Joseph Trimble


The Circling Spirits Call Us Home: Connecting Researchers with the Spiritual and Sacred through the Traditional Healer

The first part of the title, Circling Spirits Call Us Home, refers to the calling of traditional healers and researchers to their respective practices. Many traditional healers and researchers will tell you the circling spirits call them “home” to their practices and most heed the calling. In answering their calling many scholars and researchers who spend time with traditional healers find themselves at the edge of their disciplines; some say through their experiences they have been called to explore the spiritual and the sacred, too.

Often these researchers find themselves coping with life in the context of a marginal culture. The study of traditional healers can stretch the credibility of conventional investigators who find themselves in these settings. What we often have then is a marginal person conducting research on marginal people with marginal research methods.

Numerous scientific accomplishments and discoveries come from curious researchers who place themselves at the edge of their fields of inquiry.  Science cannot advance rapidly with the monotonous repetition of conventional methods and wisdom.  Science grows and prospers only when we afford investigators the opportunity to take a topic to the edge of existing knowledge.

At the crux of the core motif of indigenous people is the belief that the sacred, the spirit, and spirituality are omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent; the belief is indisputable and unassailable.  Yet these deeply held and abiding beliefs are not without those who criticize the beliefs for their seeming animalistic qualities, their ethereal fundamentals, and their seeming lack of demonstrable evidence.

Frequently hidden from the view of outsiders, traditional belief systems and practices are a source for explanations of various experiences ranging from the occurrence of natural phenomena to the cause and treatment of physical and psychological conditions. For example, magical thinking, as it’s referred to in the psychiatric literature, often is a source of many indigenous societies’ explanations and thus is worthy of consideration by the scientific community.

The processes by which traditional indigenous people go about relating to life often are drastically different from the processes used by Western science and specifically the social and behavioral sciences. In fact, knowledge of these traditional ways cannot be obtained through the scientific grid. This presentation will explore the researcher’s relationship with traditional healers, indigenous ways of knowing, and the foray into alternative research approaches.

Joseph Trimble’s website can be found here.