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A Cultural Phenomenology of
Charismatic Healing

Thomas J. Csordas


Berkeley I Los Angeles I London

University of California Press

Berkeley and Los Angeles, California
University of California Press
London, England
Copyright 1994 by The Regents of the University of California
First Paperback Printing 1997
Library of Congress Catalogingin-Publication Data
Csordas, Thomas J.
The sacred self: a cultural phenomenology of charismatic healing
/ Thomas J. Csordas.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-520-20884-1
1. Spiritual healing. 2. PentccostalismCatholic Church.
3. PentccostalismNew England. 4. Self 5. Identification
(Religion) 6. Catholic ChurchNew EnglandHistory1965- 7. N*
EnglandChurch history. I. Title.
BT732.5.C86 1994

Printed in the United States of America

14 13 12 11 10
9 8 7 6 5
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American
National Standard for Information SciencesPermanence of Paper for Printed
Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984. @




Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Ritual Healing: Affliction and Transformation


Chapter 3
Therapeutic Process and Experience


Chapter 4
Embodied Imagery and Divine Revelation


Chapter 5
Imaginal Performance and Healing of Memories


Chapter 6
Image, Memory, and Efficacy


Chapter 7
Demons and Deliverance


Chapter 8
Encounters with Evil




Chapter 9
The Raging and the Healing


Chapter 10
Envoi: The Sacred Self









The answer to the question of "what it means to be human" is the same

as the answer to the question of "how we make ourselves human." This
is an enduring premise for cultural anthropology and means that an
inquiry into a topic like the "sacred self is an inquiry into human
creativity, and in particular self-creativity. I have termed my approach
to this issue cultural phenomenology because it represents a concern
for synthesizing the immediacy of embodied experience with the multiplicity of cultural meaning in which we are always and inevitably immersed. Beginning from this standpoint, in this book I examine one
aspectthat is, ritual healingof the creation of a sacred self in a
contemporary North American religious movement called the Catholic
Charismatic Renewal.
For nearly twenty years, since 1973,1 have followed the development
of the Charismatic Renewal and its healing system. Having studied the
movement for this length of time, I must acknowledge the impossibility
in a single volume of representing its diversity, even within the United
States and within a focus on its healing system. There is regional diversity within the movement as there is within American Catholicism at
large. To mention only one feature, Charismatic groups in the Midwest
tend to be "ecumenical" in membership, including both Protestants
and Catholics, whereas New England groups tend to be predominantly
Catholic in membership. The former tend to minimize denominational
elements of ritual life, whereas the latter emphasize the Catholic, often
incorporating the Mass into their prayer meetings. Somewhat indepen-



dent of region, there is also a distinct difference between parochial Charismatic prayer groups and the highly organized intentional communities
called "covenant communities."1 Styles of healing and even the overall
emphasis on healing in group life may vary substantially between these
kinds of group.
Most of the research on which this book is based was carried out
among Catholic Charismatics in southeastern New England between
1986 and 1989. New England Catholicism is a particular blend of
French, Irish, and Italian ethnic Catholicisms superimposed on a Puritan landscape. In a book of this nature there is no opportunity to fully
account for the subtle regional and stylistic bias this may have introduced into my account. Based on my prior experience with the movement and familiarity with its indigenous literature, I have attempted to
compensate for these factors. In any case, I am confident that the data are
adequate to the task of defining the experiential specificity of therapeutic
process among those Charismatics with whom I worked most closely
These data include interviews with eighty-seven healers of varying degrees of experience and "giftedness," including both laypcople and
priests/nuns. Paper and pencil questionnaires regarding healing experience were completed by 587 participants at large public healing services
conducted by five of these healers. Finally, detailed phcnomcnological
data were gathered in sixty private sessions with eighteen supplicants
conducted by six participating healers.
Yet it would be only partly correct to say that this book is about
ritual healing among Catholic Charismatics in the United States. Such
a book would consist of a description of healing practices in their social
and cultural context, detailing the kinds of problems these healing practices address and speculating about how they achieve whatever beneficial
effect they appear to have. I must admit from the outset that I find this
formula unsatisfying, as it has produced a voluminous literature on
healing that, despite its empirical diversity, is in large part theoretically
redundant, reaching the same conclusions over and again. Thus, while
I have addressed the standard issues in the chapters that follow, my
strategy has been not to write about Charismatic healing, but to ask
what Charismatic healing is about and write about that.
In a word, my thesis is that Charismatic healing is about "self." The
scare quotes, of course, will be a dead giveaway to many readers that we
are about to embark on an intellectual adventure at best, or a theoretical
slippery slope at worst.2 Some might prefer that the book were, after
all, simply about Charismatic healing and decide not to read on. For



the others, let me sketch out why I have written this book, where I
think its argument goes as a contribution to anthropological thinking,
and why I think the trajectory of my argument is a necessary one. One
might start with the observation that a book solely about Charismatic
healing would be of interest solely to Charismatics and certain of their
supporters and opponents. A more elaborated version of this point
would be that in order fully to grasp the existential significance and
cultural meaning of a phenomenon like Charismatic healing, one must
go beyond description of its unique features and the experience of its
participants. It is necessary on the one hand to identify features in it
that are comparatively and cross-culturally relevant, and on the other
hand to analyze it with theoretical constructs that are themselves valid
for comparative study. The notion of self fulfills both of these requirements. It is both a topic widely discussed in anthropological studies
and one that with care can be used as a valid theoretical tool.
Taking care to achieve theoretical validity is indeed the primary challenge, as much, I must hasten to add. for the reader as for the writer. This
is the case for two reasons. First, there are as many ways to theoretically
construe "self as there are writers about the topic. This requires methodological choices, which have led me to structure my argument as
follows. To meet the criterion of a minimal working definition of self
that is both appropriate to the ethnographic case at hand and crossculturally valid, I have drawn on phenomenology for a working definition of self as orientational process. The particular self processes that I
have found articulated in Charismatic healing are imagination, memory,
language, and emotion. Insofar as these are constitutive of self, to say
that the book is about self is also to say that it is about these processes.
In particular, I show how these processes bring about orientation in
terms of psychocultural themes salient for participants in North American Charismatic healing, those of spontaneity, control, and intimacy.
In addition, in order to achieve analytic precision and specificity, I have
based my account on a particular variant of phenomenology in which
bodily experience is understood as the existential ground of culture and
the sacred. In order to balance my account, however, I have wherever
possible complemented my analyses with perspectives drawn from what
I regard as phenomenology^ methodological twin, semiotics.
To include a discourse about the various theories of self, the variants
of phenomenology, or the relation between phenomenology and semiotics would, I think, risk indulging in theory for its own sake, and this
leads to our second point. The reason, after all, that there are so many


construals of self is that it is not an empirical entity but a theoretical

construct. Since theoretical constructs cannot be studied directly, to say
that a book is "about" the self has a special kind of meaning. That is, it
can only be about the self insofar as that self is the product of intellectual
dialogue with concrete phenomenasuch as the phenomena of Charismatic healing. This last point defines the methodological place of Charismatic healing in our argument. It is a vehicle for a discourse about
self, which in itself is a construct that can only properly be defined
within a coherent body of empirical data. Methodologically, what we
require is a close dialectic, a tight hermencutic circle revolving around
the theoretical construct and the cultural phenomena. I have attempted
to construct an argument in which the notion of self is neither inductively derived from the data, nor deductively demonstrated in terms of
the data, but dialogically suspended between theory and data.
As an anthropologist I would argue strongly that it is not possible
to write a book about self without grounding it in cultural phenomena,
simply because self has no existence outside of such phenomena. By the
same token, it is not possible to arrive at a valid notion of self from
within the cultural data in themselves. To understand the culture exclusively "in its own terms" would leave us with a definition of what Charismatics mean when they use the word "self," but not with a cross-culturally useful theoretical concept of self. Thus, while Charismatic healing
is a vehicle, it is not a "mere" vehicle. If it is correct to say that I am
not interested in Charismatic healing "for its own sake," it is equally
correct to say that I am not interested in the theoretical gyrations of
"self outside of its instantiation in the empirical phenomena at hand.
If this were not the case, I would have no business referring to my
approach as cultural "phenomenology."
Let me carry the notion of dialogue a bit further, for it is useful to
understand a text such as ours in terms of multiple dialogues, overlapping and simultaneous. I offer you a model of our text as a fabric of
dialogical threads, some full-throated and some in whispers, some continuous and some intermittent. From the foregoing discussion, we
could formulate the relation between the minute particulars of experiential processes and the generality of psychocultural themes as such a
dialogue. Likewise, we have touched on the dialogue between phenomenology and semiotics that will animate a good deal of our argument.
In a less metaphoric vein, we can overhear snatches of dialogue between
Catholic Charismatics and the Roman Catholic Church, between Catholic Charismatics and their mentors, the Protestant Pentccostals, and



between the early Catholic Charismatics of the 1960s and the Charismatics they became in the 1980s. Quite literally, the text records dialogues between me and individual Charismatics, and between Charismatic patients and healers.
There are two points to be made about the dialogues that include
me. First, at those points in which I enter the textas if entering a space
created by the new technology of 'Virtual reality"my role becomes
doubled. I am simultaneously author and aaor, or, more precisely, I
am my virtual double whose actions I analyze as author. The second
point begins with the observation by Good and Good (1981) that,
insofar as all healing systems are attempts to make sense of affliction,
anthropological understanding of healing requires a double hermeneutic. It is a hermeneutic of a hermeneutic, an interpretation of an interpretation. We apply our interpretive strategies (including theoretical notions like that of self), motivated by our constant impulse toward crosscultural comparison, to the interpretive strategies of the people whose
cultures we study. But if a healing system is an interpretive system, it
also includes its own forms of reflexivity. Much has been made in the
past decade about reflexivity in ethnography. Oftentimes this amounts
to self-consciousness of the anthropologist with respect to how she or
he construes data or relates to the ethnographic other. Sometimes it
leads to giving voice to the other (Clifford 1988), and occasionally to an
understanding that culture is created dialogically with the other (Daniel
1984, Crapanzano 1992). Seldom, however, does ethnographic reflexivity fully take into account the reflexivity of the other. Yet those dialogues in which I engaged were inevitably constituted by the reflexivity
of my Charismatic informants in interaction with my own.
Thus, to the extent that it is possible, we must not only describe
Charismatic healing practices in cultural context, but realize that a full
account includes the Charismatics' interpretation of their own practices.
"Native exegesis" is not simply one among other sources of data, but
an inevitable element of reflexivity among practitioners and patients
in a healing system. Recognizing this is especially urgent when much
background culture is shared between anthropologist and "natives."
The reflexivity of Charismatics does not typically include a comparative
stance, but it may include notions that we would recognize as theoretical
rather than popular (such as certain concepts of self). Charismatics also
reflect on the relation between their practices of ritual healing and those
of conventional medicine and psychiatry, especially those among them
who are trained and practice in both. The dialogue of reflexivities creates



an opportunity for data of a richness seldom attainable when one works

in a foreign society. By the same token, this dialogue creates the danger
of analysis that merely reproduces native categories, and hence the need
for methodological care in setting up the relation between theory and
phenomena. As author I can only frame this problem. The reader will
have to decide whether I have taken advantage of the opportunity and
avoided the danger.
Finally, of course, there is a kind of dialogue between me and my
text, and between me and the reader (the dialogue between reader and
text is out of my hands). Accordingly, let me add a few notes about
my presentation and analysis of data. I am convinced that semiotics and
phenomenology are complementary ways to think about culture and
that both can be applied to linguistic or narrative data. I reject the
textualist bias of some semiotics that would ask, "How can you say you
are writing about experience when all your data arc in die form of
language?" This position presumes an unbridgeable gulf between language and experience, and is predicated on the notion that language
can only be about itselfdoubtless a hypcr-Foucauldian exaggeration.
On the contrary, language is not only a form of observable behavior,
but a medium of intersubjectivity, so that it is fair to say that language
gives us authentic access to experience. In Heidegger's terms, it not only
represents but "discloses." In addition to giving a flavor of Charismatic
language and presentation of self, this disclosure is what I am after in
making extensive use of "texts" from interviews and recorded rituals. I
believe I have taken care to distinguish when I am discussing such texts
from the standpoint of textuality and when from embodiment, when
with a semiotic point in mind and when with a phenomcnological one.
Nevertheless, because texts can be tricky I must state that these texts
are edited in order to eliminate redundancy; depending on the degree
to which the meaning of an interview depends on the development
of a dialogue, my own questions are sometimes included, sometimes
I must also make two brief points about my compositional technique.
First, I have made liberal use of italics to indicate that I grant technical
or theoretical status to a term, and ofquotation marks to indicate Charismatic terms and brief verbatim remarks of informants. The quotation
marks are not meant as signs of disrespect or to indicate a tongue-intextual-cheek, but to distinguish my own use of words from that of
Charismatics while preserving the flow of the argument. I have attempted to keep other uses of quotation marks to a minimum, except



where a citation from the literature is indicated. Second, I have generally

used the plural pronoun to carry the authorial voice, in an unabashed
rhetorical attempt to implicate the reader in a collaborative effort. Where
I lapse into the first person, it is either to assert authorial direction or
because I am entering conceptual terrain upon which I am less comfortable asking the reader to tread.
As useful as the notion of overlapping dialogues might be, a book
nevertheless has a linear organization, so I will briefly sketch the trajectory of our argument from chapter to chapter.
Chapter 1 introduces the problem of understanding religious healing
from an anthropological perspective and identifies the need for greater
experiential specificity in our accounts of therapeutic process. We then
elaborate the theoretical pole of our analogical argument, sketching out
a working concept of self and self processes grounded in embodiment.
Finally, we elaborate the empirical pole of the argument, describing
the development of the Charismatic Renewal, its ritual system, and its
articulation with the North American psychocultural themes of spontaneity, control, and intimacy.
Chapter 2 describes the Charismatic system of ritual healing with
respect to the performative structure of event, genre, and act. We discuss
public and private healing sessions, with special attention to profiles of
healers and supplicants. We show how the principal genres of ritual
healing articulate the Charismatic concept of the person as a tripartite
composite of body-mind-spirit, and how particular performative acts
are discrete moments of empowerment.
Chapter 3 raises the issue of efficacy in ritual healing, eschewing
the evocation of global "black-box" mechanisms such as suggestion,
catharsis, and placebo effect in favor of phenomenological specificity.
With particular emphasis on healing of physical problems, we introduce
the concepts of postural model, somatic modes of attention, and the
margin of disability' in order to understand the modulations of self
achieved in "typical" healings. We conclude by formulating a model of
therapeutic process to guide our subsequent discussion.
The next three chapters examine the Charismatic elaboration of imagination as an embodied self process in ritual healing. Chapter 4 examines
the repertoire of revelatory imagery based on specific experiences reported by healers. Following an examination of some of the theoretical
issues underlying the study of imagination, we formulate an analytic
framework combining a semiotic approach to the image-as-sign and a
phenomenological approach to the imagc-in-consciousness. We apply



this framework to a body of data consisting of actual revelatory images

collected from the healers.
In chapter 5 we turn to the experience of patients in the ritual genre
of "healing of memories." After discussing the relation between memory and imagination, we introduce the concept of imaginal performance
to describe the autobiographical self processes that take place. We apply
this concept in a close analysis of three cases of healing, making use of
data from healing sessions and experiential commentaries of patients in
those sessions. This innovation in method allows us a degree of specificity in analyzing therapeutic process that is usually unavailable in studies
of ritual healing. Chapter 6 reconsiders these cases with respect to the
role of revelation, trauma, and internal object relations. In addition, we
show how the healing process develops the psychocultural themes of
spontaneity, intimacy, and control. Once again, we find the grounds
of therapeutic efficacy in bodily experience.
The next two chapters address the Charismatic dcmonology and the
practice of "deliverance" from evil spirits. Our first task in chapter 7 is
to examine the cultural dynamic implicit in the domestication of deliverance prayer over the past twenty-five years. Wc then examine the structure of the demonology as a collective representation of the person in
North American culture. In chapter 8 wc use our method of performative analysis and experiential commentary to examine emotional self
process in five quite different cases of encounter with evil in Charismatic
healing. The chapter concludes with a phenomenology of control in
deliverance, contrasting the consequences for the self with those of exorcism in a very different tradition of religious healing in Sri Lanka.
Chapter 9 juxtaposes two striking bodily experiences characterized
by the patient falling to the ground. In "resting in the Spirit" wc examine
the modulations of self in the experiences of falling and of lying on the
ground in a sacred swoon as well as the implications of Charismatics'
own debate about the "authenticity" of the phenomenon. In what we
call the demonic crisis, we examine a series of narrative vignettes that
describe a deeply disturbing alienation of self. Once again we see the
enactment of our three key psychocultural themes, but in the contrasting
existential modes of healing and raging. We conclude the chapter with
a reflection on the potential implications of these experiences for contemporary North American culture.
Finally, chapter 10 includes a recapitulation of our argument about
the self and a comment about the theoretical implications of the discussion.



This book is the product of research conducted from 1986 to 1989

under the support of National Institute of Mental Health research grant
ROl MH-40473-04. During that period and throughout the years in
which I have been acquainted with members of the Catholic Charismatic
Renewal, one thing has remained consistent, and that is the good will,
curiosity, and cooperation of nearly all Charismatics that I have encountered. While there have been a few that have been especially "zealous
for my soul," I have been profoundly impressed by the lack of pressured
proselytization I have experienced as an anthropologist who presented
himself as never more than an agnostic. That most Charismatics were
willing to leave whatever change would take place in me to a higher
power (that would probably act if I "hung around long enough") speaks
highly of the strength of their conviction. For my part, I have tried to
respect the integrity and coherence of their world; for their part, they
were willing to grant that healing included a "human" element that
could be examined by anthropology. I am grateful to all of them, especially to those supplicants who bravely shared the depths of their distress
with me. Specific thanks are due to Reverend Kenneth Metz for his
continuing support of my work, and to David Thorp for smoothing
the way for my entree into the Charismatic community in New England.
Too many Charismatics experienced in conducting healing prayer
shared their insights with me to mention by name, but I would like to
register the warm memory of two who were especially generous and
who have since died, Father John Lazansky and Sister Cecilia Cote.
Among those to whom I owe intellectual debts I count Erika Bourguignon, who first introduced me to ethnopsychiatry and the problem
of understanding religious healing, John Messenger, who introduced
me to the anthropology of religion and psychological anthropology,
and Ojo Arewa, who gave me my first taste of phenomenology. James
Boon sensitized me to the relation between ethnographic description
and interpretation, and to the methodological problem of bridging the
"natives' point of view" and the anthropologist's. Charles Long instilled
a vivid sense that the question at the heart of the study of religion was
what it means to be human. Arthur Kleinman's invitation to Harvard
and his commitment to the development of an experiential approach
in medical anthropology provided both a physical and an intellectual
home for my work at a critical stage, and his almost single-handed
revitalization of transcultural psychiatry created the conditions for the
kind of theorizing about therapeutic process in religious healing represented in this book. Byron Good's pioneering of interpretive theory



in medical anthropology made the way easier for myself and others
committed to bringing the field to the center of the discipline, and his
boundless energy for intellectual engagement lent an additional vitality
to the milieu at Harvard. Mary-Jo DelVccchio Good's creative synthesis
of anthropology and sociology, her tireless generation and execution
of new ideas for research, and her consummate skill as an interviewer
sensitive to the nuances of language and experience were a constant
example and inspiration. Along with these three, Amelic Rorty, Janis
Jenkins, Marina Roseman, Peter Guarnaccia, Pablo Farias, Linda Garro,
and other participants in the Harvard Friday Morning Seminar in medical anthropology created an intellectual environment that made every
moment of this research rewarding.
A version of chapter 4 was presented to the Program in Clinically
Relevant Medical Anthropology at Harvard University. Several of the
cases discussed in chapters 5,6, and 8 were presented to the Department
of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and at the 1991 meetings
of the Society for Cultural Anthropology. A version of chapter 9 was
presented to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Montreal. A lecture to the Department of Anthropology at UCLA afforded
me the opportunity to reflect on the question of what is specifically
religious about religious healing, and about the nature of psychocultural
processes in healing. A lecture to the Department of Humanities and
Social Studies in Medicine at McGill University provided the occasion
to examine the relation between psychiatric and religious formulations
of emotional affliction. I am grateful for the insightful comments of
the colleagues who participated in those events, as well as to Richard
Shweder, Elizabeth Behnke, and Paul Connerton for vital comments
on my formulations about embodiment as a methodological standpoint.
Particular and heartfelt thanks are due to Janis Jenkins, whose requests
for clarification over the course of many discussions undoubtedly enhanced the lucidity of my argument.
Thanks are also due to Nancy Wood, who was an able research assistant in the large scale survey of participants in Charismatic healing services, and to Allison Earle and Amy Cohen, whose expertise in quantitative data management and analysis was invaluable. Finally, I am grateful
for the commitment to this work by members of the University of
California Press, including Stanley Holwitz, Rebecca Frazier, Eran
Fraenkel, and Diane Feinberg, and for the helpful reviews by Erika
Bourguignon and an anonymous reader.


How does religious healing work, if indeed it does? What

is the nature of its therapeutic efficacy? WThat is actually being healed
by the performances of the shaman, the medicine man, or the faith
healer? What is particularly religious about them in the first place? These
questions have preoccupied anthropologists for a long while, and there
have been two broad types of answer offered. Many early studies were
primarily concerned with whether healers or shamans were themselves
mentally ill, typically with schizophrenia or epilepsy. Whatever healing
occurred was thought as likely to benefit the healer as it would those
who came to him or her for help. Later, the question of whether healers
were like mental patients was superseded by that of how they were like
psychotherapists. This theme, present as early as Leighton and Leighton's (1941) discussion of Navajo healing and Messing's (1958) analysis
of the Ethiopian zar cult, was given impetus in the 1960s and 1970s
by the seminal works of Jerome Frank (1973, Frank and Frank 1991).
For some, the efficacy of religious healing came to be assumed on the
basis of what we may call the psychotherapy analogy: religious healing
works because it is like psychotherapy, which also works.
This is hardly a satisfactory place to leave the issue, and not only
because psychotherapy itself is a healing form whose efficacy cannot be
taken for granted. Insofar as every culture must contend with emotional
distress and mental illness, each is likely to develop its own forms of
psychotherapy, some of which we can identify as religious healing. Likewise, most religions develop some stance toward human suffering, and


may go a step further and develop explicit systems of healing practice

(cf. Numbers and Amundsen 1986, L. Sullivan 1989). It has become
commonplace to observe that efficacy is contingent on the nature of
problems addressed by different forms of healing, how those problems
are defined in cultural practice, and what counts in cultural terms as
their successful resolution. Given this set of issues, it has been argued
on the one hand that ritual healing is invariably and necessarily effective
due to the manner in which it defines its goals (Klcinman and Sung
1979), and on the other that it necessarily fails insofar as it is a treatment
more of lifestyle than of symptoms (Pattison, Lapins, and Doerr 1973).
Between these positions we are left with a disturbing lack of analytic
specificity and a repertoire of hypotheses about how healing works. Let
us briefly summarize.
The structural hypothesis posits an inherent power of correspondence
or homology between symbolic acts and objects, metaphors, or cosmological structure on the one hand, and the thoughts, emotions, behavior,
or diseases of those treated on the other. Research in this tradition, of
which the paradigmatic example is Levi-Strauss's (1966) discussion of
a Cuna Indian birth ritual, are often successful at demonstrating the
existence of a homology, but not in establishing why or whether the
homology has an effect. The clinical hypothesis is based most strictly
on the analogy between the religious healer and a doctor treating an
individual patient with a specific procedure in expectation of a definitive
outcome, as in Prince's (1964) paradigmatic discussion of indigenous
Yoruba psychiatry. However, not only is it difficult to demonstrate
definitive outcomes in religious healing, but a clinical approach tends
to downplay the explicitly religious elements of such healing that give
it its distinctive character. The social support hypothesis, best characterized by V. Turner's (1964) analysis of Ndembu healing and Crapanzano's (1973) discussion of the Moroccan Hamadsha brotherhoods,
holds that the principal therapeutic effects of healing lie in enhancing
community solidarity, resolving interpersonal tensions, providing an
emotionally safe environment for suffering individuals, or providing
the security of identity with a group defined by its healing practices.
While these effects may in fact occur, studies that emphasize social support often go no further toward defining efficacy, remaining satisfied
with a generalized functionalist understanding of healing. Finally, the
persuasive hypothesis owes much to J. Frank's (1973) formulations
about the cultivation of expectant faith through the personal influence
of a healer and the rhetorical devices that bring about a shift in the


patient's "assumptive world." Healing ritual is understood not as liturgical repetition, but as intentional social action directed toward the quality
and content of experience. However, while it thus takes account of
meaning, it is less attuned to clinical issues such as the kind of emotional
disorder addressed by healing.1
These hypotheses are not mutually exclusive. To be sure, although
they represent different descriptions of how therapeutic efficacy is
evoked, they tend to share a common understanding of how that efficacy
is actually constituted by a limited repertoire of global mechanisms. These
mechanisms include trance, catharsis, placebo effect, and suggestion.
With few exceptions (e.g., Scheff 1979), accounts of healing under
the hypotheses sketched above are based on inference from procedures
carried out by healers to a nonspecific efficacy presumed to be inherent
in one or more of these mechanisms. The mechanism itself remains
unelaborated, a kind of biocultural "black box"perhaps the patient
goes into trance, but what it is that makes the trance therapeutic remains
essentially ambiguous.
The reason for the lack of specificity' is astoundingly simple: although
anthropologists have produced volumes of descriptions of healing rituals, they have virtually never systematically examined the experience of
supplicants in healing. The Navajo Chanter sings for nine nights, and
we have a transcription of the songs; he creates an elaborate sandpainting, and we have a detailed description of it. Where experience comes
into question, it is usually that of the healer. But what is happening for
the Navajo supplicant who is repeating line for line after the chanter
and who is made to sit upon the sandpainting? We may learn the nature
of the supplicant's complaint and whether there is any apparent effect
of the ritual, but that is about all. We will learn nothing about the
imagery processes which, as I discovered when it occurred to me to
ask, may occur during the ceremony. Of course, if we neglect to ask,
we will conclude that the efficacy of healing is nonspecific.2
A premise of this book is that there is an experiential specificity
of effect in religious healingthat transformative meaning dwells, to
borrow a phrase from the poet Wrilliam Blake, in the "minute particulars" of human existence taken up in the healing process.3 To approach
that specificity, we must identify the locus of efficacy, and this requires
taking a step back toward generality before making a leap forward.
My argument is that the locus of efficacy is not symptoms, psychiatric
disorders, symbolic meaning, or social relationships, but the self in
which all of these are encompassed. Our task is then to formulate a


theory of the self that will allow us to specify the transformative effects
of healing. What is more, we require an idea of self that will be valid
for comparative studies of healing forms ranging from conventional
psychotherapy to the more exotic forms of shamanism and spirit possession cure. Finally, we require a theory of self that will allow for the
experience of the sacred as an element of therapeutic process, indeed
an element that constitutes one kind of the specificity that wc seek. Our
discussion, in short, must be an account of the cultural constitution of
a sacred self.
Let me say a few things about my orientation to the problems of
"self' and "sacred." I have become convinced that a turn to phenomenology may go a long way toward answering the need wc have just seen
for a concept of self sensitive to experiential specificity. As M. Singer
(1984:53) observes, the phenomcnological approach to self has never
been thoroughly developed, and in the 1960s was overshadowed by
understandings of both culture and self as systems of symbols and meanings. Singer's observation is certainly correct, and I think it can be
accounted for by the fact that we have not discovered the most useful
variant of phenomenology for our purposes. At one end of the continuum, Husserl's work is dense enough that by the time an anthropologist
made readers familiar enough with its terminological subtleties, the cultural substance of any account would be obscured in a whirl of methodology. Perhaps Hallowell (1955) sensed this when he went only so far
as to acknowledge a phenomenological attitude in his important works
on the self. At the other end of the continuum, the phenomenology of
Schutz is perhaps the most formalist variant, such that Gecrtz's (1973)
attempt to use it on Balinese material remains suspended between being
a true phenomenological description and an exercise in applying analytic
categories. If I were to claim a contribution for the present argument,
therefore, it would be the grounding of culture and self in the phenomenology of the body"embodiment"a variant of phenomenology
more identified with the work of Merleau-Ponty. Yet my intent is not
to offer a strict alternative to the semiotic approach, but to bring phenomenology out of the shadow referred to by Singer. In other words,
I understand cultural phenomenology as a counterweight and complement to interpretive anthropology's emphasis on sign and symbol.4
The problem of the sacred also falls within a cultural phenomenology
of self. Phenomenologists of religion have defined their understanding
of the sacred as a kind of modulation of orientation in or engagement
with the world. Eliade (1958) defined the sacred as a mode of attending


to the world, and van der Leeuw (1938) observed that the object of
religion is a "highly exceptional and extremely impressive Other." The
tenor of anthropological discussion, however, when not preoccupied
with debate about the rationality or irrationality of religious "belief,"
has again been predominandy semiodc. Every anthropologist is familiar
with Geertz's (1973) definition of religion as a system of symbols, and
most would unhesitatingly add that these symbols are articulated in a
system of social relationships. For a cultural phenomenology, the second, more obscure part of Geertz's definition must be given equal
weightthat religion acts to establish long-standing moods and motivations. I submit that the method to get at these moods and motivations
is to be found in the phenomenologists' notion of Otherness. The sacred
is an existential encounter with Otherness that is a touchstone of our
humanity. It is a touchstone because it defines us by what we are
notby what is beyond our limits, or what touches us precisely at our
limits. In addition, and of primary importance for the coherence of
our argument, we will discover that this sense of otherness itself is
phenomenologically grounded in our embodiment.
We can now restate the theses advanced in the preface, specifying
that this book is a cultural phenomenology of healing that seeks the
locus of therapeutic efficacy in the self. The next step before introducing
our empirical case is to elaborate our phenomenological approach to
self and the specificity of self processes in cultural context.

The Self: Embodiment, World, and Situation

Let us begin by venturing a working concept of self, and
then spend the rest of this section unpacking its theoretical meaning
and methodological consequences.5 Self is neither substance nor entity,
but an indeterminate capacity to engage or become oriented in the
world, characterized by effort and reflexivity. In this sense self occurs
as a conjunction of prercflective bodily experience, culturally constituted
world or milieu, and situational specificity or habitus. Self processes are
orientational processes in which aspects of the world are thematized,
with the result that the self is objeaified, most often as a "person" with
a cultural identity or set of identities.
Hallowell (1955) was the first anthropologist to propose a protophenomenological theory of the self based on "orientation" with respect


to self, objects, space and time, motivation, and norms, and this is a
good starting point for what I mean by orientation in the world.6 To
understand how this orientation comes about, wc must identify two
concepts implicit in Hailowell's argument. Perception is the key concept
implicit in his definition of the self as self-awareness, the recognition
of oneself as an "object in a world of objects." Hallowell saw self-awareness as both necessary to the functioning of society and as a generic
aspect of human personality structure. However, in defining the self as
the product of a reflexive mood, he cast his analysis at the level of the
already-objectified self. As we shall see in a moment, a fully phenomenological account would recognize that whereas we are capable of becoming objects to ourselves, in daily life this seldom occurs. Hailowell's
implicit concern with what in more contemporary terms we would call
practice (cf. Ortner 1984) is summarized in the term "behavioral environment," borrowed from the gestalt psychology of Koffka. Hailowell's
protophenomenological approach accounts for an essential feature of
the behavioral environment, namely that it includes not only natural
objects but "culturally reified objects," especially supernatural beings
and the practices associated with them. Understood in terms of perception and practice, Hailowell's concept of self thus did more than place
the individual in culture. It linked behavior to the objective world, but
defined objective in terms of cultural specificity. It linked perceptual
processes with social constraints and cultural meanings, but added selfawareness and rcflexivity.
Here we reach a critical point for our argument. For if perception
and practice arc central to the self as a capacity for orientation, we can
identify the locus of the self as identical with the locus of perception
and practice. For help we turn directly, as Hallowcll could not, to the
phenomenological thinkers. The philosopher Zaner, drawing on the
phenomenological work of Hans Jonas, Erwin Straus, and Aaron Gurwitsch, suggests an answer:
My embodying organism is thus constituted as my orientational locus in the
world, amy place," complexly articulated and membered by means of its ("my")
sensorium. In the diversity of my sense I am oriented to the Other [in this case
the other person] as one and the same, and the Other is positioned and oriented
by (referenced to) my bodily placement (body attitudes, stances, place, movements, etc.). Hence the arrangement of the environing milieu of things is functionally correlated with my organism: the latter is the organizational, sensorial
center for the actional and sensible display of surrounding objects. (1981:38,
emphasis in original)


The critical point, and one which Hallowell missed in his discussion of
orientation, is the grounding of the self in embodiment, our essential
existential condition. And here is our answrer: the specificity we are
looking for can be found in the way self processes grounded in embodiment take up or engage fundamental psychocultural issues in the experience of ritual healing. The processes of orientation are the same as those
which move experience from indeterminacy to what Hallowell referred
to as "culturally reified objects." Yet it is essential to note that Hallowell
did not place the self outside the list of elements with respect to which
it is oriented. Again implicitly, he recognized that the self is always
already in the cultural world. However, for some reason he excluded
the presence of other selves from his oudine, and we will have to reinsert
We will take up the issue of other selves along with that of objectification, to which we have already alluded. For this, we turn to the contributions of Merleau-Ponty and Bourdieu. Merleau-Ponty (1962) can help
understand embodiment with respect to perception and objectification.
Bourdieu (1977, 1984) situates embodiment in an anthropological discourse of practice, and interaction with other selves. For Merleau-Ponty,
the body is a "setting in relation to the world" (1962:303), and consciousness is the body projecting itself into the world. For Bourdieu,
the socially informed body is the "principle generating and unifying all
practices" (1977:124), and consciousness is a form of strategic calculation fused with a system of objective potentialities. I shall briefly elaborate these views as summarized in Merleau-Ponty's concept of xhepreobjective and Bourdieu's concept of the habitus.7
Merleau-Ponty objects to the empiricist position that the object we
perceive is a kind of stimulus and that perception is an intellectual act
in response to that stimulus. This is because the object of perception
conceived as an intellectual act would have to be either possible or
necessary, when in fact it is real. That is, "it is given as the infinite sum
of an indefinite series of perspectival views in each of which the object
is given but in none of which it is given exhaustively" (1964^:15). The
critical "but" in this analysis requires the perceptual synthesis of the
object to be accomplished by the subject, which is the body as a field
of perception and practice (ibid.: 16). Stated another way, MerleauPonty wants our starting point to be the experience of perceiving in all
its richness and indeterminacy, because in fact we do not have any
phenomcnologically real objects prior to perception. To the contrary,
"our perception ends in objects" (1962:67). This is to say that objects


arc a secondary product of reflective thinking. On the level of perception

we "have" no objects, we are simply "in the world." But if perception
ends in objects, where does it begin? Merleau-PontVs answer is, in the
body. In other words, he suggests that we step backward from the
objective and start with the body in the world.
However, since the subject-object distinction is a product of analysis,
and since objects themselves are end results of perception rather than
being given empirically to perception, we need a concept to allow us
to study the embodied process of perception from beginning to end
(instead of in reverse as would the empiricists). For this purpose
Merleau-Ponty offers the concept of the "preobjective" or "prereflcctive." His project is to "coincide with the act of perception and break
with the critical attitude" (1962:238-239), for the latter mistakenly
begins with objects. Phenomenology is a descriptive science of existential beginnings, not of already-constituted cultural products. If we can
capture those existential beginnings in healing, we will be well on our
way toward understanding its experiential specificity. Our goal is to
capture that moment of transcendence in which perception and objectification begin, constituting and being constituted by culture.
It may be objected that a concept of the preobjective implies that
embodied existence is outside or prior to culture. This objection would
miss what Merleau-Ponty means by the body as "a certain setting in
relation to the world" (ibid: 303) or a "general power of inhabiting all
the environments which the world contains" (ibid.:311). In fact, the
body is in the world from the beginning:
Consciousness projects itself into a physical world and has a body, as it projects
itself into a cultural world and has habits: because it cannot be consciousness
without playing upon significances given either in the absolute past of nature
or in its own personal past, and because any form of lived experience tends
toward a certain generality whether that of our habits or that of our bodily
It is as false to place ourselves in society as an object among other objects,
as it is to place society within ourselves as an object of thought, and in both
cases the mistake lies in treating the social as an object. We must return to the
social with which we are in contact by the mere fact of existing, and which we
carry about inseparably with us before any objectification. (1962:137, 362)
By beginning with the preobjective, then, we are not positing a precultural, but a preabstract. The concept offers to cultural analysis the openended human process of taking up and inhabiting the cultural world


in which our existence transcends but remains grounded in de facto

In effect, Merleau-Pontes existential analysis collapses the subjectobject duality in order to more precisely pose the question of how the
reflective processes of the intellect constitute the various domains of
culture. If we begin with the lived world of perceptual phenomena, our
bodies are not objects to us. Quite the contrary, they are an integral
part of the perceiving subject. This has a very important methodological
consequence. That is, on the level of perception it is thus not legitimate
to distinguish mind and body. Instead, beginning from perceptual reality it becomes relevant to ask how our bodies may become objectified
through processes of reflection. Merleau-Ponty felt that it was necessary
to return to this level of real, primordial experience in which the object
is present and living, as a starting point for the analysis of language,
knowledge, society, and religion.
We have not yet arrived at other selves, however, and this is becoming
urgent as we recognize that isolated reflection does not account either
for the emergence of objects or for the way we become objects to ourselves. Others play a prominent role in objectifying us. In order to begin
to grasp this issue, we must elaborate the idea of practice alongside that
of perception. We have just seen that Merleau-Ponty's goal is to move
the study of perception from objects to the process of objectification.
Bourdieu's parallel goal for a theory of practice is to move beyond
analysis of the social fact as opus operatum, to analysis of the modus
operandi of social life. He finds this modus operandi in the concept of
habitus, defined as a system of perduring dispositions.8 This system
constitutes the unconscious, collectively inculcated principle for the generation and structuring of both practices and representations (1977:
72). His definition holds promise because it highlights the lived, acted
content of the behavioral environment. We could in fact say that the
notion of habitus synthesizes behavior and environment in a single term.
In Bourdieu's work, this synthesis is possible for the same reason that
allows him to state that the habitus does not generate practices unsystematically or at random. This reason is his recognition that there is a
principle generating and unifying all practices, the system of inseparably cognitive and evaluative structures which organizes the vision of the world in accordance with the objective structures of a determinate state of the social world:
this principle is nothing other than the socially informed body, with its tastes and
distastes, its compulsions and repulsions, with, in a word, all its senses, that is
to say, not only the traditional five senseswhich never escape the structuring



action of social determinismsbut also the sense of necessity and the sense of
duty, the sense of direaion and the sense of reality, the sense of balance and
the sense of beaut)', common sense and the sense of the sacred, tactical sense
and the sense of responsibility, business sense and the sense of propriety, the
sense of humor and the sense of absurdity, moral sense and the sense of practicality, and so on. (ibid.: 124)
For our purposes, the principal point is that behavioral dispositions
are collectively synchronized and attuned to one another through the
medium of the body. Bourdieu maintains this groundedness in the body
even in discussion of the "sense of taste" as the cultural operator in his
social analysis of aesthetics, insisting that it is "inseparable from taste
in the sense of the capacity to discern the flavors of foods which implies
a preference for some of them" (1984:99).
The cultural locus of Bourdieu's habitus is the conjunction between
the objective conditions of life and the totality of aspirations and practices completely compatible with those conditions. To be consistent
with what we have learned from Merleau-Ponty, we must recall that
what Bourdieu refers to as objective conditions must already be the
product of perceptual consciousness. This fact is implicit in Bourdieu's
recognition that objective conditions do not cause practices and neither
do practices determine objective conditions:
The habitus is the universalizing mediation that causes an
individual agent's practices, without either explicit reason or signifying intent,
to be none the less "sensible" and "reasonable." That part of practices which
remains obscure in the eyes of their own producers is the aspect bv which they
are objectively adjusted to other practices and to the structures of which the
principle of their production is itself a product. (1977:79)
In other words, as a universalizing mediation the habitus has a dual
function. In its relation to objective structures it is the principle of
generation of practices (ibid.: 77), whereas in its relation to a total repertoire of social practices it is their unifying principle (ibid.:83). With
this concept Bourdieu offers a social analysis of practice as "necessity
made into a virtue" (ibid.: 77), and his image of human activity is Leibniz's magnetic needle that appears actually to enjov turning northwards
Our methodological "step backward" has now led us to the core of a
theory of self grounded in embodiment. The question about therapeutic
efficacy as an operation on the self now appears continuous with the
question of how orientation takes place upon the ground of embodied



existence. One consequence of this formulation is to recognize a continuity among normal experience, emotional distress, and psychiatric illness.9 The self processes of orientation and engagement are the same
in all cases, and what we are concerned with is the redirection of those
processes, taking embodiment as our starting point. Here we must elaborate another theme in our definition, namely that the self is an indeterminate capacity of orientation. Above all, it is not a question here of
biocultural nonspecificity, but of experiential indeterminacy. To consolidate this idea let us follow Merleau-Ponty as he argues that existence
is indeterminate
in so far as it is the very process by which the hitherto meaningless takes on
meaning, whereby what had merely a [for example] sexual significance assumes
a more general one, chance is transformed into reason; in so far as it is the act
of taking up a de facto situation. We shall give the name "transcendence" to
this act in which existence takes up, to its own account, and transforms such
a situation. Precisely because it is transcendence, existence never utterly outruns
anything, for in that case the tension which is essential to it [between objective
world and existential meaning] would disappear. It never abandons itself. What
it is never remains external and accidental to it, since this is always taken up
and integrated into it. (1962:169)
This transcendence described by Merleau-Ponty is not mystical, but is
grounded in the world, such that existential indeterminacy becomes the
basis for an inalienable human freedom (1962, part 3, chapter 3).
For Bourdieu, as for Merleau-Ponty, the synthesis of practical domains in a unitary habitus is predicated on indeterminacy, but this variant of indeterminacy does not lead to transcendence as it does for
Merleau-Ponty. Instead of an existential indeterminacy, Bourdieu's is a
logical indeterminacy, which
never explicidy or systematically limits itself to any one aspect of the terms it
links, but takes each one, each time, as a whole, exploiting to the full the fact
that two "data" are never entirely alike in all respects but are always alike in
some respect.
[Ritual practice works by] bringing the same symbol into different relations
through different aspects or bringing different aspects of the same referent into
the same relation of opposition. (1977:111, 112)
Logical indeterminacy is the basis for transposition of different schemes
into different practical domains, forming the basis for the polysemy and
ambiguity that allows for improvisation in everyday life.10
Although a shared paradigm of embodiment thus leads both theorists



to a principle of indeterminacy, there remains a critical difference insofar

as Bourdieu's logical principle becomes the condition for scmiotic improvisation whereas Merleau-Ponty's existential principle becomes the
condition for phenomenological transcendence.11 In sum, McrleauPonty sees in the indeterminacy of perception a transcendence which
does not outrun its embodied situation, but which always "asserts more
things than it grasps: when I say that I see the ash-tray over there, I
suppose as completed an unfolding of experience which could go on
ad infinitum, and I commit a whole perceptual future" (1962:361).
Bourdieu sees in the indeterminacy of practice that, since no person has
conscious mastery of the modus operandi which integrates symbolic
schemes and practices, the unfolding of his works and actions "always
outruns his conscious intentions" (1977:79).
Whereas they are both predicated on the ccntrality of embodiment,
there is an important difference between these two notions of indeterminacy, a difference that is relevant for how we construe orientation among
selves or within a collectivity. The locus of these differences is Bourdieu's
rejection of the concepts of lived experience, intcntionality, and the
distinction between consciousness in itself and for itself. Although we
need not elaborate each of these notions, we must observe the methodological consequence of this wholesale rejection of fundamental phenomenological concepts. In effect, it requires Bourdieu to ground the conditions for the intelligibility of social life entirely on homqgenization of the
habitus within groups or classes (1977:80), and to explain individual
variation in terms of homology among individuals. The result is that
individuals' systems of dispositions are structural variants of the group
habitus, or deviations in relation to a style (1977:86). Merlcau-Ponty,
in contrast, insists on the a priori necessity of intersubjectivity, pointing
out that any actor's adoption of a position presupposes being situated
in an intersubjective world, and that science itself is upheld by this basic
doxa. This is perhaps the methodological moment at which semiotics
and phenomenology diverge, but it is by the same token the moment
where they meet, and we will have occasion to return to this moment
at various points in our argument.
For the present I will argue for preserving the notion of intersubjectivity, and speak for the reconcilability of the two positions. Again I
do so following Merleau-Ponty, for whom intersubjectivity is not an
interpenetration of isolated intentionalities, but an interweaving of familiar patterns of behavior:



I perceive the other as a piece of behavior, for example, I perceive the grief or
the anger of the other in his conduct, in his face or his hands, without recourse
to any "inner" experience of suffering or anger, and because grief and anger
are variations of belonging to the world, undivided between the body and
consciousness, and equally applicable to the other's conduct, visible in his phenomenal body, as in my own conduct as it is presented to me. (1962:356)12
In short, because body and consciousness are one, intersubjectivity is
also a copresence.13 Another's emotion is immediate because it is
grasped preobjectively, and familiar insofar as we share the same habitus.
To paraphrase Merleau-Ponty, another person is perceived as "another
myself that tears itself away from being simply a phenomenon in my
perceptual field, appropriating my phenomena and conferring on them
the dimension of intersubjective being, and so offering "the task of a
true communication" (iVlerleau-Ponty 1964^:18). Just as we do not
perceive our own bodies as objects, other persons can become objects
for us only secondarily, as the result of reflection. The conditions under
which selves become objectified can only be identified empirically, as
we are about to do in our cultural phenomenology of the self in religious
healing. Finally, this notion of intersubjectivity offers an insight into
the relation between self and sacred. That is, the preobjective character
of another person as "another myself' is a major part of what distinguishes our experience of the social other from our experience of the
sacred other, for the latter is in a radical sense "not myself."14
We can consolidate this understanding of self as the indeterminate
capacity for orientation by comparing our notion of indeterminacy with
Fernandez's concept of the inchoate. For Fernandez the inchoate is "the
underlying (psychophysiological) and overlying (sociocultural) sense of
entity (entirety' of being or wholeness) which we reach for to express
(by predication) and act out (by performance) but can never grasp"
(1982:39). As a first approximation we could say that whereas a concept
of the inchoate is essentially concerned with the problem of form out
of formlessness, a concept of indeterminacy is concerned with that of
specificity out of flux. Likewise, as a matter of emphasis we could suggest that the inchoate is a starting point for examination of affect and
identity, whereas indeterminacy leads us to issues of perception and
practice. At a deeper level, the difference is in Fernandez's emphasis on
the sense of entity that we reach for but can never grasp. The notion
of indeterminacy accounts precisely for why we cannot grasp it"it"
being the self itselfbecause there is in fact no "entity" as such to be



This is not to say, however, that the self as indeterminate capacity

for orientation and engagement has no characteristics, and this brings
us back to the inclusion in our definition of reflexivity and effort, which
Zaner (1981) refers to as "fundamental moments of self" The selfrcferentiality of the whole that is composed of bodily experience, habitus, and world is a kind of "inwardness" that results in the awakening
of the senses of presence in the world and of coprcsencc with others.
This situated reflexivity is accompanied by an effort which is precisely
the effort to become oriented in the face of the vertigo of essential
indeterminacy encountered in this awakening. Reflexivity and effort are
necessary characteristics of self. One advantage of identifying them the
way we have is that it allows us a better feel both for the proper place
of self-awareness and objectification in our understanding of self It
shows why we eschewed self-awareness as a starting point in our consideration of Hallowell, and the already-constituted world of objects as a
starting point through our reading of Merleau-Ponty. A second advantage is that is recognizes self-awareness and objectification (i.e., the
creation of culture) as inevitablethere can be no other consequence
of reflexivity and effort. Yet, and this is its final advantage, insofar as
rcflexivity and effort arerespectivelygrounded in the indeterminacy of
perception and practice, the orientation process is never complete.
Zaner summerizes this point with a term borrowed from Gabriel Marcel, suggesting that the self is constantly "en route."
Having identified reflexivity and effort, we are prepared for the last
element of our definition, that self processes achieve the self-objcctification of persons. We turn again for contrast to Fernandez, for whom
the inchoate is the ground of emotional meaning, moral imagination,
identity, and self-objectification, all of which are characteristics of persons. The person already objectified is a culturally constituted representation of self. The preobjective self, however, is a culturally constituted
mode of being in the world. In the constitution of persons, Fernandez's
functions of predication and performance are parallel to the domains
of perception and practice that we have identified as loci for the constitution of self. To be precise, with predication we recognize that perceiving
is perceiving as, and with performance that practice is practice as if. With
predication reflexivity becomes self-awareness, and precisely because it
is based on predication it is necessarily self-awareness of a specific cultural kind (cf. Shweder and Bourne 1982). With performance effort
becomes agency, but again, because it is based in the efficacy of pcrfor-



mance, it is not necessarily the agency of a solitary ego often presupposed in our own culture.
Recognizing the inchoate as the existential ground of the person
means emphasizing that there is always some form in which the self is
objectified. Acknowledging indeterminacv' as the ground of self means
emphasizing that form itself is indeterminate. On both analytic levels
one must admit, along with Fernandez, the critical importance of metaphor as the epitome of what Merleau-Ponty referred to as our human
"genius for ambiguity" (1962:189). For present purposes we need not
elaborate the notion of metaphor other than to observe how it relates
differentially to person and self.15 Because the person is a kind of representation, however, the feature of metaphor likely to be stressed is a
textual one, namely its richness of meaning. Because the self is a mode
of being in the world, the feature that must be stressed is a feature of
embodiment, namely the instability of attention directed toward any
one dimension of a metaphor's meaning. To observe self processes, or
processes of self-objectification, in perception and practice is then not
only to observe a striving for a sense of entity through predication and
performance, but to examine a series of shifting construals of relationship among bodily experience, world, and habitus.

The Sacred Self in a Charismatic World

No matter how much conceptual sense our definition of
the self makes, it remains empty theorizing unless it is capable of dialogue with concrete phenomena. We must then work out our insights
in the empirical thickness of healers' and supplicants' experience, specifying the transformation of suffering16 and distress as the transformation
of self. This will require phenomenological description of particular
culturally elaborated self processes as they are addressed to situationally
relevant psychocultural themes. Yet it was important that we present it
first, before our description of the Charismatic Renewal as an "object"
of analysis. To do otherwise would have been disingenuous, presupposing that we could somehow describe the movement in terms devoid
of theory before then subjecting it to analysis. Since all description is
implicitly theoreticalthe result of objectificationour dialogue has
necessarily already begun. Accordingly, our introduction to the movement in this final section of the chapter already bares the conceptual



scaffolding on which it is constructed. As an introduction, however, it

is the first step toward grounding our argument in Blake's "minute
particulars" of existence.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is a movement within the Roman
Catholic Church which incorporates Pentecostal practices into Catholicism. Contemporary Pentecostalism began around the turn of the present century, and until the 1950s was a predominantly working-class
religion practiced in denominations such as the Assemblies of God
(Bloch-Hoell 1964, Hollenweger 1972, Synan 1975). Through the influence of these "classical" Pcntecostals, Catholics and "mainline" denominational Protestants occasionally underwent the spiritual experience of being "baptized in the Holy Spirit." These neophytes would
typically leave their churches and join Pentecostal ones. Beginning with
the Episcopalians in the 1950s and culminating with the Catholics in
1967, however, many of those who underwent the Pentecostal experience decided that it was not incompatible with their faith. They began
to join together in "neo-Pentecostal" groups, originating "charismatic
renewal" movements within their denominations.
The moment in which the Roman Catholic movement originated
coincided with the beginning of the "post-Tridcntinc" epoch of church
history. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) marked the end of
a regime of doctrine and practice that had lasted four hundred years
since the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Changes instituted in the
wake of Vatican II created the conditions of possibility for the Charismatic Renewal in several respects. The Council's position on the theoretical possibility of "charisms" or "spiritual gifts" opened the way for
the adoption of the Pentecostal phenomena in their already-developed
ritual forms. Reinterpretation of the sacraments, wherein penance or
confession became the sacrament of reconciliation (rather than of guilt)
and extreme unction, or the last anointing, became the sacrament of
the sick (rather than of the dying) opened the way for Charismatic faithhealing. Changes in liturgical form such as turning the altar to face the
congregation and adopting vernacular language in place of Latin
opened the way for paraliturgical innovation such as the Charismatic
prayer meeting. The new biblicism has been taken up wholeheartedly
by Charismatics, sometimes to the point of fundamentalism, and the
movement is a stronghold of lay initiative and ecumenism.
These changes within Catholicism also coincided with the culmination of the post-World War II era in the cultural ferment of the 1960s.
Its racial strife, the morally devastating Indochinese war, and mass col-



lege enrollments of the "baby boom" generation spawned movements

of black power, feminism, and eventually the "new age." Catholics had
a variety of options ranging among the Christian Family movement,
marriage encounter, the Cursillo, the Christian Worker movement, the
"underground church," discussion and encounter groups, home masses
with avant garde liturgies, and the political thought of liberation theology. Many of these were characterized by motives of community and
renewal. Pentecostalism was a catalyst that added a totalizing enthusiasm and experience of the sacred, precipitating a new movement out
of postwar, post-Vatican II Catholicism.
The movement attracted a strong following among relatively welleducated, middle-class, suburban Catholics (Mawn 1975, Fichter 1975,
McGuire 1982, Neitz 1987). Since its inception it has spread throughout the world wherever there are Catholics.17 The Church hierarchy
has cautiously but consistently recognized the movement's legitimacy,
apparently tolerating its theological radicalism for the sake of encouraging its increasing political conservatism. Although it has been predominandy a movement of the laity, substantial proportions of nuns and
priests have participated, including several bishops and one cardinal.
From 1967 to 1970 the movement was a collection of small, personalistic groups emphasizing spontaneity in prayer and interpersonal relations, and loosely organized via networks of personal contacts. From
1970 to 1975 it underwent rapid institutionalization and consolidation
of a lifestyle including collective living, distinctive forms of ritual, and
a specialized language of religious experience. From 1975 to the end
of the decade the movement entered an apocalyptic phase based on
prophetic revelation that "hard times" were imminent for Christians.
The turn of the decade brought recognition by the movement that its
growth had virtually ceased, and marked an increasingly clear divergence
between Charismatics gathered into rightly structured intentional communities who wanted to preserve the earlier sense of apocalyptic mission
and those who remained active in less overtly communitarian parochial
prayer groups. By the end of the eighties some among the former considered themselves a distinct movement. Among the latter, boundaries
between Charismatics and conventional Catholics became somewhat
ambiguous, as many who no longer attended regular prayer meetings
remained active in their parishes, while many Catholics with no other
movement involvement became attracted to large public healing services
conducted by Charismatics.
Over the course of its twenty-five-year history the movement has



also undergone a demographic transition. Not only have Charismatics

themselves aged, but they have attracted increasingly older members
such that the modal age of participants is at present in the fifties. The
Charismatic Renewal is no longer the vanguard movement it conceived
itself to be in its first phases. It has a stable bureaucratic organization,
and by the late 1980s had become one among other conservative movements in contemporary Catholicism.
What constitutes an identity as a Catholic Charismatic? The first
element is cultivation of a particular style of relationship to divinity.
The Charismatics claim to offer a unique spiritual experience to individuals, and promise a dramatic renewal of Church life based on a spirituality of "personal relationship" with Jesus and direct access to divine
power and inspiration through a series of "spiritual gifts" or "charisms."
Directly relevant to the issue of a sacred self, the notion of a relationship
to the deity is a template for orientation in the world, and the exercise
of spiritual gifts is a template for self processes that bring about that
orientation. Despite the currency of the notion of being "born again,"
Charismatics are more likely to say that religious experience allows them
to discover their "real self1 than to claim that they have been given a
"new self."18 Identity is expressed as a sense of coming to know "who
I am in Christ."
This sense of orientation and of self process docs not exist in a cultural
vacuum, however. The Charismatic sacred self is elaborated with respect to psychocultural themes already salient in the North American
milieu. These are themes in the sense introduced by Oplcr (1945) to
describe global preoccupations of a culture. In a phenomcnological
sense they are also issues thematized or made salient in the orienting
processes of sclf-objectification. The themes of spontaneity and control
were already identified by Clow (1976) as central to traditional Pentecostalism, and have been preserved and elaborated in the Catholic movement. In addition, the theme of intimacy is vivid both in the notion of
a personal relationship with the deity and in the emphasis placed on a
sense of community in Charismatic groups. Let us briefly elaborate
these three psychocultural themes and their relevance to Charismatics.19
Participants experienced the Charismatic Renewal as an opportunity
to achieve that spontaneity sought after in American culture both as a
personal trait and as a feature of interpersonal relations. The notion
that mental health is related to the "spontaneity of the self' is found
in some versions of professional psychological theory (Grcenberg and
Mitchell 1983:200). The kind of American who initiates or at least



participates in "impromptu gatherings" or events is valued, and middleclass Americans often lament not having the kind of personal relations
where friends feel free to "drop over anytime" (cf. Varenne 1986). 20
One may even see the desire for spontaneity in the current popularity of
comedy clubs where patrons seek to be startled or shocked into laughter.
Charismatics, also reacting to the ritualistic Catholicism in which many
were raised, are highly motivated by the ideal of spontaneity in spiritual
experience as well as interpersonal interaction. Indeed, in the early
1970s when I began fieldwork among them, Charismatics would react
negatively if I referred to an interest in their "ritual" life, associating
the term with formalism and lack of spontaneity' or freedom. Some
movement participants would reject being labeled as such because it
violated their sense of spontaneity, saying that they could not be Charismatics because it was "not an organization but a movement of the
The theme of control is likewise prominent in the cultural psychology
of Americans. Crawford (1984), for example, has analyzed the American concept of health as a symbol that condenses metaphors of selfcontrol and release from pressures. It is consistent that the popular
imagination has been captivated by an illness like anorexia nervosa, in
which "the main theme is a struggle for control, for a sense of identity,
competence, and effectiveness" (Hilde Bruch, quoted in Bell 1985:17).
Gaines (1992) has identified control as a prominent cultural theme in
formal psychiatric diagnosis, and Lutz (1990) shows that the language
of control pervades everyday emotional discourse. A common complaint
by middle-class Americans when their affairs are not going well or they
feel under stress is that "my life is out of control." My impression is
that Americans are less bothered by the breach of decorum in losing
control of their own behavior than they are in not being able to control
their situation: one may indeed "fly off the handle" if it appears impossible to "do something" that is causing frustration.21 Charismatics thematize both positive and negative aspects of control. On the one hand,
they learn not only that they should "surrender" themselves to the will
of God, but that overwhelming situations can be "given to the Lord."
On the other hand, the influence of evil spirits is suspected precisely
when negative behaviors or emotions are out of control.
Finally, intimacy is a prominent American psychocultural theme. It
is vivid in the ideal for relations between spouses, summarized in the
notions of romantic love and close communication (Bellah ct al. 1985,
Levine 1991). When an American refers to a group of friends or co-



workers as "like a family," the connotation is more likely to be that

members are intimate and so close that one can "tell them anything"
than that they are loyal solely because an obligatory social relationship
exists. This contrasts with Japanese culture, for example, in which intimacy is cultivated among peers of the same age group but not typically
between spouses, and where in general the values of continuing nurturance and harmony often "take precedence over the actualization of intimacy in relationships" (Devos 1985:163,165,167). Although intimacy
is not an exclusively "Western" cultural characteristic, it has been described, especially among Americans, as the "most precious commodity
in life" (Hsu 1985:36). Charismatic self processes of intimacy arc found
in their motive toward community, in the body technique of laying on
hands, in the form of an intimate relationship (cultivated by means of
a private "prayer life") with a divinity conceived explicitly as a "personal
God," and in the genre of ritual language known as "sharing" the intimacy of one's life experiences and thoughts. Westley (1977) has shown
that speaking in tongues is not a necessary and sufficient criterion of
being Charismatic. In her study, "individual members saw the moment
that they began sharing as the moment of their rebirth," and members
stated that until they began sharing their prayer group was not a Charismatic one (ibid.:929).
Charismatics are not unique among Americans who address their
preoccupation with such self-related psychoculturaJ themes through ritual healing. Meredith McGuire (1982, 1988), who has studied a wide
spectrum of middle-class American healing groups including that of
Catholic Pentecostals, points out that for many of them " 'health' is an
idealization of a kind of self, and 'healing' is part of the process by
which growth toward that ideal is achieved" (1988:244). She suggests
that Christian healing is relatively distinct in that it cultivates a self in
a subordinate relationship to a transcendent deity and in conformity to
group norms, while many other forms of contemporary religious healing cultivate a flexible self freed from learned constraints and open to
new possibilities and potentials (ibid.:238). Nevertheless, for McGuire
the general condition for this concern with self is that contemporary
society has approached the "limits of rationalization" of the body, emotional experience, and styles of moral evaluation and legitimation, limits
at which there is change in "the very practices by which self is symbolized, shaped and expressed" (ibid.:251-252). Her argument suggests
that these limits are not being retreated from, surpassed, or abolished,
but that internal social system tensions occurring at those limits generate



a basic reorientation. Whether or not one accepts the hypothesis about

limits of rationalization, McGuire's observations reinforce our premise
that therapeutic specificity can be identified in orientational self processes addressed to psychocuitural themes such as spontaneity, control,
and intimacy in ritual healing.
Among Charismatics, the self processes addressed to these three
themes become operative within a coherent ritual system. Catholic
Charismatic ritual performance is characterized by a marked linguisticality, in that most of what goes on is verbal. In this sense it is a religion
of "the word." Bound by the mortar of oral performance, ritual events
become the building blocks of Catholic Charismatic life in a manner
distinct from societies typically encountered in the anthropological literature. Anthropological accounts of traditional societies customarily treat
ritual as a window on the nature of society, as events that throw light
on underlying cultural and structural patterns: society creates ritual as a
self-affirmation. In a movement like Catholic Pentecostalism, this relation between society and ritual is inverted. Ritual events like prayer
meetings are both historically and structurally prior to the generation
of distinctive patterns of thought, behavior, and social organization.
The events provide the earliest models for the organization of community life: ritual creates society as a self-affirmation. Prayer meetings, initiation ceremonies, and healing services are the three main classes of ritual
The prayer meeting is the central collective event for Catholic Charismatics, and indeed the organization of prayer groups and communities
evolved directly from the organization of prayer meetings. A small casual prayer group is likely to gather around a lighted candle in the living
room of a private home. A large group may meet in a gymnasium, with
several instrumentalists to accompany group singing, a public address
system for the speakers, and control by leaders over which participants
will be allowed to "prophesy" or "share."
Initiation to the Pentecostal experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit
is intimately tied to initiation into the Charismatic group. Initiation
typically occurs in a series of seven weekly "Life in the Spirit" seminars.
The first four weeks explain the "basic Christian message of salvation"
and the meaning of baptism in the Spirit, the fifth week is devoted to
prayer with laying on of hands for the baptism, and the final two weeks
are "oriented towards further growth in die life of the Spirit."
Healing may take place in large public services or in private, oneon-one sessions. In the former, each supplicant is typically prayed for



briefly with the laying on of hands. The latter are similar to sessions of
psychotherapy, although of a form that aJtcrnates periods of counseling
with periods of prayer. Healers tend to specialize in one of several forms
of healing, including healing from physical illness, "inner" or emotional
healing, and "deliverance" from the influence of evil spirits.
Ritual language within any of these classes of events is constituted
by a system of four major genres. These genres are named, formalized
speech varieties used with regularity in ritual settings, and frequently
regarded as verbal manifestations of the sacred. They include prophecy,
teaching, prayer, and sharing. Prophecy is a first-person pronouncement
in which the "I" is God; the human speaker is merely the divinity's
mouthpiece. For Catholic Charismatics prophecy is a kind of divine
revelation, a means of access to the mind of God. Teaching is understood as ritual utterance that clarifies some spiritual truth, and thus
enables its hearers to lead better Christian lives. Teachings arc often
detailed elaborations of key terms and concepts that recur in less elaborated form in the other ritual genres. Prayer includes four basic types:
worship (with subcategories of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving);
petition or intercession on behalf of another for a special purpose such as
healing; "seeking the Lord," or prayer for divine guidance; and "taking
authority," or praying in the form of a command for evil to depart from
a person or situation. Finally, sharing is similar in form to ordinary'
conversation except that its contents must have some spiritual value or
edifying effect. These contents may be experiences, events, problems,
or thoughts that have some significance for a religious understanding
of daily life.
Whereas performance of ritual genres can be understood as a rhetorical means of ordering experience and directing attention, the concrete
character of the Charismatic world can be found in the movement's
specialized vocabulary of motives (Mills 1940). The motives are words
with specialized religious meaning which are constantly circulated in the
genres of ritual language. They play a role in orientational self processes
insofar as their use both anticipates the situational consequences of participants' actions and implies strategies for action. The motives of Charismatic ritual language name and identify the following features of Charismatic life: (1) forms of relationship among individuals or between
individuals and God; (2) forms of collectivity or collective identity; (3)
qualities or properties of individuals or relationships; (4) activities or
forms of action essential to life within the movement; (5) negativities
or countermotives that refer to threats to the Charismatic ideal.22



The Charismatic ritual system is embedded in a behavioral environment that includes several types of culturally objectified persons. We
have already briefly mentioned the sense in which the person can be
understood as a cultural representation, specifically as an objectification
of self. Parallel to the way in which the self extends beyond the biological
individual to encompass relations among body, habitus, and world, the
person as representation extends beyond human beings to play a major
role in the semiotic constitution of the behavioral environment. Hallowell (1960) showed that among the Ojibwa persons are many phenomenologically real beings that inhabit the cultural world, and with which
human beings presumably may come into interaction. Among Charismatics, the domain of person includes not only human beings, both
adult and child, but fust of all God. The Charismatic deity is really three
persons, each with a character corresponding to one of the three parts
of the tripartite human person. Thus Father, Son, and Holy Spirit correspond with mind, body, and spirit, and implicitly each divine person
is most congenial with its matched subfield within the human person.23
Also considered persons in this sense are deceased human spirits, and
at the opposite end of the life course, human embryos and fetuses.
Relative to societies in which they are actively propitiated, ancestral
spirits are largely neglected, except insofar as they are occasionally the
cause of some affliction (see chapter 2). Unborn spirits are, however,
a cause celebrc that lead Charismatics to intense political involvement
in the North American cultural debate about abortion.
Evil spirits or demons also populate the Charismatic behavioral environment, though Charismatics would doubtless prefer not to grant
them the "dignity" of being persons, and instead use a term like "intelligent entities." One healer was on such disrespectfully familiar terms with
her adversary (ultimately Satan, despite the multiplicity of individual
demons under his dominion) that she referred to him as "the old boy"
and "the creep." Other spiritual persons are of decreasing salience for
interaction with humans. The importance of the Virgin Mary is proportionally less in "ecumenical" groups where Catholic devotees demur
out of politeness to their Protestant fellows, whose traditional culture
excludes defining Mary as a person who interacts with humans. Saints
are not prominent actors even in predominantly Catholic groups, in
this case not out of deference to Protestants, but largely because they
become relatively superfluous as intermediaries in a religion that cultivates direct "person-to-person" interaction with the deity. Michael the
Archangel is invoked as a protector against evil spirits or as a reinforce-



ment in episodes of "spiritual warfare" against them, but angels as a

class of spiritual person are conspicuously absent from the Charismatic
world, appearing but rarely in healing or prophetic imagery.
Our search for specificity of therapeutic process in Charismatic healing can only succeed by taking into account the features of the Charismatic world that we have sketched out in these too-brief paragraphs.
In the following chapters we will identify culturally elaborated self processes of imagination, memory, emotion, and language. We will examine how, in the conjunction of these self processes and the three psychocultural themes with respect to which they are oriented, the
indeterminate self is objectified and represented as a particular kind of
person with a specific identity. This self is sacred insofar as it is oriented
in the world and defines what it means to be human in terms of the
wholly "other" than human (van der Lccuw 1938, Eliade 1958, Otto
1958). The sense of the divine other is cultivated by participation in a
coherent ritual system. This ritual system is embedded in, and helps
to continually create, a behavioral environment in which participants
embody a coherent set of dispositions or habitus. These are the elements
that constitute the webs of significanceor of embodied existencewithin which the sacred self comes into being. To be healed is
to inhabit the Charismatic world as a sacred self.

Ritual Healing: Affliction and

Among Catholic Charismatics, the practice of "praying

over" people with the laying on of hands was first used for "baptizing
in the Spirit." It soon came also to be used to consecrate prayer-group
leaders and for informal healing prayer. For the first several years ritual
healing had a relatively low profile in the movement. People learned
by doing, discovering how others responded to their ministry and what
kind of prayer appeared to be most effective. Sometimes they consulted
books on healing by Protestant authors. Starting in 1974 with thenDominican priest Francis MacNutt, Catholic Charismatics began publishing books describing their own experience as healers. In a very short
span of years a profusion of books, cassette tapes, and workshops for
healers became available. Virtually every Catholic Charismatic healer
is familiar with writings by MacNutt, the Jesuit brothers Dennis and
Matthew Linn, and Barbara Shlemon, to name only a few. The result
has been a fairly uniform diffusion of practices throughout the movement and the evolution of a remarkably consistent and distincdy Catholic system of ritual healing.
Charismatics do not hesitate to ask for divine healing, for they are
convinced that God wants them to be happy. They participate in the
late-twentieth-century shift away from embracing suffering and selfmortification as an imitation of Christ's passion, and toward the relief
of suffering through divine healing as practiced by Jesus in the gospels
(Favazza 1982). Yet healing is not only the relief of illness and distress,
and not only a "sign to unbelievers" of divine power, but an instrument



for molding the sacred self for both healers and patients. This ideal self
is inherently healthy, both for its own sake and for its capacity to contribute to the divinely appointed collective mission of bringing about
the "kingdom of God." Our goal is to grasp the self processes mobilized
to constitute the sacred self.
Charismatic ritual healing presumes two closely interrelated capacities of self: the capacity to be "wounded" or "broken" and subsequently
healed by divine power in a way that roughly corresponds to the professional medical system's notion of cure; and the capacity to achieve spiritual "growth" and "maturity" in a way that roughly corresponds to the
aspirations of contemporary holistic and New Age healing. The Charismatic sacred self is, in McGuire's (1982) phrase, both "whole and holy."
In order to remove obstacles to spiritual growth everyone requires healing whether or not they are diagnosably ill in medical or psychological
terms. The idea behind this is that everyone suffers from the weaknesses
of the "flesh" and the spiritual residue of Adam and Eve's "original sin."
In contrast to religions in which incorporation into a phenomenological
world may be a condition for relief of affliction, as in the "symbiotic
cure" of the Moroccan Hamadsha (Crapanzano 1973), Charismatic
healing's motive of growth makes creation of a sacred self programmatic
from the outset.
In this chapter we will first offer an ethnographic profile of Charismatic healers and patients. We then describe Charismatic healing as a
system of ritual performance constituted by types of healing event, genres or forms of healing prayer, and ritual acts of empowerment. It is
these events, genres, and acts that mobilize and organize the self processes. We conclude the chapter with a phenomenological analysis of
self processes experienced by healers in two types of ritual acts.

To formulate a profile of Charismatic healing ministers
I will call on data from my interviews in the late 1980s with eightyseven experienced healers in New England. A veritable hierarchy of
renown exists among healing ministers within the movement. Some
"Charismatic stars" bear international reputations, others are known
nationally or regionally, some among the prayer groups of a particular
city, some only within a particular prayer group. The reputations of



Table 2.1 Professional Training Among 87 Catholic Charismatic Healers.

ministry (pastoral counseling psychology)
(3 priests and 1 ex-priest)
internal medicine
counseling psychology
social work
Nursing degrees
Other training (spiritual direction, clinical pastoral education,
pastoral counseling)


the healers I interviewed spanned the entire hierarchy of renown.1 Most

were in their forties or fifties. Whereas many had been involved in the
Charismatic Renewal for ten or more years, all but a few had participated for at least a year prior to becoming healers.
The eighty-seven healing ministers included eighteen priests, seven
nuns, seventeen laymen, and forty-five laywomen. Of the lay healers all
but four women were married. The majority, or fifty-three (60 percent)
of the healers, practiced in the setting of a prayer group or covenant
community, and of these only ten served people outside the membership
of their group.2 A second group of twenty-one healers, independent of
any group affiliation, served a broader clientele.3 Finally, another group
of thirteen healing ministers were affiliated with counseling centers. Of
the eighty-seven healers interviewed, twenty-six (30 percent) had some
form of professional training in health or mental-health care, though
not all of these integrated healing into their professional work (table
2.1). On the other hand, of fourteen interviewees who worked professionally as healers (that is, were paid for their services), not all had
professional training. Finally, seven healers, generally at higher levels in
the hierarchy of renown, devoted full time to their "ministries" without
receiving professional compensation.
Several of the healers belonged to the Association of Christian Therapists, an organization founded in 1975 and composed largely of Catholic Charismatic health-care professionals. Based on their sense of compatibility between religion and science, such professionals integrate
healing prayer into their therapeutic repertoires, while at the same time
some healers are inspired to pursue professional training. Even among
strictly religious healers referral networks include not only more experi-



enced Charismatic healers, but also mental health professionals and physicians. Some healers admit learning to make mental-health referrals
from unsuccessful and even unintentionally harmful attempts to help
severely disturbed persons. Healers typically are unable to articulate
clear criteria for when to make such a referral, but report attending to
behavioral and interactional cues as well as to unresponsiveness or lack
of engagement in the healing prayer. A referral docs not preclude continuation of healing prayer, especially if the referral is to a psychiatrist,
regarded primarily as a source of medication.4
How does one become a Charismatic healing minister? The answer
to this question is critical because of what it may tell us about the
dynamics of the healing system in relation to other such systems documented in the anthropological literature. One of the most common
patterns in the literature is the initiatory illness, signifying that the afflicted is to become a healer. It does happen that Charismatics enter the
"healing ministry" by being healed of a problem or illness themselves.
Thereupon they may discover a special gift in praying for the healing
of others similarly afflicted. Such an initiatory illness is by no means
required, however. Strictly speaking, it is the healing that is taken as a
sign rather than the illness itself (e.g., alcoholism or the trauma of sexual
abuse), and in fact its importance to their adopting the role of healer
was cited by only six of our healers. Nevertheless, as "spiritually mature
individuals who have lived the "life of the Spirit" for a number of years,
virtually all Charismatic healing ministers can narrate incidents in which
they have been healed, and may regard such experiences as increasing
their ability to pray sensitively with others. With regard to other initiatory patterns commonly documented cross-culturally, only two healers
began their ministry because of the spontaneous manifestation of a divine gift of revelation (two others stated that they were encouraged by
such manifestations after they tried healing prayer with others). Only
two reported beginning in response to a vision (in one case her own
vision, in another a vision by another prayer-group member). Only one
reported actually "asking for" the gift of healing from God, and three
others expressed having had an "interest in" ritual healing prior to having the opportunity to practice it. Only five healers reported having
been in any kind of formal or scmiformal "apprenticeship" to a moreexperienced Charismatic healer.
The majority of Charismatic healers begin their ministry in one of
several less-dramatic ways. First, they may gravitate toward healing be-



cause of a preexisting role. Based on a scriptural injunction that community "elders" should pray for the sick among their faithful, group leaders
(n = 8) may find themselves "naturally" beginning to pray with others
for healing. A priest (n = 9) by virtue of the additional access to divine
power conferred by his ordination and his accustomed role of ministering to others (including performance of the Sacrament of the Sick), and
a health-care professional (n = 12) by virtue of training and interest,
may also be expected to play a role in healing. An even more common
pattern of becoming a healer is to be invited to do so by others (n =
25). This may begin with informal requests for prayer and growing
recognition of a healer's giftedness by word of mouth, or by formal
invitation to join a healing team based on recognition of "spiritual maturity" and other personal qualities by community leaders. Others, knowing that they should be involved in some "service to the community,"
search about among several possible "ministries" until, often guided by
the recommendation of others, they find that prayer for healing suits
Still others reported that during the course of their involvement in
the movement the practice of praying together with and for people
"naturally" evolved into healing prayer. Some groups maintain the original emphasis by insisting that theirs be called simply a "prayer ministry"
instead of a "healing ministry." Individuals may report the naturalness
of their earliest experience in statements like, "When people needed
prayer I'd just pray," or, "that was very natural for me because I'd been
a member of ALANON,"5 or again, "all along in my life people would
come to me and talk to me about their problems." A combination of
these patterns may appear in the account of a single healer, such as one
woman who became involved because she was healed herself, but who
also was someone "others always came to with problems," who was a
trained psychotherapist, and who was asked by others to formulate
teachings about healing prayer.
Perhaps more than anything else, these patterns of selection and recognition reinforce a conception that, insofar as the "gift" to heal others
is a capacity of the sacred self, it is so in its aspect of the collective
self. This self-in-creation is best conceived not with respect either to its
egocentric "boundedness" or sociocentric "permeability," but in terms
of its disposition within a whole-part relationship between person and
community. One does not only pray for others because one is gifted;
one can receive the gift because one prays for others.




Let us turn from healers to patients in Charismatic healing, drawing on data from our 1987 survey of 587 participants in 5
Catholic Charismatic healing sendees. The socioeconomic status of participants (table 2.2) is unremarkable, showing relatively even distribution across educational and occupational categories. However, one demographic feature is relevant to defining the structure of the healing
system and its historical development. That is, not all who attend large
public healing services can be considered "Charismatics." This conforms
to the pattern of many religious healing systems described by anthropologists, which are typically exoteric in the sense that the*/ are available
to any member of the society who wishes to consult them (Janzen 1978,
Kapferer 1983, Kleinman 1980). Even those systems associated with
relatively exclusive sects or movements are seldom restricted only to
members. Studying Mexican spiritualists, Finklcr (1985) observed a
distinction between those who were devotees and those who made casual or periodic use of ritual healing, and Crapanzano (1973) noted
a similar distinction between Moroccan Hamadsha participants who

Table 2.2 SociocconotHic Status by Occupation and Education of Participants in

Catholic Charismatic Healing Services.
Years of Education
Student, Retired,











Frequency missing = 79.



experienced a "symbiotic" cure by being absorbed into the brotherhood

and others who received a "one-shot" exorcistic cure. Whereas Catholic
Charismatics began praying for healing only with one another, over the
past two decades ritual healing has become more accessible to those
with only a marginal exposure to the movement. Public healing services
are invariably run by Charismatics, but in some of them the use of
charisms such as speaking in tongues and prophecy is intentionally
muted, out of concern that participants may be frightened or alienated
by such unfamiliar practices.
Among respondents to our questionnaire, while 30.6 percent of healing-service participants can be considered fully active Charismatics, another 34.8 percent have virtually no involvement in the movement.6
Furthermore, because healing services take place in different settings,
the proportion of active charismatics in the five services observed ranged
from a low of 17 percent to a high of 56 percent. The five settings
represent a typical range, including one at a large suburban shrine center, one at a large urban shrine center, one sponsored by a well-established prayer group but that was not widely publicized, one by another
established group that was publicized and focused on healing of "emotional problems," and one at a small city parish featuring a healer nationally renowned for the healing of "physical illness." Overall, active Charismatics differed from non-Charismatics in two important demographic
features: Charismatics were more likely to be married (62 percent as
opposed to 47 percent), and were more likely to have some degree of
education beyond high school (53 percent as opposed to 44 percent).
Perhaps the most impressive difference was that whereas 86 percent of
active Charismatics reported having experienced divine healing at some
time in their lives, only 59 percent of non-Charismatics did so. 7 The
relatively high percentage among non-Charismatics reflects the fact that
on the one hand they do not represent the general population, but that
on the other hand they are not fully integrated into a Charismatic world
in which healing is expected as part of spiritual growth in a Christian
Women accounted for 77 percent of participants whereas 23 percent
were men, a proportion similar to that observable in most Charismatic
prayer groups, excluding "covenant communities."8 In general, the preponderance of women appears to be the rule in devotional religions. It
has also been documented that in our society women report having
"religious experiences" more often than men (Valla and Prince 1989),
and that across cultures women participate to a greater extent in reli-



gions involving possession by spirits or deities (Lewis 1971, Bourguignon 19766, 1983). 9 We will not enter this difficult debate, but will
instead add some data relevant to it. What draws our attention is that,
despite the high ratio of women to men, the proportions of participants
of both genders appear to be remarkably similar across several critical
dimensions of experience and practice. First, the frequency with which
the respondent speaks in tongues (daily or weekly, from once a month
to once a year, or never) were virtually identical among men and women.
The proportional frequency of attending Charismatic prayer meetings
varied only a bit: 44.4 percent of women and 38.9 percent of men
attended weekly, 31.6 percent of women and 35.9 percent of men less
than weekly, 16.2 percent of women and 12.2 percent of men never
attended.10 When these two variables were combined to determine
Charismatic identity as described above, there was virtually no statistical
difference between genders (p = .812). The number of times a person
reported having had prayer for healing (none, 1-5 times, more than 5
times) was again virtually identical between genders. Moreover, 67.9
percent of women and 63.8 percent of men reported having at one time
or another been healed at a healing service.
Perhaps most interesting in relation to the anthropological literature
on trance and altered states of consciousness are the reported frequencies
of "resting in the Spirit," the sacred swoon in which one is overwhelmed
by divine power and falls in a state of motor dissociation (see chapter
9). A total of 23.8 percent of women and a slighdy higher 30.5 percent
of men reported never having had the experience. 61 percent of women
and 54 percent of men reported having had the experience at some
time. However, this moderate discrepanq' in proportions across genders becomes even less when the number of times a person has undergone the experience is taken into account: 30 percent of women and
26 percent of men had rested in the Spirit 1-5 times, whereas 31.3
percent of women and 28.2 percent of men had done so 6 or more
times.11 The point in question is the Charismatic notion, grounded
squarely in the North American ethnopsychology of gender, that
women are more "open" to the spiritual and hence more easily "overwhelmed." One informant, a leader of a covenant community, confidently stated that in any service 90 percent of women as compared with
40 percent of men would rest in the Spirit. This does not conform with
our results.
Finally, we consider the kinds of problems brought for healing by
men and women. For purposes of analysis, we collapsed the responses to



our questionnaire into categories that correspond with the Charismatic

division of the person into body (physical/medical problems), mind
(emotional/relationship problems), and spiritual renewal.12 Among respondents who reported only one problem, or problems from only one
of these categories, the proportions of men and women were virtually
identical. Only among the 18 percent of respondents who reported
problems from two or all three of the categories did women predominate, suggesting that they either had a slight tendency to bring multiple
problems or conceived of their problems more broadly. None of these
data controvert the insight of recent feminist theory that "religious experience is the experience of men and women, and in no known society
is this experience the same" (Bynum 1986:2). Neither do they controvert the importance of the overall preponderance of women in healing
events. They suggest only an absence of gendered difference in the
frequency of certain practices and experiences among men and women
who do undergo them.
Let us take a closer look at the kinds o f problems participants bring
to healing services. First we must note that whereas most participants
are in search of healing for themselves, some come to request divine
intervention for a friend or loved onethey become supplicants in a
"healing by proxy" of the absent and perhaps even unknowing beneficiary. Our interest, however, is in the overall range of problems submitted. A total of 24 percent of respondents reported no specific problem
that led them to the healing service, but among the remainder the three
categories proved relatively distinct. For those whose problems fell only
into one of the three principal categories, 24 percent sought only physical healing, 22 percent sought only emotional/relationship healing, and
12 percent sought only spiritual renewal. As noted above, only 18 percent of respondents reported problems from more than one category.
Of those who reported no specific reason or the nonspecific "spiritual
renewal," active Charismatics and non-Charismatics were represented
in equal proportions. Non-Charismatics accounted for higher proportions of those who sought healing for physical problems (40 percent
as opposed to 24 percent) and for emotionaiyrclationship problems (34
percent as opposed to 26 percent). In contrast, of those who combined
categories, active Charismatics accounted for 30 percent, whereas nonCharismatics accounted for only 23.4 percent. The most frequently
mentioned category for non-Charismatics was physical problems,
whereas active Charismatics most frequently reported no specific problems. These results suggest a greater specificity and problem-oriented



attitude on the part of non-Charismatics toward healing services, and

on the part of active Charismatics a relatively more global attitude toward the role of healing, combined with generalized interest in the
religious milieu.
The appeal of Catholic Charismatic healing beyond the ranks of
movement participants does not negate the fact that, like other forms
of healing, it appears adapted to address the needs of a particular population (Kakar 1982). Those who enter Charismatic healing enter a performance setting defined in religious terms so that, especially if they have
not been associated with the movement, its formulations must make
sense on some a priori grounds of shared culture. For example, problems
common to this population such as depression, weak self-image, and
marital difficulties may be linked by healers to "anger with God." This
formulation can only roughly be glossed in terms of the common "why
me?" question, or generalized resentment over state in life. What the
healer is identifying in such a situation is that some individuals quite
literally blame the deity for misfortunes, and quite literally argue with
or shout at him. Again, Charismatic Christians have elaborated a concern with the religious significance of sex and reproduction, and emphasize the need for healing emotional consequences of abortion, or from
the habit of masturbation.13 Feelings of "unworthincss" and "scrupulosity" are endemic in the generation of Catholics prominent among
Charismatic participants. In addition, hypcrrcligiosity is a not-uncommon consequence of being "born again" or "baptized in the Spirit."
Healers themselves recognize this problem in exaggerated devotionalism and unhealthy abdication of life responsibilities to divine providence.
Mainstream Catholic Charismatic teaching is that ritual healing is
compatible with conventional health care. Healers sometimes encourage
supplicants to abandon their wheelchairs or crutches and walk, but they
are just as likely to sense or even directly inquire about supplicants' fear
of seeking medical care and encourage them to do so. It is sometimes
the case that, adopting the older Protestant Pentecostal practice known
as "claiming the healing," some people will abandon prescribed medication or cancel a planned surgery as an act of faith without any evidence
that they have in fact been healed. However, they are more likely to
pray that the results of conventional medical tests will be negative, that
the adverse side effects of their medication will be muted, that an upcoming surgical procedure will have a positive outcome, or that a person
who is terminally afflicted will die peacefully. Table 2.3 shows the pro-



Table 2.3 Proportion of Supplicants in Catholic Charismatic Public Healing

Services Reporting Use ofAlternate Healing Forms by Type of Problem
Submitted to Ritual Healing.

Type of Practitioner
Family doctor or surgeon
Psychiatrist or psychologist
Counselor or priest

Supplicants Reporting

Supplicants Reporting



portions of respondents who sought healing for physical/medical and

emotional/relationship problems who had in addition consulted one of
several other types of practitioners about that same problem.14 Fully
79 percent of those with physical/medical problems had consulted a
family doctor or surgeon, and 39 percent of those with emotional/
relationship problems had seen a psychiatrist or psychologist. Moreover,
these mental-health professionals were equally as popular as counselors
and priests. Finally, a minority reported consulting fortune-tellers or
astrologers. This is significant insofar as, according to mainstream Charismatic teaching, such healers utilize "occult" or demonically inspired
practices. They are regarded not only as incompatible with Christianity,
but also as potential causes of affliction or exposure to evil influences.
This preliminary glimpse at healers and patients suggests that Charismatic ritual healing is an engagement with basic life problems defined
in a particular religious and cultural milieu, and that it interacts with
psychotherapy and other forms of healing and medical care. We now
turn to a description of Charismatic healing as a system of ritual performance comprised of specific ritual events, stylistic genres, and aas of
empowerment.15 As ritual event, the several types of healing sessions
objectify the self in its capacities for growth and affliction, and provide
a model for individual contact with the divinity and divine power. The
different genres of healing articulate the dynamics of the tripartite person in its most intimate interpersonal relationships. Finally, acts of illocution and predication in ritual healing constitute an explicit repertoire
of empowerment.



Events of Ritual Healing

Healing services were introduced to Catholic Charismatics in 1974, when Francis MacNutt presided over an efflorescence of
healing that "broke out unexpectedly" in the Notre Dame football stadium among massed participants at the movement's annual conference.
Within a few years the popularity of healing services on the older Protestant model began to increase. Such services arc "Catholicized" in that
they are typically (but not always) conducted by Charismatic priests,
and especially in the less-ecumenical Northeast are often preceded by a
mass. Conferences remain an occasion for large healing services, for
workshops on different types of healing prayer, and for private healing
encounters of all types. Conferences, retreats, and periodic "days of
renewal" constitute spiritually charged atmospheres in which people
may be inspired to pray with others for healing, or ask for healing prayer,
at virtually any moment. Not unusual, for example, is the instance of
a priest who left his room in a retreat house with the "sense" that he
should go to a particular area of the house. He paused, returning to
his room to retrieve a vial of holy water, just in case his "sense" meant
that he was about to encounter the need for healing prayer. The careful
priest was well prepared to augment his prayer with the added blessing
obtained with the sprinkling of sacramental holy water.
We can identify four relatively distinct types of Charismatic healing
events: large public services with multiple patients, small services following prayer meetings, private services for the benefit of a single patient,
and solitary healing prayer for oneself or absent others. In large public
healing services the principal healing minister, unless he or she is traveling as a guest in an unfamiliar region or country, is typically assisted
by a staff. Members of this staff serve as ushers for those coming forward
to receive prayer, "catchers" for those who may be overwhelmed by
divine power and fall in a sacred swoon (see chapter 9), musicians, and
members of small prayer teams. Each patient receives at least a few
moments of personal attention from either the principal healer or one
of the prayer teams. Staff members of several well-organized "ministries"
are identified during services by a sash or jacket worn over their clothing,
or by regular street clothing with a common color scheme.l6 In a typical
scenario, the service begins with the leader walking up and down the
aisles of the church, using a liturgical instrument known as an aspergillum to sprinkle holy water on the assembly and pausing periodically to



lay hands on a person's head or shoulder. Returning to the front of the

assembly the leader delivers a sermon on divine healing, and a music
ensemble composed of members of the staff leads the group in Charismatic songs. Several participants are solicited to share or "witness to"
previous healings they have experienced. The body of the service consists in each participant coming forward for a minute or two of private
prayer, much as they come forward for the Eucharist in a mass. Each
is anointed with sacramental oil and "prayed over" with laying on of
hands. Some healers ask the person to name the problem to be prayed
for, others do not and "leave the entire matter to God." Still others
(apparendy fewer) diagnose the problem by inspiration, learning
through the results of an inspiration or "word of knowledge" that, for
example, a supplicant is "angry and should forgive her husband." Services typically last three or four hours if preceded by a mass. Daylong
or two-day healing retreats may include "workshops" on spiritual gifts
prior to the mass and a healing service proper.
In prayer groups healing prayers for self or others may occur in a
segment of the weekly prayer meeting. Better-organized groups may
have a selected team of "healing ministers" who, following the meeting,
conduct prayer for individual supplicants in a separate "healing room."
Several pairs of team members dispersed through the room each see
one patient at a time. They listen, talk, lay on hands, and pray for
healing. Other patients wait outside the prayer room and are admitted
one by one by another healing team member who acts as gatekeeper.
The post-prayer meeting healing-room session stands in contrast to
the large service in its relative privacy, in the increased amount of time
spent with each patient (10-20 minutes instead of 2-3), and in the
greater likelihood of healers and supplicants having an ongoing relationship within the group.
Based either on the recommendation of the healing-room prayer
team, on the recommendation of another prayer-group member who
senses that a person is troubled, or on one's own initiative, a person
may arrange a private session with a more experienced healer or healing
team, within or outside the group. 17 Private healing sessions typically
take place in a home or counseling center, but sometimes occur over
the telephone or in hospital visits. Private sessions may last an hour or
more and may be conducted by healers within the group or by those
with broader reputations. Healers either stand over the seated supplicant
with hands laid on head, shoulder, back, or chest; or they sit facing the
supplicant, sometimes holding hands. Private sessions are informally



structured into alternating segments of talk or "counseling" and of actual

"healing prayer," though some healers regard the entire session as
prayer. Multiple sessions over time on the model of psychotherapy are
performed by more "psychological" healers who hold that healing can
be a divine augmentation of gradual, natural processes. Some more
"fundamentalist" healers object that God's power or willingness to heal
is slighted if lengthy multiple sessions arc held. One such healer commented that so many people were in need of help that it was unfair to
hold private sessions. Consistent with the conviction that it is better to
reach as many as possible and leave the details of each person's problem
to God, this priest confined his ministry to large public healing services.
Finally, healing prayer for oneself or others may be practiced in the
solitude of private devotion. To my knowledge there is no formal procedure to such prayer, and it can obviously not be observed direedy. The
possibility for ritual healing in the absence of a ritual healer has, however, been known since the time when healing was carried out by dream
"incubation" in the ancient Greek temple of Acsclepius. This feature of
healing should be kept in mind as a caution against overestimating the
contribution to therapeutic efficacy of the therapeutic "relationship," a
tendency derived from the pervasive scholarly analogy between psychotherapy and religious healing. Whatever efficacy inheres in solitary healing appears to be founded on the way in which ritual, with or without
a healer, activates endogenous self processes (Prince 1980, Csordas
Along with prophecy and speaking in tongues, healing is regarded
by Charismatics as one of the "spiritual gifts" or "charisms." However,
the structure of healing events as cultural performances is essentially
different from that of the prayer meeting and its variants. This is because
the gift of healing is understood as the mediation of divine power
through specific individuals rather than as collective access to the divinity through worship and inspiration. Even though prophecy is also a
mediation of divine power by an individual, and even though its message may be uniquely interpreted by each listener, anyone in a prayer
meeting may be inspired with prophecy and everyone hears the same
prophetic utterance. The asymmetrical relationship among participants
in healing, constituted by one person "ministering to" others, persists
even when there is a group of healers working in teams. Only rarely is
divine power given a collective locus, with the leader instructing all
participants to lay hands on each other.18 Thus, although movement
leaders exhort participants to "focus on the gift not the man," there is



nevertheless a perception that some healing ministers are more gifted

than others, and those in attendance at public healing services often
show a preference to be "prayed over" by the service leader instead of
by one of the teams of assistants.
Especially in healing regarded as spiritually dangerous or sensitive,
such as casting out evil spirits, healers at any level of the hierarchy of
renown may work in teams of up to half-a-dozen people. The principle
behind team healing is that there is not one healing gift, but a series of
complementary gifts, all of which not every healer necessarily possesses.
These gifts include that of being able to verbalize the healing prayer
itself, the gift to "discern" the presence of spirits, the "word of knowledge" that reveals unspoken facts about the supplicant, or "prophecy"
to encourage and exhort the patient, the gift of "authority" to command spirits to depart, and the gift of "love" by which the patient feels
the intimacy and support of the team, and which keeps him or her
from becoming frightened. One man, who often took responsibility as
"doorkeeper" of his group's healing room, felt that his gift was the
inspiration to direct each patient to the team of healers whose gifts
would be most suited to the supplicant's as-yet-unspoken problem. The
"spontaneous coordination" of these gifts in practicea kind of team
habitushas become second nature in healing teams that have been
together for as many as fifteen years.

Genres of Ritual Healing

Essential to the Charismatic healing system is a concept

of the person as a tripartite composite of body, mind, and spirit. Conceptualization of a tripartite person creates a decisive cultural difference
between Charismatic healing and conventional psychotherapy and medicine, insofar as the latter are predicated on a concept of the person as
a dualistic composite of body and mind. For Charismatics the spiritual
is, paradoxically, ineffable and empirical at the same time. Its ineffability
was captured by an informant who said that the reason the spiritual
could not easily be discussed was only because we have no language
for it, and hence we are forced by default to describe it in the language
of emotions. On the other hand, the spiritual is empirical in the sense
that phenomena such as evil spirits, or the sense of divine presence, are



experienced as real in their own domain, just as are viruses in the somatic
and emotional traumas in the mental domains.19
Corresponding to each component of the tripartite person is a type
of healing: physical healing of bodily illness, inner healing of emotional
illness and distress, and deliverance from the adverse effects of evil spirits.
Each genre includes distinctive concepts of affliaion and elements of
technique. The genres tend to occur in different frequencies across
events that range from large public services to private one-on-one encounters, and healing ministers tend to specialize in one genre. However, most Charismatic healers recognize a necessity at times to combine
genres, insofar as the components of the tripartite person are holistically
related in, as they say, a "pneumopsychosomatic" synthesis. In this way
Charismatic healing participates in the broader cultural discourse in
which one finds popular notions of the "psychosomatic" and "holistic
Physical healing is the most widely known in American religious
culture, and Catholic Charismatics arc relatively more influenced by the
model of Protestant healers such as Oral Roberts and Kathryn Kuhlman
than by the models of miracles performed by saints and pilgrimage to
healing shrines such as Lourdes. As was evident in our summary of
problems presented by healing service participants, physical healing addresses a full range of medical complaints. Yet, as we have also mentioned, in comparison with some forms of Protestant faith healing,
patients rarely feel required to abandon medical care as a sign of faith.
The technique of physical healing typically consists in the simple laying
on of hands accompanied by prayer that the condition be healed, though
in cases such as the mending of broken bones and the reversal of cancer,
patient and/or healer visualization of the healing process might be included.
Inner healing was introduced to Catholics largely through the influence of the Episcopalian Charismatic Agnes Sanford, regarded by some
as the "mother of the inner healing ministry." It is relevant for all kinds
of emotional problems, and subsumes what Charismatics sometimes
label the "healing of relationships." Inner healing is also often referred
to as "healing of memories," a term that reflects its underlying theory
of affliction. This theory holds that emotional "woundedness" or "brokenness" is the result of traumatic life events. From this premise, a kind
of popular religious psychodynamics is elaborated: since the origin of
affliction is attributed to interpersonal trauma, emotional and psychological problems are dealt with by searching for biographical causes



embedded in "memories." The typical technique is to pray for the supplicant's entire life stage by stage, from the moment of conception to
the present. Events or unreconciled relationships that emerge in this
review of life history are given special attention in a period of prayer,
and the supplicant is asked to forgive the offending person. The prayer
may include an imagery process, either spontaneous or suggested by
the healer. In this process the painful situation is reconstructed and the
human form of Jesus is introduced as an actor who touches, heals, and
reassures. In the words of one healer, inner healing is "praying the
presence of Christ into the moments of their lives." Some conservative
classical and nondenominational Pentecostals reject this form of healing,
especially the use of imagery, as "practicing psychotherapy without a
license," and as "nonbiblical," since the healings of Jesus included only
physical healing and casting out evil spirits.20
Deliverance was introduced to Catholics by the nondenominational
neo-Pentecostal healers Donald Basham and Derek Prince as well as
through writings by the Episcopalian Charismatic Michael Harper and
the nondenominational Frank and Ida Mae Hammond. Charismatics
distinguish between demonic possession, in which a demon takes total
control of a person's faculties, and lesser forms of influence in which
demons do not gain complete control, but are regarded as having a
detrimental effect on the person's life and spiritual growth. The Catholic
Church requires that full possession be dealt with only by a priest using
the formal rite of exorcism, under the explicit permission of a bishop
and following a lengthy inquiry that rules out alternatives to demonic
activity, including mental illness. Thus, by addressing only what are
defined as lesser forms of demonic influence, deliverance prayer legitimates an engagement in "spiritual warfare" with the minions of Satan
which would otherwise be restricted. Charismatics also distinguish their
practice of deliverance from that of their Protestant brethren, attempting to moderate what they regard as relatively "violent" manifestations
of demonic activity in the supplicant's behavior. The presence of evil
spirits is identified or discerned either by the healer or supplicant
through the uncontrollable persistence of sins or negative forms of
thought, emotion, and behavior. The spirits are then commanded to
depart in the name of Jesus. Charismatic ethnotheory holds that because
divine authority is absolute, evil spirits cannot resist obeying this command, though in certain cases a spirit may create disruptive "manifestations" such as uttering verbal abuse through the mouth of its host, or
physically upsetting the host.



That the genres of healing are related as a coherent system is evident

not only in the way they are distinguished from related forms among
Protestants. Just as a "pneumopsychosomatic" interrelation exists
among the components of the tripartite person, so arc the healing genres
related because of possible interactions among their underlying etiologies of affliction. Thus, whereas physical illness may be attributed to
physical or biomedical causes, it may also originate in biographical
trauma, such that inner healing becomes prerequisite to physical healing. This position would be maintained regardless of whether that physical healing was achieved through prayer, medical treatment, or a combination of the two. Again, a person afflicted by evil spirits is also often
said to have become so as a result of a vulnerability created by a traumatic
past event. For example, emotional scars from childhood sexual abuse
may later provide a point of entree for the spirit Lust. Physical illness
may provide entree for evil spirits, though in other cases evil spirits may
be the principal cause of physical illness. In a finely wrought example
of contemporary' scholastic reasoning, one renowned healer explained
that if a cancer originated in natural causes but was exacerbated by
demons, deliverance by itself would be insufficient to effect a healing;
however, one could be certain that the primary cause of the disease was
demonic if deliverance prayer resulted in a cure. Others point out that
arthritis, for example, may not only be a physical illness requiring prayer
for physical healing, but the result of "resentment" over having been
wronged. Therapeutic success would then require inner healing and
forgiveness of the offender. Deliverance might also be deemed necessary
insofar as the evil spirit Resentment could have a hold on the afflicted
person. Because of this "holism," although healing ministers tend to
specialize in one or another genre, most recognize a necessity at times
to use all three forms in varying combinations.
The earliest formulation of the Catholic Charismatic healing system
by Francis MacNutt (1974) included a fourth genre called "spiritual
healing." This form never developed a technique of its own, but although it bears a peripheral relation to practice it plays a role in the
religious rationale of healing. Unlike deliverance, it has no elaborated
content with respect to the spiritual component of the tripartite person,
but is residually concerned with the general well-being of the soul. One
rhetorical function of this protogenre was to assure the recognition of
sin as a possible cause of illness, a function largely appropriated by
deliverance in the theory that habitual sin provides the occasion for the
assertion of demonic control over the "area" of one's life affected by



the sinful behavior. Spiritual healing also provided an anchor for the
healing system in conventional Catholic ritual practice, with the doxa
that a primary source of spiritual healing should be the sacrament of
reconciliation (confession). Perhaps most importantly, this healing form
serves as a kind of "consolation prize" for those who receive no relief
from performance of the principal genres. Thus it is said that if the allbenevolent Lord does not see fit to grant a physical healing, he will at
least grant a spiritual healing constituted by a sense of peace and acceptance of the divine will. Spiritual healing is therefore an important hedge
against the failure of healing prayer, sidestepping the thorny issues of
theodicy in a religion that has largely abandoned a notion of redemptive
suffering in favor of the notion that God desires everyone to be healed.
If spiritual healing has remained an implicit residual genre in the
healing system, a quite different significance has been borne by a genre
added to the system well after it was established among Catholics. Alternatively called ancestral healing, intergenerational healing, or healing
the family tree, it was introduced in the early 1980s by British Charismatic psychiatrist Kenneth McAll (1982). The integration of this new
genre demonstrates both the coherence of the tripartite system undergirded by the tripartite person concept, and the possibilities/limitations
for change/innovation within the system of healing practice. The theory
of affliction in ancestral healing is that problems can be passed to successive generations through the "bloodline." Whereas in some societies
the attribution of illness to ancestors is commonplace, in contemporary
North America it is somewhat awkward and ambiguous. Thus among
those who practice this genre of healing there is a persistent conceptual
indeterminacy. Consensus is lacking as to whether the affliction is caused
primarily by learned and transmitted behavior patterns, by the spiritually
transmitted effects of emotional woundedncss or sin, by the influence
of evil spirits that prey upon successive generations of a family, or by
the unrestful spirits of forebears themselves. The latter explanation is
quite controversial, since the notion of earthbound spirits or ghosts
does not square with conventional Catholic theology. For this reason,
and based on the objection that affliction transmitted through the
"bloodline" undermines the principle of divinely granted free will, healing of ancestry has not found unanimous acceptance among Charismatics.
Rather than argue that the ambiguous place of this genre is the result
of the absence of sufficient "logical space" within a tightly bound and
conceptually coherent tripartite healing system, I will point out how



ancestral healing is in fact a hybrid of several ritual forms. First, it

appears to be an elaboration of the traditional Catholic practice of praying for the repose of souls in Purgatory. It extends the underlying premise by praying for the actual healing of ancestral souls, understood to
remain afflicted after death, as well as for healing of the living patient.
This interpretation is supported by the fact that a key element in the
technique of ancestral healing is performance of a mass, also a very
common traditional way of "remembering the deceased/' Second, it in
effect extends the biographical scope of inner healing or healing of
memories in a reverse temporal direction. That is, whereas inner healing
typically begins its biographical review with conception and proceeds
through culturally defined stages of the life cycle to the present, ancestral
healing begins with the patienfs parents and proceeds backwards in
time to earlier generations. This is borne out by another element of
ritual technique, the construction by the supplicant of a genealogy or
"family tree," the successive generations of which guide the stages of
healing prayer. Third, the genre shares elements of deliverance, and
sometimes is even thought of as a form of deliverance in which the
influence of evil spirits is traced back through a "bloodline." However,
it can also seen as a kind of "domestication" of deliverance insofar as
the source of affliction is shifted from unpredictable demonic spirits to
more manageable human spirits. This interpretation is supported by a
third principal element of ritual technique, the "cutting of bonds" between supplicant and afflicting ancestor. Sometimes performed in imagination with an imagined sword, it presumes that the relation between
ancestor and afflicted, like the relationship between evil spirit and afflicted, is one of "bondage."
The severing of bonds is of interest for a comparative reason as well.
Affliction by ancestors is commonly recorded as a cause of illness in the
ethnomedical systems of diverse societies (Murdock 1970). By and
large, however, the ancestors are thought to take action in response to
having been offended or neglected by living descendants. Therapy often
consists of reestablishing bonds by appeasing, meeting the demands of,
or fulfilling obligations toward the ancestor. That Charismatic ancestral
healing requires the severing of bonds is strikingly concordant with a
North American ethnopsychology that objectifies the healthy self as a
discrete, bounded, entity. Healers emphasize that it is only bondage and
not relationship that is ritually severed, especially where the "ancestor" is
a still-living parent. The sacred self is thus created by a performative
act that powerfully enacts the cultural ideal of ego integrity and psycho-



logical differentiation, in vivid contrast to ritual healing in societies

where boundaries between selves are not so definitively drawn.

Acts of Empowerment and Transformation

Within the ritual events and genres we have described,
Charismatic healing includes a repertoire of discrete acts, like the severing of ancestral bonds, that can be understood as kinds of "performative
acts." The notion of a performative speech act was developed by Austin
(1962/1975) to refer to instances in which "saying something" is a way
of "doing something." It is relevant to apply this formula in return to
nonverbal acts, as for example shaking hands is a way of greeting someone, or of confirming a contract. In this sense the performative acts of
Charismatic healing, both verbal and nonverbal, are ways of doing specific things essential to the healing process.21 In table 2.41 have summarized the repertoire of specific, named Charismatic performative acts of
healing and have grouped them analytically according to what they "do"

Table 2.4 Performative Repertoire of Charismatic Healing.

' Anointing
Laying on of hands
Holy water, consecrated oil, blessed salt
Tongues (glossalalia)
Resting in the Spirit
Soaking prayer
Calling down the blood of the lamb
Lifting someone up to the Lord
Calling on St. Michael and the Virgin Mary
{Words of knowledge, wisdom
Vision (imagery)
! Discernment of spirits
Binding of spirits
Calling out spirits
Prayer of command
Cutting ancestral bonds
Eucharist (communion)
Reconciliation (confession)
Emotional release Forgiveness



or contribute to healing. Wc will encounter many of them again in

subsequent discussion, but here I will do little more than define their
place in the healing system.
Under empowerment I include those acts in which divine power is
experienced or brought to bear in a particular environment or on a
particular individual. An anointing is typically a physical sensationtrembling, lightness, heaviness, heatthat indicates the activity
of divine power. Laying on of hands is a physical touching of the supplicant that focuses prayer and channels divine power into the supplicant.
Water, oil, and salt are the three substances known as "sacramentals"
in traditional Catholicism. Holy water and salt may be sprinkled in a
home or on a person and oil may be used to anoint a person's forehead.
Not only substantial vehicles for divine power to heal, they could also
be included under our category of protection, especially protection from
evil spirits; blessed salt is in fact mostly used as a form of protection.
Speaking in tongues is used as a more powerful mode of prayer for
healing than vernacular language. However, healing ministers also acknowledge using glossolalia when they are unsure what to say, when
they are opening themselves to divine revelation, and when they want
to surrender control of the healing process directly to divine action;
when the healer speaks in tongues she may be "getting out of the way
so that God can work." Resting in the Spirit is a spontaneous experience
(and thus from the emic standpoint not really an "act" at all) on the
part of the patient in which she is overwhelmed by divine power and
falls in a semiswoon to the floor, there lying in a state of "total peace
and relaxation" with the sense of being in the divine presence. Finally,
soaking prayer is intensive intercessory prayer lasting for hours or even
days, with members of a prayer team alternating shifts. In soaking prayer
language is virtually a ritual substance in which the supplicant is immersed.22
Like several of the other performatives of healing, those of protection
are accomplished not through physical actions but through either verbal
or imaginal acts. Calling down the blood of the Lamb mobilizes the
divine power inherent in the blood shed by Jesus. Like soaking prayer,
it suggests immersion in a substantivized divine power, but that power
is given explicit symbolic form as divine blood. But whereas in the use
of sacramentals actual water, oil, or salt is applied, the person for whom
one prays is only symbolically covered, drenched in a protective coating
of divine blood. 23 The presence of St. Michael the Archangel and his
band of militant angels and the Virgin Mary with her maternal vigilance



can also be invoked. An elaborate prayer of protection for family and

home may result in the entire house being covered by blood and surrounded by legions of angels. Finally, the symbolic act of lifting someone up to the Lord is a way of commending that person to divine
providence, though in addition it is also a way to pray for a person or
petition the deity on someone's behalf.
The category of revelation includes several "spiritual gifts" that again
from the emic point of view are not acts but spontaneous experiences
of inspiration. Word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and prophecy are
collectively known as "word gifts." The first consists in "receiving,"
through divine inspiration, information about a person, situation, or
problem that the healer had no "human" means of knowing. Word of
wisdom is a gift of being able to say just the thing that a patient "needs
to hear" at a particular point in the healing process. Again, the content
is perceived by the healer as beyond his or her normal capacity to advise
and counsel. It may be an apparently Solomonic statement that appears
to come to mind "out of the blue," or something that appears wise only
in retrospect, based on feedback by a grateful patient. Prophecy, one
of the principal genres of ritual language discussed in chapter 1 (see
also Csordas 1987) occurs somewhat infrequently in healing. One
prominent healer's public service for a time included the feature of a
brief prophecy to each supplicant by an assistant who followed behind
the principal healer as he moved from person to person laying on hands.
Where prophecy occurs in a private session for a single supplicant, it
is most often uttered in an informal, conversational style. The overall
rarity of prophecy is consistent with the prominence of the psychocultural theme of intimacy in ritual healing, both in the relation between
healer and supplicant and between divinity and supplicant. Insofar as
prophecy is a modality of divine authority, it is somewhat out of place
when the ritual focus is on divine intimacy. Even where divine power
is most immediately felt, in the experience of resting in the Spirit, it is
the intimacy of divine presence that is emphasized in healing. Finally,
among revelatory acts, vision or imagery may occur to either healer or
supplicant. Despite their name, and as we will discuss in detail in chapter
4, any of these "word gifts" may be experienced as a nonverbal sensory
image. A burning sensation in a healing minister's ear might indicate
that someone in the assembly is being healed of an ear problem, or the
visual image of a beating heart might indicate the healing of coronary
disease. Patients "receive" imagery either spontaneously during prayer
or in a guided imagery process. Such imagery is typically formulated



as "memories" of traumatic life events, the effects of which arc then

transformed through additional imagery processes in inner-healing
Under deliverance are included those performative acts concerned
with identifying, controlling, and dispatching evil spirits. Discernment
is one of the "spiritual gifts" and allows its recipient to sense the presence
and often the identity of a demon. Binding is a verbal technique (i.e.,
it is usually not acted out either physically or in imagination) that invokes divine power to constrain a demon from "manifestations" such
as physical violence, screaming, or profanity. Calling out spirits is a
practice in which the healer identifies the demon by name or commands
the demon to name itself through the voice of the afflicted. The prayer
of command is a performative act in the strict Austinian sense, an utterance in which a demon is, "in the name of Jesus," commanded to depart.
In theory the "saying" is the "doing," since because demons are under
the ultimate authority of the divinity they arc unable to refuse the command. In practice, however, they are sometimes recalcitrant, especially
when faced with a healing minister who is inexperienced or lacking in
confidence. Finally, cutting ancestral bonds is a symbolic act, performed
either verbally or through imagery, of severing ties of affliction within
the "bloodline." As noted above, it is sometimes referred to as "deliverance" from the bond to a predecessor, but also more literally may be
deliverance from a demon that afflicts successive generations within a
As Catholics, Charismatics see traditional liturgy and sacrament as
sources of divine power for healing. Mass and Eucharist are opportunities for exposure to the divine presence, whereas Reconciliation is an
opportunity to remove the spiritually pathogenic effects of sin. Finally,
forgiveness is an act by which supplicants unburden themselves of resentment or hatred against those who have wronged them. Presupposing an essentially merciful deity, the act of forgiveness is regarded by
some healers as inherendy efficacious in both a spiritual and psychological sense and an essential feature of healing process.
In the chapters that follow, we will encounter a variety of these acts
in the context of their use. At present I will elaborate the phenomenology of two of them: the anointing and the laying on of hands. The
first is characteristically a spontaneous bodily experience, the second a
gesture or technique of the body. Along with the discussion in chapter
4, these analyses will represent the healer's voice in the existential dialogue of ritual healing. From the healer's standpoint they will offer an



initial sense of the experiential specificity we require from a cultural

phenomenology of therapeutic process.

Phenomenology of Performative Force

For Charismatic healers, experience of an anointing is
taken as a sign that a healing is occurring or is about to occur. This
sign may be evident only to the healer as a sense or image, but in some
circumstances may also be evident to a patient. For example, once a
healer approached me at a service and laid his insistendy vibrating hand
on my shoulder as he prayed. I recognized the vibration as the manifestation of an anointingin the Charismatic world, I had been direcdy
exposed to divine power. What is the meaning of this? A simple functionalist account would be that the vibration, as a manifestation of
divine power, enhances the "expectant faith" (J. Frank 1973) of both
healer and supplicant. Although perhaps accurate, this account hardly
approaches an ideal of specificity, so instead of stopping there I took
the opportunity in subsequent interviews to recount my experience to
other healers and solicit their response. I found them quite divided on
whether the vibrating hand is an authentic, naive, misguided, theatrical,
or even feigned sign of divine anointing. It also became clear that,
to most, an anointing held more significance than a simple sense that
something divine was happening. Here is a segment of my interview
with a healer who was particularly articulate about the phenomenology
of anointing, based on long experience conducting public healing sessions:
Fr. P: Well, you pray for the anointing and then you become bold. You have
to get from the natural to the supernatural because of your human condition, because we're trying [inaudible] our type, body, mind and spirit.
So, I guess it's through hit and miss, you have to work yourself into it.
So, you have to begin to walk on water, the way Peter walked on water.
It is something that cannot be learned or taught. It's something that
you have to kind of go through.
TC: How can you tell when you get the anointing? For example, some people
kind of feel a tingling in their fingers?
Fr. P: That happens sometimes. You have the tingling, you have the feeling.
You just feel that, there might be a heaviness sometimes on you or a
heaviness sort of stuns, comes on you. It's the anointing. It's the Spirit
hovering over you, over the assembly; and if you are very sharp and



discerning sometimes my, your sixth sense as it were, your spirit, it's
very, very sensitive and when you get revelation knowledge, its intuitive,
it's not so much up here, its through the heart. And you kind of flow
with that, you kind offlowwith that. And there are other times, though
you might be dead emotionally, and mentally just exhausted, and yet
you still have the anointing. In other words you don't get locked into
feelings as such because feelings are the language of the body. Thoughts
are the language of the mind, concepts. Your conscience is telling you
what God wants, but your heart on the deepest level, the real you, is
where God lives within you. And He works in you on that level. He's
Spirit. Spirit gives witness to spirit. So you are working on this deep,
deep level.
TC: It seems that in order to tell if you have an anointing, your body, mind,
and spirit would have to experience it somehow simultaneously. I mean,
Pm trying to see the way you can tell. Sometimes, there's a tingling but
not always. Then that happens in the hands. Or it happens elsewhere
on the body?
Fr. P: Well, you might feel lightness. Sometimes you feel different phenomena
and sometimes you might feel like you're going to levitate too.
TC: As against the feeling of the heaviness?
Fr. P: Sometimes when you feel heaviness, heaviness to meand also on a
feeling level, if I feel very empathetic towards you, a lot of compassion,
sympathy, and I can pass you [inaudible word] and it's a sign to pray
over you, but if you feel very indifferent or you're cold, distant, apathetic,
I won't tell you that. To me, on that feeling level, it's not the time for
you to get the healing. I'm not the person, or there are blocks or their
hindrances, but I wont share that with you [i.e., I won't mention that
I feel that way about you].
From only this much evidence we can state that although it may be
analytically accurate to conclude that a healer under anointing is in a
"state of trance," it is phenomenologicaily inadequate. Perhaps more
satisfactory than trance would be Blacking's notion of protoritual, a
"shared somatic state of the social body that generates special kinds of
feelings and apparendy spontaneous movements and interaction between bodies in space and time" (1977:14). This concept allows us to
make some sense out of the healer's description of the anointing as "the
Spirit hovering over you, over the assembly," and appears to describe
a state that is consistent with the capacity of a shared habitus to generate
apparently spontaneous movements and interaction.
Yet the goal of a cultural phenomenology is not merely to categorize
and define the healer's "state." Note first the way experience articulates
the cultural concept of the person. The healer frames his response to a
series of questions aimed at the phenomenology of the anointing explic-



itly in terms of the tripartite person. Emotions/feelings belong to the

body, thoughts to the mind, but the "heart" is the seat of the spirit.
Anointing calls into play a "sixth sense" of revelation and intuition
that may operate despite emotional lassitude or physical exhaustion.
Furthermore, we see the way the experience is constituted as an experience of the sacred. Here we uncover the existential primacy of the body,
for the anointing is recognized both in physical sensations such as tingling, heaviness, or levitational lightness, and in those emotional feelings of empathy, compassion, or sympathy that indicate whether a person is receptive to divine intervention. Finally, the experience can
contribute to therapeutic process by serving as a sign not only that
healing will occur, but that healing will not occur for certain persons.
The pragmatic implication is that in a large healing service the healer
may invest less time in those whose time for healing has not arrived.
Before making any general conclusion about performative acts, let
us pass from anointing to that most characteristic act, the laying on of
hands. Laying on of hands is more than a simple transfer of divine power
from healer to supplicant. The act bears, in Victor Turner's (1974) term,
the polysemic symbolic properties of touch. To understand the way
these properties are actualized in practice, we must understand the laying on of hands as an act that lies midway between a gesture and a fully
elaborated "technique of the body" (Mauss 1950). 24 As a gesture, its
performative efficacy is inseparably linked with the prayer to which it
is an accompaniment. It implicidy enacts two important psychocultural
themes upon the afflicted person: it is a gesture of intimacy and protection as well as a gesture of control and the application of power. As a
technique, the laying on of hands is variable, and these variations can
be described as follows: a hand, or two, on top of the head; a hand on
the forehead, sometimes touching with the fingertips only and sometimes such that a supplicant's face is virtually covered by the healer's
palm; a single hand on the shoulder; a hand on the chest and one on
the back, or on the forehead and behind the head such that a virtual
axis of divine empowerment runs through the supplicant's body; or a
hand laid directly over an afflicted body part. Aside from the specificity
in the last of these notions and a proscription against touching areas
of sexual privacy, for most healers the cultural meaning of these variations is only minimally elaborated, if at all. I would interpret this lack
of meaningful elaboration as an implicit allowance for bodily spontaneity
in contact between healer and patient. Leaving variations in touch to



the spontaneous coordination of the habitus thus bears the implicit

significance of enacting another of our key psychocultural themes.
There is another sense in which laying on of hands can become specified as technique, however, but only among the most highly specialized
segment of Charismatic healers. Here there is an opportunity tor a postmodern synthesis in which laying on of hands is juxtaposed to other
forms of healing touch. As we relied on a particularly articulate healer
for our hermeneutic of the anointing, so wc now call on a Charismatic
healer trained as a psychotherapist. This "cultural specialist" (M. Singer
1972) distinguishes among massage, laying on of hands, and therapeutic touch. For her, laying on of hands becomes technique insofar as it
is systematically distinguished from other forms. "Massage" is characterized by touch plus moving the hands with physical pressure, "laying on
of hands" by touch without movement or pressure, and "therapeutic
touch" (a technique originating in the nursing profession) by moving
the hands over the person's body without physical contact. Here is how
laying on of hands becomes a therapeutic technique of the body in this
healer's practice:
H: When I don't use laying on of hands, I'll use therapeutic touch and just
move away from the energyfieldof the person, and just move into a space
where they're comfortable. To be with them without laying my hands
direcdy on. [The difference is] the directness. My experience has been that
in moving with therapeutic touch I can allow Jesus to be in touch and
heal that person, wherever that negative energy is around them, in a similar
fashion as with laying on of hands. So depending on how I move, [how
I decide, or am inspired, to proceed] that's what I will do.. . . Do I move
to directly touch that person? Is there an issue in their life that touch
would inhibit inner healing? I think that's really something to be sensitive
about. The therapeutic touch would not violate or be as confirmative.
Especially in the area of sexual abuse, I'm talking now. . . . Instead of
making contact with one's flesh with the body, one just expects healing
energy to move through the body based on just certainly where your hands
are, removing the negative energy away from that area, wherever that
might be. and asking God to come in with positive energy. So, it's really
not too much different, but it can be profoundly useful with people who
are intimidated by touch.
TC: Now what you've just described was the use of therapeutic touch? Now
what does the actual laying on of hands . . . I don't know what word to
use . . . accomplish?
H: Well, I would imagine, at least I imagine that Jesus' energy is moving
through my hands through their body, connecting them with their mind,
connecting them with their heart and spirit. And I see that as just calling
forth the power, just to be there to bring up the negative energy in the








body, so that as love is put on the body, healing energy moves that negative
energy or that negative mass up. And so it's a different way of accomplishing the same thing. And so then whatever comes up, whether it be an
impulse toward anger or fear, whatever, would need to be healed.
And the energy comes up, emerges from within their body?
Emerges from within the person. Wouldn't want to just limit it to the
Okay. And then the energy that's coming from Jesus through your
hands . . .
Is the love. And love brings up anything unlike itself, is what I borrowed
from a woman who wrote on healing. And so as I lay down my hands
on that person, Jesus' love energy brings up what needs healing. And that's
when we deal with healing of memories, healing the true self, validating the
true self.
So it brings it up in the sense of bringing to consciousness and bringing
it into [what] you can talk about.
I see. Whereas, the therapeutic touch is your hands moving the energy
that's within them . . .
And around them. And calling forth God's positive energy as you remove
that, for the same purpose . . . that the positive energy will then soak and
penetrate that being and bring up to the surface. It's the same purpose.
Well, therapeutic touch is not directly derived from the Christian tradition,
is it?
That's right. That's right. That's right. And you'll find that we (JLO that
with a lot of things. That we will take the best of what they have to offer
and allow them to become our own.
How about massage then? A third way of touching.
Well, with massage, what's really important is the intention. So, for instance, we were doing a human sexuality group and we moved into allowing to look at the fear of intimacy through massage of their hands, their
neck, so forth. And I see that as something you need to be very careful
with in the way of intention. Cause what that can stimulate is a person
can become overwhelmed by the energy that's set free . . . that negative
energy that's set free. For instance, if I am moving with [using] massage
with you, and my intendon is to bring up, I need to watch out for the
amount of stuff that we're bringing u p . . . . I think I need to reverence
the impact of touching another person's body, so that that brings up
whatever needs to be healed so that the)' will not be overwhelmed by the
amount of AFFECT that comes with it.
When you use massage this way, is it for the same purpose of bringing
things up so that they can be discussed?
Sometimes. Not always. Not always. And it's not massage that you would
get from massage therapists either. It's just the use of massage and touch,
in healing touch. One of our therapists is moving more in the way of


massage from a more formal perspective, and I think that will be a marvelous breakthrough to have someone who is Christian. . . . I guess the difference would be that in laying on of hands, I usually keep my hands in one
place. So massage welcomes me to move WITH the person in a different

In this passage the healer is discussing the performative act specifically

within the genre of inner healing or healing of memories. Evident in
her discourse is the biographical self process of healing, premised on
the folk psychodynamic model of bringing unconscious contents into
awareness, and including overall concern with the "true self or identity.
Also evident is the ubiquitous psychocultural theme of intimacy. The
elements of technique that distinguish the three forms of touch are
relevant precisely to intimacy in the relation between healer and supplicant. Massage allows the healer to "move with" the supplicant, but the
supplicant's fear of intimacy may be manifest in intimidation at being
touched at all. Touch may evoke potentially harmful affective reaction
along with releasing the hidden contents of mcmon', and the force of
sexuality is never far from the surface of the healer's concern. Beyond
these variations in technique, the performative force of all three forms
of touch has to do with the evocation of "energy," an explicitly Christian
formulation of an ethnopsychological notion shared with New Age
healing. In this version the hands arc more than an instrument for
applying divine power, but a kind of energy interface where divine love
enters and negative energy exits the person.
The importance of this interface is suggested in T. Turner's ethnological observation that "the surface of the body seems everywhere to be
treated, not only as the boundary of the individual as a biological and
psychological entity but as the frontier of the social self as well" (1980:
112). In this respect one must also consider the family resemblance,
to borrow Wittgenstein's phrase, between laying on of hands and the
congratulatory pat on the back or sympathetic hand on the shoulder.
Within the Christian tradition this family of gestures includes the healing touch of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible. In the European Middle
Ages the gesture was enacted as the "royal touch," when monarchs laid
hands on their subjects for the ritual healing of diseases such as scrofula
(Bloch 1973). This practice ended in the eighteenth century, coincident
with the beginnings of the Wesleyan tradition that eventually spawrned
Pentecostalism. Pentecostal laying on of hands can in a sense be understood as a Protestantization or democratization of the divine monarchs'
healing touch. The historical continuity is evident in contemporary



Charismatics' emphasis on motives of kingship, lordship, authority, and

submission, and on their role as builders of and subjects in the divine
As an enactment of intimacy, laying on of hands bears both historical
and psychocultural connotations. It is first a metonym of the solidarity
of the Christian community, as the unity of bodies touching is the unity
of the church as "mystical body of Christ" (O'Neill 1985:70-74). In
this respect, laying on of hands also connotes shielding and protecting
the distressed supplicant. Perhaps as much of the performative efficacy
in the gesture comes from the appeal to totality enacted by physical
contact as from the transfer of substantivized divine power from healer
to supplicant. Phenomenologically, touch surpasses an interpersonal
barrier, a barrier culturally constructed on the premise of the person as
a discrete, independent entity, on the cultural notion of "privacy," and
on the injunction "don't touch" in most North American social settings
(Montagu 1978, Shvveder and Bourne 1982). Laying on of hands is
thus an instance in which the relative values of sociocentric and egocentric self are problematized. Montagu (1978) has argued that tactile stimulation in childhood is important to healthy development, demonstrating in cross-cultural perspective the relative lack of such stimulation for
North American children. Such considerations suggest that laying on
of hands may, in its rhetorical move toward a more sociocentric self,
also help compensate for a developmental deficiency. The value of the
egocentric self also comes to the fore in acknowledgments by some
Charismatics as well as by some of those who have rejected Charismatic
ministries that persons can at times feel smothered and coerced instead
of loved and supported when hands are laid on them. This is especially
the case when an uncertain or reluctant subject is surrounded by a group,
all of whom are laying hands upon him or her and ardently praying for
healing or baptism in the Spirit.
A general conclusion can now be drawn from our discussion of the
repertoire of performative acts in the Charismatic healing system. First,
they can bear not only an illocutionary but a predicative force. In particular, acts of revelation, of discernment and calling out spirits, and of
forgiveness specifically thematize autobiographical events, emotions,
thoughts, and behaviors. This will become increasingly evident in succeeding chapters. Second, as we have seen in our discussion of anointing
and laying on of hands, these acts must be understood multidimensionally in terms of their place in ritual practice, their implicit cultural meaning, and their explicit experiential content. It will not do, as some have



proposed, to separate elements of religious experience from the essential

process of therapeutic persuasion and gloss them as "therapeutic preludes," the purpose of which is primarily to establish a therapeutic relationship based on paradox (Dow 1986). It is certainly as a therapeutic
prelude that Dow would classify the Charismatic anointing. This both
overestimates the importance of the healer-patient relationship, especially in the relatively impersonal public healing services (cf. Finkler
1985), and underestimates the transformative importance of ritual performance. In terms of performance, the anointing not only confirms
the healer's conviction of efficacy, but enhances phcnomcnological engagement in the process, consciousness of the sacred, disinhibition of
cognitive barriers to apparently spontaneous inspiration, and insofar as
the assembly participates in the protoritual state, a rhetorical hold on
the audience. These are neither preludes nor side effects, but elements
of specificity essential to cultural performance as therapeutic process.

Therapeutic Process
and Experience

In the last chapter we became familiar with Charismatic

healers and patients and with the manner in which Charismatic healing
coheres as a system of ritual performance. In examining the self processes
of healers performing two kinds of ritual act, we also got a preliminary
glimpse at the kind of experiential specificity we are trying to identify.
Having described the Charismatic healing system, we must now proceed
to an understanding of how it works. In order to get started properly,
we must first distinguish therapeutic process from therapeutic procedure and outcome. In brief, procedure is the organized application of
techniques with a particular goal in mind, whereas outcome refers to
the disposition of participants at a designated endpoint of treatment.
Process is more complex and has been understood by anthropologists
in a variety of ways: as the unfolding or performance of a specific treatment event or ritual; as experiential or intrapsychic transformation; as
the progression or course of an illness episode defined by a sequence
of treatment decisions; and as a form of social, ideological, or political
control.1 It is the dimension of experiential transformation that is closest
to our interest in self processes. Only by closely tracing this transformation can we approach the issue of efficacy that lies at the center of debate
about religious healing practices. In this chapter we will present two
accounts of specificity in therapeutic process, concentrating on the
Charismatic genre of ritual healing for physical illness. We conclude by
formulating four elements of therapeutic process that may be useful in
future comparative studies.



Sacred Self, Postural Model,

and Leg-lengthening

In a conversation with a prayer-group leader, I once asked

if, in addition to his leadership responsibilities, he ever prayed with
others for healing. He responded that he did so only occasionally and
only "for easy things like leg-lengthening." Leg-lengthening is indeed
one of the most common forms of physical healing for Pcntccostals and
Charismatic*, and is understood as the spontaneous growth of a leg
that is shorter than a person's other leg. My strategy in this section is
to juxtapose three texts on leg-lengthening. The first is extracted from
the description by a research assistant, a sociologist who had minimal
familiarity with the Charismatic Renewal, of a healing service conducted
by a Charismatic priest. The second is from an interview with a woman
whose husband experienced a leg-lengthening in a similar service. The
final text is from an interview I conducted with the healing priest
First, here is the description of a portion of the healing service, written in the genre of ethnographic prose:
Father P asked that five people who had had pain or trouble walking come
forth for healing. A chair was placed in front of the altar [the service is in a
church}. At this time, he beckoned me [the research assistant] to join him and
his healing team, as four women came up to the altar [for prayer]. The healing
team consisted of two men, one woman, Fr. P, and myself.
Fr. P asked the congregation to pray for each person and to lift their arms
in prayer toward the supplicant as the team performed its task. Each supplicant
went through the experience separate from the others. The supplicant sat in
the chair facing the congregation. Fr. P stood facing the supplicant. The woman
stood to his left with one hand on his left arm and the other on the supplicant's
right shoulder. The two men squatted behind the supplicant with their hands
on her shoulders and upper back. I stood to the right of Fr. P with both hands
on the supplicant's left shoulder.
The congregation held out their arms toward the supplicant and prayed in
tongues out loud. Fr. P asked one of the male team members if he could pray
in English as Fr. P performed his task. The male healer prayed out loud in
English. Fr. P asked the supplicant in a very low voice several rapid questions
about troubles in primary relationships, particularly about husbands and fathers,
kneeling before the person with his hands placed firmly on her, usually on the
upper legs. Once the problem relationship was identified, hefirmlygrasped the
supplicant's feet (shoes still on) and made a firm, determined tugging motion
on the supplicant's outstretched legs. Keeping his eyes closed, he prayed in a



deep, commanding voice ordering any evil from the supplicant and asking God's
grace in healing that person. Meanwhile, the woman and other male healer
prayed in tongues out loud. During prayer for one of the four supplicants, Fr.
P asked the woman team member for a discernment, which she rapidly gave,
and he agreed with her assessment.
After each healing, Fr. P asked the supplicant to walk as fast as she could
down the church aisle. In two of the cases, he walked with the supplicant. In
all four cases, the supplicant returned to the altar to attest to having been healed,
at least partially, though Fr. P was seeking total healing. In cases where a full
healing hadn't taken place, he said that that would be the request made when
the supplicant's turn came to be anointed along with everyone else, during the
last part of the service.
By way of comment, the session with each supplicant was rapid and somewhat confused given Fr. P's interaction with the supplicanc and the congregation's vociferous participation in the healing. Fr. P spoke to each person in a
deep, unswaying, yet gentle tonea voice filled with authority. He asked questions rapidly and fired another question, often a clarifying question, as soon as
the supplicant responded. He looked intensely into the eyes of the supplicant
while speaking to her, hardly blinking. The words in his prayersflowedrapidly,
with a staccato style, and accompanied by commanding gestures (the leg tugging). Regardless of where he laid his hands, his grasp was very firm. There
was a sense of his absolute presence with the supplicant and his unquestionable
command of the situation. The congregation's vocal prayer in tongues, with
hands outstretched toward the supplicant, undoubtedly added a powerful dimension to the drama of the situation. The combination of these factors evoked
a sense of total encompassing, a sense that there was no exit from the moment.
The moment wasfilledwith drama.
Our familiarity with the structure of event, genre, and act in healing
performance allows us to make immediate sense of this description.
The segment can be placed within a sequence of periods of worship,
instruction, healing, and postservice socializing (ritual event), within
which we can identify the use of prayer, song, and "witnessing" (genres
of ritual language), problem-focused healing of selected individuals and
general healing of others (genres of ritual healing), laying on hands and
anointing participants with oil (performative acts). The participating
cultural specialists included the principal healer and his team, while the
assembly at various points had roles as performers (praying for others
or giving testimony to their own healing), audience, and patients.
Let us make this analysis more precise. We note that all three principal
healing genres are in evidence within the reported episode: each patient
is worked on for physical healing of difficulties with walking that implicitly require leg-lengthening, for inner healing of biographical trauma
and relationship difficulties identified in the healer's rapid questioning,



and for deliverance as the healer commands evil to depart from each
supplicant. From the repertoire of performative acts we recognize first
the "anointing" as the principal healer intensely, dramatically, and unblinkingly engages each supplicant. It is worthy of mention that while
psychologists typically regard absence of the blinking reflex as a sign
of trance, the healer is also described as being commandingly in control
of the performance. The rapidity of questions suggests that he is inspired
with "words of knowledge" about each supplicant that he then confirms
by questioning. His female assistant participates in the diagnostic/revelatory process by exercising the gift of "discernment." Other performative
acts that figure prominently in this segment arc the "prayer of command" against evil spirits, prayer in tongues, and laying on of hands.
The ethnographer perceives the production, through performance,
of a sense of "total encompassing." Yet patients who exercise their healing by walking up and down the aisle do not necessarily claim to be
totally healed. The totalizing experience of healing thus does not correspond to a total healing, but to a kind of incremental efficacy. This
correspondence is enhanced when the healer makes it a point to mention
the upcoming anointing portion of the service as an opportunity to
augment the effect of leg-lengthening. We will make more of this incremental efficacy below, but for now let us pass to our second text.
This text is a narration from afifty-five-year-oldCharismatic housewife about a healing experienced by her husband in a similar healing
service. He had suffered an industrial accident and had undergone three
surgical operations for his damaged back and shoulder. Following a
spinal fusion, calcium deposits began to form on his vertebrae, pinching
the sciatic nerve to his left: leg and causing pain so bad that he "couldn't
drive more than four miles without getting out and resting on the hood
of the car." Sometimes, she said, he even cried from the pain. According
to their doctor, the only remaining procedure was to cut the nerve.
She told her husband she would take him to a healing service, and he
responded positivelyalthough not a Catholic, he "believed in miracles" and had accompanied his wife to Catholic shrines where he had
gotten a "feeling." They attended services even' month for a year, but
he gradually became discouraged and began to remain in the pew as
his wife and daughter approached the altar for prayer. Finally he again
decided to go forward with them. In contrast to the ethnographic prose
of our last text, his wife's narration of what transpired is in the speech
genre of Charismatic "witnessing":



So he was prayed on and he "rested in the Spirit," like they say, and then he
got up and he went to the seat. But he said that when they prayed on him, it
was like a heat that was comingfromabove that wentrightthrough his body,
that he had never felt anything like that before. He never felt it after. And he
was there awhile and he came to the seat, and there's a woman that came, and
she said, "Would you come in front with me?" So he said, "Yeah, okay." So
he went in front, and she sat him on a chair, and I saw him. She said, "Did
you know you had a leg shorter than the other one?" And he said yeah, because
he had gone to a doctor for compensation, and his leg was almost an inch to
a quarter of an inch shorter. The doctor had said that his leg was getting
atrophiedI didn't know what atrophied means, so I asked his doctor here,
and he said the leg was shrinking because of the lack of using and whatever.
So she put both heels in her hand and they were stretched, and she was praying,
and he saw his leg stretch right in front of his own eyes to the same length as
the other one. He came home and he said "I can't believe it, but it has to be
so," and he would look at his legs, and he would put his feet on the chair in
front of him and look. But then when he would get up and walk, I had to
shorten his pants one shorter than the other and it was showing, the length.
That day also he had pain like you wouldn't believe, and the next day, and then
it subsided, subsided, and it went away. And now that man does everything.
Characteristic of witnessing as a genre of ritual language, the narrative
concerns a chronic problem upon which the resources of professional
medicine appear to have been exhausted as well as a history of disappointment with ritual healing such that the patient's "expectant faith"
also appears to have been virtually exhausted. When he relents and
approaches the altar for prayer, the supplicant experiences the empowerment of resting in the Spirit and an "anointing" of heat flowing
through his body, and later undergoes the leg-lengthening technique.
(Note that this reverses the sequence described in Fr. R's service, where
supplicants approached the altar subsequent to the leg-lengthening.)
The critical moment is when, incredulously, "he saw his leg stretch right
in front of his own eyes." The narrator emphasizes the persistence of
the change in recounting that she had to alter her husband's pants. His
pain, however, did not vanish immediately, but remained intense for
several days, only gradually subsiding and removing his disability.
We can now triangulate the ethnographic description of ritual performance and the ritual narrative of healing with a native exegesis, to
borrow Victor Turner's phrase, of leg-lengthening practice drawn from
an interview I conducted with the healer Fr. R. The excerpt includes
an impromptu demonstration of leg-lengthening and related techniques
on a woman who was present during the interview as well as a demonstration performed on me:



Fr. R: Usually what I do is pick up [receive a word of knowledge
about] who they need to forgive and whisper it in the person's
ear. Now, M will be there tonight and she'll do the whispering
in the person's ear. Because she'll pick up. Because I pray on
the legs in a special way, and it's hard for me to lean up to
get the person's ear, because there are other people there [surrounding the person]. I generally like to keep it as quiet as
possible and tell them who they need to forgive.
TC: You said that you have a special way of praying over people's
Fr. R: Yeah, I'm in [I perform] leg adjustment. The Protestants call
it the growing of legs. Basically, it's a chiropractic adjustment
done through prayer. But much, much more powerful than
chiropractic. We have a lot of people chiropractic can't do
anything with, and we use this method, and [he snaps his
fingers to indicate spontaneous healing, then calls to a woman
in the next room]. You're willing to donate yourself to science?
Woman: Yeah, you bet my body!

Fr. R: Just sit up nice and straight. Hips back to the chair. No, the
other way. Push your hips right back. So I can get a measurement on your legs. The nose is the center of the body, we
draw an imaginary line. We get under the shoes, pushing up
against the feet to get a good reading. Now, look at the deviation right in here, on the bottom of her heels. Can you see
the bottom of this heel, what is that, almost three-quarters of
an inch deviation. Which means her pelvic frame is seated, it's
not flat, it's on an angle, and it's drawn up that leg. So what
I'm going to do is command the pelvic frame, to [he snaps
his fingers] to go back into normal position. And as that comes
down, those heels will equal, will equalize right up. Okay. So,
now just like this, Jesus, command that pelvic frame to go
into normal position. In Jesus' name, immediately, line up the
muscles on the vertebrae. Pelvic frame [snaps] jumps right
back into position. Now, that's from the waist down. Basically,
again, this is the chiropractic adjustment, that's what a chiropractor does, measures your heels and we do it through prayer.
TC to woman: Did you feel anything happen during the prayer?
Woman: Sort of relaxing.
Fr. R: Now we're going to do the upper frame. The nose is the center
of the body, arms full length like that. Okay, now we bring
them together and get a measurement. See, you can see, there's
a bit of a deviation there. So let's just go ahead. We're pretty
equal there. But I'll just command that, this gets the first cervical, which is a key, because all the nerves coming from the
brain come through the first cervical area, and if that's out of
whack, it impinges on the nerves. That's why chiropractors



claim they can do so much, because they straighten the cervical,

and it takes the pressure off the nerves and sends the energy'
through the whole body. In Jesus' name, we just command
that first cervical, muscles, vertebrae go back into normal position. Doesn't seem to be too much there. But I catch it. Stand
up, and I'll do it, we call this the head adjustment. Fingers
behind the neck, right on the nerves, going up and down the
TC: The two middle fingers together.
Fr. R: Yeah, in other words, the closer your hands are to the affected
area, the more energy, spiritual energy you get. Thumbs in
front of the ears, palms right on the jaws, which is a nerve
area too. Okay, kid, I'm going to command the first cervical
to go back in normal position. Head back. In Jesus' name,
command that cervical to go back into normal position. Chin
to left, chin to the right, rotate three times, in Jesus' name,
command that cervical muscles vertebrae, line up. In Jesus'
name. How do you feel right now?
Woman: Relaxed.
Fr. R: More relaxed than you did before?
Woman: Uh huh.
Fr. R: A lot more or just a little?
Woman: Well, medium.
Fr. R: Medium more. Yeah, as the frame straightens, it takes the
pressure off the muscles. Oh, okay, there's one I didn't do
called a hip, the hip adjustment. Just, this is rather interesting.
Just put your toes together, and the side of hips here, put our
hands, and command the pelvic frame. In Jesus' name, we
command that pelvic frame to line up. Now, in Jesus' name . . .
do you feel yourself moving out? Can you feel yourself rotating? Just let it happen. It's okay, it's not you and it's not me,
it's just happening. Don't be afraid. In Jesus' name, we command you to [his voice drops to a whisper]. Go ahead, just
let yourself rotate. I'm behind you. Sometimes, ifs like a Hawaiian hula when you see it. Don't . . . just let it happen, let
it happen. She didn't seem to need too much. [Pause.] How
does that feel?
Woman: Good. Good.
Fr. R: Have you had any pains in your back at all?
Woman: Lower back.
Fr. R: You've had, your lower back was healed, all that was out.
How's it feel right now? Test it, see how it feels.
Woman: It seems to be a lot of improvement. But my equilibrium does
go off on me sometimes. And . . .



Fr. R: But this head adjustment is good for that. It gets you a lot
TC to woman: What kind of movement did you feel in your hips there?
Woman: Sort of a . . . you know . . . secure, relaxing, kind of feeling.
TC: Would you say a tugging, did you feel any kind of tugging?
Fr. R: Why don't you sit down, Tom, and I'll do it on you and you'll
be able to experience it. Okay, . . . both feet. Okay, all right.
All right. YouVc got some deviation right in there. You can't
see that, can you?
TC: Left one's a little big longer.
Fr. R: The left one is longer, I'd say oh, half inch. Okay, in Jesus'
name I command you. . . . In Jesus' name. Now, the left is
shorter. In Jesus, I command the pelvic frame to rotate into
normal position. There you are. You're equal. There. Arms
full length. Arms full length. [He whispers] You're not too
bad. I command the frame in Jesus' name to go into normal
position. In Jesus' name . . . [he whispers prayers] Let me do
that head adjustment. Just stand up. In Jesus' name I command
that cervical to go back into normal position. In the name of
Jesus, in the name of Jesus, rotate three times, in the name of
Jesus, name of... the other way, three times, in Jesus' name.
Let me put your toes together and do that head adjustment.
Although you seem to be not too bad. In Jesus' name we
command that pelvicframeto line up. In Jesus' name . . . in
Jesus' name. Can you feel the healing?
TC: Sort of a little bit side to side.
RD: Just let it move, it's rotating back into position. In Jesus' name,
in Jesus' name.
In opening a discussion of this text we must note the forthright and
empirical attitude expressed by Fr. R toward his practice, and his casual
understanding of it as a spiritualized chiropractic. There is a distinct
"ethnophysiology" in his conception of bodily alignment and skeletal
pressure on muscles and nerves. This ethnophysiology is fully integrated
with both a notion of spiritual energy (i.e., when pressure is taken off
the nerves energy is free to flow through the body), and a notion of
spiritual power by means of which the divinity grants control over biological nature (i.e., the skeletal adjustment is commanded in the name
of Jesus).
It is essential that we consider this text in relation to the other two,
and not privilege Fr. R's account over the others as a more accurate
statement of what is "really3' going on. The excerpt opens with a mention of how he spiritually "picks up" information about whom suppli-



cants "need to forgive." Yet in comparison to the ethnographic account,

the verbal and affective content of the healing interaction is downplayed
in favor of the physical and neurological technique. The man in our
second account quite likely attended only to the immediate effect of
lengthening of his leg and the gradual decline in pain, whereas the healer
attends to the postural adjustment of pelvis and spine. He expects an
immediate and observable change in his demonstration, but neither
subject is able to report anything definitive. Both in his focus on physical
technique and his eagerness for empirical results, he expresses awareness
that he is engaged with the anthropologist in a scientific pursuit.
Taken together, there are several clues in this account that lead us
to the analysis of leg-lengthening as a self process. One is the explicit
reference in the second account of the man's kg spontaneously stretching
(not growing). The other is an apparent contradiction between the
first and third accounts. Whereas the research assistant described a firm
tugging on supplicants' legs, in my own experience there was no tug
at allFr. R simply held feet or arms together in his hand and prayed.
What he anticipated was spontaneous rotation/alignment/balance of skeleton/nerves/musclc tension. To understand these clues, we introduce
the concept of the postural model, originated by the psychologist Head
and elaborated by Schilder (1950). The postural model refers to the
gestalt sense of coherence and orientation of the body to its own parts
and movements. It is thus related to our earlier discussion of the body
as orientational locus of the sensorium and as our setting in relation to
the world. The postural model is a function of self precisely as a preobjective capacity for orientation in the world, and we must show how
leg-lengthening is a cultural objectification in which that capacity is
altered, and in which bodily self-awareness is framed as awareness of
divine empowerment.
Consider the following experiment described by Schilder that demonstrates the spontaneous coordination of the postural model based on
a phenomenon he describes as persistence of tone:
We order a subject to stretch his hands forward, so that one arm is parallel to
the other. One arm is now raised in an angle of about 45 degrees above the
horizontal. (One may also bring the arm 45 degrees below the horizontal plane.)
Bring the arm of the subject passively to the inclined position or let the subject
take this position in an active way. Either support the resting arm (R. arm)
and the raised (or lowered) mobile arm (M. arm) or let the subject keep the
position actively. The subject may have his eyes open or closed. After 25 seconds, the subject is ordered to close his eyes (if they were open) and to bring



his M. arm into the same position as the R. arm. When the M. arm is raised,
the subject does not bring his arm into the same plane as the R. arm, but the
M. arm remains several centimeters higher than the R. arm. When the M. arm
is lowered, the M. arm is not brought back to the horizontal line, but remains
several centimeters lower than the R. arm. The subject does not know that he
has made a mistake and is of the opinion that both arms arc at the same height.
After a few seconds, the M. arm returns into the same position as the R. arm.
The subjeas generally do not know that they have changed the position. A
registration with the kymograph shows that the disappearance of the difference
does not decrease steadily, but by jerks which bring the arm back into the
position of the R. arm.
The theoretical meaning of this phenomenon is that the normal position of
the M. arm, after the tone has influenced it, is the position into which the tonepull would bring the arm; or the tone of the postural persistence influences the
body-image in the sense that it is pulled into the direction of tone. The limb,
therefore, is felt in a position which is opposite to the direction of the muscular
pull. Or, in a more general formulation, the postural model of the body is
dependent on the pull of the tone. This formulation has considerable general
importance. The phenomenon of postural persistence is a phenomenon all over
the body. It is also present for even' single posture of the body. We are dealing
therefore with a phenomenon of general significance. (1950:75, 77)
I would suggest that the extension of the limbs in the religious practice
and the elevation of limbs in the experiment arc both based on this
persistence of tone, which is a phenomenon "all over the bod/' and "for
every single posture."2 This conclusion is reinforced by the apparent
existence of both psychological and physiological (sympathetic and
spinal) connections between symmetrical parts of the body (ibid.: 19,
26, 291). In addition to persistence of tone, the influence of a second
factor can be illustrated with respect to the man described in our second
text. This factor is the habitual posture. Schilder refers to the persistence
of tone as a motor factor, whereas the habitual posture is sensory. Specifically, it is the "persistence of a sensory impression" of one's own body,
or a kind of "sensory aftereffect" (ibid. :81-83). In our case the influence
of the habitual posture on the injured man's postural model could account for the persistence of his pain for days following the readjustment
of that model to a more normal tone.
That leg-lengthening, an operation performed on the postural model,
is a common form of Charismatic and Pentecostal healing is very much
in line with an understanding of healing as a self process. Insofar as the
body is the existential ground of self, it is critical that the postural model
is first a "product of the gestalt creative powers of our psyche" (ibid.:
21), but second that it is "in perpetual inner self-construction and self-



destruction" (ibid.: 15). Thus we see ritual efficacy as a kind of creativity

and ritual transformation as an essentially indeterminate self process.
The primary cultural objectifkation inheres in making the spontaneity
of this process thematic as divine power. The new mode of orientation
in the worldthe appropriation of both spontaneity and of its resultsis thus accurately described as a sacred self.

Somatic Modes of Attention

I will offer another example that is complementary to the

preobjective transformation of postural model. Here it is a question of
modulating what I will call an explicit somatic modi ofattention (Csordas
1993). Alfred Schutz, the premier methodologist of phenomenological
social science, understood attention as the "full alertness and the sharpness of apperception connected with consciously turning toward an
object, combined with further considerations and anticipations of its
characteristics and uses" (1970:316). Therapeutic process in Charismatic physical healing can be an alteration of the mode of attentiona
capacity for orientation in the world and hence an aspect of selftoward one's own body in a way that is vigilant, but that sharply contrasts
with the vigilance of hypochondria. The following two cases, drawn
from our follow-up of public healing-service participants, show the role
of a somatic mode of attention in the phenomenological definition of
what it means to be "partially healed" of a physical problem.
The first is a fifty-six-year-old married man, a Ph.D. biologist and
active Charismatic, partially healed of periodic backache approximately
three years prior to the interview. The backaches were not seriously
debilitating, only "painful and a nuisance." They required no more care
than his wife shining a heat lamp on him. They would typically occur
after yardwork or house repairs, especially if he would twist his
torsohe remarked that his occupation is quite sedentary. His wife
reported that he could still "do things," but that his movements would
be very constrained and cautious. She never had to drive him anywhere,
he always came to the tabic for meals, and he was never bedridden,
although he would sometimes lay down for a couple of hours. He had
never consulted a doctor about the backaches. This was not, he said,
because of reliance on faith healing, but because he is "a kind of person



that doesn't go to a doctor that much," and it did not seem to him like
the kind of problem a doctor could take care of:
It was primarily the upper back and would get debilitating enough that it would
take me a week and sometimes two weeks to get over it, and I would have
difficulty sleeping from rolling over, this kind of thing. And it was even painful
in a chair. It was extremely difficult to drive with it. They were becoming fairly
frequent [over the course of ten years], I was probably at the point where I
was getting a half-a-dozen a year.
The man felt that the healing occurred in one session and not over the
course of several sessions, but he reported no sensations in his back.
He recalled only a "purely spiritual" experience at the healing session,
including resting in the Spirit. He did not realize he was healed of
backaches till he had passed a month and a half without getting one,
when it "became pretty clear" that he had in fact been healed:
I ceased to get backaches with very rare exceptions, and even those I got have
been unlike the others. Every once in a while I would feel a backache just barely
starting, and I would thank God for having cured it, and usually it goes away.
I'll just feel the start of a tightness of the muscles, of a spasm, and all Til do is
say to God, 'Thank you for curing my backaches." And then it will go away,
and may do the same thing once or twice more during the day and so I say
the same thing and it never develops into anything, with very few exceptions. . . . On two occasions I couldfeela burning nerve sensation in my back,
I thought it was a nerve that was inflamed. I felt burning. That happened a
couple of times, but I never felt any stiffness or soreness at all. I could just feel
the inflamed nerve [not painful]. I was just keenly aware of it. And it dicing
last long, and I feltFm not a medical doctor, but I felt I probably would
have had a heck of a backache if I had not gone to the healing service. It was
almost as if I could feel the origin of the problem but without the symptoms
or the spasms.
Although he is not always successful in preventing backaches, those that
do occur are qualitatively different than prior to his healing and require
no heating pad or heat lamp treatment. Of two such incidents, he described one as follows:
Amazingly enough I could even shovel snow with it. Even though it was quite
sore, as soon as I would do anything it didn't impede me at all. It was not as
sore as prior to the healing, but it was significantly sore.
When he felt the burning that indicated potential relapse, and prayed
his thanks for healing, the sensations would subside "very quick, about
half hour or less." For the two instances that were actual sore backs,



contrary to their typical duration of one to two weeks, the problem

only lasted one to two days. Because he had not had any problem in
the past year he reported seldom thinking about it at all: "So I doubt
very much that it's a psychologically induced thing. Because I've got
too many other problems right now to be catering to something like
In this last statement the man is anticipating the judgment that his
problem is "psychosomatic," a judgment that would help us just as little
as concluding that his healing was effected by "suggestion." Instead,
consideration of his reflections allows us to observe a somatic mode of
attention in which the man recognizes incipient backache as a tightness,
spasm, or burning sensation. It is clear that he remains prone to the
problem, but now has a preventive consciousness attuned to signs of
onset and even, in his words, to "the origin of the problem" in a particular inflamed nerve. His mode of attention includes active response with
a prayer that is also an affirmation of his healing. This is not an unusual
technique among Charismatics, and what is ostensibly a reminder to
the deity that he has granted a healing is pragmatically a self-reminder
to monitor one's physical state. In this case, although the patient is
unaware of moving and walking diffcrendy or adopting different typical
positions, what is in question is doubdess the state of his postural model.
Our second case is that of a fifty-six-ycar-old married woman, a
teacher and active Charismatic partially healed of a chronic susceptibility
to flu two years prior to the interview. She reported a lifelong problem
in which a third of her winter months were spent in sore-throat, cold
and flu misery, causing her to miss a lot of school days as a youth and
considerable work time as an adult. She decided to attend a healing
service following a flu during which nasal irritation resulted in a nosebleed that could not be stopped, and led her to consult a physician for
cauterization. During the service she rested in the Spirit, but did not
perceive any immediate result:
I just felt very peaceful, and nothing spectacular happened at all. I felt that
things were well between me and the Lord, there was nothing dramatic, nothing
special. I didn't really know [I was healed] until I started passing through the
timesusually November isflumonth, the worst. I really had to pass through
these times of year before I would get much clue. Otherwise I felt absolutely
nothing special, and I no idea of being healed, I just kind of felt, "Well, I hope
I am." Ever)' winter since, perhaps six to eight times I would feel the onset of
a cold or flu. And then maybe for a day or two I would take it very, very easily,
and take some antihistamine just so I could get through. But then I would take
it very easily so as not to run my own self down. Then maybe after two days



or so these symptoms would disappear and they never did get very bad. On
one occasion I felt that I was being more threatened with it, and I did decide
to take the week off and take it very, very easy. So I took it easy but I didn't
have the total debilitating body weakness that I had previous times. I was able
to at least creep around.
Quite like the man in the previous example, this woman experiences
periodic near onsets of her problem, and even an instance that she
defined as enough of a threat to take a week off from work. She understood this one as less debilitating than other episodes, though she was
still reduced to "creeping around." Her interpretation of these posthealing episodes is that "the Lord is reminding her he did something."
Whereas this may sound like a divinity insisting on gratitude, it is reminiscent of the technique of thanking God cited by the man in our preceding example. The significant observation is not that the woman has
reinterpreted the persistence of her symptoms, but that she has adopted
a preventive consciousness of those symptoms, a self-reminder not only
to behave "as i f she were healed, but a somatic mode of attention
constructed to preempt those symptoms. She states that although the
healing can be traced to a specific event, she experienced a "very gradual
recognition" that it had taken place.
I suggest we understand this as a therapeutic process that may be
initiated in a healing service, but transcends the event and continues as
an everyday self process. The recognition of healing is a modulation of
orientation in the world, so that one monitors one's symptoms and
responds to them by modifying one's activities. This reorientation not
only preserves but actually constitutes the healing. Interestingly, this
woman had wondered whether her conviction of being healed made her
guilty of "indulging in superstition." Neither theology nor motivation is
primary to our account, however, for the critical factor is a specific self
process, the modulation of somatic attention.

Meaning and Self Process

Students of religious healing have for some time suggested that its most common effect is not to remove a disease and its
symptoms, but to transform the meaning of the illness (Bourguignon
1976a). This transformative power is such that it has been argued that
ritual healing both precludes its own failure (Klcinman and Sung 1979),



and is positively creative (Kleinman 1980, Comaroff 1983). Yet an

understanding of meaning only in the semiotic sense would likely lead
us right back to construing therapeutic efficacy as the global result of
a nonspecific mechanism. It was only by grounding our accounts in
the phenomenological notions of postural model and somatic mode of
attention, that is, on concepts originating with the preobjective body
in the world, that we were able to identify- the specific efficacy of the
practice and understand it as a subtle modulation of the self. It follows
that anthropological description of therapeutic efficacy as "transformation of meaning" can bear greater methodological productivity when
the notion of "meaning*' is granted greater existential weight (MerleauPonty 1962:146); greater, that is, than when transformation of meaning is understood only in semiotic instead of phenomenological terms,
or only as the substitution of representations instead of as a modulation
of being in the world, or again only as a different standard of judgment
instead of a different sensibility about oneself as a culturally defined
We will press the relation between phenomenology and semiotics in
the next chapter. For now we can apply our discussion of the persistence
of tone, habitual posture, and the somatic modes of attention to a general account of therapeutic process in Charismatic healing. First, ritual
healing appears to operate on a margin of disability that is present in
many conditions. It is well known, for example, that some people who
become "legally blind" are able to engage in a wide range of activities,
whereas others retreat to a posture of near total disability and inactivity.
Likewise, persons with chronic pain in a limb may be physically able
to move that limb, but refrain from doing so for lack of sufficient motivation to make the risk of pain worthwhile. Disability is thus constituted
as a habitual mode of engaging the world.3 The process of healing is
an existential process of exploring the margin of disability, motivated
by the conviction of divine power and the committed participant's desire
to demonstrate it in himself as well as by the support of the assembly
and its acclamation for a supplicant's testimony of healing. To be convinced of this interpretation one need only consider the hesitant, faltering steps of the supplicant who at the healer's request rises from her
wheelchair and shuffles slowly up and down a church aisle, or again
the slowly unclenching fist of the sufferer from chronic arthritis whose
hand is curled by affliction into a permanent fist. Healing allows this by
challenging the sensory commitment to a habitual posture, by removing



inhibitions on the motor tendency toward normal postural tone, and

by modulating the somatic mode of attention.
Second, the methodological focus on specificity in therapeutic process shows that ritual healing is probably best characterized by an incremental efficacy. We exclude the occasional claim that miracles of spontaneous and total healing occur. Far more common, and with greater
significance for the self processes with which we are concerned, are the
"partial" and "everyday" healings that sustain the ritual system. In such
instances a person's exploration of the margin of disability is not completed, but only initiated, by the event of ritual healing. As we have
already observed (cf. also Csordas 1988), ritual process transcends the
ritual event, and each "reminder" in the incipient onset of an illness
episode continues the performance of healing. It is reasonable to assume
that the degree to which a supplicant is cxistcntially engaged in the
process is critical to this incremental efficacy. Ncu (1977) has pointed
out the importance of the degree to which different forms of therapy
engage participants' thought processes, but one must understand the
importance of engagement to include emotional and other self processes
as well. Because of the fundamental indeterminacy of the self, there is
no guarantee that the creative products of ritual performance will be
permanently integrated into a person's life. To the extent that the incremental efficacy of an open-ended process is common across forms of
healing in different cultural traditions, we may understand why some
require the totalistic personal transformation and involvement in a religious community described by Crapanzano (1973) as a "symbiotic"
Perhaps, in fact, anthropological analyses should not be aimed at
identifying definitive therapeutic outcomes, but at specifying the incremental efficacy of therapeutic process. Such a goal requires an interpretive approach sensitive to the kind of subde modulations of meaning
and experience we have begun to identify in the examples we have
examined. I would suggest that such accounts include at least the following four components. First is the disposition of supplicants, both in the
psychological sense of their prevailing mood or tendency for engagement in ritual performance, and in the social sense of how they are
disposed vis-a-vis the interactive networks and symbolic resources of
the religious community. Second is the experience of the sacred, taking
into account not onh' the religious formulation of the human condition
in relation to the divine and the repertoire of ritual elements that constitute legitimate manifestations of divine power, but also variations in



individual capacities for experience of the sacred that may influence the
course of therapeutic process. Third is the elaboration of alternatives or
possibilities that exist within the "assumptive world" (J. Frank 1973)
of the afflicted. Healing systems may formulate these alternatives in
terms of a variety of metaphors (new pathways, becoming unstuck,
overcoming obstacles, getting out of trouble, expelling demons, healing
emotional wounds), and may use ritual or pragmatic means that encourage either activity or passivity, but the possibilities must be perceived
as real and realistic. Finally, what counts as change as well as the degree
to which that change is regarded as significant by participants cannot
be taken for granted in comparative studies of therapeutic process. The
actualization ofchange is all the more problematic where efficacy is incremental and there is no definitive outcome. We offer these four elements
of therapeutic process as a general framework for comparative studies
and hope to demonstrate their usefulness as they guide our search for
specificity in subsequent chapters.4

Embodied Imagery
and Divine Revelation

Clifford Gccrtz once described the study of religious

change and its persuasive force as the "social history of the imagination"
(1968:19). In this large sense, imagination is the general capacity of
human creativity, including the reflexive capacity to transform one's
orientation in the world. In a more rcstriacd sense, imagination itself
can be a mode of orientation in the world where by imagination we
now refer to the concrete experience of "imagery." Our concern in this
and the next chapter is not only to discuss the occurrence of imager}'
among Charismatics, but to show that it is a culturally constituted imaginal self process in two senses. First is that imagery is cultivated as a
mode of orientation in the world in a variety of domains (prayer, prophecy, healing). Second is the more complex sense that in ritual healing
imagery assumes a specific efficacy in transforming other orientations,
particularly those associated with illness and distress. Thus, imagery can
be considered as imaginal self process both in that it becomes a general
capacity of the self, and insofar as discrete occurrences of imagery are
endowed with the valence of performative force brought to bear on the
self. Stated otherwise, imagination is both a disposition and a tool. This
attention to imagery is perhaps the principal feature that distinguishes
the Charismatic sacred self from that of the surrounding North American culture.
Charismatic imagery may in theory occur at any time, and some may
experience it regularly during prayer. Imager)' is also closely associated
with the inspiration of prophetic utterance (see chapter 1 and Csordas



1987a). One long-time prophet described this experience as a "word

picture.... In other words, I get it [the prophecy] in an image. And as
I see the image, then words will come." The phenomenological relation
between word and image in this experience is subtle, apparendy involving a double inspiration compounded of visual image and spontaneous
verbalization. In other cases it is conceivable that the words may be
more or less a description of the visual image, and in yet others the
words themselves may be appresented as visual images, that is, as if they
were written in the visual imagination to be read as a divine text. As
unelaborated as this example may be, it exhibits what Casey (1976,
1987) calls the "multiplicity of the mental," and gives us a first intimation that for our purposes imagination must be considered as much
more than "pictures in the mind."
In the various modes of ritual healing, imagery may be either revelatory or therapeutic. Images may be revelatory in two senses: they may
serve as a sign that divine power is active, or may reveal the content of
therapeutic issues. When experienced by healers, revelatory imagery is
invariably spontaneous. It is an example of the "word of knowledge,"
part of a class of inspired "word gifts" that includes speaking in tongues,
prophecy, and the word of wisdom. Therapeutic imagery occurs not to
the healer but to the patient and constitutes the experiential resolution
of a problem. Therapeutic imagery is typically evoked during moments
in a healing session devoted to prayer and "openness" to divine inspiration, but not during periods of discussion and "counseling." It may
also be induced by the healer in the form of guided imager)', active
imagination, or meditation, similar in form but different in content
from techniques used in image-oriented psychotherapies.
Given that among Charismatics both healers and supplicants experience forms of imagery, it is of interest to observe that the (somewhat
limited) anthropological literature on healing imager)' (Noll 1985, Tedlock 1987, Herdt and Stephen 1989) treats almost exclusively imagery
experienced by healers, whereas the (voluminous) psychological literature on imager)' in psychotherapy (Sheikh 1984, Sheikh and Jordan
1983, J. Singer 1981, Shorr et al. 1979) is with few exceptions preoccupied with imagery experienced by patients. Among anthropologists the
shaman's imager)' is shown to be either diagnostio'divinatorv' or the
vehicle of therapeutic efficacy. Among psychotherapists the patient's
imagery can be analyzed diagnostically or used as a therapeutic tool. It
would be convenient to conclude that this difference in the literature
marked an important empirical difference between healing in those soci-



eties traditionally studied by anthropologists and in our own. We would

be able to conclude that Charismatic ritual is a postmodern synthesis
of imaginal processes in healing. Unfortunately, our conclusion must
be more methodological than empirical: anthropologists work predominantly with healers in the systems they study, psychologists work predominantly with patients in studying psychotherapy. 1 In the present
discussion we are fortunate to have access to the imagery of both Charismatic healers and patients. For the remainder of this chapter we will
concentrate on the imagery of healers.

The Shoe Test

Let us enter the Charismatic imaginal process with an
example that shows both its inculcation as a generalized self process
and its particular performative efficacy. Our text is a healer's discussion
o f her technique for introducing imagination to audiences in healing
I give a "shoe test" to help people to visualize, to show them what I mean by
visualization. I just tell them close your eyes. . . . "Now, with your eyes closed
I want you to picture a shoe. . . . Okay, open your eyes." Now, I ask questions.
Is it a man's shoe? Is it a woman's shoe? Does the shoe have buckles, laces, a
slip-on? Is it the left shoe or the right shoe? lEtc] And now this is where the
audience calls out, right? I'll go like this and they call out "black," "brown,"
"white," "red," "pink," nyaK nyah, nyah. And then I'll say, "Okay, how many
saw a tennis shoe, a sneaker, or jogging shoes, a wooden shoe, a glass slipper,
a baby's shoe, a tap shoe, a toe shoe, a leprechaun's shoe, an Arabian shoe, a
boot, a slipper, a doctor's shoe, a nurse's shoe, a surgical shoe, seventeenthcentury French cavalier boots, the Pope's shoe, a horseshoe, a policeman's shoe,
a military shoe, combat boots?" And the hands are going up. When they're all
finished I say [to] those that don't see, "You need a healing of your imagination." And I tell them why, because their creativity and their spontaneity were
stifled as children. So we take Jesus back in their lives, and ask Jesus to heal all
that hurt and trauma so they can visualize. "Now you people that saw a shoe,
you too need a healing. You need to forgive the person whose shoe you saw."
Ha! Ha! And this is where the audience goes, "Oh!" I'll say, "How many saw
their own shoe?" Half the audience! I say, "You have to forgive yourself."
Now the first time I did this the woman saw a wooden shoe. And she came
to me afterwards and she said, "What does it mean?" I said, "I don't know." I
said, "This is only a test." I said, "1 didn't give it to you. God gave it to you.
The Holy Spirit gave it to you. Go take it to Him. Ask Him what it means."
Well, before I left the house that night, she said, "I know what that shoe is."



I said, "What is it?" She said, "When I was a little girl" (this was a woman
about sixty) "my mother got very, very sick." Fm of Italian descent and a lot
of these people were Italians I was working with and you've got to be Italian
to understand Italians. They fall apart in a crisis. We're loud, we're noisy. Everybody talks at one time. So here's this little girl's mother sick in bed and all the
aunts and uncles are there, moaning and groaning, crying and perhaps saying
the rosary. The little girl couldn't go into the bedroom. An aunt wouldn't let
her. And she was devastated. Because her mother was dying. I don't think the
mother was dying, but the way they acted she was. And the woman said to
me, "And you know what, that aunt had a wooden lift on her shoe. She had
one leg shorter than the other." So now when I get a wooden shoe I always
ask the people, MCan I see you afterwards." And I ask them, "Do you know
anybody that had a wooden lift on their shoe." And nine out often, it's that.
Or, "Did you ever own a wooden shoe?" Fve run into that. And needed a
healing from something that happened with those wooden shoes. Or, there
was an old lady that lived in a shoe. Had so many children, didn't know what
to do? "How many children in your family?" "Nine." "Seven." That's it! Lack
of love! They've got, sometimes they see the wooden shoe and a man's shoe.
So that means forgiving mother and father. For too many children.
You know what the glass slipper is? I know what that is. And Fve always
been one hundred percent right. And I'll say to them, "What do you . . ." (See,
I don't tell them what it means. I keep asking questions.) I'll say, "When you
think of a glass slipper, what do you think of?" They all say the same thing,
"Cinderella." "Aha! WTiat happened to Cinderella? The clock was striking midnight. What was she doing?" "Oh, she was running." "Uh huh, and what happened?" "She lost her slipper." "Uh huh, why was she running?" ''Well, to get
home." "Who was chasing her?" "Oh, the prince, who wanted to . . ." "Right!"
Now, I ask them the question, have you ever been chased by a man? Maybe
you picked his flowers and he chased you out of the yard. Fm trying to do it
very gently, alright? And it comes right out. And you know what it is? Sexual
abuse. And when the man gets the glass slipper, that's when I take a deep
breath. And I always talk to them, too. Asked one man, and I said, "Have you
ever been sexually abused?" After I asked him all the [other] questions. He said,
"No." And I said, "Oh, Okay." I said, "Well, normally that's what it means,
but. . . okay, well thank you anyways." And I walked away. And about a half
an hour later, he called me over to the comer, and he said, "I've got something
to tell you." And his eyes filled up with tears. He must have been a man about
thirty-five, thirty-six, alright? He said, "By my boy cousin." And another man,
he saw combat boots, and he lost his sight in the South Pacific. A Japanese
soldier threw a hand grenade in his face and he lost his eyesight. So it's really,
it's a shoe test and the Lord is healing. And I keep saying, "Lord, it's not time
for you. This is only a shoe test" [i.e., this is not supposed to be the healing
part of the service, just an exercise on using the imagination]. But people are
being healed.
This healer's "shoe test" is an innovation within Charismatic culture
which has the explicit didactic intent of cultivating visual imagination.



Imagination is culturally defined as an inherent human capacity that, if

inoperative, can be healed by divine intervention. At the same time,
discrete images are held to be efficacious for the self, insofar as they
identify a state of affairs relevant to the well-being of the visualizer. The
shoe is a synecdoche of a real person, and that person is understood to
be in a relationship with the visualizer that requires healing through an
act of forgiveness by the visualizer.
It is critical that the healer intended her innovation only as didactic,
but discovered "empirically" through practicethat is, through the
anticipation on the part of her audience that imagery must have meaningthe deity's intention to use the technique for his own healing
purposes. This is the significance of the characteristically familiar tone
of the healer telling God that "It's not time for you," a humorously
self-reproachful reminder that it is up to the deity to decide when and
through what means to manifest power. Also in the empirical laboratory
of ritual practice she discovered a highly elaborated psychocultural semiotic of shoes, where conventional connotations of wooden shoes, glass
slippers, and combat boots arc improvisationally extrapolated to the
equally conventional repertoire of emotional distress. Thus the wooden
shoe may refer not only to a person who owned such a shoe or a shoe
with a wooden lift, but also to a situation such as growing up in a large
family that is regarded to have potentially negative emotional consequences. Here the shoe counts as a personal symbol based on deep
motivation (Obeyesekere 1981), but unlike the matted hairofObeyesekcre's Hindu-Buddhist ecstatic, it is emergent in performance. Yet in
this instance performance is not only a ritual or liturgical enactment,
but also the function of an endogenous process. It is only incidentally
relevant that the process is technically diagnostic rather than therapeutic.
What allows it to become interpreted as diagnostic in the first place is
both the ethnopsychological assumption that any spontaneous image is
likely to reflect important unconscious content, and the sheer existential
immediacy inherent in the spontaneous product of this endogenous
We set ourselves a large task in examining the nature and consequences of this immediacy, especially since, as we have noted, imagination is a domain that has not received systematic treatment by anthropologists. For this reason we must step back for a moment from our
exposition of Charismatic healing and elaborate the theoretical side of
our dialogue between theory and phenomena. Wc will begin by distinguishing a phenomenological perspective on imagery from that of other



approaches. We will challenge the intellectualist presuppositions inherent in a concept of "mental imager}'," ofFering in its place a conception
of "embodied imagery5' characterized by presentational immediacy and
autonomy in consciousness. We will then elaborate a conceptual framework combining phenomenology and semiotics, which will allow us to
grasp the experiential character and content of imagery experienced by
healers and the peculiar light it throws on the relation between imager}'
and perception. Building on this analysis, we willfinallyreturn to examine the sense in which embodied revelatory imager}' is a self process for

The Existence of the Image

If imagination is a prominent modality of human creativity and a powerful self process, it is of note that it is virtually absent as
a topic of anthropological interest. To be sure, anthropologists have
long been interested in the relevance of dreams to psychoanalytic
themes, as the source for the prophetic inspirations of charismatic figures, and for their widespread role in religion and healing (Kennedy
and Langness 1981, Tedlock 1987). Yet with few exceptions (Roseman
1991), much of the dream literature is by methodological necessity
limited to the interpretation of symbolic and affective content, stopping
short of a phenomenology of image processes. Again, the importance
of imagery is implicit in anthropological treatments of altered states
of consciousness. This literature, however, has been for the most part
formulated in terms of the nature of trance, possession, hallucination,
conversion, and performance rather than with an interest in the cultural
constitution and consequences of imagery processes. The work of L.
Doob (1964) and D. Doob (1982) stands out as a milestone in the
cross-cultural examination of vivid or cidetic imagery.2 Aside from these
works, only very recendy have tentative steps been taken to open imagination as a category of anthropological study (Noll 1985, Price-Williams 1987, Stephen 1989, Lyon 1990). We will therefore take some
time to solidify the theoretically spongy ground upon which we must
tread in order to present a cultural phenomenology of imaginal self
process in Charismatic ritual performance.
Let us first briefly contrast an empiricist notion of the image with a
phenomenological one. In brief, in the empiricist view the image is a



kind of thing or mental object, a representation or copy of sensory

perception. For phenomenology, it is a modality of consciousness, and
since consciousness is inherendy intentional, a kind of act (Giorgi 1987,
Casey 1976). The dominance of the objectifying empiricist view in
psychological and philosophical studies of imagery has played a critical
role in shaping the common tendency to think of imagery in quite
narrow terms. Imagery becomes "mental imagery," and the sensory
scope of mental imagery is reduced to "visual imager)'." This mentalistic
bias is compatible with our culture's preference of the visual modality,
and both arc presupposed by the experimental model of research in a
laboratory setting.3 However, such "mcntalism" and "visualism" are not
necessarily compatible with an ethnographic model of research in a
natural setting where images are not produced with technical neatness,
but documented in their existential messincss. A phenomenological approach that insists on the inclusion of corporeality in a definition of
consciousness and on the unified sensorium as the field of imaginative
activity is, therefore, necessary to adequately encompass imagination as
an empirical domain. Moreover, insofar as the problem of imagery bears
directly on the nature of the "mind-body relationship" (Morris and
Hampson 1983), such an approach is a necessary corollary to a theory
of the body as existential ground of self such as wc have been developing.
With respect to our empirical case, it is as a mode of embodied consciousness, and specifically as a somatic mode of attention that has become a disposition in the Charismatic habitus, that embodied imagery
can be shown to constitute a self process in ritual healing.
Whereas we can thus draw an epistemological contrast between empiricism and phenomenology, we can draw a methodological contrast
between a semiotic and phenomenological approach to imagery. Let us
contrast the phenomenological image we have just described with the
semiotic image in its familiar form of the "literary image." The critical
difference is that, whereas the former is essentially a function of our
embodiment, the latter is essentially a function of textuality. However,
unlike the epistemological relation between the empiricist image as object and the phenomenological image as mode of consciousness, the
methodological relation between the image as a function of textuality
or embodiment is not mutually exclusive.4 Here it is a question not of
competing definitions of the image in consciousness, but of the complementarity of the image in the orders of representation and being in the
world. Whereas the literary image "exists" primarily as a feature of signrelations, it can also be taken up into experience as an image in con-



sciousness. However, the embodied image in consciousness, because it

is invariably an image of something or about something, can be abstracted from consciousness and analyzed as a sign-function. The existential difference is that the embodied image is essentially present to
and immediate in consciousness, whereas the literary image is only secondarily so. Conversely, the literary image is essentially embedded in
the textual or symbolic order, whereas the embodied image is only
secondarily derived from the symbolic order. Thus the images of shoes
in our example of the shoe test are primarily embodied images, although
the kind of shoes imagined have explicit cultural meaning. As a function
of embodiment, they present an existential situation; as a function of
textuality, they represent a potential narrative.5
In this respect we must point to Ricoeur's (1977) analysis of the
relation between psychological and literary theories of metaphor as well
as his understanding of how imagination operates both in discourse
and in action (1978). At stake is the enterprise of reconciling language
and experience, representation and being in the world. The promise of
such an enterprise is signaled in Murray's (1987) observation of the
parallel but inverse movement of Ricoeur from the analysis of language
to that of imagination, and of Heidegger from the analysis of imagination to that of language. In the same vein I recall the parallel between
Peirce's acknowledgment of a phenomenological dimension within semiotics, and Merleau-Ponty's attempt to develop a theory of signs
within phenomenology. Our working assumption must be that imager)'
is intelligible insofar as it inheres in the symbolic or semiotic order, and
is efficacious as a self process insofar as it inheres in the existential order
of being in the world.
In addition to the epistemological issue of imagination's bodiliness
and the methodological concern with presentational immediacy, there
is an empirical issue that we must entertain. Here the contrast is between
ordinary imagination and religious imagination, and the issue is the
nature of imagination's autonomy as a mode of consciousness. We will
consider two approaches to this issue, one by a philosopher and one
by an anthropologist. Casey (1976), the philosopher, is concerned primarily with conscious imagining of an everyday sort. For Casey, conscious imagining is autonomous in four ways:
1. It is independent from other mental acts such as perception or
memory. Casey makes this claim in the context of a long debate
about whether imagination is a subordinate or derivative mental



act. The core of his argument is that perception or memory may

condition, but cannot be said to cause, an act of imagination.
2. It is independent both of the context in which it occurs and of
its content. It is independent of context both with respect to
the actual setting in which the imagincr is imagining, and with
respect to the imaginative setting in which an image obtrudes.
It is independent in its content insofar as it "need not replicate
or even resemble the content of any other experience" (ibid.:
3. It exhibits a "characteristic indifference to the concrete concerns
and particular projects of the life-world" (ibid.: 189), and is thus
autonomous in that it is disengaged from "that pervasive 'care'
(Sorge) that Heidegger claims is the fundamental and encompassing dimension of our bcing-in-the-world" (ibid.) and from
'Svhat Mcrleau-Ponty calls 'intcrinvolvcment' with the natural
and historical world of spatial beings, temporal becomings, and
interpersonal complexities. The world of imagining is a thin
world, a mini-world whose ephcmcrality precludes any engaged
activity comparable to that required in the life-world" (ibid.:
4. It is characterized by freedom of mind, "the facility with which
we are able, within the mind alone and by means of the mind
alone, to carry out a particular project which the psyche has
proposed to itself (ibid.: 196). Imaginative freedom of mind is
identified by ease of access to imagery and the immediate success
of efforts to imagine, but also at times by an "autogenous freedom of psychical appearing which arises separately from conscious intentions" (ibid.: 198). In addition, freedom of mind
refers to imagination's apparently infinite variability, its indeterminacy, and its articulation of pure possibility that "enables the
mind's free movement to traverse a terrain considerably more
vast than the region occupied by perceived and remembered
things alone" (ibid.: 199).
Casey's analysis of ordinary imagination yields important results
when juxtaposed with an analysis of religious imagination. Several characteristics of ordinary imaginationindependence from other mental
acts, from context and content, and the appearance of images "separately
from conscious intentions"are precisely those that under certain conditions can be construed as evidence of sacred "otherness." Whereas



ordinary imagining is described as essentially "disengaged" (though arguably so), the religious imagination, whether in prayer, prophecy, or
healing, is defined precisely by its existential care (Heidegger 1977)
and interinvolvement (Merleau-Ponty 19646). As our discussion proceeds, the space between imagination's apparent indifference and existential engagement will be critical to defining the specific mode of its
efficacy in healing. As for freedom of mind, two qualifications must be
added to Casey's analysis. First, insofar as the religious imagination is
engaged with "pressing human concerns," those concerns will impinge
on imaginative autonomy by imposing specific cultural form on its
products. Second, there is probably among the general populace a far
greater proportion of people who have difficulty imagining than Casey
is prepared to acknowledge. The consequences of incapacity to imagine
are especially salient in a behavioral environment that places a premium
on imagination. In this connection we recall that in our opening example the healer declared that those who "fail" the shoe test need a "healing
of the imagination." There is evidence that poor visualizers may on that
account suffer in self-esteem, feeling unworthy or neglected by the deity
who grants inspired imagining (cf. Csordas 19906).
Our second account of autonomous imagination is offered by Stephen (1989), who is specifically concerned with religious imagination,
including shamanistic vision, hallucination, dreams, active imagination,
hypnosis, possession, and other altered states of consciousness. Her
approach is based on an information-processing model, within which
imagination is autonomous primarily in that it is a mode of thought
that takes place "outside conscious awareness," and hence has an inherently "self-alien quality" (ibid.:54). For Stephen, imaginative autonomy
is thus not a feature of ordinary imagination as it is for Casey. Instead,
the autonomous imagination stands in contrast to the ordinary imagination in that its products are "vividly externalized," "compelling," and
"have their own momentum" (ibid.:55-56). In addition, it exhibits "a
much greater freedom and richness of imaginative inventiveness, and
displays a different access to memory. Another important feature is
its special responsiveness to external, cultural influence and direction.
Furthermore, it exerts a special influence over mental and somatic processes" (ibid.:55). It is difficult to determine whether this difference
and specialness are in fact ones of degree or kind from the autonomy
of ordinary imagination described by Casey. In one sense it would appear that the form of autonomy described by Stephen is undermined
by the subordination of imagination either to states such as dreaming,



hypnosis, and religious ecstasy, or to the underlying information-processing mechanism. Moreover, the information-processing model tends
to presume that the real work of imagination is done within a kind of
cognitive black box, and draws a distinction between process of imaginative thought and the products of imagination which "may arise spontaneously into awareness" (ibid.:54). This distinction would appear to
lead us back to defining the image in consciousness as a thing rather
than as an act. Because the information-processing mechanism is by
definition outside of consciousness, it remains ambiguous as to whether
we are speaking of autonomy or automatism.
The two accounts can perhaps be reconciled if the "special responsiveness" and "special influence" attributed by Stephen to autonomous
imagination are linked with the existential engagement that, as I mentioned above, distinguishes religious imagination from the relatively
indifferent imagination of ordinary lifealthough it might be argued
that even ordinary imagination is more motivated and emotionally valent than Casey acknowledges.6 Whether or not they can be reconciled
in the abstract, the problem of continuity or discontinuity between
ordinary and religious imagination, and the implications of different
understandings of imaginative autonomy, arc especially relevant to our
ethnographic case. As was evident in our example of the shoe test,
Charismatics indigenously describe their imaginative experiences under
the explicit category of imagination, an ordinary capacity rendered religious. Moreover, they readily distinguish their everyday experience of
divinely inspired "images" from less frequent but still possible 'Visions"
and "apparitions," and further distinguish all of these from either hallucination or ordinary perception. Only occasionally, during the experience of resting in the Spirit (cf. chapter 9), does imagery occur in an
indisputably altered state of consciousness. These facts locate our discussion precisely on the boundary' between ordinary and religious imagination and between the two forms of imaginative autonomy. It is this
intermediate phenomenological position that on the one hand allows
imagination to become elaborated as an efficacious and sacred self process, and on the other allows it to be accessible to existential analysis.

Semiotics and Phenomenology of Imagination

Having introduced imagination's characteristics of embodiment, immediacy, and autonomy, we are prepared for the next step.



That is, in line with the discussion mounted above, to oudine a method
that incorporates the complementarity of semiotics and phenomenology. This complementarity allows us to recognize two aspects of the
image, that of image-assign and that of image-in-consciousness. We can
account for the first aspect with the assistance of Peirce's semiotics, and
for the second with the assistance of Sartre's phenomenology of the
image. We will construct our analytic framework by superimposing
these formulations. Then we will be ready for the existential analysis of
Charismatic revelatory' imagery.
For Peirce, the fundamental structure of the sign was a tripartite
composite of the sign proper or representamen, the object, and the
interpretant: "A Sign or Representamen, is a First which stands in such
a genuine triadic relation to a Second, called its Object, as to be capable
of determining a Third, called its Interpretant to assume the same triadic
relation to its Object in which it stands itself to the same Object"
(quoted in M. Singer 1984:45). The revelatory images of Charismatic
healers are signs in that they have an explicit content that serves as
representamen, an object which is the situation or problem indicated
by the sign, and an interpretant constituted by an explanation of the
situation, a course of action to be taken in resolution of the problem,
or an outcome in the form of a goal to be achieved in the healing
For Sartre, the image likewise has a tripartite structure, composed
of an act, an analogical representative, and an object: "The image is an
act which envisions an absent or non-existent object as a body, by means
of a physical or mental content which is present only as an 'analogical
representative' of the object envisioned" (1948:26). Among Charismatics the imaginative act can be identified by two features: the sensory
modality in which it occurs, and its cultural form ("prophecy," "word
of knowledge," "discernment," "anointing," or an unnamed form that
I will call imaginal performance).7 The analogical representative is the
immediate content of consciousness that corresponds to Peirce's representamen, and the object is the situation or problem that corresponds
to what Peirce also calls the object.
Thus, whereas the act phase is absent from Peirce's concept of sign,
the interpretant is absent from Sartre's concept of image. The two formulations overlap, however, in the Sartre's analogical representative and
object correspond to Peirce's representamen and object. The relation
between these formulations, which we will apply to our data under the



labels of image-as-sign and imagc-in-consciousness, can be schematically

represented as follows:

analogical representative



The top level portrays the structure of the sign in the order of textuality or representation, while the overlapping bottom level portrays
the structure of the image in the order of embodiment or bcing-in-theworld. The sign in itself has no act phase because, as a function of
textuality, it is always already in the order of representation rather than
of presentation, always primarily related to other signs and only secondarily to motives. Conversely, as a function of embodiment, the image
in itself can have no definitive interpretant in the world, due to what
Casey (1976) refers to as its "indifference" or lack of engagement, its
enactment of "pure possibility," and its "self-contained" or contextindependent nature. These characteristics arc doubtless related to Sartre's (1948) conclusion that imagination is fundamentally impoverished, and here we must reiterate that we are not dealing with decontexrualized imagery produced in the laboratory, but with imager}' produced
in a fully engaged natural context. Insofar as the image can become
engaged it must be able to take on an interpretant. Consequently it
must be able to become a function of textuality, and like other cultural
phenomena be analyzed according to the "model of the text" (Ricoeur
1979). Conversely, in order for a sign to become engaged in the world
it must be able to be acted or performed. When it is, it enters the
domain of embodiment wherein lies the efficacy of the "performance
of metaphor" (Fernandez 1986).
Its inherence in the order of textuality guarantees the image-as-sign
communicative value and potential rhetorical force, whereas its inherence in the order of embodiment guarantees the image-in-consciousness
intentionality and presentational immediacy8 The essential integrity of
this scheme is guaranteed by the identity of the object in both orders.
At the same time, the analytic independence of the two orders is guaranteed by the different modes of presentation of the (semiotic) representamen and the (phenomenological) analogical representative. That
is, the representamen is definitively a representation to perception. Thus
the image-as-sign can fail to be perceived only if misrecognized, misattended to, or obscured by distraction. The analogical representative,
however, is subject to variation in consciousness with respect to what
Casey defines as clarity, texture, and directness (1976:5556), as well



as sustainability. Thus the image-in-consciousness can endure only as

it is remembered as a sign or reimaged in consciousness. In the remainder of this chapter we will use this fourfold scheme to analyze the data on
revelatory imagery gathered from the eighty-seven Charismatic healers
interviewed in our study.9

Modalities of Revelation
We begin with that element of our scheme we have designated the "act" phase, defined by sensory modality and cultural form.
We have already arrived at a sense of the cultural forms of revelation
as performative act (chapter 3). Showing how sensory modalities are
engaged in revelatory imagery places us squarely in the arena of embodiment, calling to issue the relation between imagination and perception.
Unfortunately, to meet this issue head-on would take us far afield of
our empirical concerns. It must suffice to observe, along with Casey
(1976), first, that the history of philosophy and psychology includes
both a tradition that holds imagination and perception to be continuous
and a tradition that holds them to be discontinuous; and second, that
it is possible to determine respects in which they are both continuous
and discontinuous. My position is that it is not necessary to show that
they engage sensory modalities in precisely the same way in order to
argue that they engage the same sensory modalitiesmodalities that
are essentially of the body.
Let us examine the data presented in table 4.1. The eighty-seven
healers were asked how they experienced the revelatory gifts of prophecy, word of knowledge, and discernment, and specifically about the
sensory modalities in which they experienced these gifts. It is methodologically critical that for purposes of cultural intelligibility, I necessarily
asked about visual images, and physical sensations.10 My decision was in
response to the above-mentioned North American ethnopsychology of
mind-body or mental-material relations that presumes all imagery to be
"mental imagery." I anticipated, quite rightly, I think, that this ethnopsychology is so deeply inculcated that somatic images are quite likely
not to be recognized as such, but to be both described and experienced as
We must, in fact, go as far back as the turn of the century to encounter
a list of imagety modalities which comprehends the range we have por-



Tabic 4.1 Modalities of Revelatory Imagery Reported by Charismatic Healers.

Number of

Percent of
(N = 87)




mental pictures









emanates from hands

specific body part
"sense" about person/
inner words
flowers = good
sulphur = evil
specific emotion
impulse to speak/act
dream relevant to
supplicant problem

Imagery Modality

Character of Images

trayed in our table. Writing in 1898, W. Lay distinguished "visual,

auditory, tactile, gustatory, olfactory, thermal, motor, pain, organic,
and emotional, and claimed to have experienced all of them himself
(Giorgi 1987:5). If this categorization encompasses most of our analysis, we must go even farther into the Cartesian sediment to accept category six, intuition or "having a sense o f something, as compatible with
the other modalities. Kant (1978), alongside the five "external" senses,
included an "intemaT sense for which there exist no discrete sense otgans, and which therefore must be unitary in nature. No more cognitive
and no less perceptual than the other senses, imagery as "a sense o f o r
as "infused knowledge" in the paratheological term of one healerepitomizes the embodied mdeterminacy of being-in-the-world. Its amorphous character militates against clear distinction between image and
percept, precisely as it leads thoughtful Charismatics to equivocate between attributing it to either human intuition or divine inspiration, and
blurs the boundaries between persons in an intersubjective milieu.
Each Charismatic healer wasfreeto describe his or her imagery in any
way, with probe questions limited to the five senses and dreamingthe
emotion, sense/intuition, and impulse categories were emergent from
the data. Although there was considerable range in the frequency and
vividness of reported imager)', only five healers failed to report any



experience of revelation/manifestation. Visual imagery appears in the

form of mental pictures, often of a person or situation, but sometimes
of an afflicted body part, and occasionally as a number or word inscribed, as it were, on the tabula rasa of the mind. Given the expected
North American cultural bias of the sensorium toward preference for
the visual (Ong 1967, Feld 1982, Howes 1987), it comes as no surprise
that visual imagery predominates among Charismatics. On the contrary,
the same cultural bias would lead us to expect far fewer instances of
imagery in other modalities than are actually reported.
Images based on the sense of touch, under which I include all haptic,
kinesthetic, and proprioceptive sensations, are second in frequency. Insofar as they are quite diverse, I have subdivided them into three categories, among which again each healer may have mentioned more than
one. Heat is most often localized in the hands, and is the most common
single image reported.11 Pain, however, may be localized in any part
of the body. The residual category covers a wide range, including chills
or coldness, electricity moving through the body, lightness or heaviness,
burning, queasiness, trembling hands, energy blockage, feeling the person prayed with rising (quasi levitation), choking or suffocation, and
feeling physically dirtied by the presence of sexual immorality. Here
more than anywhere else in our data we traverse the ambiguous boundary between image and sensation. Some of these nonspecific feelings
(e.g., lightness, heaviness, electricity) are doubtless akin to those reported by people practicing various relaxation techniques. Others bear
such context-specific meaning (e.g., feeling "dirtied") that they appear
bound to the moral imagination as sensors' metaphors rather than sensations. Whereas an empiricist psychology might remain frustrated at the
indeterminacy between categories of imagination and sensation, a cultural phenomenology must allow for the possibility that this indeterminacy is an essential one (cf. Csordas 1993). The way that Charismatics
mine this essential ambiguity for significance may then be a key to the
way that imaginal self process in revelation becomes, in Geertz's phrase,
uniquely realistic.
Continuing through the modalities in table 4.1, what I am calling
intuitive imagery is a very common mode of experiencing the word of
knowledge and discernment. Its character is perhaps the most difficult
to specify, relying as it must on Kant's indeterminate "inner sense." In
some cases it appears to carry more prestige, perhaps precisely because
it is experienced as less embodiedhence, in North America's typically
Cartesian idiom, more "spiritual"than imagery in other modalities.



One healer insisted that her inspiration came through immediate "infused knowledge," and that she subsequently invented her own images
in order to convey the content to the supplicant. Three others, all of
whom had some degree of professional psychotherapeutic training, emphasized the continuity between human intuition and this mode of
divinely inspired imagery. One of these observed that insistence on
the exclusively divine origin of the gift, instead of understanding it as
intuition augmented by grace, was evidence of a "magical" attitude
in contrast to an "incamationaT theology. Some healers describe the
revelatory image as an impression, as in "when the Lord speaks he
impresses a word on your spirit like on soft clay, he doesn't speak in
your ear." The ambiguity of this notion of impression, used here along
with the material metaphor of soft clay, is highlighted by another use
of the word in a more literal physical sense to refer to demonic presence
"almost like somebody's got their hand on my back or I feel I've got
something pressing on mc."
Shading off in the "human" direction from the category of images
reported as unmediated sense or impression are images in which the
healer acknowledges that the inspiration comes explicitly in the process
of picking up cues from the supplicant. Healers' descriptions of these
revelations can be classed along a rough continuum defined by their
use of psychological or spiritual language. Starting with the psychological pole, these descriptions range from subconscious processing, to
seeing or listening to faces, eyes, pauses, or actions, reading into what
people say, hearing more than what people say, and explicit distinction
between spiritual and actual listening. Shading off in the "divine" direction from unmediated intuitive imager)', the revelatory inspiration becomes described as auditory imagery, our next major modality. Whether
cast in the cultural form of prophecy or word of knowledge, this mode
is by and large experienced in terms of an inner voice, and only rarely
as an impersonal sound.12 As might be expected, the experienced audibility of this voice may range from the virtual silence we assume when
we speak of "inner dialogue" in everyday life, through varying degrees
of vividness.
Just as visual imagery is, not surprisingly, dominant in a North American cultural setting, so olfactory imager)' is relatively impoverished. It
is reported by fewer healers, is less frequent in occurrence among those
who report it, and is more stereotyped in meaning. On the one hand,
the scent of roses or other flowers is often reported, typically indicating
the spiritual presence of the Virgin Mar)' and sometimes the deity. In



contrast to medieval stories of saints whose bodies exuded afloralodor,

sometimes even after death, Charismatic floral imagery is generally reported to be spontaneous and unassociated with a particular place or
person.13 On the other hand, the image of burning sulphur or of something rotten invariably indicates a demonic presence and is a cue that
prayer for deliverance is called for. In all the interviews only three examples of other kinds of olfactory images were reported, including two
by supplicants that called their attention to specific issues requiring
healing (the smell of tobacco by a woman in the process of healing
from the emotional trauma of divorce from a man who smoked a pipe,
and the smell of cookies which reminded a woman of a traumatic incident in her childhood), and one by a healer that indicated the presence
of an evil spirit of lust in a house (the smell of semen). Given these
constraints, we also note that the revelatory significance of olfactory
imagery in healing per se may appear somewhat inflated in our tabulation, for in the case of floral images the specific examples elicited were
sometimes drawn from devotional rather than healing settings. Nevertheless, in comparison to the olfactory, and to complete the inventory
of sensory modalities, gustatory imagery was not once reported in our
interviews. This must be attributed to lack of cultural elaboration rather
than to unsuitability of this modality to imagery. In fact, we know that
in cases of schizophrenia hallucinatory images occur in both olfactory
and gustatory modalities.
In our data, revelatory imagery in the affective modality included
anger, unbelief, feeling the urge to flee the room, internal repulsion,
frustration, confusion, happiness, sadness, fear, unworthiness, rejection,
loneliness, and isolation. Whereas such emotional imagery is closely
attuned to the intersubjective milieu of healing, it must be carefully
distinguished from empathy. It is understood not as the sharing of a
patient's emotional state, but as revelation of either a current transitory
or chronic state, whether natural or demonically exacerbated, or as revelation of a past state. For example, a healer described "discerning" demonic anger or fear as an experience of those emotions, but "heavier
than anger coming from myself, and more irrational." Another described feeling very deeply for a person with a family problem, "like it
was all inside of me . . . a heaviness, real heavy. Like almost the problem
was mine, though I didn't lose sleep over it." Here the heaviness is not
to be understood as a separate proprioceptive image, but as an emotional image the content of which is precisely what psychiatry calls a
"vegetative sign" of depression. Charismatics are willing to entertain



the idea that these feelings may be compassion or empathy as much as

divine inspiration, but lack any indigenous notion of an "emotional
image." In the latter example, the healer can indeed be said to have
been empathetic, for she had once experienced abandonment by her
husband as had the woman she was describing. Yet, as is also evident,
healers clearly distinguish these feelings from their own emotions, being
"more irrational" than one's own, or "like almost die problem was
This point is emphasized in situations where the emotional image is
compounded by crying on the part of the healer. In the words of one
Sometimes when I'm praying, I will be with a person and begin to cry. Not
cry as if they were my own tears, but as if the suffering of the other person or
the joyit can be eitherwere moving through me. Cleansing me maybe, or
as if I were there representing Jesus and at that point taking on the pain. So
FU just be with them and I'llfindtears moving down my eyes. I just know it's
different than when I cry. But it's as if Fm a vessel for that. That's very powerful
for me.
The first thing to note in this passage is the insistent "as i f used by
this healer to approximate the preobjective experience of crying in the
healing situation. Whereas on the one hand, the lack of a stereotypic
cultural objectification enhances our confidence in the phenornenological report, and, on the other, the apparent "as-if-consciousness" (Husserl 1964:141) affirms that we are dealing with an imaginal phenomenon, the principal point to which I would draw attention is the image's
relation to the healer's self, combining the essential indifference and
detachment of imagination with the existential commitment to the suffering patient. Another healer explicitly stated that "I cry a lot. But it's
not from sadness." Neither, in her view, is it from empathy, but from
"being moved" by "the intensity of God's presence." The phenomenological character of the affective image is most clear when it is contrasted
with what Charismatics refer to as the "gift of tears" or the "gift of
laughter." In these experiences one bursts into spontaneous and uncontrollable laughing or crying that is understood to be fully of the self, and
which falls under the category of relatively simple and straightforward
What I have called motor images arc, when cast in the cultural form
of word of knowledge, experienced as impulses to act or speak. Specifically, the intentionality of the verbal act precedes the cognition of its
meaning such that it "comes to mv mind after it comes to mv mouth."



or the "knowledge just comes out as I talk," or again the healer finds
himself saying something apparently "out of the blue." In nonverbal
examples one may be impelled to lay hands on a supplicant in a particular
way or, as was reported by one healer, to get up and stand behind the
seated supplicant, whereupon she discovered an old scar on his head that
indicated an incident the emotional effects of which required healing.

Dreams and Revelation

Dreams are largely excluded from the revelatory imagery
of Charismatic healers.14 Of the five included in table 4.1, one reported
no longer dreaming in this way, one had experienced a revelatory dream
only once, another only recently and only twice, and a fourth was a
psychiatrist who reported 25 percent of her dreams were about her
patients, but who in fact appeared more willing to describe this as making use of her own countertransference than as a revelatory spiritual gift.
Only one healing minister unequivocally reported regularly receiving
revelation for healing through dreams, and this is an exception that
proves the rule. Whereas nearly all the healers were North Americans
of French, Irish, or Italian heritage, this healer was an immigrant from
Portugal who, in addition, was the only healer who reported waking
experiences of literal visions and auditions of Jesus and Mary as opposed
to images in the mind's eye and ear. ls Several other healers warned that
to rely on dreams as sources of revelation could be dangerous, implying
the possibility of being misled by one's unconscious or deceived by
Satan. One female healer of Franco-American heritage reported being
socialized out of dreaming altogether as a child, and a priest of IrishAmerican heritage stated that he prevents himself from dreaming in
order to be more fully removed in sleep from the stresses of daily life.16
Given the Charismatics' concern with revelation, and given the regularity with which the ethnographic literature reports dreams as a modality
of revelation in other traditions, this exclusion needs accounting for.
As it turns out, the relative exclusion of dreams from Charismatic
revelatory imagery leads us to a critical point for our argument, with
respect to both the criterion of the sacred in the phenomenology of
the Charismatic world and to the intertwining of the sacred with the
psychocultural themes prominent in that world. First, there is an eidetic
charaaeristic of both waking and dream imagery that is thematizcd



precisely as the most convincing evidence that revelatory imagery is

of divine origin; and that is spontaneity. Sartre (1948:18) regarded
spontaneity as an essential characteristic of imaginative consciousness,
and suggested that "in most cases, no doubt, the image springs up with
a deep spontaneity which is independent of the will" (ibid.:24). It is
Casey (1976:63-86), however, who develops a thorough phenomenological description of imaginative spontaneity'. His analysis shows that
not only when an image emerges unbidden, but also in instances when
wc consciously produce an image, it appears suddenly (in a manner
that can surprise us), instantaneously (with no time lapse between our
intention to produce it and its appearance), and effortlessly (it appears
to unfold on its own initiative). Together these features describe an
essential sclf-gcncrativity. Imagination is not only self-generative, however, but may be self-starting or autogenous. The spontaneous image
"resists being located in a well-ordered, causally concatenated series,"
and does not emerge "from a nexus of causally efficacious factors" (ibid.:
68). For this reason, at least prior to reflection, it appears exempt from
Here we can grasp both the aptness and the persuasiveness of imagination as a process of the sacred self, a process that impresses itself on
Charismatics precisely because it often appears "out of the blue."17 It
is at once profoundly of the self, but at the same time is experienced
as profoundly other, in a way ripe for thematization as the sacred Other
acting within the self. If, as we have argued, the body is the ground of
self as a "setting in relation to the world," it is also critical that we have
described this imaginal self process in terms of embodied imagery. The
cultural elaboration of imagery is an engagement of the entire sensorium, and hence a concrete articulation of what Merleau-Ponty (1962)
called the "bodily synthesis." Revelatory gifts institute a somatic mode
of attention oriented to imaginal modulations of the body precisely in
its role as the existential ground of self. The crowning touch in consolidating imagery as a definitive and efficacious experience of the sacred
is that it is, as it were, prethematized by the centrality of spontaneity
as a psychocultural concern. If the incarnate experience of the sacred
is culturally defined as spontaneous, then the inherent spontaneity of
imagination is readily embraced as a manifestation and criterion of the
This does not yet account for the exclusion of dreams, which are
equally spontaneous as waking imager}'. Here again the decisive point
is given in Casey's analysis. Quite unlike the spontaneity of dreaming,



the spontaneity of ordinary imagination is essentially paired with the

feature of controlledness. By controlledness is meant that we have the
ability to initiate or self-induce imagery, to guide its contents along a
particular trajectory, and to terminate an imaginal sequence.18 Spontaneity and controlledness cannot coexist at the same moment of the
image-in-consciousness, but if imagery is not always actually controlled,
it is always potentially controllable. These two characteristics complement and counterbalance one another not in a merely abstract way, for
"the imaginer senses directly, without any supplementary act of inference or recourse to reasoning, that the controlled features of imagining
complement its spontaneous featuresthe former seeming to compensate for what is missing in the latter, and vice versa" (Casey 1976:63).
One may subsequently direct the development of an image that emerges
spontaneously, just as a spontaneous turn can occur within an imager)'
sequence that is consciously guided. Moreover, even the element of
surprise in spontaneous imagery is more muted than in dreams, for
though surprised by the former, "we are not swept away by it. We retain
our basic composure because nothing has appeared that undermines
or threatens ingrained beliefs concerning causal action or interaction;
indeed, when we imagine, such beliefs are put out of play from the
start" (ibid.:70). On the contrary, in dreaming we can be swept away
because we are not always immediately aware that we are dreaming.
Thus, once again, imagination is shown to be an apt constituting
process of the Charismatic sacred self in that it conforms to a psychoculturaJ theme, this time that of control. Corollary to control in this respect
is the Charismatic preference for conscious rather than unconscious
engagement with the deity. Here we finally have a double rationale for
the downplaying of dreams in favor of imagining in the domain of
revelation. In a negative sense, if imagining is more controllable than
dreaming, it's validity and meaning arc also more readily "discerned"
and less subject to personal distortion or "demonic deceit." In a positive
sense, imagination not only conforms to two important themes, but
exhibits the phenomenological complementarity between spontaneity
and control as capacities of the sacred self.

Representation and Object

A great deal more could be said about the revelatory
image as act. We have gone far enough with regard to our specific



interest in imaginal self process, however, so that we can move on to

the other elements of our fourfold scheme. In this section we will outline
the cultural repertoire of relations between represcntamen (or analogical
representative) and object. Our data for this discussion are 287 examples
of specific images reported by the healers. The vast majority of these
were experienced by the healers themselves, during the kinds of healing
events with which wc have become familiar in the preceding chapters.
Occasionally, however, a revelatory image or an image complementing
that of the healer is reported as occurring to a patient. I know of no
other instance in the ethnographic literature in which such a body of
data is presented, and hence what follows is necessarily an experimental
approach to the semiotic structure of a naturally occurring repertoire
of revelatory imagery.
Our first observation is that revelatory imagery falls under two principal categories, corresponding to Peirce's concept of symbolic sign on
the one hand, and his concepts of indexical and iconic signs on the other.
Whereas the symbolic sign requires a mental association, intellectual
concept, or disposition to act as its intcrprctant, the relation of icons
and indices to their object is direct: "If the sign signifies its object solely
by virtue of being really connected with it, as in physical symptomsfor
example meteorological signs and a pointing fingerPeirce called such
a sign an index. A sign that stands for something merely because it
resembles it, Peirce called an icon" (M. Singer 1984:44). Indices are
signs "of individual existence and interaction," whereas icons are signs
"of structural form" in social life (ibid.:30).20 Thus the interpretants of
icons and indices arc more likely to be restricted or standardized, and
this is what we find in Charismatic revelatory imagery.21
Among the Charismatic healers in the present study, roughly half
the images reported (N = 146) are symbolic signs of persons and
situations, the interpretants of which arc revelations about a patient's
problem. The other half (N = 141) are indices or icons of a patient's
state, the interpretants of which are revelations about the pragmatics
of the ongoing healing event. Within the Charismatic cultural context,
the latter are relatively self-evident in meaning and lack the condensation
of meaning characteristic of symbols. We will consider this type first,
dividing it into three subtypes: indexical icons, indexes proper, and
icons proper. Indexical icons are indexical in that they manifest the
existence of their object in the interaction among healer, supplicant,
and divinity, whereas they are iconic in that the modality in which they
occur is isomorphic with their object, defining the structural form of



that object as embodied. Indexical signs proper indicate their object

across modalitiesin other words, an image in one modality indexes
the existence of an object in another modality. Finally, icons bear a
resemblance to their object, but their meaning is nonspecific without
additional information provided by the context. It is important to bear
in mind that these are subtypes of representation, and that the repertoire
of objects, that is, what is being imaged, remains constant across these
three subtypes. The objects represented by these images include: divine
power or presence; the occurrence of healing, or more vaguely "that
something is happening"; positive emotional states described as inner
peace, reconciliation, deepness or authenticity; and both spiritual and
emotional negativities described as evil, bondage, rigidity, or blockage.
Indexical Icons. An emotional image, as defined above, is perhaps the
most clearcut case of the indexical icon, since in most cases it indicates
the existence of an emotion in the supplicant and has the same form as
that emotion. Most of the images that take the form of indexical icons
are images of divine power, indexical because they manifest the existence
of power and iconic in that they resemble the qualities of a culturally
defined, substantivized divine power. In the proprioceptive modality,
prominent representamens are heat, lightness or buoyancy, tears, peace,
deeper breathing or shortness of breath, shaking or tingling, electricity
or chills through the body; pain and coldncss/iciness may be representamens with evil rather than divine power as their objects. In the auditory
modality, the image may be cast in words such as "it's finished," "they're
healed," or "whatever you ask I'll give." In such auditory images, the
iconic element comes from the inherent power attributed to the divine
"word"; again, the auditory image of cruel laughter may be an indexical
icon of evil rather than of divine power. In the visual modality, the
representamen may occur either as pure light or as tongues of fire settling on the supplicant, where an iconic relationship exists between the
energy of light or fire and divine power.
Index. Insofar as their presence in consciousness is analogical, when
we analyze images-as-sign it is not surprising to find that the analogies
are based on conventional associations. The more analogical the relation
between representamen and object, the less literally iconic are the healers' images. They come to rely increasingly on conventional metaphor,
and synesthetically index one modality by another. Thus when one
healer reports either the visual image of a "hard heart" or the proprioceptive image of a "tight heart" as signs of "emotional closure," the conventional metaphor of the heart as seat of emotions replaces the isomorph-



ism of iconicity, and the visual or proprioceptive modalities become

synesthetic indices of the emotional modality. Olfactory images are important examples here, where as an index of divine presences sweetness
of smelJ is metaphorically associated with spiritual sweetness or holiness,
and as an index of demonic presence foulness of smell is associated with
moral corruption.
There are, however, few images that arc purely indexical in form. It
is perhaps most accurate to identify a continuum of diminished iconicity
in the relation between rcpresentamen and object. Take, for example,
the following three images drawn from our data, in which the same
reprcsentamen takes on relations to different objects. The representamen is the haptic image of physical warmth. In the first case, the
healer interpreted this warmth as an indexical icon of divine power
(warmth = energy). In the second, physical warmth was a metaphor
of emotional intimacy (warmth = "warmth"). In the third, warmth
localized in the feet and legs was taken as an indexical revelation of a
circulator)' problem (warmth = bodily location of problem). Again,
this time focusing on the imaginal use of a specific body part, consider
the following three examples. First, the experience of pain in the healer's
ear was reported as the revelation of a patient's car problem, constituting
an indexical icon in that pain bears an iconic relationship to illness.
Second, a snapping sound and a high-pitched whisde were both reported as indicating the healing of an ear problem, a sign in which the
only iconic element is the bodily location. Finally, a healer's ear becoming red and flushed was a sign that "the Lord wants to speak." Here
the emphasis was not on the heat of flushing as a manifestation of divine
power, but as a means by which the healer's attention was directed
toward the source of inspiration. This is a more purely indexical sign
in which the proprioceptive rcpresentamen (heat) indicates the imminence of a divine-human communication, but even here there is a residual
iconic or analogical element in the physical location of the heat in the
organ of hearing.
Icon. Revelatory images in which the relationship between representamen and object is more purely iconic are typically visual images.
Their content may be explicitly religious, examples of which are the
Eucharist, the face or hands of Jesus, or St. Michael; or nonreligious,
examples of which are a tornado, sea sponges soaking up water, and a
big stone wall. Especially with the nonreligious images, conventional
associations are inadequate for specifying the objects, and healers must



rely almost entirely on context. This is the consequence of an essential

characteristic of icons identified by Peirce:
Now the object of an Icon is entirely indefinite, equivalent to "something.''. ..
A pure picture without a legend only says "something is like this." . . . To attach
a legend to the picture makes a sentence .. . analogous to a portrait of Leopardi
with Leopardi written below it. It conveys its information to a person who
knows who Leopardi was; and to anybody else it only says something called
Leopardi looked like this, (quoted in M. Singer 1984:107)
It is only within the performative context of ritual events that the indefinite iconic images can acquire the "legends" that define their objects
relevant to a patient's distress. It was in this way, returning to the examples cited above, that the tornado was understood as "uprooting the
negative," the sea sponges as indicating that the patient was "being
washed clean," and the stone wall as the presence of "blockage" or
resistance to healing. To take another example, it is only by context
that the image of Jesus running his finger down the seam of a double
golden door can be understood as the deity "sealing off' a traumatic
incident from a supplicant's past. To paraphrase Peirce, the "sealing
off" is a legend that conveys its information to a person who knows
who Jesus was, and to anybody else it only says something called Jesus
does things like this.
Even in these relatively pure iconic images, the indexical function
never disappears completely, for the image ultimately points to divine
presence and power. However, what I would stress is not the element
of indexicality, but the performative force brought to bear by attaching
a legend to these icons. This is especially evident in the last example
we gave, of Jesus sealing off the golden door of trauma. Here is not a
static iconic image, but a kind of icon in motion, an imaginal performance by the deity. Additional examples include Jesus in a cloud massaging/hugging/touching/loving an afflicted body part; the Virgin Mary
placing her veil over an afflicted person; Jesus pouring some of his
blood over the husband and son of a deceased woman, putting a drop
of his blood into the circulator}' system of a victim of cardiac illness,
pulling out a thorn from a supplicant's heart, using a hair from his head
to sew the heart of a supplicant with a lacuna in the coronary wall.
Adopting Casey's terms, we can say that although the act phase of
most revelatory images takes the form of ""imaging" discrete objects or
events in their separateness, these imaginal performances are characterized by "imagining-that" a particular state of affairs, situation, or nexus



Table 4.2 Reprtsentamens of Symbolic Signs in Revelatory Imagery Reported by

Charismatic Healers.
Type of Rcprcscntamcn
Imager)' including people
People alone
God and people
Imagery' excluding people
Word, number, name, emotion, or impulse
Verbal statement

Number of Images

of relationship pertains (1976:41). Although most imaginal performances are carried out by patients during their own healing, it is worthy
of note that, insofar as the they can be carried out by the healer, they
arc the only instance in which Charismatic healing ministers perform a
function analogous to that of traditional shamans, who achieve their
results by travel to and action within the spirit world. However, in all
these instances it is ostensibly Jesus or the Virgin Mary, and not the
healer, who performs the critical actions. Neither is it entirely accurate
to say that the divine beings are acting in a capacity analogous to the
shaman's "spirit helper."
Let us turn now to our second major category of revelatory images,
those describable as symbolic signs. The modality of these images is
predominandy visual. Given their greater elaboration of meaning in
comparison to the predominandy tactile and proprioceptive images we
have been examining, this observation supports the commonsense view
that visualization has the greater potential for richness of content. This
content, identifiable as the representamen or analogical representative
of each image, is the basis for the categorization shown in table 4.2.
Roughly half the images (N = 75) include the presence of people,
typically featuring the patient and her close relatives. The data include
only one instance in which a human character from the Bible appears,
and only fifteen in which a divine actor appears along with humans.
In their manner of prescntation-in-consciousness, these examples are
distributed among simple images of people with no imaginal background, simple images of people in situations, and complex images of
people engaged in action that portrays a problematic situation. The
images composed of people alone are predominandy diagnostic,



whereas those in which the divinity appears tend to consist of imaginal

performances with Jesus acting the part of healer or reconciler among
The second category, comprising slighdy less than half the data (N
= 61), excludes human protagonists. The major part of its images are
presented in the manner of simple objects associated with human life
such as a dress, knife, dog, piano, shovel, mask, etc. A smaller subgroup
includes an array of no-less simple words (e.g., "chromosomes," "love");
numerals (e.g., "33," "7," usually referring to a person's age); names
(e.g., "Ed"); emotions (e.g., "rage"); or impulses (e.g., "stop the car
and pray"). This subgroup is also more diverse in that its images appear
not only in visual, but frequently in auditory, intuitive, affective, and
motor modalities. Finally, a small residual category (N = 10) consists
of verbal images in either auditory or intuitive modalities (e.g., "Be not
afraid," "Tell her if she believes she'll be healed," "Tell that woman to
go home, she's needed," "You must forgive if you want to be healed,"
"Have you been to the doctor about this problem?"). This is the only
subgroup in which images are likely to be found cast in the cultural
form of prophecy.
The critical point about these symbolic images in ritual performance
is that, except when they occur to the patient herself, they require both
the healer and patient to constitute the relation of representamen to
object. This is because the reprcsentamcn-object relation in the symbolic
sign is by definition arbitrary and conventional. It is accordingly not
as accessible as in the iconic sign, where it is based on similarity, or the
indexical sign, where it is based on contiguity. Thus, whereas the healer's
symbolic image may constitute a scene, the patient must recognize that
scene and constitute it as a situation relevant in her own experience. For
example, the healer "receiving" the simple image of a shovel could not
know that the object was an actual shovel. In performance, the object
is constituted only when the triadic sign function is completed by the
patient's provision of an interpretant. In this example, the shovel's interpretant is the traumatic effect of an incident in which the patient's
brother buried her dead pet without compassion, and for which she
had never been able to forgive him. 22 Again, a healer's image of Jesus
standing in a circle with two other men required the patient to identify
those men as his brothers. The interpretant was a situation of estrangement and the possibility of reopening communication with those brothers. The observation that both healer and patient are required to complete the semiotic structure of the symbolic revelatory image is evidence



that revelation is grounded in the intcrsubjective milieu of ritual healing.

We will consolidate our understanding of this grounding with a discussion of the ultimate component of our fourfold scheme, the interpretant.

The Final Interpretant

and Meaning in Revelation

We have adopted the Pcirccan notion of the interpretant

as a mental content or concept that stands in an identical relationship
with the representation and with its object, thereby completing the
meaning of the sign. Peirce went beyond a purely mentalistic definition
of the interpretant, however. For him, language and experience were
not so ontologically distinct as anthropologists appear often to presume,
and he understood the self as an integration of feelings, actions, and
thoughts into "bundles of habits" (M. Singer 1984:159). Most relevant
for our purposes is that
Peirce's concept of habit is that of a self-analyzing and self-correcting disposition
to act in a certain way under given circumstances and motivations. A habit is
for him the "final" or "logical" interpretant of a sign and, as such, gives Peirce's
theory of signs an essentially pragmatic dimension. The making and remaking of
habits, subject to self-control through muscular effort and "cuts ofimagination"
constitute the chief means for the formation and growth of the self, (ibid,
emphasis added)
When we look for the meaning of Charismatic revelatory imagery, we
are led precisely to habits or dispositions to act that are subject to imaginative "remaking." In the Charismatic system of ritual healing these
habits inhere in the situations identified by revelatory imagery.
Let us first briefly consider the interpretants of that group of images
composed of indexical icons, indexes, and icons (both static and icons
in motion). The possible interpretants vary depending on whether or
not the healer knows the nature of the patient's affliction. If she knows,
then such an image indicates either that healing is taking place, or that
the patient needs to submit herself to the availability of healing or to
"claim" that healing. If she does not know, the image may specifically
reveal a problem to be dealt with, may generally indicate that someone
requires healing prayer, or again may indicate that a healing is under
way. In any case, revelatory imager)' is a concrete hierophany and in-



stance of religious experience. It also appeals to habit and the possibility

of its transformation by enhancing the patient's disposition to be healed.
As we have seen (chapter 3), these are both critical elements of therapeutic process, and more than what Dow (1986) has called "therapeutic
preludes" that enhance the confidence of healer and patient.
The notion of habit also gives coherence to the repertoire of interpreters for revelatory images that take the form of symbolic signs.
Table 4.3 summarizes the interpretants from our data according to content.23 It is central to our argument about psychocultural themes in
Charismatic healing that the largest group of interpretants has to do
with intimacy. In these instances the interpretant can be defined as
enduring or habitual consequences of the lack or failure of intimacy,
subcategorized according to whether the originary situation (the semiotic object of the image) occurred in childhood or adulthood. These
consequences arc typically understood as kinds of emotional scars,
woundedness, or brokenncss. In the childhood group they may include
feelings of abandonment, lack of parental love, or exposure to family
discord. In the adult group they are often grounded in marital difficulties or bereavement of a spouse, but may include relationships with
others, especially with members of one's Charismatic prayer group, as
well as one's relationship with God. Although most of these instances
of failed intimacy arc highly generalized, in certain of our accounts
the interpretant includes a degree of causal specificity, so that discrete
emotions are identified as having led to dispositions such as weakened
self-image, difficulties experiencing love or forming relationships, or
vulnerability to feelings of abandonment.
Symbolic images the interpretants of which are the enduring consequences of traumatic events can also be subcategorized in terms of childhood or adult originary situations. The interpretant as habitual state is
implicit in defining the situation as traumatic; that is, like failures of
intimacy, trauma is ethnopsychologicaily presupposed to have enduring
consequences. In the childhood origin group, twelve of thirty-one, or
fully 38 percent of images, identify the trauma as rape or sexual abuse,
most often committed by the father or other close relative. Other traumatic situations included domestic violence and injury or illness, but
also less apparently serious events such as having been temporarily "lost"
in a public place, or having been refused permission to wear a favorite
dress on a particular occasion. Here it must be emphasized on the one
hand that the subjective experience of childhood trauma undoubtedly
does not correJate directly with its subjective consequences, and on the



Table 4.3 Interpretants of Symbolic Signs in
Revelatory Imagery Reported by
Charismatic Healers.
Type of Intcrprctam
Physical illness
Emotional difficulty
Spiritual problem
Life stress

Number of Images

other that Charismatic culture implicitly recognizes as worthy of healing

attention a range of traumas from the most brutal to the most mundane.
Exposure to consistent verbal abuse and having been once unjusdy
scolded for breaking an aunt's washbasin may be objectively different,
but both are culturally relevant. Finally, it is again the case that a generalized interpretant may be specified in ritual performance as habitual
problems of self-image, relationships, behavior, or affect, a range of
issues apparendy continuous with those related to intimacy. This continuity should be no surprise to students of North American culture for,
indeed, it is only a matter of emphasis as to whether bereavement is
considered primarily a loss of intimacy or a traumatic event; and sexual
abuse by one's father is not only an act of violent depravity, but a
profound violation of intimacy.
The next subcategory in table 4.3 includes any physical illness or
condition. Contrary to what might be expected, it is not the case that
interpretants classified as physical illness can be understood as "habits"
only if those physical illnesses are chronic. Not only are acute problems
in themselves disruptions of the habitual body or body image, but healers tend to look beyond the acute problem to more dispositional issues.
This is different from saying that they are psychosomatic or spiritual
in origin (which in some cases, excluded from this category, they are).
Instead, for example, the image of a "root" with a supplicant preparing
for a "root canal" dental surgery was interpreted as referring to the



"root" of the person's problem, which was a family history of alcoholism. Again, imagery associated with an episode of appendicitis in an
elderly man was interpreted in terms of his lack of spiritual preparation
for such a dangerous illness; an image promising healing for laryngitis
was ultimately concerned with enhancing the person's religious faith;
and an episode of pain was interpreted as a divine message calling attention to the person's disposition not to "take care of herself."
Under the heading of emotional difficulty I have defined a type of
interpretant in which the problem is explicidy recognized by healers as
habitual, but not necessarily as the product of either failures of intimacy
or consequences of trauma. The examples in our data include fear, anxiety, guilt, despair, and anger. Under spiritual problems I include lack
of religious faith and exposure to "occult" (demonic) influences. The
category of life stress refers to the consequences of events as diverse as a
woman's anticipation of a family move to a new city, a law-enforcement
official's worry about testifying at an impending trial, or being generally
"laden with burdens." Finally, sin refers to the enduring consequences
of culturally defined transgressions such as having committed robbery,
having an illegitimate child, homosexuality, adultery, or having an
This repertoire of interpretants does not only identify individual habits, but is the product of a shared North American Charismatic habitus.
Just as the repertoire of representamens can be expected to vary crossculturally, one would not likely find the same repertoire of problems
and preoccupations in another culture (Kakar 1982). Like all practices
within a coherent habitus, however, revelatory imagery is characterized
by the fluidity of regulated improvisation (Bourdieu 1977). No symbolic image requires a particular interpretant within the system of ritual
performance. Neither is there any necessary correspondence between
the categories of representamens described in table 4.2 and the categories of interpretants for the same images described in table 4.3. Our final
task in this section is to account for what makes this improvisation
regulated rather than random.
There is both a phenomenological and a semiotic element in this
regulation. The phenomenological element is provided by the habitus,
which determines both the repertoire of possible representamens and
the repertoire of possible interpretants that can be attached to particular
situations or objects. For example, in our data an image of a fetus and
an image of the word "abortion" on a blackboard both referred to
situations of abortion, invariably defined as problematic in the extremely



conservative culture of Charismatics. With the occurrence of such an

image, the patient's contribution is to specif)' the situation as an abortion
of one's sibling, the near abortion of one's self as an unwanted child, or
an abortion one has had oneself. The healer's subsequent contribution is
to introduce specificity by determining the intcrpretant that frames the
image in appropriate religious terms. The healer construes the revelatory
image of a fetus (representamen) and the patient's experience of an
abortion (object) as either a trauma or a sin (interpretant). The participants' shared habitus defines the modus operandi of improvisation
within the intersubjectivc milieu. It gives rise to images and interpretants that, in a sense, converge on their objects (situations) in ritual
performance, constituting a cultural meaning that, for them, is uniquely
The semiotic element of regulated improvisation is provided by the
type of sign in which a particular image is cast. To stay with our example,
there is greater ambiguity possible with the relatively more iconic image
of a fetus than with the symbolic inscription of "abortion" on an imaginal blackboard. Because it lacks a legend of the type described above
in Peirce's discussion of the portrait of Leopardi, in principle the fetus
image could refer not to an abortion at all, but for example to a trauma
within a previous pregnancy carried to term. On the other hand, the
word "abortion" on a blackboard rhetorically implies (and in our data
was in fact construed as) a "sin" which could be "erased" by repentance
and divine forgiveness in ritual healing, thus producing a spiritual "clean
In sum, the habitus regulates improvisation by defining the limits
of reality, and semiosis regulates improvisation by defining the limits
of specificity in revelatory imagery.

Embodied Imagery and Self Process

We set out in this chapter to organize the data of Charismatic revelatory imagery according to the formula of act-representationobject-interpretant. Rather than analyzing images one by one, placing
each in cultural and interactive context, we have attempted to contextualize revelatory practice and its repertoire of imagery as a cultural system,
emphasizing the complementary analysis of the phenomenological
image-in-consciousness and the semiotic imagc-as-sign. We can now



conclude by observing that the discussion of habit has brought us full

circle back to the body as existential ground of self process, thus linking
act and interpretant in our analytic scheme.
Recall that we began our argument for a theory of embodied imagery
with the act phase, pointing to what Merleau-Ponty called the bodily
synthesis as the condition for revelatory imagery in multiple modalities.24 As Merleau-Ponty notes, however, it is also the case that
habit has its abode neither in thought nor in the objective body, but in the
body as mediator of the world. . . . Although our body does not impose definite
instincts upon us from birth, as it does upon animals, it does at least give to our
life theformof generality, and develops our personal acts into stable dispositional
tendencies. (1962:145, 146; emphasis added)
In our analysis of imager}', while the representamen and its object denote a concrete situation immediately recognizable because it is culturally typical, the final interpretant is generalized in the sense that it is
distributed throughout the person's existence as a general capacityor
incapacityof self. This generality gives us a clue to the curious comment made sometimes by patients in Charismatic healing that "I don't
know why I'm here." They sense about themselves the discomfort of a
generalized "habit" that can be sensorially presented as an embodied
image and which is a potential interpretant of revelation.
Insofar as it may not be recognized as such by any patient, such a
"habit" cannot be equated with "illness" or even "suffering," though it
may be a preobjectivc constituent of either. At this preobjective level,
it should be understood as an element of the habitus. Here we return
to the observation with which wc opened the chapter, that imagery is
a Charismatic self process in a double sense. For if imagination as a
generalized capacity of self, or characteristic somatic mode of attention,
becomes part of the habitus generated among Charismatics, it is without
doubt part of the same habitus that includes those generalized dispositions that make up the repertoire of intcrpretants for revelatory imager)'.
It is thus correct to say not only that the convergence of apt image and
relevant interpretant upon an identifiable objector situation is grounded
in the body, but that it is grounded in the mutually socially informed
bodies of healer and patient. If it is existentially the case that our embodiment allows us to recognize another person as "another myself (see
chapter 1), it is culturally the case that a shared habitus is the ground
of intuitive intersubjectiviry in ritual healing. This is especially evident
in the close connection we have shown between the structure of Charis-



matic imagery and prominent North American psychocultural themes.

Spontaneity and control are deeply implicated in the experience of imagery as sacred and efficacious, whereas intimacy is a prominent interpretant of discrete revelations.
If there is any sense in which revelation might be said to be perception instead of imagination, it is in the perception of an intersubjective
milieu. It is no accident that Charismatic revelatory imagery can be
experienced by both healer and supplicant, and that on occasion they
will experience separate but complementary images.25 Imagery not only
emerges from the intersubjective milieu, but in the performative flow
of a healing event elaborates that milieu by contributing to the critical
elements of therapeutic process we have identified as disposition, experience of the sacred, and elaboration of alternatives. Images as indexical
icons of divine power and as symbolic signs both reinforce the disposition to be healed, and are direct experiences of the sacred insofar as
their occurrence is recognized by the patient as spontaneous and as
immediately relevant to her situation. Finally, images as symbolic signs
may initiate the elaboration of alternatives by directing the attention of
the patient toward a particular aspect of her life experience that can be
talcen up into the therapeutic process of ritual healing. We must now
pursue the problem of imagery in therapeutic process more closely from
the patient's point of view.

Imaginal Performance
and Healing of Memories

The discussion we begin in this chapter is continuous

with those in both chapters 3 and 4. In chapter 3 we identified elements
of experiential specificity in the Charismatic genre of "physical healing,"
and now we undertake a similar task with respect to the second of the
three major healing genres, inner healing or healing or memories. In
chapter 4 we identified imagination as an important self process in
Charismatic healing, focusing on the revelatory imagery of healers and
the relation between imagination and perception in the intersubjectivc
milieu of ritual performance. In this chapter we begin to examine therapeutic imagery experienced by patients, with special attention to the
relation between imagination and memory as intersubjectivc self processes in sequences of what we arc calling imaginal performances.
Throughout, a basic concern is the problem of efficacy, both therapeutic
efficacy in the relief from illness and distress, and ritual efficacy in the
creation of a sacred self. In reemphasizing this dual sense of efficacy,
we recognize that, even in cases where patients can be determined to
meet diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder, the cultural constitution of the healing system challenges the boundaries of analytic integrity
between the languages of ritual action and of therapeutic process. Stated
another way, it is relevant to speak either of the self or of suffering as
the objects either of ritual action or of therapeutic process, where the
negative goal of removing suffering is strictly complementary to the
positive one of creating the sacred self.
It is consistent with Benedict's (1934) classic notion that there are



"patterns" in culture that a ritual genre called "healing of memories"

would originate in contemporary North America. Whether it be due
to the lasting influence of psychoanalysis or to some more deeply
embedded notion of which psychoanalysis is itself a manifestation,1 it
can hardly be denied that both repressed and conscious memories are
regarded as significant constituents of the "self in North American
ethnopsychology. First of all, memory is a powerful symbol of the self,
such that access to memory is access to a privileged zone of communion
with that "other who becomes myself." In that invocation of otherness
any psychotherapeutic or religious technique that offers such access to
memory can have overtones of the sacred. That in certain circumstances
the valuation of the sacred can overwhelm the valuation of veridicality
is made possible by the following datum of psychology. Although it
has been shown that memories from childhood, including those retrieved under hypnosis, are not necessarily accurate (Brewer 1986:44,
Stephen 1989:57), it is also the case that people tend to adhere to the
veridicality of such memories (Brewer 1986:35). Thus, though there
is a potential danger that "pseudomemory" could prove traumatic (Masson 1984, Csordas 1990). the sacred technique lessens the import of
disjunction between actual event and emotionally salient experience.2
Because of the symbolic value of memory, in a sense it does not matter
whether it is literally accurate.3
Secondly, if memory is a symbol of the self, the array of specific
memories invoked and reinvoked by techniques such as healing of memories constitutes a pastiche of the self. A brief review of formats in which
healing of memories can be undergone by Charismatics will show what
I mean. In chapter 2 we described th-^ basic ritual procedure comprised
of autobiographical review by stage of life, typically including an intrauterine period, infancy, childhood and school years, adulthood, marriage, retirement. Whatever emerges spontaneously during a period,
either prompted by the healer's or patient's revelatory imagery, or immediately remembered by the patient, is focused on and "prayed into."
Within this basic procedure, multiple variations are possible. It is sometimes the case in one-on-one healing over multiple sessions (analogous
to weekly psychotherapy) that entire sessions will be devoted to a single
life stage, or the healer may go through the entire life in each session.
It is also possible to review one's life on numerous occasions in public
healing services, such as those led by Father P. or the healer who developed the "shoe test." A patient may bring a particular memory to ritual
healing; a healer may adopt the strategy of praying for "whatever comes



up" without focus on a particular life stage or problem; or prayer about

a particular problem may through revelation uncover a memory presumed to lie at the biographical "bitter root" of that problem. Finally,
the same memory can be gone over on more than one occasion, with
incremental actualization of change. The spiritual career of any Charismatic is likely to include many such instances of healing, such that
the sacred self can be understood as a pastiche of ritually transformed
memories of varying degrees of autobiographical significance.
Our strategy for defining the therapeutic specificity by means of
which the healing of memories contributes to constituting a Charismatic
sacred self will be to examine the experience of three patients. This
material is drawn from data on sixty healing sessions with eighteen
patients (thirteen female and five male) in varying degrees of distress.4
Eight participating healers ranged from those who adhere to a stricdy
religious idiom in the setting of Charismatic prayer groups to trained
psychotherapists who integrate ritual healing into their repertoire of
therapeutic techniques in the setting of professional or clinical practice.
Up to five consecutive sessions were observed and recorded for each
patient in the study. After each session the patient identified the most
significant event within that session and provided an experiential commentary.5 For each case we include a brief introduction to the healer
and her orientation as well as to the patient, and then describe a particular session. We will outline the episodic structure of these sessions, but
will concentrate on an event of lmaginal performance identified by the
patient as highly significant. In each case we will integrate materials
from session transcripts and postsession experiential commentaries with
phenomenological description and cultural analysis.6 Our evaluation of
therapeutic process will be cast in the terms laid out in chapter 3, namely
disposition, experience of the sacred, elaboration of alternatives, and
actualization of change.

The Woman Whose Mother Went to Pieces

The healer was a Catholic woman, aged thirty-nine, who
integrates techniques of Charismatic healing and psychotherapy. Her
training includes a masters degree in social work from a psychoanalytic
perspective, and a doctorate in theology with a concentration in spirituality. She is also trained in the Ignatian method of spiritual direction



as well as in Catholic Charismatic methods of inner healing and deliverance. Although she avers the psychoanalytic importance of the unconscious and of the first years of life, she states that her subsequent professional development has led her to a more eclectic position. She has been
especially influenced by the perspective of Jung on the role of imagery in
tapping unconscious processes. She believes that the Jungian perspective
offers a more positive view of the human person than does the Freudian,
and is more in conformity with a Catholic "theological anthropology"
that understands the basic forces of human being as growth, integration,
and individuation.7 In her sessions she and her client typically sit facing
one another. She does not customarily use laying on of hands, but will
occasionally hold a person's hand at an emotionally significant moment.
The patient in the session was, in the healer-therapist's view, an ideal
clientin our language of therapeutic process, the patient had a wellgrounded disposition within the healing system. She had been involved
in Charismatic spirituality since 1978, was well advanced in her own
"spiritual development," and was herself trained and active as a spiritual
director for others. She was a middle-class woman forty years of age,
married for twenty years, and the mother of four children. Her education included two years of college, and her husband worked at a responsible job of lower managerial status. She reported that her first Charismatic religious experience, baptism in the Spirit, had resulted in a
spontaneous healing from a phobia of snakes. Shortly afterwards she
had a session of inner healing during which she was relieved of guilt
over teenage sexual activity that she felt inappropriate for a devout
Catholic girl, and of guilt over a narrowly avoided extramarital affair
later in life. After four years the Charismatic group in which she was a
member dissolved, and she became involved in a program of Ignatian
spirituality, becoming trained as a spiritual director. Although no longer
active in Charismatic groups, at the time of this session she was herself
under the spiritual direction of a Charismatic priest, who had also conducted prayer for inner heaJing with her.
Her principal complaint was lack of a close and emotionally satisfying
marital relationship. She had considered (and not yet ruled out) divorce,
but attributed her ability to remain in the marriage until the present
to her Charismatic involvement. The preceding three years had been
especially traumatic, even violent. Resulting from a pregnancy that originated with unwanted sex forced by her husband, the birth of another
child was the bitter fruit of this period. A personal crisis was precipitated
by her participation in a team praying for deliverance from evil spirits



for a seriously troubled and suicidal young girl. Our patient attributed
the negative influence of this event both to having experienced a traumatic event similar to that troubling the young girl, and to having
"picked up" the evil spirit Suicide from which the girl was delivered
(cf. chapter 7 on deliverance). Subsequendy she became increasingly
depressed and suicidal herself, till another woman who had also participated in the deliverance recommended that she get counseling. In research diagnostic terms we defined this as an episode of major depression. It is critical that although the onset of this episode was attributed
to spiritual causes, this attribution precluded neither an understanding
of its relation to concrete life circumstances nor recourse to psychotherapy or "counseling." Accordingly, she sought out the healer-therapist,
whom she had met the previous year in a professional context. She had
been in therapy for two months when she consented to enter the research protocol, and the session described below is the third of five
followed with her. The session is exemplar)' in that it includes both
a major breakthrough event and an unusually comprehensive mix of
psychotherapeutic and religious interventions.
In the week prior to the session, the client had been concerned about
whether she was prepared to face the difficult issues surrounding her
marital crisis. Certain passages from the Bible '"came to her," affirming
that she should proceed, but she was at the same time beset by "fear
and inner anxiety." The day before her session she realized that these
feelings were abnormally elevated and hence could be due to the influence of evil spirits. In a telephone conversation with the priest who was
her spiritual advisor she brought them under control by "binding" them
(see chapter 2), and the opening episode of the present session was
constituted by a discussion of evil spirits and their effect in general and
on the patient (we will examine this episode in detail in chapter 8).
The next episode was initiated with the client's statement that in the
past week she had begun to fed that her marital problems as well as
recent conflict with her adolescent daughter were rooted in a behavioral
pattern established somewhere in the past. She had been struck with
the thought that no matter what she did, her husband and children
were critical: "They don't see the good, they see the bad." She described
her own response as a feeling of failure, which she expressed to them
as anger in order to cover a sense of being hurt. When she noted that
this response was exacerbated during her menstrual period, the healertherapist recommended a book on premenstrual syndrome.
The patient then expressed her feeling that the pattern had originated



in her relationship with her mother. She felt that the feeling was linked
to previous sessions of inner heaJing with a Charismatic priest in which
she had experienced mental imagery of her mother, and to the fact that
in the preceding week those images had been "coming back." One of
these images was from a period of about two or three years of age when
"evidently [I] used to stick my tongue out and she used to slap my
tongue, and I got a bloody nose." The memory included a sense of
"mixed messages" that she was inherently bad yet loved by her mother,
and she connected this with the contemporary feeling of failure provoked by her husband's and children's criticisms. Another image was
a scene of shouting and screaming; "and behind my mother was my
grandmother and my great-grandmother. It was very, very strange."
Again the healer-therapist suggested some reading, this time on the
Charismatic technique of intcrgencrational or ancestral healing (see
chapter 2). She explained the theory that if the deceased still needs
healing, bonds may be established between the generations that prevent
the healing of the living relative, and described how "ancestral healing"
both helps the deceased and breaks their bond to the living. The immediate therapeutic impact of this explanation was a religiously consistent
understanding by the client of why the issues of maternal relationship
had not been resolved through prior inner-healing prayer and were now
The principal episode of the session, identified in followup as most
significant by both healer (H) and patient (S), began with the patient's
comparison of herself and her young son:
S: Basically I do see him as an extremely gifted child with a lot of life. . . . He
can express himself, and I allow him to. I think I was a spitfire like him.
You couldn't kill this kid. I would have to really do a huge number on him
to be able to squelch what he has inside. It really, really is beautiful.
H: What does that tell you about yourself, what you just said?
S: It's that I have that potential.
H: You called it beautiful.
S: Yeah, I have a hard time believing that. But I do believe it with him.
H: Well, if you are like him, then you are like him. And he's like you. Maybe
you can see more of the positive in yourself.
S: Yeah. [Begins soft crying; therapist comes to kneel by her chair, applies
laying on of hands.]
H: Why don't you close your eyes for a few minutes and let that sink in. FU
close my eyes too. Have some space. . . . Let yourself be with that insight.
Maybe you can thank the Lord for that child. It can help you love yourself.
[Silence during pause.]



S: I could picture S. and I could see that grin. I just got a sense of him having
the freedom to beit's going to sound a little strangeeven dirty. I mean
physically a mess. And that grin son of came through. Then I pictured this
little girl that was always perfectly dressed, and I kept getting the words
"it's okay little one." That's what I got, and the smile kept coming to me.
H: Because when you were a little girl you weren't being told "it's okay."
S: No.
H: I think you need to feel some of your pain.
S: Yeah, because I'd like to deny that.
H: Yeah, but you can't now. It needs to come out. Why don't you let yourself
cry. Whose shoulders would you like to cry on? Just cry on mine. . . .
[Healer moves from her chair to the patient's side and touches her; client
cries.] That little girl is hurting, she needs to cry. . . . It's okay for her to
YS: I see myself take hold of [my mom] and she's crying.
H: You're holding her?
S: Uh huh.
H: Nobody held you.
S: I didn't realize that.
H: It's okay to hurt, it'll be okay, it's okay.. . . [Client cries.] Have a good
cry. . .. It's safe to cry. . . . At some point imagine the Blessed Mother
taking the little girl in her arms. Just be on her lap and let Mar)' hold her
in your arms. Cry on her shoulder and just feel all the maternal love of
God. Mary can take your pain, so let that little girl cry on Mary's lap, let
her put her arms around you, and comfort you. . . . You're entided to ask
for comfort.
S: I couldn't let go. I finally took her with me to the Blessed Mother.
H: Your mom?
S: Yes, I couldn't let go, I felt like she would shatter if I did.
H: Oh my. She felt that fragile to you as a child. No wonder you've been
carrying burdens for other people for all these years. No wonder. N o wonder. What a burden for a little girl. If she doesn't take care of her mother,
her mother will shatter. Docs that tell you what's going on?
S: Sure does.
H: I think you're at the beginning of a lot of healing.
S: I do too.
H: You can let her go now.
S: I sure can try.
H: The Lord can help you. Because he has her in his hands now. You can let
go. . . . [Pause, client cries softly.] Take your time, you don't have to move
yet. Take a deep breath.
S: My heart hurts.
H: Your heart is hurting?



S: It actually physically hurts.

H: Docs it feel scary, or like it really . . . ?
S: It feels weird, it feels very tingly, and it feels there's a hurt in it. I can't
explain it any other way.
H: It sounds like you've been carrying a lot of pain for your mother. No wonder
your heart hurts. To carry that much pain, to carry all her pain inside
yourself since you were a little girl.
This episode opens with a therapeutic intervention allowing the patient
to see herself in a positive light through comparison with her son. Problems of intimacy are associated with problems of self-image as they are
projected into the arena of autobiographical memory. For the client
versed in the procedures of inner healing, the invitation to close her
eyes is an invitation to imagery. Sensory engagement in this image
includes a visual focus on her dirty, grinning little son in contrast with
herself as a perfectly dressed little girl, and an auditor}' focus on the
words "it's okay little one." The interprctant of this complex comparative symbol connects the themes of intimate parental reassurance (being
"okay") and spontaneity as an ego ideal (the freedom to get dirty as
opposed to the repression of being always perfectly dressed). The next
therapist intervention invites the patient to feel the pain of being developmcntally deprived of intimacy and spontaneity. Still in the realm of
imagination, she is invited to "cry on someone's shoulder," presumably
that of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, but apparently to avoid forcing the
development of imaginal performance the healer momentarily retreats
to an offer of her own shoulder to cry on.
Nevertheless, imaginal performance begins. In a symbolic inversion
of the mother-daughter role, the patient nurtures her own mother. Onto
this scenario the healer superimposes the Virgin Mary as the shoulder
to cry on who will provide the absent maternal intimacy and "take" the
pain. It is evident that the healers attention is on the divine healing
presence while the patient is focused on her mother. In complying with
the request to sit on the Virgin's lap she still holds her mother, the
report of which appears to startle the healer mildly. However, the patient's insight that her mother's emotional fragility may account for her
own inability to be intimate, and the reversal of nurturing roles, are
integrated with and supported by the divine presence. In addition, the
complex kinaesthetic or positional imagery appears to be a symbolic
compromise for a patient who self-avowedly nurtures others without
herself being nurturedthe one who is holding is also being held. In
resolution we see an enactment of the psychocultural theme of control.



Too much control requires the emotional "letting go," and the patient
is instructed to relinquish her mother into the hands of Jesusor more
to the rhetorical point, is informed that the mother already is in the
divine hands. Her response is a highly complex image of tingling and
physical pain in the heart. This can be understood as a kind of synesthetic
metaphor based on the conventional understanding of the heart as seat
of the emotions. As physical and emotional pain are merged in the
bodily synthesis, the image is presented simultaneously in the proprioceptive and affective modalities. Finally, the image is further enriched
by "tingling" which, as we know (chapter 4), is for Charismatics typically an indexical sign of divine power.
This is only a preliminary account of the imaginal performance, however, only the barest outlines of which are present in the dialogue between healer and patient. The phenomenological details of the performance are recounted in the client's experiential commentary, presented
here in edited form:8
When she said, "Look for somebody to hold," I wanted to hold my mother.
You know if I wanted to cry on somebody, it was her that I would like to
image. And all of a sudden I realized it was me that was holding her, instead
of her me.. . . And when she told me to go to Mary right after this, I couldn't
let go, because I was afraid she was going to shatter. I really was. I brought
her with me to Maryit's like I was watching her down thereI guess she
was an adult, but I'd say she was a child, because it was a small figure. . . . And
the physical sense that went along with this was amazing, amazing. Because it
was just like somethingI don't know what a heart attack feels like, but I was
beginning to think I really was [chuckles], but I really physically ached in my
heart. I've never felt that before.
I can't explain it, I know she needed to be comforted. I was sensing she
didn't want to be mean, she really didn'tmaybe she was too tiredI don't
know why, I was too little to know why. But I knew she needed me. So when
I went to Mary I couldn't leave her alone, because I was afraid she'd go to
pieces. I didn't have enough freedom just to cry. Because if I did she'd just go
to pieces... . When I went and sat in Mary's lap, before I realized she was
crumbling down, it was almost like I was in the lap, and she was crumbling.
And that's when I reached out my handI'm not even sure that hand had
been disconnected, but there was still a part of me back there. And finally I
just son of brought her on and said, "Well, the lap's big enough for two." And
I got a sense that she was crying too with Mary, also with me. . . . What she
said to do up here [in a room where the patient is sent to reflect after the
session] was to picture the fact that my mother is now in Christ and that I
didn't have to hold on any longer. . . . I tried to really image with Christ, sort
of taking mv mother away. And the pain went when I did that, it physically



So I had a sense that she left, but I didn't stay sobbing on Mary's lap either.
I just sat there. I didn't get a sense of Mary- crying, I got a sense of her really
wanting to hold mc individually. . . . I couldn't get back to that image, either,
after I imaged Christ coming back in. So I was sort of left hung, that was about
where I ended it. [Laughs.] I couldn't move itand I do believe this with
imagery, when you're done you're done. Fve never been able to further one
yet! [Laughs. J I would like to have this nice litde ending, but it was sort of
just left hanging. I just got a sense diat my mother moved away with Christ.
It was more of a sense of her going to himhe didn't come into the scene.
At this point there was no imagery, it was more of an internal sensing. It was
not "I saw her leave, I saw him come.', I think I did say, "Please come into
this" to him. I might have even said out loud, "My Lord." I can't explain it.
It's not like I have to have a sense of him coming and going, I just have to say,
"My Lord" and he's therebut I did get a sense of disconnecting, a floating
away of her. Then I didn't revert back to mc and Mary, I just let it go
[The physical pain went then but] I still feel like I'm breathingsort of overwhelmingly breathing. I'm surprised at the way this went, in a very nice way.
It's just amazing what God can do.
The emphasis on spatial orientation and kinesthetic quality in this phenomenologically articulate account, as well as the integral role of pain
and its removal, attest to the eidetic, engaged, and multisensorial nature
of imaginal performance. The therapeutic imaginal performance is notably unlike the revelatory images of being slapped and of domestic strife.
The latter were simple, more-or-less explicit and well-defined images
which identified autobiographical scenarios in earlier healing sessions.
Here, in contrast, we see the characteristic indeterminacy of imaginal
process in two ambiguous metaphors of emotional fragilitythe "small
figure" of a mother who is at once adult and child, and in the performative image of the mother going to pieces and reconstituted by the touch
of her daughter's hand. The existential thickness of this indeterminacy
is highlighted by the immediate yet fluid sense of bodily engagement
and disengagement. The patient's imaginal self was "almost in the lap"
as she sensed her mother "crumbling" and reached out a hand that was
not yet certainly even "disconnected" from her mother, since "there was
still a part of me back there." The characteristic spontaneity of imagery
is evident in the "sudden" role reversal between mother and daughter,
in the emergence of fear that the mother would "shatter," and in the
"amazing" physical correlate of this fear. The emotional truth of the
mother's constraining influence is perhaps best attested by the fact that,
even in imagery, the mother's fragility constituted a demand that did
not allow the patient "enough freedom just to cry." The possibility of
resolution is emotionally established when all three imaginal performers



cry together, achieved in a performative blurring between the actual

weeping of the patient and the imaginal weeping of her mother and
the Virgin.
The next development should give pause to anthropologists committed to event-based theories of ritual performance, for the imaginal performance quite evidendy continues beyond the ritual action of the healing session proper. Alone after the session, the patient follows the
healer's instructions to relinquish her mother to Jesus. This imaginal
act is accompanied by spontaneous cessation of both her pain and her
weeping and by the feeling that she is to be the sole focus of the Virgin's
intimate attention. This integrative moment of therapeutic process
could easily be missed by an overly strict drawing of boundaries around
the ritual event.
Let us draw attention to the reported alleviation of pain in her heart
that accompanied the imaginal "letting go" or relinquishing. Her report
was quite matter of fact, but in our postsession the somatic immediacy of
her experience suggested additional probing on its possible significance.
When asked, she was tentatively able to integrate her heartache into the
performative gestalt. Whereas she described it physically as similar to a
sharp pain in the side one might get after jogging when out of shape,
she described it performatively as an indexical icon of her existential engagement in the embodied rhetoric of transformation: "Maybe it's
breaking, separating."
Finally, we must comment about the relation between the sequence's
structure in consciousness and its performative structure. Casey points
out that the structure of an image characteristically includes a zone of
ambiguity, an "imaginal margin," in which the indeterminate presence
of additional contents exists as a potential for further development of
the image (1976:53-55). Our patient is explicit that Jesus never enters
the performative scene as a visual image, but hovers as a presence on
this imaginal margin. The performative force of maintaining the divine
figure in the imaginal margin is, I would suggest, that it reinforces the
kind of sense of an almost-sensible divine presence that Charismatics
cultivate as a feature of the habitus. In so doing it also reinforces the
continuity between imaginal performance and everyday action, and
hence enhances the reality and specificity of the experience. This performative use of the imaginal margin is continued as the patient's
mother passes from the visual center of the imaginal performance into
the indeterminacyand divinely guaranteed safetyof the margin.
The movement toward the margin is itself reinforced by a shift in the



sensory modality in which the imaginal performance is conducted. As

the sequence nears an end, from whence by previous experience she is
aware she can carry it no further, the prominence of the visual modality
yields to intuitive "internal sensing." Thus the mode in which her
"mother moved away with Christ" was "a sense of disconnecting, a
floating away of her."
In turning to the four elements of therapeutic process (cf. chapter
3) in this session, it is safe to simply reiterate the highly developed
disposition of the patient, thoroughly integrated into the Charismatic
habitus. Her experience of the sacred is limited neither to the divine presence of the Virgin and Jesus,9 nor to the emergence of discrete images,
but extends to the intersubjective features of the session. The healer
herself regarded it as an "exceptional" and "powerful" session:
I was very moved by the integration of how everything can happen together,
and how it just "happened," rather than its being an intentional thing on my
part. I guess that's the sort of integration that I would like to have all the time,
but it seldom happens. In part ifs that I seldom have clients of the level of
development of K
So it was like I really felt we were moving together, but
I felt a lot of that was like the God in each of us moving together. It's hard
to put into words, because I really felt guided, but it wasn't this usual sort of
thing where I'm conscious of inspiration. It's sort of like I was feeling very
dose to God, and feeling a very gende kind of, making the right moves and
her making the right responses in kind of like a dance. I felt it was moved by
God, but because each of us is very free in God, rather than I'm sitting here
praying and I get a word of knowledge, sort of inspiration. But more just the
freedom of God working in me, and I could feel it in her, and I just had the
feeling of a back and forth of that. . . . In this case it was more like there was
a spontaneity to what I did. I almost didn't choose it, but I really felt God in
that spontaneity.
That is, the healer perceives divine spontaneity in the interaction as
much as in the unexpected turns of imaginal process. Part of this was the
healer's experience of the countertransferential emotional component of
the patient's affective/proprioccptive imagery of heartache:
Oh, I was feeling her pain. I really felt pain inside myself. When I went over
to the chair I could feel pain, even before she came up with that image I could
feel painemotional pain. It was like a deep, deep hurt, like there's so much
hurt inside, like I could feel that there was lots and lots and lots, just the depth,
this deep well of hurt. . . . I'm assuming that's what it is, short of her having
some sort of physical condition that I'm not aware of. I'm not a doctor, and
maybe she does have a heart condition, but it didn't seem that way. But that's
something that I've experienced myself, and I've had a few other people experi-



cncc. And that is a literal, physical pain in the heart when there is an emotional
feeling of deep hurt. . . . I don't know [how to account for it], some day we're
going to find out how our emotional and physical selves are connected. I think
they're deeply and completely connected. After all, when we have these emotions
there must be a chemical and electrical and whatever equivalent. We just don't
know how it is, so the emotional pain just comes out in physical pain that's
real. . . . I think the reason may be more than symbolic, maybe the reason we
talk about our heartfromtime immemorial, maybe there's a real physiological
reason for it and we know it intuitively, you know like some kind of unconscious
knowledge that we all have, that we don't have worked out yet.10
From the patient's standpoint, the elaboration ofalternatives originates
in reflection on the life circumstance of her mother, whom she described
as physically fragile and frequently sick, lacking the supportive companionship of a husband who was preoccupied by working three jobs at a
Because probably I was very activepeople would tell me what a terror I
wasbecause my mother was sickly, and she also had my father home trying
to sleep during the day. It would be very difficult to keep a kid like that quiet.
You know they're just not quiet children. She could be getting frustrated as
she goes along, until her angerand I was feeling unloved. I have to say that,
for some unknown reason. I know she loved me, now, the adult me, but I
think that as a child I didn't feel that, and it hurts to say.
Faced by the frequent anger of her mother, she concludes that she
developed a "reaction pattern" of becoming not sad but angry when
hurt, and "that's probably why I was slapped in the face." Another
aspect of elaborating alternatives is the opening of an alternative path
through the healing process, identified in her acknowledgment that
"the whole session surprises me, because I knew it was more than my
marriage." She concludes that the memory images kept popping up
because the deity did not want her to start with her marriage, but to
"go back further. He's saying he wants to enter into the areas I don't
even know exist."
Here the issue of marital intimacy is displaced by that of parental
intimacy, and therapeutic focus is shifted from the current relationship
to the biographical formation of the self as the capacity for intimacy.
Two charaaeristic features of Charismatic healing are evident. First is
a tendency to focus attention on the individual rather than the relationship. Behind this tendency lies an ethnopsychological preference for
finding an intrapsychic locus of problems, and a cultural prescription
for North American females to carry the burden of "emotional work"



in intimate relationships with men. The individualistic tendency also

implies the Charismatic tenet that the way to achieve change in another
is to change oneself in such a way as to elicit different responses from
the other. More pragmatically, it is an acknowledgment of the difficulty
in involving a non-Charismatic husband in a religiously based healing
process. The second feature is movement to the biographical past, and
to memory as symbol of the self. A high degree of disposition to this
movement is expressed by the patient:
The past is so important for wholeness. If you really want to be a whole person,
and that's where God draws you, you can't eliminate it, it's part of who you
are. And I'm definitely working out of past stuff, and it's got too much of a
grip on me, and I'm not all right. I want it to go, and I don't want to hurry
itI want to make sure that it's him that's leading me. It took a lot for me at
that point to let go. I appreciate her for sensing that I needed to let go . . . .
And maybe it was good that I felt the pain in my heart, because that shows
me it's real. I know that sounds so stupid that I would even doubt that the
pain would be real, but there's a part of me that says, "It can't be this bad,"
but it is. It really hurts that much. That floors me, because I just deal [as a
counselor] with so many people that areyou know incest, and all this
stuffand I say, "Now that's deep, that's real pain." And I just can't fathom
that I would have any kind of pain like that. But this is just as real to me. It's
just as strong. It's not as horrifying, I guessmaybe it is in its own way. Maybe
it is, because it's been just as crippling. I guess I didn't realize that as much
until today.
Finally, it is precisely the acknowledgment of emotional pain and
the ability to "let go" of it that constitutes the actualization of change.
In this session the patient identified as a critical moment the healer's
articulation of her need to feel her pain. This was because, she said, she
tends to tell herself she has no need to feel it. Equally critical, she felt,
was the moment that the healer came to her and touched her, granting
her the "physical permission to let go." The healer independently concurred that there "needs to be a lot more of the little girl that could
never be sad, that could never feel pain, because she had to be strong
for her mother." Quite importantly, however, the healer drew a clear
distinction between psychotherapeutic process and the process of healing of memories:
Those feelings are stuck deep inside her, and I think to just pray for healing of
that without allowing her to know her feelings and to feel her feelings, is doing
a big disservice to her personality development. That's the psychotherapist in
me that believes that God doesn't intend for all these things to be shortcut.
Part of the healing is through the human processso in S's case, the fact that



that image surfaced advanced the psychotherapy. You could work in psychotherapy for months looking for whars stuck in her, whereas that one image gave
you sessions and sessions and sessions of talk. Now that image came through
grace, in my mind. But once that image gives you what that stuck issue is, I
wouldn't want to rush to pray for healing. So even my imagery with her when
I brought it up was Mary comforting her, but that would still allow her to cry.
I didn't, as you noticed, and I won't for a while unless she runs to [the priest
who had conducted healing of memory prayer with her]if it's up to me, I'm
going to let her get back into that little girl who's hurting, and be comforted
perhaps in her imager)', but I will very consciously and purposefully not take
her too soon into praying for healing of the hurt of that little girl. . . . If one
rushed to an inner healing it would be like she were put aside again without
ever getting her attentionif I can talk in that language. I have very strong
feelings about this.
In this discourse we see a characteristic Charismatic notion that healing
of memories can divinely achieve in one session what would take months
in psychotherapy, here modified by a complementary notion that ritual
healing in itself may not provide an adequate resolution of a therapeutic
issue. For this healer, the probable next step in the actualization of
change was to
get in touch with her mother now healed [i.e., now in heaven]. . .. Not get
in touch in the sense of a seance, obviously,11 but to connect with the real love
that's there, and how the healed love of the parent can really be experienced.
And that's a particular kind of healing thing I do . . . simply to use your imagination to connect with a reality that's always there.
In this session we have encountered a variety of episodes dealing with
evil spirits, ancestral healing, incorporation of previous inner healing,
therapeutic intervention based in interpretation of present imagery, and
a breakthrough event and its resolution through imaginal performance.
Despite this richness, we reiterate that the meaning of the session is not
circumscribed by the event itself. It is impossible to separate therapeutic
process from the course of the patient's overall career as a Charismatic,
since meanings of earlier healing events are tied together in a memorial
pastiche of the self. In subsequent months, for example, this patient's
process continued in sessions with her healer-therapist and her spiritual
director as well as in an eight-day retreat that she attended annually.
An additional childhood issue that arose was having been sexually
abused over a period of time by older boys in her neighborhooda
memory that she had never repressed, but that she had never before
understood under the rubric of abuse and its traumatic consequences.
This allowed an elaboration of alternative emotions to the "guilt, self-



hate, and shame" that had accompanied her since having been blamed
for these incidents by her mother. Her relationship with her mother
remained the central issue, with maternal imagery reoccurring frequently. Another important sequence of embodied imager}' occurred
during her retreat, in which she "connected" with the presence of a
mother and grandparents who were "pouring out love " As she thanked
her mother for her attempts to love, she "felt embraced by Jesus." Without conscious intention to move them, her hands became "unclenched
and untwined" from their traditional palms-together Catholic prayer
posture to the open palms-on-the-lap Charismatic posture, feeling like
they were "separated by a forceas if they had been held together by
a force." While peripherally aware of this movementa gestural or
bodily metaphor of emotional openness and spontaneityher attention
was on "being in the presence of my family and of having the presence
of Jesus, who had brought me to my family, within me." She described
the actualization of change as a sense of being "one with him, loved by
him, released from bondage to self-hatred, whole. I'm not being held
in the past any longer, Pm finally in the present."
Although the patient's relationship with her mother had temporarily
preempted the problem of marital intimacy, she stated that she "feels
closer [to her husband], maybe because I feel closer to myself." Here
we see a connection between intimacy and identity, the latter related
to the patient's insight that her ongoing experience of sexual abuse had
led to a generalized hatred of men, and that verbal abuse by her mother
had led to self-hatred and extreme sensitivity to criticism. As for her
husband, she felt that if she expressed her feelings he would listen, but
that he was "adamant about not looking at his own past, which includes
a lot of hurts." Both inner healing and the healing of relationships are,
in the end, the healing of memories.

The Woman Who Merged with Herself

The healer was a fifty-one-year-old married teacher who
had been active in the Charismatic Renewal for fifteen years. After about
six years as an active prayer-group participant she became an assistant
in the group working with a well-known healing priest. In reaction to
a period in which "nothing was going well in my life," she began to
listen intensively to instructional tapes made by senior members of this



priest's entourage, and to read "anything I could put my hands on,"

including "everything by Agnes Sanford who we know in the healing
ministry as the Mother of the healing ministry." This self-immersion in
knowledge initiated her own inner healing, which, together with her
experience as an assistant, constituted her training as a healing minister.
Thus, unlike the healer in the previous case, she had no professional
training as a counselor or therapist. Eventually, "at some point Father
started using me in his ministry to pray with people." Through giving
workshops as a member of the larger healing group, she achieved a
reputation in the local Charismatic hierarchy of renown such that people
began to seek her out in her own right.
A basement room in her home was set aside as a "ministry room,"
furnished with a couch, several chairs, and a portable stereo used to
play soft devotional music during healing sessions. One wall was lined
with shelves bearing audiotaped "teachings" on matters related to healing, which she distributed to patients based on their particular problems. In this room she received patients one day a week. She typically
worked in a team with two other women whose role was to support
her with prayer and occasionally to contribute a word of knowledge or
confirmation to the proceedings. The patient was seated in a straightbacked chair with the other three standing beside and behind her, laying
on hands.
The patient was a forty-five-ycar-old married mother of three, a
high school graduate, whose father was an inactive Catholic and whose
mother was irreligious. As a child her godmother took her to Episcopal
churches, and she became a Catholic after marrying a Catholic man.
Because of her alcoholic father's irresponsibility, her mother worked to
support the family, leaving her to manage the household and raise her
younger sister. She recalls receiving no education or instruction about
sex, but became rebellious and promiscuous after her father's death and
her mother's subsequent "clinging" to her. Our diagnostic interview
showed that some years before entering ritual healing she had undergone an episode of what was most likely a psychotic depression with
paranoid features, linked to her father's death and her decision to give
up her first child, born prior to her marriage.12 She also underwent a
period of overt alcoholism, and a series of phobias including fear of
riding in cars, of water, of crowds (agoraphobia), of elevators and being
enclosed (claustrophobia), of being alone, and of being in the dark.13
There were no current diagnoses at the time of her participation in the
study. She reports a close relationship with her husband of twenty-two



years, forged through a substantial amount of extended family turbulence.

This patient had been active in the Charismatic Renewal for fifteen
years, first in Episcopal and then in Catholic groups. She reported being
convinced of the reality of the divine when once, half-awake, she asked
to feel the divine presence and was startled to simultaneously feel someone holding her hand and hear a voice identify1 itself as Jesus. In a similar
hypnagogic state she was convinced of the reality of Satan when a huge
Dobcrman dog with a collar of precious stones appeared and identified
itself as the devil, offering her a Faustian bargain which she refused.
Other formative spiritual experiences include a command from the deity
not to press charges against a neighbor who was harassing her family,
and another to stop drinking: "When you're in heaven with me you
may have wine at the banquet tabicuntil then, nothing]"
She had had some experience with inner healing and healing of memories in the Episcopal Charismatic Renewal, and had been exposed to
her present Catholic healer at a "workshop." When I met her, she had
been seeing this healer once a month for two years. She reported having
been healed of all her phobias and, through the power of forgiveness,
of resentment against a brother-in-law who attempted to sexually molest
one of her daughters. She stated that it was through the healing of
memories that she realized her family had in fact been financially quite
poor when she was young. She had in healing also come to realize that
she hated her father, and that much of her previous behavior was thus
based on the generalization that she "hated men and didn't know it."
Our account centers on the significant event that dominated the first
of three sessions I observed with this patient. The session begins with
the patient complaining of headaches and the healer determining that
"there's a lot of occult surrounding her." The first episode, which we
will discuss in greater detail in the following chapter, is accordingly
devoted to deliverance from these evil influences. The healer then apparently receives the inspiration of a word of knowledge about the patient's
emotional state, for without any apparent conversational lead-in she

Why are you angry at H [husband]? Can you tell us?

He's been excellent. I really don't know.
But you're angry. Are you happy with the way he's been?
He reminds me of my father.
Oh, yes. I'm glad you said that. That's exactly. . ..



S: And I still hate my father, heh-heh. So Fm projecting it on to him. It

happened when he got gray hair. I have to have him dye his hair, heh-hehheh.
H: Yeah, cause you are very angry with him and it really is not him it's your
father. . . . Tm glad you saw that yourself, because I'd rather you find it
than I have to say it, but that's exactly what Fvc had since we started praying.
Okay? He reminds you of your father right now. That's why you're always
angry with him. And it's not his fault! Ha ha!
S: No it's not.
H: How about you forgive your father?
S: [Cries.] My father in bed. I love him, but I hate him too. A lot of it is
coming to my conscious mind that I had buried. Especially in bed. I used
to pretend it wasn't true, but I know it is. I can't pretend. It is true.
H: I've picked that up on you for a long time. Unless it surfaced so you could
see, it wasn't for me to tell you.
5: I used to want him dead. Fm glad he is now. [Chuckles shared.] I wanted
to kick him in the balls.
H: SHH! S! The Lord told you to clean up your language. . . . I had a feeling
this would surface today, this morning I was watching a program with
Jimmy Swaggart14 . . . and he said how half of the children today will be
sexually abused, and the mark that it leaves on their lives. . . . So I had a
feeling the Lord would surface this for you today.
S: I did too because . . . when I went in [the store] a guy came in and I went
"uhhh!" because he looked just like my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law
got my daughter. And you know when he went in there, augh! The reaction
was like bang! So Fm not surprised.
H: Yes, just thank the Lord that he allowed that to surface, because the things
that lie buried are harder to heal.
The healer then prays, praising Jesus for the autobiographical revelation
that has just occurred. She asks if the patient feels afraid for people t o
see that she has weaknesses, and the latter answers yes. T h e healer says
that as she receives more and more healing, she'll be happy to realize
that she is in fact quite sensitive, and will want others t o k n o w that she
suffers like the rest of humankind. The patient responds that she always
played the role of the "strong o n e " in her family. The healer agrees,
but explains that the fear of showing weakness has to d o with one's
"personality type," which is "developed t o a great extent from the traumas you g o through in early life, the aberrations that come about."
There is more quiet prayer in tongues, then the healer prays aloud again,
with a chuckle thanking G o d that the previous "two years of prayer
have not been in vain." She then initiates an imaginal performance in
order to bring the revelation to a resolution:




Visualize the cup [the liturgical chalice].

All right.
And anything that surfaces in, yTuiow in relationship with your father.
Okay? Put it in the cupcall little S to you first. ["Little S" is the imaginal
presence of the patient as a childthe healer and her team pray aloud in
tongues.] Is she coming?
S: Oh yeah, right away.
H: Okay. Mm. things have changed, haven't they? [The healer laughs loudly.]
You nevershe never used to want to come. [Laughs againthe patient
used to have difficulty in visualizing herself as a childmore prayer in
tongues.] Have her put things in the cup with you, anything she wants to
that has to do with her fathers relationship to her. . . . Is she having a good
time? [Laughs.]
S: She's not finished.
H: Oh my Go/na-na-na. . . . [The healer prays aloud in tongues, and her assistants join in as before.] Praise you, Lord, bless you. Tell us when you think
you're finished. You're done? Put your father in the cup.
S: Ohh!
H: [Laughscontinuous prayer in tongues by team.] Put your mother in the
cup for the time you felt she wasn't there to protect you [from her father].
5: Exactly.
H: [Team prayer in tongues continues throughout the following.] Put your
sister in the cup . . . and your niece . . . your brother-in-law. I'd like you
to uri/D'you sec the paten [gold liturgical plate for the Eucharistic bread]?
See if you can see the paten.
S: Yes.
H: [L prays in tongues briefly] Okay? D'you sec it? Okay. Place yourself, in
Cs, little C and little [husbandj's paten with your children. . .. Did you
put all the bitterness, the resentment, the anger, the hate, in the cup; and
that priest also, that Episcopal priest, in the cup? Okay? Now with your
child, bring the cup and the paten [constant background of tongues continues during pauses in conversation], and you're with your babies in your
mind's eye, your most comfortable place. Is the Lord near? Okay. Both
of you ofTer Him the cup and see what He'll do with it. [Louder
tongues uninterrupted about one minute.] Anything happen? Can you
tell us?
5: The child, myself the child, and myself now become oneone person,

And then?
And then he embraced us first and then that happened.
That you became one?
Yes; and then I saw the uh/Jesus just open his arms like this and the cup



poured and then I saw His mother, the Blessed Mother; and then He said
you have our hearts, you belong to me and you'll save my people.
H: What do you think happened? What do you think that meant when your
two personalities, uh, when you and the child became one?
S: I think I'm more grown up.
H: You are. Praise you, Lord. [The healer begins prayer, with the patient and
team members joining in. One of the latter prays in tongues, the other
repeats "Praise you, thank you Lord Jesus."] It's very lonely Lord, the
healing that is taking place in her relationship [with] her lather. Do you
have that tape [of Charismatic "teaching"] on the father relationship?
S: No.
H: Of course, that would not have been one that you would. . . . [Laughing.]
S: I avoided that at all costs!
H: Do have the one for prayer for abuse?
S: No.
H: What do you have?
S: The one on the cup [describing the imaginal technique just now put to
use. More prayer in tongues and praise of Jesus. The healer also prays to
help moderate Q's "dirty" language, but laughs as she does so.] All pray
together: As it was in the beginning, it is now and it shall be.
S: R [her husband] really has been excellent.
The session ends.
The relatively high level of disposition in this patient is attested to
not only by an involvement of long duration with the movement, but
also by a commitment of over two years to the healing process. The
ongoing healing relationship also accounts in part for the rather cryptic
nature of the interaction, as patient and healing team are by this time
quite familiar with one another's "therapeutic moves." The patient has
already become aware that she "hates her father," and the insight that
she "projects" this hate onto her husband is the elaboration of an alternative to the anger that is restricting the psychological intimacy of her
marital relationship. This is consolidated by an experience of the sacred
in the form of a revelatory image. The image, apparently evoked by the
typical Charismatic injunction to "forgive" her father, locates the origin
of her hate in sexual abuse. Let us retrace the ritual action to draw out
its therapeutic elements.
In this session both healer and patient confirm a divine foreshadowing that the childhood abuse was about to emerge into consciousness.
The healer does this in the presumably not-so-coincidental mention of
the issue by the televangelist, and the patient in the presumably notby-chance encounter with the double of her lecherous brother-in-law.



The healer reports already having "picked up" through the word of
knowledge both that the patient had been abused and that she was
emotionally confusing her father and her husband. However, as with
most mainstream Charismatic healers, she acknowledges intentionally
not raising the subject until the patient came to this insight herself, for
it is regarded as dangerous to disclose a word of knowledge if a person
is not emotionally prepared for it. Skipping ahead for a moment to her
experiential commentary elicited following the session, we observe that
the patient also recalled an instance a month earlier which she said
showed that "the Holy Spirit is a gentleman,1' and does not allow revelation to harm a vulnerable person. At a workshop on cultivating the word
of knowledge, another woman praying with her reported "getting" the
word "bed" and seeing "a beautiful bed." The patient saw this in retrospect as the beginning of an incremental process of bringing her childhood abuse to consciousness, for even at the time she knew that "the
bed wasn't beautiful for meit was ugly." In the experiential commentary she went on to discuss the role of her husband's resemblance to
her father in undermining her denial and facilitating a breakthrough in
the healing session:
See, I used to say that my father didn't abuse me, and I used to suppress
that and have it in my subconscious, but yet my relationship with men would
certainlyanyone that looked at my life would say, "Gee, you have a problem
with your relationship with men," you know, but I wouldn't face it. . . . But
today, it was right out. . . . I saw him in the bed, and me in the bed as a little
girl, my mother's bed. . . . My husband's gray hair has a lot to do with it. Gonna
get some Grecian Formula. [Chuckles.] No, really, it's true, it is. . . . I have to
go like, 'That's my husband, that's not my father. You're .. . projecting that
onto him." AtfirstI just thought I was nuts or something. Then I says, naw,
let's take a realyou know, that's just another excuse not to look at it. And
then I would see my husbandI see a lot of things visually, a lot of visions
and things. And I see my father's face in my bed, and it was my husband. And
I go like, 'This is getting weird. We're gonna have to deal with this." I even
told him [her husband].
Here the imaginalalmost hallucinatorysuperimposition of the father's face on that of the husband is a somewhat less subtle preparation
for the breakthrough image that emerged in the healing performance.
Returning to the session itself, the revelatory retrieval of memories
continues as the healer evokes the cup (i.e., the golden chalice that holds
the transubstantiated blood of the deity in Catholic liturgy) and the
patient's imaginal "inner child." She instructs the adult and child versions of the self to cooperate in putting any memory relevant to the



relationship with her father into the cup. The healer remarks on the
readiness at which the imagery is available in comparison with earlier
sessions, understanding this as a sign of progress in both the patient's
therapeutic process and her spiritual growth. She then surprises the
patient by instructing her to put her father into the cup, knowing from
familiarity with the imaginal realm that he will fit with no problem.
She presses the advantage of the breakthrough moment, calling for all
the relatives who in previous sessions have been identified as causing
emotional injury to the patient also to be put into the cup. Along with
the memories and people, all the associated negative emotions are imaginally placed in the cup. In a parallel movement, the patient is instructed to place herself, her husband, and her children on the complementary liturgical instrument, the paten that holds the transubstantiated
body of the deity in the Eucharistic celebration.
While the entire imaginal performance is an experience of the sacred,
a particularly critical moment is the entrance of the deity as an actor to
receive the cup of the patient's affliction. The healer's query, "Is the
Lord near?" suggests that the deity- has been spiritually waiting in the
wings of the imaginal margin, and reflects a sense of the phenomenological immediacy of divine presence. In addition, like many of the
points at which she asks if the patient "can see" something or if something "is there," it is an example of her consistent monitoring of the
patient's engagement in producing the imaginal performance. After
being instructed to offer the cup to Jesus, the patient is left to her
endogenous imaginal process for a full minute, supported only by the
team's glossolalic prayer. Then she is questioned as to what "happened,"
and responds rather sketchily that Jesus embraced her two selves, and
in that embrace the two selves merged. When the deity opened his arms
the contents of the cup poured out, and then Jesus spoke on behalf of
himself and his mother. (The presence of the divine was introduced by
the patient independent of the healer's instruction.) As in the last case,
much greater detail on the performance is available from the postsession
experiential commentary:
When she said, "Bring your child to Jesus," I saw him at the altar in white,
and I sawwhen she said "paten," I dicing. 1 thought she meant "pattern" as
in "things are the same," then I went, "Oh, I get it. I know, the equipment for
communion." And when I presented myself, and my child, and my husband,
and my family on that, first Jesus went like this and he embraced me, and my
child, and my childthe Q child inside mejust went "whhom," and I saw
that. Then they f Jesus and the Virginl w c r c behind me, enmeshed in me, and



he embraced me, and I saw the Blessed Mother embrace mc too. And I felt
their heart in mine, and he said that I had the same heart that they did, the
same sacred heart. And I could sec that in vision. 1 saw that in a vision . ..
that's how he speaks to me, it's a form of prophecy. It meant that I knew who
I was in him. I am trying to know who I am in Christ, just like his mother
always knew who she was, and who she was in God. And who he was. She
always knew. And I always, I had a desire to know, too. Who I am in Christ,
who I really am, without a bunch of pretend barriers that everyone puts
upwhen the walls are down, to really look at who I am. . . . I didn't know
what to expect from the session before I came in, except that somehow I was
going to grow up more.
As she made clear in her response to the healer's query, the patient's
expectation of "growing up" was phenomcnologically enacted as the
merging of her adult and childhood selves in the divine embrace. The
formulaic Charismatic articulation of personal identity as "knowing who
I am in Christ" is concretely experienced as a multiple bodily metaphor
that includes merging aspects of the self, embracing and enmeshing
with the two divine figures, and sharing hearts with them ("I felt theii
heart in mine"). In the stereotypical divine embrace and the sharing of
hearts, intimacy and identity are shown, as in the previous case, to
be mutually determining psychocultural conditions of the sacred self.
Intimacy is possible only with the achievement of an identity "in Christ,*
and identity is a kind of intimacy with oneself, that is, a reconciliation
with the fundamental alterity of the self that wc encountered in chapter
1. It is fitting that the action of the session is framed by a final repetition
of the patient's opening remark about her husband's "excellent" behavior, for the intimacy of their relationship is the semiotic final interpretani
in the symbolic resolution of that ultimate violation of intimacy, incestual rape. What we have called the elaboration of alternatives in therapeutic process is present in this session as a new way of understanding
her father and relationships to men, as the capacity for letting go o\
emotional wounds by giving them to the deity, and as the possibility
of maturity.
One year after this session, the patient summarized the actualization
of change achieved by her ritual "growing up." She felt that she nc
longer had to "hide or suppress her emotions and pretend"; that she
no longer had to be afraid of men because "I'm a human being1
don't have to be June Cleaver15 anymoreI'm their peer"; that despite
the continued occurrence of distressful events, "I don't have to be in
control anymore" because she can rely on the supportive presence ol
Jesus and Mary. In addition, she reported that she could now face pain-



fill situations such as visiting very ill people in the hospital, that she
can now forgive people "like the guys who recently beat my daughter
up," that she had found the courage to make her disruptive mentally
ill daughter move out of the house after the daughter had attacked her
two other children, and that she was "not as selfish and self-centered
as before." This account perhaps tells us more about the values embedded in a Charismatic notion of "growing up" as a sacred self than it
does about the clinical results of a therapeutic process. To be sure,
however, any clinical observation must be qualified by a parallel ethnographic observation by means of which it is contextualized within the
indigenous therapeutic logic. For example, the observation that a mild
tendency to hallucinate is evident throughout our account is qualified
by the observation that this tendency appears to have been completely
domesticated into a disposition toward imaginal self process. The final
word on therapeutic process must be granted to the patient, who in
the final analysis "feels good inside."

The Man with the German General Within

In this session, the healing team of two was led by a
Catholic woman aged thirty-eight. She had been involved in the Charismatic Renewal for ten years, beginning with an episode in which she
experienced healing prayer in the aftermath of an automobile accident.
She worked full-time in a Charismatic counseling center, the staff of
which included both psychotherapists and specialists in inner healing.
Her own training included a master's degree in counseling, two years
apprenticeship in inner-healing prayer, and certification as a spiritual
director in the Ignatian method. Her other influences included bioenergetics and dysfunctional family/addictive behavior approaches, making
her perhaps the most eclectic healer in our project. She was assisted in
her work with this male patient by a male inner healer, following the
precept that one-on-one healing prayer should not be conducted with
participants of opposite sexes. The assistant was an Episcopalian whose
sole involvement with the Charismatic Renewal came from having
learned inner-healing prayer from a renowned Episcopalian Charismatic
The patient was a thirty-sevcn-year-old married man with three children, a college graduate employed in a managerial position. His child-



hood religion was Baptist, but he had become Episcopalian at age

twenty, and at thirty-four had become Quaker. He had participated
in the Episcopalian Charismatic Renewal, where he met his wife and
participated in an intentional community. However, they were no
longer active, and reported worshiping now "in a different way," not
having prayed in tongues for some time. He defined his principal problem as stress derived from a long-standing self-image that demanded
high levels of accomplishment. He felt that guilt and insecurity about
inadequate achievement caused diminished enjoyment and a partial "paralysis" in the sense of making it more difficult and time-consuming to
achieve particular goals. His preoccupation with accomplishment had
created a strain on marital intimacy, in that his wife "didn't feel like she
had access to me or wasn't able to have the relationship she wanted to."
He reported having had problems with overeating and with preulcerative stomach symptoms. Our diagnostic interview revealed a single episode of alternating mania and depression in college, a simple phobia of
heights, and a period of dysthymia and generalized anxiety disorder
immediately preceding his recourse to healing. He had encountered the
principal healer at a stress-management workshop in which she integrated body relaxation techniques and inner-healing prayer. He had
been coming for counseling and inner-healing prayer for a year and a
half when he participated in our project, and felt that he had made
progress in a process of healing that he explicitly equated with spiritual
In each session the female healer took the lead in counseling and
"grounding," a biocncrgctics technique in which the patient bends over
at the waist, breathes deeply, and becomes attentive to embodied imagery, muscular tensions, or sensations. The male healer took the lead
in subsequent prayer and imagery- processes, during parts of which all
three held hands, and during other parts of which one or both healers
laid hands on the patient. The following is the most significant event
the patient selected from the first of five sessions I followed with him.
The event occurs in two parts. The first begins with a memory
brought forward by the patient of an incident from his high-school
years, in which his mother became angry upon discovering that he had
arranged an overachieving and "superhuman" academic and athletic
schedule that left no moment unaccounted for. The principal healer
suggested that this memory be taken into the grounding exercise. As
they began, she instructed him to initiate an imaginal performance when
he straightened his posture:



H: Imagine an image of that person who has insisted that schedule, and a lot
of other things in your life that have been superhuman. When you see him,
focus on that person's posture and clothing, language and breathing, and
see if the spirit inspires you with verbal knowledge of what that person
would say. When you're ready, step one step to either side, and take on
the person's posture, breathing style, and language, and we'll meet him as
you open your eyes when you're ready. [Pause.]
S: Very straight, really precise.
H: Okay, accentuate everything about him. His face?
S: Rigid.
H: Kneeshow are they held?
S: Locked.
H: Lock them and accentuate, and before you talk, what is my body experiencing that tells me about the way I hold in this personality, and we're going
to talk to you. Okay? [He begins.] Hello.
S: H'lo. [Using deeper voice.]
H: How are you today?

You look rather, uh, anxious.
Under stress . . Nope.
What's going on in your life?
Just trying to get things done.
Have you met S?
It appears that you asked S to put together this schedule.
Yes, IrM be good for himmake him feel good about himselfbest thing
for him.
I'm not really sure that's what S thinks.
I think he knows it'll make himand if he wants to accomplish these things,
that's the way to do it.
Would you be willing to give us some insighttalk to S about why it's a
good idea?
Mm-hmm. Discipline is the only way to accomplish anything. If you don't
put aside the things you want to do at the moment, then you'll never
accomplish anything that you want to accomplish in the long run. It'slife
isn't really made for fun; it's really made for accomplishment, [and] satisfaction in that accomplishment. You always strive for the future.

H: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us, or with him?
S: No, I think that basically encompasses my philosophy.
H: You just close your eyes, see what your body's feeling as you relax your



hand, relax your breathing, drop your shoulders, drop your head, move
back into grounding gently.
S: [Loud exhale; both breath audibly. 1
H: Just let go of whatever you contained in the last few minutes, breathing it
out. Let's start to modulate some of this. When you're ready, gendy come
up. [S continues audible breathing.] How are you feeling?
S: [Returns to normal voice.] Relaxed. Very relaxed after that. That was an
extreme kind of physical and emotional tension that I'm not completely
familiar with. A little shocked at the intensity of the philosophy that's there.
I recognized it as something that I've internalized. The goal setting, that
it's there or bust.
H: Listen to your language, in terms of the bodybust.
S: I feltI'm thinking that it's difficult for me to deal with that strength of
personality, ofmore relaxed part of me would have a hard time being
protected against that side of me, because it's so powerful, and has the
strength and determination.
H: Two of your favorite statements. Did you hear them?
S: One about discipline, and that accomplishment's more important than play.
H: And the other thing that really caught me was "live for tomorrow," plan
for the future. So when you think of the powerlessness of that figure, how
does your life live out those three scripts, and move with being obedient
to that subpersonality as opposed to being true to yourself?
Unlike the previous two cases, the patient in irnaginal performance
does not reenact his memory by entering a particular situation, but by
entering, as it were, its underlying motivation. In this episode the patient, by means o f embodied role-playing in what is likely a state of
light hypnosis, identifies a controlling "subpersonality." Here embodied
imagery is enacted in a transformation o f the postural model, including
vocal posture, as he responds to the healer in a deeper-than-usual voice.
Following some additional discussion, the session turns to prayer:
H: Breath in and breath out. Breath in the tranquility of Christ... to hear
Jesus speak, to feel Jesus touch. In the name of the Father, the Son, and
Holy Spirit. You have revealed to us, a new person, a new subperson
within S. . . . Lord Jesus we ask for the strength and patience to embrace
this new subperson, befriend him, maybe. To begin to look at those good
things about him, that has made S successful, and yet has those qualities
that tries to overpower him and take away his freedom. Jesus, we ask that
you journey with S to meet this person face to face, to begin to dialogue
with that personwhat he wants, what he wants to do within S, and
who gives him that authority. Let S ask those questions and let this person
respond. [Pause.] Jesus, relax S, sharpen his mind to use this person in
the way you want him to, [whispering] befriend him, Lord Jesus. Let that



person that is so rigid with you [i.e., in his relation to the deity], know
that he is loved also.. . . We just image inside your lightyour radiant
light moving through S. We see this prayer finding it's way to that space,
where that controller is hidden, and we see this prayer like a blanket of
safety and love, surrounding and quieting him, putting him in his rightful
place before you, Jesus, even while we breath gently, we imagine that
controller responding to this prayer by beginning to feel his feelings as
we see that part of rime that has been lost in an isolated controller, being
made open by this prayer; open to his feelings, open to S the essence of
who S is. We praise you, Jesus. Lord, imagine if these hands were joined
by these two men. The energy moving through them is beginning to unite
the man S with that part of the personality that is truly masculine. Praise
you, Lord, that in the days ahead you bring into S's consciousness the
way he has received all that is now in the masculine, and the way he needs
to be more open to receive the gift of his own masculinity. We ask your
forgiveness, Lord, for the times that controller has ruled S's life, and we
ask forgiveness of the controller for turning decisions over to him, for
causing him weariness and undo stress. Just be with your feelings now,
S. [S breaths once audibly, then pausemovement.]
S: The question [to the controller in imaginal performance] is, "Why are you
so strong?" And the response [is he's] just following my orders. "If he
wants to be different he just has to tell me. Show me what you wanthow
you want to relate." We prayed some more and it was quiet a while. Then
we [the controller and the patient] were at a very peacefiil spota garden
with flowers around us. He and I were there together relaxing. He was
relaxed saying [he doesn't] mind this. This is fine, if you want to live this
wayno problem. It really wasn't his choice. So I feel the door opened
up to dialogue there.
H: You've been given the choice. Excellent.
H2: Anything else?
S: It was quite dear. I remember a prayer we had a few weeks ago. We went
to a gardensome monster-type things in front of it and it was a peaceful
place. That's significant. The garden is nurturing of some pleasantness.
H: It was significant that you got the word choice, because I didn't hear any
S: He was made controller, but I need to change that name.
H: Exactly. So you can dialogue with him. You [earlier] called him a gestapo
HI: When you were that person, the way you stood, one shoulder was higher
than the other. Docs that mean anything?
S: I'd have to think about that one. I didn't visualize that.
H: Maybe if you go back and image him, you'll see if that's still there, and
finally the connection with the German soldier. What's all that about?
S: I think it was in the fifties and early sixties when I grew up, you got a lot



of prejudice on TV about the Germans, and I just finished reading The
Secret of Santa Vittoria, and that's probably the reason.

H: In that book, what did the Germans represent.

5: They ruin their fun. The people had to operate underground to avoid the
As in the cases we have already discussed, this sequence of imaginai
performance occurs during more typical inner-healing prayer rather
than in the bioenergetics grounding exercise. However, while the divine
presence is vividly invoked in the prayer, it appears in embodied imagery
not as an actor, but as the peaceful setting of a garden where the patient
interacts with the controller within himself. In his experiential commentary he discusses the beginning of reconciliation with this aspect of
What I was doing was letting myself go so that that part of my personality
could come through completely. . . . I felt very relaxed. . . . I was aware of
feeling slightly ridiculous and had to not let that emerge. . . . And [then] just
really felt, physically, the tension and I was aware of the kind of physically
destructive tension that kind of personality could cause in my bodythe stress
on my stomach, tension like high blood pressure tension, holding back. And
stress, the kind you read about that causes heart disease. . . . [But what the
imaginai personality) wanted to express was a very externalized facade of discipline, excellence, accomplishment. . . . [The experience] helps me become aware
of when that kind of stress is going on and how I can control it. It helps me
separate out, "Okay, now that's what's clicking inis it really appropriate?"
But it's a better sense of making those choices myself rather than having it be
an automatic, habitual kind of response. I swim for exercise and health, but
also swim for pleasure at my lunch hour, for relaxation. Yet many times it
becomes duty, work, and that kind of discipline taking the joy out of it, the
relaxation out of it. Because you have to do it. You have to do it well. . . . [The
imaginai figure represents] places when its there and doesn't have to be there.
It's not that it's discipline but, oh, pressure. Compulsive.
Several sessions in the past have done a similar type of identifying various
parts of the personalitya worrier or a real pleasure-lover, trying to divide the
personalities a little bit to get some of this stuff out. . . one of which is this
perfectionism thing. When things are going well and easily, then you're feeling
no perfectionism. It's when the)' don't go well that you start to respond because
you don't have control over them. You can't make them look perfect.... It
was a very accurate portrayal of that part of my personality. The fact that that
got isolated, coupled together with the prayer at the end where I was able to
then realize that I could be friends or use this part of the personality as a help
rather than a hindrance, was the most significant thing. That discipline side of
my personality is something that really wants to be on my side. It doesn't really
want to fight against me. I think I will find myself with less tension because



an awful lot of the stress that I feel is brought on by the internal conflict of
this disciplinarian or this controller.

The patient comes to realize not only that his need to be in control
controls him, but that he is the one who by his own choice set up the
controller in the first place. Particularly in the reference to swimming,
it is evident that control is understood not only as overachievement,
but as the inhibition of spontaneity.
In subsequent sessions he identified a childhood longing for freedom
in the face of external controls imposed by teachers and his father. He
also identified, as a defense against an insecurity that was a consequence
of these controls, the overdevelopment of a sense of discipline that was
"not external, but feels external." Finally, he discovered a sense of being
existentially "lost" between self-indulgence (overeating) and discipline
(overwork), and was instructed by the healer to cultivate freedom
through his relation to the deity in that in-between space. Our third
psychocultural theme of intimacy is tied into this complex, as it becomes
evident that the patient seeks intimacy through making others dependent on his ability to control and "take care of everything." An awareness
of maintaining habitual tension in the genital area, without which he
felt his body would "collapse or fall apart," is linked to alienation from
his masculinity. In the therapeutic logic developed by the healer, his
masculinity is the same controller who, if "befriended," will then make
way for integration of the masculine and feminine sides of his personality and the possibility of true intimacy.
Finally, we note in this case the occurrence of bodily image and
experience on multiple levels: in repeated sessions (not all summarized
here) the patient experiences muscular tension in a variety of body parts;
in the grounding exercise he adopts the postural model of, and thereby
incarnates, the controlling subpersonality; and in prayer walks and talks
with the controller in a peaceful garden. A final instance of embodied
imagery in this process, reminiscent of the woman who merged with
herself, is contributed not by the patient, but by the assistant healer.
In one session he reported a vision of Jesus with a child and three other
peoplethe patient, and the masculine and feminine aspects of his
being. The three "ministered" to the child and Jesus "merged" the three
figures into one. Throughout the process the elaboration of alternatives
occurs as a series of embodied oppositions: tension/relaxation, control/
spontaneity, insecurity/intimacy, masculine/feminine.



In this chapter we have offered accounts of the experiential specificity of therapeutic process in three Charismatic patients. We
are already a long way from the experiential muteness in that classic
case of the pregnant Cuna Indian patient whose distress in giving birth
was ameliorated, according to Lcvi-Strauss (1963), by the combination
of abstract homology between the structure of the shaman's chant and
the structure of the physiological process of labor, and the black-box
psychodynamic mechanism of catharsis drawn from Freudian psychoanalysis. Our method of eliciting experiential commentary allowed us
to achieve a greater degree of specificity than is typically presented in
accounts of religious healing. This allowed us to monitor incremental
change in self and suffering by describing the embodied self process
of imaginal performance with respect to the therapeutic functions of
disposition, experience of the sacred, elaboration of alternatives, and
actualization of change. Following each patient over time allowed us
to understand how therapeutic process transcends the boundaries of
particular sessions and permeates the pursuit of everyday life concerns.
In the next chapter we carry the cultural phenomenology' of the healing
of memories a step further, reexamining these cases at the juncture
between ethnographic knowledge about Charismatic healing and the
self processes of imagery and memory.

Image, Memory, and Efficacy

Like the relation between imagination and perception

with which we were concerned in chapter 4, the relation between imagination and memory is known by scholars to be a close one. Personal
memory of events and episodes (in contrast to the memory of schematic
autobiographical facts) is known frequently to be experienced in imaginal form (Brewer 1986, Casey 1987), and it is precisely this kind of
memory with which Charismatic ritual healing is concerned. So far we
have developed a phenomenological argument that imagery in revelation and in imaginal performance is a bodily practice insofar as it engages multiple sensory modalities, and a bodily mode of being in the
world insofar as its final interpretants can be identified as habits. The
mutual reference to habit was one way in which we reconciled the
phenomenological and semiotic accounts of revelatory imager)'. Yet we
might justifiably ask whether, when it comes to the relation between
imagery and memory, a cognitive account might not be more productive
than a phenomenological one. At least we could ask for an integration
of phenomenological and cognitivist perspectives in an analysis similar
to that in which we integrated phenomenology and semiotics. We must
briefly return to the theoretical pole of our discussion to address this
For an important reason, it is less easy to reconcile a phenomenological account with one based in the cognitive form of represcntationalism.
As we discussed in chapter 1, there is a methodological difference between phenomenology and semiotics. The cognitive approach differs



not only methodologically, but also in that it tends to share the empiricist epistcmology that we identified as incompatible with phenomenology. Stated another way, we would have to reconcile not only the relation between the scmiotic image as sign and the phenomenological
image in consciousness, but competing cognitive and phenomenological construals of the image in consciousness. For example, although he
claims to have a phenomenological project, the cognitivist philosopher
Mark Johnson defines imagination as our "capacity to organize mental
representations" (1987:140), and follows Kant's intellcctualist grounding of imagination in the faculty of judgment.1 For him a "rich image"
is a mentaJ picture rich in information (ibid.:24), and not an act rich
in existential meaning. He asserts but docs not demonstrate the lack of
a gap between the rational and the bodily, for in the end his project is
to place the body "in the mind" rather than "in the world." Like many
cognitive theorists he accordingly relies on a notion of "image-schema,"
which has the curious sense of simultaneously seeming to be the somatic
ground of imagery and an abstraction from imagery as bodily practice.
If Johnson's is a brave but hazardous way to integrate the bodily
into the study of imagery from a cognitive perspective, equally brave
is the recent effort of cognitive students of memory to include autobiographical memory as a legitimate topic of their research. It is instructive
that in order to do so, one of the leading scholars in this area found it
necessary, with admitted chagrin, to introduce the "soft" concept of
self as the referent to autobiographical memories. However, as might
be expected, lurking behind the self is a "self-schema," and the events
and actions that form the substance of autobiographical memory are
defined as "visual-temporal," such that a relevant question becomes
whether or not individuals can "form a mental Video recording'" of
their memory (Brewer 1986:27-28). These efforts must be applauded,
but for our purposes they still do not promise the experiential specificity
we have found with a cultural phenomenology grounded in the body.
Whether these positions ultimately can be reconciled, or whether there
is a decisive epistemological step away from the representationalist paradigm to the standpoint of being in the world, is unfortunately beyond
the scope of our argument. For the present we must again favor, as the
grounding concept for memory, not the cognitive notion of schema,
3ut the phenomenological notion of habit as immediately embodied
practice (Merleau-Ponty 1962, Casey 1987, Connerton 1989). 2 In
Dlace of the two-dimensional understanding of the memory image as
/isual representation, we must favor notions of the world as "an underly-



ing field of presentation for the specific content remembered," and of

self-presence "of the rememberer himself or herself at the scene remembered" (Casey 1987:69).
The full extent to which memory can be understood as an embodied
process is shown in the work of Casey (1987) and Connerton (1986).
The trajectory of their arguments is strikingly parallel, though precisely
inverted: the former argues from habitual body memory toward commemorative ceremony, whereas the latter progresses from commemorative ceremony to the incorporation of memory in habitual bodily practices. Each author's project completes half the hermeneutic circle begun
by the other, and both move the study of memory not only into the
self, but beyond the mental into the sensate body, the intersubjective
milieu, the collective habitus, and back again. The social theorist's (Connerton) argument fills out that of the philosopher (Casey) much in the
way that, as we found in chapter 1, Bourdieu's analysis of the socially
informed body in its habitus complements Merleau-Ponry^s project of
inserting the perceptual body synthesis into the cultural world. We shall
continue to draw on the insights of Casey and Connerton throughout
this chapter.
Let us be reminded that, beyond the theoretical goal of identifying
an existential ground of culture, reconceptualizing the domains of imagination and memory within a paradigm of embodiment has immediate
relevance to our empirical goal of determining the efficacy and specificity of ritual healing. Within the conventional framework for the anthropological study of religious healing, we can go only so far with the
strategy of shifting analytic focus from definitive outcome and cure to
incremental process and change, and of eschewing global notions of
catharsis, suggestion, or social support. If memory images and imaginal
performance are only mental representations, we will again get no further than Levi-Strauss's (1966) argument that the homology between
ritual form and illness process is inherentlyand inevitably mysticallyefficacious.3 We must accordingly pursue the nature of imagination and memory as embodied self processes, and we will do so by
examining three pivotal ethnographic features that we have observed
in the healing of memories: 1) that the emergence of autobiographically
significant memories is attributed to revelation; 2) that such memories
are construed as in some way traumatic, and that healing requires forgiveness of the trauma's perpetrator; and 3) that a privileged mode of
healing is an imaginal performance of the traumatic event, or an enactment of a problematic scenario with Jesus in the role of healer.



Revelation as Reminder

In our earlier discussion of revelatory imagery we showed

that the image as sign is intcrsubjcctively constituted in ritual performance, but our discussion of the image in consciousness was largely
from the perspective of the healer. We now return to revelation from
the standpoint of the patient whose memories are at issue. It will be
recalled that the cultural form of such revelation istypicallya "word of
knowledge" which is "received" from the deity by the healer. In the
following text, a Charismatic healer who is accustomed to experiencing
the word of knowledge offers a demonstration to me, the anthropologist:
S: What I'm going to do is ask the Lord for an area in your life that needs
to be healed. This is how we use word of knowledge. This . . . you need
healing like everyone else. I'm just going to ask for a word, and see what
word I get. That word will be a symbol of something in your life that
needs to be healed. Okay? I want to just thank you Lord. . . . [He prays
silently.] One word I get is hurt and pain. [Pause.J Tension, I'm getting
the word tension. Relaxation, tension. [Pause.] Self, lack of self-confidence. Sister. I'm getting the word sister. Mother. Conflict at work. Insecurity. [Long pause.] Desire for relaxation, to be yourself, to be more at
peace. [A short pause.] Okay, let's take thefirstword I get. Now, Pm
suspicious of that because we were talking about hurt and pain here. Can
you relate to that, hurt and pain?
TC: Well . . .
5: In your life at this point.
TC: At this point. I mean, is this something that should be current, or something that can be at anytime?
5: Well, we ask for an area that needed to be healed. Does that sug- . . . hurt
and pain, does that suggest a time in your life where there was a lot of
hurt and pain, and you really feel a need for prayer in that area?
The healer's ready flow of words of knowledge (which occur in the
verbal intuitive modality as described in chapter 4) indicates confidence,
but a confidence tempered by awareness of possible "interference" by
themes that may originate in our recent conversation rather than in my
personal autobiography. It is evident that each word is intended to serve
as a reminder to me, and that my response is expected to be as spontaneous and open as is the healer's exercise of his gift. It is also evident
that I have neither the cultural knowledge nor the spontaneous disposi-



tion to respond correctly. I am not to make a judgment about past or

present relevance and then search my memory, but to immediately come
up with an "area"an event, relationship, or issuethat corresponds
to the word of knowledge. It is expected that something will come
into consciousness, and furthermore that whatever comes will require
healing prayer.
The word of knowledge bears a remarkable similarity to a technique
devised by Galton in the last century, and used by experimental psychologists in studying both personal memory and imagery. In this technique
the researcher presents a word to the subject with the instruction to
"think of a specific memory associated with each word" or to "give
themselves up to the visual imagery evoked by the word" (Brewer 1986:
37-38). When the focus is on personal memory, researchers have found
that the kind of question asked influences the proportion of responses
that will be in the form of imager)' (ibid.:40). It is reasonable to suppose
that the repertoire of words and images that we have identified in the
word of knowledge not only enhances the occurrence of a memory
image that can subsequendy be subjected to imaginal performance, but
that the cultural definition of the word of knowledge constitutes a set
of instructions to come up with certain kinds of memories. Experimental
psychology points out the systematic nonavailability of negative memories in autobiographical recall protocols (Linton 1986:59). Given this
observation, it is of interest that Charismatics attending workshops on
word of knowledge are told that whatever comes to them always refers
to something negative, e.g., the word "love" refers to a lack of love, or
the image of a "beautiful bed" indicates a traumatic experience associated with that bed. If memory is culturally biased toward a "generally
integrated, cheerful view of life" (ibid.:60), and thus constituted as a
censoring defense mechanism, the principle of interpretation elaborated
in Charismatic healing appears to have anticipated and circumvented
An approximation of how this works comes from considering the
level of generality at which the word of knowledge gains purchase on the
supplicant's memory. Linton (1986:57-59) has proposed a hierarchical
structure of events in long-term memory. At the most general level is
mood tone, too general to provide a memory cue but presumably specific
to each memory. Below mood tone in the hierarchical structure are
themes andsubthcmes that define "coherent directions or unifying aspects
of life." Smaller in scope and more temporally restricted are sets of
memories "bound by the coexistence of some significant persistent ori-



entation," and labeled extendures by Linton. Events and episodes are even
more self-contained and independently coherent, constituting the
"highlights" of extendures. Finally, there are elements of events and episodes such as the actors, setting, and action, and details such as nuances
of sound, color, and texture.
This structure is useful for understanding revelation in the healing
of memories as a mnemonic system that taps memory at different levels
of generality. Thus, insofar as it is explicitly organized around stages
of life and those persistent orientations that we have identified with the
self, the healing procedure is pitched at the level of what Linton calls
extendures. A word of knowledge of the general type portrayed in my
encounter with the hcaJerhurt, sister, tensionattains its purchase
at the level of themes. A more specific word of knowledgebed, little
girl in a red dress, two men standing with you and Jesusattains its
purchase at the level of elements. However, the patient's response may
be cast at a level of greater or lesser generality than the image itself.
For example, a thematic image may point to a traumatic event, or an
image of a discrete clement may be the synecdoche of such an event. In
general, the patient's response is typically formulated either as a discrete
event, a type of recurring episode (such as sexual abuse), or a generalized
mood tone. The latter is probably the case in the frequently reported
situation where, upon being presented with a word or image, the patient
immediately breaks into weeping.
This analysis allows us to add precision to our account, initiated in
chapter 4, of the coincidence between apt image and autobiographically
relevant memory in ritual performance. This coincidence is possible
because, although events and episodes can be considered relatively
unique, their elements and themes are relatively typical. In the dominant
North American ethnopsychology, autobiographical events are regarded as unique possessions that constitute a unique person with an
individual identity, whereas the cultural typicality of themes and elements is down played. This is the basis for the conviction that the word
of knowledge is a divine inspiration, relevant to the patient's unique
life, and thus something that the healer "could not possibly have known
by human means." This is consistent with a tendency observed periodically in the history of Christianity, and especially characteristic of Pentecostalism, to search for the "divine coincidence," the hand of God in
daily life (Poewe 1989). The experience of thinking about a person
who happens to phone that same day, or about a person in the prayer
group losing his job the same week another member decides to hire a



new employee, are attended to in precisely this manner. Just as a conviction of self-reference may occur as one listens to prophetic utterance in
a group setting (Csordas 1987), so the word of knowledge is experienced as personally relevant with pinpoint accuracy.
That this reinforces rather than diminishes the cultural force of regarding the person as unique can be clarified by noting that it is not
the only possible solution. In the Church of Scientology studied by
Whitehead (1987), equally a product of North American ethnopsychology, people come to understand themselves as protean beings called
"thetans." Their experiences through present and previous lives partake
of universal incidents occurring in a common cosmic "time track," which
they experience in a kind of imaginal performance. While much of the
contents of these experiences is one's own, states Whitehead, "the charge
contained in this idiosyncratic material is held to be secondary to and
derivative from the overwhelming charge contained in the 'basic' universal incidents that Hubbard [the church's founder] has discovered"
(ibid.: 190). The negative "charges" of one's accumulated experience are
products of and stored in the "Reactive Mind," colloquially referred to
as the "Bank." Whitehead offers several examples of Scientology practitioners saying something to a neophyte that stimulates "spontaneous
subjective involvement" with the Bank in a way reminiscent of the Charismatic word of knowledge.4 The point is that although each person
ostensibly has an individual Bank, Bank is also a metaphysical principle
established by the first universal beings, such that all personal Banks
are in effect branches of a single cosmic Bank. The technique of the
sacred is the inverse of that used by the Charismatics. Scientologists
attend to the typicality of themes and elements, whereas Charismatics
attend to the uniqueness of events and episodes. The former are impressed that their experience conforms to a universal Track and that its
emotional charge is stored in a cosmic Bank, whereas the latter are
impressed that the word of knowledge is unaccountably relevant to
their unique experience. The Charismatic sacred self is validated by the
appearance of divine spontaneity and coincidence, whereas the Scientologist Being is validated by the divine timelcssness of a science-fiction
We are now in a position to move from our understanding of revelatory images as signs to a phenomenological understanding of images
as reminders. Casey observes that reminders adumbrate or "shadow
forth" a content, and their relation to the remindand (parallel to the
semiotic object of a sign) is not indicative but evocative, not denotative



but allusive (1987:98). In these terms, revelatory imagery constitutes

a "mnemotechnic" system, upheld by the concreteness of sacred experience in which indeterminate but typical themes and elements adumbrate
autobiographically unique events and episodes.
Revelatory imagers' also illustrates Casey's point that reminding as
a mode of memory takes us beyond a purely mental istic conception of
memory as recollection, and toward an understanding of the phenomenological unity of mind and body, self and other, internal and external,
past, present, and future. First, revelatory imagery collapses the duality
of mind and body because it is not only a sign but an act, a bodily
practice. Revelatory reminders and rcmindands are not only thoughts
and words, but sensuous embodied images, and the memory evoked is
not necessarily a reliving in the sense of watching a "videotape" copy,
but one that evokes concrete self-presence. Second, revelation collapses
the duality between self and other by the intcrsubjective interplay of
themes and elements shared within a habitus. What is an image in consciousness for the healer stands between healer and supplicant as a sign,
and for the supplicant herself becomes a reminder. Third, it collapses
the duality between internal and external because the revelation experienced by the supplicant is also part of the memory being reconstructed.
External reminder and internal remindand are indistinguishable and
reciprocal, as revelatory themes and elements are integral to autobiographical events and episodes, and as a memory itself can serve as a
further reminder.
Finally, to understand how it collapses past, present, and future,
wc must recall that the mnemonic process in healing of memories is
cumulative. This is generally the case insofar as all Charismatics pursue
healing in the course of "coming to know the Lord," but is particularly
evident in ongoing cases like the first two discussed in chapter 5. In
the first case we observed successive images of the patient's mother
that directed the process toward the content of the mother-daughter
relationship. In the second case we encountered a series progressing
from the child in the closet, to a beautiful bed, to her father's face
superimposed on that of her husband, to anger at her husband, and
finally to her father in bed.5 The past is thus alive in the present. Moreover, as Casey points out, it is quite possible for a reminder to remind
us of something that lies in the future, or that we expect ourselves to
do in the future. The apparent oxymoron of a "future reality" (Casey
1987:97) parallels a formulation by M. Singer (1984:56, 68) who,
elaborating on Peirce, sees each human being as a symbol, the inter-



pretant of which may be a "future memory" of cognition or a "future

self." For the Charismatic, each memory that comes to light in ritual
healing is not only constitutive of the current self, but is a future memory
of a sacred self that she is creating. It is the guarantor of a stable orientation in the world and of the continuity of an emerging disposition
within the Charismatic habitus.

Embodiment and Trauma

It is impossible to examine the Charismatic emphasis on
removing the residual effects of trauma without reference to the work
of Pierre Janet (1925, 1973). By way of metacomment, we must first
note that Janet's theory of psychopathology was largely ignored for the
first three quarters of the present century. Its very intellectual availability
is part of a phenomenon of contemporary cultural history that also
includes the development of Charismatic heading and of clinical interest
in post-traumatic stress disorder, with a complementary shift away from
psychoanalytic emphasis on the wishes and fears of fantasy, and toward
the concrete emotional damage of psychological violence (van der Kolk
and van der Hart 1989, Jenkins \99\b). This is especially the case with
respect to sexual abuse, the social reality of which Freud denied, but
the frequency of which has not declined since his day. Thus it became
possible for the woman in the first case we examined to reconceptualize
what the older boys in her childhood did to her as sexual abuse, and
thus it became of central therapeutic importance for the woman in the
second case to acknowledge repeated rape by her father. The elaboration
of imagination as a capacity of the sacred self lifts the psychocultural
veil of silence that keeps this aspect of sexual oppression shrouded in
autobiographical memory.
There is no question that the body is profoundly implicated in such
instances. In the strongest sense, Casey observes that traumatic body
memory results in the fragmentation of the lived body:
This is the body as broken down into uncoordinated parts and thus as incapable
of thetypeof continuous, spontaneous action undertaken by the intact body
("intact" precisely because of its habirualities, which serve to ensure efficacity
and regularity). Thefragmentedbody is inefficacious and irregular; indeed, its
possibilities of free movement have become constricted precisely because of the
trauma that has disrupted its spontaneous actions. (1987:155)



Insofar as the body is the existential ground of self, and insofar as spontaneity is a salient psychocultural theme for the self, we can understand
howr in our first case, the verbal blame for the patient's sexual exploitation and the physical slap in imaginal performance became the disintegration of the maternal body-self and the literal pain of heartache. No
less is the body implicated in the second case, where the trauma of sexual
abuse was transformed into a fragmentation that required therapeutic
merging of childhood and adult selves, and even resulted in the ambiguity of bodily identity between her father and husband. In the third case,
the trauma created by the situational exigencies of living up to internal
and external demands was manifested as a controlling "subpersonality"
with its distinct, alienated postural model of repressed muscular tension,
a subpersonality that had to be negotiated with and which in the vision
of the healer was physically merged with the patient's other imaginal
Charismatics would likely agree with Janet's formulation that memories are automatically integrated into a system that organizes experience
and that allows them to remain accessible to consciousness and voluntary control. Traumatic memories, however, may be split off or dissociated from consciousness, becoming subconscious, fixed ideas that "organize cognitive, affective, and visceral elements of the traumatic
memory while simultaneously keeping them out of conscious awareness" (van der Kolk and van dcr Han 1989:1532). Such memories are
invariably associated with a vehement emotion, the severity of which
"depends on both the emotional state of the victim at the time of the
event and on the cognitive appraisal of the situation, [and] determines
the lasting impact of the trauma" (ibid.: 1533).
These ideas correspond to the Charismatic notions that memories
can sometimes be retrieved (from the subconscious) only with the help
of divine inspiration, and that healing can occur only by removing the
"bitter root" (vehement emotion) of the experience. That the severity
of the trauma is a subjective matter was discovered by the first woman
whose healing process we examined, and was expressed in her comment
that prior to healing she had thought her problems were negligible
alongside those of people she herself counseled. Nevertheless, it is the
case that Janet was explicitly concerned with overt pathology. Given
that Charismatics are concerned as much with memory as a basic self
process as with specifically pathogenic memories, that their goal is a
comprehensive self-transformation, and that for major pathology they
often defer to clinical expertise, it is not surprising that Charismatics



have an essentially populist definition of trauma. Thus, even for psychologically healthy people, healing will occur for events such as being
"lost" as a child (e.g., being temporarily separated from one's parents
at a public event), or being stranded on an offshore rock as the tide
washed in during a childhood beach vacation.
Some of Janet's therapeutic principles would likely be embraced by
Charismatics as well. Just as Janet advocated interventions such as
"changing the patient's lifestyle to fit his emotional strengths and weaknesses and trying to prevent intergenerational transmission of trauma"
(ibid.: 1537), Charismatics advocate active involvement in the lifestyle
of prayer groups or communities, and sometimes use the technique of
generational or ancestral healing. Janet also believed that memories had
not only to be uncovered, but also "needed to be modified and transformed, i.e., placed in their proper context and reconstructed into neutral or meaningful narratives. He saw memory as an act of creation,
rather than as a static recording of events" (ibid.: 1537). Likewise, Charismatics' most common critique of conventional psychotherapy is that
it brings memories to consciousness without resolving or healing them.
The imaginal performance serves precisely to transform memories by
placing them in the context of divine presence, thereby both neutralizing
and making them meaningful. Indeed, in this respect Janet's theory
recognizes what has frequendy been observed as the essential principle
of efficacy in religious healing, namely that it succeeds in transforming
the meaning of an illness and thus the effect it has on the life of the
afflicted (Bourguignon 1976a; Csordas 1983).
Where Charismatics part company with Janet is in their emphasis
on forgiveness as an element in resolving trauma. Clearly a Christian
notion based on the paradigm of the crucified Christ forgiving his persecutors, it appears in the psychotherapeutic literature only when tentatively introduced by Christian writers (Gartner 1988, Wapnich 1985).
One of these authors has observed that forgiveness is often a byproduct
of psychotherapy, insofar as toward the end of treatment a patient is
often less bitter and more able to recall positive features of a parental
relationship (Gartner 1988:314). 7 In Charismatic ritual healing, however, forgiveness is both a goal and a technique. This was evident in
the second case we examined, where following the emergence of the
traumatic memory the healer instructed her supplicant to forgive the
perpetrators of her affliction and offer them to the deity. We shall leave
the psychotherapeutic status of forgiveness to a debate between psychol-



ogists and religionists, for we must now address our third main topic
of this chapter, the role of imaginal performance.

Imaginal Performance as Self Process

If, through the transformation of traumatic memory, imaginal performance is a privileged moment in that element of therapeutic
process we have called the elaboration of alternatives, we must be careful
not to exaggerate the privilege. To do so would be an extreme form of
the "occasionalist illusion" (Bourdicu 1977:81-82) that direcdy relates
practices to properties inscribed in the situation, and presumes that the
truth of an interaction is contained entirely in the interaction. Recent
work in experimental psychology suggests that memory may be an essentially reconstructive process rather than one that produces representational copies of past events. Such reconstruction is likely both when
the event was a repeated one, as is often the case in childhood sexual
abuse, and when the same event is recalled and discussed a number of
times, as is often the case in the process of Charismatic healing of memories (Brewer 1986:42). 8 The transformation effected in imaginal performance must on these grounds alone be understood as part of a larger
process. From an anthropological perspective, while the initiatory character of ritual healing is occasionally acknowledged (Crapanzano 1973,
Finkler 1985), seldom has therapeutic process been examined with sufficient specificity to challenge the event-based models presupposed in
much of the literature. In fact, therapeutic process may more often than
not" be incremental in nature, and only summarized or objectified in
performance events (Csordas 1988). In the cases we have examined it
is evident that themes and images are developed over time, weaving the
contexts of everyday life and ritual performance into a single phenomenological fabric. Moreover, imaginal performance is not a necessary
ingredient of every healing session, occurring in less than half of the
sixty sessions we observed. Nevertheless, imaginal performance offers
a unique window on the processes of the sacred self, and we must now
examine it more closely.
If we focus on the actors in imaginal performance, we notice that
they typically include the supplicant in either a child or adult persona,
significant others, most frequent among whom are parents (but sometimes others such as teachers, siblings, playmates), and the divine figures



of Jesus and occasionally the Virgin Mary. The concrete experiential

presence of these actors in an evocation of developmental themes invites
interpretation as a strikingly literal example of "internal object relations." The school of psychoanalytic thought oriented around this concept emphasizes the development of personality through the internalization of relationships (Greenberg and Mitchell 1983, Hamilton 1989).
In this view the "objects" are objects of relationships, and the developmentally earliest objects are the parents. In the version of the theory
espoused by Melanie Klein (1932, 1964) and her followers (Isaacs
1943), phantasy is "the basic substance of all mental processes," and all
desire formulated in phantasy "implies an object of that desire. . . . Implicit in the experience of wanting is some image, some fantasy of the
conditions leading to the gratification of the wanting" (Greenberg and
Mitchell 1983:124, 131). Greenberg and Mitchell point out that this
formulation is compatible in principle with the phenomenological notion that all thought is intentional (ibid.: 131), and I would add that it
appears compatible with our notion of imagination as an orientational
self process. We can also construe the internal object as a kind of semiotic
object, recognizing in the phrases "object of relationship" or "object of
desire" that the relationship and desire are semiotic interpretants in the
form of habitual dispositions. By thus incorporating the object-relations
perspective into our cultural phenomenology, we can understand imaginal performance as a manipulation in fantasy of internal objects in
order to resolve developmental stalemates. In other words, internal objects are objectified as the actors in imaginal performance.
The nature of the stalemates addressed in the three cases we have
examined in chapter 5 can be understood with the Kleinian objectrelations concept of "splitting." This is regarded as a primary developmental and psychological mechanism by which infants attempt to protect the integrity of object relationships
by projecting their innate destructivencss onto the environment and introjecting
its good aspects or, reciprocally, by projecting the good aspects of themselves
onto the good object and experiencing themselves removed from discomfort
or danger. Thus, they split their self-and-object world into all-good and all-bad
camps. (Hamilton 1989:1553)
In our first case we can see the split between the good and bad self
in the preliminary contrast between the patient's son who had the freedom to get dirty and her image of herself as a little girl who was always
primly dressed. Consistent with our analysis of basic psychocultural



themes, the principal characteristic of the good self is spontaneity,

whereas the bad self is repressed. In the imaginal performance proper
the split between good mother and bad mother is dramatized in the
central image of the patient seated on the lap of the Virgin9 while
holding her own disintegrating mother. The complex resolution is not
a synthesis of good and bad mothers. It is instead a physical conjunction
of the three bodies holding one another, reinforced with the insight
that the real mother's badness was in fact a product of vulnerability,
and concludes with a letting go of the bad mother not in the form of
an abandonment, but as a relinquishing to the divine figure of Jesus.
In the second case a preliminary image of good father and bad father
appears in the patient's seeing the face of her father superimposed on
that of her husband. She repeatedly acknowledges that her husband is
good. His resemblance to her actual father allows him to take on the
psychological role of the good father, while at the same time becoming
the object of displaced anger for the drunken sexual abuse she suffered
as a child. In the imaginal performance there is a dramatic merging of
the childhood self and the adult self, described by the supplicant as a
concrete experience of "growing up." Here again is a resolution of splitting between the bad childhood self, understood as a promiscuous,
manipulative man-hater, and the good self understood as a mature
Christian woman who "knows who I am in Christ." The bad self is not
abandoned, but merged with the good self in the embrace of the divine
Once again in the third case the bad self is a composite of the patient's
father, a German general, and his own aspirations. In imaginal performance the good and bad selves open a dialogue. The patient "befriends"
this part of himself which, as it turns out, wants to be "on his side."
Later, one of the healers introduces the image in which three aspects
of the self merge, including the bad self represented by the domineering
masculine side of his personality. Emerging in the form of revelation
from the healer's engaged position in the intersubjective milieu, this
image can be interpreted as an indexical icon of the patient's self process.
A parallel model of self process, also formulated in the object-relations tradition, is D. W. Winnicotfs (1965) notion that the self becomes
divided into a true and false version. In contrast to the idea that the
self becomes objectified by splitting itself into good and bad aspects,
this version posits an objective split brought about by the mother's
inability to actualize the infant's needs, and the progressive impingement of others on the child's as-yet-unintegratcd experience. The true



self which is the "source of spontaneous needs, images, and gestures,

goes into hiding" in order to protect itself, and is replaced by a false
self "fashioned out of maternal expectations and claims. The child becomes the mother's image of him" (Greenberg and Mitchell 1983:194).
In this light the first patient's repressed little girl was a false self fashioned in response to her mother's critical abusiveness and simultaneous
need to be "held together." The second patient's childhood persona was
likewise a false self fashioned in the absence of protection by her mother
from her sexually abusive father. The third patient's overachieving childhood self, struggling for the veneer of control in the face of insecurity,
is again a false self, though in this instance apparently predicated on
paternal rather than maternal demands. It is the rediscovery of the spontaneous true self in the first case, the mature true self in the second,
and the self that inhabits the sacred space between discipline and selfindulgence in the third, that constitute "knowing who I am in Christ."
Although these analyses constitute a start toward understanding imaginal performance in the healing of memories, they do not adequately
account for the role of the divine figures. An immediate response from
a psychoanalytic perspective might be that these figures are simply and
invariably positive introjects of the parental objects, and we have in fact
made this interpretation of the Virgin in the first of our cases. It might
also be said that Jesus is a better candidate for the positive father object
than is "God the Father" because that person of the divine trinity is
too often experienced as punitivcly stern. However, as anthropologists
we must regard this easy solution as too easy, especially since it relies
on a representationalist interpretation of these figures instead of treating
them as phenomena. Hence we must examine the implications of the
indigenous view that in effect grants the divine figures autonomy as
internal objects in their own right. Remaining within the framework
of internal object-relations theory, we might first try out another of
Winnicott's (1958) notions, and suggest that Jesus is a kind of "transitional" object. For the young child the transitional object, such as a
blanket or a teddy bear, is a "developmental way station between hallucinatory omnipotence and the recognition of objective reality" (Greenberg and Mitchell 1983:195). The implied transition is not a once-andfor-all process, however, for adults continue to vacillate between states
defined by enduring contrasts of "solipsistic subjectivity with objective
perception; the inner world with the world of outer reality; the world
of 'subjective' objects over which one has total control with the world
of separate and independent others" (ibid.: 195).



The last of these contrasts is particularly relevant for our present

discussion. Object-relations theorists sec an essential paradox in transitional experiencing because it appears to constitute an intermediary
realm in which an object is neither under illusory, omnipotent control
nor part of objective reality. In our ethnographic example, this paradox
becomes explicable in the intimate coexistence of imagination and memory as self processes in Charismatic ritual healing. Despite this coexistence, they nevertheless have contrasting phcnomenological characteristics. Again following Casey (1976, 1987), whereas imagination is
characterized by free play (see chapter 4), memory is characterized by
the inescapable reality of the past, a kind of autobiographical sedimentation. This means that although imagination is autonomous, it is a "thin
autonomy" in contrast to the "thick autonomy" of memory. That is,
imagination is relatively more subject to the vicissitudes of existence,
omnipotent but shallow, whereas memory is limited by but persistent
in its claims on reality. These arc precisely the poles of the paradox
in transitional experience, and they both allow the actors in imaginal
performance to be transitional objects and to contribute to their aura
of the sacred. Jesus as an actor in imaginal performance is characterized
both by imaginal controlledness and spontaneity, and by the dense presence of a divine figure who determines the past, present, and future
meaning of memories in which he intervenes. Moreover, the deity is
not an external transitional object like a teddy bear, but literally an
internal transitional object that synthesizes in itself all the features of
omnipotence and those of an objective Other to which one can have a
mature relationship. The existential force of an internal transitional object that synthesizes imagination and memory allows the divine actor
to perform convincingly for the adult patient in healing some of the
same functions as does the blanket or teddy bear for the developing
child. Frequently the divine presence offers a sense of security and protection for Charismatic patients that is the condition for some of them
to face potentially upsetting contents of traumatic memory. Those who
would be terrified to face the same material in conventional psychotherapy are able to do so only because they feel themselves under divine
protection in ritual healing.
Let us take yet another step, however, for Jesus is not only a protective presence but an intimate presence in healing. In Charismatic thinking, he is the ideal object, or Other, with which one can have a mature,
intimate relationship. Once again it might be suggested that the experience of intimacy cultivated as a sense of divine presence, and concretized



in the recurrent embodied image of a divine embrace, is either a representation of lost parental imagery or a surrogate for the absence of
intimacy with a spouse. This interpretation might be adequate if the
goal of healing was to create a state of intimacy, but not if the goal is
to cultivate a capacity for intimacy as an aspect of the sacred self. If the
capacity for intimacy can be cultivated through intimacy with a divine
figure, that intimacy must be a genuine intimacy and its object must
be an authentic Other. Is this the case in Charismatics' relation to Jesus?
In one of the few empirical studies on the subject, Stephen Levine
(1991) intriguingly characterizes psychological intimacy as an "elusive
state of grace" that requires two people, but offers each the benefit of
coming to know oneself through the relationship. While this formulation provides an interesting gloss on the idea of "knowing oneself in
Christ," a series offiveintrapsychic processes identified by Levine stands
out in specifying the features of intimacy in the Charismatics' relation
to the deity: 1) imagined presence of the Other, most prominent for
Charismatics in ritual healing, but also possible in everyday prayer; 2)
invented conversation with the absent Other, a vivid characteristic of
Charismatic "prayer life" in which people not only talk to Jesus, but
experience his answer by means of intuitive or auditory imagery; 3)
anticipation of togetherness with the Other, which Charismatics express
as a hunger for prayer; 4) preoccupation with the physical attributes
of the Other, less relevant due to the indeterminate physical attributes
of Jesus, but still present insofar as the imaginal presence is either a
conventional iconic long-haired, white-robed, handsome young man,
or an isolated face, hands, or heart; 5) eroticization of the Other which,
although largely repressed as inappropriate, appears occasionally among
devotees who want to be the imaginal "bride of Christ," or who luxuriate either in the sensuous imaginal embrace10 or in the passively reclining sacred swoon of "resting in the Spirit." Not only are the intrapsychic
processes of the relation with Jesus similar to those of interpersonal
intimacy, but the relationship comes to hold an enduring, intrinsic
value, with the consequences identified by Levine as attachment, concern (expressed as wanting to do the Lord's work), and vision of the
Other as special.
I would suggest that this experience is neither a surrogate nor a
transitional intimacy, but a manifestation of genuine intimacy with a
primordial aspect of the self that is the existential ground both for its
fundamental indeterminacy and for the possibility of an intersubjective
relationshipits otherness. In these terms, Jesus is the alterity of the



self Levine (ibid.) argues that intimacy always requires two persons,
and that to speak of intimacy with oneself is to speak metaphorically.
In contrast, I am arguing that the capacity for intimacy begins with an
existential coming to terms with the aJterity of the self, and that the
personal relation with Jesus is a metaphor for that condition of selfhood.
This is the Jesus that speaks internally with the "still, small, voice"
within, and whose presence is an act of imagination.
The altcrity of the self can be taken in two senses, however. The first
is complementary to the sense of self-presence which we have already
identified as characteristic of memory images (Casey 1987). Zaner
points out that self-presence as situated rcflcxivity is one of two foundational moments for the self. The other he calls presence to the other
self, which is an "urgency . . . to reveal itself to other inwardly realized
selves . . . . Since this is an urgency felt inwardly but before and to the
other self, its maturation is intimately bound to the reception given by
the other to the selfs urgency. Hence the self is not accidentally or
contingendy, but essentially responsive to this reception" (1981:153).
The vivid presence of Jesus in imaginal performance is a culturally specific way to complete this second foundational moment, providing an
ideal Other to correspond to the self-presence that characterizes autobiographical memory.
There is yet a second and deeper sense of the selfs altcrity, and that
is the possibility of experiencing oneself as other or alien to oneself.
This alterity of the self is not based on anything like Janet's notion of
subconscious memories unfamiliar to consciousness, but is an essential
feature of our embodied existence. To reiterate our conclusion from
chapter 1, this essential otherness originates in the limitations of our
physical being that leave us with a sense of inescapable contingency, in
the autonomic functioning of our bodies that insistently goes on without us, but which implicates us in anything that happens to our bodies,
and in the possibility of seeing ourselves as objects from the perspective
of another (ibid.:48-55). The body is thus a hidden presence or an
alien presence, a "latency thanks to which anything else can be or become patent" (ibid.: 54). In this way the body is the condition of possibility for the divine presence insofar as it is integrally experienced as
"the ground for both subjective inwardness and objective outwardness"
(ibid.:54). The deity as imaginal actor is a benevolent objectification
of this preobjective sense of alterity.
The Virgin Mary plays this role for our first patient. The patient in
our second case experienced not only the merger of her childhood and



adult selves, but a merger with the divinity who embraced them both.
In the third case, a vision by one of the healers places Jesus in a similar
role, while the supplicant reports the negative aspect of alterity in a
sense of control that is "not external but feels external.'' These imaginal
acts were a coming to terms not only with the memories of traumatic
events, but also with that very alterity which is the body as existential
ground of self. As we wiU see in chapter 7, insofar as it is not so integrated, this essential otherness is also the condition of possibility for
demonic presence.

Commemoration and Transformation

Bearing in mind this analysis of the roles played by the
actors in imaginal performance, we can frame a final discussion of efficacy by rejoining Connerton (1989) and Casey (1987). Central to their
arguments about memory is the commemorative ceremony, whether it
be the Jewish Passover, the Catholic Mass, the American Memorial Day
observance, or the Tanagran festival of Hermes. Both authors argue
that commemoration is a totalizing form of memory that includes components of both bodily and verbal action. By this action memory is
located in space as well as time, and insofar as the action is collective,
memory is situated not in the individual, but at the juncture of the
individual and the social. For both authors commemoration is not a
representation of the past, but a re-presentation that collapses the dualities of past and present, space and time. In our terms, both have embraced the project of moving our understanding of memory from the
mode of representation, whether textual or cognitive, to that of embodied being in the world. Again exemplifying the complementarity that
I alluded to earlier, Connerton shows that in commemoration the form
of memory in practice is not representation but reenactment, whereas
Casey makes a parallel point by suggesting that in commemoration the
substance of memory in experience is best understood with Levy-Bruhl's
(1926) concept of mystical participation, in this instance an active participation of the commemorator with the object of commemoration.
I want to argue now that the Charismatic healing of memories is a
particular kind of commemorative ceremony. Casey (1987) distinguishes ceremonial commemoration carried out as a public ritual from
intrapsychic commemoration that occurs in the psychoanalytic process



of identification, where a person is memorialized in another's psyche.

In healing of memories we find a middle ground between the two forms,
where intrapsychic commemoration is carried out in explicitly ritual
terms. As is true of all commemoration, it is profoundly social. Revelatory images and imaginal performance constitute the intersubjective
milieu of the ritual relationship between healer and patient. Within the
imaginal performance the patient engages in intimate interaction with
both the perpetrators of trauma and the divine figures. On this middle
ground of ritual healing, the dualities of body and mind, intrapsychic
and intersubjective, arc thus even more profoundly challenged than in
other commemorative ceremonies.
What is being commemorated is, in the first instance, the wounded
and suffering self. Here commemorabilia (or semiotic reprcscntamens)
are phenomcnologically indistinguishable from commemoranda (or semiotic objects), for the memories that are in question are themselves
constituents of the patient's self.11 Far more than this, however, the
ritual is at the same time a commemoration of the healing and protective
presence of the divinity in every moment of the patient's past life. It
thus links the perdurance of the person in autobiographical time with
the perdurance of the divine in cosmic time. In Casey's terms, "Between
the fixity, the sheer ever-the-sameness of eternity, and the ceaseless flux
of transient temporality .. . there is the pcrduring, providing sameness
and difference, motion and rest, at the same time and not just in succession" (1987:229). The patient comes to participate in the cosmic, while
the cosmic comes to intimately inhabit the traumatic moments of the
patient's autobiography. Again, ritual healing is also a commemoration
in a genuinely collective sense. Connerton notes that anthropologists
who emphasize performance typically show how it makes structure explicit, but are generally unconcerned with the diachronic component
of collective identity (1989:103). Here is precisely the significance of
the Charismatic precept that everyone is in need of healing. For any
time a patient undergoes healing of memories, she implicitly acknowledges this universal need, and in so doing participates in a commemoration of the human condition as defined in the Christian doctrine of
original sin and the fall of humankind. It is in part by this process,
regarded as preparation for full life in a Christian community, that Charismatic collective identity is formed, or more precisely that the sacred
self is created as a member of that collectivity defined as the kingdom
of God.



Elements of Efficacy
Having now described the psychological effects of imaginal performance in terms of internal object relations, and the cultural
form of memory as a self process in terms of commemoration, we must
finally identify' the source of efficacy in the healing of memories. We
might be expected to conclude that the experience of totality in the
commemorative collapse of dualities is that source. To this totality we
could add that of the simultaneous enactment of our three basic psychocultural themes: the inherent spontaneity of imaginal process, the intimacy with the divine figures achieved in that process, and the relinquishment of control over one's affairs to the deity. Unfortunately, granted
the phenomenological salience of such totality, there is no reason to
attribute an efficacy to it. To do so would not carry us beyond the
imputed efficacy of those nonspecific mechanisms like catharsis, suggestion, or placebo with which we have expressed dissatisfaction. So
wherein lies the specificity that we require of a therapeutic efficacy that
is at the same time a creative self process?
One element of this specificity is the close relationship between imagination and memory we have been observing. At this point we should
distinguish that this relationship takes two forms in our material. With
respect to autobiographical memory, imagery and memory are intimately associated, in that memory often occurs in imaginal form. With
respect to imaginal performance, however, it is apt to say that imagery
is applied to memory. Specifically, returning to a distinction that we
used above with respect to object relations and therapeutic content,
we can say that the efficacy of therapeutic process is reinforced by the
application of imagination's "thin autonomy" to memory's "thick autonomy." The thin autonomy of imagination is one of pure possibility,
whereas the thick autonomy of memory, although bound up in its
origins, is constantly transforming and undermining the determinacy
of the past through its own action and discovering within itself the
truth of its own experiencing (Casey 1976,1987). Because of this thick
engagement in the actuality of experience, there is an inherent difficulty
in the "expressive exfoliation" of memory, a difficulty' that is absent in
imagination (Casey 1987:279-280). 12 Their complementarity in therapeutic process consists in that imagination is "thickened" with existential
care, whereas memory is "thinned" by the relative ease of imagination.
Within this complementarity is a specific efficaq' defined by two fea-



tures: the rhetorical juxtaposition of the divine world of the purely

possible to the struggling human world of traumatic autobiographical
memory, and the phenomcnologicaJ superimposition of divine imagination upon human memory in imaginal performance.
We must also look to the phenomcnological characteristics of imagination in its own right, foremost among which is its inherent efficacity.
We have observed above that we can hardly fail to imagine what we
intend to imagine, that imaginative spontaneity is sudden, effortless,
and immediate, and that the contents of imagination are self-evident,
being nothing other than what they appear to be. These are, not coincidentally, characteristics we expect of divine action. Second, the essential
indeterminacy of imagining corresponds with the indeterminacy we
have found to be characteristic of the self, and makes imagination an
apt self process. Third, that imagination is "prcsentifying" rather than
productive or reproductive (Casey 1976:2, 223, 225) is critical to its
efficacy as a self process for orienting to and engaging the world, the
traumatic past, and the sacred. Fourth, anthropologists and philosophers have not only attempted, as we have seen, to establish the autonomy of imagination from other mental acts (Casey 1976, Stephen
1989). They have also argued over whether it is legitimate to posit a
coherent "imaginal world" (Bildwelt), or whether imagination constitutes merely an "ami-world" characterized by an essential poverty and
nothingness of being (Casey 1976:2-3). The method of cultural phenomenology has prepared us to make an empirical contribution to this
debate: Insofar as, from the standpoint of religious experience, imagination gives access to a culturally defined spiritual realm; insofar as the
features of imagination (spontaneity, autonomy, indeterminacy, selfevidence) correspond to what is expected of a spiritual realm; and insofar as imagination engenders a coherent and cohesive experiential domain by the presence of Jesus as an internal object for patients and a
consistent source of divine inspiration for healers, the issue is decisively
resolved in favor of the Bildwelt as a coherent domain of experiential
A fifth element of efficacy originates in the embodied nature of healing imagery, a characteristic which, as we have seen, is existentially
guaranteed by Heideggerian "care." The phenomenlogical reality of this
imagery subsists not only in the vivid multisensory quality of revelation
and imaginal performance. It also subsists in that the actors who act
upon each other in imaginal performance are not mere representations,
but real appearances,13 not virtually produced by the playing of a "mental videotape," but actually present as embodied imaginal performers.



It might be objected that this claim is too strong since, like other forms
of autobiographical memory (Brewer 1986:42), the patient in healing
of memories frequendy experiences the event from the perspective of
a third person seeing him- or herself. This objection is weak in the face
of the concrete actions performed by patients in imaginal performance,
such as holding one's disintegrating mother, placing loved ones into the
sacramental cup, or walking in a sacred garden. Patients also experience
action being performed on their own bodies, whether they are being
held by the Virgin or undergoing a merging of partial selves. The indeterminacy of the exact locus of consciousness (observer or actor) must
not be confused with the definiteness of self-presence in imaginal performance. This self-presence is supported by the imaginal presence of other
internal objects which, especially in the case of parents, are posited by
object-relations theorists to have their origin precisely in early bodily
experience.14 It is also supported by the presence of the divine figures
who, as we have observed, achieve their fullest degree of phenomenological concreteness in imaginal performance. The embrace from Jesus,
observable as his characteristic action in countless episodes of Charismatic healing of memories, is as phcnomenologically real qua embrace
as are the words he speaks in the recesses of imagination. There is no
more convincing a way that the deity could be both incarnately present
and readily accessible.
If imaginal performance is embodied in this way, we can conclude
that its efficacy can be traced to the way the body is the existential
ground for efficacy in general (Zaner 1981, M. Johnson 1987). In the
words of Hans Jonas, our notion of causality originates in "the universal
extrapolation from propriobodily prime experience into the whole of
reality. .. . Without the body and its elementary self-experience. . .
there could be no idea whatever of force and action in the world and
thus of a dynamic connection of all things: no idea, in short, of any
'nature' at all" (quoted in Zaner 1981:36). The relevance of this argument is extended to the domain of memory by Casey who, following
A. N. Whitehead, argues that causal efficacy is mutually grounded in
the past and in embodiment, because both demand that we conform
to their inescapable actuality. Memory itself is finally grounded in embodiment, however, for if the primordial experience of causal efficacy
"is the privileged point of connection to a settled past, then its own
bodily basis, i.e., the concrete feeling of bodily efficacy, will be intrinsic
to any connection with any past" (Casey 1987:175). This concrete bodily efficacy is the "unmediated feeling of the body's causal efficacy qua
'withness'.. . functioning as efficacious in its own right and not as a



mere means. To be efficacious in its own right is at once to be capable

of producing further feelings on subsequent occasions and to re-enact
prior feelings in memory" (ibid.: 175). These primordial experiences of
creative and reenactive efficacy do not only become objectified as concepts of force and causality (M. Johnson 1987), but are preserved as
prototypes and templates for experiencing the force of divine
powerindeed, the encounter with divine power is perhaps the one
cultural experience that most vividly preserves the sense of phenomenological primordiality (cf. Eliadc 1958). It is thus no accident that the
bodily efficacy of the divine embrace is the privileged and recurrent act
of transforming traumatic autobiographical memory among Charismatics. Because the embrace is imaginal it encapsulates the pure possibility
of intimacy; because the imagery is embodied it is convincing in that
it partakes of the existential ground of all causality, force, and efficacy;
and because it is enacted by a divine figure its meaning and intent are
beyond question.
There is a sixth and final clement of efficacy in imaginal performance.
It is critical that the efficacious presence of Jesus does not act on memories from the standpoint of the present, reaching back and transforming
them as from a distance. Neither is the imaginal deity "inserted" into
the past, even though healers sometimes refer to the healing process as
"praying Jesus into" the moments of a patient's life. Wherein lies the
efficacy of the divine presence is that, through successive episodes of
healing, and when the process proceeds according to plan,15 the patient
comes to "realize" that Jesus was always already there with her. This
fundamental "withness," which we have associated with the alterity of
the self, is incorporated as a disposition of the sacred self. There can
be no question at this levelthe level of the habitusof whether or
not Jesus is successful at transforming a particular memory. Recognizing
his presence is the transformation of that memory. This observation
carries us a step beyond the celebrated and enigmatic claim of Kleinman
and Sung that "to the extent that indigenous practitioners provide culturally legitimated treatment of illness, they must heal" (1979:24). For
Charismatics, efficacious healing is predicated not only on a cultural
legitimacy that says healing is possible, but on an existential immediacy
that constitutes healing as real. The immediacy of the imaginal world
and of memory, of divine presence and causal efficacy, have their common ground in embodiment. The moods and motivations evoked upon
this ground are indeed uniquely realistic.

This series of photographs documents a typical public

healing service conducted by one of several well-known
Catholic Charismatic healing ministries in New
England. Their healing services took place every Sunday
for more than ten years under the leadership of the late
Franciscan priest Rev. John Lazansky. Supplicants at the
healing services of five such ministries responded to our
questionnaire about their experiences of being prayed
with for healing.

1. Before going into the main part of the church where people who
desire healing have assembled, members of the ministry gather in the
church sacristy, clasping hands in a gesture of spiritual community
as they pray for divine blessing of their efforts. The man in the suit at
left wears a red sash with a dove representing the Holy Spirit which
identifies him as an usher in the service. The man at right holds his
hand in the characteristic open-palmed Charismatic prayer posture.

2. The service begins with Father Lazansky walking through the

assembly, holding a crucifix in one hand and selectively laying the
other hand on devotees as they sing a hymn. Other healers observed
sometimes used a liturgical instrument known as an aspergillum to
sprinkle holy water on the assembly while walking among them.
Some people "rest in the Spirit" as the healer lays hands on them
or sprinkles them, slumping back into their seats in the pew.

3. Following a sermon on the theme of divine healing power and the

way it transcends scientific understanding (an allusion to the presence
of we researchers who were photographing the event), Father
Lazansky asks people with particular problems to come forward for
special attention. His selection of problems varies from week to week
based on the divine inspiration available through the charism or
spiritual gift known as "word of knowledge." In this service he was
inspired to pray for children and those who had problems with their
legs. Here he lays hands on a young girl surrounded by her family.

4. While the leader prays at his central station in front of the altar,
other members of the healing ministry divide into teams and spread to
various locations throughout the church. Ushers organize the orderly
approach of devotees to the teams for healing prayer. It is made clear
that healing power is as readily available through the teams as it is
through the principal healer, but nevertheless it is evident that he is
the only one who prays unassisted. Here a team leader (at right) is
assisted by two others as they pray over the woman in glasses. The
team member with his back to the camera also lays a hand on the
team leader in prayerful support. The man at left is the "catcher" who
will break the devotee's fall if she rests in the Spirit. Note the look of
rapt intentness on the faces of team members.


llfta Jit


dm M
5. Throughout the healing service the "music ministry" performs
from a position beside the altar. Some of the numbers are hymns in
which everyone participates, but devotional background music in the
form of soft, prayerful chants is also played, especially during the long
period in which individuals are receiving attention from the healing
teams. A healing team can be seen at work in the right background,
behind the music ministry.

6. A woman beginning to rest in the Spirit falls away from the

outstretched hands laid on her by three healing team members into
the waiting arms of the catcher. Referred to as "slaying in the Spirit"
among Protestant Pentecostals, the experience is described as being
overcome by the power of divine presence. As shown here, the body
is characteristically straight-legged during the fall, and the person
falls direcdy backward to the catcher. It is rare for people falling in
the sacred swoon to collapse or have their knees buckle under them.

7 The same woman resting in the Spirit after having been laid gendy
on the floor by the catcher. She will remain there for several minutes,
experiencing divine power and presence, then get up on her own and
return to her seat in the pews. Not everyone who is prayed with rests
in the Spirit, and the proportion varies from one healing service to
another, depending in part on the emphasis placed by the principal
healer on this practice. The length of time any person remains on the
floor may be only several seconds and rarely lasts longer than an hour
(see chapter 9).

8. Father Lazansky prays for a disabled man in a wheelchair. A

member of the healing ministry who is acting as catcher is also laying
on hands. The priest typically would stand during these prayers, but
on this occasion he was suffering from an infected foot and was more
comfortable seated. He was under medical care for the infection, and
he felt no qualms about praying for others while afflicted. In the
background another team of healers prays for a woman who appears
about to rest in the Spirit and fall into the waiting arms of the catcher.

9. The healer instructs the man to rise from his wheelchair and begins
to manipulate the man's disabled hand while he is being steadied by
the catcher. The woman second from the right wears the usher's sash;
she is flanked by two women waiting to approach the healers. The
woman at the far right prays in a variant of the open-palmed
Charismatic prayer posture.

10. The supplicant is instructed to walk up and down the aisle to

demonstrate the power of healing prayer. His movement is tentative
and halting as he moves about ten feet from his wheelchair, but he is
much acclaimed by the assembly. The walk is as much a test of his
physical capacity and of his willingness to improve as it is a proof of
a divinely caused amelioration of his condition (see the discussion of
"margin of disability" in chapter 3).

Demons and Deliverance

A great deal can be told of a people from the character

of their demons. How evil spirits are conceptualized as forces, beings,
or entities offers insight not only into the structure of a cosmology, but
into the structure of the behavioral environment that evil spirits share
with humans. How they are said to afflict humans offers insight, from
the perspective of its most characteristic vulnerabilities, into that cultural
objectification wc have labeled the person. How the action of evil spirits
is experienced offers insight into the culturally constituted self as an
ensemble of capacities for engaging the world, for if anything, demonic
affliction is an affliction of self and a crisis of being in the world. Finally,
the ritual practices by means of which the influence of evil spirits is
banished offer insight into the social consensus that creates a human
With these issues in mind, wc approach the third major genre of
Charismatic healing, deliverance from evil spirits. Our discussion will
be organized into two main parts, corresponding to the behavioral pragmatics of ritual performance and the formal representation and classification of evil spirits. We begin with the specific techniques, rules, and
practices of identifying and dispensing with evil spirits. In them we will
catch a glimpse of the practical functioning of the habitus. We then
discuss the structure of the demonology and the various ways of classifying the action of evil spirits upon humans. In that structure we will
find a cultural domain that is even more coherently organized than the
domain of imager}', and in which is inscribed both a collective reprcsen165



tation of the person and a semiotic of the self. We conclude with a

brief discussion of the cultural logic by means of which Charismatics
distinguish demonic affliction from psychiatric or medical disorders,
and a reflection on the ethno-ontology of evil spirits.

Deliverance as Ritual Performance

Whereas the healing of memories was borrowed from
Episcopalian Charismatics, deliverance was borrowed from classical
Pentccostals and nondenominational nco-Pentccostals. Each genre conforms to the stylistic conventions of those denominations: healing of
memories appears relatively staid in its emphasis on removing the emotional residue of trauma by means of forgiveness and the invocation of
divine presence in imaginal performance, whereas deliverance is relatively dramatic in its emphasis on defining, identifying, and authoritatively commanding the departure of negative emotion and behavior. Yet
among Catholic Charismatics the two genres have always been closely
related, and the history of deliverance must be understood accordingly.
Covenant communities were some of the first groups to adopt deliverance, following an episode ("Deliverance Monday") in which two Protestant healers cast out evil spirits from the members of the Word of
God community in the late 1960s. At first deliverance was a part of
initiation into group life. It was assumed that everyone had some degree
of affliction, and that spirits were obstacles to spiritual growth. For a
time in some Charismatic communities, the "covenant" document that
one signed in order to become a full member included consent to
undergo deliverance as a "standard means of purification in the life of
the community." Inner healing or healing of memories was a longer
process that could then take place subsequent to the initial "freeing"
achieved by deliverance.
Deliverance was relatively common along with healing of memories
and physical healing in the public healing services that began to be
common in the 1970s. However, many healers eventually shied away
from deliverance in the brief encounters possible in these settings. This
was in part because of the perceived spiritual danger that patients might
not be thoroughly freed from demonic influence, or could be more
easily reafflicted, if no provision was made for a "follow-up" to healing,
and in part because of the occasionally violent behavior with which the



demons within patients appeared to disrupt the proceedings and

frighten participants. Full-scale sessions of deliverance take place only
in private and are conducted by a team. It is an ongoing subject of
debate among healers whether deliverance should be considered as a
separate, specialized "ministry," or whether there is properly only one
"healing ministry" in which practitioners must be prepared to pray in
all the healing genres. Those who are of the former school appear to
have been most influenced by the fact that deliverance was introduced
as a distinct set of practices, that those practices require a substantial
degree of specialized knowledge, and that deliverance is ideally a team
effort that benefits from having an established group whose members
are comfortable in the way their "spiritual gifts" complement one another. Those of the latter school appear most influenced by the notion
of a "pneumopsychosomatic" integration of healing genres, and by the
ideas that it is spiritually dangerous to "focus too much on the devil,"
that attributing problems to evil spirits may give people too much opportunity to look for a "quick fix" without taking responsibility for
their problems, and that deliverance practice can at times be undesirably
sensational, disruptive, and "violent."
Most healers would probably agree that organized deliverance practice "peaked" in the mid- to late 1970s. Some reflectively comment that
at that time they "saw everything as evil," and ran the risk of bringing
up traumatic material that they were unprepared to deal with. At times
tension was created in Catholic parishes where non-Charismatics were
put off by the practice. In such a situation, one prominent deliverance
team in the locality of our research was "put under obedience" to the
bishop, who curtailed their activities for a year. Following that period
the healer who had served as their mentor persuaded the team to reconstitute as an inner-healing ministry. They would continue to practice
deliverance, but only when the necessity arose in the course of inner
healing, and with a much lower public profile. This kind of change
represents a fundamental inversion in the relation between healing of
memories and deliverance. Whereas originally deliverance was an initiatory practice meant to remove spiritual obstacles to a subsequent gradual
process of inner healing, the tendency became for inner healing to be
the fundamental process, with deliverance invoked only upon the emergence of obstacles or "blockages" to that process. By and large, the
change was a shift away from the idea of freestanding deliverance ministries and toward the subordination of the practice to an integrated conception of healing. The emergence of this model for the 1980s appeared



to be accompanied by a growing sense of the necessity to complement

healing with both psychotherapy and spiritual direction, a move aided
by the growing number of sympathetic Christian psychotherapists in
Charismatic networks.
We can perhaps best understand this evolution of deliverance among
Catholic Charismatics as a process of domestication. To borrow the title
of a popular Protestant book on deliverance, for middle class suburban
Catholics, dealing with spirits was uncomfortably like having "pigs in
the parlor." From the Charismatic standpoint, making deliverance less
wild was making it less 'Violent," and hence more in tune with the
motives of "peace, love, and joy" in ritual practice. From the anthropological standpoint, domestication moderated the performative elements
in ritual healing, sometimes to the point of driving them, as it were,
"underground." Introduction of the performatively less-virulent "ancestral spirits" (cf. chapter 2) into the cultural repertoire of distress-causing
agents can also be understood in this light as an aspect of domestication.
We will now show how this process has affected deliverance practice
in three domains: the "discernment" or identification of spirits, their
behavioral or performative "manifestation," and the ritual praaices of
"casting out" the spirits.
One of the basic principles of deliverance in its classical
Pentecostal form is the necessity to know the name of an evil spirit
before it can be cast out. Here the anthropologist will recognize the
widespread ethno-ontological principle that knowledge of a name
grants power over the person named because the name participates in
the essence of a person; and it will be recalled that in the Charismatic
behavioral environment demons are a kind of person. If the name of a
demon indicates its essence, the corresponding pragmatic logic is that
its name also indicates the demon's effect on a person, and thus its
discovery adds therapeutic substance to the ritual performance. The
prototypical method of identifying evil spirits is to command them to
name themselves via the voice of the afflicted. This technique has largely
fallen into disuse. Some ill-prepared healers, or again healers following
a more dramatic Protestant style, have been known to unduly stir up the
emotional milieu of healing by shouting their command for additional
emphasis and for a show of divinely sanctioned authority. Even when
issued moderately, this command is understood as a potential invitation



to histrionic and disruptive behaviornot necessarily on the part of

the afflicted, but on the part of the spirit reacting through the afflicted
to the healer's challenge. Cursing, taunting, arguing, and even attempting to deceive the deliverers about the identity and number of spirits
present are all behaviors attributed to evil spirits.
In the domesticated form in which the self-naming of demons is
sometimes retained, the healer recognizes or "picks up" the name in the
speech of a patient without direcdy addressing the spirit. The following
example was given by a priest experienced in deliverance:
[The patient] had said, "I can kill anyone here with the strike of my hand." He
was a black belt in karate. So I told B [another team member], "Hey one of
the evil spirits has to be a death wish on other people, murder and so forth . . .
karate, which is nor just a defensive technique at that point. She told P [the
team leader], "Hey, ask about that spirit." And sure enough, it came out.
In such a situation, the spirit itself is not speaking, but in a sense "gives
itself away" in the patient's utterance. The healer then presents the idea
to the patient, and if it rings true the team, with the patient's cooperation, proceeds to cast it out with a prayer of command. Spirits may also
reveal themselves through explicit interrogation, whether inspired or
not. A positive response to the question, "Do you have suicidal
thoughts?" which in clinical practice might be taken as a symptom of
depression, might in deliverance be understood as identifying a spirit
named Self-Hatred. In sum, a spirit may name itself in response to direct
command, may name itself indirectly in the speech of the patient, or
may be named explicitly by an experienced and self-reflective patient.
When the identity of a demon is not patendy evident, a resource for
some healers is the spiritual gift of "discernment of spirits." This gift
occurs both in the form of revelatory imagery as described in chapter
4 and in the inspired reading of a patient's speech, demeanor, or behavior. One healer observed that he did not "pick up" the presence of spirits
through the gift of discernment unless a patient was unable to verbalize
the problem; another stated that evil spirits are likely to be involved in
situations where a patient comes saying, "I have a problem but I don't
know what it is." That is, the behavioral pragmatics of this healing
genre include a heightened sensitivity to interactive cues. Some healers
will say that discernment is the parallel in the spiritual domain of what
intuition is in the psychological. With respect to speech they report
attending not only to choice of words but to tone of voice and rapidity
of speechfast speech, for example, may indicate the spirit Anxiety.



Also attended to are body movements, mannerisms, facial expression,

and the movement or appearance of the eyes. In a patient's eyes the
healer may discern "either hurt or something else," a certain something
else that is evil. For example, in a man's demeanor that is, in the phrase
of one healer, "the opposite of the Pat Boone look," the gift of discernment may reveal the spirit Lust. One healer stated that ancestral or
familial spirits communicate their presence only in the patient's voice
or appearance, whereas demonic spirits may cause cold chills or pain
in the healer. For this healer, different sensory modalities (visual and
olfactory as opposed to proprioceptive and haptic) are objectified as
media for different kinds of spirit. Moreover, since in North American
culture the latter senses tend to be experienced as having a locus more
within the perceivcr's body, the relatively greater virulence of demonic
spirits is objectified as the communication of their presence across the
boundaries of the healer's body.
In addition to revelatory imagery and this inspired experiential hermeneutic of speech and behavior cues, there arc what might be called
relatively "objective" criteria for identifying the presence of evil spirits.
By objective I mean criteria that arc treated by healers as more or less
self-evident indexical signs of demonic presence, rather than as the revelation or inspired interpretations characteristic of discernment. One is
the suddenness of a problem's onset in a patient's life, or a sudden
change of mood or expression in the course of a healing session. Again,
while praying in tongues for a patient, typically with a mellifluous
sound, the healer's voice may suddenly "become raspy" The healer
recognizes her own "deliverance tongues" as an embodied indication
that the agenda of glossolalic prayer has been shifted by divine agency
from "praise" to "casting out." In this suddenness we once more see
spontaneity' as a criterion of the sacred. Another relatively objective
criterion is negative reaction by the patient to utterance of the name of
Jesus, talk on religious themes, or exposure to religious objects such as
the crucifix, bible, or sacramental. Still another is embedded in a technique, apparendy quite rare, in which the healer asks the deity to repel
him from an object if it is inhabited by a spirit, or to draw him toward
an object if it is free from evil. One healer reported physically being
flung backward across a room when applying this prayer to the portrait
of an evil family forebear. By far the most important and widely recognized criterion, however, is that whatever the problem submitted by
the patient, it is beyond his or her ability to control. We will examine



the way the psychoculturai theme of control is brought into play in

defining the essence of evil in the following chapter.
Our next task is to define several types of visible "manifestations" of demonic presence. "Occult" manifestations are those in
which spirits reportedly express their presence by causing some disruption in the physical environment, such as causing lights to go out, candles to be blown out, doors to slam, children's beds to shake, or objects
to move apparendy without cause. Manifestations attributed to demonic "harassment" may either be disruptions in the physical environment or in a person's emotional state, and are said to occur when evil
spirits are threatened by Christian activities such as evangelization, healing, or prayer. Both these types of manifestation are not necessarily
limited to events of ritual healing, but may occur in the settings of
everyday life. More typical of ritual performance, and of greater relevance to the cultural constitution of the sacred self, arc those manifestations which can be understood as embodied metaphors of demonic
activity in an afflicted person. For descriptive purposes we can divide
these into disruptive manifestations and manifestations of the spirit's
departure. In the first type the evil spirit makes its presence known in
a way that may disrupt a session of deliverance. In a revealing play on
the idiom of psychotherapy, it is sometimes said that "the spirit is acting
out." Disruptive manifestations include the kind of antagonism described above when spirits are commanded to name themselves as well
as violent behavior accompanied by apparently supernaturally enhanced
strength (see chapter 9). If the identity of a spirit is not yet known
these manifestations can sometimes provide clues. Thus the presence of
the spirit Anger can be manifest in a contortion of the face or in the
eyes. Bodily twisting and contortion instead of peace while a person
is lying on the floor supposedly "resting in the Spirit" manifests the
generalized presence of evil. In a more specific example, the "twisting
up" of a woman's hands while she was receiving Communion was the
manifestation of her Anger and Resentment (the names of two evil
spirits) at the Roman Catholic Church.
We will systematically examine the categories of spirits that constitute
the Charismatic demonology in the second half of this chapter, but
from the performative standpoint we must here take note of an implicit
category of metaspirits whose manifestations define resistance to the



therapeutic process of ritual healing. Unlike the evil spirits we will discuss below, they are manifest not in the life or problems of the patient,
but are features of the ritual process itself. Some of these may be manifest
in a patient's attitude or may need to be discerned by the healer. Thus
the healer might identify the presence of "Blind Spirit," the effect of
which is to prevent the patient from seeing his own situation. A generalized spirit of Bondage indicates the presence of a more specific spirit
not yet identified. Other disruptive manifestations may be behavioral
rather than attitudinal. For example, the principal manifestation of a
Whining Spirit is its pitiful pleading not to be "thrown out of its comfortable abode" within the patient. A Finally, a Mocking Spirit may
debunk the entire proceeding or even the existence of evil spirits themselves. In such a situation it is sometimes said that "the evil spirit in
someone is making fun of the Lord's spirit in another."
The following is an account by a healer who was herself afflicted by
a Mocking Spirit. After watching several episodes in which one of her
healing-team partners cast out evil spirits, she found herself
mocking him a little bit. And he defended it, saying that was the spirit. So I
went into the rectors', where we kind of hung out between [sessions of praying
for] people. I looked in the mirror and I started mocking the whole thing. Do
you know, in the mirror there was an awful look in my eye. It was horrible.
It didn't feel like I had scrunched up my face or done something [intentionally]
to make my eyes look hard and mean. And then as I walked down to go to
the next patient I had all these filthy thoughts in my head, just like I wanted
to urinate downstairs, in the rectory. That's what I wanted most. Awful! It was
just ugly, just disgusting! And I told my partner about it later. We went back
to my apartment and I continued to mock him, and we were talking about it
and I began to get cold. I grabbed an afghan and put it around me. He told
me later that if you get cold, that's a sign of evil spirits. Well, finally I just
allowed him to pray with me. All I can say is that it happened, it was very real,
which I don't understand to this day. And I remember going home and feeling
so washed, and feeling radiant, and I looked in the mirror and my face was
gorgeous, justfilledwith light.
It is evident on functional grounds that the existence of a Mocking
Spirit as a potential feature of ritual performance is a valuable rhetorical
device for confronting challenges to the ritual system, not only from
skeptical patients but from doubtful healers as well. However, another
dynamic may underlie this spirit, for it is sometimes said that Mockery
is manifest not in a person's speech but in their facial expression or in
a "funny kind of laughter." In my own experience, and I invite the
reader to reflect on his or her own experience in this matter, there arc



instances when, in the face of emotional tension or on learning of a

tragedy, one finds oneself unintentionally smiling or breaking into anxious laughter. It is worth hypothesizing that this affectively anomalous
experience occurs in the highly charged emotional atmosphere of prayer
for deliverance, that its very sense of embodied "otherness" may at times
be identified as a demonic manifestation, and that on occasion it may
be interactively elaborated in ritual performance.
In the second type of common manifestation, the spirit gives some
physical sign that it has left the patient. Such a manifestation of departure is understood as a necessary criterion of successful deliverance. In
the 1970s it was reported that spirits might exit or be expelled from
their host in the form of screeching, coughing, spitting, a movement
in the belly as if a fetus were kicking around, writhing on the floor, a
"snake" coming out of the person's mouth, excretion of feces, or vomiting one healer recalled that in those days their team never performed
deliverance without a bucket available for vomit. In addition to these
generic manifestations, some healers identify characteristic manifestations of individual spirits. The spirit Lust exists with "three heavy
breaths" accompanied by a rotten halitosis that smells "worse than a
dead person." The spirit Masturbation departs with a spontaneous elevation of the arms, with hands bent "way back," farther than a person
could normally bend them of his own accord. The spirit Witchcraft
exits with a loud shriek sounding "very much like a hyena" and with a
distinctive "trajectory of voice." Such performances were apparendy as
unsettling for healers as for patients, and word of their occurrence was
not likely to enhance the practitioners' image outside the Charismatic
Renewal. Healers accordingly "began looking for less violent ways"
of performing deliverance, and began the domestication of demonic
Although practitioners of deliverance generally still adhere to the
idea that there must be some manifestation of a demon's departure, in
the 1980s those reported were markedly more tame. They included
coughing, sneezing, burping, crying, sighing, and yawning, or a feeling
of lightness as if a burden had been lifted from the patient. In addition,
it apparently became more frequent for the manifestation to occur via
the healer rather than the patient. Thus, a healer whose hands were
upon a patient's head might feel one of her fingers move slightly, taking
this as a manifestation that the spirit had exited the person's head,
slighdy disturbing the finger as it passed. Again, in the words of one



See, if they're [i.e., patients] not aware of spirit activityand especially in the
beginning they're [typically] notif they don't burp, or if they don't yawn or
something, we're the ones doing it. It all comes out through the healers, the
people who are doing the praying. Most often for us, when we're praying, we
do a lot of yawning. It's "deliverance yawning," and it's not the same kind of
yawning we do when we're sleepy and tired. It's a very deepit starts very
surfacetypeas we're praying and going deeper into the person's [human] spirit.
And the deeper we get in there, the harder the yawn gets. And it's very, very
intense. . . . And coughing very often. Coughing if it's a deep, deep spirit. Very
often it's sort of like an irritation in your throat. And you know you haven't
had anything [to eat that might irritate it]. You know, it's like something is
stuck there.
For the healer the phenomenological condition of domesticating the
embodied metaphor of demonic expulsion as a yawn or cough is that
it is distinguished as "other" from the mundane yawn or cough. It is
"deeper" than a yawn of drowsiness, or feels as if something is "stuck"
when nothing has been swallowed. Displacing the manifestation from
the patient to the healer not only allows it to be more readily controlled
in ritual performance, but in principle makes it unnecessary for the
patient even to know that a spirit is being expelled. When patients who
know nothing about evil spirits or deliverance are instructed about the
nature of demonic activity, they come to learn not only what a manifestation is, but also a domesticated performative repertoire of possible or
legitimate manifestations. This element of learning is complemented by
cultivating the reflective emotional atmosphere of inner healing instead
of the confrontational atmosphere of deliverance, since the latter type
of atmosphere may be more conducive to dramatic emotional reactions
identifiable as demonic manifestations.
Although it has quite evidently declined, the occurrence of dramatic
manifestations has probably nevertheless not disappeared entirely, and
its possibility is still clearly acknowledged. Some healers say that "if
God is working strongly it draws out the manifestations." Others appear
to understand domestication as a natural process. They observe that
manifestations were worse when they as healers, and the healing system
as a whole, were less "mature," such that evil spirits were more likely
to try to take advantage of and "scare" them. Yet there were explicit
strategies at work in the domestication of demonic manifestations. One,
as we have seen, was to replace deliverance with healing of memories,
and reverse a tendency to "see everything [i.e., every problem] as evil."
Another was to introduce the sacraments of reconciliation (confession)
and the Eucharist as media of divine power for deliverance.



By far the most influential means of domesticating evil spirits, however, has been the ritual practice of "binding" them. Apparently an
exercise of the biblical prerogative that '"whatever you bind on earth
shall be bound in heaven," this is a practice which Catholic healers
claim as their distinctive contribution to the Pentecostal ministry of
deliverance. The binding prayer is a simple performative act: the healer
states that in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ she binds the spirit,
possibly adding that the spirit is not to manifest itself or disrupt the
proceedings. Some say that binding also weakens the spirits by preventing them, if more than one is present, from communicating with each
other or calling on support from other demons hovering in the vicinity.
One healer reported that she bound spirits in order to "work with
their [patients'] personality without deceit" instigated by the spirit. Not
surprisingly, however, binding is not completely successful in all instances. Its failure may be attributed to the intensity' of the "spiritual
warfare" in which participants are engaged, or to a healer who is presumptuous and unprepared to handle such a serious problem. It may
indicate that one is faced by a "full possession," requiring not Charismatic deliverance but a formal Church rite of exorcism, performed by a
priest with the power conferred by his ordination and with ecclesiastical
approval. Finally, since a spirit is cosmologically bound to obey any
command given in the authority of the all-powerful deity, failure of the
binding prayer may indicate that there is in fact no evil spirit present,
but that the manifestations are those of a psychiatric disorder.

The final prototypical clement of deliverance is the

"prayer of command," or "prayer of authority" for the spirits to depart.
Perhaps because of caution inspired by the perceived danger of evil
spirits which can, if improperly dealt with, attack others present as they
leave their host, and which are understood to have great propensity to
deceive and dissimulate, these tend to be the most formularized prayers
in the Charismatic ritual repertoire.1 Healers tend to have their own
preferred format, some more elaborate than others. One gave the following more-or-less typical example of how she would dispatch a specific spirit: "Spirit of anger, we come against you in the name of the
Lord Jesus Christ, and we send you to the foot of the cross where you
will be dealt with by your Lord and master, because Jesus Christ is
master of all." The "authority" to dispatch evil spirits is understood to



derive from invoking the divine name, and inexperienced healers who
neglect that invocation are said to risk opposition and disruptive manifestations by the spirit. Whereas the command is to be expressed authoritatively, experienced healers are also dismayed by reports of those who
feel it necessary to "shout" at the evil spirits. The}' attribute such a
relatively undomcsticated procedure either to inexperience or to the
influence of "Protestant" deliverance style. Finally, it is regarded as good
practice to include a priest on any deliverance team, since his spiritual
authority is understood to be enhanced by the sacrament of ordination.
The common technique of "sending the spirits to the cross" is a precautionary measure, for if the spirit is simply commanded to depart its host,
it may linger in the environment or enter others present. In addition, it
is regarded as somewhat presumptuous for the healer to "tell the spirit
where to go," for that is a divine prerogative. Moreover, since the introduction of ancestral healing, it is thought that at times a healer may
misdiscern a human spirit as a demonic spirit, and thus it is safer to
leave the discrimination to the deity lest one accidentally send a distressed human spirit to hell.
Some healers prepare, through "discernment," a list of all the spirits
afflicting a patient. In subsequent discussion they make certain that the
patient understands the ways in which spirits interact with one another
to negatively influence his life. In a formal deliverance the prayer of
command may be repeated individually for each spirit, and the patient
may also be expected to participate by "renouncing" the spirits. Healers
often say that once a spirit is cast out, the resulting "empty space" must
be filled by something positive, and accordingly they add to the prayer
a request that the patient be "filled with God's love," with his healing
"light," or with "fruits of the Spirit" such as peace and joy. The result
of the deliverance prayer can be observed in the "manifestation" of a
spirit's departure, and/or by the "sudden" absence of the problem or
symptomsspontaneity is once again a criterion of spiritual power.
This aspect of deliverance practice has also undergone domestication.
Some healers have tended to use binding not only to supplement but
to replace the casting out of spirits. Based on the etiological notion that
spirits afflict their hosts by "latching on" to an emotional wound, some
say that it is safer to bind spirits where they lie for fear that they might
"rip up the person as they are expelled," i.e., that they might "tear open"
the emotional wound to which they adhere. In this view, binding is
deliverance, because when the wound is closed by means of the healing



of memories, the spirit no longer has a purchase on the person and

must relinquish its hold. Others both bind the spirit and "send it to
the Eucharist" so that the spirit is "released to Jesus in the Eucharist,"
meaning that sacramental power rather than the power of explicit command will free the person. In this model the process of deliverance itself
is reconceived as one in which the malevolent spirit is "dissipated or
absorbed" by divine power instead of being "cast out or released," with
a corresponding decrease in the potential for violence and in the performative necessity for spontaneously manifested results.
Another dimension of domestication is the modification of deliverance prayer toward less specificity and explicitness regarding evil spirits.
Healers may eschew the formal practice in which "root spirits are named
and delivered in hierarchical order" in favor of an indirect method in
which the "generalized power of evil is recognized and one utters a
simple prayer focused on divine love." One healer replaced the listing
of specific demons with a "categorical" or generic command for "all
you foul spirits" to depart. The principal effect is to greatly simplify
performance, although the overt reason he gave was to ensure that he
did not miss any demons in discernment, thereby both posing a direct
spiritual danger to the patient and revealing his own ignorance as a
healer to the spirits. Although some healers still adhere to the necessity
of knowing the identity of evil spirits in order to cast them out, this
categorical approach has for others reduced the necessity of specific
discernment. Thus they might say that a spirit must be named only if
the patient cannot be freed otherwise, or that an explicit prayer of command is necessary only in the presence of occult spirits, which in any
case must always be acknowledged and explicitly renounced by the patient (see below on demonology).
The final step of domestication is taken when the healer chooses
not to make the presence of evil spirits known to the patient, perhaps
euphemizing his or her problem as a "wound" instead of a "spirit." One
healer reported going through a process of casting out each spirit, with
the patient participating by repeating the deliverance formula after him,
but never explicitly identifying each problem as a spirit, and explaining
the manifestation of vomiting as "the Lord sweeping out the house."
This aspect of domestication is most fully realized when the healer utters
the prayer of command silently or under his or her breath. It thus
happens that a person undergoing healing prayer can have demons discerned, bound from manifestation, and cast out all without ever know-



ing that they have been delivered. This mode of procedure avoids the
risk of "scaring" the increasing number of people who have access to
Charismatic healing without great familiarity with Charismatic practices, and who might mistakenly conclude they are "possessed" or "have
evil within" them. It is also said to protect against the adverse emotional
consequences that might ensue if the healers "haven't heard right" in
discernment. One highly respected healer pointed out that, in the case
of patients relatively well versed in Charismatic ritual practice, both he
and the afflicted person may know quite well that an evil spirit is at
issue, but still never mention it openly.
This would appear to have profound consequences for understanding
the rhetoric of ritual performance. In previous accounts I described the
efficacy of deliverance according to Fernandez's (1974) model of the
metaphoric predication of a quality, in this case identified as the name
of a demon, upon an inchoate pronoun which is the patient's self (Csordas 1983, 1987). 2 To summarize the argument, if the cosmological
effect of this predication is to objectify evil spirits, the psychological
effect is to formulate a problem which had previously eluded the patient.
The identification of multiple spirits sets the stage for describing how
spirits are interacting within the person, and thus provides a parapsychodynamic idiom for dealing with psychological conflicts. The identification of multiple spirits also adds the rhetorical power of redundancy as
related and near-synonymous spirits are discerned and dispatched, and
allows the process to take place over a period of time, with incremental
progress indicated by the successive casting out of spirits. The participation of the patient is enlisted in part by reference to the Christian's
cosmic responsibility to engage in "spiritual warfare" against the forces
of evil, which translates into a pragmatic responsibility to achieve emotional freedom, and a ritual responsibility to actively renounce, bind,
or cast out spirits from oneself.3 Again paraphrasing Fernandez, the
ritual discernment, casting out, and manifestation of a spirit creates
rhetorical movement along a qualitative continuum from evil to good,
a movement that is completed by some healers when they symbolically
"replace" the spirit with positive qualities defined by the vocabulary of
Beginning with this account of rhetorical process, we must consider
two consequences of the domestication of deliverance practice. First is
that the performative elements of deliverance are toned down, so much
so that in cases where both healer and patient are aware of dealing with



evil spirits without mentioning them explicitly, the rhetorical process

can be rendered implicit while still remaining in effect. The second
consequence is that when the healer performs deliverance silendy and
without any awareness on the part of the patient, its performative elements are rendered absent and can have a rhetorical effect only on the
healer. Here we are confronted not with imaginal performance as in
the healing of memories, but virtually with invisible performance.
A first step toward understanding these consequences is to rethink
the metaphoric predication and qualitative movement of the rhetorical
process in terms of Scheff s (1979) theory of catharsis, defining catharsis
as a function of the entire process of discernment, casting out, and
manifestation. Although the notions of deliverance and catharsis are
both compatible with the hydraulic imagery' of North American ethnopsychology that values "releasing" oppressive "internal forces," the aspect of Scheffs theory that is most useful for construing deliverance as
a self process is the necessity of appropriate "aesthetic distance" for
performative efficacy. Transformation is impeded if the performance is
"underdistanced," in which case emotional engagement will be too intense, or if it is "overdistanced," in which case emotional engagement
will be insufficient. From this standpoint the domestication of deliverance could be understood as a collective adjustment of ritual practice
in order to achieve "optimal" aesthetic distance. The adjustment is made
along a series of qualitative continua: from wild to tame (the inclusion
of ancestral human spirits as alternatives to virulent demonic ones);
from external to internal (the tendency to subordinate the emphasis
of spiritual affliction from without to that of emotional woundedness
within); from violent to peaceful (the toning down of manifestations
such that vomiting is replaced by burping or yawning); from Protestant
to Catholic (instead of the relatively egalitarian procedure in which the
spirits "name themselves" through the afflicted, discernment becomes
more the hierarchical prerogative of the healing minister); from behavior to experience (the identification of habitual behaviors and "sins"
yields to the identification of the autobiographical "bitter roots" of those
behaviors). In sum, these continua represent the lines along which a
Pentecostal practice is aesthetically adapted from a working-class to a
middle-class habitus. As one might also conclude from Bourdieu's
(1984) analysis of French middle-class culture, optimal aesthetic distance is a function of "taste" as a disposition within the class habitus.
However, the relevance of aesthetic distance is eliminated when the
patient is excluded from the performance. Apparently, this kind of exclu-



sion occurred to some degree even in the early days of Catholic Charismatic healing, based on the idea that some patients were not prepared
for, would be unduly frightened by, or even surfer emotional harm if
brought face to face with the reality of evil spirits operating in their
lives. However, a degree of controversy and negative publicity within
the Church certainly encouraged the increasingly low profile of the
practice from the 1970s to the 1980s. An additional damper was applied
by the critical tone concerning deliverance in the fourth "Malines Document" penned by Cardinal Suenens, the highest-ranking Catholic Charismatic ecclesiastic (Suenens 1983). Very likely, as deliverance became
less available the rank and file became less familiar with it, thus presenting less demand for the ministry. Moreover, healers themselves report
that deliverance is both emotionally draining and spiritually dangerous,
and some report relief at not being called so regularly or at having the
relatively easier method of ancestral healing at their disposal.4 Yet the
healing of memories and ancestral healing have not completely subsumed deliverance as, in contrast, deliverance has always subsumed the
ritual functions of healing of memories among some Protestant Pentecostals. Though it cannot activate a rhetorical process in ritual performance, "invisible" or silent deliverance quite likely helps to preserve the
integrity of the healing system for those committed to the reality of evil
and the efficacy of deliverance prayer. Moreover, with the Wimberite
notion of "power evangelism" (Wimber 1986) exerting influence on
Charismatics in the late 1980s, there were intimations of a revival of
interest in practices such as deliverance. Domestication may be a cyclical
There is a final point about the domestication of deliverance that
goes beyond those we have already made. That is, to the extent that it
became less dramatic and less specialized, and like other elements of
Charismatic ritual we have discussed, its practice came to be extended
beyond formal ritual settings and into the settings of everyday life. Insofar as evil spirits are understood to be constantly on the attack in "spiritual warfare," it came to be understood that "mature" Charismatics can
discern and deliver themselves. If, as will become clear in the next chapter, demonic affliction is uncontrolled habit, deliverance can be a technique of personal control applied to oneself, in a family setting, or
among friends. Especially for those who have come to inhabit the Charismatic world over the course of nearly two decades, deliverance is no
longer only an operation on the habitus, but one with an integral place
in the habitus.



The Charismatic Demonology

The next step in understanding deliverance as a self process is to take a closer look at the nature of evil spirits. Charismatic
healers operate with a rather highly elaborated contemporary demonology. Our first insight comes with attention to the names of evil spirits.
During the Renaissance, the golden age of Christian dcmonologies,
each demon characteristically had both a personal name and a principal
attribute, a sin to which it had the power to tempt people. Thus Balberith tempted to homicide and contentiousness, and Carnivean tempted
to obscenity and shamelessness (Robbins 1959). Across centuries of
virtual desuetude as a psychological idiom (other, perhaps, than within
esoteric cultic traditions), however, both the conventional personal
names and their specific attributes have been lost. In the Pentecostal
and Charismatic demonology that appeared in the twentieth century,
personal "spirit names" were characteristically either those familiar from
the bible (e.g., Beelzebub, Moloch, Gog, Magog), or were inspired or
invented names.5 When deliverance was first introduced among Catholics in the early 1970s, such spirits with exotic or mysterious names were
occasionally identified. Since they were detached from any attribute that
could serve as a psychological referent, however, these names offered
only empty performativity. Eventually, for both Protestants and Catholics the pragmatic nature of healing practice prevailed, and it became
almost invariably the case that evil spirits were "named for how they
act" on a person. Thus there are spirits named Anger, Depression, Lust,
etc. As we shall see, this fusion of the personal name and the mode of
action of demons has implications for what we might call their ethnoontological status.
A second way in which the contemporary demonology differs from
that of the Renaissance is in its relative deemphasis of sin. More precisely, in addition to demons named for sins, there are those that correspond to a full psychocultural repertoire of negative emotions, behaviors, and thought patterns. If the Renaissance was a golden age of
demonology, the contemporary demonology reflects the fact that the
twentieth century is a golden age of psychology. Table 7.1 is a citation
in full of the most comprehensive demonology formulated by practitioners of deliverance.6 Here we sec emotions such as insecurity, nervousness depression, and impatience; behaviors such as rebellion, passivity, hyperactivity, and withdrawal; interpersonal problems such as



19) Mental illness

20) Schizophrenia



Root or Master Spirit

Subordinate Spirits

Resentment Hatred Unforgivcncss

Violence Temper Anger Retaliation
Self-will Stubbornness Disobedience Antisubmissiveness
Contention Bickering Argument Quarreling
Possessiveness Dominance
Destruction Spite Hatred Sadism Hurt
Judging Criticism Fault finding
Fear of Rejection
Inferiority Self-pity Loneliness Timidity Shyness Inadequacy Ineptncss
Envy Suspicion Distrust
Pouting Daydreaming Fantasy Pretension
Stoicism Passivity Sleepiness Alcohol
Funk Indifference
Listlessness Lethargy
Despair Despondency Discouragement Defeatism
Dejection Hopelessness Suicide
Death Insomnia Morbidity
Gloom Burden
Anxiety Fear Dread
Tension Headache Nervous habits Restlessness Excitement Insomnia
Self-awareness Fear of man Fear of disapproval
Fear of judgment Fear of condemnation Fear of accusation Fear of reproof
Insanity Madness Mania Retardation
Senility Schizophrenia Paranoia Hallucinations
Rebellion Bitterness Insecurity Inferiority
Lust Fantasy-lust
Fear of rejection Self-rejection Self-accusation Compulsive confession Jealousy Envy
Suspicion Distrust Fears Persecution Confrontation
Accusation toward
others Self-will Selfishness Stubbornness Self-deception
(48 others)

Tabic 7.1 Charismatic Detnomlogy.

Addictive and

(Physical) (Emotional)
Resdessness Driving Pressure
Blasphemy Court-jesting Gossip Criticism Backbiting Mockery
Nicotine Alcohol Drugs Medications Caffeine


(may include any disease or sickness)


38) Fatigue

Jealousy Envy Suspicion Distrust Persecution Fears

Unbelief Skepticism
Procrastination Compromise Confusion
Fear of man Fear of failure Occult spirits Spiritism
Intcllcctualism Rationalization Pride Ego
Phobias (all kinds)
Lying Deceit
Ego Vanity Self-righteousness Haughtiness Importance Arrogance
Theatrics Playacting Sophistication
Stealing Kleptomania Material lust Greed
Price Vanity Ego Frustration Criticism Irritability Intolerance Anger
Driving Argument Pride Ego
Agitation Frustration
Intolerance Resentment
False responsibility False compassion
Sorrow Heartache Heartbreak Crying Sadness Cruelty
Tiredness Weariness Laziness

21) Paranoia
22) Confusion
23) Doubt
24) Indecision
25) Self-deception
26) Mind-binding
27) Mind idolatry
28) Fears (all kinds)
29) Fear of authority
30) Pride
31) Affectation
32) Covctousness
33) Perfection
34) Competition
35) Impatience
36) False burden
37) Grief


Sexual impurity

Subordinate Spirits

Nervousness Compulsive eating Resentment Frustration

Idleness Self-pity
Condemnation Shame Unworthiness
Lust Fantasy Masturbation Homosexuality Lesbianism Adultery Fornication Incest
Harlotry Rape Exposure
Jehovah's Witnesses Christian Science Rosicrucianism Theosophy LJrantia Subud
Latihan Unity Mormonism Bahai
(lodges, societies, and social agencies using the Bible and God as a basis, but omitting the blood
atonement of Jesus Christ)
Ouija board Palmistry Handwriting analysis Automatic handwriting ESP Hypnotism
Horoscope Astrology Levitation Fortunctclling Water witching Tarot cards
Pendulum Witchcraft Black magic White magic Conjuration
Incantation Charms
Ritualism Formalism Legalism Doctrinal obsession Seduction Doctrinal error Fear of
God Fear of hell Fear of lost salvation
Seance Spirit guide
Buddhism Taoism Hinduism
Islam Shintoism

SOURCK: Hammond and Hammond (1973: 113-115).

52) Spiritism
53) False religions

51) Religious

50) Occult

49) Cults


Root or Master Spirit

Table 7.1 (continued)



strife, accusation, retaliation, and competition; thought patterns such

as doubt, self-deception, indecision, and confusion; illnesses including
mental iUncss, schizophrenia, and physical infirmity. Alongside such
overtly psychological categories, the traditional sins such as cursing,
covetousness, gluttony, and sexual impurity are themselves cast in a
psychological light. The practices of cults, occultism, spiritism, and false
religions reflect a contemporary attitude that anything "non-Christian"
is demonically inspired. They also of course recall the Renaissance demonologists' campaign against practices such as "witchcraft," which was
in some ways more of a preoccupation for the sixteenth century than
were evil spirits.7 Finally, the category' of religious demons represents a
self-reflective recognition that Charismatics may be afflicted with
"hyperreligiosity" or "superspirituality" including, certainly, a preoccupation with evil spirits. Under this category, overinvolvement with religious matters to the neglect of other life responsibilities is attributed
to deceptive demonic machinations.


We will have more to say about the principles according

to which this demonology is structured, but already a general conclusion
may be drawn. That is, taken as a whole, the Charismatic demonology
may be understood as a collective representation (Durkheim 1965) of
the person as a repertoire of potential negative attributesthe person
in, as it were, a photographic negative. Here we must be careful to
distinguish a collective representation from the explicit concept of the
person which for Charismatics, as we have seen, is the tripartite composite of body/mind/spirit.8 We must also distinguish cither of these from
the self as a series of indeterminate and differentially elaborated capacities for orientation in the world. Precisely as a kind of collective representation, we can determine the place of the demonology within the
Charismatic symbolic system by the way it simultaneously participates
in three interrelated terminological domains: the ethnopsychological,
cosmological, and ritual. On this level, the internal consistency of the
Charismatic healing system as a cultural system (cf. Schneider 1980) is
in part guaranteed by a structural coherence among these domains. This
coherence is defined by the oppositions internal/external and positive/
The first domain is the ethnopsychological repertoire of everyday

Table 7.2 Most Common Evil Spirits Reported by Catholic Charismatic Healers
(each mentioned by at least two healers).

Low self-image


words for problematic emotions, behaviors, and so forth. Table 7.1 is

a comprehensive listing of evil spirits encountered "empirically" in the
practice of one team of healers, but it is also worth recalling the words
of another healer who pointed out that in fact there are "as many evil
spirits as you can think of psychologically." For example, there are as
many discrete spirits of Fear as there are possible phobias. Nevertheless,
perusal of the dcmonology provides a useful precis of the emotional
and moral concerns of Charismatic culture, a precis from which one
can also identify the points of its convergence and divergence from
other variants of North American culture. This two-dimensional representation becomes three-dimensional when we consider how Charismatic healers respond to a query about the most-common evil spirits
encountered in healing practice. The results, ordered by the number of
healers who cited each spirit as among the most common, are presented
in table 7.2. Most prominent, returning to Janet's term introduced previously, are the potentially "vehement emotions" of fear, anger, hatred,
resentment, rejection, bitterness, and rage. Lower in the list, but still
prominent, are self-abnegating emotions of depression, guilt, low selfimage, self-hatred, suicide, and devaluation. Finally, there is a significant
frequency of three of the "seven deadly sins," and the "occult" spirits.
The cultural constitution of this repertoire is highlighted by the Charismatics' observation that ethnic groups may be afflicted differentially.9
Thus, within the United States it was reported from various healers
that Irish tend to be afflicted by the spirits Guilt and Anger; Blacks by
Hatred and Bitterness as an aftermath of slavery, and along with Hispanics and "Orientals" a vulnerability to any spirits "passed down in the
bloodline" (cf. the discussion of ancestral healing in chapter 2); Italians
with occult spirits of the evil eye, curses, the "Italian horns," and hex
signs; Sicilians in particular by the spirit Murder, because of mafia killings; Portuguese with the spirit of a father's curse; Haitians with spirits
of'Voodoo" and black magic; Germans by the spirit Legalism; Ameri-



cans by the spirits of Nationalism or Emotional Deprivation. Following

a visit to Korea, two North American healers reported surprise at the
relative frequency with which they- encountered the evil spirits Repression, Suppression, Denial, and Fear of Failure. It is evident that to a
great degree these "empirical" reports reflect a North American ethnopsychology of ethnic stereotypes. However, it is telling that our only
Portuguese healer reported the high frequency of the spirit Boastfulness
among Portuguese immigrant Charismatics. This apparendy "culturebound" spirit was not mentioned at all by North American healers of
any other ethnic background. It is likely that a comparative demonology
among Charismatics in various regions of the world would reveal culturallytypicalterminological sets that could also be interpreted as collective
representations of the person in negative image.10
The second terminological domain in which the demonology is implicated is the cosmological domain. From this angle, each term is explicitly the personal name of a spiritual being, a demon under the command of Satan. The relation among terms reflects the social organization
of the "kingdom of darkness" against which Christians are engaged in
deadly "spiritual warfare." The existence of demons as active, intelligent,
evil beings in a spiritual realm definitively differentiates the demonology
from any mere list of human emotions, and does so in a way that culturally validates a distinction between deliverance and psychotherapy as
systems of healing practices. The possibility of reading these terms simultaneously as emotion or as demon does something more, however,
in that it creates a structural tension between the two domains. A difference such as anger/Anger introduces into the healing system an essential
ambiguity between internal origin and external cause, between psychological and spiritual, between recognizable human emotions and identifiable demonic influences, between self-possession and demonic possession. With respect to our interest in self process, the opposition sets up
a rhetorical pull that deccnters the North American ethnopsychology
of emotion itself. Anthropologists (e.g., Lutz 1988) have observed that
for some societies emotion is not conceived as originating and residing
within a discrete self, but as taking place between and among interacting
people. The Charismatic decentcring of emotion from the discrete self
appears to create a similar effect, for to shift it partly (but definitely
not wholly) onto the demonic is also to shift it into the domain of
intersubjectivity. Within this domain, the origin of intractable emotion
and behavior may be understood as interpersonal, the demon may be



understood to exacerbate the problem, and the afflicted person may be

held accountable for cooperating with the deliverance process.
The final terminological domain in which the demonology participates is that of ritual language, specifically the vocabulary of motives
described in chapter 1 (cf. also Csordas 1987). Whereas a structural
contrast between "internal and external" characterizes the relationship
between the domain of emotions and that of demons, there is between
these two domains taken together and the vocabulary of motives a structural contrast between "negative and positive" representations of the
person. Recall that the vocabulary of motives consists of terms for ideal
personal qualities, activities, forms of relationship, forms of collectivity,
and finally negativities that define the domain of evil and "darkness."
The demonology in effect fleshes out the contents of this darkness in
such a way that there is virtually a one-to-one correspondence between
individual positive terms in the vocabulary of motives and the negative
terms in the demonology. Thus we can line up community vs. Competition or Covetousness, authority vs. Rebellion, love vs. Resentment or
Hatred, peace vs. Anger or Anxiety, or service vs. Selfishness. Not only
can a one-to one correspondence be drawn between individual terms,
however, but the opposed principles by which the two domains are
structured equally exhibit the contrast between positive and negative.
Whereas the vocabulary of motives is structured as a discursive cycle of
mutually implicating terms constantly reiterated in ritual language, the
demonology is structured as an oppressive hierarchy of proliferating
terms that define affliction. The former can be interpreted as a semantic
representation of the mutual implication or interinvolvcment of sacred
selves in the Charismatic community, the latter as a representation of
the redundant heaviness weighing upon the afflicted self in isolation.


Let us now examine the dimensions of classification that
organize the demonology as a tool for ritual practice. These include the
hierarchy of evil spirits, the degrees of demonic influence, the modes
of demonic affliction, and the origin of the spirits. We must note before
beginning that, insofar as knowledge of deliverance is a relatively specialized knowledge even among healers, the demonology is differentially
elaborated depending on the experience of individual healers. Not only
would many healers lack the experience to produce a comprehensive



list of evil spirits, but the principles by which the demonology is organized as a cultural system are relevant to only the most experienced.
Consider first the dimension of hierarchy. Any Charismatic healer
would likely acknowledge that evil spirits are hierarchically organized
in a "kingdom of darkness" with Satan at its head. Only a few are willing
or able to elaborate on the structure of that hierarchy. One offered
a military analogy, saying that the hierarchy extended from "imps to
corporals to sergeants to generals to Beelzebub." Another reported that
the classes of evil spirits include "principalities, thrones, and dominations," a bit of knowledge readily available in the Bible. Only the most
prominent and experienced healer I interviewed had a fully elaborated
sense of the demonic hierarchy, of which she was reluctant to impart
more than a few details to me. She said that there are several ranked
classes or "hierarchies," among which are "Thrones." Each Throne has
beneath it 6 "Families" of spirits, and there are a total of 66 such Families. In the affliction of any one person, the presence of 7 Thrones is
required to constitute a full demonic "possession," and such high-ranking spirits must always be accompanied by all their minions. This scheme
is somewhat reminiscent of the Renaissance demonologies. They classified fallen angels on the principle of the old fourth-century angelic court,
which consisted of angels of the First Hierarchy (Seraphim, Cherubim,
Thrones), Second Hierarchy (Dominions, Principalities, Powers), and
Third Hierarchy (Virtues, Archangels, Angels). The total of 66 "Families" cited by our healer also corresponds to the Renaissance notion of
66 demonic princes commanding 6,660,000 devils (Robbins 1959:
128, 130). There is no reason to suppose a direct historical continuity
of practice, however, since such information is available in published
accounts. A more likely explanation for this healer's knowledge is the
biographical fact that, prior to becoming a Charismatic practitioner of
deliverance, she was a member of a Satanic church, where such demonologies may be explicitly elaborated (Moody 1974, Truzzi 1974).
For most Charismatic healers who practice deliverance, however,
knowledge of the demonic hierarchy appears to be limited to the pragmatic awareness that evil spirits tend to operate in "clusters" consisting
of a "manager" or "ruler" spirit and various "attending" spirits. These
clusters correspond with the "demon groupings" in table 7.1, where
the group heading names the dominant spirit and the accompanying
list identifies its subordinates. A second perusal of the table will show
that spirits of the same name may occupy various places within the
classification. This complexity reflects possible variations in the emo-



tional circumstances of diflfercnt patients in deliverance. For example,

the spirits Drugs and Alcohol may appear as subordinates of either
Addiction or Escape; the spirit Resentment can appear as subordinate
to either Bitterness or Impatience; and the spirits Occult and Spiritism
may, in addition to being dominant themselves, appear as subordinate
to the spirit Mind-Binding. It can be seen that in practice the demonology becomes quite flexiblerather than a "periodic table" of evil spirits,
the Charismatic demonology is in effect a mnemonic of improvisation.
Though in form the demonology is hierarchically ordered, in practice
each demonic name (apparently multiple demons can have the same
name) can appear at different levels of the hierarchy, subordinated to
different master spirits in different instances.
The system becomes more sophisticated with the addition by some
healers of the idea that spirits have "aspects" and "attributes." An aspect
is more or less a kind of nuance to the identity of a spirit. A healer, for
example, may "discern" the simultaneous presence in a patient of the
spirit Anger, the spirit Depression with an aspect of anger, and the
spirit Rejection with an aspect of anger. In such an instance, recurrence
of the aspect would be taken to indicate that Anger is the dominant
spirit in the cluster. An attribute is a characteristic of the spirit as an
intelligent entity. If the healer discerns, for example, that a particular
spirit has an attribute of "power" or "knowledge," the revelation is
taken to indicate that the spirit occupies a relatively high position in
the demonic hierarchy and therefore may be more difficult to dispel.
A second dimension of spirit classification is based on the mode of
affliction, or the manner in which the spirit gains purchase on a person.
There are three central categories, including "ministering" spirits, "cardinal" spirits, and "occult" spirits. The ministering spirit preys upon
vulnerabilities created by emotional trauma or "wounds." The spirit
either enters the person through the metaphorical wound, or "latches
on" to the person at the emotional site of this wound. Here is the point
at which healing of memories and deliverance articulate most closely.
For example, a person who grows up knowing she was an unwanted
child will require healing of memories for that reason, and may in addition require deliverance if a spirit of rejection afflicted her by taking
advantage of that traumatic experience. Protestant Pentecostals who
reject the healing of memories in principle do accept this vulnerability
theory, and so in effect can do everything their Catholic counterparts
can while remaining within the genre of deliverance. However, some
Catholic healers who think that deliverance is "too Protestant," too



Table 7.3 Modes ofDemonic Affliction: Collusion and Vulnerability.

Source of Vulnerability
Spirit Type







spiritually dangerous, or too potentially sensationalist, can claim without any overt performance of deliverance that healing a traumatic memory that provided the occasion for demonic influence will in itself cause
the spirit to relinquish its purchase on the person.
Cardinal spirits, with their reference to the "cardinal sins," are those
that afflict a person both through the vulnerability of some "woundedness" and through vulnerability self-created by the commission of sin.
Thus someone who commits the sin of adultery "opens himself' to the
influence of the spirit Adultery, and once under this influence may find
that adultery has become an unbreakable habit. Taking into account
this double vulnerability, it is said that effective deliverance from cardinal spirits requires both inner healing and repentance.
Occult spirits are dangerous demons which typically have "attributes
of power and knowledge." Because they are associated with explicit
practices, these spirits are by definition engaged intentionally, directly,
and actively by a person. Any occult practicefrom reading the daily
horoscope in the newspaper to participation in Satanic ritualsis regarded as an abuse of divinely given "free will" by relinquishing that
will to a power ether than the Christian deity. Hence it is said that
occult practices arc sinful and also that emotionally wounded people
are particularly attracted to them. Because affliction by occult spirits
thus involves vvoundedness, sin, and intentional activity, the patient
requires healing, repentance, and explicit renunciation of the evil spirits
and the practices with which they are associated.
Table 7.3 shows the relation among these three principal categories
with respect to how the modes of affliction bear an additive relation to
one another. It is additive not in a merely quantitative sense, however,
for from ministering to occult spirits the table shows a progression in
the degree of active collusion on the part of the afflicted with demonic
forces. As with many of our previous analyses, this formulation reveals
a significant degree of cultural structure that yet remains implicit in the
knowledge expressed by healers.



Noting once again that we are dealing with a pragmatic demonology,

it is relevant that experienced healers are able to estimate the proportions
of the kinds of spirits they encounter. Also because it is a pragmatic
system, not all healers recognize the same categories. Curiously, two
healers who did not make the distinction between ministering and cardinal spirits estimated that half of spirits encountered were occult and
half were not, whereas two who did make the distinction had a quite
different account. One said that 80 percent were of the ministering type
and 10 percent each were cardinal and occult. The other stated that 85
percent were of the ministering type and the remaining 15 percent were
divided between cardinal and occult spirits. Rather than attempt to
account for this somewhat esoteric discrepancy, I will instead give two
examples that point to the pragmatic variation in the classification itself.
One healer granted legitimacy only to the category of occult spirits,
preferring to consider all problems such as anger, fear, depression, or
self-hatred as emotional problems to be dealt with by counseling and
inner healing rather than by prayer and deliverance. Another enunciated
a classification consisting of "familiar" spirits which "know you" and
your vulnerabilities, "interlocking" spirits that work in a cluster, and
"cardinal" spirits that prey on the vulnerability self-created by sin. This
healer did not mention occult spirits as a separate type. His categories
of familiar and cardinal spirits correspond to the more-common categories of ministering and cardinal, but the interlocking spirits appear to
be transposed from the hierarchical dimension we described above, in
which clusters of spirits operate under the command of a manager spirit
or Throne. Overall, his idiosyncratic classification appears to be concerned less with the mode of affliction than with the operational principles by which spirits achieve their maleficent ends.
The notions of "familiar" and "familial" spirits have taken on an
overlapping and ambiguous relationship since the introduction of
prayer for ancestral healing (cf. chapter 2). For some Charismatics, it
appears that "familiarity" derives neither from a spirit's intimate knowledge of a person nor from the folkloric notion of a witch's familiar, but
from the notion that the source of affliction is not a demon but the
deceased spirit of a family member. One healer who articulated the
threefold categorization of ministering, cardinal, and occult spirits
added the "familial" upon further discussion. He combined the senses
of familial and familiar in elaborating that these were dead people whose
spirits have not "let go" their earthly attachments, and thus stay "locked



into what is familiar to them," especially in places like Africa where

their living descendants actively relate to them.
However, the situation is complicated by the understanding that
because demonic spirits can come to know the dead by interaaing with
them in the spiritual realm, and further because evil spirits are skilled
at and bent on deceit, they may imitate human ancestral spirits. Here
the ethno-ontological discussion is clouded by a conflict between Charismatics' "empirical" encounters with ancestral spirits and a Catholic
orthodoxy that does not permit "ghosts" to linger on earth. The orthodox position implicates any interaction with deceased spirits as "bordering on spiritualism," which is thought to be a demonically inspired
occult practice. The practical dilemma for ritual performance was evident in the narration by a priest/laywoman healing team of an instance
in which they put to rest the agitated spirit of a deceased priest. He
had committed suicide in a parish rectory early in the century, thereby
adversely affecting the state of mind of all his successors. When, in
discussing the incident with me, the contemporary priest/healer cautiously skirted the issue of whether the deceased was an actual spiritual
presence, his colleague called him to account. She turned to him and
asked whether, given that they had encountered several situations in
which a human spirit was either crying to be set free, or was "hanging
around" disturbing a family environment until it could be "set free to
be with the Lord," was it not necessary to say that the deceased spirit
was actually present. Here empirical experience and theological dictate
meet in a cultural impasse.
A final dimension of classification pertains to the severity of demonic
activity understood in terms of the degree of control the evil spirits
acquire over persons. In the Renaissance a distinction was drawn between full-scale possession from within a person and less-severe obsession from without. This distinction was drawn to accommodate the
idea that holy men could not be entered and possessed by the devil,
but could only be externally besieged. A similar distinction is present
in the contemporary demonology, though elaborated with somewhat
different emphases, and it is a matter of discussion whether being "born
again" precludes the possibility of being entered andVor possessed by
evil spirits. One version of the scale of severity begins with temptation
to which all humans are understood to be exposed. In oppression the evil
spirits1 attack is more directed, but they remain "outside" the person.
In obsession the spirits have entered "inside" the person, but do not have
complete control, or may have control over only certain "areas" of the



person, on the analogy of a house where fire is contained to one or

two rooms. Possession is a condition in which the spirits have both entered and taken complete control of the person. Somewhat apart from
these is demonic harassment, in which evil spirits arc apparently not
intent on gaining any degree of control, but on interfering with one's
attempt to lead a Christian life or on disrupting spiritual activities such
as Christian teaching and healing.
Once again there is pragmatic variation in use of these terms. One
priest cited the degrees of severity as "obsession, oppression, depression,
and possession." In placing depression immediately before total possession, this scheme interestingly grants great weight to the psychological
consequences of relatively profound demonic affliction. Another priest
distinguished "simple" affliction in which the influence of spirit activity
can be removed by the force of inner healing alone, "compound" affliction that requires explicit deliverance of a specific demon, and "complex"
affliction in which the afflicted has conspired by having dedicated or
"sold" his soul through the influence of the occult type of spirits.
Some Charismatics argue, in a gesture toward the theological principle of divinely instituted free will, that complete possession can occur
only with the consent of the possessed.11 That is, there must be an
invitation, an inner vow, a dedication, or a willful contract with the
forces of evil. Given that the only category of spirit that afflicts people
through their own intentional practice is the occult, this cultural logic
holds that only occult spirits can completely possess a person. Whether
or not this position is held, Charismatics agree that possession is rare
in contrast to other forms of demonic affliction. In fact, of the eightyseven healing ministers interviewed in our study, only two reported
personal involvement in formal exorcism, each only once in his career.
A Catholic writer who has presented a popular journalistic account of
exorcism reports that a European bishop acknowledged three thousand
exorcism investigations in the period from 1968 to 1974, of which only
four proved to be cases of "authentic" possession (Martin 1976). The
practical consequence for ritual healing is that lay Charismatics can avoid
infringing on the prerogative of the Church and its ordained priests to
perform formal exorcism of the fully possessed by practicing deliverance
from evil spirits whose influence on a person is in some degree less than
possession. Although Charismatics praying for deliverance have been
known to read "informally" from the Roman Ritual used in exorcism,
the distinction both creates a separate genre of ritual healing upon which
no judgment of unorthodox)' has been formally proclaimed, and avoids



the necessity for the lengthy psychiatric investigation and ecclesiastical

approval that must precede formal exorcism.

Psychiatric Disorder, Physical Illness,

and Evil Spirits

We have examined the articulation of the Charismatic

demonology with the terminological domains of everyday emotions and
behaviors, cosmology, and the vocabulary of motives. We have also
seen how the demonology is internally organized according to principles
of hierarchy, mode of affliction, and severity of affliction. Given the
Charismatic concept of the person as a "pneumopsychosomatic" composite of body, mind, and spirit, it is also necessary to examine how
evil spirits as causal agents are thought to affect the mind and body.
This is the question of the relation between demonic affliction and
mental or physical illness. Although we will see considerable variability
in the ideas articulated by healers, a notion that appears to remain constant is that evil spirits prey on vulnerability.
In principle, demonic affliction and mental illness are distinguished
as due respectively to spiritual and natural causes. However, it is thought
that the symptoms produced may be similar or identicale.g., the spirit
Depression can produce the clinical symptoms of depressionand thus
the presence and/or interaction of these causes is a matter for "discernment." The most general observation is that, contrary to what might
be expected from a clinical standpoint, healers tend to feel that whereas
all mental illness involves spirit activity, not all demonic affliction is
accompanied by mental illness. The cultural logic is that the devil is at
work in any case of emotional or mental instability because the devil
consistendy preys upon people's weaknesses.
According to one healer who was also in practice as a clinical psychologist, if a spirit is causally involved, its influence must be removed in
order for psychotropic medications to be effective. It is also claimed in
some instances that ritual healing allows the dosage of medication to
be decreased. Even when evil spirits do not play a pan in causing a
psychiatric disorder, however, the more severe the illness the stronger
the spirit activity surrounding the patient. Given that occult spirits are
the most virulent, mental patients are most likely to be afflicted by them,



and there is said to be a higher concentration of evil spirits in mental

institutions than anywhere else. It is worthy of note that, although
unciaborated, the latter notion implies that the severely mentally ill
have some responsibility for their own condition, in that one becomes
engaged with occult spirits only through one's own free will.
There are two reasons that spirit activity is not in all cases psychopathological. First, demonic harassment is not necessarily aimed at taking
control of a person. Second, one can be engaged in occult activities,
and hence with occult spirits, without being in a psychopathological
state. If this is the case, deliverance is expected to result in a complete
remission of symptoms without psychiatric intervention. Some Charismatics would take exception to the latter position, however, holding
that spirit activity always implies some degree of psychiatric difficulty,
perhaps a difficulty that would lead a person to become involved in
occult activities to begin with. In any case, the only "objective" criterion
is a negative one: because evil spirits are subject to obedience to the
divine will, if the symptoms disappear following prayer for deliverance,
the cause was purely demonic. If prayer over several sessions is not
effective, psychiatric difficulties are implied. In some instances it is acknowledged that prayer can be no more than a "Band-Aid" for a problem that requires medication anchor psychotherapy.
There are three ways in which evil spirits can be implicated in physical
illness. The first is through the action of a generic spirit of infirmity
that may weaken or debilitate a person, but may also "condition a person
to whatever medical problem they may have." We should point out that
this latter idea is essentially an indigenous recognition that a person can
become habituated to what we have described as a narrow margin of
disability (cf. chapter 3). The spirit Infirmity may be active in cases of
hypochondria, but also in legitimate ailments where "the doctor can't
find the problem." Removal of such a spirit may allow a chronic illness
to be stabilized by medication. Because Charismatics respect the efficacy
of conventional medicine, when it is ineffective and doctors declare an
illness incurable, the presence of an evil spirit may be ipso facto assumed
precisely because the problem is beyond the power of human means,
and therefore subject only to divine power.
A second, more explicitly "pneumopsychosomatic" understanding
holds in cases where a specific spirit is discerned to stand in the way of
physical healing. Thus the spirit Greed (materialism) might be implicated in a woman's inability to conceive. The spirits Unforgiveness,
Resentment, Bitterness may be implicated in problems such as arthritis,



backache, or headache. Anxiety may contribute to hypertension, or

grieving to a throat ailment.
Finally, some Charismatics acknowledge the existence of evil spirits
specific to discrete diseases: the spirits Cancer, Diabetes, Emphysema,
and so on. As with mental illness, only if a spirit is acting independendy
of a natural disease process will deliverance result in a cure. One renowned Catholic healer explained:
Now we've got two things. We've got, if the infirmity or whatever it is, Cancer,
Leukemia, Convulsive Disorder, or whatever, came in and caused the physical
illness if you remove the spirit the person will heal. But if the sickness was
therefirst,if the person had ulcers and got the spirit lodging in the ulcers, it
would aggravate it. It would make it worse. It would almost make it unhealable,
medically. . But taking the spirit out doesn't necessarily heal it. If the physical
illness was there before the spirit, removing the spirit will open the way to
healing, but won't necessarily heal. If the spirit was there first, then you generally
can get a healing by removing the spirit. That seems to be a distinction that
we've discovered [in practice]. Depends on which was there first. Does the
physical ailment invite [through vulnerability] a spirit, or does the spirit cause
a sickness?
What is distinct about this conception is that evil spirits are understood
to inhere in the physical substance of the body, whether in the body
as a whole or in discrete organs. This mode of affliction operates on a
model distinct from that described above for the more typical ministering cardinal, and occult spirits. Those spirits are understood to act
internally or externally to the person, "latching on" to an "emotional
wound " but it is usually not a question of precisely where in the body
such spirits may be "lodged." Indeed, two of the most experienced
practitioners of deliverance were sufficiendy struck by this fact when it
came out in our interview that they were led to speculate on whether
spirits associated with physical illness constituted a distinct category.
Interestingly, this anecdote both suggests the persuasiveness to healers
of the Cartesian distinction between person and body, and shows the
pragmatic andflexiblenature of their cultural logic of demonic classification.
To be sure, the localized and substantive presence of evil spirits,
though not highly elaborated, is a possibility in the Charismatic ritual
system.12 Aside from demons associated with physical illness, our data
occasionally include reports of spirits departing a person as an amorphous, shadowy mass that is explicitly noted not to appear as an image,
reports of sexual demons inhering in the genital area of the afflicted



person, and reports of unexplained disruptive incidents in a particular

locale. Spirits can inhabit objects, animals, houses, scenes of death or
tragedy (the site of an Indian massacre or a rape), places where occult
or sinful acts arc carried out (cemeteries, brothels, public buildings),
towns and cities, and countries. In this connection we find Charismatics
occasionally dealing with what the popular imaginationagain since
at least the Renaissanceunderstands as "poltergeists." Healers may
be called to a home in which children in particular are under demonic
harassment, discernible as either a generalized "sense of evil" or evident
in reports of shakings, moving objects, or foul stenches. In such cases
the notion of vulnerability created by trauma, sin, or negative emotion is
applied to a place rather than a person. In an interpersonal "atmosphere"
conducive to demonic presence, a spirit may have subsequently taken
an opportunity to, for example, "hide in the walls when the bathroom
was redone." As there is no clear distinction between the spiritual and
physical aspect of persons, neither is there an absolute distinction between the spiritual and material presence of evil spirits.

Ethno-ontology of Evil Spirits

We must reiterate that the Charismatic demonology is
a pragmatic one which is improvised, and thus variable, in practice.
Moreover, there is some disagreement over what we might call the
"ethno-ontological status" of particular spirits or categories of spirits.
Some dispute the legitimacy of ancestral spirits as agents of affliction,
or of spirits named for specific physical illnesses. Particularly controversial are spirits such as Alcoholism and Smoking, which some Charismatics fear can be too easily invoked to avoid responsibility for one's addictive behavior. Instead, say some, if there is a spirit behind alcoholism
it is Selfishness. Again, despite their exceedingly conservative sexual
morality, Charismatics do not uniformly insist that Homosexuality is
an evil spiritthough some say that demonic activity may have "led
to it." Likewise, Charismatics might debate whether there is a spirit
Nationalism; perhaps it is the "spirit Pride with an aspect of nationalism." One healer stated that he was "95 percent sure" there is a spirit
Hypnotism, because when hypnotized one surrenders one's divinely
given free will to another human rather than to the deity, and because
he had observed a prominent Protestant healer cast out such a spirit.



If he reasoned, such a spirit did not exist, how could it have been
cast out of someone? Nevertheless, he was aware that some apparently
worthy Christian psychotherapists use hypnotism, so he was unwilling
to make a definitive judgment.
The Charismatic demonology appears to be constructed along two
separate but related ethno-ontological continua. The first is between
the human and the demonic, and there is considerable ambiguity regarding the point along that continuum at which one locates the threshold
between the two. As we have seen, though accepting the existence of
occult spirits, some healers may prefer to sec ministering and cardinal
spirits not as demonic, but as aspects of the "human spirit." Someone
may have an angry spirit or be mean-spirited without being afflicted
bv the spirit Anger or Meanness, and healers may differ as to when
and/or whether the threshold between them is crossed. The second
continuum is that of the degree of concreteness, and/or personification
attributed to evil. For example, whereas one healer (a priest) said that
it is possible to "see demons holding onto people like monkeys or monsters " another (a psychiatrist) stated that demons are "animistic intellectual constructs for those who, like children, need pictures and parables."
Some Charismatic critics go so far as to reject the validity of compiling
a list of spirits such as the one we presented in table 7.1. They say that
once one begins making such lists, "everything is a spirit," implying an
inordinate deemphasis of the "human" element of suffering. Again,
some will articulate a sense of evil not as the presence of spiritual entities,
but as a vacuum or absence of divine presence, power, and love, into
which "other things" can come. For still others it is as if the spirit is
not a preexistent entity, but something that comes into being. Instead
of an entity that "latches on" to its host, one healer described a spirit
as "something that the person has nurtured and clung to, so that it's
become part of them and doesn't allow room for growth." Thinking
like Pierre Janet, another suggested that spirits originate in thought
patterns that create an energy that eventually allows them to become
autonomous until they become an evil force in the person. Such a force
is to cite a disclaimer I heard more than once, "not a little red devil with
horns " but it still requires deliverance. The cultural phenomenology of
the Charismatic world presupposes that the spiritual and the human
are inextricably mingled, and to this circumstance Charismatic healers
have applied the resources of their culture to formulate a range of possible relations between the existence of evil and human being in the world.

Encounters with Evil

In this chapter we will flesh out our analysis of deliverance

by examining texts that show how evil spirits are dealt with in the
context of healing sessions. We highlight segments of ritual performance
that reveal how Charismatics construe spirits as elements of their habitus
and threats to the sacred self. In particular, our concern is to demonstrate
the way in which deliverance constitutes a specific kind of emotional
self process. We will conclude with a reflection on the phenomenology
of control that will define the experiential specificity in the Charismatic
encounter with evil.
In all but the first of the five following cases our diagnostic interview
determined that the patient had suffered at least one episode of major
depression and'or serious dysthymic disorder. All were involved in ongoing processes of inner healing, and the topic of evil spirits arose differentlv for each.

The Woman Whose Cousin Was a Witch

The healing team and patient are those described in the
vignette of "the woman who merged with herself' (chapter 5). In fact,
the event transcribed here occurred at the beginning of the same session,
with the discernment of demonic presence by the team leader:



H: There's a lot of occult surrounding you. . . . See, everybody's

S: Well, I have had vicious headaches, Fm even considering going
to a doctor.
H: [Begins arm- and leg-straightening maneuvers; see chapter 6.]
Renounce Satan.
S: I renounce Satan.
H: Accept the Lord. Spirit of the occult, we renounce you and
send you to the foot of the cross where you'll be dealt with
by Jesus Christ, your Lord and master. Forgive H [husband].
Forgive yourself. [Vigorous praying in tongues by
teamyawnshealer dispenses holy water on hands of all.]
What's your daughter up to?
S: It's [her cousin's daughter], she's come back . . . two doors
away. [The neighbors] have seen her going to a church locally.
And my cousin's worse than she ever was. I think that's what
it is. [Loud tongues.]
H: In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.. . . Okay, how's your
S: Feels fine.
H: There's still something right here. [Touches base of skull.] We
claim her for yours, Jesus. . . . Lord Jesus, we come against
all the occult that has surrounded her life, and that presently
surrounds her life. We come against anything and everything
that is not of you, Lord Jesus Christ. Spirit of Darkness, we
cast you out. We bind you. We send you to the foot of the
cross where you will be dealt with by Lord Jesus Christ, your
Lord and master. Over here, right in the back of your head,
yes or no?
S: My neck.
H: Right here. [Base of skull; shifts hands from her back and chest
to the back of head and forehead.] You're loaded [with evil
spirit activity], you know it? And the headache keeps going
from here to here [forehead to base of skull] because I've got
HA [assistant]: I envision St. Michael battling with Satan; he's available [to
help in the deliverance].
H: It is a battle. [Tongues.] In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
S: I could envision St. Michael sticking his sword in the Devil.
H: It's gone. Is it gone?
S: Yes. [Several sighs, prayer of thanks by H.]
The opening exchange establishes the causal connection between occult spirits and the patient's headache, but it appears that the s y m p t o m
is invoked to explain the cause rather than vice versa. As the performance



unfolds we see the integration of practically a full range of ritual techniques. The team laid hands on the patients head and shoulders
throughout; tongues were used both in "authority" for deliverance and
for praise to the deity; discernment of demonic presence was exercised
by the principal healer, as was word of knowledge when she identified
the location and persistence of the patient's headache in herself, and
when she spontaneously inquired about the patient's daughter; demonic
manifestations were evident in the "deliverance yawn" of the healing
team; the technique of "leg-lengthening" was applied; the patient was
instructed to forgive several people and to renounce Satan; the powerful
archangel was not only invoked, but made present in imagery; and
the prayer of command was uttered against specific evil spirits. The
familiarity of all participants with these ritual elements allows a performative fluency and an almost-telegraphic quality that would doubtless
mystify the uninitiated observer, and the patient is disposed to say that
her head "feels fine" before even the healer is ready to acknowledge
that the pain is entirely gone.
Knowing that a profound emotional experience occurs later in this
session, we might be tempted to conclude that this episode is merely
what Dow (1986) would call a "therapeutic prelude," the function of
which is a spiritual "show offeree" to enhance what we have called the
patient's therapeutic disposition, what in religious terms might be called
faith, or what in psychological terms might be called suggestibility.
Indeed, the healer's later comment that she suspected something important was going to happen that day might support this interpretation.
Though there is doubtless some merit to such a view, most anthropological analysis stops short at this point. It is only in subsequent experiential
commentary that the full significance of the episode becomes apparent:
My cousin's involved in the occult very heavily. And we brought up our niece,
who's also involved. And I justfoundout that she's back in my neighborhood,
a couple of doors away. Okay, so I really feel, you know, ahI had an wyotfty
headache (a good term, huh?) [we both chuckle] and pain. Oh, I just couldn't
stand it, in my chest, and then here, then here and here and here [gestures] it
was just like metal crushing me. . . . And Fve come to find out that's the source
of it. And when they were really intensely praying, I saw St. Michael come and
take the sword and stick it in the devil. This ugly thing with darkdark figure,
and he just stuck it right in him. I've seen St. Michael before, but I saw that
at that moment. Then it started to break up, the headache and everything. .. .
I saw my sister screaming, like "You'll never be free. I have this curse on you,
and you'll never getridof that headache. You'll never be free, and I have more
power." And all of this screaming and everything. That's on the tape [of the



session], that's when I saw her. Then I just saw Jesus come, and his light, and
I saw the metal thing break up, that was around my head and neck just like
chains, just break. The headache was from her .. . through a curse, I believe.
But then Christ's light came into that, and then that's when they're praying
intensely, and it went, broke it.
Instead of the apparent anomaly of the symptom (headache) being invoked to explain the cause (occult spirits) that we formulated above, it
now becomes evident that there is a reason behind the presence of the
spirits themselves. Their presence is a result of a curse by the patient's
cousin, which is understood as the true cause of the headache.
Once again the episode is played out in an embodied imaginai performance, invisible to the observer of the overt ritual performance. St.
Michael, whom the patient avers to have seen in other settings as well,
here carries out the very specific performative act of sticking his sword
in the devil. The patient's cousin is then seen and heard to scream in
threatening protest. Finally, Jesus enters with his divine light which, in
concert with the team's intense prayer in tongues, succeeds in breaking
the imaginai chains that bound the patient's head and neck in the crushing pain of spiritual bondage. The thematization of control and freedom
is elaborated in the bodily idiom of uncontrollable headaches, which
notably were bad enough that the patient had considered seeking medical care for them. The element of interpersonal control is vivid in that
the headaches are interpreted as a means for the cousin to control her.
The coincidence of these headaches with the return of the niece to the
neighborhood corresponds with the sisters' competition for control
over this young person whom they had cooperated in raising, but who
had herself become "involved in the occult." In our language of therapeutic process, for this strongly disposed patient the entire sequence
was a vivid experience of the sacred, the alternative elaborated was freedom from interpersonal control, and the change actualized was relief
from the headache.

The Woman Who Wanted to be Protestant

The healer was a woman aged sixty-one, whose professional training was as a bookkeeper/accountant. She had been involved
in the Charismatic Renewal for eighteen years. She began praying for
healing as a prayer-group leader to whom people would come for advice.



In addition, through work as a religious education teacher she had

become interested in psychology and had recendy returned to college to
complete her bachelor's degree, hoping to continue training in pastoral
counseling. She conducts private sessions in a Charismatic counseling
and healing center, in a room where she and the patient sit facing one
another. Sessions last approximately an hour, with the first forty-five
minutes usually devoted to conversation and counseling and the final
fifteen minutes to prayer, during which the healer sometimes holds the
hands of the patient.
The patient was a housewife and mother of two sons, aged forty-two,
and with a high school education. She had been raised as a Catholic, but
partly due to the snobbishness of a church where most parishioners
were economically better off than her childhood family, had rejected
that religion. She had for the last three years considered herself a Protestant Pentecostal, and was at first wary of working with a Catholic Charismatic healer. Clinically, she had suffered from episodes of major
depression and was dysthymic. She reported having had a problem with
alcohol until she was "born again," and was under medical consultation
for what she described as a chronic fatigue syndrome. Her chief complaint was a severely strained and uncommunicative marital relationship,
including a lack of emotional or sexual intimacy with her husband. As
we have already seen in the healing of memories, however, and as is
the case in much conventional psychotherapy, the healing process had
turned toward the autobiographical past. The patient had recently
begun learning about deliverance from evil spirits from a Protestant
perspective, and felt that this genre of healing would be helpful for her.
The following excerpt is from the fourth of five sessions I followed
with her. It begins with discussion about a tape recording of a public
deliverance service that she had listened to:
S: I listened to a tape of mass [i.e., large groupl deliverance, and the minister
had people read the prayers [listing spirits to be discerned] over three hours
H: He does that to help you identify within yourself, your blockage.
S: God brings it to mind. He needs something and God brings it to mind.
This is meant to be.
H: And it's part of the everyday life as a Christian, do you realize that? I realize
there is mass deliverance, but that's a particular situation; we used to call
it an examination of conscience brought to prayer. It's a matter of identifying and prayer for what it is the blockage within you. Maybe we can do
some of that today. I believe you have a blockagepain or resentment in







some way. It could be several small blockages. They're usually caused by

pain and resentment. Even lack of forgiveness in yourself. The devil has a
way of condemning you.
The Accuser.
He will deceive you.
I think of the devil coming and reminding you constantly of something
you've donedigging up the grave.
"Old photographs."
Whatever, but that's different than going back to something in your childhood or life, where you may have gotten hurt or need to look at something
and bring it to the light of the Holy Spirit. It's different. The devil is
condemning, and he'll keep reminding you of something that God has
already forgiven you of. Something may have psychologically affected you
in your life, and may still be influencing your thinking. It's not condemning
you. It's looking at something that may be affecting you psychologically,
and you want to bring it to the light of the Holy Spirit and just heal it and
clear it away, so you don't have to go back. . . . But if you beat vourself
down and say I'm no good, you'll never get anywhere.
Well, that was my childhood, the way I was brought up.
This is what I'm talking about, how the past has affected you psychologically. So what do we do? We bring alive the Holy Spirit in your childhood,
and we do that in prayer. That in itself could be a deliverance, to let go of
that picture, all that has caused in you psychologically . . . caused by other
people set into you; but they have to be forgiven, nevertheless. We're often
injured psychologically by our parents, but we don't know where to judge
them because the Fourth Commandment says honor Dad and Mom. There's
a reason for that; they may be crippled and can only give what they have.
You have to forgive. Is there a particular area in your childhood that you
would like me to pray for?
I could never pick an area, no.
In prayer, and looking at yourself, try to visualize yourself in a particular
place in childhooda homeand allowing lesus to bring forth to vou a
You have a hard time visualizing? All right, you don't have to see it, but
you can (cd it. You remember what you felt at a particular time when you
were young. You know you've been scarred. In prayer, feeling, recognize
an area you remember being hurt, and allowing Jesus to just heal that. You
don't have to name it if you don't want. lust pray and let Jesus point
something out to you to heal. This you can consider if you want, deliverance. I consider it's a deliverance, but it's a deliverance in that the negative
effects of it will leave, Okay?

S: What would you name it?

H: You could name it justsee it's not a sin. A lot of times you need to be



delivered of pain, of maybe a resentment of being cheated out of a happy

childhood. Whatever.
S: If Fm talking to somebody that IVe just met and talk and they tell mc that
they had such a happy childhood, there's a feeling.
H: Of resentment.
S: No, of envy. Not that they shouldn't have had it, but I wish I had had it
H: So in that sense it's in the form of a little bit of a resentment. It's a scar.
For your sake you need to forgive and accept with faith that Jesus lived to
do something with that. Remember most of all that Jesus loves you. He
died that we might be able to receive these healings. Try if you can; Fm
sure you will be able to remember. Go back. Walk back with Jesus to the
years when you were just a young child, whatever age you chose. Cleanse
your mind. Allow him to walk with you. I would suggest he walk with
you at the very time of your conception. Feel yourself walking with Jesus,
walking down through the years. Jesus, heal the conception. Heal her, Lord
Jesus. Bless her life. Bless the nine months, Lord Jesus. Heal, Lord, any
negative effects that she may have received within the womb. Feel yourself,
S, nine months, going through the birth, and Jesus the physician receiving
you. Lord Jesus, heal the mother and the father, and most of all the child.
Allow Jesus to heal and to furnish and nourish you with nurturing that
your mother and your father should have given you. . . . Think of your
mother and your father and allow Jesus to heal them both. See them in
their own weakness, their own blindness. See them with compassionate
thinking and with compassion. Allow Jesus to replace love that you need,
the security that you need. . . . Allow God's love to heal the fears, screaming
and yelling; the needsfinancial. We ask you, Lord Jesus, to give S the
grace to forgive, the grace to let go, to let her parents go into your hands. . . .
We ask you, Jesus, to heal S's memory of being shamed. Heal her memory
of bondage to shame. She looks to your Spirit to make herself as competent
[pause] to see herself as you see her, Lord Jesus. . . . Speak to Jesus, and
through him forgive, love, any teachers, priests, anyone who has hurt you
that you feel might still have an effect on you today. [Whispers prayer in
tongues.] Break the bondage, Lord Jesus. I bind even' spirit of darkness.
The spirit of resentment.
S: Spirit of resentment, Lord Jesus.
H: Lord Jesus Christ. And I send [you, spirit] to the feet of Jesus. [We send
the spirit to the feet of Jesus so that it cannot control.] We bind and rebuke
you, spirit of doubtLord Jesus Christ.
S: Jesus Christ.
H: Send you to the feet of Jesus.
S: To the feet of Jesus.
H: Anything else that you want to [bind]? Please bring forgiveness. We bind,
we rebuke in the name of Jesus Christ.
5: Jesus Christ.



H: By his authority, the spirit of unforgiveness, we send you to the feet of

S: We send you to the feet of Jesus.
H: We accept, Lord Jesus, the freedom that you have given us.
S: This freedom that you have given us.
H: Breakaccept the breakage of these bondages.
5: Breakage of all these bondages.
H: And thank you for your kindness to S. Are there any other areas?
5: I don't know.
H: Okay. Lord Jesus Christ, we ask that any other bondages that S may be
sufferingfrom,we ask as time goes on, that in a short time, that you bring
to mind any bondages. Give her. Lord, the strength and the authority, in
your name, Lord Jesus Christ, to take authority for these bondages, these
spirits, that control her body, that she might be totally free. We ask you
to fill her in every one of those spaces with abundance. . . . Say with me
now: [recites the Lord's PrayerJ. We praise you, Lord Jesus. When you
doubt, that's an area we need to concentrate on, binding the spirit of doubt,
the spirit of unforgiveness, send it to the feet of Jesus. We covered a little
ground today!
Let us recapitulate the ritual action in this lengthy segment. The healer
begins by formulating evil spirits not as entities, but in terms of their
effect, namely ttblockage.,, Faced with a patient she feels is too eager to
attribute her problems to maleficent supernatural influence, she also
construes spirits as an aspect of everyday life, as an internally operative
self-deception instead of an external Accuser. She describes the process
of discernment as a self-examination of conscience instead of a passively
spontaneous revelation. Acknowledging the devil's role in maintaining
negative effects of earlier memories, she equates forgiveness for traumatic memories with deliverance, apparently in an effort to satisfy the
patient's evident desire for deliverance. The healer accommodates to
the patients's concern about not being able to visualize, and repeats that
freedom from the psychological effects of whatever memory is brought
to mind can be considered deliverance. She appears to resist "naming
the spirit" as Resentment, preferring to describe it, in the language of
healing of memories, as an emotional "scar." She again invokes the
imagination, and begins the heaJing-of-memories process of autobiographical review. Her prayer is for forgiveness, compassion, and allowing the deity to heal the patient's parents, themselves "wounded" by
weakness and blindness. She briefly switches out of prayer to instruct
the patient to forgive. She then prays in tongues in order to invoke the
divine presence and gather spiritual power, and when she reenters her



prayer it is a prayer of deliverance. The patient knows how t o take part

in the deliverance and repeats each phrase after the healer. The healer
concludes with a prayer that in effect sets the stage for the process to
continue outside the healing setting, instructing the patient to "take
authority" over any "bondage" that subsequendy "comes to mind." The
entire sequence is integrated by an intimate conceptuaJ linkage a m o n g
notions of internal blockage, external bondage, and the binding o f spirits. Following is the patient's post-session reflection o n what happened
t o her:
S: The resentment [is] that I was robbed of, o f . . . a happy childhood. I
can't say one incident or another. It's the whole thing. My father worked
in a mill and was tired most of the time . . . sick. No affection, no, no
guidance, no counseling. Only with friends or their parents, which is really
awful. Affection turned to stray cats. Found in the woods, I'd take them
home. I could love them and, and be affectionate. [My mother,] I guess
she was involved with her own miser)'. She didn't realize that we had . . .
misery also. Or she didn't have the patience for her daughters.
TC: Mmhum. What else was going through your mind, and through your
body too, when this was happening in the session?
5: Well, that she [the healer] was . . . hitting on something that is still in me
that needs to be . . . taken care of. I don't have a love for people. I never
did. And maybe that's one part of the reason why [pause] as a child, I
was always under . . . I remember being excited and would get a backhand
in the face. So I was afraid to get excited and afraid t o . . . to be bubbly
or laugh or whatever. Fear of a slap in the face. So when I would see
other people . . . doing so . . . I used to resent them. And so I guess that
just built and built and built and I just. . . a m . . . very, very choosy about
my friends. And . . . don't have a lot of people.
TC: Why would they give you the slap?
S: Don't ask me, Tom. I was . . . they were both, uhm, uneducated and,
and brought up, you know . . ignorant and violent. And my father's
parents . . . were both alcoholics. And my mothers were from Austria . . .
I remember my grandfather just sat around all weekend, Sunday. My
mother said that, oh, he used to just have his friends over and they would
drink all day . . . the moonshine that my grandmother had to make all day
Saturday . . . after working in a mill all week. So, I mean, that's where
they came from. So what did they know.
TC: Was there anything in particular that [the healer] said or did, or that you
said or did that strikes you as particularly helpful or significant?
S: [Pause.] The feet that I'm still carrying it around. I . . . had to agree with
her, you know. The resentment I feel toward my parents, I have to realize,
like she said, that that's where they really bind us. Unless they knew. And
to let God deal with them and not me carry all this around with me saying
unforgiveness . . . which is not good for me, and my personality.



TC: What do you think might be the result in your life? What do you think
might be developing out of this, or what do you think might change?
S: Getting rid of, of my blockage. (Pause] That is . . . probably hindering
more of the Holy Spirit within me. More darkness that comes out of
blockage, that comes out before the Holy Spirit. . . can work through
The substance of resentment as a controlling force returns us to the
psychocultural themes of intimacy and spontaneity, as the patient traces
her feeling of an inability to love people back to lack of an intimate
parental environment, and to parental repression of her spontaneous
childhood ebullience. When she acknowledges as especially significant
that she is still "carrying around" her resentment, the "binding" to which
she refers is one her parents, not evil spirits, exercised on "me and my
personality." She must "let God deal with" her parents. Here we see a
complex dynamic of control: the spirits are controlling her, but insofar
as she clings to her emotions and is unable to forgive and thereby to
"let go," she maintains a kind of controlshe is in "possession" of her
resentment and unforgiveness as much as they may threaten to possess
her. This is the control that she must relinquish to the deity as her part
in the deliverance, in order to remove the "blockage" and make it possible that the "Holy Spirit can work through me."
The problem of reconciling cultural styles of healing is evident in
the patient's attempt to understand the relationship between the kind
of deliverance she had been learning about in the Pentecostal Church,
and what she had just experienced with the Catholic Charismatic healer.
The following is also drawn from her experiential commentary:
S: The healing is related to deliverance. You're gettingridof something. [If
I went to the Protestant| deliverance ministry. Okay, and he said to me,
you have the spirit of envy, the spirit of resentment and unforgiveness. And
he claimed it. And, ordered it in the name of Jesus, and by his authority, for
it to c-c-come out of me.... It would have been different than, than
what we did here. [Pause.] I don't know if I can make you understand
spiritual things, Tom. Some of the spirits that were coming out of those
people, I heard on the tape were screaming, they don't want to leave.
They want, they like their homes, they don't want to leave. And they fight
to stay. And some people gag and it gets caught in their throat, and they
ah, vomit, they, they come out screaming. And this is what I heard on
the tape. And I didn't experience anything like this. So this is, this is a
different form. What she's doing is healing. She's asking me to give it to
God in prayer, which we did. And, believed that, that he would do it. Or
that he has done it.
TC: In the prayer you were binding and rebuking those spirits.



S: I believe that's what she did, yeah. Sec, I would have done it differently.
Well, I can't say that I would have done it differently, but, uhm, what I
heard on the tape, it was done diflferendy. She said it was a form of deliverance. Any healing is a form of deliverance.
TC: Right. But when she binds and rebukes the spirits and sends them to the
foot of Jesus . . . I guess my question is, was she doing deliverance, or . . . ?
S: No. That one's deliverance, this one's [inner] healing. When I first came
to Jesus . . . when I first became a born-again, that instant I was delivered
of a few things. I think I've told you 1 was drinking alcohol. I was delivered
from that; the desire was just gone, like that. In healing, you have to
face . . . like I did today. I did. And by facing it, you should feel free of
it. But, it is painful. I don't fed free of it yet.
TC: Was the experience you had of being delivered of drinking more like what
those people on the tape were going through?
S: No. I didn't go through anything. It, he just. . . took the desire out of
me. Whereas . . . the next night I went for my regular wine like I drank
every night for I don't know how many years, twenty years? Maybe more.
And I didn't want it. That desire was gone. And I had a hunger . . . for
the Bible, which I used to call a bunch of fairy tales. I had a hunger for
the, for the knowledge of God that was in there. And I was a, a swearer,
[and] I couldn't do that anymore (either]. And anyone that did it in my
presence, it was like a knife in my stomach. I couldn'tcouldn'tit hurt.
TC: Mmhum. WTien you were delivered from either of those things, were there
any manifestations?
5; No. No, I just saw Jesus as real personal and . . . No, I didn't have any
manifestations. That's an interesting thing that you brought it up. Sometimes a person can have so many that they're all. . . they have to hold
that person down. It takes eight men to, sometimes it takes eight men to
hold that person down. Or he can harm himself. WThen they don't want
to leave. . . . That's just what I heard . . . by people that I trust. I believe
them. But Fve never seen it. But this was, this was not a deliverance thing
here [today]. It was, more or less, I faced what was in me. And we named
it. You know, we claimed it to be healed in the name of Jesus. For them
to leave. No. God has to manifest this. I have to pray as we did today
and . . . believe . . . that they can work.
TC: Okay. Now, you said that you named it and faced it and commanded
them to leave. But when you say "them," are you referring to, to . . . ?
S: To the resentment that I have and the unforgiveness, the envy, the whatever . . . that I . . . carry around. [Breath.] And pushing it back. . . into
the back of my mind . . . saying, that's not true. That's in the past. I, I
don't feel that way anymore, whereas . . . I still do carry it around I guess.
TC: Okay. So, for you those are not spirits, but they're sort of like feelings? I
don't want to put words in your mouth. But. . . but, when you said
"commanded them to leave," Fm not exacdy sure whether . . .
5: The spirits. See, [the healer] could answer you better probably. She said
it was a form of deliverance.



TC: Mmhum. Do you feel like it was?

5: No, not from what I heard on the, ah, the tape. That's my idea of deliverance. You can't be delivered, I don't think you can be delivered . . . from
everything. You have to take steps .. . and . .. and pray, and like she said,
you have to want them to leave. You know, I've lived with them so long
that this time I'm gonna hafta let them go. By God's grace. That's how
I'll do it. Not by anything I can do. Are you confused or am I confused?
I am frustrated because, you know, I . . . I don't know the difference .. .
exacdy, between the deliverance that I told you about, and what happened
here. I don't quite know, Tom. And I want to know. And I'm groping
and I'm searching my mind right now, but I will . . . I'llfindout. I want
to know. I know that this was good, that, that I faced these things, even
though it did bring pain, you know. Looking back now [on my past], he
was with me . . . I can see that now. But at the time I was lost. And now,
I have the Lord.
Let us begin by considering the three "spirits" Envy, Resentment, and
Unforgiveness. The first of these was "named" by the patient in the
session segment transcribed above, when she distinguished it from resentment. It was not picked up by the healer in the deliverance prayer,
however, where instead the spirit Doubt was included. The omission
of Enw might be understood as the healer's attempt to resist what she
sees as the patient's eagerness to entity and perhaps multiply spirits.
The inclusion of doubt likely pertains to precisely the kind of concern for
the legitimacy of ritual form that the patient expresses in this segment. It
is not related to the substantive emotional issues dealt with, but is the
kind of process-oriented metaspirit we identified in chapter 7. The patient draws a distinction between deliverance and inner healing: although in both one is "getting rid of something," deliverance occurs
spontaneously whereas in inner healing one must face the situation in
its painfullness and give it to God in prayer. In the former, resistance
is expressed as behavioral violence on the part of spirits, whereas in the
latter it is the patient's psychological inability to let go. However, when
she cites her own spontaneous deliverance from alcohol and swearing,
she is somewhat stymied by the observation that those instances were
not accompanied by the requisite "manifestations." Yet she acknowledges that, whatever the difference, she and the healer had in fact confronted evil spirits.
Let us briefly summarize with respect to our four elements of therapeutic process. Though this patient's disposition within the ritual-healing system is relatively strong, her therapeutic resistancequite another
thing is rather high. In addition, partly because of her uncertainty



about the nature of deliverance as a ritual genre, the experience of the

sacred is ambiguous. The elaboration of alternatives consists both in
the juxtaposition of Protestant and Catholic interpretive models, and
in the formulation of the psychological consequences of resentment and
unforgiveness. As for the actualization of change, none is evident in
this episode, and in fact the painstaking process of incremental change
continued after the patient's participation in our research protocol was

The Woman Who Was Withering Away

This vignette and the one that follows show not the actual
casting out of spirits, but the discussion between healer and patient of
how ritual techniques are applied in everyday life. The healer in the first
was a sixty-year-old Catholic priest who had conducted healing prayer
since becoming involved in the Charismatic Renewal twelve years earlier. He holds a Doctorate of Ministries degree with concentrations in
psychology' and counseling. He conducts public healing services, healing-of-ancestry masses in patient's homes, and private sessions in a counseling room of the monaster}' where he resides. Such sessions, seldom
lasting more than half an hour, begin with a period of light talk and
counseling. The patient is then seated on a straight-backed chair in the
center of the room, and the priest anoints her forehead with holy oil.
He stands behind her with one hand on her head and another on her
shoulder, praying silently for approximately five minutes. He then asks
the patient about any experiences that emerged during the prayer, and
following this second period of conversation the session ends.
The patient was a twenty-seven-year-old woman, the third youngest
of nine children, unmarried and living with her family. She is a practicing Catholic, and although she had ceased attending Charismatic prayer
groups after only several months, frequently went to public healing
services. For approximately two years she had been ill with what our
diagnostic interview confirmed as panic disorder and major depression,
for which she was under both psychopharmacological treatment with
a psychiatrist and in psychotherapy with a psychologist. Her illness
appeared related to life events including lack of success in nursing school
(she dropped out); her feeling that she was "losing" most of her friends
to marriage; "burnout" from a stressful job from which she had been



transferred two months prior to her first panic attack; and a family
environment characterized by an authoritarian father, poor parental relationships, a falling out with a sister to whom she had been quite close,
and the presence in the household of a sister afflicted with chronic
schizophrenia. She had entered the ritual healing process after attending
a public service conducted by this priest, during which his response to
her request for prayer for "severe depression" was to command expulsion of a "spirit of darkness" and suggest that she come to him for private
sessions. The following event was cited by her as the most significant of
the session in which it occurred:
S: I had thoughts like, you know, I'm slowly going to wither away. Almost
like having some form of cancer. It doesn't leave me. It haunts me. It never
leaves me. It won't go away. I can't get rid of it. I don't know how to get
rid of it. It's driving me crazy. It's driven me crazy. It's overtaken my whole
H: What did I tell you last time, I guess you forgot. About taking authority
over these things within yourself. You take authority in the name of Jesus
Christ, and you command them to just get the heck out. They have to obey.
5: I have said that to myself at different times. Like this whole past week while
I was at mass. I had the tremors and the shakes real bad. You know, the
fears around other people being there, whatever. And I kept saying you
know, "In the name of Christ, leave me, leave me." Trying to force the way
that I thought into another direction, more positive. And . . .
H: Let me clue you in to something. If you say for instance, uIn the name of
Jesus," right? There's an evil spirit that calls itself "Jesus". . . but it's a false
Jesus. You got to remember that. Some people get caught up.. . . It's like
conjuring up a spirit, and they're confronting the evil spirit [that] calls
himself "Jesus." So I always use the name "Jesus Christ" or "Jesus of Nazareth," you know? That Jesus. Oh, yeah, hundreds of [Spanish-speaking]
people call themselves Jesus.
In this episode the desperation of the patient's description of distress
indicates both a powerful sense of lack of control and the distinct otherness of a depression and anxiety that "haunts" her and "won't go away."
It is important that previously, when the priest instructed her in the
technique of taking authority in the name of the deity, he had not
identified "these things within yourself' as anything other than emotions. He had referred only to a generalized spirit of Darkness, although
given his personal approach to demonology it is likely that he himself
associated specific emotions with specific demons. His directive in this
episode to specify the name "Jesus Christ" was more than a move to
cover the technique's lack of success, but a raising of the rhetorical



stakes. The failure to command one's emotions indicates in the logic of

the healing system that a more powerful force is at work, in this case
a deceitful false (i.e., demonic imitator of) Jesus. Here is the patient's
understanding of the relation of emotion and evil spirit in her own
[It was helpful] just to be told irs all in the way that you're thinking. If you
can have the strength or get the strength up in you to force, or when the feeling
starts to come over you, if you can get your mind quickly onto something else
and say, "I'm not going to pay attention to it." And then just pick up something
or put your mind right over to something else, you can get that feeling going.
But the more you sit and the more you dwell on it, the more you feed into it.
So I think that's what he was trying to tell me. Learning how to take charge
of your own feelings. . . . [Commanding it in the name of Jesus means] the
sense that God is always with me. .And He doesn't want me to feel the way
that I'm feeling. Just to bring it to mind that I should have the strength or
have strong enough faith to say in his name, "Leave." And it should go. It
should go. Because I'm not thinking in a positive way, and that's why I'm
feeling in the way that I'm feeling. And He docs not want me to feel that way.
So, that's what I think he was trying to tell me. And that you should get some
source of, ya know, like an inner peace just from that, if you practice it all the
time. That's what I have to work on.
I didn't know that it could be like an evil spirit or whatever [calling himself
by] that name, Jesus. I had never thought along those lines. God was God in
that name . . . in the name Jesus or in the name of Christ. But he said, "No.
You would say 'first and last' or like lin the name of Jesus Christ' or 'in the
name of Jesus of Nazareth. .. .'" [Also], I had never thought that there could
be some type of evil force over me or in me that's really pulling me down or
causing me to feel the way that I'm feeling. Father calls it the spirit of Darkness,
which I do believe is real. A real thing in the sense of an evil type of force.
Because this is not of God. And I've always thought along those lines. So when
he told me at the healing service, "This is a spirit of Darkness," it really struck
home. Yes, it very well could be. And that's a pretty creepy feeling. I guess I've
always known along that this is not of God. This is not of health, of good
health, whatever. That it has to be of something evil or something darkened.
[What he said helped me] to know, and to give me courage and more strength,
and more faith. Faith-wise, to know that this is not of God. And how prayer
can build your faith. It can build your strength.
The patient pragmatically understands the technique of invoking the
deity in order to control one's emotions as a reminder to shift her
attention away from the negative and to cultivate inner peace. Her
understanding is summarized in the statement that, when it is commanded to g o in the deity's name, "It should go. Because I'm not thinking in a positive way, and that's why I'm feeling in the way that I'm



feeling. And He [the deity] does not want me to feel that way" The
priest never said it should go, but that it must go, which indicates that,
perhaps for fear of frightening the patient, he was inducing her to use
the prayer of command on herself without making her fully aware that
she was casting out evil spirits. Yet she clearly got the message that an
evil force was involved, acknowledging surprise at the subdety of the
technique for specifying the name of the deity, and acknowledging a
sense of reassurance at the knowledge that there was a real evil force at
work that was "not of God," and "not of good health." Despite the
relatively high disposition of the patient, however, this cultural objectification of lack of emotional control was apparendy not a viable alternative in the face of significant psychopathology. When she did not appear
for one of her healing sessions, it was learned that she had been admitted
to a hospital where she was scheduled to undergo a course of electroconvulsive shock therapy.

The Woman in Turmoil

The healer and patient arc those in the vignette of "the
woman whose mother went to pieces" (chapter 5). It is safe to say that
this patient had considerably more background in Charismatic ritual
practice, greater self-reflectiveness, and was rather less severely disturbed
than the woman in the preceding vignette. She had been experiencing
considerable inner turmoil while she prayed, turmoil that she felt was
related to her preparation to face the difficult issues of her marriage
and relationship with her mother. The day before the session described
in chapter 5 she realized, although she claims not to "get into the 'other
force' very much," that the power of evil was nevertheless involved in
her situation. During the session, and prior to the episode of imaginal
performance, the healer questioned exacdy how she conceives of this
force, and she replied that it is Satan:
S: I don't like to give him [Satan] much credit, but I have to be aware that
he is a force that does work against you. And all of a sudden I realized a
lot of my turmoil in prayer could possibly have come from himwell,
within myself also, but there was something else that I needed to do. I
talked to Father P [her spiritual advisor] for a few minutes yesterday, and
he said "Have you been binding him?" And it was like, "Uuhh," I hadn't
even thought of it. But it is a process that I believe in.






Did it help when you did binding prayer?
Yes it did, I was surprised.
What spirits did you feel were harassing you?
Absolutely, there was confusion, and an unsettling. My basic core was saying, "It's going to be okay and this is the way you go forward," but there
was a lot of inner turmoil.
You felt some of that turmoil, and the evil spirit added to the turmoil.
Yeah, and that hadn't even entered my mind until he said that. He said,
"I'm going to remind you of something again" [the possibility of demonic
influence and the use of binding prayer], and I said, "Oh, God." It was
funny because I was looking for a passage in one of my journals and I
couldn't find it, but everything I opened toand it didn't dawn on me
when I was opening ittalked about another force. You know, just simple
lines that I had quoted.
Of evil spirits harassing you. That's what I call it.
So I was very surprised. But it felt good, because it made sense. Then I
had a good cry.
And did your prayers to bind . . . ?
Yeah, I bound, and I cried, and I felt better. . . .
I guess what I'm hearing in terms of the process is you got in touch with
the resistance, the sort of anxiety and fear at entering into looking more at
the marriage. And at the same time, you really experienced God, sort of at
the core of your being, saying it was okay to do that.
Whatever the impact may be. I believe that.
You know, just in terms of the whole spirituality dimension, I really feel
that at moments when one is going to make breakthroughs in growth, or
breakthroughs to freedom, there is a lot of harassment by evil spirits. And
I guess my image is, sort of like they come and aggravate our weakness.
So that the turmoil would probably be there without any harassment, from
fear, from resistance psychologicallybut just as you said, it can be intensified, made into a force that grabs you more deeply perhaps. The moment
you say "I can't do it," to me that becomes the moment when the evil spirits
are more active, in the sense of touching woundedness that might be there
anyway. The fear and the resistance, the turmoil and the fear would be
there, evil spirits or no evil spirits. But this dominates your consciousness
more, and it leads you into unfreedom and discouragement about yourself.
What you do to yourself is self-judgment. I just want to say that I think
that happens to all of us when we are in the midst of that turmoilyou
know, part of the way evil spirits work, I think, is be. So the lie is that we
don't see the lie. Part of the effect of the evil spirit, sort of adding salt to
a wound, or sort of keeping an emotional turmoil sort of locked in, is by
the lie of keeping us from seeing in ourselves, even though we're capable.

In this instance we find a patient attuned to what we will define below

as a threshold of control, a point of distinction between emotion and



evil spirit at which a phenomenological criterion of otherness is met.

Her Charismatic spiritual advisor affirms her sense by reminding her
of the binding technique, which in turn suggests that perhaps divine
guidance was operative in the fortuitous opening of her journal to passages in which she had quoted lines about "another force." Her Charismatic psychotherapist reaffirms her interpretation in several ways: by
unhesitatingly asking what the specific spirits were; by reformulating
the patient's turmoil as "therapeutic resistance" intensified by demonic
activity; by congratulating her for simultaneously "getting in touch"
both with the resistance and with the deity's approval of her commitment to the healing process; and by pointing out that demonic harassment is often timed to disrupt impending "breakthroughs." Throughout, the healer uses a standard psychotherapeutic technique of
reformulating and "reflecting back" the patient's thoughts.
In the patient's summary of the effect of the binding prayer, "I bound,
and I cried, and I felt better," we again recognize the relevance of
SchefFs (1979) theory, according to which binding can be said to create
an aesthetic distance that allows the "crying and feeling better" of catharsis. The patient's commentary is as follows:
Well it sounds so strange. Logically, I mean sitting here, I do it because I really
feel there's two forces. I feel there is good and there is evil. And I think [the
healer] wasrighton target when she said there is going to be normal turmoil
and normal fear. But there is a force that likes to feed in on that. I've really
seen in the past and it's been so dear that when you become aware of it, it
loses its power. "You have no power over me." And there's a fabulous movie,
one of those rock stars, ifs on good and evil. David Bowieyou ever seen
that show? It's done with goblins. And there's a fabulous line at the end, and
she turns around and she faces him and realizes he has no power over her. And
she looks him in the eye and says, "You have no power over me," and he literally
disintegrates. And this has happened more and more. And I really believe that
once you have identified, yes you are in a turmoil, but it's extra. It's like all of
a sudden you start saying, "Well. I can't counsel, I can't mother," all these extra
doubts start coming in that's extra than the turmoil. And that's identifying evil.
When you turn around and say, "You have no power over me," or you
bindthe charismatic word is "binding." It really is true. All of a sudden it
lifts. You have really said, "I understand what's going on, I understand what
wheels you've spun, I understand what tape you're playing, and I'm not going
to buy into it any longer. Yes, I'm fearful, but there's another stronger force,
and that's theforcethat's leading me into this pain, or leading me into this
fear, because I'm going to be a better person." You'll see it particularly when
someone is going to enter into something that's going to heal them. V/hether
it be even an eight-day retreat, or counseling, or spiritual directing.



This commentary lucidly describes the phenomenology of binding spirits. Recognizing the "extra" in one's emotions is identifying, or in other
words discerning, evil. Binding is not a reasscrtion of control, but a
refusal to be out of control that is available as a permanent alternative
within the habitus. When that recognition is made and that step is
taken, there is an actualization of change. The demonic oppression lifts
suddenlyspontaneouslyand therefore as an experience of the

The Gangster with a Lollipop

The healer was the same as in the vignette of "the
woman who wanted to be Protestant." The patient was a forty-threeyear-old man, the second of three children, who lives with his widowed
mother. He described a childhood in a close-knit Catholic family, stating
that he was very religious as a child. He rejected religion after his father
"died a horrible death," for which the son blamed God. Several years
later he had begun to read avidly in Protestant and Catholic religious
literature, trying to reach a modus vivendi with the deity. He had attended at least one Charismatic healing service, but reported being
somewhat put off by speaking in tongues as well as by his own inability
to rest in the Spirit or to visualize in a guided imagery prayer. His
relationship to the deity was troubled. He regarded himself as a hypocrite for "only going to God when he needed something," and by that
reasoning concluded that he should stay away from the deity altogether.
He had suffered for some time with chronic back pain derived from
a work-related injury, and our diagnostic interview indicated that he
had suffered four episodes of major depression. His chief complaint,
however, was the inability to form a lasting, intimate relationship with
a woman. A series of disappointing relationships of varying duration
had left him frustrated and lonely. Several of these relationships were
with married women, a circumstance that caused him considerable
moral consternation in the face of his conservative Catholic background,
and he was resentful toward God for not answering his prayers for an
appropriate partner. He felt that although the women he met in nightclubs were initially attracted to him because of his "tough" appearance,
they lost interest when they discovered his gentle and mild-mannered
personalityas if "a gangster had offered them a lollipop."



The patient had been in psychotherapy for several months at a Charismatic counseling center. His therapist referred him for inner healing to
our healer, also a member of the staff, and the following event is drawn
from the third session between them:
H: S is opening his heart to you in the only way that he can. I ask you, Lord,
to fill him. Let your Holy Spirit touch his heart and his mind. Fill him,
Lord, with the desire to be your son. Help him to experience the love that
you have for him. Help him to know you. . . . There is a verse that comes
to mind from 29 Jeremiah, where God says, "I will bring you back to your
place. I have scattered you. You've lost everything. And I promise to bring
you back. I'll bring back your fortunes. I'll bring back all that you had."
This scripture I pray for you, S. That God will make you whole, that he
will heal all the pain that you've received down through the years. That he
will heal the pain that you now have. Know that God forgives you as the
father went to the prodigal son with open arms and rejoiced, so God receives
S: Something in me says, "You're worthless. You're not worth a piece of shit."
That's just what it says.
H: That's the devil saying that to you. That's the evil. That's the evil, that's
not God. I don't care what you've done, and I don't care what you're doing
yet, God loves you. You've got to believe that. [Softens tone.] I bind and
I rebuke spirit of unbelief, in the name of Jesus Christ. 1 send you to the
foot of Jesus. Cover him, Lord Jesus, with your light. Protect him. [Returns
to conversational tone.] You are going through a spiritual battle. 1 know
it's not easy. I pray that you win over the evil.
S: I will because the evil's not strong enough to take me.
H: Okay. You want to say an Our Father . . . >
The principal issue in this episode is what we have referred to as the
patient's disposition with respect to theritual-healingsystem: his feeling
of betrayal by the deity focuses the healer's agenda on making him feel
that God is on his side. The sense of worthlessness articulated by the
patient is the experiential integument that connects his inability to find
intimacy with the deity and his inability to find intimacy with a woman.
When he casts this sense in the phrase "something in me says," the
healer immediately construes the "something" as an evil spirit. Holding
closely to the theme that she has addressed, however, she names not
the spirit Worthlessness, but Unbelief. Marked by a distinct change in
tone of voice, she casts out this spirit with a prayer of command. From
the experiential commentary, here is what occurred from the patient's



For every positive or negative thought I getif it's an outward positive thought
I get an inward negative thought, and if it's a negative outward thought I get
a positive inward thought. I don't know if its a spiritual battle.. . . See, while
she's praying with me, I'm battling inside, in my mind, and I'm talking inside,
saying all the negative parts. I'm like praying with her, only against the negative
parts that are going through my mind. Even though I'm just standing there
and she's praying over me. Like I'm saying inside, like it's saying to me, "You'll
never be nothing, you're a loser, you're a piece of shit." Right. . . . And I'm
sitting there and I'm saying, "Fuck you, fuck you and your mother." That's
what I'm saying to whatever it is. "I will not succumb to you. No way, I will
not. You're not going to win over me, your negativity is not going to win over
me. I'm not a loser." Then it goes like, "Well, look around you, you know
who's winning. If God really loved you, why are you in this mess you're in?"
Stuff like that goes through my mind.
I don't hear voices, it's just a thoughthow do you explain itdon't you
ever battle with yourself? Something's telling me, "Don't believe that shit, just
look around you. How can you believe this [religious] stuff}" And I say in my
mind, "Why don't you screw it." I keep battling with that. So the positive part
of me is stimulating [good thoughts]. In that respect, I'm fighting off the
negativity. . . . It's my own negativity, really. It's my own negativity battling
my positivity. They say the devil, I don't like to think of the devil, that scares
me. I don't like "devil." They call everything negative as being the devil, you
know. The devil is anything that goes against positive. And I don't like to think
that there is such a thing as a "devil." That really scares the shit out of me. . . .
For example, I'll go into a nightclub, and I'll see everybody sitting there, who's
drinking, who's talking, who's laughing, and I'll say to myself, "You're different
than everybody else in here." And there's something in my mind that will say,
"Why are you different from everybody else in here? If you were different,
everybody would be looking at you like you're an oddball, which you're not."
Things like that. It's like I'm constandy weighing every move I make, you know?
In this excerpt the patient offers a vivid example of the kind of "depressogenic" thought processes identified by cognitive therapists of
depression (Beck et al. 1979, Ellis 1973). In this case:
You are deserving of God's love/God loves you.
If G o d loved me, life would be good/Pd have someone t o love.
My life is a mess/I have n o one to love.
God doesn't love me.
O u r immediate interest, however, is in the phenomenological conditions under which the patient rejects the healer's cultural objectification
of this preobjective thought process as an evil spirit. Within the healing
system, a spirit is present if the emotion or behavior is beyond the
control of the afflicted. This lack of control is the foundational m o m e n t



of the sense of otherness that characterizes the sacred in its negative

aspect, the demonic. The healer's "discernment" was thus likely based
as much on the spontaneous, uncontrolled intrusion of the negative
thought upon her prayer, and the sheer fact that such incessant "batding" was going on, as on the linguistic depersonalizing of the thought
process in the patient's reference to "something inside me." The patient,
however, evidently did not feel a lack of control, precisely because he
was constandy and actively "battling" the negativity. That is, the occurrence of the negativity was for him not in itself a lack of control, but
on the contrary the battling against negativity was the preservation of
control. Not only was he at home with this battle, but according to the
examples he provided the characteristic process in which he made a
spontaneous "inward" response to virtually any "outward" (i.e., overt
or intentional) thought apparently occurred regardless of whether the
initiating thought was positive or negative.
As for the sense of otherness, the patient's pronominal usage in the
experiential commentary does in fact exhibit a good deal of equivocation. The most telling instance is when he opens a sentence, "Like I'm
saying inside, like it's saying to me. . . . " At times he refers to "it" or
"something," and addresses the negativity as "you." At others he explicitly says "I say" and takes care to specify that "I don't hear voices, it's
just a thought,"1 and that it's "my own negativity battling my positivky." Thus, the phenomenological recognition of lack of control that is
the cultural criterion for the objectification of otherness is absent. In
addition, the patient is fearful of acknowledging the existence of the
kind of "devil" he learned about in his conservative Catholic upbringing.
Lacking these elements of disposition and experience of the sacredfar
more than simply the "faith to be healed"he was unable to elaborate
a viable alternative to his "negativity." This patient did not return for
another healing session.

Phenomenology of Control
In the cases described in this chapter we have had an
opportunity for a close examination of the way evil spirits enter into
ritual performance as well as of the way dealing with them contributes
to therapeutic process. We can now consolidate what the study of the
Charismatic demonology and deliverance has taught us about those



issuesthe behavioral environment, person, self, and human realitythat we identified at the beginning of chapter 7. Perhaps the clearest way (as well as the way most likely to contribute to a theoretical
understanding) to achieve this end is a brief exercise in what we might
call comparative demonology. The possibility of a comparative demonology rests on the ethnological commonplace that spirits attack humans,
and on the scholarly consensus that the activity of spirits has something
to do with the self Once said, however, we must be concerned not
only with ethnographic variation in what constitutes spirit attack, but
also with the theoretical differences among anthropologists in the favored concept of self and with methodological differences in the kind
of data presented. For the present purposes it will suffice to limit our
exercise to one ethnological comparison case, with hopes that our discussion might offer a model for an expanded comparative demonology.2
Our material is that of Sinhalese Buddhist demonic possession and
exorcism, as described by Kapferer (1979, 1979*;, 1983). As in the
Charismatic system, for Sinhalese, "demons are consistently associated
with such desires, passions, and emotions as lust, pride, greed, cruelty,
anger, violence, pain, sorrow, suffering, etc." (1979b: 155). However,
unlike Christian demons, they are not conceived as powerful "fallen
angels." Humans are in fact superior to demons in the Sinhalese cosmological hierarchy, but an afflicted person is understood to be terrorized
by a demonic realm that distortedly appears far superior than himself.
Ritual healing achieves its effect by dramatizing for the subject that
demons are not to be feared, literally putting them back in their place.
Kapferer understands demonic affliction as a dissolution and negation
of the self, and exorcism as the ritual reconstitution of self. His notion
of the self is attuned to phenomenological considerations, though derived from the work of Mead and Schutz rather than of Hallowell and
Merleau-Ponty. He states a preference for the Meadian (1934) concept
of self because, in his view, other approaches "seem to pass immediately
from cultural ideas to the inner working of individual psychology, and
back again, without much attention to intervening social interactional
processes" (1983.198). 3 The critical feature of the Meadian self is its
constitution in an inner dialogue between the subjective "I" and a "me"
that is a self-objectification derived from the way one is objectified by
others in social interaction. Kapferer suggests that in demonic affliction
the "me" is overwhelmed in a demonic reality, "caught in the gaze of
demons." Insofar as it is thus withdrawn from the self-sustaining social
interaction of human reality, it is deobjectified. The "I" and "me" col-



lapse into a terrifying immediacy, and the normal multiplicity of selves

is reduced into a monolithic subjectivity, with the result that the self
loses its essential capacity for reflecting on its own existence (ibid.:
The Meadian perspective allows some powerful interpretations, at
least two of which are also relevant to the Charismatic example. In
Sinhalese exorcism the self-reflective and social senses of participants
who are not patients themselves are enhanced insofar as they are fused
in the perspective of the generalized Other vis-a-vis the patient, that is,
insofar as they are fused in a sense of being grounded in the commonality of social activity. This perspective of the generalized Other is evident
in Charismatic deliverance in that, more than any other form of Charismatic healing we have discussed, deliverance is ideally performed by a
team of healers whose efficacy inheres in the social complementarity of
their "spiritual gifts." Furthermore, because the features of demonic
activity are based on a shared orchestration of the habitus, in Sinhalese
exorcism the healer may become possessed by the demon responsible
for the patient's affliction. Especially in cases where the Sinhalese patient
does not become possessed and enter into trance, this behavior is explicitly taken on by the exorcist acting as a kind of surrogate. This phenomenon is related to the situation in those more "domesticated" instances of
Charismatic deliverance where demonic manifestations can sometimes
occur through the healer.
The critical point in the last example is that although possession
trance is a key element of Sinhalese ritual performance, "The possession
of a patient is not necessary for the symbolic presentation of the negation
of the patient's S^lf (Kapferer 1979^:124). Here is the point where
the Meadian analysis reaches the limits of its usefulness, for it is not
able to discriminate between the actual experience of an entranced and
an unentranced patient. This discrimination may be moot in the Sinhalese case, or at least in the Meadian level of analysis, where what is
being treated is a collective representation of the self. However, as we
will see in the next chapter, when Charismatic patients enter an altered
state of consciousness in "demonic crisis," the experience is qualitatively
distinct from that which we have described as typical of demonic affliction and deliverance, and is regarded not as part of the performance
but as a disruption of performance. Here it is a question not of collective
representation but of cultural modulation of the self, and experiential
specificity is necessary for adequate interpretation. To be precise, in the
Meadian analysis of the Sinhalese case, what is at issue is the presence



or absence of the "me" which, since it is in large part a social construction, can be inferred from its social representation by others. In other
words, Kapfercr's analysis has to do with "demonic reality as it is understood to be conceived by the patient" (ibid.), not as it is concretely
experienced by the patient. The episode of trance can be, indeed must
be, made intelligible entirely with respect to its place in the structure
of the ritual performance. For this reason the Meadian formulation of
the self is not only useful, but is in faa required by the limitations of
his data. To go farther, as Kapferer himself indicates, requires "more
nearly complete determination of what individuals actually experience,"
which in turn "awaits other forms of analysis" (ibid.:111).
With such a form of analysis in place with our interpretation of
experiential commentaries, we have been able to examine not the wholesale presence or absence of the self as formulated in the rhetoric of
performance, but the existential modulations in performance of the self
as a scries of indeterminate processes for engaging the world. To remain
for a moment within the Meadian paradigm, if we understand Kapferer
to be examining the self-objcctifications that are formulated in the interaction between the "me" and the "Other," our analysis of Charismatic
deliverance has focused on how self-objectifications arc taken up from
an intersubjective milieu into the dialogue between the "I" and the
"me." To summarize using the analytic language that we have been
developing for cultural phenomenology, we have attempted, beginning
with the preobjective bodily synthesis that is the existential ground of
self, to capture the transformative specificity of the self-objectifications
achieved in ritual performance.4 We are now in a position to define the
phenomenological essence of this self process which, as we have already
intimated, is an elaboration of the psychocultural theme of control.
From the standpoint of embodiment, recalling our discussion in
chapter 1, the problem of demonic affliction appears not only as a problem of practice, but as one of perception: how is the activity of evil
spirits perceived by healers and patients in practice? In general, healers
say that it is relatively more common for them to discern the presence
of spirits than for patients to come explicitly requesting deliverance.
Those patients who raise the issue of spirits themselves are said to be
of two quite different types: either they are "mature" enough to discern
the activity of spirits, or they are "off the wall," mentally ill, or emotionally unbalanced.
The latter situation appears to be rare among Charismatics and fits
the criteria for what in psychiatry is sometimes referred to as a "demono-



logical neurosis."5 Henderson (1982) argues that this neurosis can be

understood, from the perspective of internal-object relations theory, as
evidence for the psychodynamic processes of introjection and incorporation. However, the cases he discusses are ones in which the presence
of a demon is the patient's chief presenting complaint, and hence part
of that patient's pathology. Among Charismatics, even when the spirit
names itself through the voice of the afflicted person, it usually does
so onlv on direct questioning by the healer. Thus care must be taken
to distinguish between evil spirits as empirical signs or symptoms of
psychopathology and as the religious equivalents of diagnostic constructs (Csordas 1992&). What is being perceived is not a thing but an
experience. That experience, the essential phenomenological criterion
of demonic affliction, is recognition that an emotion, a behavior, a
thought pattern, or an aspect of one's personality, is out of controlor
perhaps more precisely, has become a controlling factor in one's life.
In the words of one healer, there is a great difference between "fantasies
about possession and the inability to get past something."
We must return to Merleau-Pontes concept of the preobjective in
order to understand the self-objectification implicit in deliverance, that
is, the self process that leads from the phenomenology of control to the
evil spirit as a cultural object. If we ignore the methodological dictum
that "our perception ends in objects" (Merleau-Ponty 1962:67), we
begin with the already-constituted object, the Christian evil spirit. We
have seen that a spirit is understood to be an intelligent, nonmaterial
being that is irredeemably evil, under the dominion of Satan, and whose
proper abode is hell. Evil spirits interact with humans by harassing,
obsessing, oppressing, or possessing them. This cultural definition is
the basis for the dcmonology described above and constitutes its link
to the demonologies on the Renaissance. It is also the basis for a discourse on interiority/cxteriority in which demons transgress body
boundaries and are expelled. These are all late moments in the process
of cultural objectification. however. The important distinction for our
discussion is that between demons as cultural objects and as experientiallv immediate or concrete self processes in deliverance.
Earlier we cited Hallowell that "culturally reified objects in the behavioral environment may have functions that can be shown to be directly
related to the needs, motivations, and goals of the self (1955:87). If, as
we have shown, at a representational level the demonology is a negative
mirror image of the culturally ideal person, we can now understand
that at the level of being in the world the way these spirits as cultural



objects are related to the self is to play a role in constituting that self
through ritual performance. Preobjcctively, patients do not "perceive"
a demon inside themselvesthey of their own accord sense, or with the
help of a healer recognize, a particular thought, behavior, or emotion as
outside their control. It is the healer, the specialist in cultural objectification, who typically "discerns" whether a patient's problem is of demonic
origin. Also preobjectively, patients experience "manifestations" as
spontaneous and without preordained content. The manifestations are
original acts of communication in a highly specified intcrsubjective milieu. Although they arc cxistentialiy original, these acts nevertheless take
a limited number of common forms because they emerge from a shared
habitus, and it is participation in this habitus that allows the healer to
recognize and objectify them as manifestations.
In these acts of self-constitution Merleau-Ponty would distinguish a
"primary process of signification in which the thing expressed does not
exist apart from the expression, and in which the signs themselves induce
their significance externally. . . . This incarnate significance is the central
phenomenon of which body and mind, sign and significance are abstract
moments" (1962:166). Here we have perhaps our closest glimpse of a
common ground for semiotics and phenomenology. I would suggest
that the "thing expressed" that "does not exist apart from the expression" is in this case not the cultural object, the evil spirit. What is expressed is a threshold of intensity, generalization, duration, or frequency
of distress that is transgressedthere is too much of a particular
thought, behavior, or emotion. The phenomenology of the process defined by discernment, casting out, and manifestation can be summarized
by the formula, "I have no control over this. It has control over me. I
am being released." It is a recognition of that essential "otherness" of
the self that we have found to be grounded in our embodied existence,
here magnified to cosmological proportions as the uncanny presence
of evil spirits.
In examining how this otherness is expressed in demonic affliction
across cultures, anthropologists are accustomed to attend to metaphors
of interiority/exteriority. Spirits transgress body boundaries, taking up
residence "inside" their hosts, and through ritual means they are again
forced "outside." This kind of language is certainly present among Charismatics, and it goes along with the conventional formulation of demons
as cultural objects. Analysis that stops at cultural representation without
asking about the cultural phenomenology of deliverance could easily
miss an alternate but equally prominent reliance among Charismatics



on metaphors of freedom/control. Instead of transgressing body boundaries, the spirit is described as latching on, hooking on or into, hanging
on, grabbing, or grafting onto a person at the site of an emotional
wound metaphorically understood as a kind of hole in the self. Demonic
affliction is thus described in the language of "bondage" to evil spirits,
and through deliverance a patient is "released'5 from that bondage. The
rather Foucauldian metaphor of bondage points directly to the concretely embodied preobjective state of affliction as well as implicidy
engaging the afflicted in the struggle to be free.

The Raging and the Healing

When anthropologists talk about the upright posture as

characteristic of human beings, it is almost always with respect to the
evolution of our biological organism. Upright posture freed our ancestors' hands for the use of tools, and by elevating our heads above ground
allowed for a visual command of the surroundings necessary for a hunting way of life. Far more than being a biological fact of life, however,
upright posture is an existential fact of life. The phcnomenological psychologist Erwin Straus argued cogently that "upright posture pre-establishes a definite attitude toward the world; it is a specific mode of beingin-the-world" (1966:139). Standing erect is not a given for our species,
but must be learned by every child, and constitutes one of the earliest
experiences of master}' of self and surroundings. Even for adults, standing is achieved in opposition to the force of gravity, and constitutes a
concrete symbol of the encounter of human will with nature. Perhaps
most significant, the upright posture contributes to a sense of separateness of self by establishing three kinds of experiential distance. Straus
(1966:144-146) summarizes these as follows: 1) distance from the
groundthe closest we can come to secure contact with mother earth
is to "keep our feet on the ground," and neither "lying down" nor
"floating" represents an ideal of wide-awake humanity; 2) distance from
thingsunlike quadrupeds, we are not in direct contact with objects,
but "confront" or "encounter" them, and can easily keep them "at arm's
length"; and 3) distance from fellow menwe find ourselves not in
intimate contact with others, but "face to face" with them, or, in Straus's
words, "parallel verticals that never meet."



Given the above considerations, we might conclude that any deviation from the vertical has existential significance, and further that such
significance is prime material to be thematized and elaborated in ritual
praaice. In our final set of analyses we will examine precisely such a
phenomenonthe ritualization of that most striking departure of the
body from the vertical, falling to the ground.
Among Charismatics there are three occasions when a person may
become prone in ritual circumstances. The first is prostration in prayer
as an expression of submission to the divine will. This prayer posture
does not result from falling, but is assumed voluntarily, and is praaiced
regularly only as part of the calisthenic spirituality typical in some covenant communities. More relevant to our immediate concerns are two
patterned occurrences that are involuntary and spontaneous. The first
is "resting in the Spirit," in which a person is overcome with divine
power and falls in a semiswoon characterized by tranquility and motor
dissociation. The second is what we may call a demonic crisis, in which
a person afflicted by an evil spirit falls to the floor, most often writhing
but sometimes in stone-cold rigidity.
The principal contrast between these two behaviors and prostration
is that whereas the latter is a voluntary statement or representation
of human relationship to the deity, the former are the spontaneous
enactments of an existential condition. Prostration is an objective act of
worship, whereas resting in the Spirit and demonic crisis originate in the
preobjective experiences of well-being and affliction, respectively. That is,
the crisis is an affliction indicating the need for profound spiritual and
emotional healing, whereas being overcome by the Holy Spirit is an
experience of well-being in the presence of the deity as well as an experience during which healing is reported to occur. However, if our attribution of a preobjective character to these phenomena is correct, it must
also be recalled that the preobjective is never prccultural. These two
abdications of upright posture stand precisely in the relationship of
good and evil as defined in most literal terms by Christianity as a cultural
system: one is "caused" by God, the other by Satan. One occurs widely
in Charismatic healing sessions as a ritual technique of the body,
whereas the other is rare, obscure, frightening, and disruptive of collective ritual.
Good and evil in this sense are purely emic terms. They satisfy the
requirements of accurate ethnography but only begin the task of cultural
phenomenology. The two forms of falling are not only enactments of
a svmbol system, and not only a meaningful alteration of consciousness



for the individuals who undergo them, but are also experiences whose
conditions of possibility define a culture historical epoch. Perhaps more
clearly than any of the material we have examined to this point, the
divine and demonic falling of Charismatics allows us to pose the question of why their movement has become such a prominent feature of
the contemporary cultural landscape. We will accordingly address these
two phenomena of Charismatic ritual life not only as religious experience, but as particularly vivid exemplars of the cultural phenomenology
of the self in late twentieth-centum North America.

Resting in the Spirit as a Technique

of the Body

Michel Feher has succinctly framed a fundamental question for this part of our study: what kind of body do people "endow
themselves withor attempt to acquiregiven the power they attribute to the divine? A practical question, since it amounts to asking oneself
what exercises to do to resemble a god physically or to commune sensually with him" (1989:13). To answer this questionspecifically,
what kind of body is the Charismatic one that f^hs under the influence
of the sacredwe will draw on accounts of resting in the Spirit given
by both Charismatic healers and patients. We will deal first with the
behavior of falling and then with the experience of being down. Our
analysis will show that the principal issues in falling are trust, resistance,
and the play of divine power. Our treatment of being down will comprehend motor, sensonf, affective, and spiritual elements of the sacred
swoon. We then turn to the relation between resting in the Spirit and
healing, identifying the self processes implicit in Charismatic accounts.
We will conclude by examining the controversy among Charismatics
over the authenticity of resting in the Spirit, a controversy in which the
cultural dynamics of this practice are most transparent. Consistent with
our analysis thus far, the discussion will point to the overarching relevance of the psychocultural themes of spontaneity, control, and intimacy.
Like many Catholic Charismatic ritual practices, resting in the Spirit
was adopted directly from Protestant healers, most notably Kathryn
Kuhlman. It was popularized among Catholics in the early 1970s, espe-




daily by the Catholic healer Francis MacNutt. Its occurrence probably

peaked in the mid- and late 1970s along with the practices of prophecy
and deliverance from evil spirits.2 Yet as a popular phenomenon extending even beyond the bounds of the Charismatic movement it has remained more widespread than these other elements of theritualsystem.
In the late 1980s resting in the Spirit appeared to have a renewed surge
of popularity, partly influenced by the Protestant evangelist John
Wimber's cultivation of "signs and wonders."
Linguistic usage is an excellent starting point for unraveling the cultural significance of this practice. Received from the Protestant tradition, it was called "slaying in the Spirit," where "Spirit" refers to the
trinitarian Holy Spirit. The preposition "in" reflects a common feature
of Christian language that appears to connote communion with the
deity, as opposed to being slain "by" the Spirit. A person slain in the
Spirit is forcibly rendered "as if dead" by the power of God, and hence
falls in the sacred swoon. Uncomfortable with this term, leaders of the
Catholic movement promulgated "resting in the Spirit" as an alternative.
Their intent was to eliminate the connotation of violence on the part
of a deity conceived as intimately loving and gende, another example
of the domestication of ritual practice described in chapter 7. This
change also has implications for the ritual constitution of self, in that
it shifts the focus from the objective effect of being slain to the subjective
affect of resting.
At present, resting in the Spirit is the more popular term among
Catholics, though slaying in the Spirit persists partly out of habit, and
partly due to the continuing influence of Protestants. The terminological flux is evident in the coexistence of "resting in the Lord," being
"overcome/overwhelmcd/overpowcred in the Spirit," and "falling under
the power." This series expresses a continuum in which increasing emphasis on divine power corresponds to decreasing emphasis on personal
experience. Some Catholic Charismatics in Great Britain use the theological term "dormition," analogizing the experience with the transcendent "sleep of the senses" of Theresa of Avila. These are all formal
terms, however, and in colloquial Charismatic usage one most frequendy hears the expression "going down" or "going over," as in, "As
soon as the priest anointed me I went down." This expression singles
out falling, the principal behavioral characteristic of the practice. Less
frequent in informal usage is the expression "going out," as in, "The
priest anointed me and I went out like a light," which refers instead to
a subjective state. Finally, one occasionally hears resting in the Spirit



used colloquially as a verb, as in, "The priest rested me in the Spirit,"

or in passive construction, "I was rested in the Spirit." The latter forms
refer to the interactive dimension of the practice, insofar as the divine
power that is said to cause it is typically "ministered" by one person to
Resting in the Spirit is a technique of the body in the precise sense
defined by Mauss (1950&), and as such its contextual features and variations can be circumscribed. It may occur to someone in solitude, usually
during prayer, but most often happens in interactive settings. These
include one-to-one healing prayer; prayer for an individual by a team in
a post-prayer meeting "prayer-room" session; in intensive conference,
workshop, and retreat settings; in conjunction with the baptism of the
Holy Spirit during the initiator)' Life in the Spirit Seminar; and most
notably in large public healing services. The phenomenon most often
occurs in response to the laying on of hands or the anointing of the
forehead with sacramental blessed oil. Especially in the case of healers
high in the movement's hierarchy of renown, however, it may also occur
if the healer only raises a hand, sprinkles holy water on the congregation,
or in some cases merely passes in proximity to someone. Once fallen,
a person may stay down for anywhere from several seconds to hours,
and some have been known to remain on the floor during an entire
evening's service. We shall see that this issue of duration bears its own
cultural significance. The centrality of falling is highlighted by two variations that intentionally exclude it. First is having participants sit instead
of stand when being prayed over, partly for their comfort, but also in
effect drawing attention to the experiential rather than the behavioral
dimension of the practice. Second is the practice, introduced by the
evangelist John Wimber, of holding people upright so that they may
feel successive "waves" of divine power sweeping over them.
Substantial differences exist among individuals in the absolute number of times they have rested in the Spirit. In our survey of 587 participants in public healing services, of 84 percent who responded to the
question, 25 percent had never rested in the Spirit, 29 percent had done
so between one and five times, 13 percent had done so between six and
twenty times, 7 percent between twenty-one and fifty times, and 10
percent more than fifty times.3 As reported in chapter 2, no striking
difference is evident in the proportion of male and female resters.4 Far
more relevant wras whether the respondent fit the criteria of being Charismatic or non-Charismatic. Whereas Charismatics accounted for 50
percent of those who had rested more than five times and onlv 15



percent of those who had never rested, non-Charismarics accounted for

48 percent of those who had never rested and only 17 percent of those
who had rested more than five times.5 Thus the practice appears to be
fiillv integrated into the Charismatic ritual habitus, and we must proceed
to determine the cultural phenomenology of that integration.

Going Down
In the most characteristic setting for resting in the Spirit,
the public healing service, some people fall when the minister walks
among the congregation, in which case they collapse into their seats.
Most fall during a point in the proceedings when, one by one, they
approach the healer or healing team for a moment of personalized
praver, anointing, or laying on of hands. In most cases, working closely
with the healers are "catchers" who, in anticipation of resting in the
Spirit, stand behind each person in order to break a backward fall and
ease the person to the floor. Catchers are supposed to prevent injury
to people as they fall, but this is not enough to account for their presence, since it is said that if there are no catchers "the Lord protects
people from harm." This issue leads to a rather complex chain of cultural
logic. There are indeed multiple stories of people falling and "cracking
their head" (typically on the "corner" of an altar step, a church pew,
or a doorjamb) yet remaining unhurt, a result construed as additional
evidence of divine power. At the same time it is acknowledged that
people are occasionally hurt, and may even become angry enough because of it to speak against the Charismatics' good reputation. The
solution sometimes given is that these people may not be deep enough
into the experience for a relaxed (hence safe) fall, which implies either
that God abdicates protection or that the person is responsible for the
fall in this circumstance. The other solution is that even if God could
protect them, he leaves it to othersthe catchersas a demonstration
of the solidarity of Christian community.
The act of falling is spontaneously coordinated in such a way that,
following Bourdieu, it can be described as a disposition within the ritual
habitus. Without explicit instruction, participants fall backwards into
the arms of the catcher with knees unbent (see photograph 6). They
do not collapse in place or pitch forward or sideways; the only reference
in mv interviews to someone's "knees buckling" was by a woman de-



scribing the single time the experience "almost" happened to her, and
who had never witnessed it occurring to others. This disposition is
constituted by the spontaneous coordination of kinesthetic, interactive,
and symbolic dimensions of bodily experience. I will describe the kinesthetic dimension based on my own experience of being prayed with,
in which, as an acknowledged outsider, I received explicit instruction.
I was told to stand with arms at my side, feet together, and eyes closed
while two healers laid on hands, one with hands on my chest and back,
the other touching my forehead. As I did so my balance shifted entirely
to my heels. Slight adjustments of the healers' hands as they prayed
compounded the prccariousness of this posture, and induced me to
open my eyes. I trust that anyone experimenting with this posture could
have the same experience, and I trust as well that if my attention had not
been occupied by proprioceptionif, for example, I had been praying
insteadI may well have lost my balance and toppled backward quite
spontaneously into the arms of the waiting catcher.
The interactive dimension of resting in the Spirit includes the subject's relation with both healer and catcher. Both healers and patients
vary in the degree to which they expect resting in the Spirit, in the
characteristic language of spontaneity, to "happen" during the services
of particular healers. Those who conduct large services may or may not
linger over an individual who appears unlikely to fall, and though most
are quite aware of what proportion of participants typically do "go
down," they insist that it is never required. A variety of styles of laying
on hands can be observed: anointing the forehead; covering the forehead or face with a hand; a hand on a shoulder; one hand on the chest
and back, or forehead and neck; a raised hand without touching; or a
combination of these if a team is praying with the subject. Charismatics
may attribute special "giftedness" to the healer and/or "openness" to
the subject in cases of falling without being touched. Some Charismatics
nonetheless suspect certain healers of literal heavy-handedness and
"pushing" to encourage a fall. Given the above discussion of balance,
it also appears quite likely that visually following a movement of the
healer's hand may in itself have a sufficient effect, even when the patient
is not physically touched. Likewise, when there is contact, any variation
in pressure or touch may affect balance even though the healer has no
intention of pushing.
The interaction between subject and catcher is predicated on trust.
In fact, the format of falling backward into invisible waiting arms is
identical to the "trust exercise" carried out in other North American



settings where its purpose is explicitly to enhance group solidarity

among participants. In the Charismatic setting this basic message of
trust is overlaid with the dual symbolic meaning of support from the
Christian community as embodied in the catcher, and falling into the
invisible nurturant arms of the deityor as one healer put it, "falling
into the arms of someone you love." Between these two levels of meaning the interaction between subject and catcher also addresses the affective tone of the broader North American behavioral environment, as
shown in the following account by a healer of the first time he rested
in the Spirit:
Well the first time it happened, it was really scary. I was in a pew with my
friend that took me. And I was watching these people go up to get prayed over
and I was watching them fall over. I had never seen that, either. And he was
kind of egging me on, saying, uGo ahead. You're chicken." So I got in line and
I went up, and when it was my turn I went to a priest and a woman. . . . I told
him I needed some prayer and I forget what it was about. I looked at him and
I said "You know, I'm really scared I don't really know what's going to happen." He took my hands, and said, aHold onto my hands, and don't worry
about it. Just close your eyes." And he started to pray. And I could feel myself
going. I just grabbed a hold of him, grabbed on like "I don't want to go over."
And finally I did, and it was really peaceful. Unbelievable. I'll tell you why it
meant something to me, too. One of the developmental crises there in infancy
is trust versus mistrust, and I didn't learn to walk until I was twenty-two months
old. So I know there were some things that weren't appropriate, or there were
some voids in my life. After I got looking at that, I knew that struggle there
with resting in the Spirit was partly related to my own fear of falling. My own
struggle with trust versus mistrust. It was really helpful to me in terms of looking
at me and beginning to make some moves to work on that, which I still am.
This healer, a practicing clinical psychologist, frames his account in
terms of Erikson's (1963) developmental schema, which posits that in
infanq' a person forms an element of his subsequent stance toward life
that is characterized by either basic trust or mistrust. The critical moment in the example is the transmutation of maintaining the upright
posture which, along with Straus, we have seen as a universal existential characteristic of human developmentinto a concern with trust
understood as a developmental issue. The patient associates his early
inability to achieve uprightness, and hence his prereflective fear of falling with an inability to trust. This results not just in the "healing" of
a specific fear, but initiates a reflective process in which allowing oneself
to fall is thematized in religious terms as trust. Trust in turn is an instance
of the larger psychocultural theme of intimacy, evident here not only



in the support provided by the catcher, but also in the gesture of holding
hands with and holding on to the healer.
Fear is not the only response to falling. Some quite enjoy it and
describe it as a "letting go," abdicating the demands of remaining erect
in what Straus refers to as "the voluptuous gratification of succumbing"
(1966:144). The issue here is not one of a need to retain control, but
of overcoming "resistance" to an inability to relinquish control to the
deity. Once again there is at work in ritual practice both a prcreflective
and a thematized meaning. Straus (ibid: 143) captures the former in
the following passage:
Upright posture, which wc learn in and through falling, remains threatened by
falls throughout our lives. The natural stance of man is, therefore, "resistance."
A rock reposes in its own weight. The things that surround us appear solid and
safe in their quiet resting on the ground, but man's status demands endeavor. It
is essentially resdess. We arc committed to an ever renewed exertion. Our task
is not finished with getting up and standing. We have to "withstand" He who
is able to accomplish this is called constant, stable.
As the very term "resting" suggests, the trusting intimacy of the ritual
setting is supposed to offer an opportunity momentarily to cease resistance, to take time out from having to withstand. Much more is implied,
however, because the resting is done "in the Spirit." The letting go is
also described as "surrender" and "submission," and is understood as
giving oneself over to the divine will not just for the moment, but in
a moment that symbolizes commitment. Resistance is thus thematized
as resistance to the power of God.
With this thematization we move to the symbolic dimension of falling. An intriguing cultural contradiction emerges, which can be summarized as that between a definition of the person predicated on free will
and a definition of divine power as absolute. It is divine power that
causes a person to fall, and thus falling is a manifestation of divine
power and as such can serve as a sign to encourage faith. This is the
cultural logic behind narratives of persons who rest in the Spirit without
expecting to, without believing in the phenomenon, and especially of
those who resist it, who come to be prayed over with a determination
not to "go down." The following narrative, recounted by one of my
healer informants, is exemplary:
There was a priest I know well. He came with a couple offriendsto Father
Cs service, and we met as I was coming with a couple local people that I was
seeking a healing for. We all came into the church together, and Father X sat



in the same pew with us. He was invited up to concelebrate mass, and after
mass, before he came back to his seat, Father C asked him, a D o you have the
gift of healing?" And Father X says, "No." "Would you like to?" a Oh, yes."
"Then I'll pray for you that you'll receive the gift of healing." So he dips his
hand into the blessed oil, and anointed his forehead, and Father X went [loud
smashing sound] and the catcher knew it would likely happen and was right
there and caught him. Well, so much for that: Father X did not believe prior
to that time in being slain in the Spirit. He was very outspoken, even in prayer
groups; a holy man, but mistaken on this matter. He didn't believe in it and
publicly said so lots of times. So he went down like a ton of bricks, and when
he got up lined up with four other priests and people formed lines to come to
them for a blessing. He would just raise his hands, and about half of them
would collapse. Among these were two people who were also nonbelievers [in
resting in the Spirit] and they went down. They had been, quote, slain in the
Spirit, unquote, by a priest who had been a nonbeliever ten minutes before.
Now there's an end to this story. Between the mass and the evening healing
service the whole bunch of us that had come in two cars and met accidentally
went out to a little place together for lunch. And Father X says, "That was a
marvelous thing, wasn't it? You know, some of you know that I have not been
a believer in this. I thought people were faking or putting on, or it was wishful
thinking, or something like that, maybe psychosomatic or something. Being a
nonbeliever and going down like that, I was totally out, I believe, because I
saw Father C do this and I expected this, but I didn't feel it or see it because
the next thing a couple of seconds later Fm on my back looking at the ceiling."
And I said, "Father, did you say a few seconds? Group, how long?" We agreed
it was somewhere between five and ten minutes. He could hardly believe it.
He was out so totally.
Whereas other stories recount more of a physical resistance to falling,
including staggering, this one goes a step further in singling out ideological resistance to the practice. The priest is overwhelmed by divine power
in spite of his opposition, and indeed has n o opportunity t o resist physically. Since such a story has a lesson to convey about divine power, t w o
narrative elements arc essential. First, the hallmark of spontaneity must
be exhibited in the way the priest is o v e r c o m e t h e subject of this type
of story invariably u gocs down like a ton of bricks" or "never knew
what hit him." Second, he must undergo a kind of conversion even
though he is in other respects already a participant in Charismatic activities.
At the same time Charismatics, including those who relate such narratives, insist that the experience can always be resisted if a person so
chooses. The deity has given everyone free will, it is said, and would
never violate that by forcing himself o n a person w h o was not open or
did not consent"God is a gentleman." This c o m m o n statement has



the practical effect, regarded as positive, of encouraging people to be

prayed over without feeling required to "go down," or without feeling
guilty and unworthy if they do not fall spontaneously. Yet there is
more than a pragmatic concern behind this formulation, for it is held
in principle that in some circumstances (discussed below) falling against
one's will is taken as a criterion of demonic attack rather than of divine
overpowering. Here we encounter a situation in which cultural representations of power and person fail to coincide because they thematize
psychocultural themes of control and spontaneity in contradictory ways.
It becomes evident that it is all right to surrender control, but unacceptable for control to be taken. This specification clashes with the requirements of spontaneity insofar as God, the divine exemplar of the self,
must have unlimited prerogative of spontaneous action at his primary
locus of interest, the human self.
I would suggest that behind this contradiction lies a fundamental
uneasiness about a cherished Western valueintegrity of the egoin
the face of an unsettling prospect raised by the ritual practicedissolution of the self. The cultural climate of the late twentieth century does
not guarantee whether the consequences of such dissolution would be
transcendence, healing, and expansion of spiritual horizons, or passivity,
narcissism, and escape into authoritarianism. Yet this contradiction is
in large part a contradiction of representations that is not necessarily
confronted in the indeterminate existential situations inhabited by the
sacred self. If, for example, Father X was "open" to receive the gift of
healing, to what extent was he really resistant to resting in the Spirit?
Most reports of resistance by Charismatics are either accounts of overcoming an initial resistance, or of a pragmatic need to remain erect if
one feels the divine power while "ministering" to others or serving in
some ritual capacity. Moreover, even in the latter situation it is conceivable for Charismatics that divine purpose could be served by an unexpected tumble.
To better grasp the coordination between the symbolism of powrer/
resistance and the kinesthetics of falling, consider the following description by a healer of how power affects the body in light of the above
description of balancing on one's heels as a precursor to "going down":
Actually I think the best way I can explain it is when you're standing, you have
equal weight on the whole footfromtoes to heel. When you pray with people,
the toes can go up. And then the person, they're just like lifted off their toes,
and they're just on the heel, you see. And I've seen different times, people take
a step back to solidify their stand, because they're not accustomed to stand on



their heel or their toes off the ground. You pray and their toes go up, and they
solidify their feet, and they can do that two, three times, they're fighting it, so
they probably won't rail. They're blocking it, but they know. It's clear from
their reaction that they're blocking it. Many times, you pray with people and
they just take off, that's all.. . . If you're standing, and your chest and head
backs up with that power, the Lord, what's going to happen to your toes?
They're going to lift, [emphasis added]
In this passage we see that analysis of the Charismatic practice is not
complete with a description of "heel balance" as a precursor to falling,
because "toes rising" is inserted as a precursor to heel balance. At this
juncture semiotic and phenomenological language reach what appears
to be an impasse. Is the attribution of "power" a bestowal of symbolic
meaning on the practice or phenomenon, or is power from the outset
essential to its existential meaning? There are certainly reports of people
"resting in the Spirit" before they ever heard of such a thing, and labeling their experience only in retrospect. This would appear to support the
semiotic viewpoint, except that such occurrences are already invariably
embedded in religious settings. The experience thus presupposes some
kind of contact with the sacred, even if it is not yet elaborated either
behaviorally or as a set of conventional meanings for a particular person.
We must be cautious here and note that the very question of symbolic
meaning as representation may be an artifact of our own analysis of the
phenomenon into kinesthetic, interactional, and symbolic dimensions.
For Charismatics the experience is embodied and concrete and lacks the
determinacy bestowed by our analysis. The chain of cultural logic ends
in the divine: one naturally falls if one is balanced on the heels; one is
naturally balanced on the heels if the toes rise; the toes naturally rise if
the head and chest back up; and the head and chest back up with the
force of divine power. Let us continue in a cautionary mode, however,
and emphasize the following: to say that divine power is embodied
does not mean it is "inserted" into or "imposed" upon the body, which
is merely a more subtle form of the representational argument, but that
it partakes of the bodying forth that defines the body as the orientational
locus of self. This is the sense in which "power" is experienced as force
backing up the head and chest. In a variety of equally concrete modes
power is sometimes described as like electricity flowing through the
body, like waves flowing over one, or as something that comes upon
people so that they "never knew what hit them.*' Indeed, there is no
need to limit description of the transcendent element of falling to
Straus's phrase "voluptuous gratification." Why not include electrifying
thrill, surf-tossed abandon, or candle-blown extinguishment?



It is at this point, I would argue, that the Western cultural tendency

toward nominalization (Kccsing 1989) comes into play and transforms
the expericntially concrete into the conceptually substantial.6 Thus, if
divine power transmitted to a subject can be resisted, it follows that it
can also be "blocked" (by a subject's fear of falling, of the unknown,
or of unusual experience while down; by lack of instruction and knowing what to expect; by becoming unconscious) and can "back up" into
the person laying on hands, thereby causing physical pain and heaviness
in the arms. Several of the most prominent priests whose prayer causes
others to rest in the Spirit are known never to have had the experience
themselves, the explanation being that they arc already so filled with
divine power on a regular basis that the force of the influx does not
overwhelm them and cause them to fall. Note that this could equally
be phrased in terms of being so accustomed to being in the presence
of the deity that one is not overcome. Two healer informants who had
rested in the Spirit, but did so with decreasing frequency, did in fact
offer an explanation in terms of habituation or conditioning. However,
the substantive electric energy or hydraulic language of flow, overflow,
surge, waves, and backup is prominent in the Qiarismatic discourse of
power. Some healers mention that a particular mode of applying their
hands, for example simultaneously on a patient's forehead and back, is
especially effective because these are good points of entry for divine
power. This reification of power establishes it as an autonomous feature
of the Charismatic behavioral environment, at the same time as abstracting it from processes of the self grounded in the bodily synthesis of
the kinesthetic, interactive, and symbolic dimensions of ritual practice.
Divine power thus takes on its cultural character as a causal rather than
a constitutive principle: the sacred is not inherent in the falling, but the
falling is caused by the sacred.

In the Sacred Swoon

Once someone is on the floor, what then? As we have
seen to be the case in accounts of ritual healing, scholarly accounts
of altered states of consciousness frequently rely on global, black-box
mechanisms such as trance, suggestion, and hypnosis. Such accounts
not only stop short of examining the meaning and process of altered
states, but so much lack specificity that they at times conflate cause and



effect of the phenomena they are invoked to explain. Many authors

appear to be relieved when they can report that the subject "has no
memory" of what transpired once he or she emerges from the state.
To be sure, cultural variations in dispositions toward self-analysis and
reflexivity compound the difficulty of eliciting experiential accounts,7
as does the frequently ineffable or inexpressible character reported of
such experiences. Yet there is no good reason to presume the experiential
muteness of altered states of consciousness. Our analysis in this section
shows that even in this relatively obscure aspect of ritual performance
there is an identifiable specificity of self process.
Two observations about variability will assist us in circumscribing
the experiential dimension of resting in the Spirit. First, a person may
remain with eyes closed, face up on the floor for anywhere from a few
seconds to several hours. Second, the degree of awareness reported by
subjects ranges from total consciousness to complete unconsciousness.
Charismatics familiar with the practice draw on these variations in duration and degree to conclude that there are "levels" of resting in the
Spirit. Memory is typically retained, however. One healer reported that
he had never known anyone to "pass out," but that occasionally some
become "so peaceful they might not remember" what happened.
Not entirely coincident with these variations is the variation in degree
of experiential richness or elaboration. We will examine the more highly
elaborated end of this continuum in the next section when we discuss
the role of resting in the Spirit in healing. At the less elaborated end
of the continuum is a repertoire of feelings and sensations, expressed
as a series of adjectives, similes, and descriptive phrases, and epitomized
by the terms peace and relaxation. It is arguably no accident that in
English these words implicitly deny a dualism of body and self: for
example, a body can be at peace in a state of physical relaxation, and a
self can be peaceful and relaxed from the everyday stress of life. Like
divine power, however, peace (and, for that matter, love) can be substantivized such that one might experience "waves of peace" and even,
in a near oxymoron, be "overpowered with peace."
We will organize our description of the basic sense of peace and
relaxation around groups of terms abstracted from Charismatics' accounts, and later address the methodological question of how we understand the relation between terms and the experience they represent. Our
analysis shows that the "kind of body which comes in contact with
the divine" in the sacred swoon is a particular synthesis of motorium,
sensorium, affect, and spirituality.



The first clement is best described as a motor dissociation in which

hysical relaxation is absolute. The relevant terminological series inludes three related sets: 1) lightness (sometimes like a feather), buoyncy, weightlessness, floating (sometimes like on a cloud); 2) weakness,
umbncss, heavy limbs; 3) restful, letting go of weariness, and a subseuent feeling of being energized. As with the ability to resist falling, a
linor crisis of self is embedded in the attention given to whether a
erson retains the ability to move while down. This issue is invariably
nentioned, and description ranges from being able to stand up immeditely after falling, to being able to get up but not wanting to, to being
inable to stand up, to being unable to move at all for the duration of
he experience. The implicit cultural contradiction is between a concepion of varying levels of the experience corresponding to varying degrees
>f divine action on the body, and a conception of the person as endowed
lot only with free will, but with agency or the capacity to act. The first
)f these conceptions is evident when someone says they tried but could
lot move, and the second when someone insists they could have moved
f they had wanted to. Finally, even when someone in the sacred swoon
s unable to move, it is typically because the self has been rendered
passive by being deprived of agency and not because it was coerced
vhile actively struggling. The reason the person cannot move is because
he motor dissociation is absolute and one has no control of one's body.
[t is rare that someone attributes inability to move to being held by a
force, and this despite the substantivized notion of divine power. In
sum, in falling a person is moved by a force, but once down is not held,
ind resistance gives way to passivity.
The series of terms used to describe the experiential modality of the
sensorium during resting in the Spirit includes qualities of consciousness
as well as sensations: 1) waves of peace or love up and down one's
arms, feeling washed over from head to toe, things rushing through one
("probably ministering angels flushing through the body"), warmth,
dizziness (absence of dizziness in one case of a woman who typically
becomes dizzy if lying on her back); 2) removed from sensation, conscious but not aware of surroundings, inattentive to surroundings, not
aware of one's body, unaware of pressure from the floor one is lying
on; 3) like being in another world/another dimension/somewhere else,
letting go of earthly feelings, forgetting one's self; 4) like being hypnotized, in suspended animation, massively tranquilized, under sodium
pentothal but awake, lifeless. Once again in this domain of sensory
disengagement and transport, the indeterminacy of self creates a crisis



for the definition of person. Again the critical theme is that of control,
posed as the question of whether one is "conscious or unconscious"
while resting in the Spirit.
There is culturally even more at stake here than in the issues of ability
to resist falling or to move while down. Recall that the argument that
one should be able to resist falling is made in terms of God being a
"gendeman," or in terms of the implication that overenthusiastic healers
sometimes give a little "push." The parallel argument that one should
be able to move when down is made by attributing hysteria or attention
seeking to those who claim they cannot move. However, the argument
that one should retain consciousness holds that resting in the Spirit is
supposed precisely to be a "person-to-person" experience of the divine.
Unconsciousness separates one from one's own personhood, which
should be sacrosanct since one is "created in God's image." Bad enough
in itself, it also occurs at a moment when that personhood could presumably be fulfilled by direct interaction with the deity. Separation from
one's own personhood and from the deity are serious matters, and accordingly unconsciousness while resting in the Spirit is often attributed
to psycho pathology, demonic attack, or both.
Yet there are occasional instances of unconsciousness cited without
negative attribution, and predicated on the common but contradictory
ethnopsychological premise that the deeper the experience the farther
removed from everyday consciousness one becomes. Thus one can go
"out like a light" or be "completely gone." These references are especially
likely in narratives about the manifestation of divine power in nonbelievers such as the priest we discussed above. I would argue that they are
related to a cultural assimilation of the spiritual and the ineffable. Following the tripartite model of the person, one widely experienced healer
defined resting in the Spirit as a state of minimum physical and psychological activity with maximum spiritual activity. The specific nature of
this activity need not be perceived by the person who is resting. If part
of the self is understood to be highly active at the same time as one's
immediate experience is defined by the self-awareness of complete passivity, then the activity can be said to be occurring outside consciousness
in a space of ineffability, the spiritual realm. In addition, Charismatics
participate in post-Freudian popular culture and its embrace of the "unconscious," so that "unconsciousw/sr" (i.e., where the unconscious takes
over) may also be an clement in narratives of "deep" healing. In such
cases the deity "operates like a surgeon on an anesthetized patient,"
directly on the inmost being of someone who is resting in the Spirit.8



The third, or affective, component of the sacred swoon is summarized

in two series of terms: 1) pleasant, enjoyable, comfortable, well-being
(like being held or rocked), calm, quiet, soothing, nonthreatening,
being loved, being heard; 2) cleansed/washed, tension flowing out, release, freedom (like dying), joy, jubilation. I would argue that focusing
on the report of "release" and translating it into the theoretical language
of "catharsis" would be to risk a severely impoverished account of the
self as culturally constituted. These terms can only be understood together with, and as mutually qualified by their sensory and motor counterparts. In addition, they are intimately connected with the fourth terminological series used by Charismatics, summarizing the spiritual
dimension of resting in the Spirit: divine presence, closeness to/oneness
with the Lord, being ministered to by God. These spiritual terms are
as descriptively concrete as those in the three other sets of terms. From
among them all, the term "presence" can be singled out as performing
a critical symbolic function as well, in that it condenses the embodied
meaning of all the other terms. This is possible because the synthesis
of motor, sensory, affective, and spiritual experiences constitutes divine
presence as an experiential gestalt.9 Thus "presence" plays a dual role
as one among a series of terms for distinguishable, concrete feelings
and sensations, and as the synthesizing symbol of the experience as a
We are due to reflect for a moment about where our argument stands
on the shady ground between semiotics and phenomenology, representation and embodiment, abstract and concrete. I am claiming that the
words used by our informants are not to be treated merely as terms but
as experiences. They have a fundamentally different status than the terms
that constitute the Charismatic vocabulary of motives, the demonology,
or the repertoire of emotions we have discussedthey do not represent,
they disclose. They are descriptions that give us access to the nondiscursive, nonrepresentational, preobjective element of cultural experience.
Let us pursue this point with an attempt to formulate the essence of
the Charismatic sense of divine presence in resting in the Spirit.
Let me first point to two tropic features of the Charismatic descriptive language that can save us from an interpretive error. One is a reference to the experience as like being in another world or "somewhere
else." Although Charismatics talk about a spiritual dimension or realm,
there is no support for an interpretation that their spirits are "literally"
transported to another world as, for example, is the case in shamanic
ecstasy. It is true that such a meaning could easily- be cultivated among



Charismatics by construing the distortion of temporality while resting

(cf. the case of the nonbelieving priest described above) according to the
common schema "where was I all that time?" This cultural elaboration is
not made, however; when the experience ends it may "lift," or simply
be over, and one gets up. Only one informant said, "I call it 'coming
back/" specifying that his own phrasing was idiosyncratic. In the sacred
swoon the spirit remains with the body, the associated feelings and
sensations retain their phenomenological locus in the body, and divine
presence is experienced as becoming manifest immediately to the patient. The cultural understanding that the person is "resting" or is "slain"
contrasts with that reported by Fernandez (1989) in the African Bwiti
cult, where a markedly similar configuration of motor/sensory dissociation is understood as "disembodiment." That the dissociation of resting
in the Spirit is not objectified as being "out of the body" indicates
a concordance in the Charismatic habitus with the stance that such
experiences arc likely to be "occult," and with the theological conception
of an "incarnationaT spirituality.
Another tropic feature of this descriptive language is in the term
"oneness." This term apparently refers neither to a merging with the
deity nor to an incarnation of the deity in the subject. On the contrary,
it could be said that the subject is "in" the deity' in the sense of being
"surrounded by the intimate presence of" the deity. This sense of "in"
is perhaps the one most accurate for understanding the prepositional
phrase of "resting in the Spirit." Phenomenologically, substantivized
divine power enters the person; the deity as presence does not. This understanding of presence conforms to healers' descriptions of the Holy Spirit
"hovering" over the participants in a healing service, while they
"breathe" (and thereby incorporate) the divine power that permeates the
atmosphere of such an event. Likewise, the understanding of presence
conforms to the cultural emphases on the deity as person and on the
personal integrity of the experiencing subject. These emphases tend to
model divine presence as a person-to-person encounter rather than as
interpenetration or possession.
We can hardly fail to strike a psychoanalytic chord in noting the
"oceanic" (including wave of love) passivity before an omnipotent paternal deity that characterizes resting in the Spirit. An examination of
psychodynamic conflicts might seem especially relevant given the apparent frequency of childhood sexual abuse in the population with which
we are concerned. First of all, however, resting in the Spirit would seem
to tap into a much earlier stage of psychosexual development than that



at which the traumas of abuse typically occur. More generally, the psychoanalytic formulation tends to presuppose a precultural psychobiological universal. Whether or not one subscribes to the salience of such
a universal, our primary purpose in the present discussion is to identify
in contrast those respects in which a phenomenon like divine presence
is culturally constituted. Finally, the psychoanalytic approach surely
leads us to invoke that kind of mechanism such as regression in service
of the ego, which, though broadly appropriate, remains the kind of
psychological black box of which we are wary. From the standpoint of
therapeutic process it does us little good to invoke regression in service
of the ego unless we can specify what that service is and precisely how
it is achieved.
Let us then formulate our account from the standpoint of cultural
phenomenology. If, as we have found, the experience is constituted in
the bodily synthesis of preobjectivc self processes, this is to say that the
coming into being of "divine presence" as a cultural phenomenon is an
objectification of our embodiment itself. We can clarify by starting with
the heaviness of limbs, an experience which is not at all metaphorical
in resting in the Spirit. Quoting Plugge, Zaner points out that "within
the reflective experience of a healthy limb, no matter how silent and
weighdess it may be in action, there is yet, indetectably hidden, a certain
'heft'" (1981:56). This thinglike heft of our bodies in conjunction with
the spontaneous lift of customary bodily performances defines our bodies as simultaneously belonging to me and estranged from me, and hence
is fundamental to the indeterminacy of embodied otherness. While resting in the Spirit, the heft that is always there for us preobjectivcly is made
determinate, or objectifiedits essential alterity becomes an object of
somatic attention within the experiential gestalt defined as divine presence. Reciprocally, the specificity of parts that we have described
(motor, sensory, affective, spiritual) defines this gestalt as a whole such
that, concordant with the psychocultural analysis we have been developing, presence is thematized as intimacy. The subject is loved, nurtured,
ministered to, communicated with, held, healed. In short, the divine
presence is an intimate presence in a way that, because it encompasses
multiple modalities of the body-self, surpasses human companionship.
Like the divine presence in imaginal performance, then, resting in the
Spirit offers both a surrogate source of intimacy for the lonely and a
prototype upon which human intimacy- can be modeled.



Power, Presence, and Healing

In Charismatic ritual life, resting in the Spirit can serve

the purposes of demonstrating divine power; of exhibiting the faith of
those who are "open" to such power; of allowing a person to be close
to, "touched by," or "spoken to" by God (sometimes via embodied
imagery); of preparing a person to receive and exercise a spiritual gift;
or of healing.10 Healing is the most prominent among these, and we
now turn to examination of its relation to the sacred swoon. The most
general (and most often repeated) cultural precept is that resting in the
Spirit does not always result in healing, though it is always a "sign of
God working" deeply within a person. The corollary is that healing does
not require resting in the Spirit, though the experience may augment or
consolidate a healing achieved through other ritual means. These precepts have an explicit "pastoral" or social control function in warning
those who rest in the Spirit not to overenthusiasticaJly expect to be
healed, and those who seek healing not to overemphasize the importance of a this particular ritual technique.
Like any cultural formulations, however, these are subject to a variety
of qualifications. Distinguishing among physical, psychological, and
emotional healings, one informant stated that resting always includes
at least a spiritual healing. Considering the closeness for Charismatics
of "spiritual healing" and "spiritual growth" this statement might itself
be reduced to the generality of "God working deeply." Another healer
stated that divine presence is in itself healing, such that one's life should
change if exposed to the kind of overwhelming presence that is said to
constitute resting in the Spirit. Likewise, it is also stated that "going
down" increases one's chances to be healed, because it allows divine
power to work in a way it could not if one were "in control." Charismatics typically associate peace, relaxation, surrender, and tranquility with
healing. A practice that ritually maximizes these feelings is thought to
reduce "blockage" and "interference" to healing as well as to minimize
the "disruption" created by chaotic feelings and circumstances. Someone who is resistant, rigid, closed, or afraid to let go of anger is regarded
as closed to divine power, and the "closed" person who does not make
herself "available" to the deity is not apt to be healed. Indeed, our
study of 587 public healing-service participants shows that the more



frequently people have rested in the Spirit the more likely they arc to
report having been healed.11
Let us take a look at resting in the Spirit's contribution to the ritual
system and how it is supposed to work. First of all, it is stated that a
healing attributed to resting in the Spirit is "real" if it occurs suddenly,
with an immediately observable effect. One well-known healer, at different points within the same interview, described it as a "spiritual shock
treatment" and as a "spiritual anaesthetizing/* We might offer to reconcile the apparent contradiction by distinguishing the "electric" power
that causes one to fall and the dissociation of the sacred swoon proper.
More than this, I believe it implies the simultaneous operation of two
metaphors of therapeutic process, one cast in terms of substantivized
divine power and the other in terms of the personalized action of the
deity "operating" on the immobilized subject. The personal metaphor
is the more elaborated of the two, understood as a direct, unmediated
"ministry" by God to a person, where "God decides how he wants to
deal with someone" and the healer "doesn't have anything to do with
it." Some healers say that barring unforeseen consequences (such as an
onset of a demonic crisis) they cease prayer with a person and move
on as soon as the person falls, leaving that person "with" the deity.
They acknowledge the pragmatic importance of this approach when
there is insufficient time for them to attend to individuals at a large
healing service, or in cases where they arc so fatigued from their work
they just "let the Lord take over."
Resting in the Spirit is said to be a state in which, since one's thoughts
are slowed and one becomes calm and relaxed, one is most open and
least resistant to divine healing. In colloquial parlance, healers say that
the person can "get in the way," and the deity's message in the sacred
swoon is, "Shut up and let me be God," or, "Shut up and let me do
what I want [with you]." One told of a woman who always talked too
much, but who always rested in the Spirit easily and for a considerable
duration. This was "the way the Lord brought her under control so he
could do something with her." Finally, because it is understood as a
direct divine intervention, resting in the Spirit is said to speed up the
healing process. Just as the healing of memories is often claimed to
achieve in months what would take years in conventional psychotherapy, so it is claimed that resting in the Spirit can achieve in minutes or
hours what might take a long time in the healing of memories.
What is in question here is the role of what Prince (1980) has identified as "endogenous processes" in ritual therapy. It is entirely in order



to invoke the terms "catharsis" and "regression in service of the ego"

as generalized descriptions of these therapeutic self processes.12 However, let me restate the grounds of my mistrust for such concepts. First,
as I have already indicated, they are too often assumed to be global
mechanisms that explain phenomena through an assumed uniformity
or generality of function ("Aha, it's catharsis") rather than as concepts
that offer an opening for an account of the specificity of a phenomenon.
Here I am inclined to concur with the Charismatics who state not that
resting in the Spirit allows healing to proceed more generally but that
"God can work in/touch/heal a person more specifically" Perhaps paradoxically, I would suggest that the specificity of endogenous processes
may be less constrained when they are allowed free play within an indeterminate zone in which the self is free to construct a meaning from
the repertoire of collective and biographical resources available at that
discrete moment. It is critical, however, that the essential indeterminacy
of self not be presumed to indicate a generality of process. This leads
to my second concern, which is that mechanisms such as catharsis and
regression appear to presuppose a structure of the self that is much
more determinate than we are prepared to accept. It is our purpose to
describe, not to presuppose the cultural constitution of the self. If catharsis is at issue, we must know what kind of process that is and what
is being catharted; and if regression, how that process takes place and
what service it does the "ego."
It appears valid to say that the substance of therapeutic self processes
that occur in resting in the Spirit can be arrayed on a continuum from
simple to complex. These self processes may be described under three
general types: inchoate, cathartic, and imaginal. The types are posited
neither as ethnopsychological nor as ontological categories, but only as
preliminary categories for organizing the data of cultural phenomenology. The categories of self process overlap with one another and may
also be relevant to practices other than resting in the Spirit. We examine
them here because this practice offers a kind of prototype for how the
Charismatic sacred self interacts with the sacred, and thus can be expected to reflect the Charismatic healing system and the North American ethnopsychology upon which it is based.
The inchoate is in this instance the same as that identified by Fernandez (1974, 1982; cf. chapter 1), but instead of being transformed by
identity-creating metaphorical processes, it is preserved intact and thematized as a mode of the self. The subject resting in the Spirit, whether
conscious or unconscious, may be unaware that anything is "happen-



ing," yet report a more-or-less specific result. Such results lack psychological content: if a specific request for healing is made, it will typically
refer to a medical or physical problem, whereas if there is no specific
request, the result will be understood as a diffuse spiritual healing. Children, whose identities are culturally conceived as less well-formed than
those of adults, may experience the inchoate self process. Such is the
case in a scenario of children of a manic-depressive father subject to fits
of rage, in which the boy often remained unconscious for a long period
and required additional prayer, until he finally came to and "was healed
of all the hurt." In general, Charismatics say that "the Spirit works when
a person is not aware," or that "what he's doing to me may be none of
my business." This presupposes a self that can be acted upon outside
of consciousness (again, whether conscious or unconscious), such that
significant things can happen to one without one knowing it. The frequent observation of eye movement beneath closed lids is culturally
interpreted as confirmation of this presupposition. In Fernandez's
terms, the metaphor that is predicated on the inchoate self is precisely
inchoateness itself, which is subsequently thematized as "ineffability."
The second of our types, the cathartic, presupposes a double meaning
for the self. One is the self from which stress and tension are "released,"
in line with the ethnopsychological schema of the self taking in or letting
out stresses, or the schema of tension building up inside and being
vented. Another is the self which can be released from the "burdens"
that weigh it down or hold it "in bondage" to life's cares. The simplest
version of the cathartic self process is that those who are "going through
a lot" find that everything is more "peaceful" on returning home after
resting in the Spirit. I will cite two examples. One is a woman who
"worried to excess and was always easily upset." This woman traced
her chronic angst to a combination of childhood events. She reported
discovering the Charismatic movement as a remedy for depression resulting from the death of both parents after caring for them out of strict
Irish Catholic duty, and for the stress of bearing her own child late in
her child-bearing years. She rested in the Spirit at the same time she
was baptized in the Spirit, and reported that the subsequent peace
"changed her life." The second example is a man who stayed down an
hour and a half with "tension, anxiety, and stress flowing out the whole
time," wrhile he experienced images (imaginal self process) of "stressful
things he was letting go of" The man subsequently felt healed of back
pain he understood to be triggered psychosomatically by family and
work problems. Finally, the experiences of "the gift of laughter" or "gift



of tears" belong equally to the inchoate and the cathartic categories.

That is, in these experiences of spontaneous laughing and crying a person may report not knowing why she was laughing or crying, but assuming that "the Lord was probably releasing something."
Fundamental to the cathartic healings is that a person's stance toward
the world is "healed," not the situation in which he finds himself. This
stance is reconstituted by passing through the liminality of the "voluptuous gratification of succumbing." In that succumbing there is both release through resignation to one's lot, and the sharing of a slice of
heaven as the reward for devotion. This could be no more powerfully
symbolized than with one's own body immobilized on the ground.
Following Scheffs theory that catharsis is achieved through aesthetic
distancing of the troubling emotion, we would argue that the fallen
body achieves the necessary distancing by becoming a metaphor of resignation. Although this is more than the temporary reprieve suggested
bv "resting," there is no question that the person will rise again to the
right posture of "withstanding." In this connection it is significant
that these healings seem to be neither conceived nor experienced as
death and rebirth, even though it may be an occasion for someone to
be "born again" or baptized in the Spirit. The person is, after all, just
We turn now to the third self process of resting in the Spirit. We
have stressed that cultivation of imaginal processes is one of the most
vivid features distinguishing the Charismatic self from that of fellow
North Americans. Three subtypes of imaginal process are prominent
in our data on resting in the Spirit: images of divine empowerment, of
regressed dependence, and of biographical coherence. The first includes
examples such as being healed of goiter upon experiencing an image
(described in this case as a concrete apparition) of the Eucharist; a
Protestant woman imaginally encountering the Virgin Mary and converting to Catholicism; and preparing a friend for the imminent death
of her cancer-afflicted son by narrating an image of the son "dipped by
the Lord in a chalice of His blood" in preparation for his "final union
with God." In what I am calling regressed dependence, intimacy with
the divine is experienced imaginally, and consists of being soothed,
comforted, and nurtured while held in God's arms or in his lap. This
typical image renders concrete the inchoate "oceanic" feeling of omnipotent presence, elaborating the sensory component with the inclusion of
position and touch, and the affective component with the compelling
figures of divine parent and infantilizcd subject.



Biographical coherence is the most complex subtype of imaginal self

process in the sacred swoon. It occurs in an elaborate series of images,
often during an extended period of "resting." The following is a prototypical case:
A woman who had been the youngest and newest nun in an overseas mission
convent provoked the jealousy of the other sisters by successfully learning the
indigenous language. While resting in the Spirit for two and a half hours she
not only forgave her fellow missionaries but "every single person who hurt me
in my life came before me. And I would say, CI forgive you one hundred percent
in the name of Jesus Christ.'" When this was complete it occurred to her to
say to God "That's nice, I forgive everybody. Who's going to forgive me?" At
that moment she experienced "the deepest sense of peace" she had ever had.
Related to this type of condensed biographical replay is the scenario
recounted by one healer of persons who experience the suffering and
crucifixion of Jesus step by step, including vivid tactile images of the
crown of thorns and scourging, and who are subsequently able to "forgive themselves" in a way they could not even in extended inner-healing
prayer. A variant of this schema is evident in an account of a girl who
when prayed with appeared to go into a seizure, then lay back on a
couch and went through "clearly distinguishable" developmental stages.
These stages went "through sucking her thumb, and ended in fetal
position. From there she rested in the Spirit. When she came forth from
that, the marked difference about her was an air of peace, a calmness,
and she became part of our community." What these processes of biographical coherence have in common is the presupposition that the self
can be substantively rcexperienccd and changed by internally produced
eidetic imagery, understood as the spontaneous and direct action of the

Resting, Genuine and Spurious

Anthropologists have understood for a long time that the
principles underlying social life are nearest the surface in situations of
controversy, and that cultural meanings become most accessible where
they are most at stake. In spite, or perhaps because of its popularity,
resting in the Spirit is a controversial phenomenon for Charismatics,
and the heart of the issue is its "authenticity." More specifically, critics



challenge the authenticity of resting in the Spirit, whereas apologists

argue for its beneficial effects in terms of healing and spiritual development.13 Both sides of this internal controversy invoke the same biblical
scenarios, such as Saul on the road to Damascus and the apostles confronted by the transfiguration of Jesus, and the same Catholic writers,
including the ecstatic mystics Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross,
drawing opposing conclusions about whether these constitute examples
of resting in the Spirit. They likewise draw opposing conclusions about
the historical prototypes of healers known for similar practices, extending backward in timefromKathryn Kuhlman to Charles Finney, George
Jeffreys, George Fox, John Wesley, and the fourteenth-century Dominican preacher John Tauler. These two sets of arguments constitute a
rhetoric of validation by either analogical or historical precedent, respectively.14 To be sure, such analogies and precedents suggest that, just as
a comparative analysis of demonology is possible, so it would be possible to examine the varying meanings of religious falling or swooning
across historical and cultural contexts. Our purpose, however, is an
ethnographic oneto show that the ideological/theological/pastoral
debate about authenticity is predicated on the recurrent, constitutive
North American psychocultural themes of spontaneity and control, and
on the Charismatic cultural definition of the tripartite person.
To begin with, there is a continuum of opinion among movement
leaders with respect to resting in the Spirit. Critics range from those
opposed to the practice to those who accept it with reservations and
"urge caution" in its use. In any case, even apologists for the practice
agree it can at times be inauthentic. What is meant by authenticity?
Apologists would likely agree that genuine resting includes an "objective" energy flow of divine power and a "subjective" openness or responsiveness to that power. Resting is thus said to be caused by divine
power, and the debate begins with the premise that other than divine
causes can produce the effect of falling in a swoon. Consider the following series of possible causes commonly cited by Charismatics: fatigue
or exhaustion from an overly long healing service, autosuggestion or
self-induction, emotionalism or hysteria, group expectation or crowd
psychology, simple hypnosis or suggestion by the healer, spontaneous
hypnosis emergent from the personal or colleaive unconscious, occult
mediumistic induction by a nonphysical being or spirit, temporary possession by an evil spirit or demon, resting in the Spirit through action
of the Holy Spirit.15 This series recapitulates the tripartite definition
of the person, since the causes arc distributed over the physical, psycho-



logical, and spiritual dimensions. However, only the final member of

this series counts as authentic. The first six are considered "human"
rather than divine causes, with emphasis on the psychological. Mediumistic induction combines the psychological and spiritual, and suggests
in efFect that a disembodied human spirit acts as the "hypnotist." In
temporary possession a demonic spirit is said to counterfeit the experience of resting in order to deceive and keep a person away from the
deity. Some healers suspect this if a person "goes down too quickly"
upon being anointed or laid hands on. The cultural logic is that since
the healer immediately stops praying and lets God take over when a
person falls, the demon (not the patient) may "fake" the experience in
order to bring an end to the healer's prayer, which it by nature finds
disturbing. In such a case healers might prevent a person from falling,
or remain with him or her for a brief period of "soaking prayer" (cf.
chapter 2) until the demon departs. It is critical to our argument that the
members of this causal series, foremost among them the one regarded as
exclusively authentic, all share the feature of defining the phenomenon
as a spontaneous occurrence with a cause that lies outside intcntionality.
In addition to the causal criterion, the practice may be deemed inauthentic because a person feigns it and falls intentionally, either out of
desire for the experience, desire for attention from others, or from peer
pressure when most others arc falling. Here there is no "experience" at
all, as epitomized in the anecdote of a man who, seeing the persons
standing on both his right and left "go down," did not even fall, but
self-consciously lay down between them. Resting in the Spirit may also
be regarded as inauthentic if people enjoy it too much or "seek the
experience for its own sake." Some healers are suspected of using the
practice to entertain rather than edify, such as one who merrily led an
assembly to a sunny hillock behind a chapel with an invitation to go
out to the "slaying hill" (punning slaying in the Spirit with sleighing),
or one who announced that the evening session of an all-day healing
event would include the "layaway plan" (punning on a cherished North
American commercial institution). Leaders of two Charismatic communities reported temporarily banning the practice from their healing sessions because of too much "emotionalism and expectation" in an "unspiritual circus atmosphere," including some people who would rise
from the floor and go immediately to another healing team in order to
fall again. Finally, Charismatics observe that the practice waxes and
wanes in different periods and different groups. This fact has no agreedupon interpretation either, with critics citing it as evidence that the



practice is faddish, and apologists arguing that the presence of the Holy
Spirit flows as the deity determines the needs of particular people and
groups at particular moments.
I must emphasize that none of the eighty-seven healers interviewed
rejected the possibility of "authentic" resting in the Spirit, and the majority reported having the experience themselves on at least one occasion. It is the case, however, that there are not only multiple cues that
one may look for to "discern" authenticity, but that there is no clear
cultural consensus on how to interpret these cues. One healer stated
that in observing a person, one "can tell if it's real, but can't be sure if
it's not." Another said, in contrast, that it is precisely the inauthentic
that one can identify, by a person's looks, stance, nervousness, heavy
breathing, depression, or preoccupation. Once again highlighting spontaneity, "the ones you don't expect are authentic." Two healers ventured
coincidentally to cite 75 percent as the proportion of spurious resters,
those who "bring it on themselves" or tcyield to expectation and desire."
Authenticity is questioned not only, as we have seen, in a person
who "goes down" too quickly, but in a person who goes down too
many times (such as every time they are prayed over) or stays down
for too long or short a period. It is thought by some that resting is
characteristic of a phase of, as it were, spiritual adolescence, and that
one should become more accustomed to withstanding the experience
of divine power as one matures. The exception is that, if otherwise
considered to be "spiritually mature," someone who falls frequently may
be said simply to be consistendy "open to the Spirit." A person who
stays down too long is suspect of attention seeking or escapism, but
again there arc exceptions and, as we have seen, some of the "deepest"
imaginal healing processes arc said to occur in swoons of long duration.
Finally, a person who stays down too briefly is suspect of having experienced nothing or of not having remained long enough to benefit appropriately from the experience. Such a person either "faked it" or was
insufficiendy "open to the Spirit."
Eye movement behind closed or scmiclosed lids is frequendy cited
as a sign of activity in the spiritual component of the resting person
while the body and mind are tranquil, but this is again ambiguous since
such eye movement can also be cited as evidence of activity by evil
spirits. Falling without injury is a sign of authenticity, whereby injury
must imply inauthenticity. The fact that children occasionally rest in
the Spirit is cited as evidence of authenticity, based on the ethnopsychological premise that the psychic structure of children is different from



that of adults, particularly in being relatively guileless and immune to

social pressure to conform. Likewise, the willingness of infirm elderly
people to risk a fall, especially an unnatural backwards fall, is taken to
support the authenticity of resting in the Spirit. The strongest appeal
to authenticity by apologists, however, is that the practice "bears good
fruit." They point to reports of beneficial effects and healing. Yet this
too remains contested. Critics argue that short-term feelings of peace
and closeness to God are inadequate if they do not bring lasting change,
whereas apologists respond that resting in the Spirit may be a steppingstone or an incremental part of a healing process that may be going
on before and after resting. Even long-term positive results do not satisfy
some critics, who argue that positive results may still accrue from inauthentic experience, and that positive results may originate by other
means and only mistakenly be attributed to resting in the Spirit.
These experiential vagaries of authenticity point to what we have
called the perceptual indeterminacy of embodied existence (see also
Csordas 1993). In practice this indeterminacy is an integral feature of
the bodily synthesis and the habitus in which it is embedded. It allows
people both to take a stance and act in the world, and to relinquish
that stance in hopes of finding a new one. Charismatic healers appear
to have an intersubjective awareness of the bodily synthesis as an experiential gestalt composed of all the ambiguous elements of resting in the
Spirit that we have identified. This gestalt defines the propriety of bodily
comportment including the appropriate number of falls, their duration,
extraneous (i.e., sudden, violent, lewd, agitated) movements, the manner of falling (e.g., the question of authenticity is not far out of mind
in the case of women who fall with their "skirts up"), and susceptibilities
of children and elderly people. The healers* intersubjective awareness is
precisely what is objectified as the spiritual gift called "discernment."
Yet this awareness is possible because the bodily synthesis is not a matter
only of individual perception, but is predicated on shared dispositions
in the habitus of contemporary North America. These dispositions,
finally, are coordinated for a distinct ritual purpose by the existential
project summarized in the motives of "spiritual growth" and "Christian
The theoretical formulation in the preceding paragraph gains support
from two further observations about indeterminacy, or at least about
the experiential shadow it casts in ritual practice. Let us return once
more to the self-perception of the patient in order to see how existential
indeterminacy is thematized in terms of spontaneity and control, and



thus to complete a cultural phenomenology of "authenticity" in the

sacred swoon. The observations come from our study of 587 participants in healing services whom we asked whether or not each had rested
in the Spirit during that particular service. Of the 493 people who
responded to the question, 50.7 percent said yes and 37.5 percent said
no. Our first observation is that fully 5.3 percent (N = 26) of respondents reported they had "almost" rested in the Spirit. We can safely say
that these people experienced some of the constellation of feelings described above and almost fell down. What is of interest is the indeterminacv of self-perception implied in this "almost," whether it be a certain
precariousness of balance, a certain lightheadedness, and so forth. Does
the possibility of an "almost"-rested mean that ritual practice excludes
or neglects a certain range of preobjective experience, leaving subjects
straddling a fence of symbolic ambiguity in a phenomenological noman's land? I would argue instead that almost is a necessary ritual possibility because indeterminacy is essential to ritual practice. What is distinctive about resting in the Spirit as a self process is that the very
indeterminacy of self processes is thematized by notions that the self
characterized by free will varies in its degree of "openness" and is capable of "resistance," that the more spiritually mature may not be overcome or may be more easily overcome, or that the deity chooses which
people should fall.
Of even greater interest, 6.5 percent (N = 32) of respondents reported that they were "not sure" whether they rested in the Spirit.
Certainly this docs not refer to an inability to report whether or not
thev had fallen. Neither does it seem to reflect lack of familiarity with
the term resting in the Spirit. In the first place, unfamiliarity with the
terms or the practice is likely accounted for by the 16 percent of respondents who did not answer this question. And in the second place this
uncertainty was also found among 6.9 percent (N = 6) of healers interviewed about their own experience of resting in the Spirit. Beyond
the pastoral and theological debate summarized above, these interviews
thematize the indeterminacy of self-perception as actual self-doubt about
the authenticity of one's own experience. In these cases the self-reflective
questions include whether it happened because the subject felt like it
should, likes the experience, or was conforming with everyone else who
fell. The core question, however, is whether it was authentic if the self
played any role in initiating it: "Since I allowed it to happen, was it
real? Maybe I just gave in; maybe I was just letting go; maybe I just



relaxed too much." The following, from a healer who is also a priest,
epitomizes this uncertainty:
I would almost say the one time I really thought it was authentic was at Kathryn
Kuhlman's service. I don't know if the other times were authentic.... I felt
myself swaying. Now, did I want to fall or not fall, and if I did, I did, and if
I didn't, I didn't. Tm not going to get scrupulous about it because it makes no
difference. I was being prayed with and I was swaying back and forth and I
wasn't being pushed, so I let myself go. . . . See, if I'm standing up and I'm
starting to sway, I'm feeling myself sway, it's sometimes easier just to let myself
go. The time at Kathryn Kuhlman's. I wasn't swaying. I was standing and then
I wasn't standing.
What finally becomes clear in these cases is that resting in the Spirit
cannot be a spiritual act, but must be a spiritual effect whose origin
outside the self, and hence its authenticity, is ascertained by the phenomenological criterion of spontaneity. The fall must be spontaneous, and
the transformation of consciousness unaccompanied by deliberation or
any act of will. It is at this juncture that our second psychocultural
theme of control enters, for genuine resting must at the same time be
spontaneous, and not be controlled. Someone who falls on purpose is
not judged to be performing a physical act of faith or performing an
embodied metaphor of trust in the community, but to be feigning.
Someone who yields control and allows herself to fall is not judged to
be performing a psychological act symbolic of surrender to the divine
will, but to be influenced by suggestion or conformity.16
The first conclusion we can draw from this analysis is that while
Charismatics profess to a definition of the tripartite person whose components interact in a "pneumopsychosomatic" way, the self processes
of resting in the Spirit are structured more along the lines of the "mind/
body/spirit trichotomy." More precisely, this reduces to the readily recognizable Western dualism of natural (psychophysical) and supernatural
(spiritual). Authentic resting in the Spirit cannot be incarnated as either
a physical or psychological act. It cannot originate in either of these
domains, but only in the spiritual.
Paradoxically, and this is our second conclusion, the suspicion of
surrender and the criterion of spontaneity bring to the fore a powerful
ambivalence that surrounds the psychocultural theme of control. Because its source can be inauthentic, spontaneity carries a danger, as is
evident in the following passage from a Charismatic writer:
Of all the psycho-physical experiences [healing, miracles, emotional release, and
trance states] it is in the last, the one in which the falling phenomenon is found,



that the subject loses control of his or her body, and therefore can no longer rely
on consciousness to protect him- or herself from unwanted and unwarranted
influences. The fact of losing physical control places this experience in a category
unique even among psycho-physical phenomena, and it alone makes the experience as potentially dangerous as it can be potentially helpful. (Dobson 1986:
This prominent Charismatic author implies that to be out of control is
acceptable and even beneficial if the experience is caused by divine
power. While, as we have seen, some Charismatics debate whether a
person authentically resting is really out of control, the issue remains
central. What is culturally at stake is precisely the potential consequences
of losing control, and it is to one of the most dramatic of these consequences that we now turn.

Demonic Crisis in Its Behavioral


What we are calling the demonic crisis is not a named

practice like resting in the Spirit. It is also less easy to document, both
because of its relative rarity and because it is regarded as a manifestation
of evil. As we have seen, Charismatics encounter evil spirits in a variety
of ways that do not include episodes of crisis such as those that concern
us here. We have already distinguished the practices of formal Catholic
exorcism and Charismatic deliverance with respea to the criteria of
degree of symptomatic severity, degree of demonic control, and degree
of ecclesiastical involvement required in therapy. Cases of exorcism typically include the demonic crisis, but nevertheless are exceedingly rare
and are largely outside the scope of Charismatic practice. Yet although
demonic crises are rare even among cases of deliverance in Charismatic
healing, they are far more common than the total number of exorcisms
that occur, and unlike exorcism they often occur in large group settings.
In addition, narratives of demonic crisis define the nether pole of a
cultural continuum of severity in deliverance. Thus demonic crises occupy a more visible position on the cultural horizon than do the torments of exorcism.17 Also relevant here are the process of domestication
and the cultural innovation of "binding spirits" which accompanied the
diffusion of deliverance from Pentecostal to Catholic circles. A demonic
crisis may be defined as a situation in which the "manifestations" rage



out of control, and the domestication of deliverance occurred partly in

response to such crises. Although their frequency has doubtless declined
over the past decade, they remain a constant behavioral possibility in
the Charismatic world as well as a vivid symbol of evil incarnate.
Unlike the situation in some societies for which "crises of possession"
are reported (Bourguignon 1976b), the Charismatic demonic crisis almost never occurs in a civic setting or in the course of daily life. The
afflicted only rarely runs wildly through the streets, or falls writhing on
the floor in front of her spouse and children. Typically, such a crisis
will occur within the religious milieu itself in a private session of healing
prayer, at a public healing service, or during one of the large periodic
regional or national Charismatic conferences. It is probably safe to say
that demonic crises are less common in local prayer groups where the
healers are experienced and where sessions are carefully prepared and
conducted in a supportive atmosphere. In addition, patients in these
sessions are most likely to be members of prayer groups with relatively
high levels of therapeutic disposition, and already socialized into Charismatic practices such as "binding" of spirits. At a public healing service,
on the other hand, the person afflicted is relatively more likely to be
someone "off the street," since typically only half of participants at such
services are active in the Charismatic Renewal. The most vivid accounts
are often from regional and national conferences or specialized workshops where, perhaps not coincidentally, the most-renowned Charismatic healers are likely to be in attendance. Such events usually last
several days, during which both healing ministers and the potentially
afflicted are part of a highly charged spiritual atmosphere where dramatic incidents are expected. The exercise of spiritual gifts and the concentrated presence of sometimes thousands of Charismatics are understood to invite attack and harassment by the "enemy," Satan, who
resents and is threatened by such a concentrated demonstration of
power and unity within the "kingdom of God." Participants in these
events often report the sounds of "loud deliverance behind closed
doors," and these events subsequently serve as the source of prototypical
narratives about demonic crisis.
Given that demonic crisis and resting in the Spirit occur in the same
ritual settings and share the essential feature of falling, it should be no
surprise that there is some overlap between the two phenomena. Healers
occasionally observe that a person who falls upon being anointed will
go through a slight writhing, a twitch, or an incipient contortion before
settling into a peaceful swoon:



A man came up to me [after a prayer meeting] and said he wanted to be prayed

over. So I put my hand on the man and out he went, in the Holy Spirit. But
the minute he hit thefloor,his whole body distorted, and turned and twisted
almost in an arc shape to one side, with a very bad look on his face, a very
painful look. . . . And I prayed a little bit more and all of a sudden his whole
body relaxed and eased and he stretched right out again. Something was released
from him and it was in that side of his body, so strong that it twisted and
contorted him as it was going. Then he straightened out and was fine.
An occurrence like this is interpreted as a spontaneous deliverance (or
less frequently an inner healing). It is felt that the same "openness" that
allows some people easily to rest in the Spirit also allows them to be
influenced by demonic forces. However, if it occurs within the event
of resting, any "negative manifestation" such as thrashing, crying,
twitching, writhing, or change of facial expression is taken to indicate
that healing is in process. A person who falls with these negative manifestations is said to "go into deliverance," consistent with the notion
that healing occurs spontaneously in resting in the Spirit. Conversely,
a person prayed with explicitly for deliverance sometimes responds to
the prayer by resting in the Spirit. The semiotics of manifestations is
thus pragmatically dependent on context. Because resting in the Spirit
is by definition an influx of divine power, negative somatic signs indicate
that an evil spirit is leaving, displaced by that power.
The demonic crisis, however, is an occasion in which all signs indicate
that a spirit is present or on the attack. The principal behavioral elements
of the phenomenon include the emphatic rejection of religious symbols
or themes, falling and writhing on the floor, growling or hissing, shouting or other changes in vocal quality ("guttural" tones that signify a
demonic speaker), profanity, threats, and physical violence (hitting, biting, breaking and throwing objects) accompanied by "superhuman
strength." The nature of these signs points to a profound phenomenological contrast: whereas resting in the Spirit is characterized by peace
and healing, the demonic crisis epitomizes violence and rage. These
affect-laden behaviors, or behaviorally constituted emotions, go well
beyond either the disruptive manifestations or the manifestations of
successful deliverance discussed in the preceding chapter.
Because the demonic crisis is behaviorally more complex than the
sacred swoon, the best way to convey a sense of its chaotic gestalt (I
plead the legitimacy of the oxymoron upon the narratives that follow)
is to recount several vignettes culled from our healer interviews:
1. We had one particular woman who was living in one of our [covenant
community] households. She wanted to go through the Life in the Spirit Semi-



nars to find out what they were like. I was teaching the seminars at the time,
and it came time for each individual to be prayed over [for baptism in the Holy
Spirit]. She left the room with the speed of lightning. I almost got pneumonia,
she went out so fast. And my inner spirit said to ask to see her with Father R.
So we asked to see her, and we were praying the "Hail Mary," and we prayed
with her for deliverance, and when we got to the name of Jesus, she would
begin all kind of obscenities. It was spontaneous shouts, something that she
almost seemed shocked herself to have happen that way. And she would begin
to pray the "Our Father" backwards, and pray the "Hail Mary" backwards. And
begin to thrash around on the floor and at one point, she was only like eighty
pounds, she picked up Father R and threw him clear across the floor. And she
admitted to having been in a cult, and had given her soul to Satan, and that
was another time we justI knew what I knew and I knew I was over my
head. And we all did. And we talked with her about the presence of evil, and
then she began to talk about her relationship with the occult. We discussed
with her the danger of what she was pursuing in the occult. She needed to
make a decision whether she was going to stay in this occult, or whether she
really wanted out of this kind of business. So she made a free choice. She made
a lot of free choices.
The main evil spirit was that of Idolatry. And there were a lot of other things
like a real spirit of Greed and Power. Spirit of Control. There was a real spirit
of Destruction going on within herself and you know, defacing church property
or stealing or taking the Eucharist and . . . not swallowing, but just taking it
until she got to a place where they were worshiping Satan and they would
defecate on the Eucharist. Things like that.
Father C and Father R and I went to the bishop, and she needed obviously
to get some good spiritual direction. The bishop didn't really call it an exorcism.
He thought there was a real obsession, and she really needed, she needed to
relinquish all ties to that cult. And she did, and by that time we were a little
bit wiser and smarter, and she lived with us [in the community] for about eight
years, and we offered her a lot of support systems.
I think some of the dangers are that it's so difficult because there are a lot
of psychological problems too, in that particular individual. So not being qualified, not being competent, you know, it needed further attention than we were
able to give her. We certainly could offer some good sound advice, and we
certainly offer her support systems. But we weren't the be-all and end-all of
this deliverance, this deliverance process needed to go hand in hand with some
good counseling and some good spiritual direction.
This prototypical case includes nearly all the ritual elements relevant to
demonic crisis, including spontaneous loss of control and "manifestations" o f rage and violence, involvement with the "occult," a cluster of
"evil spirits" constituting a negative objectification of the self, cooccurrence of "emotional" difficulties requiring professional mental health
intervention, and the therapeutic intimacy offered by the support systems of "Christian community."



2. We got a call at 5:00 A.M. in the morning from this priest, and he said, "If
vou don't come pray with me now, I'm going to kill myself." So my husband
[also her healing partner] woke me up and we traveled from here to C-town
and in that time we prayed three entire rosaries. We didn't have much experience
then. We brought our Bible. And we got a reading in the Bible: "Whoever
cannot say that Jesus Christ is Lord is the anti-Christ." Like that, he's the antiChrist. He's the anti-Christ. That's all I got [by way of inspiration]. So we
started praying with this man. And he started manifesting. He was bouncing
in the chapel, and he started manifesting on the floor, physical manifestations.
He was really bouncing like he was having a seizure, but he wasn't having a
seizure. He was just bouncing up and down. He fell to the floor, and it was
like he had a seizure, when you twitch all over, but it wasn't really a seizure.
He wasn't foaming or anything like that. And we started praying and I guess
stuff started coming to me. And I told my husband, "That looks like he's got
this [spirit names]." And I didn't know I had it [discernment of spirits]. And
then he had learned the binding prayer, so he started binding it off. It took
about an hour or so. And then the priest quieted down and he said, "It's all
gone now." But my husband's spirit knew there was something wrong, and
the scripture passage came back to him. He said, "Repeat after me. J. C. has
come in the flesh." He said, "I can't say that. I will die if I say it." So then we
knew from reading the Bible, we bound off the anti-Christ, cause he had a
spirit of anti-Christ. He was heavy. He had everything. He had Deceit in him,
Self-hatred, Rejection, Denial.
[After that] we were so weary, we put him in the charge of some priest in
his own order there. They didn't take good care of him. The poor guy went
downhill really bad. I told you we hurt a few people. You don't know what
you're doing; you learn. We went through a three-hour deliverance with the
guy, but then we left him. We talked with him about the [healing power of
the] Eucharist and stuff, but he wasn't stable. So wc put him in the hands of
another priest there. They nurtured him and they loved him for a little bit, then
they sort of just let him go. And he went back to where he was, and first thing
he was up in St. M's hospital with a breakdown in the psychiatric ward. And
they medicated for a while. Then he came out, and he got prayed over for some
inner healings by a nun over there. He's doing okay now as far as I hear.
Again in this vignette we see the characteristic spontaneous loss o f control, specifically in response to religious content, and the accompanying
violence and rage. The suicidal state that wc would associate with major
depressive disorder is summarized as a constellation of evil spirits objectifying the affective constitution of the self. T h e healers acknowledge
in hindsight the cooccurrence of psychiatric disorder, without denying
the validity of their deliverance and stressing the eventual resolution of
the psychiatric affliction through Charismatic inner-healing prayer.
3. I knew this person. And she asked me that afternoon to pray with her. I
could only feel startled. I never refused to pray with someone, unless I had this



feeling not to pray with her. Well, it was a good thing, because she had gotten
in [to a retreat for healers] under some kind of a false pretense. RcaJIy beautiful
person, but wanted so badly this healingor else someone made the mistake
when they screened her, I don't know. Father M was a little upset. That evening
after having some teachings, we were having some ministry [healing prayer],
and I don't know who started praying on her first, because I was working with
someone, but they started praying on her for a pain in her back. And oh,
everything broke loose. Til tell you. First of all, when they prayed on her, she
ended up on thefloor.In ail kinds of commotion, all kinds of actions, something
in her really fought that prayer. They just started praying on her, in this thing.
She was having voices come out, this was really, voices come out, screaming,
and making all kinds of noises. They would pray with her, they wouldn't even
talk to this thing, they were calming her, they were very nice with her. And
then later on, at the very end, they started dealing with deliverance. She went
through five hours of deliverance.
The woman had tremendous bitterness. She had seen her husband and son
killed in front of her, and her husband decapitated. In an automobile accident.
She had become very, very bitter. She tried to forgive the man who did it, but
couldn't, and became very bitter, having what we call "rooted bitterness" in
her. That's what thq' dealt withforfivehours. Then they spent the rest of the
next four days doing inner healing with her. Most of that was done in private.
In this vignette of a woman who gained "inappropriate" access to prominent Charismatic healers, a single dominant evil spirit is associated with
a discrete emotional trauma. An implicit understanding of a psychosomatic connection between the trauma and the woman's back pain is
embedded in the cultural reasoning that the woman's spontaneous loss
of emotional control was a response to prayer that was ostensibly for
her back. The narrative is independent, however, of reference to psychological or psychiatric themes, although these doubtless emerged during
the intimate and intensive inner healing subsequently carried out.
As we also observed with resting in the Spirit, although falling is
quintessential of the demonic crisis, it is not its necessary criterion.
Narratives of demonic crisis suggest that an important variant is characterized not by falling, but by an attempt to flee. We have already encountered this flight scenario in the first vignette and it is elaborated in the
following account:
4. One night we were at the church, and this girl brought her friend with her.
She asked me if I would pray with her friend, and I said, "After the service."
Because it was time for mass to begin. All through mass, this young girl had
her head down, half-way down on the bench. And I prayed for discernment
all through mass. I just felt that this girl had been a long time into drugs, and
the whole scene, and was going to require a lot of help and prayer in that night.
So I motioned to a couple of the men who also pray with us and in what we



call "catch." when we have people going down in the Spirit. They came over
with me and started to pray. And all of a sudden, she looked up and she looked
at me and it was like I actually sawflamescoming out of her eyes. I'll never
forget it. And these five men, none of them much under six feet, big, strong
one's like a meat cutter and all thatcould not hold her. So I knew
And she went leaping out of the church. At that time, the police
happened to be going by. They came. She was leaping along the street. They
came over to her and grabbed her and took her, because she was leaping in
and out of traffic. They could tell there was something wrong. So I immediately
followed them to the police station, and took two of the boys with me to pray
who had been previously on drugs and had been delivered. The people in the
church staved there and prayed. And we're outside praying in tonguessee,
when we prav in tongues, the Holy Spirit prays in us according to the needs
of the children of God. So we don't know how or what he does. And all of a
sudden the ward maid came out to us and said, "I can't believe the change in
this giri. All of a sudden she's as quiet as a lamb. "That girl began a program. . . .
She came back the next day. We prayed with her. Began to come to church.
And got deliveredfromdrugs. And began a new life.
Although no evil spirit is named in this vignette (a spirit of Addiction
is implied), it can be identified as a demonic crisis by the constellation
of features including flaming eyes, flight, superhuman strength, and
spontaneous "release." The existence of two variants of demonic crisis,
one characterized by grappling on the floor and the other by an attempt
to flee, suggests its essential similarity to the classic "fight or flight"
response. This observation leads us once again to demur from hastily
labeling demonic crisis as simply "trance" or "catharsis." Although catharsis may be an end result of the deliverance process, the crisis itself
can be understood as a stress response that combines emotions of fear
(of one's own distress or perhaps of intimacy itself), and rage (against
intolerable existential circumstances or perhaps against intrusive behavior by well-intentioned healers). This interpretation is strengthened insofar as it allows us to account for one of the more curious features of
the phenomenon. The stress response includes secretion of adrenalin,
which stimulates the central nervous system in preparation for strenuous
effort. The effects of this stimulation are doubtless what is being described by participants' attribution of "superhuman strength" to the
At this juncture let us ask whether the debate over "authenticity
extends to the demonic crisis. Docs cultural logic allow that people
might feign the crisis, or that there can be causes of such behavior other
than the demonic? I will present two final narratives by means of which
we can answer this question:



5. We had a woman, when we had one of these masses at the house, and when
she came in, she fell on the floor and she started screaming and everything, and
my first thought was, "This is not going to be allowed in my home." And mere
were two priests that went to her and started doing a deliverance and I was
just graced [inspired] in that moment, so I went over to her. I asked them to
be quiet, please. And then I had to discern what was her and what was the
spirit. So I bound off [the spirits] and then I spoke with her and told her that
she had complete control here. She has herfreewill. She walked in this house.
And then I would come in with the gende love [in my speech] and keep loving
her and then I asked her if she would please get on her feet and walkrightup
those stairs.
I can't remember what the spirits were. But there were three. I think it was
something like to cause commotion, interference. But I bound them off and
upstairs she went. And when I went upstairs everybody came, because that was
frightening everybody. I had a talk with her and she just wanted a lot of attention. And she wanted that. And she was upset because it was . . . the attention,
you can't give it just to one person. Everybody's coming in, ya know. Then I
also had my own family to think of, and what was going on in my household.
And I couldn't allow this stuff And then I went and I sat with the priests
afterwards and talked with them and told them how wrong it is, cause you get
so caught up in the spirits when that is a person there, too. And they also have
control. And you have to discern which is which. After that we had the mass,
and my concern was, "What's going to happen at the mass?" But she came
down to the mass, and she wasfine,and seemed to befineafter the mass. Later
we took her upstairs when we had time. She slept overnight that night, and
we worked with her, and just brought her into inner healing.
Two key points can be drawn from this vignette. First, the class habitus
is soundly dominant over spontaneous ritual enactment. The healer cites
a series of reasons, all having to do with domestic decorum in a middleclass social event, that add up to the conclusion that a demonic crisis
in someone's home is simply not appropriate. Second, the narrative
identifies social circumstances in which ethnopsychological notions of
free will and control of the self are strategically invoked. The healer
cites the fact that the subject walked in under her own agency in order
to delegitimize the spontaneous fall. She adds emphasis by pointing
out that after the fall the woman had enough free will to stand and
climb the stairs, an act she was made to perform perhaps as much as a
Strausian symbolic statement of uprightness as it was a means to remove
her from the gathering. The very onset of the crisis is also construed
as willfulthis is the import of the healer's remark that the woman
wanted the attention, as opposed to requiring attention because of a
spontaneous loss of control. Yet in the end the episode is not entirely
disauthenticated, as the healer distinguishes between "what was her and



what was the spirit," and in due course gives her considerable healing
O u r final vignette is related by the healer as a crisis judged to be
6. We had one come from E-burg, where she had applied to the bishop for
exorcism and all this stuff, and she supposedly went through these uncontrolled
rages and she'd kick on the floor and go into a fetal position and scream and
everything. The psychologist phoned, then the diocese called and they called
the cardinal. They always end up here. So we had mass, but she didn't come
to the mass. She showed up later. And we saw her in the dining room. And
we said, "Gee, you don't have a spirit." She said, "Yes I do. Yes I do." And
then began to throw herself on the floor and kick and rage and do all her little
thing there. And we continued to drink coflfec and wait for her to finish. And
as soon as she realized she wasn't getting any attention for this thing [we said],
"Come on. When you're reach', get up." Her boyfriend came in then, and he
immediately went to run over because then she started going into convulsive
thing. And it's very hard to turn around and say to her. . . . It was almost like
looking at something of a psychotic episode or something, ya know. And it
was very hard to say to the boyfriend, "Just let her be. She's fine. She has to
withdraw because she can't handle something right now." And try to be present
to her and not be present because of the negative behavior. It's just a terrible
position to be in. The psychologist said that at one point he thought that she
had all these psychological problems, but as he started going into dream therapy
with her, whatever it is, and kind of hypnotizing her and putting her into her
childhood, it came out that she was severely sexually abused from infancy. It
sounded like a fairytale story. And as a result of that, she had all these manifestations, physical manifestations. This is the way she'd behave. Then she was also
involved in the occult. And that made him now take a whole new perspective.
So, of course, I questioned him. I said to him, "Well, how long have you been
seeing her>" And he said, "Well, ten years." And I said, "Ten years?" And he
was getting upset because she was becoming very affectionate towards him type
of thing. I don't know, I just didn't like it that time from the beginning. Because
I felt like saying, "I don't know anything about the profession, but anybody
that would keep somebody on for ten years that wasn't growing and was going
backwards, I would question just on the normal level, ya know, myself as a
human being, as a parent if it was one of my kids. What's going on here?" He
was not a Christian psychologist, just regular, but he was convinced somewhere
along the line that he had a possession here. But the other thing that I had said
was, "You've been seeing this girl for ten years. And this possession has only
surfaced in the last two years, eighteen months. You mean you missed it for
eight years?"
In addition to portraying the healer as m o r e "reasonable" than her secular counterpart, this narrative returns us t o the m a n n e r in which the
notion of mental illness itself is an integral part of t h e healing system.



Healers state that psychiatric disorder can cause such an episode, and
that anyone who would feign the crisis is likely to be emotionally unstable as well. According to the cultural logic of the healing system, the
crisis can originate from a combination of the "self," "mental illness,"
and "evil spirits." Distinguishing the proportions of these contributing
factors in a particular episode is one of the meanings of "discernment,"
which like the ability for differential diagnosis among psychiatric clinicians, is ultimately regarded as a "gift."
In summary, as we saw with the sacred swoon, spontaneity and loss
of control arc criterial for the demonic crisis. In stark contrast, however,
demonic crisis is a rejection of the cultural ideal of intimacy. This is
doubly true in that violence, rage, and flight are in opposition to intimacy with others, and in that rejection of religious symbols (epitomized
by an inability to say "Jesus" or to pray) is in opposition to intimacy
with a "personal" deity embodied in the sacred swoon. That these are
indeed embodied oppositions is a principal claim of our analysis. Consider the following statement by one of my healer informants, in a
description of a large service she attended: "One man was thrown down
and he was creeping in the aisle like a snake, and the team came and
prayed over him and performed the deliverance." As a case vignette this
scrap of data is quite flimsy, but in other ways it says a great deal. The
observing healer was able to recognize from a distance precisely what
was happening, with no equivocation about whether the behavior constituted resting in the Spirit or a demonic crisis. The immediacy of this
recognition is based on two precise structural contrasts: that between
fallen/thrown, where the distinctive feature is the presence or absence
of violence; and that between immobile resting/creeping like a snake,
where the distinctive feature is the absence or presence of peace.19
It is critical that these structural oppositions are discovered in this
instance not in mythic texts or predetermined ritual action, but in spontaneous somatic behavior. The structure we identify is the structure of,
following Bourdieu, spontaneously orchestrated dispositions within the
habitus, and its recognizability is based on the religious objectification
of those dispositions as good or evil. Again in contrast to resting in the
Spirit, however, the crisis is not only caused by supernatural force, but
the violent actions are dissociated from the self and attributed to the
evil spirit. The structural disjunction is a statement about the self: in
the sacred swoon the self is resting, but in the demonic crisis the evil
spirit is acting. The ideal of a tranquil self is protected by a cultural
rhetoric that replaces the experietitial language of resting in the Spirit



with a behavioral language for the demonic crisis. That is, the subject
in the sacred swoon feels peace and relaxation; the subject in demonic
crisis is not described as feeling anger or rage, but in terms of doing
things like yelling or writhing. This behavioral language renders the
"inner" self opaque until emotion is reintroduced as the name of a
particular evil spirit and reintegrated into the subject's biography.

Self, Control, and Embodied Existence

We would be remiss to go further without comparing
our discussion of bodily control with that of Douglas (1973). She argues that cultures that allow for occasions of diminished bodily control,
epitomized by religious possession rituals, will also have less tightly
integrated social structures. There are two critical moments of abstraction in her argument. The first is construing ritual possession not in its
culturally defined experiential specificity, but as a lack of bodily control;
the second is when the degree of bodily control is taken not as a substantive theme, but as an index of social structure. Control is a natural
symbol, but as such it refers to something other than itself. In contrast,
our analysis has been doubly concrete. We have shown that control is
a substantive psychocultural theme in North America, and have also
shown how the specific technique of the body enacts or "thematizes"
that theme. Douglas's method is grounded firmly in the order of representation, whereas ours is grounded in the order of being in the world.
Methodological differences aside, we might consider putting the phenomena described in this chapter forward as empirical exceptions to
Douglas. After all, is not North America a tightly organized society
where we have discovered two clear instances of bodily control being
relinquished, and that among otherwise mainstream, middle-class citizens? The answer depends on whether one sees our society as actually
integrated or entropic. Perhaps the postmodern condition in which all
structural possibilities are copresent renders Douglas's scheme inapplicable. In fact, at the end of this chapter we will touch on an example
that supports Douglas's thesis with respect to different segments of the
Catholic Charismatic Renewal itself. For now, what we can say is that
resting in the Spirit and demonic crisis stand in vivid contrast as deeply
corporal thematizations of control in Charismatic ritual life. Let our
question then be why these phenomena stand in such clear-cut opposi-



tion. Certainly we have discovered a far richer structural and phenomenological nexus than could have been anticipated merely by observing
that both are ritualized modes of spontaneously abdicating the upright
posture. Can we conclude that resting in the Spirit and demonic crisis
are essentially opposed as good and evil? This makes eminent sense
from the indigenous viewpoint, but to stop there would be the same
as if we had been content to describe the theological debate over "authenticity" without reference to the psychocultural themes by which it
is motivated. I would suggest that what motivates the embodiment of
good and evil in these two forms of ritual enactment is implicit in the
following passage from Heidegger:
With healing, evil appears all the more in the lighting of being. The essence of
evil docs not consist in the mere baseness of human action but rather in the
malice of rage. Both of these, however, the healing and the raging, can essentially
occur only in Being, insofar as Being itself is what is contested. . . . To healing
Being first grants ascent into grace; to raging its compulsion to malignancy.
By my interpretation, Heidegger suggests that behind the superficial
opposition of good and evil as supernatural forces lie the "raging" and
the "healing" as modes of human being, characterized respectively by
states of malignancy and grace. If we consider the demonic crisis and
the sacred swoon as embodied modalities of the raging and healing,
where does this lead our cultural phenomenology?
The two parts of Heidegger's characteristically cryptic comment
about the raging and the healing are separated by a page of discourse
about how the juxtaposition of these two modes of being reveals "nihilation" and the "nothing" as intrinsic to Being itself. We will not complete
a cultural phenomenology, however, if we are satisfied to attach metaphysical labels to ritual practice. If demonic crisis and the sacred swoon
embody Heidegger's raging and healing, our interest is in how they do
so in a culturally specific way. Levin (l9S7a,b) offers us a lead by taking
up Heidegger's themes in a cultural analysis of the current age as an
epoch of nihilism characterized by self-destruction, or more precisely
by a struggle "in which the very being of the Self is contested" (1987b:
The Charismatic sacred swoon and demonic crisis are precisely phenomena of the contested self. Because they reveal the kind of body-self
that must exist in order to come into contact with its ultimate mirror,
the sacred in both its faces, the two phenomena count as definitive



cultural statements about the self. Specifically, they define the space
between an absolute wholeness of divine healing and an absolute nihilation of demonic self-destruction. Yet the space between may not be so
broad, and we must recall the thesis of Girard about the essential identity
of violence and the sacred. In particular, Girard understands rites of
exorcism as historical innovations preeminently suited to fill a cultural
gap created by the obsolescence of sacrifice in religious practiceexorcism is violence directed against the devil (1977:123). In our case, the
violence of the demonic crisis is answered by the unanimity of collective
violence against evil spirits, but the spirits are not forces external to
the community. They are forces that inhere in, and are named for,
characteristics of the self; spirits of Depression, Self-Destruction, and
Deceit. The self in a rage is also the sacrificial victim, though in ritual
practice the violence is ostensibly caused by the demon, and deliverance
is directed against the demon. The sacred swoon itself, however, is not
exempt from association with violence. The subject is overpowered and
overcome, and no matter how gently he is laid down by the "catcher,"
ends upflaton his back on the floor. The message is about the puniness
and vulnerability of the self, a message that is increasingly more threatening for a beleaguered and contested postmodern self to hear. Thus the
attempt to domesticate "slaying" into "resting" in the Spirit, like the
attempt to domesticate the demonic by "binding" evil spirits, represents
not only a transition from a Protestant to Catholic ritual style, but a
ritual innovation sensitive to the decreasing resilience of the self in the
face of cultural violence at the end of the twentieth century. The need
for divine nurturance may yet lead to a redeployment of gender symbolism such that, as in the Middle Ages, Jesus once again assumes the
possibility of being cast in the role of a divine mother (Bynum 1986&).
If we accept resting in the Spirit and demonic crisis as exemplars of
the raging and the healing, then their common relation to violence
defines the grounds on which Heidegger's contest over Being itself, or
Levin's contest over the being of the Self, take place. Yet there is still
more to be taken into account in the culturally situated specificity of
these experiential modalities. Why is the healing, which in resting in
the Spirit is the closest the average Charismatic can come to being in
heaven itself, embodied as mute passivity? Why in contrast does the
raging, where the other face of the sacred appears unmasked, take the
form of active nihilism? We must acknowledge in resting in the Spirit
that healing is culturally formulated as the "voluptuous gratification of
succumbing" rather than as an energetic striving for wholeness. We



must acknowledge in demonic crisis the possible presence of not only

the rage of malice, but also the rage of protest.
Let us touch first on demonic crisis. Levin (1987,) argues that the
contemporary epidemic psychopathologies of narcissism, schizophrenia, and depression are not confined to the occurrence of discrete psychiatric disorders, but are ontologicaJ characteristics of our civilization.
Evidence for this "ontologicaJ hypothesis" is readily at hand if we examine the ethnopsychology implicit in the threefold Charismatic categorization of evil spirits, all of which are thought to be capable of provoking
the rage and violence of demonic crisis. In the life-numbing trauma
(especially that of sexual abuse) that provides "ministering spirits" with
their purchase on the self, we see a reflection of depression as an ontological condition of civilization. In the uncontrolled preoccupation with
self-gratification implied by the action of the sin-based "cardinal spirits"
we hear the echoes of narcissism. In the bizarre manifestations consequent to flirtation with the darkly evil "occult spirits" we feel the realityshattering chaos of schizophrenia. These are not mere etiological or
nosological categories in an ethnomedical system: their relevance to an
existential malaise is evident precisely in the Charismatics' ambiguous
ethno-ontological view of demonic origins in cosmology, psychiatric
disorder, and the self itself (cf. chapter 8). Finally, our understanding
of their salience in the North American milieu is completed when we
observe that the three pathologies and the three classes of demon map
onto the psychocultural themes at issue in Charismatic ritual life. A
dominant phenomenological element of the depression associated with
ministering spirits is suppression of spontaneity, of the narcissism associated with cardinal spirits is retreat from intimacy, and of the schizophrenia associated with occult spirits is loss of control.20
These considerations suggest that, in principle, Charismatic demonology and deliverance constitute an indigenous set of resources ranged
against the forces of nihilism. Nevertheless, the cultural significance of
the behavior we have labeled demonic crisis is not exhausted by this
account. In particular, elements such as the mocking spirit, flight, rejection of religious symbolism, and the emergence of repressed sexuality
suggest the possibility that the crisis can be a protest against an oppression whose source is the patriarchal Charismatic reality itself. By this
interpretation, the process of domestication we have described would
be seen less as an effort to harness the forces of nihilism than as a
movement for social control and the suppression of protest. In addition,
to label the forces at work "evil" is relatively safe when that evil is



attributed, as it is by the religious system, to an external cosmological

force. If we remove the veil of cultural representation, evil appears as
the abject aloneness in which the very alterity of the self has become
malignant. What appears as rage is in fact the horror of the self as
nothingness, that is, the crisis of a failed effort at orientation ending in
the horror of existential vertigo. If the embodied alterity of the self is
the phenomenological ground of the sacred, so it is the ground of alienation, abjection, and evil.
On the side of healing, the increasing passivity of the Charismatic
ethos can be demonstrated by tracing the changing relationship between
the sacred swoon and two other Charismatic ritual practices, speaking
in tongues and prophecy. The problem of "authenticity" never arose
with speaking in tongues as it did with resting in the Spirit, primarily
because in the former the abdication of control could be thematized
as either surrender or spontaneity. Glossolalia cannot be inauthentic if
accompanied by an intention to pray, but one cannot have the intention
to rest in the Spirit. In addition, whereas a person who first begins to
speak in tongues is said to "yield to the gift," it is also said that the
neophyte should ustep out in faith," actively uttering whatever nonsense
syllables she can formulate. This combination of activity and passivity
in one practice, I would argue, is the concrete operator that allows
experiential communion of human and divine in the speaking body.
In contrast, resting in the Spirit emphasizes the subjective passivity of
"resting" and the objective passivity of being "overcome." There is neither an act of will in falling nor is there a willful act of speechthe
practice is both mute and passive.
What makes this comparison significant is that whereas at the beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the late 1960s speaking
in tongues was the characteristic initiatory experience, after its introduction in the mid-1970s, resting in the Spirit began to share the same
niche in the Charismatic ritual ecology. Resting in the Spirit began to
occur in "Life in the Spirit Seminars" when people were baptized in
the Holy Spirit, sometimes replacing or preceding the experience of
speaking in tongues. In the increasingly conservative 1980s resting in
the Spirit occurred (and glossolalia did not) at healing services attended
by large numbers of the religious public who did not otherwise participate in Charismatic activities. The Charismatics who typically lead these
services refrain from glossolalia for fear of alienating participants.
This ritual change in the movement at large was paralleled by the
incorporation of resting in the Spirit into the aggressive spirituality of



some Charismatic covenant communities. The most important ritual

practice in these groups was utterance in the genre of prophecy. In
one community dominated by the active authoritarianism of prophetic
utterance, an informant in the late 1970s was able to state with some
disdain that the passive sacred swoon "doesn't happen here." Our earlier
analysis notwithstanding, this contrast between the tightly organized
covenant community and the loosely organized membership of the
larger movement can be taken as evidence, albeit framed within the
microcosm of the Charismatic world, in support of Douglas's (1973)
thesis about the relationship between social structure and practices of
relinquishing bodily control. Resting in the Spirit did not become popular in covenant communities until about 1985, a decade after it had
become popular in the Charismatic Renewal at large. When it did begin
to occur, it apparently achieved greater popularity in a segment of the
community that eventually decided to modify' its commitment to the
highly "masculinized" authoritarian vision, a change that led to a major
schism (Csordas in press). Moreover, its introduction roughly coincided
with a decline of prophecy.
To qualify this analysis somewhat, however, the practice entered the
community under the influence of Wimberite teachings, which placed
it among other dramatic and "masculine" manifestations of divine
power in contrast to the broader movement's perceived cultivation of
a passive and "feminine" experience of nurturant divine presence. This
inflection of meaning supports, again within the Charismatic microcosm, Benedict's (1934) argument that the same ritual feature can take
on different meanings within different cultural configurations. It redirects Douglas's rcpresentationalist concern with social structure toward
an analysis of specific dispositions inculcated by a ritual technique of
the body. Against the North American cultural background, the rise of
resting in the Spirit tells us not so much about social structure as about
the existential enactment of the psychocultural theme of control qua
Does the encroachment of resting in the Spirit on the ritual turf of
tongues and prophecy in these two different segments of the movement
constitute the relative abdication of wide-awake, upright religious
thought, or the liberating removal of potentially authoritarian utterance? Is even "authentic" resting in the Spirit an escape into self-indulgence, or a reprieve that allows the self to renew and reassemble its forces?
Is what passes as healing really a more insidious form of narcissism, or
is it truly a moment when the cultural ideal of what Smith (1985) has



called integral selfhood is attained? If this is "the healing," is it what

the late twentieth century really needs? Is the raging of demonic crisis
the only possibility for active protest against intolerable existential circumstances, or is it a dangerous form of rebellion that must be domesticated? Is it angst or evil, a cry for freedom or a luxuriating in bondage?
What if the passivity of resting in the Spirit is nihilism in divine disguise,
and demonic crisis is a howl against oppression disguised as a bloodchilling howl of destruction? What if they are both forms, more and
less benign, of nihilism? We can go no further in answering these questions, but we can say that the two faces of the sacred self revealed in
resting in the Spirit and demonic crisis are very much twentieth-century
faces searching for salvation in an epoch of nihilism.

Envoi: The Sacred Self

In what sense can we claim that we have elaborated a

cross-culturally useful phenomcnological theory of the self, and in what
sense have we produced a cultural phenomenology of healing? The
answer to both questions is that our success depends on whether wre
have adequately identified process and transformation in their experiential specificity. Yet if healing is the creation of a sacred self, it might be
objected that we have never said what the sacred self "is." Our answer
must be that if the self is elusive, it is because there is no such "thing"
as the self. There are only self processes, and these are orientational
processes. We have been fortunate to have in the Catholic Charismatic
healing system an empirical case in which such processes are explicitly
elaborated, culturally distinct from the "mainstream" yet recognizable
in the context of North American culture.
We have documented these processes in the rhetoric and semiotics
of ritual language, in the engagement of problematic emotions with
psychocultural themes, in revelation and imaginal performance, and in
autobiographical commemoration. The Charismatks who experience
these self processes are not only oriented with respect to certain cultural
domains, as Hallowell (1955) supposed, but their "being in the world"
is integrated and coordinated within a habitus. Whereas HallowelTs
idea of a behavioral environment presumes the environment to be a
condition external to the self, the notion of habitus suggests that self
process and habitus are mutually constitutive. This notion of self is
cross-culturally useful as soon as it is granted that the existential condi276



tion of the habitus, embodiment, is generalizable as the ground of culture, the self, and the sacred.
In his fragmentary but influential discussion of the person (1950a),
Mauss suggested that all humans have a sense of spiritual and corporal
individuality. At the same time, he argued that particular social conditions are associated with qualitative differences among the totemistic
personage, the classical persona, and the Christian person. It is of empirical concern to our argument that he saw the development of the individualistic person played out in the arena of sectarian movements of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, since our data come from their
twentieth-century equivalent, the Charismatics. It is of theoretical concern that he saw the problem of the person to be associated with the
distinction promulgated by Descartes and Spinoza between the world
of thought and the material world, since this is precisely the kind of
duality with which we have been concerned. Mauss himself had already
reproduced the same duality by elaborating his concept of la notion de
penonne quite independently from that of les techniques du corps (1950&).
These parallel formulations implicitly identify our recurring issues of
perception and practice as domains of the culturally constituted self;
but writing nearly two decades earlier than Hallowell, Mauss was even
less able to treat them together.1
Hallowell himself built his theory on self-awareness and, following
Boas, on the observation that the personal pronoun is a linguistic universal. For anthropologists wary of projecting our own ethnopsychological
assumptions onto ethnological method, self-awareness in itself is no
longer a convincing starting point. To equate self with self-awareness
is to confuse it with an aspect of the already-objectified person, and
perhaps implicitly with our own specific ethnopsychological notion of
person. By the same token, the linguistic argument that appeals to the
evidence of the grammatical person begs the question of how representation is related to being in the world, the same question that generates
semiotics and phenomenology as apparently divergent methodological
stances. Fogelson (1982:83) notes that Hallowell did not adequately
address the relation between his concepts of person and self. It may be
that he was stymied by not following out a phenomenological analysis
that distinguished between the preobjective self and the objectified person. As we have discovered, the very possibility of reflexivity is
grounded in embodiment. We can reflect on our own experience because of the essential altcrity that allows us to experience our own body
as an object, an "other."



In other words, we must start not with self-awareness, but with the
problem of how self-awareness is produced; not with the self as an
object of awareness, but as the processes of orientation and engagement
in which the person becomes objectified. Given the preobjectivc indeterminacy of perception and practice, such objectification must occur, for
it is implicated in the very process of recognizing reality as real: the
recognition that is the end of orientational processes must be recognition as some kind of cultural person, object, or state of affairs. Objectifications in the social world do not necessarily create enduring objects
or immutable persons, but they do create real objeas and persons. Our
point is that the dualities between preobjectivc and objective, self and
person, or being in the world and representation are not given outside
the existential self processes that constitute them, and those processes
are what we must continue to study. The ontological status of our
inevitable dualities is not such that they arc "there" to be discovered, but
that they are consequences of embodiment as the condition of existence.
To be sure, there is an important movement in contemporary scholarship in the human sciences to collapse dualities such as those we have
been discussing. For some it is motivated by an almost moral objection
to "Cartesianism"; for others it is motivated by curiosity about the
results of a nondualistic method. The body is deeply implicated in this
movement. However, the goal of collapsing dualities is less likely to be
achieved by writing about the body in its individual, social, or political
aspects (B. Turner 1984, Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987), than from
embodiment as the preobjective condition of social life. It is in the immediacy of lived experience that we come face to face with that indeterminacy in which troublesome dualities are collapsed, but also out of which
they are generated in the first place. It is then the function of ideological
critique to observe how objectified dualities are clung to and manipulated, generating "ontological" distinctions between, for example, natural and supernatural in the domain of religion, or between body and
mind in the domain of medicine.
An approach beginning with embodiment thus reveals that cultural
objectification is a necessity that also inevitably generates duality, and
at the same time that there is among us a resistance to objectification
intent on collapsing duality. The coexistence of this necessity and this
resistance is part of the enduring existential issue of "otherness." It also
helps account for the necessity at times of theorizing in oxymorons, as
is evident in Bourdieu's description of the habitus with phrases such as
spontaneous dispositions, regulated improvisation, intentionless inven-



tion, intentionality without intention, knowing without awareness (connaissance sans conscience). As Bourdieu notes, to mistake the oxymoron
for a contradiction is to misrecognize that one of the dualities challenged
in the notion of habitus is that between the conscious and the unconscious (1987:20-23). Attached to any of these dualities as we may
have become, they are theoretical and not ontological distinctions. The
phenomenological paradigm of embodiment reminds us of this precisely
because in beginning with preobjective indeterminacy it slices through
the analytic terrain at an unfamiliar angle, unfamiliar, that is, to the
spirit of positivism.
This last observation introduces a reflexive note into our theorizing,
for we must not only study cultural patterns of objectification, but monitor the extent to which our own theoretical objectifications are cultural
artifacts. For example, we have encountered a Euro-American tendency
to substantivize divine power in our discussions of embodied revelatory
imagery and Charismatic "anointing." Keesing (1989) has pointed out
how this same tendency among early anthropologists was implicated
in the linguistic error of mistranslating the Malaita stative verb mamana
as a nounan error that resulted in our enduring understanding of
mana as substantivized spiritual power. Although the linguistic evidence
docs not answer the question of whether power is experientially substantivized in the Solomon Islands, it does show how our theory may be
shaped by our cultural patterns of objectification.
A similar point can be made with respect to our tendency to entity
the self. Even though the North American self is accurately described
as a bounded entity for purposes of ethnography, there is no reason to
suppose that it is any kind of entity for purposes of comparative research.
Obeyesekcre (1990a, b) has repeatedly cited the Buddhist doctrine of
nonself (anatta) in admonishing anthropologists for the ethnocentricity
of theorizing the self as an ontological entity. Anatta is an understanding
of self in terms of indeterminacy and nonentity (Conze 1975:36-39,
Spiro 1982:84-91). That anatta is itself a theoretical concept is apparent in a reminiscence by Spiro (1987), who tells of being surprised in
his early work to find that the concept was not salient in the everyday
life of ordinary Buddhists. Buddhists objectify the self, thematizc self
processes, and represent the person as much as anyone. However, it is
precisely as a theoretical concept that anatta is of interest for a comparative cultural phenomcnoiogy. For while it recognizes self processes as
efforts to achieve a sense of entity, it holds the resultant self-objectifications to be illusory precisely because of the indeterminacy of existence.



This is at least roughly parallel to the phenomcnological notion of self

we have been developing. It will also be recalled that effort is included
in the definition of the self, an effort to become oriented and hence
self-objectified (cf. chapter 1). This is the same effort or existential striving that Buddhism finds so problematic. It is due to its evaluative stance,
however, that the Buddhist concept becomes one of theology rather
than of theory, and thus its intent parts company with our own. We
do not aspire to nonself, but to an understanding of self processes in
their specificity.
As with the concepts of power and self, a certain limitation has accrued to our accounts by the anthropological habit of analyzing religious
and ethnomedical phenomena under the concept of "belief." In discussing the role of this concept in anthropological theory, Good (1992)
points out that in our analyses beliefs arc presumed to be erroneous
and stand in contrast to knowledge presumed to be true. Belief is not
understood as a concrete act of commitment (with the same etymology
as to "belove") but as adherence to an abstract proposition. To study
belief is thus implicitly to study the consequences of adherence to erroneous propositions. It should hardly be a surprise, then, that the notion
of belief has not figured in our cultural phenomenology. Indeed, the
notion of belief, insofar as it stands apart from and passes judgment on
reality, militates against the dialogue between theoretical notions and
empirical data that has been one of the driving forces of our method
in this book.
Perhaps myth is a better term for what we have been studying. This
is presuming, of course, that myth is understood not (with respect to
rationality) as a set of beliefs, or even (with respect to textuality) as a
cosmological narrative, but (with respect to embodiment) as a milieu
that is inhabited, in the same sense in which Leenhardt (1979) described
the mythic world of the Canaques of New Caledonia. The principal
characteristic of myth is that it constitutes reality, and it is the constitution of reality in perception and practice, rather than of cither belief or
knowledge, that has been our underlying concern. Bypassing the notions of belief and knowledge, we have found the existential ground of
the sacred in the alterity of the self, and the criterion of the sacred in
the experience of spontaneity.
In our attempt to maintain a close dialogue between theory and data,
each of the concepts we have introduced has been a locus of experiential
specificity: person and self, embodiment, otherness and the sacred, genres and motives of ritual performance, postural model, somatic mode



of attention, margin of disability, the psychocultural themes of spontaneity, control, and intimacy, the distinction between image as sign
and image in consciousness, imaginal performance, commemoration,
and the raging and healing. Our analyses of phenomena under these
concepts has allowed us to identify the modes of orientation and engagement in the world that transform a suffering self into a sacred self as
well as to identify the patterned correspondences between the minute
particulars of experience and broader psychocultural themes. For the
patients whose experience we examined most closely, we have shown
how therapeutic process is constituted of disposition within the ritual
system and the Charismatic habitus, experience of the sacred, elaboration of alternatives, and actualization of change. In reflecting on these
cases, it appears likely that each of the elements builds on the previous
one, such that it is easiest to document disposition and least easy to
specify the nature and scope of change. Insofar as the locus of therapeutic process is the indeterminate self, analysis must be incremental and
inconclusive. Perhaps paradoxically, it is at only at this level where existence shows its essential indeterminacy that we have been able to achieve
the specificity that we set as our goal.
Nonetheless, our eschevval of global mechanisms must also be an
eschewal of cither global psychiatric "cure" or global religious "conversion." We have embraced SchefPs (1979) theory of catharsis as an advance, but it retains the weakness of being founded on an incomplete
theory of emotional expression that does not account for cultural objectification and hence therapeutic specificity. Scheff holds, for example,
that laughter always indicates embarrassment. This is adequate to a
theory of global emotional release, but cannot account for why Charismatic laughter in ritual situations is typically thematized as "joy" (cf.
Csordas 1990a). We can take this step by reminding ourselves once
again that one of the essential features of embodied existence is its
alterity. We have found this altcrity to be the condition of possibility
for that otherness thematized as sacred. In laughter the alterity of the
self is "exposed" in a double sense; that of its spontaneity, and that
of the self-observing reflexive posture necessary for the experience of
embarrassment. Thcmatization of laughter as joy is a self-objectification
of this double altcrity as sacred.2 If embarrassed laughter is a distancing
from uncomfortable emotions, joyous laughter is a distancing from embarrassment. Motivated by spontaneity as the criterion of the sacred,
alterity is transformed into its oppositeself-presenceand self-rejection is transformed into its oppositedivine acceptance.



The manner in which emotions like embarrassment, sadness, or joy

are objectified is critical for the self. By beginning with the preobjcctive
field of embodiment, that field of immediacy where (among others) the
analytic dualities of subject and object, conscious and unconscious3 are
collapsed, we have been able to acquire a sense of the emotional dimension of self processes. To the extent that this sense is valid, I would
reiterate my argument against those who say that experience is never
accessible, but only inferred from language. On the contrary, I would
say that we can identify how emotion is objectified and taken up from
experience into language. There is a real sense in which the "texts" on
which wc relyreports, interviews, narratives, or observationcan be
construed as giving us access to experience. Language is not only
"about" itself: it can be the source of a genuine communication in which
the existential situation of others is disclosed and recognizable.
As a method of recognizing what is thus disclosed, the cultural phenomenology that we have elaborated should not be construed primarily
as a microanalytic approach in contrast to other macroanalytic ones,
nor as a subjective approach in contrast to other more objective ones.
It is above all a methodological starting point in concrete immediacy
rather than in abstract structure.4 I emphasize the notion of a starting
point, for immediacy and structure are not alternatives, but complementary methodological moments. Thus, if we have expressed our concern
with collapsingor at least suspending and problematizingconceptual dualities, we must also insist once again that the opposition between
semiotics and phenomenology is a false opposition. I would argue for
the immediacy of embodiment as a starting point only because I am
convinced that it is easier to abstract from experience that to arrive at
experience from abstraction.



1. A discussion of Charismatic covenant communities in the context of theories of charisma, revitalization, metaphor, and the creativity of ritual language
will form the substance of a separate volume (Csordas in press).
2. I have chosen the term self from among a large set of related and nearsynonymous terms. Zaner (1981:112) has done us the service of defining this
terminological set, including both colloquial and technical terms: self, spirit,
soul, psyche, subjectivity, subject, inner man, person, mind, consciousness, mental substance, ego, monad, transcendental unity of apperception, Da-sein, poursaiy ctrc-nu-nunidc, agent, transcendental ego. In addition, one should not forget
identity and the individual. I am satisfied that the term self has, at least for our
purposes, less connotational and theoretical baggage than any of the alternatives.

Chapter 1

1. For a more detailed discussion of these emphases in the study of therapeutic efficacy sec Csordas and Klcinman (1990).
2. Mv intent is not to deny the possibility' of nonspecific effects (cf. Shepherd
and Saitorius 1989). Still less is it to deny the importance of ambiguity in
certain symbols of healing (Laderman 1987). In fact, ambiguity and paradox
may be elements of specifiable self processes.
3. We are concerned not with whether religious participation in general



has a therapeutic effect (Ness 1980, Levin and Vanderpool 1987), but with a
culturally elaborated healing system that interacts with other sectors of the
society's overall health care system (Kleinman 1980).
4. Although their relation has never been worked out in practice, intimations of this complementarity can be seen in the presence of an implicit phenomenology in the pioneering semiotic work of Peirce (M. Singer, personal communication), and the presence of an implicit semiotics in Merleau-Pontes (1964a:
39-97) explorations in the phenomenology of language.
5. We will not follow the strategy of analyzing the self into components,
as has been done fruitfully by a number of theorists (James 1983, Mead 1934,
Bailey 1983, M. Singer 1989). Such analyses specify critical functional aspects
of self. They serve as aids to thought much as do theories of multiple souls
among peoples typically described by anthropologists. However, they lack the
phenomenological immediacy that we require for present purposes. Neither is
our aim primarily to apply concepts of self developed in the contemporary
discussion among psychologists, ranging from Smith's (1985) attempts to define the conditions necessary to the ideal of an "integral selfhood" to Lifton's
(1976) analysis of the fragmentation and mutability of a "protean self." Such
analyses are cultural critiques, implicitly prescriptive and therapeutic in intent.
As such they also must be excluded as conceptual starting points for an cultural
phenomenology. An additional element of complexity is added by the fact that
Charismatics themselves participate in and contribute to this cultural discourse.
A Jungian analysis of the self in contemporary culture, for example, would have
to take into account the not-infrequent reference to Jungian ideas by Charismatic healers. Finally, we must be cautious about the principal characteristics
we attribute to the self, for these bear methodological consequences. Such consequences are evident in Descartes's understanding of the self as a substance,
or the early Christian understanding of self as a kind of entity, the soul. No less
consequential are contemporary theories of self that define it as consciousness
(Devos, Marsella, and Hsu 1985), self-awareness (Hallowell 1955), states of
mind (F. Johnson 1985), systems of signs and bundles of habits (M. Singer
1984), or a locus of experience composed of intrapsychic structures and processes (Harris 1989).
6. Charles Taylor (1989) has also taken up the notion of orientation as
critical to the self, particularly with respect to orientation in "moral space."
7. A more complete exposition of embodiment and indeterminacy can be
found in Csordas (1990, 1993).
8. The concept of habitus was introduced by Mauss in his seminal essay on
body techniques to refer to the sum total of culturally patterned uses of the
body in a society. For Mauss it was a means to organize an otherwise miscellaneous domain of culturally patterned behavior, and received only a paragraph
of elaboration. Even so, Mauss anticipated how a paradigm of embodiment
might mediate fundamental dualities (mind-body, sign-significance, existencebeing) in his statement that the body is simultaneously both the original object
upon which the work of culture is carried out and the original tool with which
that work is achieved (Mauss 1950^:372). That is, the body is at once an object
of technique, a technical means, and the subjective origin of technique. With



intriguing implications for the analysis wc undertake in this book, Weber too
invoked the concept of habitus, suggesting that religions of ethical salvation
create a sacred self through a "self-deification" achieved by transforming "the
average habitus of the human body and the everyday world" (1963:158-59).
9. The denial of radical disjunction between normal and pathological experience is consistent with the conception of mental disorder held by Harry Stack
Sullivan (1953).
10. In his ethnography of the Kabyle people of northern Africa Bourdieu
(1977) gives the examples of how the conceptual distinction male and female
is applied in variable ways to the organization of domestic space and to characteristics of domestic utensils.
11. This theoretical difference is reflected consistently in different aspects
of the two arguments. Merleau-Pontes analysis begins with the lack of bodily
synthesis evident in cases of perceptual pathology and aphasia, and against it
discovers the transcendence and indeterminacy of normal existence, epitomized
as a human "genius for ambiguity." Bourdieu's analyses begin with enduring
bodily dispositions in stable societies, and discover indeterminacy in a logic of
practices that allows cosmology and the quotidian to endlessly mirror one another in agricultural cycles and cycles of daily life, the structure of domestic
space and structured judgments of taste. Merlcau-Ponty focuses on the motility
of the body in the world, whereas Bourdieu focuses on the structured space in
which the body moves. As a generating principle for perceptual and social
existence, intentionality is the hallmark of the preobjective for Merleau-Ponty,
whereas improvised adjustment to objective conditions is the hallmark of the
habitus for Bourdieu. For Merlcau-Ponty the result is to understand the body
in terms of its perceptual synthesis, whereas Bourdieu understands it either in
terms of the orchestration and harmonization (1977) or the classifiability
(1984) of practices.
12. This appeal to behavior in no way makes Merleau-Ponty a behaviorist.
Behaviorism is essentially dualistic, choosing behavior over the representations
of "inner" experience the existence of which are acknowledged, but which in
the theory's strongest form are dismissed as epiphenomenal. Merleau-Pontes
example relies neither on the empiricist paradigm of stimulus and response
(display of emotion causes perception of emotion) nor on the intellectualist
paradigm of inner representations compared to one's own inner experience
(when I behave like that I am angry, therefore she is angry).
13. Gergen (1990) is uncomfortable with the concept of intersubjectivity,
apparently because he understands it as a relation between two isolated subjectivities or intcntionalities. This presupposes a Cartesian formulation of subjectivity, from which starting point intersubjeaivity could only be construed as
mutual representation of each subjectivity by the other. As is evident in the
notion of the copresence of another myself, from the phenomenological standpoint intersubjeaivity is a socially constituted singularity from the outset. The
intersubjectivity to which Gergen objects is not that of phenomenology.
14. For additional analysis of the necessity of the other to the constitution
of the self see Zancr (1981: chapters 9 - 1 1 ) , whose analysis draws on the phenomenological work of Schclcr, Schutz, and Heidegger.



15. Metaphor theory is a rapidly expanding field for which numerous

sources could be cited. I restria mention here to the works of Fernandez (1986,
1991), which are especially useful for a textual approach to metaphor, and to
those of Kirmayer (1990, 1992), which examine metaphor from the standpoint
of embodiment.
16. For a discussion which takes up suffering as an explicit phenomenological theme in the cultural patterning of experience see Kleinman and Kleinman
17. The most comprehensive social science treatment of Catholic Charismatic belief and practice to date is McGuire (1982). The book is useful as a
general introduction to Charismatic ritual language and ritual healing, and includes a thorough bibliography of scholarship on Pentecostal-Charismatic phenomena through the beginning of the 1980s. Detailed analyses of specific aspects of Charismatic ritual life appear in several of McGuire's (1975, 1977,
1983) other writings. For an analysis of the Charismatic Renewal as an international phenomenon, see Csordas (1992a).
18. Self is to be understood here in the popular, emic sense of an authentic,
discrete, individual rather than in the theoretical sense we have elaborated above.
19. We must point out the difference between any of these three as a potential phenomenon and as an elaborated cultural theme. Spontaneity, for example,
is a phenomenon that is discussed by Ots (in press) in a contemporary healing
movement in China, but has a substantially different thematic significance in the
predominantly authoritarian Chinese culture than in North America. Likewise,
intimacy cannot be said to be absent from Japanese culture, but it is not a
theme in the cultural patterns associated with marriage as it is in North America
(DeVos 1985).
20. Varenne (1986) also offers an example of how the themes we are discussing interact with one another, in the American predisposition for the kind of
spontaneous intimacy evident in attitudes about friendship and community.
21. A European colleague tells of an encounter in front of a sluggish elevator
in a high-rise dormitory during her student days. While the rest of the students
waited resignedly for the overused car, the sole American among them suddenly
began pounding on the door, and when admonished that such behavior would
not help matters, justified it by stating he would go crazy if he didn't "do
22. For a more detailed examination of the genres and motives of Charismatic ritual language in performance see Csordas (1987a).
23. This hypothesis could be empirically tested by examining the role assumed by each of the divine persons in prayerful interaction, the texts of prophecies, and in healing imager)'.

Chapter 2
1. Healing ministers were recruited from an initial list of twenty-five individuals and eleven prayer groups provided by the movement's coordinating office
for southeast New England, with additional informants being recommended



by earlier participants. Interviews lasted from one and a half to four hours, and
focused on a range of biographical conceptual, pragmatic, and experiential
2. All of these ten worked in pairs: three priest and laywoman teams, one
nun and laywoman team, and one husband and wife team.
3. Of these, thirteen were priests, two nuns, four laywomen, and two
4. On professionalism and Charismatic healing as well as for a discussion
of healers' views on the relation between psychotherapy and ritual healing see
Csordas (1990&). For discussion of psychiatrists who also integrate Christianity
into their practice see Gaines (1982a).
5. ALANON is a support organization for relatives of alcoholics, parallel
to Alcoholics Anonymous and loosely based on Christian principles. The implication was that the ALANON experience prepared her to be supportive to
others in need of healing.
6. We adopted attendance at prayer meetings and speaking in tongues as
two practices suggested by ethnographic experience as valid criteria of Charismatic identity. Based on their responses, attendance was divided into weekly
and less than weekly (including never), whereas speaking in tongues was divided
into often and never. These two practice variables were cross-tabulated and the
analysis showed definitively that people clustered predominantly into groups,
one that attended prayer meetings and spoke in tongues (Charismatics) and
one that rarely if ever attended prayer meetings and never spoke in tongues
(non-Charismatics). The analysis that shows the consistency of association between attendance at prayer meetings and speaking in tongues is as follows (N
= 587, missing = 108):
< Weekly

79 (16.8%)

164 (34.8%)

The chi-squarc value with 1 degree of freedom was 44.32, and the statistical
probability of these results occurring was .00. The proportion of active Charismatic and non-Charismatic are virtually identical across gender.
7. The only other factor that indisputably indicated whether a person was
likely to report having been healed is the number of times he or she had been
prayed with for healing. Thus, of those who had been prayed with 1-5 times
51.5 percent reported having been healed, for 6 - 1 5 times 76.3 percent, and
for 31-50 times 87.9 percent. There is no limit to the number of times someone
can receive healing prayers. Some weekly or monthly services attract regular
devotees who like the style of a particular healer, and in our research locale the
diocesan Charismatic newsletter publishes a calendar of healing services.
8. This is, however, in sharp contrast to the more even gender balance in
Charismatic covenant communities. Membership in these intentional communities is generally younger, more highly educated, and favors a more militant
ideology rather than one oriented to healing. The polysemic nature of gendered
symbolism in religion (Bynum 1986) is doubtless of relevance: the male deity



when he heals and when he wields a sword requires different modes of orientation on the part of the sacred self.
9. With regard to the latter, the vexed debate about why this might be the
case has invoked factors ranging from gender oppression to nutritional deficiency. Lewis (1971) has put forward the classic argument that "ecstatic religions" provide a sense of empowerment to women who are in other ways
dominated by men. Even if this is the case, there will likely be variation across
specific instances in whether participation is the basis for an illusory sense of
empowerment where the hope for divine intervention is accompanied by a lack
of all other resources, the basis for legitimating demands by women on men
where husbands must satisfy the spirits who possess their wives, or the basis
for creation of a separate domain of interaction that in itself constitutes a social
power base (cf. Monfouga-Nicholas 1972 on the latter possibility). Valuable
critiques of Lewis have been offered by Kapferer (1983) and Lambek (1989).
On the nutritional (calcium deficiency) hypothesis, see Kchoe and Giletti
(1981). Bourguignon (1982) has presented a comparison of approaches to the
same African possession religion (the Hausa bori) by a male and a female scholar,
suggesting that gender differences between observers matter a great deal, and
I have suggested that differences between French and Anglo-American approaches may also be implicated (Csordas 1987a).
10. Eight percent of women and 13 percent of men failed to respond to
this item.
11. An equivalent 15 percent from each gender failed to respond to this
12. The first two categories included a variety of specific items from our
original survey, and only the category of "spiritual renewal" remained distinct
and uncombined with any other. The categories included the following items
from a list of eighteen problems constructed after pretesting the instrument at
two earlier healing services. Each category was supplemented by the coding of
written responses to a nineteenth option labeled "other problems" Physical
illness: heart ailment/disease, cancer, AIDS, diabetes, results of medical tests,
successful surgery, physical pain. Emotionalyrelationship: alcoholism, drug
abuse, nerves, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, marital problems, financial
problems, problems with children, job problems. Spiritual: spiritual renewal.
13. See Csordas (1983) for a case of Charismatic healing of the habit of
14. In this analysis, the category of those who brought physical/medical
problems alone contained 138 individuals, and that of emotional/relationship
problems contained 125. The robustness of the analysis is somewhat mitigated
by the inclusion of 54 individuals who reported both categories. In addition,
the survey did not determine whether or not the respondents remained or
intended to remain under the care of any alternative healing system.
15. There are three principal schools of thought about performance in anthropology, each of which approaches the problem from a slightly different
angle, and which taken together constitute an adequate theory of performance.
These are the cultural performance approach of interpretive anthropology (M.
Singer 1958, 1972, Peacock 1968, Geertz 1973), the performance-centered



approach from sociolinguistics (Hymes 1975, Bauman 1974, Fabian 1974,

1979), and the performative-utterance approach which spans both (Ahern
1979, Bloch 1974,1986, Tambiah 1985, Rappoport 1979). All share a hermeneutic sense of the importance of context, but complement one another in that
the first formulates performance as event, the second as genre, and the third
as act. The importance of performance in the process of ritual healing is supported by a small but influential body of literature (Tambiah 1977, Kapferer
1979*, 1983, Schieffelin 1985, Roseman 1988, 1991, Laderman 1991). However, in most of these works the methodological distinction among event, genre,
and act is present only implicitly.
16. This is the only instance of ritual clothing among Charismatics aside
from the mantles and veils of the Word of God and related covenant communities. I am not aware of any ceremony in which members of a healing ministry
are invested with this ritual garb.
17. Healing practice in covenant communities takes on a different complexion, partly due to the existence of ongoing everyday relationships, and partly
to the fact that the significantly younger membership is not afflicted with as
great a proportion of physical illnesses. In the early 1970s some covenant communities made the deliverance from evil spirits a mandator)' part of becoming
a community member, institutionalizing the premise that everyone is in need
of healing. Later, the directive, ongoing relationship of pastoral-leadership
("headship") counseling tended to replace formal healing sessions as the preferred setting for healing and spiritual growth. This system is felt to be consistent
with the relatively masculinized ethos of covenant communities that regards
much of Charismatic emotional healing, with its imager)' processes and biographical review (sec below), as too "feminine." Covenant-community leaders
or "coordinators" have responsibility to pray for those in their charge, and there
are informal opportunities for persons to ask one another for prayer for a variety
of issues in addition to healing, but private sessions for individual supplicants
take place infrequently.
18. The latter practice is associated primarily with the Protestant healing
evangelist John YVimber. A Catholic Charismatic healing service in the Wimberite style is described in Csordas (1990*).
19. In response to questioning about the activities of evil spirits, for example, healers often make statements such as "Spirits don't act that way," or "That
does happen, but it is rare." This usage of "empirical" to mean "experientially
concrete" is also employed by Hufford (1982) in his interesting examination
of the "old hag syndrome" in Newfoundland.
20. However, some Protestant healers acknowledge that they deal with all
the same issues that their Catholic counterparts do, simply dealing with inner
healing problems under the aegis of prayer for deliverance.
21. See McGuire (1983) for a comparison of Charismatic verbal acts of
empowerment in healing with those in a variety of other North American healing traditions.
22. According to Gossen (1976), the Chamula Indians of highland Chiapas
also regard language as a kind of ritual substance. It is difficult to ascenain the
fine line between metaphorical and literal meaning in a usage such as "soaking."



I would argue on principle that Charismatics arc no more or less literal than
Gossen's Chamulas, although as a native English speaker I can understand it
cither way. In fact, as we will find in later chapters, Charismatics do appear to
substantivize divine power.
23. According to Bynum (1989), the embodied imagery of being covered
with divine blood was common in the spirituality of the Middle Ages, when
it appeared to include a much more vivid tactile dimension than it does among
contemporary Charismatics.
24. Montagu (1978) cites scholarly literature on the therapeutic value of
touch for skin disorders, asthma, and even schizophrenia. My discussion here
does not include medical uses of touch, but is restricted to its performative
efficacy within the Charismatic ritual healing system.

Chapter 3
1. For a more thorough discussion of procedure, process, and outcome, see
Csordas and Kleinman (1990).
2. Confirmation of this hypothesis would be furthered if leg-lengthening
could be observed closely enough to determine whether the adjustment occurs
in minute jerky movements as it does in Schilder's experiment.
3. The variability of this habitual engagement in the world is captured from
the theoretical standpoint of embodiment in G. Frank's (1986) account of the
sense of bodily wholeness in a woman born without legs and with only partially
formed arms.
4. For an additional empirical elaboration of the four elements of process
see Csordas (1988). Adequate comparative studies of specificity in therapeutic
process must begin with a comprehensive account of performance including
event, genre, and act. Kleinman (1988) has proposed a valuable comparative
framework that takes into account institutional settings, characteristics of interpersonal interaction among participants, characteristics of practitioners and patients, idioms of therapeutic communication, definitions of clinical reality, and
therapeutic stages and mechanisms.

Chapter 4
1. Quite aside from whatever may be covered in the literature on therapeutic
countertransfercnee, I am aware of only one study of spontaneous imagery and
its possible therapeutic use among psychotherapists (Adler 1981). From the
other side, as an anthropologist working among the Navajo, whose traditional
healers have been tirelessly scrutinized to the neglect of their patients, I took
several opportunities to inquire about people's experiences as subjects of ritual



healing. I was rewarded with reports that imagery does occur, on the order of
experiences such as the appearance of the traditional deities (Holy People) who
tell a person they will become well.
2. Apparently most common among children, eidetic imagery is neither
evenly distributed within populations nor evenly elaborated among the world's
cultures and religions.
3. For important discussions of scientific approaches to imagery research
see Ahsen (1987), Casey (1976), Giorgio (1987), J. Singer (1981), Ward
(1985), and Warnock (1976).
4. For alternative perspectives on the relation between body and text see
Berger (1987) and Kirmayer (1992).
5. On presentation and representation in the metaphoric constitution of
bodily experience, see Kirmayer (1992).
6. In fact, Casey (personal communication) has acknowledged that his account of imagination is less embodied and allows for less engagement than is
probably the case in daily life.
7. See chapter 2 for definitions of these forms. Anointing is included among
these revelatory forms insofar as, like the "word gifts," it is a manifestation of
divine power in a sensory modality.
8. This analysis is not the same as Avicenna's distinction between representative and active imagination, or Kant's between reproductive and productive
imagination (sec Casey 1976:131-132). It refers not to types, but to aspects
of imaginative activity, specifically that any instance of imagery can be understood both as representation and as being-in-the-world.
9. It may be objected that our attempt to align the notions of image and
sign strains to juxtapose two very different orders of phenomena: an analogical
representative is necessarily an "appearance" (Husserl 1964:133-136) of an
actual or fantasy object which it attempts to approximate or imitate, whereas
a representamen is necessarily something other than the object for which it
stands. Thus the imagination of warmth must have as its object the sensation
of warmth, whereas warmth as a sign may have divine power as its object. In
other words, while "warmth" is an image of warmth it is a sign of divine power.
This objection immediately begins to break down when it is realized that as a
cultural phenomenon, the sensation of warmth is isomorphic with divine power.
That is, in a given cultural context, and phenomenologically speaking, to experience warmth is to experience divine power.
10. The practical result was the inclusion of a variety of somatic experiences
described above as "anointings," suggesting the arbitrariness of distinguishing
between 'Svord gift" revelation and other experiences attributed to divine
11. Heat is also frequently reported by supplicants who either feel heat
within them or feel it in the healer's hands. There is no strict coincidence of
both healer and supplicant feeling the heat at the same time, and I have included
in the tabulation only those instances in which the healer reported heat in his
or her own hands.
12. Although the auditory modality plays a limited role in the imagery of
healers, to fully appreciate its place in Charismatic imaginal life we must recall



its frequent occurrence in prophecy, which is uttered predominantly in settings

other than those of ritual healing.
13. One healer was reported by devotees of her ministry frequendy to exude
a floral scent detectable to those in her presence, indicative of her own closeness
to the deity. Skeptics suggest that this healer is herself a devotee of inexpensive
14. So that the reader can assess my judgment that Charismatic healers do
in fact deemphasize dreams as a source of revelation, I will review my criteria
for excluding seven healers whom I considered classing as revelatory dreamers.
Five of them reported revelatory experiences either in a half-sleep/half-awake
state, or being awakened from sleep with some kind of revelation. These hypnagogic experiences must be distinguished from true dreaming, primarily in that
they tend to include auditor}' imagery so vivid as to be described in one case
as "audible" and in another as "almost audible." Another was excluded who,
although reporting two possible instances of dreaming about supplicants, stated
uncertainty as to whether their contents actually were relevant to that supplicant
or only to himself. Another, trained as a psychotherapist, was excluded because
he described his dreams specifically as countertransference dreams warning him
away from attraction to a female client.
15. Gaines (\9S2b) would take this as evidence of the difference between
assimilated Anglo-American or North European spiritual culture and that of
the Mediterranean region.
16. On the other hand, concordant with the powerful psychodynamic influence on North American ethnopsychology, a number of healers reported having
dreams that were relevant to themselves. The dominant attitude was concisely
summarized by the healer who stated that, "My dream only works for me."
Attitudes toward interpretation of one's own dreams varied from those who
were quite suspicious to those who eagerly attended "Jungian" workshops on
dream life.
17. As one healer succinctly stated in response to the question as to whether
something she told an anonymous man during a healing service was a revelatory
gift, "If it comes, it's word of knowledge, because I didn't know himwhy
would I tell him that?"
18. It may be argued that dreamers are sometimes able at least partially able
to control the course of their dreams, or at least to "redream" a disturbing
sequence as well as to terminate dreams, but these abilities are neither essential
to everyday dreaming nor possible in the same degree as in imagining.
19. Elsewhere (Csordas 1993) I have discussed the manner in which revelatory imagery brings to the fore the indeterminacy not only of embodied existence, but of boundaries between analytic categories such as imagination, sensation, perception, intuition, and countertransference.
20. In addition to M. Singer (1984, 1989), see Munn (1973) and Daniel
(1984) for ethnographic applications of Peirce's semiotics.
21. There is without doubt some overlap between these two broad categories of revelatory images. In particular, because the image-in-consciousness is
necessarily constituted by an "analogical representative," there is necessarily at
least in some sense a degree of iconic relationship even between the symbolic
image-as-sign and its object.

NOTES TO PAGES 101- i 11


22. Forgiving the perpetrator of a traumatic event is an essential component

of Charismatic healing of memories, a topic that we will take up in the next
23. Of the 147 total symbolic signs, 21 were excluded either because the
data did not allow clear identification of an interpretant, or because the image
was part of an imaginal performance and thus shared its interpretant with others
in a complex sequence.
24. This conclusion would be reinforced if we had the opportunity to discuss what we could call compound images occurring simultaneously in more
than one modality, of which our data include fourteen examples.
25. Healers working as a team may also experience this phenomenon. Although what we might call complementary imagery appears to be relatively
rare, our data include five coherent examples.

Chapter 5
1. Certainly it is relevant that the goddess Mnemosyne, or Memory, was
for the Greeks the mother of the Muses. In Locke's formulation great emphasis
was placed on memory in the form of mental representations as the mode of
constitution for our ethnopsvchological notion of the bounded, individualistic
2. On the other hand, I have heard of Charismatics attempting to verify
revelations of childhood memories and even revelations of events in ancestral
3. This is evident in the contemporary popularity of techniques for "past
life regression," in which life experiences from previous "incarnations" are retrieved and interpreted with respect to their meaning for the self.
4. Research diagnoses were established using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (SCL-90), a self-report paper and pencil instrument, and an adapted form
of the Schedule of Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (SADS), an interview
instrument. Both are in standard use in psychiatric research. Major depression
and dysthymic disorder were most common among those who made diagnostic
criteria for any disorder. Full discussion of the diagnostic status of the entire
set of supplicants will be reserved for a future work.
5. The method is an adapted form of the Interpersonal Process Recall
method (Elliott 1984, 1985) used in psychotherapy process research. Sessions
are audiotaped, following which the client is asked to rate the efficacy of the
session and to identify the most significant event within the session. That event
is played back for the client, and a commentary about the meaning of the event
is constituted by responses to a scries of standardized questions. This method
is the basis for the analysis of the cases presented below in chapters 5, 6, and
8. Comprehensive analysis of significant events from the full set of sixty sessions
will be undertaken in a separate work.
6. There are in this strategy necessary methodological choices that constrain



the nature of our discussion. Clearly the presentation of life histories, a progression of healing sessions, the process of a single session, and the single most
significant event within a session represent increasingly narrow contextual fields.
Likewise, the occurrence of imagery processes varies from session to session,
from patient to patient with the same healer, and across healers. Finally, although problems of intimacy are very much foregrounded in healing of memories in contrast to other domains of Charismatic life, not all such healing has
direcdy to do with intimacy. It is important that the central or presenting
problem and its corresponding diagnosis do not preclude the emergence in any
session of a variety of "memories'' from different aspects of life experience. Thus
whereas the intimacy of a marital relationship may be the fundamental problem,
a particular session may focus on an imagery sequence having to do with the
supplicant's relation with her mother.
7. Von der Heydt (1970) makes a cogent argument for the congeniality of
a Jungian approach in the psychotherapeutic treatment of Catholic patients.
8. Note that the imaginaJ performance is inaccessible in the data recorded
within the healing session itself, but only as part of the retrospective commentary
on the session. This method is rarely used in anthropological studies of ritual
performance, and since it remains undocumented to what extent imaginal performance occurs in other healing forms, it is thus entirely open to question
whether a critical dimension of healing process is typically absent from our
accounts. Among Charismatics, healers themselves often remain unaware of the
details of imaginal performance that occur in silent prayer.
9. Note that the presence of the Virgin and Jesus are intentionally introduced by the healer. Thus it is correct to say that although divine presence is an
element of religious experience, introduction of the divine figures