Thoughts on economics and liberty

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.

The Amazing Power of the Placebo Effect by By JAMIE HALE

The Other Side of The Placebo Effect By JAMIE HALE


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.



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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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5 thoughts on “Spiritual healing works! (But so does a tape recorded message)
  1. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    Good article indeed!
    Vedanta PROVES (as in Vichar Sagar) that the Universe itself is a placebo effect.
    Those who question its authenticity sharpen their intellect and with the help of that (sharpened intellect) come out of the illusion permanently never to fall ill (get entangled in maya) again AND THEY NEED NOT BELIEV ANYTHING.
    Those who lack the required ability to question intelligently are needed to fall back on the illusion of God to have the soothing placebo effect which cannot be done without BELIEF.
    The former are called the Jnani and later called Pamar (ordinary man). The present position of mankind is somewhat awkward (in between these two) since they cannot believe in God because of arousal of questioning ability (due to technological advances, liberty freedom etc which should be so) and they cannot either understand the ‘truth’ because they fail to take this questioning ability of theirs to its logical end.
    This should explain the present position of mankind with all its ailments.
    Eager to know to what extent you understand this “Placebo effect”.

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Ramesh

    Let's not rush. I'm exploring this at my own pace. I'm not sure if the universe is a placebo effect, but there is DEFINITE evidence of amazing powers of the mind over the body. 


  3. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    It is not rushing, it is suggestion.
    Let you remember that it is the human "mind" or more precisely Antahkaran (man (mind), boodhi, chitta, ahankar) which detects and defines the Body and hence the universe. Hope/suggest you will be giving due weightage to the “mind” in your exploration of the truth in order to do the justice to "Vichar Sagar". It is a suggestion. (I am aware you need it not. Still I offer it on my own out of my love for your good intentions. Frown it not.)
    Anyway thanks.

  4. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    Re: Sometimes placebos are needed when all other methods have failed.
    Why not suggest the reverse instead! First try the innocuous placebos and then try the modern methods. May not it save the mankind of uncertain (-ve) effects of the modern methods? Why not worth thinking?

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