• altruism;
  • empathy;
  • healing process;
  • ritual healing;
  • spiritual transformation


Based on studies of spirit healing in Puerto Rico and the United States, this essay proposes a model of ritual healing process focused on the core components of spiritual transformation and empathy. It describes the central role of spiritual transformation in healers from which emerges their capacity for relation, empathy, and altruism. Many spirit healers, following a spiritual transformation, begin to exercise what I label here radical empathy, in which individual differences between healer and sufferer are melded into one field of feeling and experience. This produces a type of altruism in which spirit healers feel compelled to be altruistic in responding to suffering whenever they encounter it. The model is compared and contrasted with aspects of healing process in some psychotherapeutic and analytic therapies. These comparisons are offered in the light of the growing interest in incorporating spirituality into psychological and medical treatments.