In my blog dated Feb 12, I wrote about the film Astral City, based on the Brazilian best-selling novel Nosso Lar (Our Home), by the renowned Spiritist medium Chico Xavier (1910-2002). I have since became aware of a ground-breaking book entitled Spiritism and Mental Health (Singing Dragon Publishers, London, 2012) by Emma Bragdon, Ph.D., which contains over 25 chapters by various contributors, many of them Brazilian medical professionals, on the mental health aspects of Spiritist teachings. Here are some representative chapter titles from this superb collection, to give an idea of its range: The Relationship of Mediumship to Mental Disorder; Magnetic Healing, Prayer and Energy Passes; Psychotherapy and Reincarnation: A Necessary and Fruitful Encounter; Jung, Spirits and Madness – Lessons for Cultural Psychiatry; Spirit Attachment and Health; Soul-Centered Psychotherapy; The Positive Potential of Dissociative States of Consciousness; Contributions of Brazilian Spiritist Treatments to the Global Improvement of Mental Health Care.
Most (though not all) of the essays in this book are written by Brazilian medical doctors and healers, explaining the principles and practices of Spiritist-inspired of treating medical and psychiatric cases in the more than 50 hospitals in Brazil where these principles are used to treat acute and chronic psychiatric conditions. Emma Bragdon has been traveling to Brazil with other mental health professionals to study these practices and these integrated health care hospitals for more than ten years. She relates that researchers have shown that spiritual practice and belief have a positive influence on longevity and health – improving the survival rates after operations, ameliorating pain, improving mental acuity, lessening depression, boosting immune system functioning, reducing the incidence of smoking, alcoholism, cancer and heart disease. She call is an “accessible path for growth and well-being and a model for integrative health care.” Spiritist Centers in Brazil, of which there are more than 10,000 that serve 20-40 million people alone, do not charge for any of their services. There are numerous spiritist centers in North America and Europe as well – totally non-denomenational, free of charge, devoted to the study of spirits and mediumistic communication with them and reincarnation.
In her introductory chapter Emma Bragdon provides a historical overview of the Spiritist movement, from its origin in the writings of a 19th century French scientist-philosopher, who took on the pseudonym Allan Kardec. His writings became much more widely known in Brazil than in Europe. His main books are The Spirits’ Book, The Medium’s Book, The Gospel According to the Spirits, What is Spiritism. Emma Bragdon distinguishes spiritism from spiritualism as follows:
“In his (Kardecs) time those who were Spiritualists believed it possible to communicate with discarnate spirits, but they didn’t categorically embrace reincarnation or notions of spiritual evolution. Spiritists, on the other hand, believe that life is a continuum alternating between life in a body and life as a discarnate, ever progressing toward a spiritual destination…Kardec’s books advocate a high degree of discipline and perseverance in life – in order to effect personal transformation.”
I highly recommend this book to anyone searching for a new paradigm that integrates spiritual concerns and values with psychological and physical approaches to both health and mental health.