The existence of certain phenomena that cannot be explained in terms of known scientific principles is quite widely acknowledged. Paranormal healing recognizes that there is another dimension to life which, although not commonly experienced, has great potential, particularly for diagnosing and treating diseases. People who practise paranormal healing methods believe that all our ideas and concepts of life are too restricted by our five physical senses. The ‘real’ world, they say, consists of something larger. At some time in their lives most people experience situations which defy normal, logical explanation, such as prophetic dreams, thought-reading or telepathic experiences.
The practices of witch-doctors, sorcerers, seers, soothsayers and shamans are thankfully a thing of the past, except in the case of certain primitive tribes. However, the belief in the existence of paranormal phenomena is far from dead, although we have progressed a long way from the old idea that disease or good health can be brought about through the intervention of witches, warlocks, demons, ghosts or angels.
One of the most interesting advocates of paranormal phenomena as applied to medicine was the sixteenth- v »£ century alchemist Paracelsus (1493-1541). He possessed the characteristics of a natural extrasensory perceptionist and as a result was described by his contemporaries as a magician. In spite of being a talented physician, surgeon and chemist, his basic dictum was ‘Magick-is a great hidden wisdom – reason is a great open folly’.
Since the time of Paracelsus many different therapeutic and diagnostic techniques involving paranormal phenomena have been developed. Perhaps the one which has attracted most interest on the part of the medical profession is that of hypnosis. This is a condition, resembling sleep, into which the patient is artificially induced and during which he or she is open to suggestion.
The first person known to use hypnosis as a form of therapy was the eighteenth-century Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). He called hypnosis ‘animal magnetism’ and was convinced that all illnesses were caused by an imbalance in this animal magnetism. His public demonstrations were always very impressive, but he gave hypnosis a bad name because of his theatrical approach. Another kind of paranormal therapy is that of faith, or spiritual, healing. This form of treatment presumes a higher spiritual source – a God or spririt. Not all healers, however, attribute their cures to a higher deity. There is a widely held view that the human body has a vital energy force, Qi, flowing through it and that every healthy person has an excess of energy. The healer tries to direct and transmit this excess energy, or healing force, into the body of the patient who, because of the illness, has less than optimal energy.
Followers of paranormal healing and diagnosis are trying to make the subject more ‘scientific’ and they now attribute what they have termed ‘psi faculties’ to those therapists who possess an unusual ability for extrasensory perception. These psi faculties are considered to be some kind of psychical phenomena which are below the threshold of normal perception and beyond the threshold of current scientific explanation and include telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. As we gain an understanding of some of these hitherto unexplained phenomena, they may transfer from the realm of those which are considered paranormal to those which are normal. Some healers claim to be capable of healing at a distance from the patient, either by attuning themselves to the patient or by indirect contact with the patient through some personal item such as a lock of hair or a photograph. Mesmer claimed that a mysteri- v ous fluid, or force, radiated from the ‘magnetiser’ to the subject and it was because of this ‘animal magnetism’ that cures were effected. In general, whatever claims are made regarding the effectiveness of these kinds of therapy, they are very difficult to substantiate. Auto-suggestion may play a large role and result in a placebo-like cure. Furthermore, controlled trials to test the effectiveness of such therapies are almost impossible to design. It is claimed, however, that a number of diseases which have defied orthodox treatment have responded to hypnotic suggestion, among them asthma and extreme cases of the skin disease psoriasis. Other conditions for which it is used include anxiety, alcoholism, phobias and migraine. Orthodox medicine has recognized hypnosis as a valuable form of therapy for some of these conditions.
Much easier to verify are the various diagnostic techniques involving paranormal phenomena including: . radiesthesia, a form of medical dowsing, or divining, in which the therapist either uses his or her hands, or a swinging pendulum, to deduce information about the state of the patient’s health. . Radionics, a kind of mechanical dowsing, using a special instrument to measure radiations from the patient and assist in making the diagnosis. . Divining-rod diagnosis (Virgula Divina). The rod (a bent piece of metal or a forked twig, mostly from the hazel-nut tree) is used as a medium for the hands that shows the healer the location of the illness or the damaged organ. . psychic diagnosis, in which the therapist is either clairvoyant (perceives objects and events by paranormal means) or telepathic (perceives the thoughts and emotions of the patient by paranormal means). . Kirlian photography, electrophotography of a body’s energy aura by means of which the therapist can predict disease and even imminent death. . Palmistry, in which the lines and marks on the palm of the hand are read for diagnostic purposes. In addition to interpreting the physical characteristics of the hand to diagnose illnesses, many palmists claim to be able to ‘tune in’ to the patient and to predict future trends by intuition or clairvoyance. . Astrology, which assumes that the relative position of the planetary bodies at the time and place of an individual’s birth exerts a direct influence on that person’s physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being throughout his or her lifetime. Medical astrologers claim to be able to provide information about a person’s past, present and future illnesses and so help him or her to formulate a plan for life. All the above techniques are considered to be paranormal because, according to accepted notions of what is physically possible, we cannot explain how they work. The presumption is that the mind is in some way instrumental in bringing about experiences that would otherwise be impossible.