- Book/source title
- Vocabulary for the Study of Religion
- Pages (from-to)
- Leiden: Brill
- Volume (Publisher)
- Document type
- Entry for encyclopedia/dictionary
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH)
“Trance” is an umbrella term comprising a wide variety of psychophysiological conditions also known by terms such as “ecstasy,” ”dissociation,” or “alterations of consciousness.” All varieties of trance result from some kind of interruption or modification of the usual interplay between the “arousal system” and the “quiescent system” linked respectively to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The neurological system can be stimulated or “tuned” by drastic decrease or increase of either normal sensory stimulation or normal mental alertness, as well as by alterations of body chemistry. Trance is relevant to the study of religion because many religious practices, rituals, or spiritual techniques appear to fulfil these basic conditions for altering consciousness, resulting in effects that can be observed either internally (as subjective experiences often interpreted as “religious”) or externally (as unusual forms of bodily behavior to which some “religious” significance may be attributed). While the contents of religious experiences are inseparable from the worldviews or theological assumptions of those who have them, they are partly constrained by the physiology of the trance state in question as well. The nature of this complex interrelation between “culture” and “nature” in trance experiences is not fully understood as yet.
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