The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing

The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing

The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing

The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing

Synopsis

How does religious healing work, if indeed it does? In this study of the contemporary North American movement known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Thomas Csordas investigates the healing practices of a modern religious movement to provide a rich cultural analysis of the healing experience. This is not only a book about healing, however, but also one about the nature of self and self- transformation. Blending ethnographic data and detailed case studies, Csordas examines processes of sensory imagery, performative utterance, orientation, and embodiment. His book forms the basis for a rapprochement between phenomenology and semiotics in culture theory that will interest anthropologists, philosophers, psychologists, physicians, and students of comparative religion and healing.

Excerpt

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 aspect—that is, ritual healing—of the creation of a sacred self in a contemporary North American religious movement called the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

For nearly twenty years, since 1973, I 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-

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