Source – newdawnmagazine.com
– “…Placebo is a psychological phenomenon, a concealed suggestion that is conveyed to the patient through means such as pharmacologically innocuous substances, complementary and alternative therapies, New Thought modalities, and so forth, with the aim of making the patient believe that something was done to alleviate his or her ailment. That is, to change his/her mindset from the state of illness to the state of healthiness whether by using fake medicine, CAM, or positive thinking. Once the belief is accepted by the subconscious mind, the healing occurs”
The Power of the Mind to Heal
“Physician heal thyself” – Luke 4:23
In the past, cures that occurred in shrines, cathedrals, old temples, and evangelical crusades (tent revival meetings, healing camps), faith healing, spontaneous remissions, and inexplicable medical recoveries were considered “miracles” or exceptional occurrences beyond scientific explanation. The cure was credited or ascribed to a saint or a relic, or it was supposedly the result of the intervention of a healer, hypnotist, priest, shaman, minister, etc, who usually had a reputation of having charisma and prestige in the healing business.
The aim of my research is precisely to find a rational and scientific explanation for those cases. The main hypothesis of my new book Healing Without Medicine: From Pioneers to Modern Practice is that all methods of mind/spiritual healing are self-healing. Man has an inner capacity to heal himself. It is said the effectiveness of healing with medicine is due to the fact that medicine and other medical implements remove obstacles that enable the body’s recuperative capacity.
I also have examined the exceptional healing of the most prominent contemporary religious leaders of the New Thought Movement, who recovered their health by mental and spiritual means from supposedly “incurable” diseases, and I elicit the mechanism that triggered their healing. Healing Without Medicine also explains why some people do not respond to any kind of treatment whether with medicine or without it.
The phenomenon of mental/mind healing started in the mid-1800s with a layman known as Phineas P. Quimby (1802–1866); he was an unschooled clock maker in New England,1 who after curing himself without medicine, reached the conclusion that negative beliefs create most human illnesses.
Quimby was diagnosed with a terminal illness by the medical profession of the time; his kidneys were disintegrating and he was also suffering from tuberculosis. Disillusioned with life he abandoned his successful business and retired to his farm expecting to die. To make a long story short, he healed himself with the help of his assistant Lucius Burkmar and discovered what is called Mental/Mind healing. Subsequently, he started curing all kinds of diseases by just changing the frame of mind of the sick person. Quimby came up with bold concepts such as:
Man creates his own illness in his mind. Change the beliefs and you will cure the disease.
Illness is an invention of man and has no bearing in the spiritual realm.
Illnesses are embraced in our belief, and so forth.
In time, Quimby became known as the father of the New Thought Movement, which is a movement that advocates healing by mental and spiritual means. Quimby believed that he rediscovered the method Jesus used to heal people, and freely gave his curing technique to anyone interested in it. Some people who were healed by Quimby became his disciples and also began practicing mind healing on others; that was the beginning of a new way of thinking known as the “New Thought Movement.” Thus, the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth centuries saw a boom in New Thought churches with practitioners spread all over America and abroad. They were devoted to healing without medicine based on the teachings of Quimby. Nowadays there are hundreds of such organisations and churches thriving around the world, including Religious Science, Divine Science, Unity Church, Science of Mind, Quimby Memorial Church and other offshoots in addition to Christian Science.
New Thought is a new way of understanding the world and the position of man in the world. It has been appropriately called an “American practical spirituality.” The beauty of this practical American philosophy is that it empowers man as the creator of his own reality and circumstances of life. The basic postulate of New Thought is that changing the frame of mind of an individual can change his reality. New Thought ideology is the origin of Positive Thinking and other programs of enhancing human potential. Moreover, the application of these metaphysical principles as inspirational tools has been proved to be of extraordinary value to achieving success in all areas of life.
The major contribution of these leaders and their organisations to the welfare of humanity is that millions of people around the world have benefited, recovering their health free of medicine; in some cases, the healing was not only circumscribed to the body but had a ripple effect on their mental and spiritual wellbeing. Additionally, the application of these principles as a motivational device has been shown to be of extraordinary incentive toward achieving success in all areas of life: material prosperity, relationships, and peace of mind.
The Mind & Spontaneous Healing
My investigation of this matter and based on my own experience led me to believe that people can be restored to health using the power of their minds. Modern mainstream medical circles are gradually accepting the mind-body relationship in the healing process. In addition, medical doctors are now propounding a more humanistic and holistic means of healing rather than clinging to the old traditional and materialistic conception based heavily on technology and chemicals. This is exemplified by the medical profession’s incorporation of techniques such as meditation, yoga exercises, unconditional love, fasting, etc. The interesting thing is that this phenomenon of healing without medicine continues developing today through the emerging practice of what is called Energy Psychology, which includes Thought Field Therapy and its derivatives such as Emotional Freedom Technique and other similar modalities.
The capacity of the body to regain health by itself has been called spontaneous healing or inexplicable remission. The problem is that mostly when people develop symptoms of an ailment, instead of seeking detoxification and cleansing the body to give it an opportunity to recuperate its balance, we usually rush into taking harmful medication and drugs that debilitate the body’s immune system; under this condition the body is subject to being attacked by microbes, germs, and virus. They are three fundamental concepts for any healing to take place:
The mind is the charioteer of the body. This is called mind-body medicine.
The human body has the capacity to regain health by itself.
Most of the healing with or without medicine is due to placebo effect.
The irony is that most people get sick due to a negative suggestion given unintentionally and sometimes with “good intentions” by family members, teachers, and neighbours, who believe that sickness is normal and that we will all be affected sooner or later. The same message is conveyed by the news and the mass media, and by the publicity generated by companies that manufacture prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars in proposing new illnesses with every change of seasons; the medical industry encourages people to have surgeries when most of the time these are not needed. Most people believe in these messages that are usually endorsed by medical doctors; these are potent suggestions for unaware individuals. Another indirect way of promotion is through medical doctors – pharmaceutical companies often give doctors free samples of prescription drugs to encourage physicians to prescribe them.
One of the conclusions I reached in my studies on this topic is that the healer and whatever technique he practices only gives the patient a suggestion (or placebo). In other words, the healer impresses a “healing suggestion” upon the mind of the individual. Furthermore, the so-called “miraculous healings” that take place in religious places such as the Shrine of Lourdes, old cathedrals, etc., are plain and simple “collective suggestion.” I call this the phenomenon of an “egregore.”2Therefore, the person who takes on the role of healer actually does not do the healing per se; he or she only activates the inner mechanisms within the sick person for the healing to take place. In other words, the healer’s effort is a placebo in action. In these cases, the subconscious mind needed the incentive, the “push” to activate the healing power of the body. The positive expectation and desire of the sick person for the cure to happen is also very important; in other words, his/her belief will do the work.
Hence, the effectiveness of a placebo lies in the fact that it bypasses the conscious mind and instils a positive healing suggestion in the subconscious mind. The role of a real healer is to bring the sick person from a place of fear to a place of empowerment.
To the question of why people get cured with different methods or therapies, consider the old saying, “Different strokes for different folks,” which encapsulates the idea. There is another aphorism, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” The healing realm works by the same principle. A specific therapy that is effective for one person may not be so for another. Among all the healing modalities on the market, one will fit the specific individual needs and the healing will follow. The above is also true in the medical field where different medicines work for different kinds of ailments; a specific medication that is beneficial to someone could have negative consequences for another. Likewise, varied kinds of complementary and alternative therapies work for different people; this is because everybody is unique and has special idiosyncrasies and predispositions.
In the realm of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), sometimes the confidence of the healer positively influences the sick person. This is in accordance with the principle that every human being has psychological dispositions to respond positively or negatively to different kinds of treatments. It is well known that some people feel relief from their maladies by writing journals or poems, others by dancing, or being close to nature in a forest; for those who are inclined to religious or spiritual practices, engaging in praying, contemplation, spiritual retreats or reading biographies of saints and spiritual topics will do the job. Others are inclined to ascetic practices, and for them fasting and meditation are good alternatives. Some people have gotten well just by being cheerful, laughing at funny movies or TV shows, and reading the cartoons of newspapers, as described by the American editor and author Norman Cousins.3
One question remains: why is it that people are not healthier in our society where medical technology and medicine have made huge progress? My take on this is that in our modern materialistic and consumerist societies it appears there is a huge conspiracy to keep humans in misery, illness and suffering. The main reason being there is a social consensus that covertly holds the thesis that getting sick is a natural part of being human. This ‘conventional wisdom’ in reality is not ‘wisdom’ at all but half-truths that humans take for granted. This ‘conventional wisdom’ leads humans to believe that when we get sick, it is because the illness runs in our family, or it is in our genes, or it is due to the change of seasons, and so on. We have been socially indoctrinated that drugs and medication are the solution. This idea is supported and emphasised by the mass media. In addition, pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars in well-crafted advertisements to promote their medicines.
Mind as Charioteer of the Body
The way to counteract this social suggestion (or egregore) is to acknowledge that the mind is the charioteer of the body, that the body has the capacity to heal itself, and to redirect the mind from a negative condition to uplifting and constructive ones. The metaphysical conception is that we live in an ocean of pure electromagnetic energy called ‘Life-force’ energy or ‘universal consciousness’. This school holds the theory that this Life-force energy is available for anybody. Indeed, we have been using it all our lives through our thoughts and emotions. The problem is that most people are unaware of this and misdirect their energy to negative thoughts and feelings, such as anger, resentment, hate, envy, etc. In doing so, they build a shield of negative energy around their bodies that prevents the free flow of the Life-force. Thus, the body becomes depleted of the vital Life-force, and is predisposed to the invasion of viruses, germs, and microbes from the external world.
The right use of this Life-force is attunement with the feeling of peace and love for ourselves and humankind. This activates one’s inner mechanism, allowing the Life-force to flow through the body. The results will be reflected in a balance and harmony with one’s inner nature and with the corporeal body. This requires gaining access to our inner Self, which has been overshadowed by the influence of the material world and the demands of the physical senses.
The metaphysical truth is that thoughts and feelings create our reality. Whatever one’s subconscious mind accepts as true will take place in his or her reality sooner or later. Think of illness as inevitable and natural, and you will get it. Maintain an optimistic attitude and things will work out favourably. You have the power under your belt to control what kind of ideas are running through your mind. Therefore, it is recommended that instead of dwelling on depressing and negative thoughts, a person should feed his or her subconscious mind with constructive and uplifting thought-patterns, and the result will be the crystallisation of those thoughts into his or her reality. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
CAM & Placebo
Healing Without Medicine also analyses most of the alternatives and complementary therapies, and provides coherent explanations for their success and failure. Regarding this aspect, R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D., a retired University of Maryland professor and Research Director of the National Institutes of Health-funded Complementary and Alternative Medicine program, wrote a book entitled Snake Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine, where he makes a comprehensive investigation of most of the complementary and alternative therapies in the market. The author claims that he penned the book after he had enough scientific evidence to permit a rigorous evaluation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). He concludes that all complementary and alternative therapies are only placebos. He closes the book with the following two statements:
CAM therapies are nothing more than cleverly packaged placebos.
And that is almost all there is to say about the science of CAM.4
Dr. Rick Ingrassi complements the above idea when he says, “The placebo effect offers dramatic proof that all healing is essentially self-healing.”5 Another M.D., Bruce Moseley, a celebrated orthopaedic surgeon, conducted a study regarding the effectiveness of placebo on people with debilitating knee pain. He concluded: “In this controlled trial involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, the outcomes after arthroscopic lavage or arthroscopic débridement were no better than those after a placebo procedure.”6 In lay language the result of the surgeries he performed were no better than the result of the “fake surgeries” that patients were told to believe were performed.
Bausell’s book is well documented by many years of research and written at a rigorous academic level and endorsed by physics professors and medical doctors; however, and there is always one however, he neglects to consider the tremendous ability of the human body to regain its health; a phenomenon that medical scientists refer to as “spontaneous healing” or “spontaneous remission.”
All Placebos are Hidden Suggestions
My take on the issue is that the placebo effect can only be understood in psychological and metaphysical terms. The effectiveness of the placebo resides in the capacity to make the patient believe that something was done. A placebo is a suggestion that bypasses the conscious mind and instils a suggestion in the subconscious mind; once the subconscious mind accepts the suggestion, the healing process will occur as long as the patient has an authentic desire to get well. Thus, all placebos are hidden suggestions; they change the expectation of the subject from a mindset of illness to “get well.” There resides the whole matter.
The issue is also with the patient’s belief – if the individual does not believe in the practitioner or in the treatment, the placebo will not work and the healing will not occur. The reason that different therapies work for different people is because one will ‘strike a chord’ with the patient and activate his subconscious mind. The whole matter of the placebo effect comes down to the individual’s belief. Ultimately the patient heals himself with the help of a placebo that acts as ‘psychological support’.
My definition of placebo among the thousands already formulated is that placebo is a psychological phenomenon, a concealed suggestion that is conveyed to the patient through means such as pharmacologically innocuous substances, complementary and alternative therapies, New Thought modalities, and so forth, with the aim of making the patient believe that something was done to alleviate his or her ailment. That is, to change his/her mindset from the state of illness to the state of healthiness whether by using fake medicine, CAM, or positive thinking. Once the belief is accepted by the subconscious mind, the healing occurs.
Interestingly, Bausell offers scientific evidence to corroborate the ideas expressed in my book. Furthermore, another scientist in the medical field, Edzard Ernst, M.D., Ph.D., and his team researched CAM for 20 years and arrived at the same conclusion as Bausell. Ernst asserts that even some conventional medical procedures are placebos.7
A comprehensive discussion of the subjects discussed in this article can be found in Albert Amao’s book Healing Without Medicine: From Pioneers to Modern Practice (Quest, 2014), available from all good bookstores and online retailers.
This article was published in New Dawn 144.
The New England region is one of the earliest English settlements in the northeastern part of the USA. The New Thought movement is an American made “product” that originated and flourished in New England and then spread around the world.
“A composite thought-form charged with psychic energy. It is an ‘astral entity’ usually generated by a collective group mind when people come together for a common purpose or espouse collective aspirations and ideals.” (See my book, Healing Without Medicine, 167)
See Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient, W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1979.
R. Barker Bausell, Snake Oil Science, The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Oxford University Press, 1977, 275.
Quoted in Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s, Tarcher, 1980, 249.
Bruce Moseley, “A Controlled Trial of Arthroscopic Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee’, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa013259
Edzard Ernst, MD, Ph.D., indicates in his official website, “I have researched alternative medicine for two decades. My team and I have conducted about 40 clinical trials and published more than 100 systematic reviews of alternative medicine. We were by far the most productive research unit in this area. For 14 years, we hosted an annual international conference for researchers in this field. I know many of the leading investigators personally, and I understand their way of thinking. I have rehearsed every possible argument for or against alternative medicine dozens of times.” Accessed March 30, 2013, edzardernst.com/2012/10/a-new-blog-on-alternative-medicine-why/
© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.