Documentary Intertext: Trance and Dance in Bali 1951

  • Daniel White


This chapter argues that so-called “dissociative disorders” in psychology are akin, as Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson thought, to altered mental states invoked by Balinese dancers in their cultural rituals. The evocation of a “trance” by the hypnotic practices of “dance” yielded a “schizophrenic” consciousness that heeded the wider social-ecological network constituting and sustaining Balinese lifeways. Here, the creation of new states of mind is studied together with the linkages between Balinese ritual and, for example, child rearing, in which patterns of aggression—what Bateson called “schismogenesis”—were constrained by complementary social and psychological responses to symmetrical behavioral sequences leading toward “climax.” Further, the expansion of psychological states that ritual entailed in Bali complements Balinese religion, which in turn, in our final film studied, regulates a temple water system on the island and provides a template for the arts. Human-ecological “wisdom” may be derived, Bateson argued, and “conscious purpose” curtailed, by contemplative artistry. The relationship between digital and analogical coding in the arts, play, and evolution is finally explored, as Balinese patterns of culture become, in Bateson’s work in film and photography, not only the discipline of “visual ethnography,” but also metaphoric guidelines for mental ecology.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel White
    • 1
  1. 1.Honors CollegeFlorida Atlantic UniversityJupiterUSA

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