Synopsis: The Views of Spiritual Healers
We have been studying spiritual healers for five years. We have interviewed healers from a wide spectrum. This includes healers who are Aboriginal, Shaman, Protestant, Catholic, Pentacostal, Catholic priest Exorcist, Voodoo, Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese medicine, Reiki, Wicca, Family Physician, Energy healers and an intuitive veterinarian. Included are five Catholic priests and Catholic Bishop. We believe they a highly credible group of witnesses. We have used Generalized Empirical Method, based on the philosophy of Bernard Lonergan. This method, in practical terms, is based on a single epistemology, but from a qualitative research perspective it contains Narrative, Grounded theory, and Lonergan’s functional specialties. Lonergan’s method requires us to be attentive to the data, to be intelligent in the hypotheses we form, be reasonable in choosing the hypothesis which most fits with the facts, and to be responsible in how we apply our findings. The interviewees were asked to tell their stories, so there is narrative to be analyzed. The propositions which the stories revealed were then discussed in depth by the interdisciplinary team of six. Ten of the interviews have been analyzed in depth, word for word, at this point. A team of colleagues in Mumbai have analyzed two interviews, one of a Chinese medicine healer, and another of a well known Catholic priest healer.
The healers don’t make points explicitly by themselves. Rather, they express narratives from which we are able to obtain propositions. At this point we have inferred, from what the healers have told us through their stories, that there are two sorts of spiritual healing. One is with the explicit use of paranormal/psychic skills, and another which does not explicitly do so, as far as we can tell.
Our team includes a physician/philosopher, a physicist/philosopher of science, a theologian/philosopher, a sociologist/addictions counselor, a holistic nurse/Reiki Master, and a professional intuitive/Reiki Master.
All findings are corroborated by at least three healers who spontaneously divulged the propositions during their narratives. The interviewees were not asked direct questions. The following are our findings.
1. For most (10 out of 14) healing is caused by a transcendent source of energy. For the Buddhist, it is focused compassion.
2. Most (6) agree that a person must intend to be healed in order to be healed. (Within our group of researchers there was both agreement and disagreement with this, when taken from our own points of view. For one, of our group, intention to be healed, is not a necessary condition, but it is common. For two team members, who are intuitives, belief is that the ego might be blocked, but the higher self can ask for healing on behalf of the ego.)
2a. The healers must also intend to heal, even if they see themselves as a conduit. (This is agreed to be necessary by the group.)
3. Most ( 5 healers) experience guidance from a spiritual helper (guide/angel)
4. Energy is often experienced in healing. This can be in the form of temperature, color, sound, flow, (7 AGREE)
4a. This needs to be divided into the healer’s experience and the healed’s experience. It is true for healers. The recipient might feel something different than the healer does.
5. Healers usually possess intuition. Healing may occur at a distance (beyond space and time), may involve experiencing spiritual or non-physical beings, ghosts or spirits , the intuition of energy, telepathy, clairvoyance, and an ability to read or visualize the contents of a persons body. (8 AGREE)
(One of our team believes that intuition is another sense, or, sometimes it is the interpretation of ordinary senses. The researchers agree that intuition is an insight, not a perception. One of our intuitives agrees that the healers utilize intuition as a tool. She experiences these phenomena.)
6. Spirituality. Each person experiences the transcendent in his or her own way, according to one’s culture. Some healers experience states of consciousness beyond the usual. These states may include the continual presence of the transcendent, love and compassion, interior experiences of inner worlds which contain a state of union with the transcendent and the cosmos. Specific feelings may also accompany spiritual experience, such as calmness, peace, acceptance, beauty, joy, bliss. (5 interviewees make this point.) (Our research team agrees.).
7. Many healers (8 of them describe this) experience paranormal phenomena. This includes perceiving disembodied spirits, interference with electronic equipment or other objects, and motion which is contrary to nature, such as objects flying across the room.
(Two of our researchers state that there is truth to this because of the pervasiveness of these phenomena in our transcripts and the literature. Another holds that further study is required to draw such a conclusion. He states that drawing such a conclusion is not crucial to our study.)
8. Each healer relates to a culture specific cosmology or world. The healers must understand the beliefs of the person to be healed. This is done through listening to the the recipient of healing.
- The research team believes that this is a very important finding, and should be studied further. Clinically, the implication is that the healer must ‘get into the head’ of the client (to seek to understand the cultural perspective of the person to be healed) and enter into their cultural beliefs. They approach their healing by entering the cosmology of the person to be healed.)
- Healing may be enabled by visions or dreams of the healer or the healee.
- Healing involves the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical.
- Healing often involves some form of balancing.
- Healing can mean peace of mind (spiritual healing), the transformation of negative states, improvement of function without actual curing, as well as emotional and physical curing.
9. Some of our interviewees hold that the spiritual or energy healing is simply enhancing the normal healing process.
10. The most contentious and unresolved issue in our findings is evil. Some hold that healing can only be accomplished by banishing evil. Some say that evil is personal, others that it is simply a form of energy. At least one, who experienced Voodoo, held that healing can be accomplished by an evil entity.
11. Love and compassion are key in the healing process. Love is a quality of consciousness. The healer is a loving presence who must care about the patient. The healer sometimes feels the pain of the patient. Information is sometimes transferred between healer and patient through feelings and intention.
12. While all healers attest to being the vehicles of healing, they seldom if ever take steps to document their healing activity. Among their claims are the lame walking and the blind seeing, the disappearance of tumors, and pain removal. A physicians attest to cures from metastatic ovarian cancer, thyroid cancer, and alcoholism.
13. While it was not our intention to study evil, this topic intruded itself relatively frequently. Some described the demon possessed person, others exorcisms. Spells and curses are claimed to be effective by some.
Above we document the stated experiences of our healers. While we obtained this information from the painstaking line by line, word by word analysis of 13 transcripts, we also did a further ten interviews, which support our findings but have not yet been analyzed in this manner.
All of our reported findings involved at least three triangulations, often 6 or more. It is difficult to imagine that these results could be due to intentional fabrication or chance. The healers are all excellent witnesses, and they represent, collectively, a wide swath of human cultures.
1.From a western biomedical perspective, one would hypothesize that these experiences were all interior states of consciousness, possibly the result of temporal lobe activity or seizure.
2. We think that fabrication is unlikely given the degree of cultural separation and commonness of the expressed experiences.
3. A third hypotheses is that some individuals develop the potential, which all people have to greater or lesser extent. Some appear to be especially developed at earlier stages. Some of the team view these skills as unique gifts. Those who tend to be more intuitive, insist that everyone has these abilities, but not as well developed as they are. Some of these individuals can also direct some form of spiritual energy to interact with the human person so as to enhance the usual process of healing, or indeed to intervene at a ‘super’ human level to alter the laws of nature. All of those whose culture admits of a Divinity attribute this activity to the power or energy of that divinity.
We observe that the healers each experience a spiritual world which relates to their culture. The healers often speak in terms of energy or to the direct action of God or Christ. The healers perceive, through ‘inner’ senses, spiritual/non physical personal energies or entities, which they sometimes recognize as persons who have died.
There is strong testimonial evidence from a group of highly credible witnesses, that there are conscious non-physical/spiritual energies present in our every day world. Also, love/compassion is a powerful force/energy for healing. ALL HEALERS AGREE THAT LOVE AND COMPASSION ARE THE KEY TO HEALING. THIS IS OUR MOST IMPORTANT FINDING. Thirdly, psychic skills are real, and most of the healers possess them. But they all say they are conduits for Divine energy, except the Buddhists who view healing as ‘focused compassion.’ At the same time, the cosmologies of these healers are culture specific.
The next step before devising a theory of spirituality and health, is to decide what meaning we take from what our interviewees have told us. We have begun this process and have indicated our response to the propositions from our own perspectives. Once we have completed this process of expressing our own understanding, from our personal world view, (i.e., what this information means to us), we will derive a theory of spirituality and health based on this process and our findings.
Following this, we might seek direct empirical evidence of spiritual/energy healing, if it exists. A second possibility is to make a spiritual intervention into post- cardiac rehabilitation, or some other patient group, and determine its impact. We are also considering working with our colleagues in India to document the impact of a healing program which involves spiritual intervention in the treatement of alcoholism.Positive findings will proide impetus to guide our future studies.