Get into trance: Felicitas Goodman

Dr. Felicitas Goodman

Dr. Felicitas Goodman


Some readers may have thought I was doing my little anthropologist’s quibble with the research on gene expression in meditation in Relax your genes, when I wrote, ‘I’d be surprised if variations in these techniques (such as those that use chanting or movement, for example) had no effect at all on the resulting neural, cellular, and perhaps even genetic processes.’ Some of you might have thought to yourselves, ‘Sure, Greg, you always say stuff like that — you’re paid to say stuff like that as an anthropologist.’ But one of the things I was thinking about was the work of the late anthropologist, Felicitas Goodman, which I hadn’t really discussed at all on Neuroanthorpology.

I stumbled across the webpages for the Felicitas Goodman Institut (the page is in German), and the English discussion of her work, Ritual Body Postures and Ecstatic Trance, by Nana Nauwald, and the webpage for The Cuyamungue Institute, which Goodman founded, this morning. A bit of searching turned up an interview with Prof. Goodman at Conversations for Exploration.

Goodman’s own biography is pretty fascinating; she didn’t do her PhD in anthropology until she was in her 50s, already a veteran German professor at Ohio State where she emigrated after leaving Germany with an American husband (Glenn). She went on to teach anthropology at Denison University (Ohio), and is best known for her contributions to the study of ecstatic states, including trance and glossalalia (speaking in tongues). She wrote a number of works, including Where the Spirits Ride the Wind: Trance Journeys and Other Ecstatic Experiences and Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural Study of Glossolalia (now out in a new edition, according to Amazon). After falling in love with the area around Santa Fe, Goodman helped to found The Cuyamungue Institute in New Mexico, which, according to the institute’s website, ‘continues her research into altered states of consciousness and holds workshops about the postures which she admits are but one door to alternate reality.’

Continue reading