Accepted Paper:

Becoming sacred: revelation and agency in East Java, Indonesia  

Author:

Kostas Retsikas (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on material from Muslim East Java, the paper concentrates on the assumed connections of the body and the soul of human persons with the otherwise invisible and imperceptible sacred, and builds upon a series of narrative experiences of revelation by people who have come to be endowed with the capacity to heal humanity’s many ailments so as to conceptualise processes of corporeal becoming and transformation.

Paper long abstract:

Central to several forms of Sufi cosmological conceptions is the concept of nur Muhammad, the light of Muhammad, emanating from God and allowing for the communication and transfer of divine knowledge to humanity. This light is thought of as descending on especially pious persons who have through impeccable character, exemplary deeds and ascetic practice, progressed far enough upwards the path towards unity with God. Drawing on material from Muslim East Java, the paper concentrates on the assumed connections of the body and the soul of human persons with the otherwise invisible and imperceptible sacred, and builds upon a series of narrative experiences of revelation by people who have come to be endowed with the capacity to heal humanity's many ailments so as to conceptualise processes of corporeal becoming and transformation.

The inception of divine light into the human is portrayed in highly dramatic tone and usually follows upon many trials by ordeal in which the incipient must prove his/her worthiness. The gift of knowledge is bestowed in the midst of highly dangerous and tormenting encounters and cases of privation that culminate in the sudden loss of consciousness, a little death of sorts, while it is marked by crashing sounds - nddhuuk...struum...shreed - electrical currents, and unexpected body penetrations. The becomings that the embodiment of the gift inaugurates amount to the acquisition of an enhanced sense of awareness and an amplified degree of control over the forces at play in the world. Such becomings are publicly evinced through the capacity to perform healing.

Panel W011
Body and soul: on corporeality in contemporary religiosity