Ancient and Modern Healing: A Study of an Archetype

Publication Date



Master of Arts (MA)

Committee or Advisor Chair

Frank Blume, Ph.D.

Committee Members

Hugh Redmond, Ph.D.

Betty Meador, Ph.D.


healing, methods, transpersonal psychology, modern healing, holistic


Health Psychology | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Psychology | Rehabilitation and Therapy | Transpersonal Psychology


The study was designed to compare reported experiences of contemporary individuals in a process of healing described as "holistic" with the healing processes interpreted to have been characteristic of the cult of Asclepius in ancient Greece. Material related to a modern healing center, Meadowlark, was presented as well as a general description of the philosophy of modern holistic medicine. An account of the myth of Asclepius and the ancient cult practices was presented and interpreted from the perspective of Jungian or analytical psychology. Five categories were described from the ritual practices and used as a basis for comparison with the experiences of the contemporary subjects. Intensive interviews were conducted with 17 former Meadowlark guests at their homes. The subjects were selected by Meadowlark's staff members as representative of guests whose healing experiences were positive and personally significant. Guided intensive interviews conducted by the investigator were tape recorded. Material from the taped interviews was selected and transcribed according to established definitions of the five categories. The categories were: recognition of a need, a supportive milieu, purification, incubation, a transforming dream or vision. Of the 17 guests interviewed, 11 reported experiences within the five categories, and six reported experiences in some but not all the categories. Excerpts from interviews with 14 guests were presented to give examples of experiences that matched the five categories. Extensive portions of three interviews were reported in order to provide material that was illustrative of many of the guests' subjective symbolic processes. The results indicated a similarity between the reported experiences at Meadowlark and those apparently characteristic of the cult of Asclepius. The intensive interview method was found to be effective in eliciting response from the subjects appropriate tot eh comparative study. Beyond the comparisons within the five categories, two other motifs from the myth were explored within an analytic perspective: the theme of the wounded healer and the paradoxical aspects of Asclepius. Implications drawn from the latter and supported by the subjects' experiences pointed to a fourth aspect, soul, that was extremely important in the healing process of many of the subjects. The addition of soul tot he already accepted triad--body, mind, and spirit--of holistic healing, added a feminine and closer-to-life aspect that is currently missing in much of the practice of holistic medicine. The analytic perspective and processes provide an effective way to facilitate the contribution of soul in the healing process.


Department: Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology

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