Today I got to the point in Ian Gawler's book where I am on quite familiar territory: the bit where he explains his theology of healing. It's a theory I know well in various guises, a theory that crops up time and again in various Eastern and/or esoteric philosophies. He says that we have seven bodies, only one of which, the physical body, is accessible to the senses. The other six - the emotional, intellectual, intuitional, spiritual and astral bodies - are of varying degrees of subtlety and while some people can "see" some of them they are invisible to most of us. Illness happens when the energies of two or more of the bodies are conflicted and healing occurs when coherence is restored between them. I'm not sure what I believe about this theory: I'm probably too steeped in my Western world view to embrace it fully but it's disconcerting that some practices based on this idea, such as acupuncture, seem to have real, measurable effectiveness, as does Ian Gawler's method of healing cancer.
Gawler's method is quite logical given the theoretical framework he is working from. Everything in his programme, including the diet, the meditation, the positive thinking, the exercise, is done for a reason: it is a method of bringing harmony to the seven layered reality in which we live. And, while it it seems to work it does present me with an interesting issue. I have been ordained in the Anglican church for almost 30 years. I have, many times prayed for healing, and sometimes to my great surprise seen those prayers answered. I have myself experienced and witnessed healings that might be described as miraculous. Yet I, personally, do not have a coherent Christian theology of healing, neither do I know of anyone else who has one. In the Christian church our healing practices involve praying and laying on of hands. We trust God for healings and sometimes God delivers. But we don't quite know why. We anoint with oil and we fast. But again, we don't quite know why. I don't know of a working theology of illness which seems to me to be a necessary precursor to a working theology of healing. Why do we get sick? What is going on, spiritually speaking? Why do we pray for healing, but continue in lifestyles which are unhealthy? Why have we no Christian theology of nutrition, exercise or balance? Why are so many of us unhealthy, unfit, overweight and ill? I remember as a young man being present at the conversion of a devotee of the Hare Krishna faith. Once he had said the sinner's prayer and given his life to Christ, we took him out to a restaurant and gave him a steak, so that the "bondage" of vegetarianism could be broken. We thought that in Christ we were free to eat or not as we pleased, and that a sign of our spiritual maturity was to stuff ourselves with food that others thought was tainted. How arrogant we were, and how lacking in any sense of the connectedness of body mind and spirit.
I have no doubt that somewhere there is an adequate Christian theology of healing, one in which I can pray knowledgeably for people, and where I can know what is actually going on when I fast and anoint. In one of those pieces of Providence that continually surprise me, I am going to the Titoki healing centre in Whakatane the day after tomorrow. I'm going to lead a ministry retreat for Maori clergy and to teach on the parables, but I am hoping now for some time with the Titoki staff. Perhaps they will be able to point me in the right direction?