03 June 2011 ~ 25 Comments

African witchcraft and western psychology

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There are those who believe that Oprah is a prophet of Satan, spreading a message against Christianity. Then there are a growing group who similarly to Oprah, or maybe even because of her, are keen to explore alternative ways of connecting with divinity, not by dismissing the teachings of Jesus but by understanding them in conjunction with other spiritual leaders and their messages.

It will be interesting to watch the evolution of health care as increasing amounts explore spiritual lifestyles where the physical and meta-physical are linked. When it comes to medical treatment, the west, as a leader in modern pharmaceutics has focused chiefly on the body. As a result, science and faith have led separate institutional lives. But this one-dimensional view of healing is increasingly seen as a limited way of treatment. A psychosomatic approach, which sees health treatment as a multidisciplinary integration of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors is gaining momentum.

It is interesting that Africans, amongst others, have been using psychosomatic strategies to cure disease for millennia. African shamanist specialists have been labelled everything from Black Magic priests to Devil Worshippers to Primitive practitioners. However, the fact is that these guys knew something that modern science is only beginning to understand, namely that if you can access the deep rooted fears in a patient then you are in a better position to cure the physical tensions and emotional disturbances often caused by these fears.
In the attempt to devalue the ancient knowledge of African shamans; ritual and ceremony and the tools associated with these were classified as evil. Such claims are not only untrue, but actually miss something highly relevant to medical philosophy, namely that the paraphernalia is not by far as interesting as the master-minded psychology performed by many a ‘witchdoctor’. In fact, what may take a modern day psychologist months or even years to cure, African shamans, thanks to their hypnotherapeutic skills and to the worldview of their societies, could cure in hours.

Don’t take my word for it. There is documentation even by western doctors who travelled to Africa in the early 20th century recording, with astonishment, how so called witchdoctors cured all kinds of ailments from bone fractures to malaria to dysentery. For example Harry Wright, an American orthodontist and member of the Explorer’s Club who travelled to several African regions noted in 1957 after twenty years of field study:

I have watched uncivilized and semi-civilized man in the jungle depths, it is impossible to avoid one rather startling conclusion: the word ‘coinicidence’ is not broad enough to encompass all these sights I have witnessed… I can only say with Shakespeare, to civilized people: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy!”

Disturbingly, there continue to be prejudices against African spiritual philosophy even amongst Africans ourselves. We don’t recognize the wisdom in our ancient practices as a complement to modern day philosophy. I use the word complement’, because I think that when it comes to medical science in particular, a complementary practice of western pharmaceutical technology and the spiritual philosophy of African, Australasian, Indian, Oceanic and ancient-day Europe (and so on) could produce previously unknown results.

What do you think, can science and sorcery work together in fellowship? Let’s discuss.



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