The “dangerous others”: Spiritual energy and contagion

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The paper addresses representations of danger in the spiritual sphere in contemporary society in Slovakia by exploring the specific case of neoshamanic groups. This argument is based on Mary Douglas’s theory and the representations of spiritual practices are interpreted in relation to the particular social context. I present the results of ethnographic research conducted in Bratislava. I argue that in the neo-shamans’ interpretations of spiritual healing the notion of contagion serves as a signal of danger and indicates “wrong” beliefs and behaviour. Their reasoning is centred around altered states of consciousness (ASC) linked to the concept of energy. Neo-shamans represent shamanic healing as a moral act. However, rivalry between experts results in mutual blaming: “wrong” practice results in harm caused by the influence of negative energy. My interpretation is complemented by the results of a preliminary survey of articles in selected Christian media addressing the theme of alternative spirituality. They define Christianity as the only true spiritual path and condemn practitioners of all non-Christian spiritual techniques involving ASC, the reason being that any spiritual healing, including neo-shamanism, opens the way for contagious evil forces. The harmful effect is therefore associated with contagion and is ascribed to the practices of “others” both in the context of alternative spirituality and in the context of Christian media.

Klíčová slova:

Danger, neo-shamanism, Christianity, alternative spirituality, contagion, energy


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