Spiritual healing in search of an identity: analysis of spiritual healers’ own accounts of healing in Britain from 1900 to 1965

Smith, Teresa (2019) Spiritual healing in search of an identity: analysis of spiritual healers’ own accounts of healing in Britain from 1900 to 1965. Masters thesis, University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

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Abstract

Contemporary literature on spiritual healing, both academic and popular, often assumes that all spiritual healing is essentially the same and that there has been a gradual and developmental progression through time, from early religious and traditional healing, through the Holistic Health movement of the 1970s and 80s, to the ‘holistic milieu’ healing model described by Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead (2005) as an integral part of New Age ‘spiritualities of life’. This research questions these assumptions and explores the background to contemporary presentations of spiritual healing by looking at the diverse range of spiritual healing modalities which were being practised in Britain between 1900 and 1965. By focusing on the spiritual healers themselves and their own personal written accounts of healing, it is possible to gain an ‘insider’ view of what was considered at the time to be a non-standard activity and, in the majority of cases, a direct threat to orthodox medical and religious authorities of the period. The healers’ accounts represent examples of the major strands of spiritual healing practised between 1900 and 1965, and are analysed in terms of selected criteria, the results of which are displayed in table format in order to facilitate comparative analysis. What emerges from this research is that there were two distinct types of spiritual healer: i) individuals recognised by their communities as having an innate ability to heal and often effecting remarkable cures; ii) those who become healers through theoretical study, embracing new worldviews, and learning techniques, with cures not being essential. Also notable was the extent to which all of the spiritual healers understood and interpreted their healing in terms of the specific social, cultural, religious and intellectual currents of their era, and how all sought to explain their healing using terms of reference compatible with the principal orthodox sources of authority of the period, namely science, psychology, medicine and Christianity. These findings would suggest the need for further research to explore how far these earlier healer types are still represented in contemporary spiritual healing in Britain or whether the holistic milieu model has, effectively, replaced all previous forms of spiritual healing.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Institute of Education and Humanities
Depositing User: Lesley Cresswell
Date Deposited: 26 Mar 2020 16:27
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2020 16:27
URI: http://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/1263

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