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FAITH HEALING has its ardent supporters

Who believe it can succeed where conventional medicine has failed. Doctors, however, remain sceptical in the absence of scientific proof. But what methods do faith healers use?

Q Are faith healers an alternative to doctors?

A No, and few would claim to be. If you are ill you should always consult your doctor first to get treatment. Some people, according to their belief, may find an additional source of strength through healing, though many doctors would say that this is purely psychological.

Q Can faith healing or other forms of healing provide a permanent cure?

A Some patients do get better after visiting a healer but whether this would have happened anyway is impossible to test. Others feel better or, in the case of people throwing away their crutches after a healing session, have a 'miraculous'cure, only to have their illness or disability return in a few days.

Doctors are often concerned because they feel that their patients' hopes have been falsely raised: that such people's 'enthusiasm' could only effect a brief and illusory cure which would be followed by deep disappointment-and this might create psychological problems.

Q Why does healing sometimes work, even if healers have no special powers?

A Even doctors who do not believe in healing recognize the placebo, or dummy drug, effect. Many patients, when given a placebo, will experience genuine relief from pain, just because they believe in it. A healer may affect some people in the same way and, because of this, they will feel that they are getting better.

Q Must you believe in healing for it to work?

A Not all healers consider it necessary for patients to accept their particular beliefs. However, it is likely that a good healer, just like a good doctor, gives the patient confidence. This may help the patient relax and thus ease pain and tension. Additionally a sympathetic healer, like a sympathetic doctor, can often incidentally aid recovery by boosting a patient's morale.

Faith healers beliE','C' ::".C':: :-,a':C' been chosen to act as (:'2.'.:-.E:S :':!' :'Ealing powers which comE :"'CT:'. G:d. These powers can be tranST:'.:t:E'j, :c ::".E patient in a variety of \\'avs. ,an,,::-." :r'cc. direct physical c~ntact. ~ftEn k~.O"ZC1 as 'laving on of hands'. to distant heajr.g. \':!lere the healer concentrates on :!lE ;J!-:o:ogTaph or name of the sick person. 0, a ;ock of his or her hair. or e\'en a tiny sample of blood.

The oldest examples of faith healings in the Western \vorld are the 'miracles' of Jesus which are described in the :\"ew Testament. Jesus used many different methods to cure the sick. from touching them to simply commanding their recovery. He is described as possessing a healing force, or virtue, which was transmitted both to individuals and to large crowds.

Modern faith healers have strong religious convictions, but not all of them insist that the patient must share their

Healers perform laying on of hands by touching the affected area and allowing their healing energy to flow into it.

belief for the cure to be successful. Non­religious people have claimed to have been cured by faith healing, while some of the most fervent believers have re­mained ill in spite of all the efforts of these healers.

Many faith healers also try to persuade patients to seek orthodox medical treat­ment in addition to getting help from the healers themselves.

How it works

The most common technique used by faith healers, laying on of hands, consists of the healer placing his or her hands on the affected area, sometimes accom­panied by prayer, allowing the healing energy to flow into the patient. Some faith healers, particularly when they are dealing with cancer, use the technique of meditation and also ask the patient to visualize the affected parts being healed.

When such a technique is performed, many patients attest to intense sensa­tions of heat, cold or tingling, far more than they would experience from ordi­nary hand contact. Patients also claim to feel immensely relaxed, and this is particularly useful when treating condi­tions which are psychosomatic in origin.

When faith healing is done in front of a mass audience, laying on of hands is sometimes incorporated into prayer ser­vices led by a healer.

Faith healing can also be done when the patient is not present: this is called distant healing. Sometimes this is com­bined with the ancient art of dow­sing-where a pendulum is held over a patient's 'witness', such as a photograph, lock of hair or blood spot, and diagnosis and treatment are effected.

In distant healing, a prayer for a person's health is made while the healer mentally concentrates on the witness. Some patients attest to feeling better, although whether this occurs because they know that someone is 'thinking' of them, or whether their health would have improved anyway is not known.

Even if such faith healing methods do not cure patients, they will usually do no physical harm.It is debatable, however, if mental harm results, particularly when a seriously ill person, or what doctors would call a 'hopeless case', places such faith in a healer'3 po\\'ers. only to find that nothing can be done to help them.

Other healing methods

Healing can a130 take the form of other non-medical technique3. but the practi­tioners do not claim religious inspiration. These technique3 include spiritual heal­ing, which hea13 the mind and as a con­sequence hea13 the body; psychic healing, where the healer calls on spirit guides to heal the sick; and natural healing where, by tapping the universal healing energy, a cure can be effected. Often these cate­gories overlap, as do the techniques, but laying on of hands is common to nearly all.

Self-healing is a method of healing which is gaining ground. It is psycho­analytically based and may be used in conjunction with faith healing. Often it is used for a number of psychosomatic com­plaints such as depression, insomnia, asthma, high blood pressure and skin disorders, but increasingly it is being employed by cancer patients.

The patient repeats phrases that sug­gest that the body parts are becoming warm and heavy, and this will make them feel deeply relaxed. Such a tech-


nique can be practised on its own to keep the body systems 'balanced' and check any illness that might occur.

With some cancers, which are thought to be brought on by mental or emotional disturbance which alters the body's im­mune system, the patient is taught such meditative techniques.

In addition the patient tries to imagine that the cancer is being overcome by the body's immune system and, in doing so, they 'will' themselves to good health. Again, patients whose cancer has been cured this way have claimed that such a technique works, especially if it is sup­plemented by conventional medical treatment.

Fact or fiction?

Faith healers claim many successes, and it must be said that some people do indeed gst better after treatment, though why this should be is a matter of controversy.

Sceptics argue that they would have got better anyway. Time, rather than medicine, provides many cures and even in serious illnesses, such as cancer. cases of spontaneous remission (sudden im­provement for no apparent reason) are well documented. That such improve­ments take place after visits to a healer is, they insist, coincidental.

Healers, on the other hand, claim they are able to transmit a healing energy to the patient which effects or accelerates a

Every year thousands of ill and handicapped people go to the Roman Catholic shrine at Lourdes, hoping and praying for a cure.

cure, Though thi3 energy has not been identified by science. and is not fully understood by the healers themselves, they assert that there are definite indi­cations of its existence.

Healers \\'ho have been scientifically tested have been shown to have unusual brainwave patterns, and when both healers and patients \vere tested together during healing 3e3sions, it was found that these brainwave patterns were trans­ferred to the patient. Further, other laboratory tests have shown that healers could make the skin wounds in mice heal more rapidly or 'heal' flasks of enzymes damaged by ultraviolet rays.

Tests such as these, and others, are not always successful, thus prompting re­searchers to say that the 'loss' of healer's powers merely exposes healers as char­latans. Healers counter that such a dis­play of healing energy does not lend itself to scientific examination; at other times they have been known to attribute their lack of success during these tests to various reasons, among them boredom, ill health or a recent bereavement.

However, more conclusive evidence will be needed to persuade the majority of doctors to take faith healing seriously.


Taken from The Marshall Cavendish A – Z Guide in Weekly Parts DOCTOR’S ANSWERS - part 18, FAITH HEALING, Page 494 – 495.


(Sorry - Due to the urgency of education on this site, spelling will be corrected at a later stage….All photos in the script have been left out)

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