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Observations placeholder

Dr William Sargant – On the use of making love and drumming in curing neuroses



Type of Spiritual Experience


Dr William Sargant was born in Highgate, London, in 1907 and educated at Leys School and St John's College, Cambridge.  Up to 1972 he was Physician in Charge of the Department of Psychological Medicine at St Thomas's Hospital, London. He was Associate Secretary of the World Psychiatric Association and on the staff of the Maudsley Hospital, London for many years, He was also Registrar of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, Rockefeller Fellow at Harvard University and Visiting Professor at Duke University. He was also the author of Battle for the Mind, and The Unquiet Mind.

A description of the experience

The Mind Possessed  - Dr William Sargant

Over and over again I found that milder forms of nervous and mental illness can be helped by traditional methods of healing, by dancing and repeatedly going into trance, then talking in states of abreactive excitement and supposed spirit possession, and finally falling to the ground in a collapse, after which the patients may begin to get better.

Severe schizophrenic and melancholic cases, however, cannot abreact or dissociate and go into trance and collapse when dancing alone is used…………………..

It was at one of the Teita ceremonies that we saw the tremendously powerful effect of drumming ….The girls going round in circles, before going into trance, were often proud and rather intolerant. ……..But as soon as they went into trance they [changed]. A girl could be led up close to the drums, and then her whole body would jerk and show orgiastic reactions to the drumming. And the drummers themselves often seemed to be trying to produce the maximum effect in a particular participant in front of them.

It is interesting to note again the relationship existing between orgasm, which is the induction of nervous excitement often leading to a state close to semi-trance, with final nervous collapse and relaxation; and the repeated drumming inducing trance and collapse used by African tribes to relax tensions and expel the 'spirits' causing neurosis.

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps


Music therapy