Interview by Bruce Bentley, Health Traditions
on “Chinese Medicine: History and Philosophy” published in the Journal “Radiation from Space”
They move towards explaining ’why’ illness occurs. Naturalistic traditions based on natural phenomena such as weather conditions, viruses or diet account for ‘how’ someone gets sick.
The supernatural traditions are fascinating for many reasons, not least they aim to cure by reintegrating the patient back into the community by social means. Forms of supernaturalistic healing involve the work of a medium or spirit healer. A medium is a person who can communicate with the Spirit world. In Thailand, for example, a spirit talking through a medium may explain; so and so is unwell because they didn’t dust down their grandfather’s grave, or he/she has behaved in an offensive way by pissing on a tree where a spirit lives.
These are both transgressions from the social norm, set the person apart from the interests of the group and illness or misfortune ensues.
In response, when a person performs let’s say, the dusting down of the grave, he/she is no longer at odds with his/her social world. To restore health and harmony after urinating where you should not, in Thailand, garlands of flowers or colourful sashes are wrapped around the tree trunk and other gifts are left at the base while the appropriate prayers and apologies are recited.
I’ve heard of many cases where gravely ill people who have performed such rites recover immediately. They get better by restoring their place in the community.
Illness is treated in social terms. Curing is therefore a beautiful cosmology that stitches up frays in the social web and its weave with nature and the universe. It is a huge deep subject and there is much to consider.