Visited by spirits – ‘Betwixt and between’ in meditation and solitary confinement in Myanmar
Summary, in English
This article takes as its starting point the similar, yet differing, experiences of hearing voices among prisoners in Myanmar. It discusses why the experience of hearing voices described by prisoners is regarded as an occasion to share compassion when it occurs during meditation retreats and as torture when it occurs in solitary confinement. The article uses the concept of liminality to make sense of variations in these spiritual experiences and focuses on three factors: the presence or absence of communitas; a master of ceremony or other guidance; and whether the experiences take place at the volition of the person or is forced upon him. This leads to the conclusion that solitary confinement, due to its forced nature and the absence of communitas and guidance, represents a situation in which the prisoner is at risk of prolonged liminality and social harm which can unhinge him from his interrelational self.