From the beginning of time, there have been stories of miracles and healings outside the realm of (known) science. Today, modern alternative health modalities abound, but as in other ages we find, side by side, practitioners of arts that have proven themselves over time (or will eventually prove themselves), with snake oil salesman and tricksters of every kind in every shadow. These last folks have used (sometimes not even knowingly) suggestion and placebo. They may even have bought into their own product, and when people bend their perception toward an expected result, they create their own reality unknowingly.
Were they healed? If they believe they are and the pain is gone, is there any harm? Isn’t it a testament to the power of the mind? After all, even Jesus of Nazareth acknowledged faith as a requisite for healing time and again.
Like most other issues, opposing camps form, and in this case there are believers and unbelievers. The believers accept the result they experience as truth, and the unbelievers dismiss it all as a delusion of mind. One relies on personal proof and the other on statistical fact, in modern times made objective by use of a control group. Even drugs are tested this way, comparing the efficacy over and above the placebo effect, which affects most people to some extent, and some people in the extreme.
I myself conducted an experiment, using a metal “wand” similar to an existing product claiming to use “zero point energy” (seriously) equated with life force to make cells “remember” their original, healthy state. After all, video testimonies of miracle effects abound amid the search engine “salting” done by the company and it’s MLM sales adherents. Similarly, my subject, John, 88 years old, went from “off the scale” pain in his arm to ZERO pain after three minutes of “treatment”, and he claims his shoulder didn’t click any more. I used an ordinary pen.
Of course, such things don’t prove something doesn’t work. It proves that placebo effect is a legitimate explanation until shown to be distinguishable from it — and Occam’s Razor finds a clean place to cut in the meantime.
But this contrast of opinion pushes people to doubt or accept the power of mind wholesale, subscribing to either (a) the belief that healing can be a matter of belief, mind, will, etc., or (b) such things have no power except in the mind’s easily fooled or self-convinced eye.
This philosophical problem manifests itself in the question of spirituality itself, such that consciousness is either a product of “brain” or that brain is the gateway to the body for some a priori consciousness.
My dare is to ask “Why not both?” In the case of consciousness, we are using the same word for brain-produced experience and brain-focused will. “Healing” can similarly be defined as a subjective shift in the experience of wellness, or an objectively measurable shift corresponding to a treatment, including the use of one’s will.
So a useful solution is to accept that there are two powers of mind, discerning which is which instead of lumping them together as the same reality. The mind can create it’s own subjective reality and yet it can influence objective reality.
Do you believe both are true? Perhaps not. But do you believe that both CAN be true, or rather that one or the other could be true depending on the particular instance?
And if you can appreciate both viewpoints, why differentiate at all? In the case of healing, someone can die of an illness they failed to treat because they convinced themselves they were healed and were able to “unperceive” their pain. Others have X-rays to show the tumor gone from creative visualization, positive thinking, fervent prayer, the laying on of hands, whatever. And yet even without scientific acceptance or explanation, scientific process itself can easily demonstrate to what degree an effect is induced as placebo and how much by its own merit.
Likewise, entire self-improvement seminars are based on psycho-emotional placebo effect. As they become happier and happier in their own perception, others notice them slipping from their abilities to deal with reality as it is in everyday life. They are budding millionaires going deeper and deeper in debt and weight loss success stories that show an opposite before-and-after message in the unbiased lens of a camera.
This is likely also true of many “awareness” exercises, or “mind-expanding” drugs. They might use one power of mind to truly expand their consciousness. Or they might use the other — the ability to experience something through triggering hypnotic-related imagination that appears so undeniably, convincingly real, that they cannot deny it any more than their own nose. (Quite a lucrative business model in New Age circles these days, by the way.)
This confusion comes from the lack of ability to discern subjective and objective states of reality. It is the difference between Enlightenment and (often blissful) insanity. It is the difference between a healer or guru and a fraud, one that perhaps is unaware of or unable to unravel a more objective truth behind their own status.
From this, ethical issues ensue. If such a mistake or lack of ability to be objective can be forgiven, the often accompanying unwillingness or discouragement to have an outside party verify claims cannot — it is just short of an outright admission of guilt.
And the remedy is simple. We must value experience as just that — experience — and do not trust is as more than a personal truth one can accept or reject as in consistent with or inconsistent with the greater context. It is evidence of truth, BUT NOT PROOF, and should be treated as such in one’s own life, and in advocating such things to others.
Therefore, the experience of healing is NOT necessarily healing. And the experience of a spiritual vision or revelation — or even enlightenment — is so often a delusion to ignore or avoid, that the sages of old from all traditions gave constant warnings as such.
But that does not mean all such experiences are baseless in reality. It is simply that truth and delusuion — both real possibilities — can be mistaken for each other.
The mind is a very powerful thing. It can make us sick, it can make us healthy. To watch what we dwell upon is highly important. And this can include dwelling upon sickness or wellness. Is that placebo? Maybe, maybe not.
Here is an interesting link pertaining to this subject: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/05/09/the_magic_cure/