12. Healing Today
A recent survey of ‘complementary medicine’ reckons that there are over 20,000 healers practising in the UK . Given such a choice and given also the multitude of beliefs held and methods used, it is hardly surprising that anyone seeking help should feel a little bewildered. A dowser competent in this area can tell an individual which therapies are likely to be most helpful to him or her, but it is impossible to give any general guidelines. The only answer is to do a little personal research and find out which therapies and which individuals you find helpful.
For the individual is very important; you may go to a very competent and successful healer with no results, and yet respond to another. Even Harry Edwards, whom I would regard as the most outstanding healer of his day, would on occasion recognise that he was not the best person to give help, and that a particular patient would respond better to healing through another person or group, and he would refer the patient accordingly. It would seem that, in some instances, patient and healer cannot for some reason ‘tune in’ properly. We can observe a similar occurrence with hi-fi equipment; you can have an excellent amplifier, superb turntable and all the rest, but if the mix is wrong, you will not get good musical reproduction.
Given the diversity of healers and this dependence on the individual reaction, it is very difficult to asses who is a ‘good’ healer and who is a ‘bad’ one. This leaves the field open to delusion and even abuse. People are particularly vulnerable when they are ill, and in their desire to get well, can become very gullible. There are and always have been those who will cash in on this human weakness. There is no easy answer to this, and to say that there are, always have been and probably always will be charlatans in the healing field as in every other field is not a good reason for ignoring the field itself. The difficulty is in distinguishing the good from the bad, the self-deluded and incompetent from the genuinely effective. In fields such as medicine and the law, we have on the whole managed to minimise abuses by setting up high standards of examination and strict codes with an established body to monitor conduct and complaints. It would make life very much easier if we could do the same in the healing field.
There is the obvious need for society to be protected from the antics of dangerous individuals, but there is also the need for the individual to be protected from domination by any particular group, be it political, commercial, religious or anything else. We have to keep the balance always in view so that, at one extreme, abuses are minimised and at the other that a monopoly does not impede the growth of new ideas. Standards and codes are extremely useful, but it is vital to recognise that they must change from time to time in the light of changing circumstances or new discoveries.
We are extremely fortunate in Britain in that medical codes now leave the door open for doctors to liaise with healers, but we are still left with the problem of assessing healers. It would be convenient if we had some measurable standard by which to judge them. At this point I think it is important to distinguish between the many therapies that are used as adjuncts to healing, and the simple acts of laying on hands and absent healing. It would be possible and perhaps desirable to set up standards of practice for some therapies (such as massage), though we have to be on the alert to incorporate improvements. Until we can establish a relevant yardstick it would be extremely difficult, and not necessarily desirable, to setup standards for simple healing. While it is undoubtedly useful for healers to have a basic knowledge of anatomy, it is not by any means essential, and to insist upon learnt knowledge when assessing an intuitive gift is not necessarily relevant or satisfactory. If academic examinations became a prerequisite for healers, a great deal of valuable assistance would be outlawed. (Incidentally, I have heard doubts expressed, even in medical circles, about the increasing dependence on academic qualifications. The medical schools are naturally tempted to choose the most academically brilliant students, who qualify with distinction, but unless they have that ‘extra something’ which you might call a genuine vocation, they do not necessarily make good doctors.)
Some criteria other than academic also cause me concern. Healing works regardless of the belief system of practitioner or patient, and any attempt to set up codes of practice might bring with it a tendency to encourage one set of beliefs rather than another, and to establish a new closed shop.
The National Federation of Spiritual Healers continually wrestles with the problem of standards, but so far has found it impossible to do anything but establish very basic criteria for membership, involving the subjective testimony of a small number of supposedly successful patients. It would be much more satisfactory if the medical profession could be persuaded to extend their current tolerance to active co operation in arranging more ‘before and after studies’ of patients. Perhaps biofeedback tests could be helpful in assessing whether a healer is in fact capable of tuning in to the brain wave pattern which seems to be associated with healing and called by Cade ‘state five’. As long as there are no established standards, it is unfortunately up to individuals to keep their critical faculties intact and evaluate whether they or others they know have been helped or not.
We are extremely fortunate in Britain in that the law allows practitioners of ‘alternative’ medicine considerable freedom. There are laws quite rightly preventing healers from poaching on the preserves of the medical profession in certain areas as, for example, in the prescription of drugs, where expert knowledge is essential. By and large, however, healers are allowed to operate as they wish, and it is up to individual doctors to liaise with them if they wish to. We are seeing a gradual change of attitude, and I devoutly hope that the co-operation and trust between healers and doctors will grow.
The legal situation is very different in other countries. At one extreme, Brazil accepts healing as a useful branch of medicine and healers are an integrated part of many hospitals. A recent government-appointed commission  in Holland recommends that the Dutch Government should go the same way so that healing would be available within the official health service and insurance schemes. Germany gives healers the opportunity to join the ranks of the establishment by offering a lay qualification. The academic standard is quite high, I am told, so that a number of effective healers (who are not necessarily great brains) are excluded. The other European countries are, at least officially, less in sympathy with healing and there is always the worry that EEC attempts to standardise the position will result in the triumph of a less tolerant attitude. Questions recently raised at the European Parliament about tightening up the law on various aspects of alternative medicine received an evasive answer, however, and it would seem that, at least for the moment, the legislators have no wish to stir up a hornet’s nest. Meanwhile, we must hope that doctors and healers will work together more closely in Britain and that further research will help to establish a more comprehensive rationale with which to combat any intolerant legislation.
Healing appears to be growing and attracting more and more interest in the USA, despite the law, which in certain States is so strict that it is illegal for a lay healer even to touch his patient. Despite official restrictions on practice, theory is receiving greater attention than it is in Europe, and American research seems likely to shed increasing light on healing and on all other branches of the supposedly paranormal.
Wherever healers may choose to practise they are usually confronted with the question of whether they should charge for their services or not. Obviously there have been (and probably always will be) some who cash in on the vulnerability of people desperate to get well. Leaving aside the deliberate frauds, there are many who feel that it is wrong to charge money for exercising a God-given gift. Yet, by this argument, all our gifts are God-given and a musician, an artist, or a businessman using his numerate ability, all patently have to earn their living by using their respective talents. The difficulty lies in the absence of any observable standards of healing. A musician or an artist can be judged on aesthetic or technical grounds and will only earn a living if he satisfies the criteria of his public. I feel that anyone believing that he or she is a healer should be careful about charging anyone to begin with. Only if he satisfies himself (and his patients!) that he really can help others, should he consider charging. I practised healing in my spare time for nearly twenty years and never charged during that time. But then I did not need to: I had my army pay, and for most of that time I was a bachelor. By the time I left the army I had my wife, Patricia, to consider. She encouraged me in my determination to continue with healing and to this end we bought our little house in Fife. It did not seem sensible to me to give up all other forms of support, so to begin with healing remained a spare-time activity; and to feed us and the first of our three sons who appeared in 1959 I had my small army pension and a job as a pigman on a nearby large farm. More and more people began to come for healing; however, the numbers became more than I could cope with in my spare time. It was at this point that we decided that I should devote all my time to healing and that in this case I should have to charge my patients. I have done so ever since and feel that, provided a healer has honestly satisfied himself (or herself) that he really can help others, then it is fair to earn a living from his endeavours.
The Way Ahead
Our world is changing fast and it is to be hoped that governments and individuals will continue honestly to try and assess the work of various intuitive forms of knowledge and abilities which we have ignored for too long. The development of increasingly sophisticated scientific instruments is showing that many aspects can already be seen as natural rather than supernatural. As Koestler says, ‘….the odour of the alchemist’s kitchen is replaced by the smell of quark in the laboratory’.  There is increasing interest in the supposedly paranormal and this goes both for observed phenomena such as healing and for the age-old contention of the world religions that we can experience a benevolent, non-physical power which appears to be partly or wholly beyond and far greater than the individual self.
1. Fulder. Stephen and Monro, Robin. The Status of Complementary Medicine in the United Kingdom. Threshold Foundation, 1981.
2. ‘Alternative Medicine in the Netherlands’. Summary of the Report of the Commission for Alternative Systems of Medicine. The Hague, 1981.
3. Koestler, Arthur. The Roots of Coincidence. Pan Books, 1976.
A straightforward look into
all aspects of the healing phenomenon
© Bruce MacManaway, 1983. This book may be quoted from and printed out in single copies only for personal use and study, without permission.
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