The Emergence of Medical Pluralism in Estonia: When a Physician Becomes a Spiritual Healer

Compared to the Western Europe, the medical pluralization has been more rapid (and probably more conflictual) in Post-Soviet Estonia. My on-going research project about the medical pluralism and alternative-religious approaches to health combines data from quantitative surveys, qualitative in-depth interviews, and a case study about an (in)famous Estonian gynaecologist and spiritual teacher Luule Viilma. Viilma’s syncretic teachings combined elements from several sources, including folk religion, the New Age movement, and Christianity, with their religiosity mostly disguised. The Estonian example suggests that religious and spiritual ideas are present even in the least religious societies. Although usually latent, such ideas become activated when people have specific reasons to turn to spiritual or religious sources. Therefore, I will argue that health-related spiritual teachings with their religiosity disguised have been more effective than traditional religions in introducing religious meanings and frames in Estonia.