Charles F. Emmons | Managing the Medically Mysterious: Scientific, Paranormal, and/or Spiritual?

“Integrative medicine” (previously “alternative medicine” and “complementary medicine”) has become mainstreamed in the sense that it is taught in virtually all medical schools. Reasons given for this trend include rising costs of medical care, democratization of medical knowledge, and increasing health consumer demand. Nevertheless, there is still significant resistance to integrative medicine in the Western biomedical establishment, and integrative medical theories and practices continue to be controlled and marginalized. There are continuing boundary issues between the mainstream biomedical paradigm and a wide range of alternative beliefs and practices.

This particular research focuses on the orientations of practitioners and clients who are involved to varying degrees in integrative medicine (including spiritual/energy healing, meditation, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, and yoga). Based primarily on 53 ethnographic interviews in the United Kingdom and the United States (2016-2018), this presentation deals with how such practices are framed as scientific, paranormal, and/or spiritual. Very few practitioners and clients have a paranormal conceptualization. These frames are important to the processes of legitimization and acceptance of the practices.

Bio: Charles Emmons has an MA in Anthropology from the University of Illinois and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is Prof. of Sociology at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania. He authored or co-authored Chinese Ghosts Revisited (2017), Science and Spirit: Exploring the Limits of Consciousness (2012), Guided by Spirit: A Journey into the Mind of the Medium (2003, 2019), and At the Threshold: UFOs, Science and the New Age (1997). His current research is on integrative medicine and spiritual healing. He is active in Exploring the Extraordinary and Compassionate Wellbeing, and a member of The Society for Scientific Exploration.

Recorded at the Society for Scientific Exploration Conference in Broomfield, Colorado 2019.

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Published on November 26, 2019