So, I just finished taking an online class in Curanderismo, traditional Mexican folk healing based on working with the spirit, through the University of New Mexico (via Coursera). As I watched the videos for this class, I found myself thinking that these videos would drive the typical skeptic crazy, because on the physical level, it doesn’t look as though anything is being done. Things like prayer, chanting or singing, smudging, rubbing an egg on a person, circling the person to be healed–how can these actions affect healing on the physical plane?
I just want to point out the logical flaw in this type of skepticism. If you believe that there is no spiritual level to existence, and that there is only the physical, then you actually have a logical problem embedded in your resistance to the very idea of faith healing. That problem is this: if there is only the physical, then actions such as prayer MUST be acting only within the physical plane, because what else is there? According to the skeptic, if we feel spiritually uplifted by such practices, our feelings are only going on inside us–there’s no physical basis for those feelings. But that is where skeptics introduce a flaw into their own logic. Because according to them, there is no such thing as anything but the physical world. If there is nothing other than the physical, then the physical plane is where all these actions occur–including our own feelings that we might describe as spiritual. If that is the case, then even our spiritual feelings have a biochemical basis. But if spiritual feelings are biochemical in nature, then they can’t help but affect us physically. If that is the case, spiritual work could obviously affect physical health very profoundly.
Do you see my point? The skeptic, by “proving” that spiritual techniques cannot have any effect in the “real,” physical world, has actually proved the opposite.
We know that that which affects the brain affects the whole body. The brain’s response to emotions can involve a change in the levels of neurotransmitters. Parts of the brain release hormones in response to changes in emotional status. The release of adrenaline and cortisol in response to stress, for example, is well documented, as is the release of oxytocin, which is often called the “cuddle hormone,” in response to kind, gentle human touch.
We also know that the placebo effect–literally, healing that takes place because we have FAITH that it will–is real. Scientists have studied it extensively. We also know that people who respond well to placebos tend to respond well to prescription drugs, while people who do not respond well to placebos are more likely to be “treatment resistant” and not to be helped by drugs as much as would otherwise be expected. This strongly suggests to me that the spirit–even if you don’t believe it exists apart from the physical world–actually plays a strong role in healing.
Faith healing skeptics, I believe that you are hoisting yourselves on your own petards.
As a final note: please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we don’t need medical doctors. What I am saying is that spiritual healing CAN be a useful part of our health care, just as lifestyle changes such as eating nourishing food, getting enough exercise and fresh air, and spending some time every day out in the sun can also help us to improve our health.