Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 333–375 | Cite as

The rhetoric of transformation in ritual healing

  • Thomas J. Csordas


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.


Healing Process Therapeutic Process Interpretive Approach Hermeneutic Approach Personal Transformation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abrahams, Roger 1968 Introductory Remarks to a Rhetorical Theory of Folklore. Journal of American Folklore 81: 143–148.Google Scholar
  2. Ackerman, S. E. 1981 The Language of Religious Innovation: Spirit Possession and Exorcism in a Malaysian Catholic Pentecostal Movement. Journal of Anthropological Research 37: 90–100.Google Scholar
  3. Arieti, Silvano 1974 Interpretation of Schizophrenia (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  4. Assagioli, Roberto 1965 Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles and Techniques. New York: Hobbs Dorman.Google Scholar
  5. Bastide, Roger 1958 Le Candomble de Bahia (Rite Nago). Paris: Mouton.Google Scholar
  6. Bloch, Marc 1973 The Royal Touch: Sacred Monarchy and Scrofula in England and France. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  7. Bourguignon, Erika 1976 The Effectiveness of Religious Healing Movements: A Review of Recent Literature. Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review 13: 5–21.Google Scholar
  8. Burke, Kenneth 1970 (1961) The Rhetoric of Religion. Berkeley: Universitt of California Press.Google Scholar
  9. Burke, Kenneth 1972 (1966) Language. as Symbolic Action. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  10. Calestro, Kenneth 1972 Psychotherapy, Faith Healing, and Suggestion. International Journal of Psychiatry 10: 83–113.Google Scholar
  11. Comaroff, Jean 1980 Healing and the Cultural Order: The Case of the Barolong Boo Ratshidi. American Ethnologist 7: 637–657.Google Scholar
  12. Comaroff, Jean 1982 Medicine: Symbol and Ideology. In Perter Wright and Andrew Treacher (eds.) The Problem of Medical Knowledge: Examining the Social Construction of Medicine. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Comaroff, Jean The Defectiveness of Symbols or the Symbols of Defectiveness? On the Cultural Analysis of Medical Systems. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 7: 3–20.Google Scholar
  14. Connor, Linda 1982 The Unbounded Self: Balinese Therapy in Theory and Practice. In Anthony J. Marsella and Geoffrey M. White (eds.), Cultural Concepts of Mental Health and Therapy. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  15. Cox, Richard H. (ed.) 1973 Religious Systems and Psychotherapy. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.Google Scholar
  16. Crapanzano, Vincent 1973 The Hamadsha: A Study in Moroccan Ethnopsychiatry. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  17. Csordas [Csordas], Thomas J. 1980a Building the Kingdom: The Creativity of Ritual Performance in Catholic Pentecostalism. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Duke University.Google Scholar
  18. Csordas [Csordas], Thomas J. 1980b Catholic Pentecostalism: A New Word in the New World. In Steven J. Glazier (ed.), Perspective on Pentecostalism: Case Studies from the Caribbean and Latin America. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America.Google Scholar
  19. n.d. Inspired Oral Poetry and Sacred Reality. MS.Google Scholar
  20. Csordas [Chordas], Thomas and Steven Jay Gross 1976 The Healing of Memories: Psychotherapeutic Ritual Among Catholic Pentecostals. Journal of Pastoral Care 30: 245–257.Google Scholar
  21. Deren, Maya 1953 The Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. New York: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  22. Eisenberg, Leon 1977 Disease and Illness. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 1: 9–23.Google Scholar
  23. Eliade, Mircea 1958 Patterns in Comparative Religion, trans. Rosemary Sheed. Cleveland: World Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. Fernandez, James 1972 Persuasions and Performances: Of the Beast in Every Body ... and the Metaphors of Every Man. Daedalus 101: 39–60.Google Scholar
  25. Fernandez, James 1974 The Mission of Metaphor in Expressive Culture. Current Anthropology 15: 119–145.Google Scholar
  26. Finkler, Kaja 1980/81 Non-Medical Treatments and Their Outcomes (Parts 1 & 2). Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 4: 271–310, 5: 65–103.Google Scholar
  27. Foucault, Michel 1965 Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  28. Foucault, Michel 1970 The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  29. Foucault, Michel 1972 The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language. New York: Harper Colophon.Google Scholar
  30. Frank, Jerome 1973 Persuasion and Healing (Rev. ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  31. Gabbay, John 1982 Asthma Attacked? Tactics for the Reconstruction of a Disease Concept. In Peter Wright and Andrew Treacher (eds.), The Problem of Medical Knowledge. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Gaines, Atwood 1982a The Twice-Born: Christian Psychiatry and Christian Psychiatrists. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 6: 305–324.Google Scholar
  33. Gaines, Atwood 1982b Cultural Definitions, Behavior, and the Person in American Psychiatry. In A. J. Marsella and G. M. White (eds.), Cultural Conceptions of Mental Health and Therapy. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  34. Geertz, Clifford 1973 The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  35. Good, Byron 1977 The Heart of What's the Matter: The Semantics of Illness in Iran. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 1: 25–58.Google Scholar
  36. Good, Byron and Mary Jo Delvecchio Good 1981 The Meaning of Symptoms: A Cultural Hermeneutical Model for Clinical Practice. In Leon Eisenberg and Arthur Kleinman (eds.), The Relevance of Social Science for Medicine. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  37. Good, Byron and Mary Jo Delvecchio Good 1982 Toward a Meaning-Centered Analysis of Popular Illness Categories: ‘FrightIllness’ and ‘Heart Distress’ in Iran. In A. J. Marsella and G. M. White (eds.), Cultural Conceptions of Mental Health and Therapy. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  38. Gossen, Gary 1976 Language as Ritual Substance. In William Samarin (ed.), Language in Religious Practice. Rowley: Newbury House.Google Scholar
  39. Hahn, Robert In press Rethinking ‘Disease’ and ‘Illness’. In Contributions to Asian Studies, Special Volume on South Asian Systems of Healing. E. V. Daniels and J. Pugh, eds.Google Scholar
  40. Hymes, Dell 1975 Breakthrough into Performance. In Kenneth Goldstein and Dan Ben-Amos (eds.), Folklore: Communication and Performance. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
  41. Ingleby, David 1982 The Social Construction of Mental Illness. In P. Wright and A. Treacher (eds.), The Problem of Medical Knowledge. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Jilek, Wolfgang 1974 Salish Indian Mental Health and Cultural Change: Psychohygienic and Therapeutic Aspects of the Guardian Spirit Ceremonial. Montreal: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston of Canada.Google Scholar
  43. Kane, Steven M. 1982 Holiness Ritual Fire Handling: Ethnographic and Psychophysiological Considerations. Ethos 10: 369–384.Google Scholar
  44. Kapferer, Bruce 1979 Mind, Self, and Other in Demonic Illness: The Negation and Reconstruction of Self. American Ethnologist 6: 1–23.Google Scholar
  45. Kleinman, Arthur 1977 Depression, Somatization and the ‘New Cross-Cultural Psychiatry’. Social Science and Medicine 11: 3–10.Google Scholar
  46. Kleinman, Arthur 1980 Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture: An Exploration of the Borderland between Anthropology, Medicine, and Psychiatry. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  47. Kleinman, Arthur 1982 Neurasthenia and Depression. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 6: 117–90.Google Scholar
  48. Kleinman, Arthur 1983 Editor's Note. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 7: 97–99Google Scholar
  49. Kleinman, Arthur and James L. Gale 1982 Patients Treated by Physicians and Folk Healers: A Comparative Outcome Study in Taiwan. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 6: 405–423.Google Scholar
  50. Kleinman, Arthur, and Lilias H. Sung 1979 Why Do Indigenous Practitioners Successfully Heal? Social Science and Medicine 138: 7–26.Google Scholar
  51. LaBarre, Weston 1972 The Ghost Dance: Origins of Religion. New York: Delta.Google Scholar
  52. Lessa, William and Evon Z. Vogt (eds.) 1979 Reader in Comparative Religion: An Anthropological Approach (4th ed.). New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  53. MacNutt, Francis 1974 Healing. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press. Mauss, MarcelGoogle Scholar
  54. Mauss, Marcel 1968 (1934) Les Techniques du Corps. In Sociologie et Anthropologie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.Google Scholar
  55. Mawn, Benedict 1975 Testing the Spirits. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Sociology, Boston University.Google Scholar
  56. McGuire, Meredith 1982 Pentecostal Catholics: Power, Charisma, and Order in a Religious Movement. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Messing, Simon 1959 Group Therapy and Social Status in the Zar Cult of Ethiopia. In M. K. Opler (ed.), Culture and Mental Health: Cross-Cultural Studies. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  58. Mills, C. Wright 1940 Situated Actions and Vocabularies of Motives. American Sociological Review 5: 904–913.Google Scholar
  59. Monfouga-Nicolas, Jacqueline 1972 Ambivalence et Culte de Possession. Paris: Editions Anthropos.Google Scholar
  60. Montagu, Ashley 1978 Touching (2nd ed.). New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  61. Murase, Takao 1982 Sunao: A Central Value in Japanese Psychotherapy. In A. J. Marsella and G. M. White (eds.), Cultural Conceptions of Mental Health and Therapy. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  62. Ness, Robert 1980 The Impact of Indigenous Healing Activity: An Empirical Study of Two Fundamentalist Churches. Social Science and Medicine 14B: 167–180.Google Scholar
  63. Ness, Robert and Ronald Wintrob 1980 The Emotional Impact of Fundamentalist Religious Participation: An Empirical Study of Intragroup Variation. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 50: 302–315.Google Scholar
  64. NCO Newsletter 1980 Gallup Poll Reveals 29 Million Charismatics in U.S. 5 : 3: 1.Google Scholar
  65. 1981 Diocesan Liaisons Surveyed About Renewal in U.S. 6: 9: 1.Google Scholar
  66. Pattison, E. Mansell 1974 Ideological Support for the Marginal Middle Class: Faith Healing and Glossalalia. In Irving Zaretsky and Mark Leone (eds.), Religious Movements in Contemporary America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Pattison, E. Mansell and N. Lapins and H. Doerr 1973 Faith Healing: A Study of Personality and Function. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders 157: 397–409.Google Scholar
  68. Pressel, Esther 1973 Umbanda in São Paulo: Religious Innovation in a Developing Society. In Erika Bourguignon (ed.), Religion, Altered States of Consciousness, and Social Change. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Prince, Raymond 1976 Psychotherapy as the Manipulation of Endogenous Healing Mechanisms: A Transcultural Survey. Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review 13: 115–133.Google Scholar
  70. Prince, Raymond 1980 Variations in Psychotherapeutic Procedures. In H. C. Triandis and J. C. Draguns (eds.), Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol. 6. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  71. Prince, Raymond (ed.) 1982 Shamans and Endorphins. Special Issue of Ethos.Google Scholar
  72. Ricoeur, Paul 1979 (1971) The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text. In Paul Rabinow and William M. Sullivan (eds.), Interpretive Social Science. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  73. Ritenbaugh, Cheryl 1982 Obesity as a Culture-Bound Syndrome. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 6: 347–362.Google Scholar
  74. Schutz, Alfred 1967 The Phenomenology of the Social World. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Shweder, Richard and Edmund Bourne 1982 Does the Concept of the Person Vary Cross-Culturally? In A. J. Marsella and G. M. White (eds.), Cultural Conceptions of Mental Health and Therapy. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  76. Singer, Milton 1958 From the Guest Editor. Journal of American Folklore 71: 191–204.Google Scholar
  77. Singer, Milton 1977 The Cosmological and Performative Significance of a Thai Cult of Healing Through Meditation. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 1: 97–132.Google Scholar
  78. Turner, Terence 1980 The Social Skin. In Jeremy Cherfas and Roger Lewin (eds.), Not Work Alone: A Cross-Cultural View of Activities Superfluous to Survival. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  79. Turner, Victor 1974 Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Von der Heydt, Vera 1970 The Treatment of Catholic Patients. Journal of Analytic Psychology 15: 72–80.Google Scholar
  81. Wallace, Anthony F. C. 1956 Revitalization Movements. American Anthropologist 58: 264–281.Google Scholar
  82. Young, Allan 1976 Some Implications of Medical Beliefs and Practices for Social Anthropology. American Anthropolgist 78: 5–24.Google Scholar
  83. Young, Allan 1982 The Anthropology of Sickness. In B. Siegel et al. (eds.), Annual Review of Anthropology. Volume II. Palo Alto: Annual Review, Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. Csordas
    • 1
  1. 1.Turtle Rock FarmHillsboroughU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations