Sacred Healing and Biomedicine Compared
Analysis of the similarities and differences between sacred healing and biomedicine along
several important dimensions that bear on the differential effects of patients’ experiences of
Looking into these differences shows the medical regimes that are embedded in different
systems of knowledge. This reveals strengths and weaknesses of each. The analysis
This analysis demonstrates the dramaturgical nature of biomedicine-patient encounter with its
inherent underlying contradictions whereas in the sacred healer-patient, the drama is lacking
In this article, two systems of healing are compared—Spirtualist and biomedical (practices in
Comparison addresses several dimensions such as: physical setting, etiological concepts,
diagnoses, the practioner-patient relationship, recruitment into the healing role, and the
treatment repertoires, as well as issues relevant to the patients’ perceptions of their bodies and
Spiritualism is both a dissident religious movement and a health care delivery system.
Spiritualisim provides its followers with a clearly defined cosmology, ethics, and liturgical order,
transmitted orally to its adherents through a medium in trance during weekly rituals consisting
chiefly of sermons.
The majority of those coming to Spiritualist temples for the first time seek treatment from the
healers for self-assessed, non-grave ailments.
Spirtualist healing reveals that Spiritualism and biomedicine diverge along many dimensions.
Spiritualism is embedded in a sacred world while biomedicine is sanctioned by secular science.
Spiritualist healers are folk practioners (lacking academic training and state legitimation)
The two systems of healing may have developed in Mexico during the same historical period
the, they are rooted in disparate realties and distinct epistemologies. Nevertheless, they
become unified in day to day life by the people who resort to them, a phenomenon that has
been recognized cross-culturally
People don’t judge on which regime is better. What they search for is the alleviation of pain,
pragmatism prevails. People judge treatments they are given by their effects,
During her research, she found that patients seeking treatment from Spiritualist healers usually
did so after unsuccessful treatment by several physicians.
Healers are usually women. Healers minister to the sick through spirit protectors who possess
their bodies when they enter a trance.
Spiritualist healers do not provide the patient with a definitive diagnosis, and when they do, it
usually consists of informing the person either that he or she possesses a gift that requires
cultivation or that the person is possessed by an obscure spirit that requires extrication. Similarties: Both biomedicine and spiritualism focus on the body (bodily discomforts). Both
adhere to a dualistic view of the body and its attendant disturbances (Spiritualism clearly
distinguish between the “material” and “spiritual” like how biomedicine distinguished between
body and mind). Both are structural in their encounters with patients (in both, the patient takes
the role of a passive recipient of the practioner’s ministrations and in both regimes the
practioner requires the patients compliance). Both try to peer inside the body (physician use
technoligcal apparatuses and spiritualist gazes into spirits)
Differences: Physical settingsThe healing experience is communal. Healers sit in one room,
receiving patients separately. This is a collective experience. Physicians heal people in a
cubicle(isolated). The relatively private surroundings of biomedical consultations reflect the
individualist cast of biomedicine. Mimics western industrialized societys emphasis on privacy
and individualism (Since Mexico adopted biomedicine from the western civilization)
Differences: Etiological Beliefs and Diagnoses Common pool of etiological beliefs in Mexic