8th June 2011
Spiritual healing works! (But so does a tape recorded message)
I was reading about the phenomenal power of the placebo effect, yesterday. This article that I read, subsequently, was super-interesting. Clearly Edzard Ernst is now very high in my reading list. Got to get hold of his articles and books.
One of the first was of spiritual healing. Ernst describes it as “the most interesting study I have ever been involved in”. His idea was to compare healers with actors, and to compare a healer placed behind a door, out of sight of the patient, with the effect when there was no one behind the door (a tape recording of someone breathing and shifting in their chair created the illusion that the healer was present).
All the patients in the double-blind, randomised trial reported feelings of warmth and tingling, suggesting they were experiencing the effects of healing, even when it was delivered by an actor – or a tape recorder. More remarkably, among the patients, there were five in wheelchairs, four of whom found the effect so powerful that they were able to get up and walk.
Ernst recalls going home and telling his wife how he was going to be mocked by his scientific colleagues as the man who worked miracle cures. Instead, it emerged that the four patients who had got up and walked were equally distributed between the four arms of the trial. In other words, the results were an early lesson in the power of placebo.
But it was also a lesson in something else – the resistance of alternative therapists to evidence that does not suit them. “The healers had pestered us to do this trial. But when they got the results, only one was so disappointed that he gave up healing. The others reached the standard conclusion – if my healing art is not shown to work then it must be the fault of the trial.”
So it is clear that spiritual healing works.
But even I can heal “spiritually”. If you believe in me.
So why don’t we make it all very simple and just believe in ourselves?
By the way, this demonstrates also why the concept of God (and religion) is universal in all human societies. When people believe, even miracles can happen. Religion is a placebo. Not to be snivelled at, though. Sometimes placebos are needed when all other methods have failed.
Does this give the Vendantic belief an advantage – Tat Tvam Asi? Such a belief could increase one’s probability of “curing” oneself.
My comment: There is no “placebo” effect. It is merely the body’s own biochemistry at work. It is merely human ignorance about the body’s normal biochemistry at the cellular level that makes it appear that something “unknown” has occurred in cases where the body recovers without any known “medical” ingredient.
We forget that the body is its own medicine. Humans did not evolve after hundreds of years of evolution without self-healing mechanisms.
The body can automatically fix from 35 per cent to 100 per cent of various diseases.