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HEALING POWERS by Fred M. Frohock


Alternative Medicine, Spiritual Communities, and the State

by Fred M. Frohock

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1992
ISBN: 0-226-26584-6
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

 A sophisticated and sympathetic look at nonconventional healing methods and their place in a pluralistic democracy. Frohock (Political Science/Syracuse Univ.; Special Care, 1986) poses two tough questions: What do we make of claims that alternative realities exist and that contact with them can lead to miraculous cures? And should alternative healing be free from state regulation in a liberal democracy? Neither gets a clear answer, but there's much pleasure along the way as Frohock explores the social and spiritual issues involved. His approach is eccentric: ``narratives'' constructed from interviews with patients and healers (names are changed), interspersed with historico-political analysis and with--this must be a first in a scholarly book--the ``wholly imaginative,'' coldly lucid voice of Luke, a child battling cancer (he's been invented, we are told, ``to provide access to interior or subjective levels of experience that linear texts cannot''). The healers whose stories we hear include Pentecostal ministers, Catholic priests, Christian Scientists, homeopaths, an Orthodox Jew who straddles Western and alternative medicines; the patients include drug-addicted doctors, dying children, car-crash victims. More often than not, the cure seems nothing less than a full-fledged miracle. Frohock balances these narratives with clearheaded discussions of some age-old puzzlers: What is health (inner balance, spiritual integrity, freedom from disease)? What is mental competence? How should church and state interact? Usually, Frohock presents the options and lets the reader decide; scholarly distancing, however, cannot hide his sympathy for alternative medicine--or at least its right to be taken seriously. The inaugural volume in the Univ. of Chicago's ``Morality and Society'' series, which deals with ``moral issues from a social science perspective''--and, on every level, a sterling debut. (Two line drawings.)