What does the soul say? Metaphysical uses of facilitated communication in the Jewish ultraorthodox community

Yoram Bilu, Yehuda C. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

Facilitated communication (FC), a set of techniques designed to improve the communication skills of children with pervasive developmental disorders, was transformed in the Jewish ultraorthodox community into a mystical device through which autistic children disclose otherworldly messages. We use this case to study the process whereby, in a given historical moment, specific forms of deviance are selected and molded into ritualized moralistic performances through which the values of the community are reassested. Following a comparison between clinical and metaphysical FC, we explore synchronic and diachronic aspects of the complex relations between the ultraorthodox and the secular society extrapolated from the case. A comparative analysis of FC sessions and exorcistic rituals of dybbuk possession provides a background for proposing a dichotomous model of mystical pathways to the sacred, highlighting the role of deviants in revitalizing religious beliefs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)375-407
Number of pages33
JournalEthos
Volume25
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1997

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