ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE AND AMERICAN RELIGIOUS LIFE by Robert C. Fuller

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE AND AMERICAN RELIGIOUS LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Intelligent, brief historical survey of unorthodox medical techniques, from Mesmerism to crystal healing, and their relation to American popular religion. Fuller (Religion/Bradley Univ.) deliberately excludes faith healing from his study, focusing instead on therapies that are primarily medical in nature but also include a spiritual component. Such therapies thrive at the fringes of orthodox medicine; in the 1830's, just as in the 1980's, they usually offer gentle, holistic approaches in lieu of more purgative or even violent orthodox techniques.: First up is Thomaonianism, a ""democratic"" medicine available to anyone who puchased the guidebook by its founder, a New Hampshire farmer who claimed that all disease is caused by cold and cured by heat. Other early methods range from oddities like hydropathy, which involved wrapping patients in wet sheets, to Grahamism(developed by the inventor of the graham cracker), an infant version of the modern counterculture's nuts-and-whole-grains philosophy. These early alternative medicines received intellectual backbone from Mesmerism and Sweden-borgianism, both of which emphasized the active influence of ""higher"" spiritual forces. Other 19th-century techniques--osteopathic and chiropractic, in particular--have survived into modern times and can now be found alongside therapeutic touch, Alcoholics Anonymous, crystal healing, etc. As Fuller points out, these methods all see healing as a rite of initiation, a way of awakening to a new life. As such, at a time when orthodox church attendance continues to drop, they serve as major sources of revitalization in American religious life. A satisfying addition to the shelf of outstanding recent books that offer intellectual analyses & what might be called ""the people's"" spirituality.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press