The inspiring story of one man's exploration of indigenous healing in a culture fighting to preserve its spiritual health.
• A firsthand account of a little-known healing tradition.
• A dramatic story of self-transformation by a well-respected Harvard-educated anthropologist.
In the late 1970s Richard Katz, a clinical psychologist trained in anthropology, spent two years living in a remote island community in Fiji, hoping to record the practices of its healers. At the foundation of their healing, he discovered, was the concept of the straight path, a journey through life whose truth is revealed only to the extent that it is searched for with honesty and faith. It is a way of healing that in its very essence is a way of living, a path that emphasizes the spiritual dimensions of health and the relevance of these to the community. But while interviewing healers at work, Katz was drawn into an increasingly suspenseful drama. Unexplained deaths, rumors and suspicions, and the intrusion of a zealous evangelist rocked the village and soon revealed to the author the dangerous alternative to the straight path: the misuse of power that some call witchcraft.
The Straight Path of the Spirit is an engrossing story of indigenous healers and a dramatic account of cultures in collision. Through the story of his own self-transformation, Katz reveals not only those aspects of life essential for the Fijians as they struggle to hold onto their identity, but also what is of importance to all of us who seek to retain our humanity.
Dedicated to the respectful exchange between Indigenous teachings about health and healing and mainstream Western psychology, Richard Katz received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Harvard, where he taught for nearly 20 years. Over the past 50 years, Dr. Katz has spent time working with Indigenous elders and healers in various parts of the world, including the primarily hunting-gathering Ju/'hoansi of the Kalahari Desert, the Indigenous Fijians of the South Pacific, the Sicangu Lakota of Rosebud Reservation, and the Cree and Saulteaux First Nations people of Saskatchewan. At the request of the Indigenous elders he has worked with, he seeks to bring their teachings into contact with mainstream psychology. The aim is to encourage the mainstream to be more respectful of diversity, more committed to social action, and more appreciative of the spiritual dimension in health and healing. Dr. Katz has written 7 books on culture and healing. He is currently Professor Emeritus at First Nations University of Canada and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Saskatchewan. He lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
"His presentation is in the academic style of the psychologist and anthroplogist that he is, yet he makes the book readable and engaging."
– American Herb Association, Vol 16:4
This is no New-Age vapor, but a sensitive, penetrating insight into a deeply mysterious aspect of humanity that has no parallel in Western culture. Katz was blessed by the Fijians, and imparts his blessing to us."
– Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Harmless People and Reindeer Moon