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October 2022

Cult Med Psychiatry. 1983 Dec; 7(4): 333-75.

The rhetoric of transformation in ritual healing.

Csordas TJ.

The problem of reconciling accounts of religious healing from the points of view of comparative religion and medicine suggests the necessity of an interpretive or hermeneutic approach to the analysis of therapeutic process. This paper, in the context of examining psychotherapeutic ritual among Catholic Pentecostals, formulates an interpretive approach in which healing is conceived as a form of discourse that is both religious and psychiatric. This discourse embodies a cultural rhetoric capable of performing three essential persuasive tasks: to create a predisposition to be healed, to create the experience of spiritual empowerment, and to create the concrete perception of personal transformation. It is shown that this threefold process activates and controls healing processes endogenous to the supplicant in healing, and either redirects the supplicant's attention toward new aspects of his actions and experiences, or alters the manner in which he attends to accustomed aspects of those actions and experiences. The result is the creation of both a new phenomenological world, and new self-meaning for the supplicant as a whole and holy person.

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