A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Healing - Traditional

In responding to questions about traditional forms of healing and the activities of traditional healers, the Universal House of Justice sets out the Bahá’í perspective on medical treatment. While the Bahá’í Faith does not support any one particular school of medical theory or practice, it calls upon the believers to consult scientifically trained, competent practitioners; this does not necessarily exclude traditional healers who have undergone a rigorous training in their craft. While Bahá’ís are free to decide which doctor to consult, they are also cautioned not to cross “an important borderline between unorthodox medical practice and sheer quackery or superstition”. In guiding the believers concerning such issues, the Spiritual Assemblies are counselled to distinguish between remedies that are prescribed as a simple therapeutic remedy and something that is taken as part of a religious or fetishistic ritual. As to Bahá’ís who are traditional healers, while it is recognized that certain individuals have a gift of healing, such people are encouraged not to attribute these powers to the Faith and they are to refrain from practices, such as those involving communication with departed spirits, that are incompatible with Bahá’í teachings.
1. As you point out, the acceptance of a system of medicine as “scientific” can vary from country to country. However, the friends should be left free to make their own choices in such matters, so long as they do not break the law of the land by administering or taking a treatment which is contrary to the law....
4. As stated in 1 above, a believer is free to follow any form of healing that he favours, even if it is not officially recognized, so long as by doing so he does not violate the law of the land.
5. The so-called “gift of healing” is a God-given talent, as Shoghi Effendi has explained. There is nothing in the Teachings to prohibit the friends from discovering, either for themselves or with the help of experts if they wish, that they have such a gift. Your under- standing that a Bahá’í is free to practice such powers as long as he does so without attributing his or her powers to the Faith or to Bahá’u’lláh is correct; likewise that Bahá’ís are free to accept treatment from individuals whom they believe to be endowed with such a gift.
(13 June 1982, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly) [40]


Regarding the use of traditional curative herbs, any herb known to have medicinal effects can surely be used by the friends, and those administering such medicaments should be left entirely free to carry out their profession.
However, it must be borne in mind that this is different from traditional fetishist practices which involve communication with departed spirits.
(23 December 1991, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly) [41]


The Universal House of Justice has received your faxed letter of ... regarding believers in your country who continue to perform traditional cultural roles including that of fetishist healer, and we have been asked to reply. ...the House of Justice understands that Mr. ... inherited from his maternal grandfather the position of fetishist chief and that he is a traditional therapist by profession. However, it was unclear from your letter to what extent Mr. ...’s duties as fetishist priest are religious in nature, as well as having to do with traditional healing, and to what extent they involve cultural ceremonies of a non-religious nature. While it may be difficult to draw such distinctions, doing so will better enable your Assembly to choose an appropriate course of action in this and similar cases. In particular, that Mr. ...’s profession is that of traditional therapist or healer is, in itself, not necessarily a cause for concern. It is clear from statements made by the Guardian, as well as from the practice of Bahá’u’lláh, the Master and the Guardian himself, that by “a scientific system of medicine” he was not limiting the choice to the medical theories currently dominant in western countries. The House of Justice, therefore, does not exclude the use of traditional healers, who have often gone through a rigorous training in their craft. Some fetishistic practices, however, such as those involving communication with departed spirits, are not compatible with Bahá’í teachings, and the believers should gradually be weaned from such things.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1998 Dec 16, Traditional practices in Africa)


The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of ... seeking its advice concerning your questions about those friends who persist in practising traditional medicine while attributing their power of healing to Bahá’u’lláh or to the Faith, and we have been instructed to send the following comments....We draw your attention to some quotations on the subject of healing, from letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, with which you are perhaps already familiar: As to your question about healing: although there is no objection to your helping others to regain their health, he does not feel you should associate the name Bahá’í with your work, as it gives a wrong impression; we have no “Bahá’í healers” as Christian Science and various other sects have. You are a Bahá’í and a healer, and that is quite different.
(From a letter dated 13 December 1945 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
(The Universal House of Justice, 1998 Dec 16, Traditional practices in Africa)


The statement defining health practitioners from a Bahá’í point of view is given in a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer on 8 June 1948: “In His Most Holy Book (the “Aqdas") Bahá’u’lláh says to consult the best physicians, in other words doctors who have studied a scientific system of medicine.” It is clear from other statements made by the Guardian, as well as from the practice of Bahá’u’lláh, the Master and the Guardian himself, that by “a scientific system of medicine” he was not limiting the choice to the medical theories currently dominant in western countries. The House of Justice, therefore, does not exclude the use of traditional native healers, who have often gone through a rigorous training in their craft. There is, nevertheless, an important borderline between unorthodox medical practice and sheer quackery or superstition, and this we should be careful not to cross.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1998 Dec 16, Traditional practices in Africa)