Comments by Natalie Tobert, PhD

Showing 15 of 15 comments.

  • Thank you for all your comments. I was concerned, as it seemed there were (at least) two separate ways of knowing the world: one was dominant for academics, and one was dominant for experts by experience. The only time they collaborated appeared to be when people in the education system had ‘anomalous’ experiences themselves, or, as has been noted in these pages, when experts by experience were invited to the table as a token gesture.

    Is it possible some in the scientific community quite simply do not see research, which doesn’t fit their paradigm of understanding reality? The biologist Rupert Sheldrake addressed this in his book the Science Delusion 2013. Paradigm blindness exists. Obviously for some people it may feel safer to assume non-western societies are ‘superstitious’ but surely that is based on our own belief system, assuming ‘we know better’? We assume our knowledge is knowledge, and theirs is belief (i.e. wrong or false).

    Human beings have different faculties, skills, and sensitivities. People who practice and use energy medicine may or may not have good intentions, as has been mentioned in these pages. Many who have contributed to this discussion are experts by experience, and several have set up healing centres, or have suggested website they found useful. Apart from Castaneda, other writers (like Marlo Morgan) were encouraged to state their work was fiction before it was published. There are many welcome links in these pages.

    That is my (mundane world) vision for now, that collaboration of all those involved goes towards reducing human suffering. Collaboration around the same table is not only with academics, but also experts by experience, and religious leaders (apologies for not mentioning them in the first blog). System change is required, so future students are aware of the discourse. Consensus reality is not a marker of knowledge. At times consensus has been morally questionable and it is changeable over history and space. I welcome change.

    I am concerned about the way people here are treated when the doors of perception open wide. While in India I met a few physicians who quietly practice alternative and complementary strategies with their clients. With consent, they make videos of consultations, presentation of symptoms, healing interaction, and results. An evidence base is being built up quietly…

    I have developed a Training Resource on Spiritual and Cultural Competencies, and I offer seminars wherever invited, to support people reframe their understanding. Thank you so much for all your comments. And I will continue to envision change.

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  • Thank you Sean, for your comments: I watched your brief video on the web link you gave, and it helped to understand your experience a little better. I am pleased to hear about the work you and your wife are doing, to raise awareness of spiritual emergency. How was your talk at Eurotas received? It is key what you say; that transpersonal psychologists could grasp the concept of Spiritual Emergency, but not that it was related to what they believed was mental illness. That is exactly what I wanted to address. We just need to look at the phenomenology of lived experience.

    I say ‘just’: it is both a small step, and a wide paradigm shift. You say the world is recoiling in fear…but what else can I do? Change is happening as we bridge the gap. I want to question worldviews, with mental health care staff, to offer support in ways of reframing understanding. I’ve been teaching stuff for a while about ‘being normal’, ‘being human’ and ‘common consensus’. But I am on contract, not embedded within any academic system… Nomadic. Uncomfortable. I chose to work as a bridge within the system. That is what I want to continue to do. I have developed a Spirituality and Cultural Competencies Resource Pack, which I use as the basis of my seminars, and which I hope to roll out more widely shortly.

    In India, the physicians I met worked according to the principles of Sri Aurobindo, whose ideas I believe Ken Wilber incorporated. Are you aware of the work in UK of Katie Motram and Russell Razzaque. I met both of them on line, before seeing them and their books in person !

    I have taken note of you email, and will get in touch
    Thank you again for your comments

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  • Thank you Michael for your kind comments: I am hoping real change might occur, through MIA discussion pages, of ways we interpret anomalous experiences.

    In UK people are clamouring for paradigm change, furious at the system of psychiatry mentioned by your blogger Robert Berezin, which teaches about triggers of ‘chemical imbalance’ rather than ‘human struggle’. Some of the physicians I met in India, are quite simply embodying that change, and quietly using different strategies to treat extreme experiences. Since I wrote that book “Spiritual Psychiatries” I met more practitioners in India last month, who use alternatives to pharmacology. I met a psychiatrist, who stood down from his position, in order to offer his clients homoeopathy, which he felt was a more effective, and more gentle way to address human suffering. Mentioned on

    The long thread of conversation on shamanic practice in these pages is illuminating: I was interested in shamanism for years, and it gave me the insight to address anomalous experiences differently. I wrote an article some years ago comparing the roles of psychiatrists and shamans. I will try and resuscitate it.

    It is pleasing to see so many peoples’ response to this blog. There must be so many bloggers on MIA website, who actively want to see change? Thank you for providing an opportunity. Natalie

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  • In UK, service users or experts by experience (those who have had extreme experiences and have used the mental health services) are invited to the table to present their perspective at meetings. Even if it becomes tokenism, it is a start, that they are seen as experts by experience. Does the same not happen in USA?

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  • Thank you Alex
    I am not sure how to reply. Is there an assumption that academics don’t have extreme experiences, or haven’t experienced chronic stress, depression, stigma, or trauma themselves? They are not any kind of race apart. I too believe that every person on the planet has the capacity to experience extreme states. Trauma is no respecter of position, occupation, culture or class. People who have extreme experiences are also our academics and educators.

    The reason I focus on academia and educators, is because in partnership with those who have lived experience, I believe they are in a position to support real change, and to develop an education system that promotes new thinking. That is why I favour dialogue around the same table. Not separate tables. I feel the time for separation and judgement is gone. Let us work towards change together. Natalie

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  • Thank you for your comments seventhsense, they help me to articulate why I focus on what I do. I was hoping for a Both/And situation. There is a really positive healing place for those who have had anomalous experiences, to support each other, and to interpret those experiences as spiritual, according to their personal paradigm. However, I want to see more than two separate groups co-existing.

    In my opinion, I don’t think it a flaw to focus on academics. It is right for me, as that is where I perceive the problem lies. On the whole, the education system perpetuates old paradigm ways of interpreting extreme experiences. If we don’t start to challenge education, then we risk maintaining the status quo, by training up new students in old ways. It is the status quo which angers and frustrates a lot of people. Even if scholars study religious / paranormal / supernatural / spiritual / anomalous / shamanic / psychic / clairvoyant experiences, very few of them make the link with extreme experiences. It is time this changed. This is exactly why I want to open the discussion there.
    With best wishes, Natalie

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  • Thank you Alex, that is kind of you to mention those things. As you say, I too feel a bridge is needed, so we become globally aware of the many ways of understanding the world, not just the dominant western model.

    That is why I feel it is so important for different academics to get together, and talk about lived experience relative to their area of expertise, to explore how the phenomena they study fits with extreme experiences.

    Then we can develop real change in understanding, real change in the education curriculum, and a sustainable change in the ways we address human suffering. Natalie

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  • Thank you Jonathan
    The topic of cultural assumptions is an interesting one. On a recent trip to India, I met a philosopher who I had already interviewed for my book “Spiritual Psychiatries”. He explained that although India had gained independence in 1947, it did not have independence of thought. This meant the Indian education system accepted the teaching of colonial psychology and philosophy, which were irrelevant to the beliefs of both staff and students. The Exam Boards were based in UK…

    We tend to assume western ways of thinking are ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’. and the other person’s are ‘beliefs’ or ‘false’. This results in particular problems in the field of extreme experiences and psychiatry. As you suggest, we might consider which healing system is effective for human well being. The thing is, indigenous religious or healing practices may work, and may be the only strategy available in some places. Though I understand pharmacology is spreading its clinics and practices in India. One of the key differences I found in India, was even those psychiatrists I met, who used pharmacology, they still assumed an event of extreme experiences was an episode, and not a label for life. Furthermore they encouraged spiritual and religious practices.

    In UK, in some urban areas, there are many first generation migrants, who hold the same beliefs of their family in the country of origin, and they use many religious and spiritual strategies for healing, alongside or instead of western psychiatry. Cultural competencies are important, but like you I would like to see a range of different techniques used with people having extreme experiences.

    Thank you for your comments, Natalie

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  • Hello Rossa,
    I taught for some years with General Practitioner Elizabeth Archer, who is now more interested in Global Health and Ecology. That must have been a few years ago! It is good to hear from you again. I am hoping my book on “Spiritual Psychiatries” will serve to support changes in attitudes. In it there are around 40 interviews, with patients, physicians, philosophers and priests, each setting out their understanding on human existence and health. The last part of the book explores whether the principles seen in India are transferable to western populations.

    Boxes ! Sigh… it is time those old educational boundaries dissolved a bit, towards human well being.
    With best wishes, Natalie

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  • Thank you Robert, for your kind comments about this blog, and for being the first to respond. It doesn’t feel like such a large scale issue to me, to aspire towards scholars in different fields sitting around a table together. I have been at conferences (e.g. some run by Scientific and Medical Network), where people sit together to listen to speakers on altered states of consciousness or anomalous experiences. My concern is that the topics are not linked to extreme experiences, and that is what I would like to see.

    I was interested to read your comments about Psychiatry and Shamanism being allied disciplines… Years ago I wrote a paper comparing the two, which was published in NAMAH (New Approaches to Medicine and Health) in India in 2001. I will look for this again. Neo-shamanism as practiced in the west, seems to be rather popular currently. It is difficult for me to reply to you about “hundreds of millions of people” not accepting spirituality or the divine, as I see things differently. Today when I run courses in Medical Schools or hospitals, the topic of spirituality seems normal, to address in terms of patient well being.

    I can’t answer your points about whether there is or is not any ‘Agency’ or ‘Power’ in the world. But I know in times of ill health or trauma, people turn towards spirituality, to find meaning and purpose to human existence. But equally others believe ‘the buck stops here’ and ‘we live one life – full stop’. Belief seems to depend on direct experience, or direct cognition, and some who have had extreme experiences become aware of this.

    Richard I have slight problem with the concept of truth, as I believe it is culturally determined…! Thank you again for your comments.

    with kind regards, Natalie

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