Last month the Quaker Universalist Group held its conference on health and healing. Bath Quaker Wendy Freebourne attended online. Here is her report.
Monica Janowski talked about health and healing in the context of the Kelabit people of Borneo, with whom she had lived in the highlands with her husband and child. She talked about their use of herbs and plants for healing, their ancestral ways of healing themselves through a spirituality rooted in nature, and how, when they moved to the cities their diet deteriorated and their health with it.
In the highlands, they lived long lives, protected from sickness from the outside world. When they moved into the towns, they were prone to diseases such as cholera and measles.
Originally they had animistic beliefs about health. They saw animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and perhaps even words and places—as animated and alive. For them, all of these possessed a spiritual essence. These, they believed, fed and managed their life force, which they call Lalud. When they converted to Christianity, the concern became that of exorcising Satans, which had been part of the spiritual essence that supported their Lalud.
We divided into breakout groups to discuss these ideas.
On Saturday, Gervais and Pauline Frykman, representing Friends Fellowship of Healing, talked about the healing ministry amongst Quakers. They asserted that healing was to be found in God, that the intention with hands-on or distance healing was to hand over the process to God. They related stories of healing and talked about George Fox and the healing ministry. They saw God as the source of everything in us, of love, of oneness. In answer to a question about psychotherapy, does healing the mind heal the body or is it God that heals the body, Gervais answered that all forms of healing are valuable although Pauline stressed that it is God that does the healing and there is nothing else to be done.
Ranald MacDonald then talked about healing in Eastern cultures, talking a lot about Chinese medicine. He talked about spiritual strength, stored energy, and external energy, all used for healing; about how energy moves around and the use of the pulses, as well as the five elements, for diagnosis. He also talked about the relationship between the emotions and the organs of the body. He said there were internal and external illnesses, some hot, some cold.
In our next breakout group to consider these talks, with the same people as previously, we talked about body, mind, and spirit diagnosis, taking all three into account. We also questioned whether there was any outcome data for Chinese medicine. In the afternoon Pauline conducted an online healing session for those who wanted it with a guided meditation. I did not attend the QUG AGM.
After Meeting for Worship on Sunday morning, Neil Morgan, a psychoanalyst, talked about physical, mental, and spiritual health. He talked about spirituality, attitudes to existence as overlapping circles [or spirals] and about integrating thinking and feeling. He considered tolerating pain, defence, denial, fragmentation, and splitting. He described our defences as `clinical disavowal’, and discussed anxiety [existential survival], death, immortality, vulnerability, and using therapy to minimise causes of anxiety. He said that where anxiety is about spirituality, ordinary language does not work. It is more a fall from harmony of the self and the spirit; a matter of division and separation from the spirit versus integration of the spiritual. Often this is caused by disenchantment.
We had our last breakout group to discuss this and to compile our comments to feed back to the final plenary session, where we received reports from the groups and from the speakers; a time for sharing and drawing together, sometimes moving and emotional.
It was a full and much enjoyed weekend; moving, rich, and fruitful.