08 February, 2012

Dialling the placebo channel


Claude Bernard once remarked that 'What we do know is the greatest hindrance to our learning about what we don't know.' This is as true regarding spiritual pursuits as if it scientific ones.

I cannot list the times, where full of alternative, conspired theories, I leaped onto an alternative or radical 'out there' medicine to treat a disease, only to face the scorn of my peers in trialing yet another new fad, unregistered or in some countries illegal drug, only to find that this 'wonder drug' was as my skeptics predicted, an unmitigated failure.

'No wonder it didn't work!' they would say to me. 'Where's the data? Where's the science?'

I'd feel embarassed returning to my textbooks and evidence-based medicine, using drugs that repeatably showed efficacy, unlike those homeopathic and herbal drugs that embaraased both myself and my clients and often did nothing or were just a placebo.


Spiritualists have long lamented the myopic view of scientists and their historical blindspot of avoiding medicine holistically. Without negating or supporting the dogma of science, I can say that medicine has its place and as long as statistical models of assessing therapy is incorporated into the meme that is science, evidence-based medicine will continue to push medical boundaries and develop novel methods of treating the ails of humanity.

Some years ago, I was an enthusiast of the Amygdalin therapy espoused by doctors in South America. After trialling it a number of times on animal patients, I came away convinced that this medicine was unsuitable for advanced cases of cancer, regardless of what the drug purported to do for other practitioners.

Holistic medicine, which attempts to look at the human and animal models as a synthesis of mind and body, will continue to treat problems in holistic ways that attempt to address a deeper underlying cause of disease. But spiritualists can be as much victims of their own viewpoint as medical practitioners. To ignore the results of experiments is to deny the reality of a problem. In my own practise, if something doesn't work, then either it is a worthless modality or else I am using it improperly.

As a spiritualist, we must be prepared to experiment on ourselves, but if we find that what we are trying isn't working, we must be prepared to admit the experiment a failure and continue on our search for more effective and realistic spiritual approach. As Steve Beckow recently remarked, 'I am personally learning to operate with a tremendous amount of cognitive dissonance within me. I'm learning to accept circumstances provisionally, go with the highest, hold paradox in my mind peacefully and let go of whatever proves untenable without blame or rancour.'

Throughout history, saints have burnt the midnight oil, churned the moil and sweated the toil of spiritual work solely in the pursuit of liberation. They have fallen, gathered the fragmented remains and continued with their journey to finally arrive at the inescapable truth that 'veiled by ignorance the mind and Buddha appear to be different yet in the realm of mind essence they sometimes meet.' But this is never easy for the acolytes. We yearn for the taste of Ascension but often self-destruct through trying too hard. We struggle with simple issues that a greater person would allow to pass through them.

Poofness, inimitable as ever, remarked that if we understood molecular activity, we'd understand how easy it would be to change a nuke into a loaf of bread.

Still more work to be done...