Healing and Teaching

Healing and Teaching

Three Forms of Alternative Healing
and their Implications For Teaching

by Gerald Grow

It can be helpful to refer to alternative realities as a way of re-thinking one’s current position. This article describes three approaches to alternative healing– energy healing, mental healing, and spiritual healing–looking at each one’s basic assumptions, view of what goes wrong with people, and its approach to setting things right, followed by some implications each healing method might have for education.

Short Version: If you don’t read anything else, look at Figure 1 and read the short section called Healing by Presence.

The article originally appeared in Holistic Education Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 1994, pp. 11 – 18. Copyright © 1993 by Gerald Grow. Internet version © 1996

Energy Healing

This approach to healing is based on the view that a special energy moves through all things–a life energy that is the creative impetus for the universe, for all matter, and for the moment to moment feelings of each human being. This energy moves in pulsating rhythms that make up the seasons, the stages of the life cycle, the developmental phases of growth, the tidal rhythms of breath, the drumbeat of the heart, and the vibratory dance of the smallest particles inside each cell. Seen in terms of energy, the body consists of

  • energy centers (chakras),
  • energy pathways (meridians), and
  • energy fields (auras).

According to this school of thought, when energy circulates freely, people are healthy, happy, in touch with themselves, in direct energy-level communication with one another, and in tune with the universe. This energy has been called many names–“magnetism” in the early 19th century by Mesmer. The Yogic name for it is “prana.” In Taoism and acupuncture, it is known by the Chinese term “chi” or “qi” (Japanese “ki”). Wilhelm Reich called it “orgone.” (For a measured appreciation of Reich, see “Wilhelm Reich: Imperfect Master.” )

Each theory of healing has an explanation for the nature of human difficulty and disease. In this theory, for a multitude of reasons, life-energy readily becomes blocked in human beings. The channels through which it flows can be stopped up, weakening the energy in one part of the body, building it to excessive levels in another.

Each healing system also proposes a cure: When life-energy is blocked, it must be freed in order to bring about a healing of the problems caused by that blockage–problems that include acute and chronic diseases, personality disorders, mood afflictions, psychological aberrations, anger, frustration, depression, cruelty, addiction, anxiety, indecisiveness, and all the adaptations we make to these conditions.

Life-energy may be released and rebalanced through a number of means. Acupuncturists use needles, pressure, and the precise application of heat to balance the flow of “chi” through elaborately mapped pathways called “meridians.” Applied kinesiology and polarity therapy rebalance the energy through precise touch. Tai chi and chi gung build, release, and balance life-energy through elaborate, gentle movements and prescribed postures. Hatha yoga uses physical postures, breathing, mental exercises, and diet to build and balance the centers of “prana” and their channels.

Reichian therapy (which I practiced for six years) and bioenergetics release blocks and cultivate the ability to experience the fuller flow of organismic energy. Reiki and theraputic massage manipulate muscles and move energy with the hands, not to remove muscular tension in a mechanical sense, but to clear the deep energy pathways of the body. The “healing hands” movement among holistic nurses uses touch and also works with the energy field that surrounds the body.

In the ancient method of the laying on of hands, healing energy is transmitted from one person to another by touch, to reenergize or rebalance the afflicted part. (Note 1.) The energy of healing hands can also be transmitted to others at a distance, and it can be transported by means of charged objects or a glass of charged water. Some healers use crystals to attract and focus this energy.

Perhaps the most direct method for cultivating life energy is through working with the breath, breathing in pure energy, breathing out blocks, inhaling the energy into special centers, breathing it from there into all parts of the body. Breath exercises can be found in yoga as well as many recent healing methods.

Implications for the Teacher (Note 2)

Consider the claims of energy healing: A life-energy runs through all things. Its free flow leads to greater health and happiness, clearer thinking, more loving relationships, and even, according to some practitioners, to a good society. Its blockage leads to illness, misery, emotional problems, alienation, and violence. –What implications would these beliefs have for education? How could a teacher use these concepts?

You cannot teach well unless you take care of your most important equipment–yourself. So the most important thing is for you to work on your own energy. Finding some healing method that enables you to keep your own energy more free and flowing. Develop the awareness necessary for identifying tension and other blocks and methods for releasing those. As your own awareness grows, you will be better able to feel and work with the energy of others and the energy of a group. Hatha yoga and tai chi are widely-taught methods for helping your own energy flow.

Study what helps free your energy. Is it singing? Going for a walk in nature? A good talk with a friend? Deep relaxation to music? Some form of meditation? –Cultivate the things that help and faithfully maintain a regular practice. Set up a support group among colleagues and friends who understand. Practice until you can choose to touch someone in a manner in which energy touches energy, without any overtones of coercion, need, sex, or even personality. It is easy to teach friends how to exchange shoulder rubs or foot massages, and your students will benefit from the relaxation these bring you.


Movement could be integrated into education in a way that helps free the flow of energy through the body, release and express emotions, integrate mental knowledge with body knowledge, and honor the rhythms of the body and the day. (This I understand to be the purpose of Eurythmy in Waldorf education.) Most students probably learn better when that learning is integrated through movement–though normal classrooms are not well suited to working with movement.

But even if there is not space to have students dance, create dramas and rituals, or do tai chi in a classroom, you can find room to do simple physical activities to energize, release, and balance. These might include stretching, bending forward and back, twisting side to side. Breathing is essential, and so is awareness. Exercises designed to build inner awareness and energy can be found in a number of books. (Note 3) Most drama teachers can teach you warmups and theater games that mobilize energy, breath, voice, and feeling–and all of these mobilize learning. At least once, you should try blowing up twenty balloons, one by one, and asking students to keep them all in the air, while at the same time conducting a normal, orderly class discussion of the subject you assigned.

Many subjects can be taught kinesthetically–by having students talk, move, make gestures, use their hands, make things. Use gestures and dance as a way of interpreting readings and as a prelude to writing. (Note 4) Touching is vitally important to students of all ages, though it can be difficult to touch adolescents in a manner that does not engage sexual energy. People read one another by touching; the whole quality of a teacher can be communicated in a single touch.

Energy Through Touch: An Experiment

If you choose to teach students openly to develop greater awareness of energy, some exercises can help. With high school students you might try this experiment in interpreting energy. Brainstorm a list of 6 scenarios in which the identical gesture would happen–a hand placed on the shoulder from behind. Scenarios might include warning someone not to tresspass farther; comforting someone in grief; congratulating a winner; etc.

Have students pair up. The one behind chooses one scenario, vividly imagines it, then places her hand on her partner’s shoulder. The one being touched “reads” the touch and guesses which scenario it is from. The toucher then chooses a different scenario and places the hand identically on the shoulder again. And so on; you see how it goes. If students get good at this, make it harder by having the “toucher” bring his hand one inch away from the partner’s upper back, without touching, and see if the energy of intention can still be read.

Here is another example of the kind of activities you might use to teach energy awareness. Have students sit quietly, comfortably straight, with eyes closed. “Imagine a pearly white cloud of silky energy floating over your head. Effortlessly, imagine a soft shaft of that energy shining down on your head, through your head, through your chest, to a glowing ball in your solar plexus. Breathe in the energy and feel it grow in your middle.”

After a few breaths, “Continue to breathe in the energy, and as you exhale, send it out your arms for several breaths.” Then up to the head. Then all around the chest and belly. Down the legs. End with a shower washing all the energy out through the feet. Give them a moment, then ask them to open their eyes and write about the experience. Discuss, and find out if any felt more clear and energized afterwards. (Note 5) Through exercises of this kind, students and teachers alike can develop better vocabulary for describing energy-level experiences.

Energy Through Art

Energy can be released and rebalanced through art, and almost any subject can be approached through drawing. The Waldorf method of “form drawing” can do wonders in helping focus the students’ scattered attention, bringing them into their bodies, and giving them the most fundamental of all relievers of stress: focus on an intriguing task. (Though it was designed for use with elementary students, I know of one course in which form drawing was used to help junior college students focus.)

If you have older students who are reluctant to draw, ask them to draw with big crayons using their unaccustomed hands (i.e., if right-handed, use the left). Invite (or, using a more direct paradoxical approach, require) them to draw badly, to write badly, to speak clumsily; some of the energy blocked by fear of mistakes and by perfectionism can be released this way. (Note 6)

Energy through Humor

One of the most serious and reliable means of mobilizing hidden energy is humor. (Note 7) Try electing a class clown each week, who gets five minutes a day to make everyone laugh. Designate one day each week for the clowns to make fun of teachers, parents, and other authority figures. Organize the humor interlude carefully and always bracket it with the same ritual, to facilitate returning to the business of the class afterward. Make a specific contract with students about when the clowning will occur, then always remember to honor it. Once or twice a month, discuss the humor and student responses.

Energy through Singing, Chanting, Breathing

Few activities free energy, open emotions, and connect people as readily as singing. If this is feasible in your setting, enlist students to identify songs that fit the subject you are studying and have them teach the class to sing them. Chants are also powerful, either unison or call-and-response. Encourage students to express the emotions the feel toward the subject they are studying. Emotions are the fundamental way energy assimilates experience. And nothing is neutral; even the learning of mathematics elicits emotional responses ranging from anger to ecstasy.

The most direct way to connect with energy is through conscious breathing. Take occasional breaks to ask students to stretch, yawn loudly, and breathe deep. Yawning helps on several levels: it brings in oxygen, activates the autonomic system, relaxes, and lets students and teacher make gentle fun of each other.


Many of the activities I suggested throughout this article work best when repeated and cultivated. It is a good idea to bracket off a section of the class period just for such exercises. Enter them through a single, standardized procedure–a simple ritual, perhaps based on stretching, breathing, relaxing, and centering. And end always with the same steps that return the class to the day’s business. Writing for five minutes helps make the transition from an inner activity to the outer world.

Silent Teaching Practices

There is always something you can do to free the energy of a class without calling attention to the fact that you are doing it. For example, you can:

  • Conduct the class while visualizing large balls of warm, caring, happy red light emerging from your heart and slowly floating around to graze everyone in the room.
  • Create and maintain the image of a waterfall of brilliantly sparkling, delicious, fragrant, bubbling light pouring down into the middle of the room and foaming over everyone in every direction, all through the class, bathing everyone in a sense of delight and hopefulness. If students are resistant, image the water rooster-tailing over a large rock, and the rock melting away before the benevolent force of the flow.

Do these things while conducting class normally; do them with the part of your mind that is usually busy planning dinner, worrying about bills, struggling with student judo, or tempting you to daydream about winning the lottery.


Mental Healing

Worldview of Mental Healing

“Mental healing” emphasizes the interpenetration of what are usually called “mind” and “body” and makes use of the power of thought to affect the body. In the worldview of mental healing, people’s deeply-held thoughts make them ill or at least create the preconditions for disease and psychological problems. Healers work to remove deeply held resentments, to release unexpressed emotions, to assuage buried terror (all of which, in this view, are caused by deeply held thoughts), in order to build self-confidence and to plant in people a positive and hopeful view of their path through life.

Mental healers insist that, just as people can make themselves sick by the way they think, the way they think can make them well again. On a simple level, a person whose self-image has led to a destructive diet that has caused medical problems may improve the problem and the diet by changing the self-image–which is a way of thinking, an intention, a mental act. Psychologists teach people to improve depression by changing the way they think.

But mental healing travels further out the continuum occupied by these easily accepted cases, to claim that all disease is caused by how we use our minds and can be improved by using our minds differently. Mental healing departs even more radically from the normal view when it holds that thoughts can change not only the body, but even the external world.

Energy-based healing methods rarely seem to employ mental activities–except for some visualizations. In energy systems, thinking is more likely to be considered part of the problem and pre-cognitive energy flow the solution. In mental healing, thinking is both problem and cure.

Self-Talk and Affirmations

One widely used form of mental healing works to replace habitual destructive thinking with habitual constructive thinking through the use of affirmations–“seed thoughts”–that are repeated with such intensity that they become regular, recurring programs playing in the unconscious. Affirmations can also be used to nudge unconscious negative thoughts to the surface so they can be identified.

Affirmations have recently gained widespread respectability through the technique of “positive self-talk.”(Note 8) Self-talk, however, is based on the psychological view of the world, where each individual is isolated within a separate personality, alone and talking to one’s self. Affirmations, by contrast, belong to the healing view of the world, where the mind can affect the body and the world, and where separateness is an illusion. Some practitioners claim that affirmations can also be used to “manifest” physical realities, such as money and relationships. (Note 9)


Our culture’s lack of appreciation for the power of the imagination is staggering. We can continue to inundate young children with images of violence, manipulative fantasy, and sheer weirdness, because our culture believes that the imagination is private, powerless, and basically irrelevant. Healers hold the imagination in great respect, trace many problems to its abuse, and often use the power of the imagination to heal.

Patients can do their own healing visualizations, or the healer can do them. Typically, the patient is taught how to enter a relaxed state, then to create vivid visual images of the desired outcome. A healer may use visualization to diagnose the client’s problems, then to treat them. Such healing is premised upon the belief that powerfully held images transmit beyond the mind of the person holding those images, to affect the client’s mind, body, and circumstances.

Many healing methods are based on the belief that there are realms of the imagination in which people’s separate imaginations meet. Once you have experienced this directly, you see what power the “normal view” normally exercises in limiting our concept of what is real. The possibility that one person’s imaginings can directly affect the mind of another holds profound implications for education.

Healing visualizations can be learned from many books and tapes. (Note 10) A form of visualization has been incorporated into the normal medical view in the Simontons’ work with visualization in conjunction with the medical treatment of cancer. (Note 11) Autogenic Training, a systematic method of self-healing through visualization has been widely used in Europe. (Note 12) Other forms of healing employ the imagination through dreams, through personal journals, or through creative arts such as painting, sculpture, poetry, dance, and theater. Archetypal approaches, based on the work of Jung, use the healing power of the imagination as expressed through certain symbols that are thought to be universal. (Note 13)

Implications for Teachers

Consider the claims of mental healing: Thoughts and images shape or even determine what people feel, think, the world they experience, and their state of illness or health. Those thoughts and images transmit directly to others and can help heal them. –What implications would these beliefs have for education? How could a teacher use these concepts?

The most important mental healing for you to do as a teacher is to work on yourself. Explore affirmations and visualizations until you find methods that work for you. Then examine the phrases you whisper to yourself and the images you hold about yourself and the world, and replace these with ones that support your deep life goals and bring you intuitive guidance.

Use mental healing to help your teaching. When alone in a deeply relaxed state, vividly visualize the class working together happily, vibrantly, deeply, caringly, with each student growing into their full potential. Visualize specific problem students and talk to them in your imagination. While visualizing, communicate your concern and caring. Ask for insight. Ask what this student needs and how you can help. Visualize the problem student changing, improving, coming into the fullness of being. Then let the image go, with faith that your minds are working on a higher level to improve the situation.

You can perform similar mental healings on problems with administrators and other faculty, but remember: You can’t make anybody do something they don’t want to do. You can, though, attune yourself and another person to a higher level of common goals that helps overcome problems.

Educators already use a kind of mental healing when they work with a student’s self concept, or when they attempt to build self esteem. Every time you say, “You can do it,” every time you work to cultivate confidence, positive attitude, and students’ belief in their ability, you are practicing a form of healing–using activities that are developed with greater power and discipline in mental healing.

Studying Cultural Images

If the images we hold about ourselves and the world are so powerful, what would be better than to study our culture’s images of itself? And what better place to start than with the images in media?

In an appropriate course, students could use advertisements, television, film, music videos, and other sources of popular culture, to study their images of men and women and their gender roles; images of relationships; of values; of minorities. Students could ponder the influence of images of violence images of violence in children’s programming and how advertisements make use of powerful images, symbols, role models, and affirmation-like phrases. Such exercises can help students free themselves from being manipulated by media images and make the power of the imagination available for more constructive uses.


You could provide a valuable service by helping students learn to hear when they are using self-defeating self-talk (“I can’t do anything right,” “I always mess up in math”), understand the mode of thinking that lies behind it, and learn on their own to catch such thoughts and replace them with more accurate and helpful statements (“I may mess up in math from time to time, but I am steadily improving as a result of my own efforts.”) This is a healing act.

Art that Makes us Whole

Education tends to emphasize problematic literature that promotes critical thinking about societal problems. In contrast, there is a small, vibrant movement for the re-enchantment of the world, (Note 14) whose adherents are trying to restore the belief that certain kinds of art can heal and unify us. Myths play a prominent role in this school of thought–myths as stories that make us whole and give our lives meaning, stories that give us images powerful enough to express what we are feeling in the present.

From this perspective, art arises from the sources of transpersonal imagery and is a way of celebrating the depths of creative consciousness. Meditations with music would be a simple way to bring deeper levels of mind into the classroom in a constructive way. (Note 15)

Mental Healing in Medicine

You could teach a unit on contemporary medical practices that use some methods of mental healing. Dr. Carl Simonton’s work with imagery and the treatment of cancer comes from a medically respectable approach, and Benson’s Beyond The Relaxation Response presents a form of meditation that is acceptable in medical terms as a method of stress reduction.

Norman Cousins’ books about healing, starting with his own experience with laughter, are another reputable source.

Bill Moyer’s 1993 PBS video series, Healing and the Mind, presents many of the themes raised in this paper as exciting possibilities on the forefront of medicine.


Spiritual Healing

Metaphysical Healing

Spiritual healing is based on the belief that life’s problems are caused the erroneous, limiting, crippling way we believe things to be. It is concerned with our vision of the universe and our place in it–a field that since Aristotle has been known as “metaphysics”–and so is often called “metaphysical healing.” It is the healing of the worldview. (Note 16)

Spiritual healers help people identify the large-scale limiting beliefs they hold about themselves and life and replace those with a more generous vision. In the classic approach to spiritual healing, the client’s normal worldview is transformed by the infusion of an extraordinary alternative–an ecstatic, mystical vision of oneness with the Infinite. In this worldview, nothing exists but God, and God is health, happiness, fulfillment, perfection. Any appearance to the contrary is an error that must be faced and reperceived as an illusion and replaced with the direct perception that there is no reality but infinite love and perfection. In most cases, the client learns to practice this new mode of consciousness. Another spiritual healing practice requires nothing of the recipient; the healer “practices the presence” by seeing spiritual perfection everywhere. Such healing is based on a truly remarkable premise: One can heal others simply by seeing them in a certain way–so to speak, through the eyes of God.

Someone coming to this view for the first time is likely to find it strange, for it violates so many important concepts in the normal view and creates so many complicated simplifications. But it is a widely used form of healing, best known in the form of Christian Science, also used in Science of Mind and Unity, and considered in some schools of yoga to be the highest form of healing. Books by Joel Goldsmith provide articulate modern descriptions of a spiritual healer at work. (Note 17)

Spirit Guide Healing

Another form of spiritual healing that has a long history believes that the physical universe is the product of normally-unseen spiritual forces. Practitioners call upon the assistance of spiritual beings or angels. Some of these healers (often known as “spiritualists”) go into trance while the guides take over. Others consciously communicate with their guides. Spirit guide healing has a lively following in England, and spiritual entities play a central role in the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (though they do not appear to be a direct part of the educational theory of the Waldorf schools.) (Note 18)

Some spiritualist healers (for example, among the Navajo) attribute some diseases to malevolent action by spiritual forces, which must then be dealt with on a spiritual level. This is not a game for amateurs. Some people who cannot control the influence of such spiritual powers are called possessed, or crazy; (Note 19) some of those who can are called shamans.


An ancient method for the systematic use of the imagination has recently become widely known in the adaptation of shamanism for Westerners. Helped by the rhythm of monotonous drumbeats, shamans enter an altered state of consciousness (characterized by vivid images) in which they may receive assistance from spirit guides (often in animal form), discover things about people, meet one another and have shared experiences that both can later recall, receive inspiration, and perform healings. Shamanism is, in one teacher’s terms, a traditional technology for developing intuitive guidance in life. It is one of the most vivid methods for discovering that there is more to the world than Westerners ordinarily believe. A system of “core shamanism” is now being widely taught around the country as a method of personal growth and healing. (Note 20)

Reconnecting to the High Self

One of the basic tenets of spiritual healing is that people can lose touch with their true natures, forget who they really are, and live a partial life whose limitations hurt them. All approaches to spiritual healing help people reconnect to themselves at a very deep level (the spiritual level) and realign their lives from that level. In some spiritual healings, clients are coached to reestablish contact with (what is variously called) the high self, the true self, being, spirit, the higher power, or the soul. This true self knows who you are and what you need to do in this life; it may even have an agenda that needs to be accomplished in this lifetime–for spiritual healing often implies a worldview in which souls are reborn many times, each time to learn certain lessons in a world that is a kind of school for soul-making. (Healing and learning are more closely related than you might at first imagine.)

Implications for the Teacher

Consider the claims of spiritual healing: Being cut off from our true nature causes the major problems in our lives, for we then become addicted to unsatisfiable needs. The most important activity of life is to reconnect with our true nature and realign our lives around it. Healing our worldview helps to heal us. How we see others helps make them sick or heal them. There are spiritual beings who want to share their wisdom and power with us. –What implications would these beliefs have for education? How could a teacher use these concepts?

Again, the most important place for you to start as a teacher is to work with yourself first. Study how you view the universe and your place in it, and what effect that view has on your life. In what realms of life do you see yourself as creator? As victim? What would you have to change to see yourself as co-creator in all realms?

Educators know that their behavior toward students can have a crucial influence on students. Spiritual healing goes a step further and claims that the way you see other people–regardless of how you act–affects them directly. Not only can a teacher’s beliefs hinder a student, a teacher’s beliefs–independent of any action– can inspire, integrate, encourage, and heal. It therefore could be of utmost importance for teachers to develop the most expansive, inclusive, generous, and life-affirming beliefs about the nature of the universe and people, for students may be receiving the teacher’s beliefs by direct psychic broadcast, hour after hour, day after day. And not just in your classroom, but all over the school, and perhaps all over the world.

Summon the Spirit of a Great Teacher

Many cultures routinely call upon their ancestors, especially when teaching essential, traditional knowledge. If you have ever had a great and inspiring teacher, consider asking her to come psychically to consult, plan, and teach with you. Whether or not your great (and perhaps dead) teacher is “actually there” or exists only in your mind is irrelevant; what matters is the power that can be made accessible to you by this way of focusing your imagination.

Goal Setting

Teachers and counselers engage in an activity similar to spiritual healing when they work with students on goal-setting, especially in that phase of the work that requires students to examine who they are, what brings them joy, and what they feel to be their deepest purposes in life. The healing view also suggests teachers can help the student by visualizing the student attaining deep self-knowledge, true life goals, satisfying those goals, and becoming whole. Several authors–Brian Tracey and Shakti Gawain, to mention two–have developed goal-setting methods that begin from rational or meditative self-analysis and move toward restructuring one’s worldview using visualization, affirmation, and perhaps even spiritual healing techniques. (Note 21)

Healing by Presence

Some people claim to have been healed merely by coming into the presence of a certain person who is so powerful, holy, or spiritual, that healing naturally takes place in the vicinity. Everyone is familiar with this phenomenon on a more modest level: There are people around whom things go better, meetings are more productive, people naturally concentrate on deeper issues, and conflicts arise less often. Such people need not speak to be effective. Their presence alone helps. They communicate, by their very being, vital messages about what matters most in life. Those who heal by presence carry this ability to its utmost and radiate something that can cause others to change without a word being spoken.

You also teach by your presence. On a simple level, you see students in a positive way. Students know, by the way you look at them and speak with them, that you see them as valid, important human beings with great potential.

On a higher level, you serve as a model to your students–a model of learning, mature living, health, joy, creativity, a model of how to express emotions, how to think, how to speak, how to be a person in a body in this society on this earth, moving at your own pace through your own life-cycle, as they will do through theirs. Above all, you communicate the simple, enduring, and indelible message that life is worthwhile–a message of strength shaped by delight and gratitude.

At the highest level, you teach even when you do nothing at all. You teach by presence. For in your presence, they learn about the possibilities of life. Your presence teaches them what you hold close to your heart, what you have on your mind, how much room you make for things to happen in. You teach by being with them, by seeing into their hearts, seeing their accomplishments, failures, potentialities, their perfect and transitional qualities, their struggles and triumphs–and accepting them as they are in a way that inspires them to become more of what they can be.

In Western education, teachers are too often considered conveyers of information, or, increasingly, managers of the systems that convey the information. But the foundation of all knowledge is embodied knowledge, presence–a human being who has gained knowledge and lives it. Students learn differently and more deeply when they are in the presence of a person who embodies knowledge as a living, coping, caring human being.

This simple truth has almost vanished from American education, though it is known and valued–I have been assured–in India and other places still. The study of healing shows us that education is not only about information and skills, but also about individual, profoundly interconnected people, living their lives in deep contact with one another.

The Study of Worldviews

Spiritual healing leads naturally to the study of worldviews. Worldviews are normally studied in college classes on comparative religion or cultural anthropology, but worldviews form the basis for the multicultural approach to education and can be studied at any age. The classic popular book on worldviews, their power, and the power of changing them, is Joseph Chilton Pearce’s The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, also a book about healing. (Note 22)

Works on religion and anthropology would be helpful for older students, but an excellent starting point is to bring in guests who hold worldviews that your students would find unusual. Such people might be found in Native Americans, fundamentalist Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Rosacrucians, Rastafarians, Marxists, Jewish mystics, Jainists, witches, palm readers, or people who grew up in faraway lands where things are done differently. Start by having students write down their preconceptions in advance of the visit, then compare those with what they found.

The first payoff from such visitors is that they serve as a mirror. Students cannot know only one worldview; with only one, it lives them, simply and invisibly. Only when they learn a second worldview can their own become visible to them. In contrast to what the visitors say about their views of the world, students can question their own parents and friends about the nature of their own deep beliefs and casual assumptions, and they can identify the beliefs implicit in popular media, such as science shows on TV.

Ask older students to identify the worldviews implicit in the works of literature they are studying. For example, the attitudes to nature expressed by Jack London and Stephen Crane make a powerful contrast to the one expressed by Henry David Thoreau. While London and Crane tell stories, they also convey a vision of the world and our place in it–a sometimes grim and modern vision. It is good not to let such visions infiltrate students’ own beliefs unnoticed, for they have–healers say–great power over us.

Ask of each worldview: What does it make easy that is difficult or impossible in other belief systems? What exists in it that is unreal in other worldviews? At this point, many teachers will probably take the postmodern route of critical analysis and investigate how different worldviews maintain elite groups in power.

Yet, there are no perfect worldviews; to compensate, each traditional worldview contains methods to help people live with the limitations of that worldview–things like religion, art, carnival, humor, and entertainment. At its most powerful, spiritual healing (like some forms of mysticism and Buddhism) transforms our very relationship to worldviews, by regrounding us in the ecstatic, holistic vision of a pre-worldview view–what our faces were like, as the Zen koan goes, “before our parents were born.”

In a similar way, each new child, each new student, each new learning experience summons us to rediscover and reaffirm the transformative innocence at the heart of life.

Figure 1 Comparing the Healing Methods Discussed


The study of healing provides a model in comparison to which many normal assumptions about education become more visible. The types of healing discussed in this article–energy healing, mental healing, and spiritual healing–suggest practices for teachers and activities for class use.

In a larger sense, healing redefines the task of education as not only to develop cognition, but also to cultivate energy; not only to impart facts, information, and skills, but also to heal ourselves, each other, and the world; not only to teach the mind to solve problems, but also to teach the imagination to create the world; not only to know and to do, but also to be.

Figure 1. Comparison of the Approaches to Healing
Discussed in this Article

Energy Healing Mental Healing Spiritual Healing Spiritualist Healing
Premise Life energy flows
through all things
Mind influences life Belief systems guide us Spiritual entities influence us
Problem Blocked energy Negative self-talk and negative images Limiting beliefs Interference from spiritual entities
Cure Free flow
of energy
Positive self-talk and positive images Larger belief system Help from spiritual entities



1. If you are not convinced of the value of studying concepts that have been believed by many different people for a long time, “evolutionary hermeneutics” provides a good explanation. See Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Kevin Rathunde, “The Psychology of Wisdom: An Evolutionary Interpretation,” in Robert J. Sternberg (Ed.), Wisdom, NewYork: Cambridge, 1990.

2. In order to keep the syntax simple, I have presented the “For the Teacher” sections in “how to” format, addressing the teacher as “you.” This is what I teach students to do in magazine writing courses.

3. Tulku, Tarthang, Kum Nye Relaxation: Part 2, Movement Exercises, Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing, 1978.

4. Watch for forthcoming work by Linda Hecker and Karen Klein on a kinesthetic approach to teaching writing. Several of the teaching applications suggested in this article resemble those being explored by members of the Assembly on Expanded Perspectives on Learning, of the National Council of Teachers of English.

5. Exercises like this are found in many sources. A good version appears in Weed, Joseph J., Wisdom of the Mystic Masters, West Nyack, NY: Parker, 1968.

6. For more details, see my article on “Teaching Writing through Negative Examples,” Journal of Teaching Writing, Winter 1987.

7. Cousins, Norman, Anatomy of an Illness, New York: Bantam. Klein, Allen, The Healing Power of Humor, Los Angeles: Tarcher.

8. Butler, Pamela E., Talking to Yourself: Learning the Language of Self-Support, New York, Harper & Row, 1981. Helstetter, Shad, The Self-Talk Solution, New York: Morrow, 1987.

9. Affirmations may be subliminal. A thriving industry sells audio tapes in which affirmations on a variety of subjects are inaudibly embedded inside sounds such as ocean waves or soothing music.
10. Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization book and tape is an excellent introduction to visualization with a spiritual dimension (Berkeley: Whatever Pub., 1978). Psychiatrist Gerald Epstein, in Healing Visualizations: Creating Health Through Imagery (New York: Bantam, 1989), applies the technique within the medical model. For another doctor’s applications of the method, see Martin L. Rossman, Healing Yourself: A Step-by-Step Program for Better Health Through Imagery. (New York: Simon Schuster, 1987.)

11. O. Carl Simonton, Getting Well Again: A Step-by-Step, Self-Help Guide to Overcoming Cancer for Patients and their Families, New York: Bantam, 1980, describes the Simonton Center’s approach to cancer treatment in which visualization, meditation, and emotional support play a central role.

12. Luthe, Wolfgang (Ed.), Autogenic Training, New York: Grune & Stratton, 1965.

13. Argüelles, José and Miram, Mandala, Boston: Shambhala, 1985. (Many illustrations of images that facilitate wholeness.)

14. Gablik, Suzi, The Re-Enchantment of Art, New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991.

15. Bonny, Helen L., & Savary, Louis M., Music and Your Mind: Listening with a New Consciousness, Station Hill Press.

16. In mental healing, the “I” is in charge; in spiritual healing, a higher power is at work. Spiritual healing begins at the point where the objects of the “imagination” take on a life of their own, provide access to new knowledge, and work harmoniously within an enlarged vision of life.

17. Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, Boston: First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1971 (many editions). Ernest Holmes, Science of Mind, New York: Dodd, Mead, 1938. Yogi Ramacharaka, The Science of Psychic Healing, London: Fowler, 1971; first published 1909. Goldsmith, Joel, The Art of Spiritual Healing, New York: Harper, 1959.

18. See, for example, accounts of his experience as a healer by: Edwards, Harry, Psychic Healing, London: Spiritualist Press, 1946. An easy recent introduction is: Samuels, Mike, Spirit Guides: Access to Inner Worlds, New York, Random House: 1974. The complex theosophic view is densely expounded in the following two sources: Bailey, Alice, Esoteric Healing, New York: Lucis, 1953. Steiner, Rudolf, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, trans. H. B. and L. D. Monges, New York: 1947.

19. A Zen adept came to his master radiating new-found powers: “I have broken through!” he exulted. “I can read people’s minds, heal the sick, move objects at a distance, be in two places at once, and travel out of my body!” “Do not worry, my son,” the master reassured. “Just keep meditating, and this will go away.”

20. Harner, Michael, The Way of the Shaman, New York: Bantam, 1982.

21. Tracy, Brian, The Psychology of Achievement (audiotapes), Chicago: Nightingale-Conant Corporation, 1984. Gawain, Shakti, Creative Visualization op. cit.

22. Pearce, Joseph Chilton, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Challenging Constructs of Mind and Reality, New York: Julian, 1988. (The power of your worldview and changing it.) Stevenson, Leslie, Seven Theories of Human Nature: Christianity, Freud, Lorenz, Marx, Sartre, Skinner, Plato, New York: Oxford, 1974. (Comparative worldviews.) Redfield, Robert, “The Primitive Worldview,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 96 (1), Feb. 1952, 30-37 (A seminal article from the academic literature).

Selected References

Argüelles, José and Miram. Mandala. Boston: Shambhala, 1985. (Many illustrations of images that facilitate wholeness.)

Beck, Deva and James. The Pleasure Connection: How Endorphins Affect Our Health and Happiness. Synthesis.

Benson, Herbert. The Relaxation Response. New York: Avon. (The book that legitimized meditation for medical doctors.)

Bonny, Helen L., & Savary, Louis M. Music and Your Mind: Listening with a New Consciousness. Station Hill Press. (Music and guided imagery for insight and healing.)

Brennan, Barbara Ann. Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field. Bantam, 1987. (Guidebook to using the healing hands technique)

Campbell, Don (Ed.). Music and Miracles. San Francisco: Quest. (Accounts of healing and insight through music.)

Carlson, Richard, & Shield, Benjamin (Eds.). Healers on Healing. Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1989. (Many good chapters; see the one on “presence.”)

Chin, Richard M. Energy Within: The Science Behind Every Oriental Therapy from Acupuncture to Yoga. Paragon House.

Chopra, Deepak. Perfect Health: The Complete Mind-Body Guide. Harmony Books. (And other books, influenced by the Ayurvedic medicine of India.)

Eisenberg, David, with Wright, Thomas Lee. Encounters with Qi: Exploring Chinese Medicine. New York: Penguin.

Feuerstein, Georg. Yoga: The Technology of Ecstasy. Los Angeles: Tarcher. (Thorough treatment of bhakti, jnana, karma, raja, kundalini, and hatha yoga–where many “new age” practices were developed up to 2500 years ago.)

Flinders, Rick; Flinders, Tim; and Gershwin, Madeline, The RISE Manual and Self-Study Guide. RISE Institute. (Overcoming self-defeating behavior.)

Frohock, Fred M. Healing Powers: Alternative Medicine, Spiritual Communities and the State. University of Chicago. (Compares worldviews held by various healers.)

Hay, Louise L. You Can Heal Your Life. Carson, CA: Hay House, 1984. (Mental healing affirmations)

Ingerman, Sandra. Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self. HarperSanFrancisco. (Based on shamanistic journeying.)

Jaffe, Dennis. Healing from Within. New York: Simon and Schuster. (Overview of psychological factors in illness and recovery.)

Johari, Harish. Chakras: Energy Centers of Transformation. Rochester, VT: Destiny, 1987.

Kabat-Zinn. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Delacorte. (Based on vipassana insight meditation.)

Kaptchuk, Ted. J. The Web that has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. Chicago: Congdon and Weed, 1983.

Klein, Allen. The Healing Power of Humor: Techniques for Getting Through Loss, Setbacks, Upsets, Disappointments, Difficulties, Trials, Tribulations, and All That Not-So-Funny Stuff. Los Angeles: Tarcher.

Kreiger, Dolores. The Theraputic Touch: How to Use Your Hands to Help or Heal. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1979. (The foundational book in this field.)

Levine, Barbara H. Your Body Believes Every Word You Say: The Language of the Mind-Body Connection. Lower Lake, CA: Aslan, 1991. (How the hidden images in language send messages to the body that affect health.)

Mann, John & Short, Lar. The Body of Light.New York: Globe, 1990. (Subtle bodies of the aura, history and healing techniques)

Monroe, Robert. Journeys Out of the Body. New York: Doubleday, 1977. (Classic work on astral travel.)

Nickell, Molli (Ed.) Helaing: The Whole Person, the Whole Planet. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words, 1988 (Advice chanelled through various spirit guides.)

Pearce, Joseph Chilton. The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Challenging Constructs of Mind and Reality. New York: Julian, 1988. (Classic work on the power of your worldview and changing it.)

Rossman, Martin L. Healing Yourself:L A Step-by-Step Program for Better Health Through Imagery. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Sherwood, Keith. Chakra Therapy: For Personal Growth and Healing. St Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1993.

Siegel, Alan. Polarity Therapy. New York: Avery, 1987. (Rebalancing body energy through touch.)

Stuart, Judy-Carol, The Reiki Touch. Houston: Author, 1988. (Brief introduction to a Japanese method of clearing disturbed energy from the body.)

Stevenson, Leslie. Seven Theories of Human Nature: Christianity, Freud, Lorenz, Marx, Sartre, Skinner, Plato. New York: Oxford, 1974.

Sui, Choa Kok. Pranic Healing. New York: Weiser, 1990. (A thorough account of energy healing methods from a yogic perspective)

Swan, James A. Nature as Teacher and Healer. Villard Books. (Overcoming modern alienation from the powers of the natural world.)

Twitchell, Paul. Eckankar: The Key to Secret Worlds. Golden Valley, MN: Illuminated Way Pub., 1969. (With emphasis on travel out of the body.)

Gerald Grow, Ph.D., was head of magazine journalism at Florida A&M University from 1985 – 2009 and previously spent a number of years studying alternative healing.

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