The Origins of Spiritual Healing. The Relationship Between Religion, Spirituality and Healing. Where and how did spiritual healing originate? From ancient cultures to modern times, healing has been a part of our culture. Spiritual healing has its roots in ancient history. From the first priest-physicians of Egypt and ancient Greece – such as Asclepious, Imhotep and Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine – spirituality and healing have been intertwined.
Some ancient cultures regarded illness and disease as something of a spiritual nature. Since it was considered supernatural, it was feared. In ancient Egypt, the early medical practitioners were priest-physicians that received their training in the temples and learned from temple scholars. The three salvations against illness, disease and death were religion, medicine and magic.
Bringing Ethics to Medicine
In ancient Greece, around 400 B.C., Hippocrates introduced standards into medical practice that are still in use today. He had a holistic approach – treating the whole patient, not just a specific ailment. Hippocrates stated that the true approach to diagnosis and treatment includes a careful observation of nature, life and the natural healing process. He also brought honor and ethics into the practice of medicine.
Separating the Spiritual and Secular
With the Romans came a separation between spiritual healing and secular medicine. Medicine became a business and spiritual values were often left behind. However, during Roman times around A.D. 160, many Greek doctors flocked to Rome, including Galen – a believer in the Hippocratic method. Galen virtually founded experimental physiology, stressing the importance of anatomy.
Many references to healing can be found in The Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, especially the laying on of hands. In the New Testament, Jesus is considered one of the greatest spiritual healers in recorded history. In his ministry, he cured both physical and spiritual illnesses – blindness, lameness, deafness, insanity.
Learning from Experience
In the late Middle Ages, Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, became prominently known. He believed in learning from one’s own experiences. Through his efforts to find better ways to relieve pain, he rediscovered ether and is considered to have made a revolutionary contribution to the rebirth of medical science. He studied nature and applied his observations and experience to specific diseases, preferring experimentation, observation and creative thinking over erroneous old theories.
Healting through Animal Magnetism
The 18th century brought about the fame of Friedrich Anton Mesmer. He put forth the theory of animal magnetism – which earned him mass public interest but also controversy and ridicule. An investigating committee ultimately found no evidence to support his claim of animal magnetism and public interest waned.
However in 1823, Alexandre Bertrand, a young French physician, revived interest in one aspect of animal magnetism. Bertrand believed the true cause of Mesmer’s cures was connected with sleepwalking. A commission in 1836 found that this trance state was real and made for effective therapy.
In modern times, there have been many spiritual healers. Andrew Jackson Davis, known as the Father of Spiritualism, was an exceptional healer. Others include:
- Francis Schlatter – an Alsatian man who treated from 2,000 to 3,000 people every day
- Mary Baker Eddy – the founder of the religion of Christian Science and a follower of Phineas Quimby
- Arigo – an unorthodox Brazilian healer who treated 300 people a day in his clinic
- George Chapman – an English healer who channeled a spirit doctor called Dr. William Lang
- Edgar Cayce – known as the Greatest American Trance Healer who prescribed unorthodox and complicated therapies rather than through the laying on of hands.