In my presentation I use the concept of magical consciousness to discuss how we in Western, modern societies are today, in certain circles, searching for a way to reconnect with nature and what this connection tells us about the capacities of the human mind.
I use the concept of magical consciousness to help me think beyond dichotomies like mind vs body, human vs nature and animals. This dualistic thinking is a heritage from the time of the Enlightment; it established the idea that we, the cultivated human beings, had to be categorically separated from the primitive and dangerous animals and nature. Humans had to seek to control and scientifically explain nature. In spite of the negative associations that have been linked to the use of magic, the tradition of magic and magical consciousness has long roots also in contemporary, Western societies and not only in far away societies that, we believe, live closer to nature. Magic has survived and provides answers to the uncertainties of life.
My aim in the talk is to provide a brief outline of how we have moved from an open mind to a closed or self-contained mind and back to an ever growing awareness of the transgressive qualities of the mind. Using anthropological theories of mind and the anthropology of consciousness and magic I will present a tapestry of thoughts that indicate how the idea of one universal consciousness, that includes humans, nature, and animals, is possible and even desireable. The presentation will include exerpts from an ethnographic case study of the mind and reality transgressing experiences of a young Finnish woman who is the forest, an animal and messenger between worlds.
Susanne Ådalh is a researcher at the project Mind and the Other – An Interdisciplinary Study on the Interactions of Multiple Realities. Her contribution to the Mind and the Other project deals with the phenomenon of voice hearing as a subjective, lived experience.
Susanne Ådahl is a Post-doctoral researcher in medical anthropology who has conducted ethnographic research on lay perceptions of cancer among Finnish farmers (Ådahl 2007) and patient experiences of organ transplantation in Finland ( Ådahl 2012).