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Healing Beyond Medicine
Part I

If miracles, by their definition, cannot occur every day, then what shall we call them, for they do occur every day?

There are those who believe and there are those who believe otherwise. It has been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. It has been my experience that foxholes are breeding grounds for atheists for who can believe in a loving God when men perform, with facile grace, such atrocities on our fellow man, woman, and child? Out of rebellion against our early teachings, some of us turned away from the God of our parents. The world, to us, operated mechanistically: everything is, or will be, explainable. Once the blinders have been put on, miracles disappear.

Personally, the first book to re-open my eyes was written by Arthur Koestler, called Janus-A Final Summing Up. It was his last book before he and his lifetime partner went to sleep never to awaken again. This last book focused quite a bit on the theory of evolution. Evolution is a watershed among our people. The religious right fight it, the materialistic left push it. In Janus, Koestler was able to bring both sides together, at least for the moment, yet in the end, some feel he simply alienated himself to both sides. The following will shed some light on his thesis.

Does anybody remember Lamarck? When taught evolution in high school, most of us heard there were two theories of evolution (and told of a third: creationism).

Q: "How did the giraffe get its long neck?"

There are two theories:

  1. Lamarck-the early giraffe needed to reach the leaves in the trees and through need and by stretching, slowly developed its long neck. This acquired characteristic was then passed on to further generations.
  2. Darwin-mutated giraffes that could reach the leaves in the trees survived to reproduce. Those that could not died away.

Science liked Darwin’s theory because it was nice and neat and it followed absolutely the dogma of materialism and mechanism: mutations occur randomly; those mutations positive for survival are passed on to succeeding generations. It is simple and logical. The bugaboo to scientists is that they cannot create a survivable mutation in their laboratories, yet in nature, mutations occur frequently, especially in the insect world, and many of them survive. Usually, it is because of the mutation that they survive. Examples of this can be found especially in the insects’ ability to survive our pesticides, producing resistant offspring by the bushel basket. This occurs so often and at such a growing rate, you’d think the chemical producers and farmers would catch on. The battle of humans against insects, if we continue to wage it as we are now, will end in our defeat. But I digress.

In Janus, Koestler was able to blend the theories of the creationists and the scientists by demonstrating that Lamarck, who we were taught to laugh at, was closer to the truth than anyone suspected. In example after example, Koestler demonstrates that evolution is not entirely mechanical and that mutations are not random but occur as if controlled by a "guiding hand." If this is hard to accept or too teleological for you, you should note that even Darwin, in his treatise, Origin of Species, and later in his The Descent of Man, often fell back on Lamarckism. He lent his arguments an air of causality, for example, in explaining how various species, trapped and shut off from light, eventually produce successive generations of physically blind offspring. Later I would learn of a physicist by the name of David Bohm who stepped away from Einstein by declaring that the universe is energy only, and that it is a knowing energy.

Janus was my first step back into the light. Since then the journey has been interesting but not so interesting and provocative as to even consider writing an article such as this. Then a miracle occurred.

While putting my second book together, I could not ignore the obvious fact that people use affirmations, meditation, prayer, psychic, or spiritual healing, imagery and hypnosis, T’ai Chi, yoga, and even biofeedback to heal what has been labeled "terminal." We’d found in our research some good examples of so called spontaneous healing, but we really didn’t have anything earthshaking to report. The miracle occurred when my loving partner walked into a bookstore to make a specific purchase and was accosted by a book that nearly jumped into her hands. She bought it for me.

Most of what I shall relay to you comes from this book, in fact, so much so, that I might be in violation of copyright law. The only way to avoid litigation is to tell you to go out and buy this book. So please (we cannot afford attorneys) if you have any interest, buy the book.

It is Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search, by Dr Larry Dossey, MD. In the Janus vein, it contains many examples of organisms passing on learned traits to descendants. But it is filled with much more, for its goal is to tell you about those things that exist beyond our senses according to the greatest thinkers, mathematicians and scientists of our time using an admixture of research, quotations, and insight. In Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search, Dossey blends science and spirituality, medicine and miracles.

Prayer and Meditation

It is hard to separate these two actions (or non-actions). It is a little easier for those of us who left behind the church of our parents and have retained a distaste for prayer. From my Catholic upbringing, it seemed that prayers were synonymous with requests: Please, God, do this for me. Please, God, get this for me. Please? Some of us turned away from the church because of its image of God: one big sugar daddy who gives you nice things when you are good and torments you when you are bad. Santa Claus is a direct representation of that image, except Santa comes around (the world) just one night a year.

Today, having glimpsed the light, in our prayers and meditations, many of us no longer ask God to do us favors; we ask only that we be blessed enough to live and love in the light of a universe guided by our higher power. And it works.

Dossey, in his book, begins a discussion on prayer with the study conducted by Randolf Byrd at the coronary care unit at San Francisco General Hospital back in the early eighties. The study was quite simple: coronary patients were randomly divided into two groups (experimental group and control group) with neither the patients nor the physicians knowing who was in which group. Then prayer groups around the country were recruited to pray for the patients in the experimental group.

The patients in the experimental (prayed for) group

  1. were five times less likely to require antibiotics.
  2. were three times less likely to develop pulmonary edema (lungs filled with fluid).
  3. never required endotracheal intubation (artificial airway).

It should also be noted that fewer patients in this group died, but the number was not statistically significant.

The truly interesting fact to come out of this study is that it did not matter if the prayer group prayed from across the street or from across the country. This is significant because in science, a thing is either matter or energy. Prayer, because it cannot be seen or touched, would fall into the energy category. However, energy dissipates over a distance, and prayer, according to the results of this experiment, doesn’t.

Dossey then lets us in on the Spindrift experiments (for more information, contact the Spindrift organization at 2407 La Jolla Dr. N.W., Salem, OR 97304), which began quite modestly. In the first experiment, a sprouting box was separated into two halves and people prayed for seeds on one side and not for the seeds on the other. The results: the prayed for seeds sprouted faster. The experiments were modified again and again, each time the experimenters would toss in a slight twist or variation.

My favorite experiment is this one:

The seeds were separated into three groups labeled: Heads, Tails, and Control. Then a coin was placed into a small cardboard box (opaque so that no one could see the coin) and the box was shaken and placed next to the seed boxes and never moved again. Then prayers were said for the seeds represented by the side of the coin (hidden in the box) that was facing up (heads or tails). When the seeds in the Heads group came up first and strongest, the box was opened and the coin was heads up. In a successive experiment, when the seeds in the Tails group came up first and strongest, the box was opened and, sure enough, the coin was tails up. Later experiments using dice and other things all turned out the same: by the results of the sprouting seeds, it was known what was in the box before the box was opened.

You should know that another very important finding in the Spindrift experiments is that non-directed prayer was more successful than directed prayer. Directed prayer is a prayer in which a specific outcome is requested. In non-directed prayer, the only request is: "Thy will be done."

Keep in mind that, as Garth Brooks once sang, "Sometimes God’s greatest gift is unanswered prayers." Larry Dossey puts it this way: Be Careful What You Pray For, You Might Just Get It.

One more thing you should know about prayer is its psychoneuroimmunological aspect: when praying or meditating, you immune system is boosted. This has been shown in salivary tests by increases in immunoglobulin A during prayer or meditation.

Now what about meditation? Can we make seeds grow? According to Dossey, we can make miracles happen. Dr Dossey introduces us to the Maharishi Effect: in 1974, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the originator of TM (Transcendental Meditation) claimed that if only 1% of the population meditated and experienced "pure consciousness," the remaining 99% would be affected.

Easily said, hard to prove, but that’s what sociologist Garland Landrith set out to do; test for the Marharishi Effect. He took demographic data from cities with populations of 25,000 or more people and found eleven of them in which 1% or more of its inhabitants practiced TM. He selected, for his comparison, eleven cities that closely resembled (demographically) the eleven 1% TM cities. When comparing crime rates, Landrith discovered that the eleven non-TM cities followed the nation trend of crime rate that increased an average of 8.3% each year. In the TM cities, the crime rate decreased by 8.2% each year. Dossey states, "The likelihood that these findings could have occurred by chance was less than one in a thousand."

Many people repeated this study with the same results, but there were still critics who could not accept the findings. So Professor David Orme-Johnson re-did the study using sophisticated statistical analysis techniques, and this time the probability that these results were a coincidence was one in 5 billion.

T’ai Chi & Yoga

T’ai Chi is moving meditation. It is the "slow-motion self-defense" in which one’s "chi" is the focus of the meditation. One does not push the hands out or pull them back; each movement is guided by the chi and it is the chi that guides the actions of the rest of the body.

Yoga exercises, to many, are very difficult stretching exercises in which the body is placed into impossible positions. Yoga is more (and less) than this. It is rhythmic breathing and meditation that brings the body and mind together as one. One need not be a contortionist to perform yoga exercises. Like T'ai Chi, there are exercises designed for young and flexible or for the old and infirm.

Both of these exercises can "ground" you, relax you, and boost your immune system.

Affirmations

Whether you wish to believe it or not, affirmations work better than chemotherapy. The only drawback is that it could be a waste of time. Some people do not realize that the body cannot be fooled, and if you lie to it, nothing is going to happen. When you are in pain and you repeat the affirmation, "I feel good. Everything is fine," the body knows that you don’t feel good and that everything is not fine.

A positive affirmation, without fibbing, would be: "I’m strengthening my immune system. My body is rejecting my cancer." Other affirmations you might wish to try concern clearing up old issues and getting rid of hatred, malice, negative emotions and behavioral patterns. Forgiveness of others leads to forgiveness of self, and there begins the deepest healing.

During meditation is a good time to perform your affirmations. Once you’ve grounded yourself and you feel you’ve reached a place of peace, repeat your affirmations for five to ten minutes.

Psychic/Spiritual Healing

These are the enigmatic healing modalities. Were we to write an article called, "What is a Healer?" the simplest answer is: we are all healers. But how this occurs, where it comes from, how it works, why it works or why it doesn’t work. . . no one has definitive answers. Some healers say that energy passes through them into the patient. Qi Gong is energy work in which the practitioner passes his/her hands over the patient’s body sending forth "Qi." This energy has been measured in laboratories.

But we’re not talking just energy here. Healing works at a distance, from across the room to across the planet, and could we measure it, we might discover it works across the universe. Qi Gong and Reiki work at a distance, but we seem to be talking about something more than energy. We’re talking about healing. If placing a hand on a seeker gives that person vision, where it comes from or why it works is superfluous. When a person is changed, it works and that’s all we need to know. Or is it? Change is difficult. It is easy to fall back into old, familiar patterns. We do know that many psychic or spiritual healings are oftentimes only temporary. We also know that life is temporary.

I’ve often heard from experienced healers that the most important healing occurs right before death. It was hard for me to understand that. A healed person doesn’t die, right? Well, we’ve all gotta go sometime. So what was it worth? What was it worth to be born into existence, laugh, cry, love, hate, heal, grow, learn, forget, and then die? What is it all worth? The journey is short from the cradle to the grave. We made up all sorts of stories along the way to comfort ourselves about the end, while for the most part it was all just a part of our denial. We tried to appeal to our higher power, on Sundays. We did good and we did bad. We soon forgot the things we’d carried from the spirit to the womb. We forgot nearly all we'd known when it was taught to us that we were human-beings with spiritual aspirations. We’d forgotten that we are really spiritual beings experiencing a human existence.

The most important healing occurs right before death. In "My Life," a movie in which the character played by Michael Keaton is dying of cancer, the last scene says it all. Our hero who had been afraid of roller-coasters (he could never raise his hands during the rush of the descent like the other kids) at the moment of death finds himself streaking downward in the front seat of a roller-coaster. His face lights up, he smiles, and he raises his hands.

So what was it worth, your time here on earth? Did you learn something? Did you grow? Did you fulfill your destiny, your goals? Did you follow your path to your higher power? Sometimes you can do and know it all in one simple healing. If it works, it works. If it is only the placebo effect, it still works. If it is only in your mind, then it works and your mind is healed.

A healer is far from perfect. Like the bumper sticker, "Christians are not perfect, just forgiven," a healer is only human. As we’ve met and interviewed the healers in our community, the image of the shaman, "the wounded healer" comes to mind. The first healing a healer performs is on the healer, on her/himself. Women are natural healers. Trying to avoid sexual stereotypes, I believe it is still safe to claim that the female is the more nurturing of the sexes. Were we to add them up, you would find more female healers in the directory we publish than males. There are more male doctors than female doctors, but how many of them could actually be called healers is another thing. Can doling out a pill for a symptom ever be equated with a physician or healer who holds the patient’s hand in prayer? Which works more miracles: drugs or hugs?

Healing works because the person/patient is doing the healing. You do the detox, you do the nutrition programs, you meet your God on equal footing and promise to stay tuned, you meditate, exercise, relax, breath. Attitude. You learn from all whom you meet, you are healed by them, and you judge no one. Every step you take is in the light of your higher power though never forgetting to acknowledge the dark side, to acknowledge death. The Noetic Institute has compiled a database of over 3000 cancer patients who have spontaneously reversed their cancer; the one thing they all had in common was that they had transcended their fear of their cancer, their fear of death.

The questions, "Is there a dark side?" or "Is there really evil?" remind me of the underlying question of the renaissance period, "Are humans basically good or evil?" You’ll get a different answer from everyone.

One philosophy I’ve learned from interviews with healers is that "All light conquers all darkness." This is a comforting and powerful lesson to be guided by, but does it play well in reality? What does acknowledging only the light actually do for us? When around us we see the entire continuum of human experience and it includes pain and suffering, isn’t seeing only the light just like when we put on the blinders and refuse to acknowledge miracles?

So all right, light conquers darkness, but when I’m standing in the light, I cast a shadow. The darkness is there as long as I am there. So let us not deny the dark side, just accept it.

And what of death? Our society is a great death denier. A child, by the age of 10, has witnessed over 10,000 television deaths. Does this teach us anything about death? A young boy from Minneapolis who had been shot in a drive-by reported from the hospital that he was surprised that it had hurt so much. Every time a TV turned on, death is again denied.

From what I’ve learned of death, it would be an honor and privilege to pass it on to anyone willing to listen, but Dossey’s prose eclipses anything I could ever say:

That is why death must remain, why it should remain. There can never be any certainty of immortality without it. As long as death is denied, the experiential fact of immortality can never flower in our lives.

That is one of the ways in which primitive medicine rose above ours. It helped persons go beyond death to immortality because it was not death-denying. "It is a good day to die," the Native American Shaman chants. Why good? Because today the fact of immortality will be experienced as never before. And not only today, the day of death, but on all days, because death is not denied on any of them.

No medicine that does not acknowledge the everpresent reality of death deserves to be visited on mankind, whether it is called orthodox, traditional, scientific, allopathic, homeopathic, new-age, alternative, or holistic. Any medicine that denies death is grotesque and cruel because it promotes fear and anguish instead of the ecstatic certainty of immortality. Whether or not death is fully acknowledged as a rightful part of life is the great watershed for the various schools of medicine that ask for our allegiance today. It does not make any ultimate difference whether pills and surgery are traded for herbs, crystals, meditation, homeopathy, chiropractic, massage, or anything else. If death is not an accepted step in therapy, these therapies have no right to claim our attention. Beyond the question of how well they work, the ultimate criterion for all of them is the extent to which they acknowledge and live consciously with death. If they fail this acid test they are unfit to be used on human beings, for they will themselves be death in disguise.

References and Further Reading:

Healing beyond the Body: Medicine and the Infinite Reach of the Mind
Healing beyond the Body: Medicine and the Infinite Reach of the Mind

Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing
Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing

Coyote Healing: Miracles in Native Medicine
Coyote Healing: Miracles in Native Medicine

Prayers for Healing: 365 Blessings, Poems and Meditations from around the World
Prayers for Healing: 365 Blessings, Poems and Meditations from around the World

Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search
Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search

Science, Spirit, and Soul
Science, Spirit, and Soul

Be Careful What You Pray For, You Might Just Get It: What We Can Do About the Unintentional Effects of Our Thoughts, Prayers and Wishes
Be Careful What You Pray For, You Might Just Get It: What We Can Do About the Unintentional Effects of Our Thoughts, Prayers and Wishes

Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine
Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine

God, Faith, and Health: Exploring the Spirituality-Healing Connection
God, Faith, and Health: Exploring the Spirituality-Healing Connection

Spiritual Healing Professional Supplement: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution, Vol. 1
Spiritual Healing Professional Supplement: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution, Vol. 1

Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing Benefits of Prayer
Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing Benefits of Prayer

Healing Words
Healing Words

Matrix Healing: Discover Your Greatest Health Potential Through the Power of Kabbalah
Matrix Healing: Discover Your Greatest Health Potential Through the Power of Kabbalah

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