Print this page

Observations placeholder

Dr William Sargant – Using plants to heal and dreams to diagnose

Identifier

024392

Type of spiritual experience

Background

Dr William Sargant was born in Highgate, London, in 1907 and educated at Leys School and St John's College, Cambridge.  Up to 1972 he was Physician in Charge of the Department of Psychological Medicine at St Thomas's Hospital, London. He was Associate Secretary of the World Psychiatric Association and on the staff of the Maudsley Hospital, London for many years, He was also Registrar of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, Rockefeller Fellow at Harvard University and Visiting Professor at Duke University. He was also the author of Battle for the Mind, and The Unquiet Mind.

A description of the experience

The Mind Possessed  - Dr William Sargant

When I visited Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, in 1966, Dr Howarth, who is in charge of psychiatry in Zambia, introduced me to various witch-doctors and healers. One of the most interesting of them I met in the market square, where he had a stall containing an extraordinary collection of herbs and plants….….

The theory behind his drug practice was that man derived from the earth's surface and so probably had the same chemical constituents in his make-up as the earth. In illness some of these constituents were driven out, or there was a shortage of them, and the giving of [plants] derived from the soil helped to replace what had been lost. Not surprisingly, he had herbs and roots which he claimed were of exceptional value in a large variety of sexual troubles.

There was a root to make the penis grow larger, but he was anxious to point out that this was only efficacious during the period of puberty, which is the normal time for penile growth. He said it was not effective after puberty. He also had plants which increased the power of penile erection, and other preparations and herbs to keep the vagina 'moist, dry and warm', as he put it. Other plants were for bringing out the best in one's personality and allowing a person to show his real potentialities. He also had plants for various types of mild and severe nervous disturbances……..

One of his methods of healing involved the use of a black doll with a prominent vulva and breasts. The sick patient would be instructed to take the doll to bed with him and to look at it intensively for some time in candle-light, then close his eyes and try to remember the after-image he saw; he also had to try and remember his dreams that night. As if he was a precursor or follower of Freud, the healer was able to find the hidden cause of the patient's illness or problems when the dreams were described to him.

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: John Bryant