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Asclepius was an important element in the devolution of the field of psychology though even he probably did not know it. We know that before, during, and obviously after the life of Asclepius, there were many surgical procedures employed. What is not commonly known is that there was also a very high rate of effective faith healings taking place as well. Blind people regained their sight, and lame people got up and walked. This suggests that there was a psychosomatic cause to many of these ailments'"and that is where Asclepius played his role in the beginnings of psychology.
Priests in the Temple of Asclepius closely guarded their secrets, and only taught them to their disciples and students, who were members of the temple's inner circle. The treatments involved more ritual than medicine in the Temple of Asclepius. The patients would come in and dress in certain clothing, take ritual baths, drink a concoction, and take a nap. What was in the drink is less important than the nap that the patient took.
The priests of Asclepius did not perform any surgical procedures themselves. Lay doctors were left to do that, along with the occasional massage as well. The patients who went to the temple of Asclepius, after drinking the concoction of "holy" water, would take a nap and have a variety of different types of visions. Some of the visions were of dead loved ones, or even of Asclepius himself, appearing to the patient, telling him or her what to do in order to be healed, telling him or her whether or not he or she would be healed at all, or a variety of other things would be revealed in the patient's sleep at the temple concerning his or her illness.
Although the priests of Asclepius did in fact observe their patients, the cures were clearly psychological'"indicating that the illness itself was most likely what we would call today, psychosomatic. Amazingly enough, the fame of the Temples of Asclepius was so wide spread that, patients went there expecting, not hoping, to be healed. Psychology and medicine have been strange bedfellows ever since.
- Wastson, Robert I. The Great Psychologists. University of New Hampshire. ©1971