Tracking the sacred through healing experiences: the case of alternative therapists in Southwest France
Paper short abstract:
Drawn from an ethnography of therapeutic pluralism in Southwest France (2011-2016), itineraries of therapists who belong to the New-Age phenomenon will be presented, to enlighten how they develop their representations of the sacred and how they experience it through their healing experiences.
Paper long abstract:
Based on an ethnography of therapeutic pluralism in various areas of southwest of France (2011-2016), this communication will focus on the spiritual itineraries of alternative medicines' therapists who belong to the New-Age phenomenon. These tracks enlighten how they develop their representations of the sacred and their relationship with it through their healing experiences. These therapists share a strong feeling of religiosity, whereas they distance religious places and discourses perceived as too dogmatic (most of the interviewed therapists grew up in catholic families). These people are opened to esoteric knowledges and oriental spiritualities. They read books of "self-improvement" and are interested in ritual practices promoting the nature and the living, drawn from neo-paganistic and neo-shamanistic movements. This process of distancing/appropriating elements from different spiritual repositories, contribute to redesign the conceptions of the sacred. In parallel, this process relies on the adoption of dedicated practices, supposed to enable the therapists to experience the sacred through their healing activities and to mobilize it in a therapeutical way. During the therapeutical interaction with their patients, therapists try to capture and interpret different signs felt in their own bodies, sometimes with the help of spiritual beings. For the therapists, these perceived signs are conceived as messages, allowing them to identify the etiology of illness and sickness of their patients. Becoming healer implies to expand his capacities of (extra)sensorial perceptions and more generally, to create his proper connection with the sacred, source of therapeutical energy, power and protection.