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The Sacred Self

A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing

Thomas J. Csordas

Publication Year: 1997

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.

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vi-xvi

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 ...

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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pp. 1-24

How does religious healing work, if indeed it does? What is the nature of its therapeutic efficacy? What 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 ...

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Chapter 2. Ritual Healing: Affliction and Transformation

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pp. 25-56

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 ...

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Chapter 3. Therapeutic Process and Experience

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pp. 57-73

...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 ...

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Chapter 4. Embodied Imagery and Divine Revelation

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pp. 74-108

Clifford Geertz 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 restricted sense, imagination itself can be a mode of ...

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Chapter 5. Imaginal Performance and Healing of Memories

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pp. 109-140

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 ...

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Chapter 6. Image, Memory, and Efficacy

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pp. 141-164

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 ...

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Chapter 7. Demons and Deliverance

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pp. 165-199

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 ...

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Chapter 8. Encounters with Evil

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pp. 200-227

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 ...

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Chapter 9. The Raging and the Healing

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pp. 228-275

When anthropologists talk about the upright posture as characteristic of human beings, it is ahnost 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 ...

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Chapter 10. Envoi: The Sacred Self

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pp. 276-282

In what sense can we claim that we have elaborated a cross-culturally useful phenomenological 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 we have adequately identified process and transformation in their ...


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pp. P1-P10

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pp. 283-303

...1. A discussion of Charismatic covenant communities in the context of theo ries 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 near synonymous terms. Zaner (1981: 112) has done us the service of defming this ...


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pp. 305-322


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pp. 323-327

Production Notes

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p. 328-328

E-ISBN-13: 9780520919068
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520208841

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 1997