Priests, shamans, mediums and sages - and James 5

I have just heard a lecture that was intended to be a sermon on this subject. What strikes me most of all, is how most people I could find approach these words theologically and not spiritually. What I mean is that “James” is providing the congregation with help to overcome conventions with mercy and to heal the soul with compassion. The lecture I heard asked rhetorically about the failings of the modern church to do this, but was unable to address the difference between modern practise and the recommendations of the text.

It isn’t merely a problem that the church has; it is a failing of modern society. We have medicine, psychology and psychiatry – but we do not have priests, shamans, mediums and sages who can heal the soul. These belong in a pre-scientific age, we say. Rites and rituals speak to the soul and heal from within, strengthening the immune system and battling infections, making it seem like magic – but it is nature.

Any thoughts?

Hi Bob,

I was thinking of this recently in a conversation with a friend. In the scientific era, it is a liability to believe or to have faith in the miraculous. The spiritual is downplayed and only the physical remains examined.

Do you think that magic is not nature?
Do you think people have magic?
Perhaps magic is as much a victim of the scientific era as is other faith based systems.
There are healers and shamans among us.


“Acknowledge your deviations to one another,
so that you are healed,”

Acknowledging a defect or problem, then admitting it to a large group of loved-ones who care, is a very VERY important part of human problem-solving.

Without a degree of unity which – is deep enough that persons would be willing to pray for each other, as soon as one was weak, etc. A lack of unity would quickly lead to a lack of spiritual health, right?

Of anything anyone could ever need, men need each other most…

Hi Bob,

I would suggest that the problem is that modern man is alienated from self to the point that there is a complete disconnect from faith in priests, shamans, or others capable of helping lead people back into themselves. You have long talked about the need for tradition and myth, primarily because you understand that it is a way for people to heal themselves. Of course, I see a different path, but it is no more a palliative than what you promote. At bottom, I think there are few who can live without myth, and in an age that refuses to recognize myth, the “vendors” are rendered powerless. The time of the shaman as doctor/priest is over, and many ailments go untreated because the priest is invisible. There are attempts at “holistic” medicine, but while society openly applauds the wisdom of this, it secretly continues to de-bunk the mythology that supports it. As we’ve discussed before, it still is a one-to-one process of empathetic encounter. Tiny communities of people here and there is the best possible, and probably has always been this way.

Cinema came forth from the need for soul-healing, shamanism, communicating directly to the soul.
the vast majority of the films are failed attempts, but the ones that last are successful in healing. Films that work for me are American Beauty, Gladiator and the series Six Feet Under.
This shamanistic function of art is not resturcted to cinema of course, but it is the most pwoerful form as it combines all arts into one experience.

Hi T4M

Exactly, although it is questionable whether what we regard as being miraculous is in fact, from a scientific perspective, really extraordinary. I think that the extraordinary is so for a good simple reason – we no longer regard such things as ordinary.

I hear Christ saying, “You think this is something, wait until you start developing and you’ll see some really amazing things!” I think that the true potential of Mankind is in areas where it is not sought, and where people are ridiculed for searching.

I think that it is all “nature” – although in the furthered sense of the word that is the whole body of things observed. I think that Magic has been assumed to be an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source by people who are far removed from their true spiritual, psychological and physical possibilities. This is what he classical “fall of mankind” expresses.

What is occasionally witnessed is the ability of individuals to access this knowledge to some degree and display a restricted ability. People seeing this developed (as always) a polar understanding in which good and evil had their own magic, but in reality there is only one “magic” which is the ability of the “Son of Man” to have “dominion” over creation.

Hi JT,

Yes, I have come to accept that you are right and have given up trying to move our community towards an ideal based on this. However, I think that “James” is promoting something similar to “tiny communities”. The idea that these people were writing out of large communities in our sense of the word “large” must be brought into relation with the size of town populations then. It is the commitment within small groups that brings about the kind of trust needed for what is portrayed in the text.

I have a deep suspicion that those who have done away with tradition, myth and shamans by claiming that their medicine is evidence-based are trying to reinvent the wheel – but they fail to overcome the need for tradition and myth … if you know what I mean …


Spirituality and such things are too personal for our individualistic culture and our progress-oriented attitudes to harbor.
Stop me if I’m wrong on this, but all forms of spirituality across cultures seem to have one thing in common- they intrude upon us personally. Science can only produce a hammer. Spirituality tells us how we have to think about the hammer, what we ought and ought not do with the hammer, where we stand in relationship to the hammer.
But these days, the self is sacred. Anything that says “You must stop being this, and work towards becoming this other thing instead” isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s blashphemy. How Dare You?
This is never more clear than in the new, vocalized difference between ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’. Religion is what other people come up with to change you- these days, it’s something you succumb to if you are weak. Spirituality comes from the Self, because the Self is sacred. Since you are always you, what comes from the Self can never really change you, it can only reflect. Spirituality rooted in the self is safe. A safe spirituality is a worthless spirituality by a more timeless understanding of the term, I should think.

Religion has gotten a bad rap. It’s not just a force of control. Not unless you think love is. Love is said to be the purest of religions. To care for widows and orphans, and the sick and the elderly. That’s real religion.

Sadly, the religions we see today are the idols of money and sex. Those control people.

And spirituality based on a clearly defined and outlined set of principles is dangerous, risque?

Can’t they often both be crap?


LOL, I love this attitude, and you are absolutely correct.

Anyone who doesn’t go to a medical practitioner for their health needs, is just some kook who deals in majiks.

Pfffffft. Modern society has a plethora to learn about the internal nature of the body.

Well done, as always Bob.

Hi Ucc.,

Sorry for the late reply …

Haven’t we been here before? Are you agreeing with me in a subtle way? Anyway, how does spirituality intrude in a different way that a living God doesn’t?

Do you really think that? I feel that it is more the fact that people feel intuitively that the conservative approach is asking too much when it says, "You must stop being this!” I am what I am, and it isn’t easy just to stop that. If you tell someone to stop being a sinner and try to get him to be a saint, you may find that you destroy both, since they are both facets of one personality. Spirituality, on the other hand, helps that one personality to discover its various facets. It helps people see through their motivations, understand their weaknesses and accept themselves, but also takes them down the road of improvement.

I hear what you are saying, but it isn’t quite right. Spirituality doesn’t come from the self, but it does make you more aware of yourself, of your role and opportunities within your community. It is suspicious for many because it doesn’t bow down to group pressures and seeks God before it seeks community. It is this independence and empowerment that has been the cause of oppression and discrimination over centuries, feared by those in power, despite the humility of such saints.

Only if we release ourselves from being “religious”, in the old sense of the word, that is exhibiting religious conviction, conveying assurance in the existence of some cosmic being, and instead become humble seekers of the fullness of God, brothers to our fellow man and instruments of peace in a chaotic world, will mankind be able to develop its true potential. Religion in the way it is often lived is the attempt to rise above our true integral being, to feel larger than one is by associating oneself to a higher being. Spirituality shows us how we really are, our integral faults and shows that by introspection we can perceive the truth of our existence, and the universe.

It is the inner chamber and the Father who sees us “in secret” and not the externalised piety that would have a cosmic being rend the heavens which helps us further.


Bob, I think I basically agree with your conclusions, but I’m getting there along a different road, maybe.

I do think what I said is true, yes. And I agree with you that Spirituality ought to do the things you describe, but I think too often spirituality in practice is just a self-justification done in mystical-sounding language that doesn’t lead to growth at all. I also think that people who fall into that trap tend to be the same people who insist on a rigorous, important difference between the words ‘Religion’ and ‘Spirituality’.
Often in my post, I was using ‘spirituality’ to mean ‘what people call spirituality’ or ‘what people look for when they look for spirituality’ and not ‘spirituality when properly achieved’. I think we tend to agree about the desired results, the major place that we differ is where we’re cynical about the path that gets there. I’m skeptical of some approaches, you of others.


These days, yes. The clearly defined, the traditional is risque. And yes, they can both be crap- if you mean false. That’s where a philosopher comes in.

It's truth and falsehood everything when it comes to religion/spirituality? Is it the most important thing?  Within the context of this thread, is it very important at all?