The relationship between religion and health is an ancient one, going far back in human history to shamanism, medicine wheels, and incantations. More recently, Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science has had many adherents.
In a conversation on a theology of healing at a U-U minister’s gathering, pointed me in an intriguing direction- the distinction between the two words, often mistakenly used as synonyms, curing and healing. Curing has to be with the elimination of disease. It is primarily the province of medicine and surgery. Healing has to do with a more inclusive view of the human being, its relationship with the whole of life, not merely the health ( or the lack of health) of an individual. The achievement of a whole (holy) relationship with all of life, healing, is truly the province of religion.
Between these two, lies another realm- an interface between psyche and soma. Perhaps an interpenetration is a better word. Here are located the functional or psychosomatic ailments in which the body is made ill by the state of mind or emotions. It is also the realm of curative powers of the mind ( a la Norman Cousins Anatomy of an illness or The Biology of Hope) play a role in restoring the body’s health. One recalls William James, and his “religion of healthy mindedness.”
So four possible outcomes may arise from our efforts at healing and curing. We may be cured and healed, neither cured nor healed, cured but not healed, or healed but not cured.
Writing a last letter to be read at her memorial service, to “neighbors and fellow creatures” one woman beset by an incurable cancer wrote:
“I am writing from enormous pain and sickness and fever and fatigue. It does come to us sometimes to feel a change, a rearrangement in the heart’s geography where we find that our longings face not the mornings but the evenings, when our thirst for sleep, rest, peace, and not for the golden beginning of the day. This at least is what I have now, and at this gathering together the bad times are over for me, and there is no more pain, and there are no more tears.”
She was obviously healed but not cured. It reminds me of my own aspirations: ” to die at 95 in perfect health” not cured, but healed.