worlds, explores cultural differences with respect to consciousness, mental illness and the relevance of Shamanic traditional practices and beliefs to those of us living in the modern world.
Phil’s program Stirring the Fire has produced several short documentaries, a book and an exhibition highlighting some of the extraordinary women worldwide who are breaking through gender barriers and conventions in order to enhance the well being of their communities.
In 2000 Phil founded Bridges to Understanding, an online classroom program that connects youth worldwide through digital storytelling in order to enhance cross-cultural understanding and help build a sense of global citizenship in youth. He also co-founded Blue Earth Alliance, a 501c3 that sponsors photographic projects focusing on endangered cultures and threatened environments.
Phil graduated from University of California as a Regents Scholar in 1969 and was honored with their prestigious University of California Medal in 2004. He lives with his family in Seattle.
Here is another TED Talk in which he speaks about his photography - beautiful images, some of which I am sure most of us have seen before.
Posted by: June Cohen
January 10, 2007
Photographer Phil Borges displays his remarkable portraits documenting the world’s disappearing cultures, from persecuted monks in Tibet to embattled tribes in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He also shares inspiring results from his digital-storytelling workshops, which give indigenous teenagers tools for cultural preservation and self-expression. A former dentist, Phil Borges rediscovered his passion for photography, and spent the last 25 years documenting indigenous cultures around the world. His work collected in several books, including Tibetan Portrait and Enduring Spirit. In 2001, he founded Bridges to Understanding, an organization that works with teenagers worldwide, promoting cultural preservation and exchange through digital storytelling. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 19:19)