Language and Felicitas Goodman

 I have been reading Stephen Buhner’s The Lost Language of Plants, and though I am only about a quarter the way through the book, each chapter has profoundly affected me.  One chapter describes how a language affects a person’s personality and the way one looks at the Earth.  He tells the story of a man who knew several languages and how his wife saw changes in his personality when he was immersed in a different language.  He was a very different person when in Greece and speaking Greek.  The languages of the sciences takes much away from the person in the way one looks at the world, sciences that breakdown what is being studied into its component parts, thus losing the reality of the whole.  Buhner was a mathematician as I was at the end of my first four years of college, i.e. before I switched psychology.  Though psychology seemed more real in understanding people, it still segments them by studying such components of a person as how they learning, emotions, abnormal psychology, and the many theories of personality theory.  Only in my private practice as a psychologist did I feel the person again coming together as a whole person as I focused on speaking the language of the client through the use of hypnosis and narrative therapy.

     But in reading this chapter I thought much about Felicitas Goodman, who in her research brought together the elements of ecstatic trance and incorporated this new language within herself.  Being a cultural linguist before getting her PhD in anthropology she knew quite fluently about twenty languages.  It came to me that knowing this many languages took her out of the box of how knowing only one language limits a person in how they see the world.  The language of anthropology is again very segmenting and limiting, e.g. the ethnographic research of some native culture again is segmented in examining childrearing practices, rites of passage, religion, etc. which misses again the true nature of the culture in the attempt to be objective, but Goodman stepped out of the box by recognizing the power of ecstatic trance and incorporating it as if it were another language in her life, the language of the spirits.  By incorporating it within herself she broke the rules of objectivity in anthropology and likely lost creditability in the eyes of other anthropologists, but by doing so she has had a great influence upon the many people she taught in using what she learned.

     Yet her openness to new avenues of inquiry continued until the end of her life as evident in her interest in Rupert Sheldrake whose research opened her to new ideas of the nature of ecstatic trance and its value.  Her ecstatic trance experiences showed her the reality of the spirits and Shekdrake’s thinking would have taken her deeper into understanding the world of the spirits, the spirits of the ancestors including the spirits of ancestral medicinal plants, spirits of the Earth, and how the spirits give us direction as how to live in oneness with all life of the Earth.

Nicholas E. Brink, pePhDAuthor of 

  • Ecstatic Soul Retrieval (publisher – Inner Traditions / Bear & Co.)
  • Power of Ecstatic Trance
  • Baldr’s Magic
  • Beowulf’s Ecstatic Trance Magic
  • Trance Journeys of the Hunter-Gatherers
  • Grendel and His Mother (publisher – Routledge)
  • Applying the Constructivist Approach to Cognitive Therapy: Resolving the Unconscious Past (Routledge – in press)

Available from Postmark Books in Rosendale, NY or your local bookseller –