Physician, Heal Thyself, published by Prometheus Books in 1985, looks at the significance of spiritual healing in early Christianity, specifically among the Gnostics and their forebears the Essenes, and as it is reflected in some of the miracles attributed to Jesus. The book examines the nature of the healers’ power and where they believed it came from. John could not and did not try to “explain” miracles of healing in a western, scientific sense, nor did he analyze the medicinal properties of the herbs the Essenes used, but he brings to light the deep religious convictions that drove them to attempt their cures.
Healing in the Essenic tradition, he explains, was only partly a matter of the “investigations into medicinal roots and the properties of minerals” attested by Josephus. It was a spiritual exercise, for all sickness was attributed to possessions by demons, and the first step in the cure was to identify and utter the name of the evil spirit. So, for instance, to cast out the demon controlling the demented outcast at the Gadarene monastery, Jesus summons it by name (Mark 5:1-20).
To call on the help of guardian spirits, it was necessary to know their names. This knowledge of angels was part of Gnosis, the “knowledge of God,” the special enlightenment bestowed by grace on members of the Qumran community, though attained by study and prayer.
Physician, Heal Thyself is slim and readable and was meant to appeal to anyone interested in faith healing either as a historical tradition or in current practice. It could have gone into past and present manifestations of healing in much greater detail to make a more solid intellectual case, but John saw it as a way to provoke popular discussion rather than as academic research.
Physician, Heal Thyself was published by:
Prometheus, N.Y., 1985. Hardcover 1st edition – in print.