Personal Religion and Spiritual Healing

The Panacea Society in the Twentieth Century

By Alastair Lockhart

Subjects: Religion, Theology, Anthropology Of Religion, History Of Religion, Esotericism And Gnosticism
Series: SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions
Hardcover : 9781438472850, 212 pages, February 2019
Paperback : 9781438472867, 212 pages, January 2020

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: The Panacea Society and the Study of Religion

1. The Panacea Society’s Healing

2. Sources of the Healing

3. Understanding Religion

4. The Healing and Other Movements I: Great Britain

5. The Healing and Other Movements II: The United States, Jamaica, and Finland

6. War and Anxiety

7. Religious Language and Metaphysics

8. Theories of Transcendence

Postscript: The End of the Healing


A unique historical study of the personal nature of religion, spirituality, and healing in the twentieth century based on the letters of ordinary people from around the world.


The Panacea Society was a small religious community of women that was established in England in the early twentieth century. They followed the early nineteenth-century mystic Joanna Southcott, as well other emerging spiritual movements of the day, and developed a remarkable spiritual healing practice that spread around the world. Based on the thousands of letters held in the Society's healing archive, which were sent by ordinary people from around the world, Alastair Lockhart offers a detailed study of the religious ideas of religious seekers from the 1920s to the 1970s. Focusing on Great Britain, Finland, Jamaica, and the US, Lockhart provides unique insight into the personal nature of spirituality in recent times and how ancient and modern spiritual strands were harnessed to the needs of late-modern spiritual seekers. This book addresses debates about the complexity and meaning of the rise or decline of religion in the twentieth century and the processes involved in the formation of popular nontraditional spiritualities. It informs our understanding of global and transnational religions and recent forms of spiritual healing.

At the University of Cambridge, Alastair Lockhart is Affiliate Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity and a Fellow of Hughes Hall.


"The book offers intriguing insights into this fascinating movement and adds to our understanding of personal spirituality and recent forms of spiritual healing. " — Religious Studies Review

"Personal Religion and Spiritual Healing is a significant and novel contribution to the study of lived religion in the Panacea Society. The volume does an admirable job of summarizing themes from thousands of previously unexamined (and unavailable) letters. " — Nova Religio

"This is a comprehensive history of the Society from its origins to World War II—and includes a chapter on the healing—and is foundational for work in this field. " — Jane Shaw, author of Octavia, Daughter of God: The Story of a Female Messiah and Her Followers