By Lyn Paula Russell
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Extra resources for A Sexual Odyssey
In both cases we shall examine how the inspired priest, or shaman, who has privileged access to these supernatural powers, diagnoses sins and prescribes the appropriate atonement. The political and legal authority wielded by the holders of these religious commissions is, as we shall see, largely a function of the availability of other more specialized agencies of political and social control. In highly atomized societies without secure and clearly defined political positions, the shaman comes into his own as an omni-competent leader, regulating the intercourse both between man and man and between men and the spirits.
Furst, 1972; Harner, 1973; Grof, 1977; Schultes and Hofmann, 1980). g. ‘transcendental meditation’). The inspirational effect of sensory deprivation, implied in the stereotyped mystical ‘flight’ into the wilderness, has also been well documented in laboratory experiments. The most exciting scientific discoveries here, surely, are those of the endorphins—natural opiates in the human brain—whose production and release is promoted by such traditional methods of trance induction (Ahlberg, 1982; Prince, 1982).
On the contrary, it is merely a question of whether more or less attention is paid to mystics in different ages. Where mysticism is fashionable and accepted it is fully reported; where it is not nobody bothers to keep any record of it. This steady state theory of mystical productivity would, if it were 20 TOWARDS A SOCIOLOGY OF ECSTASY correct, divorce transcendental experience from the social environment in which it occurs and make totally irrelevant the sorts of sociological questions which I have urged should be applied to the data.
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