As a child in the 1950s I sat mesmerized in front of the TV screen watching the early generation of television faith healers like Oral Roberts and Kathryn Kuhlmann ply their prayers across the airways. Something of the lilt and cadence of their language, something of their invocation of divine power and compassion, something of the pain and exultation of their ardent audiences, something of the difference of all this from anything I knew in my own Roman Catholic environment rendered me spellbound. The question of what was really happening in the supplicants’ experience of their illness-wracked and suffering bodies left me with an enduring puzzlement. Decades later, on deciding to become an anthropologist, I made it my business to be professionally fascinated with the world’s multiplicity of answers to the question “what does it mean to be human?” Once again I found myself attracted to the problem of how religion attempts to provide meaning through healing. The early wonderment was renewed with the observation that so many of the world’s peoples tried to answer the question of what it means to be human by invoking powers or entities that were by definition wholly other than human.
KeywordsTherapeutic Process Bodily Experience Faith Healer Divine Power Anthropological Theory
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