Trance, Possession, and Altered States

Trance, Possession, and Altered States

Discuss the ritual and religious use of otherwise illegal substances, based on the readings in Chapter 5 and the assigned videos. Do you think that people should be able to use controlled and/or illegal substances in religious rituals? Why or why not? Who should decide which uses of drugs and other substances are ritual or just secular and, therefore, illegal uses? Is it fair to compare the Santo Daime’s use of Ayahuasca to American ravers’ use of psychotropic drugs? Why or why not? Do you think that the use of trance, possession, and other altered states of consciousness can be a window into religious experience? Why or why not?

Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length. Support your claims with examples from required material(s) and/or other scholarly resources, and properly cite any references. 


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  1. To successfully complete this week’s discussion, “Trance, Possession, and Altered States,” watch the following videos:
  1. Divine Drug (
    (This video examines the use of “daime,” or Ayahuasca, among the congregation of Santo Daime in Brazil.)
  • Africa: Spirit Healers (
    (This video examines the use of traditional healers in a society that has access to modern medicine.)
  • Vision Quest in the Jungle (
    (This video examines a “vision quest” among people practicing Bwiti religion in Central Africa using the  psychotropic drug iboga.)




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