They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then Jesus sent him away to his home saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
(Gospel of Mark, Chapter 8, verses 22-26).
Last week we began examining Jesus-as-shaman. There are a number of classic shamanic healing elements to this story.
First, Jesus takes the man away from the village to a secluded place. Healers like to work alone. While Jesus does not always do this – he does sometimes heal in front of crowds – generally he tries to create private space for the healing act. He is not interested in gaining personal notoriety (see last verse).
Second, he uses spit. The use of natural elements in healing rituals is commonplace: e.g. stones, saliva, water, fire, smoke, etc.
Third, the man’s healing did not quite take at first. Often healings require multiple go rounds, even apparently for Jesus. Or perhaps the man was unable to interpret his new-found sight.
Fourth, Jesus holds conversation with the man – asking him to participate in his own healing process.
Can you see anything?
It’s crucial that the one who is receiving healing also partakes in the process – though to a lesser degree no doubt than the healer.
One of the reasons the healing stories in the gospels have caused controversy is they come from an era prior to modern medicine. Contemporary healing work must make a clear distinction between healing and curing. Healing does not equate to curing (though in the gospel stories it must be said they tend to be conflated). People may work with healers on an energetic level – with unprocessed emotions or past wounds – and they may receive healing but they aren’t necessarily cured in any sense. Healings may have curative physical effects but such physical manifestations need not take place in order for genuine healing to have occurred. I say this in response to the medical establishment’s studies on, say, prayer and healing which define healing solely as curing.
This is a particularly relevant topic in disability theology. Blind people or folks in wheelchairs often groan when these miraculous healing stories are read in church. They’re afraid some perhaps well-meaning but ignorant fellow church-goer will ask them when they’re going to get healed. Or worse, assume that the person’s physical challenge is a sign of their lack of faith.
So we need to be clear that there’s work to be done through healing – these shamanic domains affords insight and resources not available to the rational mind. But this is not to be equated with magical curing.
Coming next week in the Jesus the Shaman series: Jesus and Exorcism.
Chris Dierkes is a long time student and practitioner of the Christ-consciousness mystical path. After receiving his MDiv., Chris worked in parish ministry for three years (Anglican Church of Canada) and now maintains a private practice in interspiritual soul work. In addition Chris has studied energy healing, intuitive arts, and shamanic practice. He writes frequently on subjects of spirituality in the contemporary world. He lives in Vancouver with his wife Chloe and their daughter Sage. You can check out his writing and practice here.