The Psychic and Spiritual in Philippine Culture
Where culture and spirituality intersect.
Well-documented cases of true paranormal phenomena imply that consciousness goes beyond the brain, rather than emerge from it (Beauregard et al., 2018). For example, it has been proven that mediums can indeed receive accurate information about deceased individuals (Sarraf et al., 2020). The founder of Ateneo de Manila University’s psychology department, Fr. Jaime C. Bulatao, has always said that it is important to distinguish between the experience and our explanation for it (Bulatao, 1992). Thus, whether accurate mediumship implies an afterlife or merely telepathy depends on one’s interpretation of the phenomenon.
In the Philippine setting, paranormal phenomena is not uncommon. Philippine culture is, after all, experienced as transpersonal, in that the individual is part of a larger whole (Bulatao, 1992). Kapwa, which refers to shared identity, is an important aspect of Filipino culture (Enriquez, 1978). This is where the individual merges into the collective. Other cultural values associated with kapwa show a kind of cultural telepathy. Pakikisama, which is about matching one’s attitude to the mood of the group, can only be properly done if one has pakikiramdam, which is a sense of feeling with the group. Those who are trying to figure out the implicit rules of the group adopt an attitude of hiya, which has often been translated to “shame”, but is more appropriately translated to “a sense of propriety” (Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000).
Transpersonal values are also projected onto the external world, in that nature is treated with the same respect and reverence as though it were also a living and breathing being.
Transpersonal experiences manifest as psychic phenomena and use the familiar metaphors of spirituality. Philippine culture is inherently spiritual (Bulatao, 1992). Local superstitions reflect a reverential fear for the invisible beings of nature. “Excuse me” is said to the duwende when crossing a grassy area. Permission is asked from the engkanto before bathing in a river. Pointing at ancient, tall trees is rude because a kapre might be living there. When someone gets sick, and medicine can’t explain it, it might be because a certain spirit was angered.
The spirits that visited the Filipino’s pre-colonial ancestors still live within the psyche of modern man. The metaphors may have changed, but the experiences remain the same (Bulatao, 1992). The Filipino’s spiritual experiences — which are often interchangeable with psychic experiences — are part of their culture. In order to understand the Filipino’s psyche and spirit, the good scientist must be open to a transpersonal perspective. As Bulatao (1992) said, individuals are not hard-boiled eggs, separate from one another. They are part of kapwa, and kapwa looks like eggs frying in a pan — the yolks are distinct, but the egg whites are one.
- Beauregard, M., Trent, N.L., Schwartz, G.E. (2018). Toward a postmaterialist psychology: Theory, research, and applications. New Ideas in Psychology, 50, 21–33.
- Bulatao, J.C. (1992). Phenomena and their interpretation: Landmark essays 1957–1989. Ateneo de Manila University Press.
- Enriquez, V.G. (1978). Kapwa: A core concept in Filipino social psychology. Philippine Social Sciences and Humanities Review, 42 (1–4), 100–108.
- Pe-Pua, R. & Protacio-Marcelino, E. (2000). Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology): A legacy of Virgilio G. Enriquez. Journal of Social Psychology 3(1), 49–71.
- Sarraf, M., Woodley of Menie, M.A., & Tressoldi, P. (2021). Anomalous information reception by mediums: A meta-analysis of the scientific evidence. Explore, 17(5), 396–402)