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Faith-healing, sometimes called spiritual healing, is a form of treatment based on the doctrine that pain and disease actually exist but may be alleviated and dispelled by the intervention of divinely inspired power. The tradition of faith healing dates from the earliest days and was indoctrinated by Jesus Christ. Faith may be defined as a feeling or emotion of confidence reinforced by pleasurable anticipation of the attainment of a desired goal. It may be induced and greatly augmented by suggestion (q.v.), and is an essential factor in all healing. Drugs in many cases act simply through suggestion, that is, through their power to instil a conviction of their efficacy, or, in other words, to inspire faith and the physician's assuranee that the treatment he or she recommends will soon give relief, and goes a long way towards bringing about the desired result. This is a generally unrecognized fact.
The term "faith healing' is sometimes used in reference to the belief of many Christians who hold that God heals people through the power of the Holy Spirit, often involving the "laying on of hands". In the four gospels in the Christian Bible, Jesus both performs healings through divine power and indirectly acknowledged the role of the priest-physician, for example when he said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick". Jesus endorsed the use of the medical assistance of the time (medicines of herbs, oil and wine) when he praised the Good Samaritan for acting as a physician, telling his disciples to go and do the same thing that the Samaritan did in that Biblical story.
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The healing in the gospels is referred to as a sign to prove his divinity and to foster belief in himself as the Christ. In those cases where religious emotion is called into play, especially where large assemblies and strong mass suggestion are found, as at revival meetings and pilgrimages, the results are frequently spectacular.
Cases of genuine cure ascribed to faith healing fall into two categories.
In the first the sick are brought into direct relation with an authoritative personality, known as a healer, priest or physician, who, by means of some ritual or some appeal to the emotions, gives effect to the gifts he claims to possess or the power he believes delegated to him. For success in this method it is essential that the healer should have a personality marked by some degree of ethical or moral superiority. In some cases the sick regard the healer, or he/she may so regard himself, as an instrument for the manifestation of occult, mystic or divine power.
In the second category the healer is one unseen, e.g. angels or saints, who heals in response to direct intercession by prayer or through the medium of shrines, waters, amulets, etc.
In some cases direct spiritual communion with the healer is professed. Under the influence of such powerful direct suggestion cures are frequently obtained, but they are claimed by modern psychiatry only to be cures of hysterical disturbances, not of organic disease. The symptoms of hysteria (q.v.) are infinitely varied and include defects of sight and hearing, loss of voice (mutism), anaesthesia (lack of sensation in certain areas of the body), and paralysis. The causative factor is psychological and the symptoms represent the fulfilment in a disguised and distorted form of unconscious wishes. Bedridden patients who are cured by faith and those who recover from apparent advanced chronic illnesses are unquestionably cases of hysteria.
Despite the claims to cures by hysteria, faith-healing effects on genuine occasions, favorable changes in the nervous system, both central and autonomic, which steers the immune system towards healing are known. The immune system is dramatically affected by the steering currents of the nervous system. The same can be said for the hormones of the endocrine glands. Thus when the recipient surrenders faith to the almighty, our Lord Jesus Christ, the influx of energy permeates the nervous system and effectuates true cure.