Felicitas Maria Johanna Daniels was born of ethnic German parents in Budapest, Hungary, on January 30, 1914. She was the elder of two children. In her youth, she was educated by the Roman Catholic order of Ursuline nuns, though her family was Lutheran. As a young woman, she attended the University of Heidelberg (Germany) and in 1936 earned her degree as an interpreter. It was here that she met her future husband, Glenn H. Goodman, an American from Ohio.
In 1947, Felicitas, Glenn, and their first three children immigrated to Columbus, Ohio, where Glenn became a professor of German at Ohio State University. Her fourth child was born a few years later. During this period, Felicitas taught German and English and worked as a translator of scientific articles.
In 1965, when she was 51 and her children were grown, she returned to graduate school completing a master’s degree at The Ohio State University in linguistics in 1968 and a doctorate in cultural anthropology in 1971. From 1968 until her forced retirement in 1979, at age 65, she taught linguistics, cultural anthropology and comparative religions at Denison University, Granville, Ohio.
Contributions to anthropology
Felicitas Goodman made two major contributions to the field of anthropology: one concerned “glossolalia” or “speaking in tongues;” the other concerned religious ecstatic trance.
As she plunged into her graduate anthropological studies, Felicitas noted frequent discussion of an odd kind of speech people spoke while they were “possessed.” As a linguist, this intrigued her. Ethnographers called it “unintelligible speech” or “unintelligible gibberish.” This speech reminded her of Bible stories about the “unknown tongues” spoken by the Apostles at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13). For a seminar in anthropological linguistics conducted by Erika Bourguignon at Ohio State, Felicitas chose “glossolalia” as the topic of her paper.
Dr. Bourguignon supplied her with sound tapes of such speech from Pentecostal denominations in Ohio, Texas, and the Caribbean. On the basis of this research she developed a working hypothesis that the striking accent and intonation patterns of such speech, as well as certain phonetic features were NOT a different kind of natural language, which was the “received view” on her field. These features expressed bodily changes that a person underwent during trance, accompanying or possibly even facilitating the religious experience. (1969. “Phonetic Analysis of Glossolalia in Four Cultural Settings.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 8: 227-239.)
To test her hypothesis further and explore its possible cross-cultural significance, she conducted fieldwork with Spanish-speaking Pentecostals in Mexico City in 1968. This experience validated her hypothesis: the syllables uttered during speaking in tongues were different, but the accent and intonation pattern, as well as certain phonetic features, were the same. They seemed biologically fixed.
But would these insights hold for non Indo-European languages? She conducted further field-work among Maya (Pentecostal) speakers in Yucatan which confirmed her hypothesis. Her study remains the definitive word on this phenomenon to this day. (1972. Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-cultural Study of Glossolalia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2001. Maya Apocalypse: Seventeen Years with the Women of a Yucatan Village. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press). Glossolalia is simply patterned vocalization without content.
Religious ecstatic trance
Dr. Goodman’s research, publications, and on-going experience in this field are her major contribution to anthropology. In her book, Where the Spirits Ride the Wind, (1990, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press), she notes how trance experience was a normal part of her life until the age of puberty when she was advised to leave behind the experiences of childhood. Happily, Felicitas did not do that. The interest remained with her throughout her life. Felicitas recognized two dimensions to reality: consensual and alternate. Consensual reality is the arena of common, ordinary, human experience. Alternate reality is parallel to consensual reality. It is the abode of the spirits, the ancestors. This, of course, is how Felicitas understood and interpreted reality in the contemporary western world. It was very different in antiquity. Until the time of Origen (circa 253 AD), the notion of “supernatural” simply didn’t exist. Reality was one: spirits, gods, ancestors, and humans lived in one world. This is why biblical and other ancient reports speak of humans communing with spirits, deities, or ancestors on a regular basis.
Felicitas believed that the spirit world (the abode of the deity and the deity’s entourage) could be accessed by humans, and this chiefly in an alternate state of consciousness (ASC). With her students at Denison University, she developed a ritual to enter the ASC and make contact with the spirit world. Ritual is essential to this contact.
The Cuyamugue Institute in Santa Fe, NM
Felicitas went with friends from Ohio State University to Santa Fe, New Mexico. She fell in love with it and the ambient Native American culture almost immediately. She began to search for small property in the area, and in 1963 her realtor found 270 acres for her (more than she wanted) in the area known as Cuyamungue, the name of an ancient pueblo in the area. In 1965, accompanied by friends and relatives, she discovered a place to erect a building on her property, and thus the Institute had its beginning.
Because she continued to live in Columbus, OH, she divided her time between there and Cuyamungue. In 1978, Dr. Goodman founded the Institute which today is known as Cuyamungue: The Felicitas D. Goodman Institute which continues her research into altered states of consciousness and holds workshops about the postures which are one of the doors to the alternate reality.