The common Christian interpretation of glossolalia is that it is a gift to the believer accompanying the baptism of the Holy Spirit, hence it is a spiritual charisma as is prophecy and healing. Glossolalic occurrences in church history have been sporadic and relatively insignificant to major developments in Christendom and there is disagreement among scholars as to the nature and farm of the phenomenon. This study reflects psychological influence but the central effort is to apply ethnological analysis to glossolalia by reference to its occurrence among non-Christian cultures. This cross-cultural approach offers evidence that speaking in tongues is associated with varying degrees of personality inequilibrium. Anexamination of ethnographic data enables the anthropologist to identify such forms of glossolalia as (1) the language of spirits, (2) sacerdotal language, (3) the language of animals, (4) phonations frustes (gibberish or nonsense syllables), (5) xenoglossia (speaking in foreign tongues), and (6) ermeneglossia (the interpretation of tongues). An opinion is expressed that the success of glossolalia in contemporary Western culture is due to the increment of anxiety syndromes characterizing Western man.
*George J. Jennings is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. This paper was presented at the annual convention of the American Scientific Affiliation at Stanford University, Stanford, Cal. August 1967.
An ethnological analysis of glossolalia may provide additional insights into a phenomenon characteristic of one of the major religious movements in the present century (Time, July 28, 1967, p. 64). The "speaking in tongues" phenomenon is unusually significant to the student of society and culture because it provides observable behavioral reactions and adjustments in the structure and functioning of the subculture where the phenomenon occurs. The purpose of this paper is to describe, with some analysis, selected features of glossolalia as an integral part of the charismatic revival in order to compare these characteristics with similar ones in non-Christian cultures with the hope to increase cognizance of an emotional exhibition largely neglected in anthropological study.
Theologians, historians, linguists, behavioral scientists, and other scholars have considered glossolalia from the viewpoint characteristic of their respective disciplines with the objective to explain the cause, meaning, and significance of this phenomenon to the individual, his sodalities, his religion, and the larger cultural context. Since the ethnological approach is employed in this study, the primary task will be to apply cross-cultural data to glossolalic episodes with the awareness that we may appear to minimize insights provided by other disciplines. Ethnology is essentially an analysis of human behavior to discover the similarities and differences represented in various cultures in order to attain greater accuracy in conclusions and generalizations about man.
Perhaps it is appropriate to note at the outset that most scholars engaged in studying comparative religion pay slight attention to glossolalia. In this present study no attempt was made to survey all standard works treating the important religions of mankind, but a glance through a representative sampling of standard texts available for courses in comparative religion reveals the fact that few authors mention, much less examine, the tongues phenomenon (e.g., Archer and Purinton, 1958; Burtt, 1957; Dye and Forthman, 1967; Ferm, 1958; Lessa and Vogt, 1965; Lyon, 1957; Middleton, 1967; Noss, 1963; Potter, 1954; Smith, 1958; Soper, 1951; and Wallace, 1966). The sole conclusion admissable based on this omission is that the tongues occurrence is not considered vital in religious beliefs and rituals at present nor has it been in the history of religions.
Despite this omission and conclusion, it is an assumption in this paper that glossolalia is important for investigation because it involves the emotional component in unusual overt demonstration in religious context. This first assumption is related to the basic opinion that these ecstatic states accompanied by unusual forms of vocalization are genuine and do occur as actual experiences in spiritual exhaltation. This author does not overlook the fact that some cases of glossolalia undoubtedly are fraudulent arising out of the desire of some individuals to identify with groups exerting considerable pressure for conformance to a proscribed pattern of behavior. At this point the author readily admits that he is not a glossolalist and has never sought the experience. Hence as a non-participant, he cannot present glossolalia with the intense ethos of a practitioner, but conversely he maintains greater objectivity by non-involvement for he can view speaking in tongues with dispassionate interest, a position not probable for the advocate of the experience.One other assumption may be mentioned. There is no doubt in the author's mind that glossolalia has been, and continues to be, associated with dramatic alterations in patterns of behavior whereby the participants manifest greater conformance to the moral and ethical code outlined by religious leaders. The emphasis upon tongues in what has been called "The Charismatic Revival" (Bloesch, 1966; Gerlach, 1967) has not only produced the so-called "separated life," but has imbued a new vitality in many churches with devoted activity among clergymen and laity.
The classic examination of glossolalia in English seems to be Cutten's Speaking With Tongues (1927). Although written forty years ago, subsequent objective studies have followed with various modifications Cutten's basic outline and line of reasoning (e.g., Kelsey, 1964; and Gromacki, 1967). As an ethnologist, the author thinks it unfortunate that Cutten, and those under his influence, confines his attention primarily to the tongues phenomena within the Western world in general and Christianity in particular. Cutten's pattern in writing includes a consideration of the Biblical basis for the occurrence of glossolalia with some exposition of the New Testament statements from Acts (2:4-21; 10:44-46; 19:6) and First Corinthians (12:10-30; 13:1, 8; 14:1-39). There is also comment on the reference to speaking "with new tongues" in Mark 16:17 but textual critics are disagreed about the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 so many scholars disregard the Mark reference in their Biblical expositions on tongues. Some glossolalists seek to expand scriptural support for theii views by including such statements as Ephesians 5:1819 ("And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing and making melody to the Lord with all your hearts" RSV); Colossians 3:16 ("Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God" RSV); and First Thessalonians 5:1920 ("Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying" RSV). Without an attempt in detailed and critical exegesis of these latter references, the author accepts the opinion of several commentators that these statements do not sustain glossolalic contentions.
A survey of various commentators reveals disagreement in expositions of Luke's Pentecostal description in Acts and Paul's specifications to the Corinthians. Some conclude that Luke's historical comments in Acts are to xenoglossia or the miraculous ability to speak foreign languages without learning. In contrast Paul addresses himself to vocalizations having no correspondence with any human language when he writes to the Corinthians, Other Biblical scholars reject this interpretation by insisting there are no unknown or unused languages in either Luke or Paul's discourses but all references are cases of xenoglossia. This unresolved problem represented in contrasting exegesis has diffused among glossolalists with some maintaining that their vocalizations are of some language spoken elsewhere in the world, but many others hold that their utterances are a "spiritual" language unknown to mankind but nevertheless is susceptible to interpretation by someone with such a divine gift.
In a recent analysis Gromacki asserts that glossolalia in Acts refers to the introduction of the Holy Spirit to four different classes of people (1967:107). He contends that each of the four cases is unique and therefore cannot provide a pattern for subsequent Christian experiences because these once only events are recorded in a narrative basically transitional in character. Consistent with such reasoning, Gromacki discloses his belief that the purpose of speaking in tongues among the Corinthians was for the establishment of immature Christians, but once the church attained greater stability and the scriptural revelation was formally complete, the practice became superfluous and no longer was included in the charismata (1967:118119). The weakness of this view is that it does not resolve the problem of sporadic occurrences of glossolalia reported in church history to say nothing of the phenomenal spread of the practice in the present century.
Kelsey with perception and sympathy follows Cutten by first scrutinizing New Testament statements and then attends the phenomenon in church history following the apostolic period (1964). In a chapter entitled "A Peculiar History," Kelsey summarizes various reported cases in Christendom during the two millenial interval. He discovers that church fathers including illustrious names like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Augustine do not elucidate with clarification in their slight attention to glossolalia, and in their rare comments on the subject they reveal uncertainty as to detail and importance. Thus Chrysostorn in the fourth century expressed his puzzlement by maintaining that the Corinthian references are "exceedingly obscure and the obscurity is occasioned by our ignorance of the facts and the cessation of happenings which were common in those days but unexampled in our own" (quoted by Farrell, 1963:5). Such evidence forces Kelsey to conclude that:
When the church divided into eastern and western segments, the church in the West developed a practical, authoritative, extroverted form of Christianity where the charismata of the church, including tongues, were minimized and opportunity for individual enthusiasm and overt expression was suppressed. In contrast the eastern church encouraged a mystical, individualistic, otherworldly, introverted form of Christianity wherein the gifts of the Spirit flourished and tongues were not frowned upon. Despite freedom for its exercise, glossolalia never assumed the significant role that occurs among its practitioners today, nor did they suggest that tongues were vital for spiritual development among Corinthian Christians.
Following the Reformation glossolalia appeared sporadically in Europe, in some cases among persecuted groups, and eventually appeared in America especially in frontier revivals. The Quakers, Irvingites, Shakers, Mormons, and others are reported to have experienced glossolalia and favored the phenomenon in their doctrinal publications. In the total of religious characteristics, speaking in tongues remained inconsequential by confinement to minority groups and sects; it is with the present emergence of Pentecostal and Holiness churches that glossolalia has become widespread with invasion in older mainline denominations.
It seems reasonable to conclude that glossolalia has not been a predominant factor in the diffusion and maintenance of Christianity. The advocates of its practice seem to exaggerate its historical infrequencies in their effort to identify it with rejuvenation, major thrusts, and critical movements within the church. Examples of unfounded enthusiasm for the historical role of glossolalia include Carroll, in a resume of tongues from the apostolic period to the Reformation (1966: 69-94, and Hargrave in his historical analysis of postReformation events (1966:97-139).
The explanation for glossolalic behavior varies because its cause is viewed by those representing different degrees of advocacy and scholarly competence. Those who claim the gift and participate in contemporary movements propose a theological explanation in which the phenomenon is viewed as a mysterious and "spiritual" episode accompanying the baptism or gift of the Holy Spirit. Commonly the glossolalists, including the Neo-Pentecostals, contend that the Holy Spirit's indwelling by "baptism" is an event distinctly subsequent to the individual's conversion. According to one publication: "For once we have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, there is a further step which is necessary to receive the full promise of God, and that is the acceptance of the Gift of the Holy Spirit" (Why Tongues," p. 2). The evidence of the Gift and the presence of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. In the words of a convert's testimony: "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, with speaking in tongues, is God's second great Gift, following the first Gift of salvation. The second Gift enables us to more fully appreciate the first Gift and provides a language with which to more fully express that appreciation!' (Bloesch, 1966:375).
It is explicit from these interpretations that glossolalia stems from a mystical relationship to God for it is a miraculous demonstration of the Holy Spirit's presence and influence. The ethnologist identifies this relationship as a form of possession to which attention will be directed later in this paper. It is tempting to digress by arguing against this mystical opinion and the theological interpretation upon which it rests but such digression exceeds the scope of the present study and the interpretation has already been refuted by Beare (1964), Bloesch (1966), Gromacki (1967), Hoekema (1966), and others.
In his brief article entitled "Divine or Devilish?", Edman (1964) suggests that tongues may be attributed to one of three causes: demonic possession or control of the person by the devil, a genuine gift of the Holy Spirit, or it is behavior psychologically induced. A similar categorization of possible causes had been proposed earlier by Hitt (1963:15). Hitt's similar explanations are: (1) speaking in tongues is a divine manifestation as the Pentecostals and Neo-Pentecostals contend; (2) the remarkable ecstatic vocalization "is of the Devil" (Hitt qualifies this cause with the comment that, while Satan seeks to counterfeit spiritual behavior, not all glossolalic occurrences are to be attributed to him); and (3) glossolalia is a psychological manifestation within the context of divine superintendency.
Edman and Hitt concur in their opinion that demonic influence may account for some cases but for the most part this source of inducement may be disregarded. Later in this paper references to glossolalic manifestations among non-Christians may resemble some Christian's charismatic utterances which observers attribute to demonic possession, but this writer confesses to skepticism when he rejects such interpretation in all the reported cases. Of course the fundamental question that emerges in considering causes of glossolalia is posed by advocates: Why don't you seek the gift of the Spirit and enjoy the joy of speaking in tongues to be experientially convinced that it is a "spiritual" accession in accord with New Testament precedent? While sympathetically respecting this earnest desire in recruitment, the author prefers Edman and Hitt's third option as causative. That is I assume glossolalia is and has been most commonly a psychologically induced activity not confined to a Christian or Biblical context.
Psychologists studying glossolalia are virtually unanimous in describing the phenomenon as ecstatic vocalization of sounds which do not, for the most part, constitute genuine language. The glossolalist enters a state of emotional exaltation in which, with individual variation and diverse environment, his behavior is symptomatic of somnambulism, hypnotism, catalepsy, or hysteria. Cotten (1927:3) argues that glossolalists experience an emotional state in which the conscious ceases to function and the subconscious emerges to control overt behavior. A related explanation is offered by Lapsley and Simpson (1964b) who postulate that the phenomenon is a dissociative expression of truncated personality development which enables guilt and anxiety laden individuals to transcend personality instability.
investigation by competent scholars is now beginning to provide sound bases for
asserting that glossolalists represent varying degrees of personality abnormalcy.
Thus Wood (1965) employed projective techniques to supplement observation of
Pentecostals in the American South. He has expressed his conclusions in a
summary of fifteen hypotheses rather than factual statements because he admits
the interpretation of his Rorschach protocols may be diverse. Wood's
"hypotheses" include the following insights:
Pentecostal people are mobilizing their inner resources to meet the strongly felt threat of instability in their value-attitude systems and their social relationships; they are in the process of reorganizing their basic perceptual patterns.
Pentecostal people have an uncommon degree of uncertainty concerning interpersonal relationships.
Pentecostalism attracts uncertain, threatened, inadequateIy organized persons with strong motivation to reach a state of satisfactory interpersonal relatedness and personal integrity.
Pentecostalism provides patterns of behavior leading to personality integration, interpersonal relatedness and certainty.
Emotionally intense religious experience is connected in an important way with the process of personality reorientation.
Religious enthusiasm is one solution to socio-cultural situations in which cases of personality disorganization are widespread (1965:93-96).
These excerpts from Wood's findings are in general agreement with other research efforts that see Pentecostal enthusiasm as a prominent characteristic of emotionally instable people with a high susceptibility to psychologically induced ecstatic vocalization. This conclusion has been challenged by some writers who report glossolalia devoid of apparent evidence of emotionalism or aberrant mental states (Kelsey, 1964:143148). A recent study conducted by anthropologists at the University of Minnesota among Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal groups who emphasize tongues led the anthropologists to conclude that many of the active participants are not psychologically disadvantaged (Gerlach, et. al., 1967). A pattern of normalcy seems evident in their sample of urban Twin Cities people with their sample representing a cross section of socioeconomic classes. To buttress their conclusion, Gerlach, the leader of the study, communicated with Stanley Plog in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California in Los Angeles. Dr. Plog is engaged likewise in studying groups associated with the tongues movement and he reported to Gerlach that his psychological testing uncovered little psychological abnormality among Neo-Pentecostals in California (Gerlach, et. al., 1967:11-12).
These preliminary findings notwithstanding, most scholars and observers maintain that glossolalists are usually characterized with some personality deficiency. Admittedly the Neo-Pentecostals do not resort to excesses which have featured holiness movements and revivals where frenzied and orgiastic behavior accompanies speaking in tongues and "healing" (Wood, 1965:11-17). According to Lapsley and Simpson (1964b), a study conducted by Vivier demonstrates that Pentecostals prone to tongues exhibit greater anxiety and personality instability than non-Pentecostals possessing a similar socio-economic classification. Pursuing his research in South Africa, Vivier discovered that Pentecostals practicing glossolalia tended to come from much more disturbed domestic circumstances than did Pentecostals not claiming the gift of tongues. Unfortunately I did not have access to Vivier's dissertation for personal evaluation, but it has been critically examined by several scholars. Kelsey has consulted the study and points out that Vivier interprets the tongues experience on the basis of Jungian theory (1964:204-205). Kelsey emphasizes that Vivier accepts Jung's "collective unconscious" as the basis for the historical occurrences, the personal histories, and the religious attitudes identified with tongues speaking. "Glossolalia, he (Vivier) concludes, can be understood psychologically on the basis of strong convictions of the tongue speaking group and the strong association of thought and language."
Finch, a practicing psychologist, reports a case study of an emotionally disturbed patient who confessed to having received the gift of the Holy Spirit without the ability to speak in tongues (1964). This patient attempted, in an advanced state of frustration, to relate to ultimate reality which, as Finch believes, is God, the ground of all reality. The vital religious experience, continues Finch, provides an answer to prevent man from seeking ultimate reality in self. In certain respects the would-be glossolalist shares the desire of a Hindu who attempts to find himself enveloped by reality which in Hinduism is to merge by complete assimulation into the universal atmen. This mergence, Finch procedes to explain, is accomplished by removing one's self from all maya or illusions of this physical life by mystical contemplation and degrees of mental inertia. Finch sees a like process at play among those who experiment with hallucinatory drugs and similar attempts-all phenomenological evidence that the individual is seeking to ground himself in the Other that created him.
This bit of metaphysical parenthesis is relevant to our study because, psychologically, glossolalia may be placed in the same category since some people with certain personality configurations are so constituted that they yearn to be vehicles of the supernatural. Glossolalia fulfills this intense yearning. Mystical religious experiences have been used as a defense against reality with potential danger to the emotional equilibrium of the individual. One of Finch's patients demonstrated the unfortunate process by attempting to substitute ecstatic experiences for personal effort. The patient expected God to magically enable him to play the piano but when this was not realized, he sought by the same means skill as a vocalist with like failure. Finch's words are quite effective in relating the tragic consequences: "The subject seemed to progress from infantilism and extreme dependency feelings to an hysterical attempt to hold together his shattering ego by a frantic leap to glossolalia (in this case a hysterical symptom). When the symptom could not carry the weight of the attempt, it splintered into schizophrenia. Eventually he had to be committed to a mental hospital." (1964:13). (Incidentally, Finch once offered to administer psychological tests to one hundred members in a church where glossolalia was practiced, but his offer was declined.)
If glossolalia may be considered ecstatic vocalization of known or unknown patterns of sounds stemming from an emotional state, it is evident that the phenomenon is not unique to Christian groups. That bizarre utterances occur in non-Christian cultures emphasizes the fact that the practice is not self-authenticating. It is in the awareness of its cross-cultural appearance that the ethnologist may provide additional understanding of it. The ethnologist traditionally devotes his efforts to an analysis of human behavior derived from as great a sample of different cultures as possible in order to reveal the range of differences as well as to discover basic similarities. This effort is predicated on the belief that generalizations concerning man's behavior should not be offered until a representative sample from many cultures is considered.
Ethnocentrism is a problem in the cross-cultural study of glossolalia as it is in any investigation of cultural features possessing affective values of the people's ethos. Ethnocentrism may be defined as "the excessive centering of ideas and values around those of one's own culture so that the customs of people of different culture are depreciated and regarded as amusing, ridiculous, inferior, unworthy of serious consideration, immoral, or animal-like" (Norbeck, 1961:7). The ethnocentric glossolalist in Christianity insists that his experience is unique for it is a charism received from the Holy Spirit. The evidence contradicts this opinion however for such belief neglects the fact that non-Christians have beliefs and customs which may approximate or even duplicate Christian patterns. Many examples may be provided but let us cite the case of female chastity. Ethnocentric Christians in Western culture commonly believe that female chastity is unknown among non-Christian peoples because their cultures lack Christian morality and ethical systems governing behavior. Of course chastity is an ideal among Christians but it was also an ideal among some cultural groups (sometimes designated "savages") uninfluenced by Christianity. The Cheyenne Indians of the North American Plains placed great emphasis upon female chasity (Hoebel, 1960:20-21), and the Manus people of the Admiralty Islands maintained similar standards for their women until they experienced acculturation by Western peoples (Mead, 1930:113, 184).
In an excellent work on glossolalia, Kelsey displays unusual objectivity but cannot escape some ethnocentrism when confronted with religious enthusiasm among non-Christian cultures. Ethnocentrism prompts him to reject any relationship between a reported non-emotional. demonstration of glossolalia and that displayed during shamanistic trance. He contends that emotionalism is not necessary for speaking in tongues and supports this by citing the case of Reverend Dennis Bennett who spoke in tongues with equanimity during a television interview in Los Angeles (Kelsey, 1964:145). When commenting about an article written by the anthropologist, May, who describes and analyzes glossolalia among non-Christians, Kelsey rejects shamanistic utterances during hysterical frenzy as comparable with the tongues phenomena among Christians.
Superficially Kelsey's negative reaction seems appropriate but careful examination of ethnological evidence compels one to grant existing grounds for comparison. Glossolalia as practiced by a composed clergyman before a television audience and that accompanying a shamanistic seance may seem quite remote from each other but actually they are different in degree rather than kind. They may be considered extremes in overt behavior on a continuum from sedate performance to hysterical activity within the framework of religious enthusiasm. Undoubtedly Kelsey as a sophisticated, refined member of urbane civilization would be offended, even nauseated, to share a meal with, say, a South African Bushman who gorges himself with meat following the kill with no awareness of Western concepts of sanitation and etiquette; or again to share eating with the Eskimo, "the eaters of raw meat," who consider the contents of the slain animal's intestines a choice delicacy. But Kelsey must allow that these revolting eating habits satisfy a dietary imperative just as dining at a luxurious restaurant with excellent cuisine. We must not allow impressionistic differences to obscure fundamental similarities. Overt behavior does not always reflect an individual's emotional or ecstatic state which may be an integral feature of what some have called the individual's "covert personality." Stoicism is known to occur among religious enthusiasts in the Christian faith and may be compared with the Buddhist who determines to renounce all attachments to life in a state of religious dedication. To the imperturbable Buddhist, "salvation, here and hereafter," is "a state of perfectly painless peace and joy, a psychologically achieved freedom from misery of any kind" (Noss, 1963:189, italics supplied).
Little effort is required to make transition from ethnocentrism and glossolalia to spirit possession and glossolalia. Possession is a common occurrence in many cultures where it is frequently associated with ecstatic vocalizations. The pertinent question at this point is whether Christian tongues stem from what might be considered possession as in vocalizations from possession in non-Christian groups. Gerlach and his associates report that "Pentecostal tongue speaking, contrary to our expectations, is more significantly different from spirit possession in other cultures than it is similar, and that this difference lies not only in the state of dissociation itself but, more importantly, in the results in terms of changed behavior" (1967:4). However these authors qualify this assertion by confessing that there are a "variety of types of possession experiences which vary between groups, between individuals within groups and between different experiences for the same individual over time" (1967:7).
In a critical review of the Episcopalian Commission's study on glossolalia (1963), Sadler (1964) believes that they failed to resolve fundamental problems attending the tongues phenomena in the Episcopalian church. One of the problems considered by Sadler is the question of possession by the participants. Sadler's reasoning is worthy of some attention so we shall follow his thinking and criticism. The Episcopalian Commission's report uses "spirit possession" which means possession by the Holy Spirit at first, but later the Commission inexplicably substitutes the phrase "demonic possession" (1963:6, 13). The result is unfortunate confusion in attributing glossolalia to divine possession or to demonic possession. Sadler's criticism of this confusion leads us to briefly explore the concept of possession based on ethnological findings.
Walter and Frances Mischel have studied spirit possessi n in the Shango cult in Trinidad in a quest to discover psychological factors underlying the phenomena (1958). The induction of possession is at religious feasts or sacrifices where the combination of crowd excitement, singing, darkness, candles, circular rhythmic dancing, and other ceremonial phases are intensified by incessant drumming. The expected and common result is possession by the spirit or "Powers" with a dramatic physical transformation including body vibrations, rhythmic bending of the body forward and backward, dilation of the eyes, and a fixed stare. The specific behavior in which the spirit, or a particular power, may engage covers a wide range. The spirit then speaks through the possessed individual in a mixture of genuine language and nonsense syllablesin short, a form of glossolalia.
The Mischels assume that behavior during possession is perpetuated only if it is reinforcing or rewarding to those who exhibit it, and they conclude that there is positive reinforcement by temporary alleviation of anxiety. Also the practice of spirit possession permits the sanctioned expressions of behaviors which are otherwise socially unacceptable or unavailable. A further reinforcement is that the spirit possessed person has considerable control over those attending the ceremony. The possessed's "slightest wish is immediately carried out; the onlookers are utterly at his disposal and ready to advance, retreat, sing, or keep silent at his command" (Mischel and Mischel, 1958:254). The cult leader of course exerts the greatest and most consistent control when possessed by the spirit.
Ethnologists trace this form of spirit possession and related behavior to the West Coast of Africa, the original home of most Trinidadians and other West Indian Negroes. The noted Africanist, Herskovits, has pointed out that among the people of West Africa "possession by the God (is) the supreme religious experience" (1941:215). To a considerate degree the Negroes in the New World have retained African forms of worship; the Shango cult is but one of several syncretic groups in the area. Spirit possession plays a leading role in all of them. In fact, a less exotic form of possession, but nevertheless related to the same phenomenon, occurs in Negro and white Pentecostal churches in many parts of the United States (Fauset, 1944; Holt, 1940).
The relevance of these observations on spirit possession is that Christian glossolalists frequently attribute their tongues ability to the "filling of the Holy Spirit" or complete abandonment of self to the will of God with the consequent indwelling Spirit controlling the entire being including the vocal mechanism. The problem of spirit possession and demonic possession is not resolved by these comments, but further reference to West Indian culture reveals an interesting contrast in the opinion of those peoples. Alfred Metraux, in his classic study of possession in the Voodoo cult in Haiti, clearly states that possession by the gods is sought after and much desired, while possession by evil spirits is viewed as frightening and morbid (1959:127). It is apparent that the Voodoo cultists distinguish between the two types of possession on the basis of personality and cultural integration.
The Study Commission of the Episcopalian church fails to appreciate the ethnological method for they are reluctant to compare glossolalic occurrence among Christians with "pagan" experiences. In their words: "The Holy Spirit is not akin to a pagan spirit conceived as an ethereal individual in search of a person vulnerable to possession." They continue: ". . . pagan possession is a private matter" and that it does not "take place in community" nor does it have "as its fruit the widening of the community" (1963:10). The most effective means to answer this argument is to cite Metraux's treatment of Voodoo where he suggests that the "sympathetic concern" of the gathered community "provides an atmosphere of moral and physical security which is conducive to total abandonment in the state of trance" (1959:122).
Ethnological data supports the hypothesis that conditions for trance and possession are favored by ceremonial order including considerable repetition in singing, dancing, or similar behavior. The manifestation of tongues among the sedate Anglicans is related to a favorable occasion for the Report explicity states; ". . . prayer for baptism of the Holy Spirit with the signtongue usually comes at the end of a time of testimony and prayer together and therefore, after considerable emotional involvement, if not display;" and furthermore the Report continues "Tongues-speaking frequently is induced or at least prefaced by repetition of some key phrase such as 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus"' (1963:13).
Mental health is necessarily involved in considering personalities susceptible to possession and glossolalic states of exhaltation. Earlier in this paper some note was made to the fact that there is evidence sustaining a state of dissastisfaction by tongue speakers with spiritual experiences prior to glossolalic episodes. This discontent frequently took on the proportions of obsession with attending degrees of anxiety. Sadler's critique of the Commission's Report refers to the uneasiness of Doctors John W. Perry and Richard M. Sutherland, psychiatrists on the Commission, when they "point out that there is a significant difference between the person who can 'decide' to indulge in glossolalia and then withdraw from it at will, and the one whose conscious is overwhelmed by his unconscious until sufficient release has taken place. The latter hardly could be considered as in emotional good health" (1964:87). The Commission's Report continues with these words: "Our psychiatrists point out that the term 'surrender' . . . is a familiar one to them," which the Commission then explains: "Glossolalia is not per se a religious phenomenon . . . In its non-religious manifestations it appears among adults who are suffering from mental disorders as schizophrenia and hysteria" (1963:12).
Again we may turn to the writings of the ethnologist, Metraux in his study of voodooism, for he challenges the Commission's conclusion with these comments:
Ritual possessions are often attributed to nervous disorders of a hysterical nature. Twenty-odd years ago Herskovits had already refuted that explanation by drawing attention to the stylized and controlled nature of the phenomenon and its frequency in a society in which it was the normal means of communicating with supernatural powers. The number of people subject to possession is too large for all of them to be labelled hysterics ... (1959:135).
In pursuing this ethnological point of view, the recent exhaustive treatment of shamanism by Mircea Eliade comes to mind (1964). In case the reader is unacquainted with anthropological terminology, a shaman is a magico-religious practitioner engaged in priestly, prophetic and medical functions among simpler cultures. Usually his office involves faith and practice based upon the theory of possession in which a spirit from outside the individual takes control of the individual and operates through him while in a state of possession. However the shaman may reverse this "coming in" of the divine spirit and leave his body to visit paradise and communicate directly with divine persons. It must be emphasized that both phenomena occur by the individual's entrance into an ecstatic trance state. Scholars have raised the question of the mental health of one subject to repeated excursions into ecstatic state and some have concluded that the shaman is a pathological case. Eliade has this to say:
This problem, in our view, has been wrongly stated. In the first place, it is not correct to say that shamans are, or must always be, neuropaths: on the contrary, a great many of them are perfectly sound in mind. Moreover, those who had previously been ill have become shamans just because they succeeded in getting well. Very often, when the vocation reveals itself in the course of an illness or an attack of epilepsy, the initiation is also a cure. The acquisition of the shamanic gifts indeed presupposes the resolution of the psychic crisis brought on by the first signs of this vocation. The initiation is manifested by-among other things-a new psychic integration ( 1960:77).
Eliade derives information from multiple sources to support this view that possession, commonly accompanied by glossolalia, is not a basis for regarding shamans as hopeless lunatics, Similarly the British ethnologist, Nadel, after a thorough investigation of shamanism in the African Sudan, has this to report:
And here it is important to stress that neither epilepsy nor insanity, nor yet other minor mental derangements, are in themselves regarded as symptoms of spirit possession. They are diseases, abnormal disorders, not supernatural qualifications. No shaman is, in everyday life, an abnormal individual, a neurotic or a paranoic; if he were, he would be classed as a lunatic, not respected as a priest. Nor finally can shamanism be correlated with incipient or latent abnormality; I recorded no case of a shaman whose professional hysteria deteriorated into serious mental disorders ( 1965:478).
While anxiety and emotional problems undoubtedly characterize the personality of many glossolalists, the findings of Eliade, Nadel, and others restrain us from assigning all members of tongues movements to a psychotic category wherein it is imperative they receive psychiatric attention on the basis of religious emotionalism. Most of these people may be quite normal in their everyday life but are unable, or do not care to exercise the ability, to cope with the unconscious in seeking a vital spiritual experience. Perhaps Sadler is correct when he suggests that among the Neo-Pentecostals who practice glossolalia there may not be neurosis but the unconscious may be expressing itself positively in an implementation of creativity (1964:90).
An attempt to understand glossolalia as an ethnological study is incomplete without attention to the various types that have been observed in contrasting cultures. May (1956:77) refers to a study that the present author has not seen; it is a work by Lombard, a French scholar, who as early as 1910 proposed four main types of glossolalia. He called his first type "phonations frustes" which is characterized by incomprehensible sounds including mumbling, gurgling, and groaning. This form of ecstatic vocalization is the simplest in Lombard's scheme, and it occurs most usually during possession by shamans among South American and Australian aborigines. "Pseudo-language" is Lombard's second type. These utterances are sounds fabricated by the subject and may include fragments of words, and on occasion there may be evidence of alliteration with simulation of sentences as exemplified by Shango cultists in Trinidad. The third type is verbal fabrication wherein words, coined by the individual, contain particles of foreign and native phonemes which may conform to identified grammatical rules. Cutten (1927: 136-148) devotes extended attention to the case of a Helene Smith (a pseudonym) in Switzerland. As a spiritualist medium, she experienced total somnambulism and visited Mars. Upon awaking from the trance she responded to the French-speaking company with an incomprehensible jargon which competent scholars judged to be in part a fabrication of a counterfeited French mixed with a few Arabic and Sanscrit words. Lombard's final type is xenoglossia, or miraculously speaking unlearned foreign tongues.
Among his brief comments about Lombard's types, May observes that the four are not mutually exclusive, but that the glossolalist may utter a combination of all four during a single episode of ecstatic vocalization (1956:78). This fact complicates the problem of typing glossolalic forms, but even more serious to the ethnologist is the data to which he must refer for the phenomenon. Ethnographic reports are notoriously incomplete because the ethnographer is usually limited in interest and time with the result that, with a few exceptions, glossolalia receives scant attention. The persistent problem confronting the student who seeks to know the glossolalic form in the New Testament is compounded for the ethnologist. The work accomplished by May is the most complete published up to the preesnt time so it may be wise to follow his lead with some modifications. He incorporates Lombard's four types into six categories which he labels the language of spirits, sacerdotal language, the language of animals, phonations frustes, xenoglossia, and ermeneglossia (1956:78-88). The language of spirits or supernatural beings is commonly found among aboriginal peoples of the subarctic regions of North America and Asia. The shamans employ this form of speech in their divinatory and curing ceremonies (Rasmussen, 1921-24:31; Bogoras. 1907:413, 438). There are also reports of this type elsewhere, as, for example the case cited in Micronesia (Wallis, 1939:82). Some Bible commentators are inclined to include this type in the New Testament occurrences for Easton (1943:2996), in reference to First Corinthians 13:1 suggests that the kinds of tongues may have included "celestial languages" with Paul's statement "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels..."
Sacerdotal language is the special type used by priests and religious leaders, and differs from spirit language principally by its inclusion of obsolete words. Thalbitzer (1931:432) argues that this language form is a stereotyped argot persisting among shamans in Greenland. Among the Dyaks of Borneo, the medicine men chant with obsolete words unintelligible to the laymen (Dunn, 1906:174-75). Obsolete words and cabalistic language used in religious ceremonies are widespread; thus when the excited priest in Haiti resorts to a special language as he communicates with the deity, the form of language is believed to be a vestige of African speech no longer used in the vernacular (Deren, 1953: 196). That this is indeed a form of glossolalia is apparent for the priest does not seem to know the meaning of the words; only the deity is supposed to understand the utterances. In the "zar" cult of northern Ethiopia, the doctor or shaman must possess specific qualifications for his office, these include the ability to speak the 11 zar language" which Abyssinians regard "as a completely different, esoteric language, but which is actually an argot composed of deformed Amharic . . . paraphrases, and foreign loanwords" (Messing, 1958:1122; see also Leslau, 1949). Some reported cases of sacerdotal language cannot be regarded as a legitimate form of glossolalia for the obsolete words are understood by the speaker who may have learned them from elder colleagues. In this connection, one is reminded of the retention of Latin in the litanies of High Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches as well as the Orthodox church.
May's third category is the language of animals. Eliade (1964:96-99) has examined the use of animal language used by religio-medical functionaries and finds it a common phenomenon among Siberian shamans as well as practitioners elsewhere. A quotation from Eliade will perhaps be an adequate summary of the form:
. . . this secret language is actually the 'animal language' or originates in animal cries. In South America the neophyte must learn, during his initiation period, to imitate the voices of animals. The same is true of North America . . . All over the world learning the language of animals, especially of birds, is equivalent to knowing the secrets of nature and hence to being able to prophesy . . . Learning their language, imitating their voice, is equivalent to ability to communicate with the beyond and the heavens.
The ocurrence of phonations frustes, the fourth type, in non-Christian religions includes such bizarre sounds produced by ventriloquism as whistling and shrieking. Metraux's description of the Chaco Indians of South America includes information about their magical rites which often consist of a monotonous repetition of a melodious theme interspersed with meaningless words or syllables (1946:353). Metraux does not provide detail as to the psychological state of the participants but Ortiz (1946:967), in discussing the curanderos or tribal doctors of the Andes, asserts that the practitioners chew drugs to induce a semi-conscious condition during which they intermittently recite unintelligible prayers. When studying the Dinka in the African Sudan, Lienhardt observed similar ecstatic utterances although he does not give all details. Evidently the experience is associated with what the Dinka consider to be spirit possession accompanied by vocalizations derived from a close personal contact with "Powers" (Lienhardt, 1961:58). Lienhardt does describe one seizure with these words: "Bursts of frenzied movement were interspersed with quieter periods, when he (the possessed individual) sang snatches of songs which nobody could understand . . . The situation is a familiar one to all Dinka" (1961:58-59). Within the Christian tongues movement, the problem of glossolalic form is not resolved to the satisfaction of all scholars, but many do hold that one form approximates what May describes as phonations frustes.
May's fifth form is xenoglossia or the miraculous ability to speak in a foreign language without studying that language. The numerous cases cited' in Christian and non-Christian literature reveal that the form is widespread and bears considerable uniformity in occurrence. In his ethnography of the Haida Indians of the Pacific Northwest, Swanton refers to a shamanistic performance which included spirit control of the sbaman's tongue enabling him to speak Tlingit language (1905:38). When not possessed by the spirit, the shaman was totally ignorant of Tlingit. This case is not an isolated instance in the Pacific Northwest, but an even more interesting occurrence is described by DuBois (1935:35-39, 91ff.) about an Indian of northern California, Nels Charles, who attended a white mission school. He was unfamiliar with the Wintu Indian language but DuBois quotes him as saying, "I can't even talk Wintu well, but when a spirit enters me the spirit talks and they say I talk Wintu perfectly well. It is just like talking with unknown tongues and getting the spirit in the Pentecostal church" (cited also by May, 1956:83). It is not clear whether Charles was a professing Christian but the case shows unmistakable Christian influence. A number of xenoglossic cases have been described in Africa where, it may be noted, bilingualism and multilingualism are common. Among these we may refer to one discussed by the Christian missionary Junod who wrote an excellent ethnography about the Thonga (1962). Junod describes the practice of exorcising evil spirits by Thonga shamans; in his description he states that the patient being exorcised sings a curative song which he himself creates. "These songs are generally in Zulu, and it is asserted that, even if the patient does not know this language, he will be able to use it in his conversation, by a kind of miracle of tongues" (Junod, 1962:445). Edman refers to the Wheaton College graduate who was born and reared on the Tibetan border where he heard the Tibetan monks, during their ritual dances, speak in English with quotations from Shakespeare, and with profanity like drunken soldiers, or in German or French (1964: 16).
A striking occurrence of xenoglossia is related by Slotkin among North American Indians (1965). As an anthropologist and former member and officer of the Native American Church, or the Peyote cult, Slotkin has had considerable experience in this nativistic movement. He describes sympathetically the Peyote cult which is a kind of Indian version of Christianity, having adopted Christian theology, ethics, and escatology with appropriate modifications to make the doctrines compatible with traditional Indian culture. Peyote is a drug that produces heightened sensibility wherein one feels that he influences others or is influenced by the thoughts of others. Let the account of Slotkin (1965: 515-516) make this experience clear in association with glossolalia:
In this connection a frequent phenomenon is speaking in tongues, which results from the fact that people from different tribes participate in a rite together, each using his own language; Peyote teaches one the meaning of otherwise unknown languages.
For example, during the rite of each male participant in succession sings solo four songs at a time. Recently a Winnebago sitting next to me sang a song with what I heard as a Fox text (Fox is an Algonquian language closely related to Menomini, the language I use in the rite), sung so clearly and distinctly I understood every word.
When he was through, I leaned over and asked, 'How come you sang that song in Fox rather than Winnebago (a Siouan language unintelligible to me?)'
'I did sing it in Winnebago,' he replied. The afternoon following the rite he sat down next to me and asked me to listen while he repeated the song; this time it was completely unintelligible to me because the effects of Peyote had worn off.
There seems no reasons for doubting the actuality of this form of glossolalia, and it seems probable, in the opinion of the writer, that xenoglossia was the form of vocalization on Pentecost as stated by Luke in the second chapter of Acts.
The final form of unusual vocal behavior listed by May is ermeneglossia or the interpretation of tongues. The problem of credibility is particularly acute in analyzing reported cases other than xenoglossia which of course may be recognized by one conversant in the foreign language spoken. But if the vocalizations are in, say, the form of phonations frustes, the interpretation presents problems, for who ultimately is to determine the authenticity and accurateness of an interpretation? One need only remember Cutten's example of the Mormon boy who was reported to possess the interpretative gift (1927:182). When called upon to interpret a woman's utterance, "Ornela, meli, melee," in a glossolalic meeting, the boy responded immediately with the interpretation of "Oh! my leg! my thigh, my knee!" May offers numerous instances of ermeneglossia but the following one may be cited as typical:
In his discussion of shamanism in Japanese religion Oguchi . . . tells of a man living in Hakkaido who founded a new religion attaching importance to horses and water. While being anesthetized preparatory to an abdominal operation, this man Yasui Juiji experienced a curious form of interpretation of tongues. He avers that he could understand the German his surgeon was speaking just as though it were Japanese. That the attendants laughed when he told them he could understand the doctor's words indicates that he was not conscious at the time. Mr. Juiji claims that God's dwelling within him enabled him to understand German (May, 1956:87).
Within the Christian context of the many utterances, there are endless accounts of the ability to interpret these unknown tongues. It is common knowledge that Paul suggests "If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret" (I Corinthians 14:27 RSV). This does not remove the fact that fraudulent claims have been made by counterfeit glossolalists both in ecstatic utterances and in fabricated interpretations.
This study has insisted in linking tongues to psychological states like anxiety, emotionalism, and ecstasy. It is the author's contention that glossolalia permits identification with the supernatural in the process of emotional release through ecstatic behavior even though overt behavior may not manifest covert affective states. The emotional release is in turn essential for personality integration to those who are characterized by varying degrees of instability or anxiety to enable them to cope with frustrations and threats actual or imagined. Varying degrees of neuroses accompanying anxiety are common to mankind everywhere for ethnographic study and reports about different peoples throughout the world substantiate such an assertion.
The writer wishes to conclude this study by glancing briefly at the prevalence of mental disturbances among Western peoples, a fact which probably makes them susceptible to glossolalic, behavior as a means of emotional release while linking themselves closely to the supernatural. insofar as I have examined the ethnographic literature, glossolalia associated with mass religious movements occurs only among Western people or among those in some stage of acculturation by Western people. If we limit the phenomenon to contemporary America, we may raise the question: Why has the tongues movement achieved notable success in gaining large numbers of recruits as well as invading mainline denominations? A likely answer to this question provided by glossolalists is that the splintered church denominations have lost their Christian vitality and dynamic qualities of spirituality in a skeptical and secularistic environment. Perhaps this answer is partially correct but it seems somewhat too simplistic and neat when one considers the complex circumstances of contemporary life.
As an anthropologist interested in cultural factors contributing to frustrations and anxiety, I see a more comprehensive answer in an ethnological viewpoint. In anthropology the study of individuals and their personalities has been greatly influenced by psychoanalysis. We cannot explore the ramifications of this influence but merely comment that each personality does develop in a cultural milieu and is to a certain degree fashioned by forces within the culture. Thus, the psychoanalyst, Karen Horney (1937), clearly perceives the critical importance of cultural factors in the causation of psychic disturbances. Also, in his study of American character, Henry (1963) relentlessly outlines the fears that underlie our society as he examines such basic institutions as childhood, formal education, parenthood, and old age (or what he calls "Human Obsolescence"). Henry's conclusion is that American anxiety springs from a conflict between "values" and "drives." The drives (achievement, competition, profit, mobility, security, a higher standard of living, etc.) are in conflict with a group of urges, or values (gentleness, kindliness, generosity, etc.), with the result that "in our culture a central issue for the emotional life of everyone is the interplay between these two" (Henry, 1963:13). The result is frustration and anxiety.
Anxiety rests upon the foundation of insecurity which is present to some degree in most Americans. Nearly twenty years ago the anthropologist, John Gillin (1948), suggested some specific reasons for American insecurity. He wrote that three fundamental supports providing self-confidence have been removed with no adequate substitutes replacing them. First, the decline of kinship in American society has removed man from an essential group whose behavior he could predict and in whose circle the individual could expect succor when in trouble. Second, the support of material wealth and symbols of wealth has lost its assurance. The depression taught men that there is no reliable security in material possessions. Religion furnished the third support. "If one's relatives show no interest in one and if one's God has been exploded by indifference and skepticism, what does one have left?"
and Western man are insecure and anxious people. It is the writer's opinion
there is a positive correlation between the disappearance of traditional
supports sustaining man's self-confidence and the emergence of charismatic
revivalism with its glossolalic phenomenon. Through ecstatic experiences by
which he identifies with the supernatural, man secures compensation for the
social, economic, and spiritual vacuum characteristic of Western culture in the
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