Monday, October 25, 2004

The Concept of the Thai Spirit

“Spirit is a power that causes, through its working from outside, changes and engenders unequal, asymmetrical relations within the individual as well as social groups. It is an ambiguous, external power, and affects directly or indirectly the individual and social relations, irrespective of whether it is institutionalized or not. This power of spirit is explicit when it attacks a person unpredictably or punishes him in response to his neglect of ritual duties. Such workings of spirit can cause instability, or destruction or, even worse, tatal collapse of internal equilibrium, which normally is believed to be maintained within the individual and social groups.

A person intrinsically has his or her own internal equilibrium, constituted of the relationship between khwan (soul) and rangkai (soul), which is always vulnerable and exposed to external power represented by various forms of spirit. …khwan as a popular notion refers to the collective soul entity believed to be firmly located within the person’s body. The firm unity of the soul entity and body provides health, while the drifting away of soul from body that could occur upon intrusion of external power, or through interference from other influential forces, can result in ill-health or even death. It is this idea of unity of soul and body which forms the basis of the stability of the equilibrium and its breakdown in association with external forces.”

from "Thai Construction of Knowledge,

ed. by Manas Chitakasem and Andrew Turton, London: SOAS, 1991."

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