SMN London Physical Group: Dr Natalie Tobert – Exploring Global Spiritual Interpretations of C-19

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Please note: due to COVID restrictions we have now moved this event online and it will be presented as a Zoom webinar

Also: SEASON TICKET holders, note that London group events are NOT included in your Season Ticket so please book for this event separately now if desired.


The last physical meeting of the London Group of the Scientific and Medical Network in July was a great success and indeed quite a historic occasion as this was the first physical meeting of the London Group for over a year. We look forward to having more but for now circumstances require us to continue with these online.


You are warmly invited to our next meeting online on:
Monday, 20 September 2021
Time: 7:30pm – 9:30pm (London time)


Exploring Global Spiritual Interpretations of C-19


Today’s talk explores psychic or spiritual interpretations around the virus C-19.  It is set out in three parts: psychic or hidden beliefs about C-19 illness; worldwide medical anthropology perspectives on illness; and finally cultural beliefs about influence on illness of war, ghosts, and the unquiet dead.  I examine the cultural meanings people hold about C-19 beyond biology, and use narratives of anthropological research from several continents (including South America, Africa and Asia). I present case studies illustrating beliefs around causes of illness, and the role of behaviour on environment. I include insights  from the writings of The Mother in Sri Aurobindo’s ashram and psychiatrist Dr Soumitra Basu.
Using ethnographic case studies, it is clear people who held indigenous perspectives did not separate environment from spirit when considering illness. For example, according to anthropologist Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff (1996) the Kogi in Colombia, South America had spiritual leaders, who attuned to a heightened connection with mother earth. In addition, I present insights of medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo, as well as other societies’ practices (like Turner with the Ndembu in Africa). I invite participants to explore whether a deeper understanding of earth, environment, and spirits may enable our society to better acknowledge and address mental distress. Spirituality is shown to have a deeper meaning than simply exploring personal individual illness. I examine cultural meanings and present existential beliefs around the virus and causes of illness from India (Basu 2021).
In the talk I explore beliefs people hold about ancestral spirits, the unquiet dead, and hungry ghosts, and how they are believed to influence human health and the virus.  My proposition is that a deeper understanding of environment, spirits and ancestral ghosts may enable our society to better address ill health and mental distress. Participants are invited to explore and discuss these issues.



Natalie Tobert

Our speaker, Dr Natalie Tobert is well known to the SMN as an accomplished speaker and acclaimed author. We can be sure of a most informative and productive evening. Her highly topical subject and biodata are below.

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Dr Natalie Tobert is a medical anthropologist, who teaches courses that support integrated thinking and multiple cultural narratives of health. This year (2021) she has already taught three cohorts of first, 2nd, and 3rd year medical students in Brighton and Sussex Medical School, as well as an on-line course for University of Wales, Lampeter.
As Education Director of Aethos Training and Consultancy, Natalie designed 8 – 10 weekly courses on Cultural Diversity, Mental Wellbeing, and Spirituality for universities, medical schools and hospital staff.  She also facilitates one off workshops and lectures, either face to face or on line. She has taught at University College London, Bath Spa University, Institute for Health JMU Liverpool, School of Integrated Health University of Westminster, Northampton University, and Glasgow Medical School, and at the following hospitals:  Northwick Park, Barts, Cygnet, Goodmayes, and the Royal London.  She has examined PhD theses for Murdoch University in Australia; and University of Wales.
Travelling abroad, Natalie facilitated workshop seminars exploring plural understandings of health at CIIS in San Francisco (California Institute of Integral Studies), Crêt-Bérard in Switzerland, Casa de Laila Retreat Centre in Malaga Spain, and Sichowska Fundacja Edukacyjna in Poland, and she has lectured elsewhere in UK, Ireland, India, and Sweden.
Dr Tobert conducted three ethnographic research projects: the first in Sudan for her doctorate, and another two in India.  She also undertook research on the relationship between mystical, spiritual and religious experiences and mental health at Brunel University, and received an award by the Religious Experience Research Centre to explore explanatory models for spiritual experiences, perceived by society as in need of psychiatric assistance.  Natalie conducted research for Kings Fund on mental wellbeing with African and Asian migrants and refugees in London, had a contract with Mental Health Media and the British Library, and is currently working on a project for Arabic speaking refugees and asylum seekers.
Natalie has written over 100 articles, had four books published, and received a prize for a piece written for the Journal of Holistic Healthcare.  Email received:  “I have read your outstanding book ‘cultural perspectives’ and have been recommending this text to anyone working in mental health contexts.”  Recently she spoke at the following conferences: 8th Congress on Medicine and Spirituality; 7th Congress on Spiritism and population health, and made a presentation on health at the House of Commons to the All-Party Parliamentary Group. She developed a Training Manual on Cultural Equalities for Frontline Service Providers, and for some years was on the Board of Directors of Scientific and Medical Network, responsible for the domain of Education.
Natalie was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen, and exhibited her sculptures at the International Ceramic Festival in Faenza, Italy, and at the Ceramic Fair in Haacht Belgium. Her sculptures are held in private collections in UK, France, Italy and USA.  She currently practices photography.
Key book: 
Cultural Perspectives on Mental Wellbeing: Spiritual Interpretations of Symptoms in Medical Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London.



Note: all ticket holders will get a link to view the RECORDING.

Also: SEASON TICKET holders, note that London group events are NOT included in your Season Ticket so please book for this event separately now if desired.


The event is over and ticket sales are now closed.





Mon, 20 September 2021
Event has passed


7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Mon, 20 September 2021
  • Time: 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm