some things so vividly that they hold my
attention as a good movie or story does.
s i sometimes “step outside” my usual
self and experience an entirely different
state of being.
s When listening to organ music or other
powerful music, i sometimes feel as if i
am being lifted into the air.
s if i wish, i can imagine that my body
is so heavy that i could not move it if i
s i can sometimes recollect certain past
experiences in my life with such clarity
and vividness that it is like i am living
them again or almost so.
s i like to watch cloud shapes change in
Caught up in the mind the tellegen absorption scale was described by
its conceivers as a measure of a person’s “openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences.” in its original form, the test had 34 true/false questions
(some below); today, researchers sometimes allow participants to reply on a
four- or five-point scale. Participants are instructed not to consider experiences
they have had under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
sOurCe: t. luhrmann E T AL/AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIS T 2010
temporary escape from one’s troubles
by reading a book and entering an imaginary world.
A rare breed of otherwise healthy folks
seem to take absorption to the extreme.
Luhrmann calls this brand the “Joan of
Arc” pattern, a reference to the 15th century French girl who said that she heard
and sometimes saw two saints and the
archangel Gabriel every day. These emissaries of God purportedly told Joan to
lead the king’s army against England and
gave her battle strategies — eventually
leading to her capture and death.
Luhrmann met one Vineyard member who exhibited this pattern. This
calm, well-respected churchgoer with
a good job, whom Luhrmann calls Jane,
constantly heard God talking to her.
Jane said she heard “a little voice” as a
child that she couldn’t make sense of.
The voice fell silent for a while until she
joined an evangelical church as a young
adult. God then spoke to her often while
she prayed and at other times, providing
counsel and encouragement.
Jane probably inherited a genetic pro-
pensity for absorption and for unusual
sensory experiences that can contribute
to schizophrenia in people with other
brain and emotional vulnerabilities,
Luhrmann suggests. “But that doesn’t
mean that she is ill.”
Luhrmann thinks of schizophrenia
as a collection of traits — including dis-
organized thinking, blunted emotions,
impulsiveness and hallucinations—
that get stirred into a toxic brew by
environmental factors such as harsh
and traumatic experiences growing up.
Many psychiatrists suspect that a
genetic predisposition, combined with
prenatal brain damage and the psychological turmoil of young adulthood,
Given a relatively benign upbringing
and a steadfast temperament, hearing
God’s daily pronouncements made Jane
feel good, as well as useful at church.
But Jane’s case highlights a divide that
exists between Luhrmann and other
researchers. While Luhrmann regards the
young woman as one of many mentally
healthy folks who experience halluci-
nations, others view Jane as part of an
understudied segment of the population
consisting of people who function well
despite displaying psychotic symptoms
capable of flaring into mental illness.