MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

On this blog, we have repeatedly discussed the issues around para-normal or spiritual healing practices. In one of these posts I concluded that these treatments are:

  1. utterly implausible
  2. not supported by good clinical evidence.

What follows seems as simple as it is indisputable: energy healing is nonsense and does not merit further research.

Yet both research and – more importantly – the practice of spiritual healing continue, not only in the developed world but even more so in poor and under-developed countries.

Traditional healers, known in Rwanda as Abarangi or Abacwezi claim to use their spiritual powers to heal sick patients. Recently, they urged their government to acknowledge them through proper regulation. Jean-Bosco Kajongi, the leader of the healers in Rwanda, said Abahereza are like doctors who have been selected by angels. “Umuhereza is someone who gets power from God to treat different diseases but particularly demonic possession such as ‘Amahembe’ and ‘Imandwa’. Sometimes, doctors detect something in the body, do surgery but find nothing. But Abarangi can identify the disease beforehand and heal it. Thus, we want to have legal personality and work with modern doctors because what we cure, they cannot even see it. Therefore, mortality rate would decrease.”

Abahereza claim to have God-given powers to heal any disease, provided that the patient has belief in their powers. Claudine Uwamahoro, a resident of Rulindo district is one of them. “Last year, I was transferred to Kanombe Military Hospital to have my leg cut off after they diagnosed me with cancer. Abarangi told me it was not cancer but rather ‘Imandwa.’ They treated me but I didn’t get healed immediately because I had not yet heeded God’s commandment because they do not use any medicines but only requires you to obey God and respect his commandments.  Now my leg has been healed… Like Jesus came to save us so that we don’t perish, Umurangi also came so that we do not die of diseases that normal medicines cannot treat.”

Another patient agrees: “In 1983, I played football but later, Imandwa disabled me and my legs were paralyzed. I went to various hospitals and was given an assortment of medicines but they could not help. I always had fever; Doctors treated me but could not identify what kind of disease it really was. I even went to traditional healers but they didn’t have a solution. Pastors and priests prayed for me but in vain. Sorcerers also tried but failed. I was possessed by Imandwa and I was cured by Umurangi from Kirehe District. I believe that they have the power from God and when you respect their conditions, they treat and cure you completely.”

According to Alexia Mukahirwa, another witness, Umurangi is very powerful. “I was sick for 16 years. I went to different places and met many doctors. Some told me I had blood infection, others said it was stomach and intestinal infections. I consumed numberless medicines that never helped until I saw the power of Abarangi and believed them. Some people said that I had HIV/AIDS but it was not true. I only weighed 42 kilograms but now I have 68. Abarangi are powerful and may God bless them.”

James Mugabo, who is an “Umuhereza” or priest, said: “Before colonialism, people had their way of treating illness. But we have abandoned everything yet we should not.” The Director General of clinical services in the Ministry of Health responded by stating: “The law and policy are being drafted and will help us to know who does what kind of medicine and their identity. From that, we will know where to localize Abarangi in traditional or alternative.”

Hearing such things, we might smile and think ‘that’s Rwanda – this would not happen in developed countries’. But sadly, it does! These things happen everywhere. I know of healing ceremonies in the UK and the US that are embarrassingly similar to the ones in Rwanda – remember, for instance, the scenes seen on TV where Donald Trump was blessed by some evangelicals to receive the ability to win the election? And now they will probably claim that it worked!

Nothing to do with alternative medicine, you say? Perhaps this website on ‘spiritual homeopathy’ is more relevant then:

START OF QUOTE

What is spiritual homeopathy? It is based on the principle that “like cures like” and “wounds heal wounds” — the underlying wisdom of support groups. A Biblical story which illustrates this principle takes place on the ancient shepherding people’s journey through the desert. When they grew impatient and complained bitterly to Moses, God sent venomous snakes to bite the people. Many died. When the people confessed their sin, God told Moses to put a bronze snake on a pole. Those who were bitten and focused on the bronze snake did not die; they looked and lived.

Many years later Jesus said of his mission, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Chosen One must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes on the Chosen One might have eternal life.” Jesus’ disciple Peter wrote, “By Christ’s wounds you are healed.” In “The Angel that Troubled the Waters,” Thornton Wilder wrote: “Without your wound where would your power be? … In love’s service only the wounded can serve.”

As the Thanksgiving and Christmas season approaches, spiritual homeopathy offers healing to all – because the Babe in the Manger is also the Wounded Healer

END OF QUOTE

I think I rest my case.

 

 

29 Responses to Spiritual healers have devine powers to heal the diseases conventional doctors cannot cure

  • http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    I really can’t see the difference between belief in spiritual healing and the other forms of magic represented by the pseudoscience that is complementary and alternative medicine.

    • http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      Odd Frank,

      You must surely be tonight’s most jocular jester; citing such a biased, heavily spun, non-Christian website regarding any Christian issue is akin to referencing a pseudoscientific organization’s anti-vaxx propaganda. Information gleaned from either would be already parsed and purposely misrepresented so as to misinform some of the dullards who read the drivel. I’m surprised you exposed to the forum your predilection for such academic detritus. Very telling………..

      Be well

  • Spiritual healing is bogus. Healing of the spirit and the soul via faith is the hallmark of Christianity. Spiritual healing as “practiced” in pseudoscience is entirely mutually exclusive from healing of the spirit as understood by certain religionists. The discussion of these different practices as though they are somehow related epitomizes ignorance of at least one of the topics.

  • I do not believe in Spiritual Healing at all, especially when people say you must ‘believe,’ then I take big steps in the oppostite direction.
    However, I do practise Energy Healing and over the last few years, I have seen it work very well for chronic pain issues in most cases. I’m at the early days of my research/career, so I would never say that Energy Healing works for every problem and you must ‘believe.’ That’s a ludicrous idea. I’m still testing this therapy.
    Mr. Ernst, I appreciate that you uncover charlatans in the Alternative Healthcare field. This is important and it is crucial to critically evaluate every alternative therapy. However, not all of us are charlatans or quacks. I have had some profound experiences with Energy Healing over the last 3 yrs. that have seriously questioned my original view of life and reality. However, I always remain very skeptical of all therapies – including conventional therapies – until they are proven with hard evidence.
    May I suggest that you read these books. I hope they will be of interest to you..
    – Arigo, Surgeon of the Rusty Knife
    – The Energy Cure by Wm. Bengstion
    – Supernormal by Dean Radin

    Thank you.

  • “I do not believe in Spiritual Healing … However, I do practise Energy Healing …” (Why do quacks insist on capitalizing everything needlessly?)

    Please explain the difference.

    And William Bengston was discussed at great lengths a few summers ago in Respectful Insolence. Two reiki shills popped up to sing his praises and left hundreds and hundreds of comments.

    He’s a dangerous, deluded lunatic who invented a modified reiki faith healing energy thing.

    He claims his powers are so strong, he can cure cancer simply by walking down the hallway of a hospital. (I’m not making this up: perhaps Liam his fanboi can confirm he has made this claim).

    Of course he doesn’t “cure” anyone now: he decided his time is better spent writing books and teaching his faith healing scam at weekend seminars in hotel ballrooms for $300 a day per person. You are then qualified to impart your “skills” to others.

    It’a a pyramid scheme, just like reiki. You “learn,” then you charge others to “teach.”

  • Hi Pete,

    Thanks you for your comment.
    I suggest you read some of the books of Dean Radin [Sicientist], Russell Targ [Physicist], William Braud [Biologist] or Joe McMoneagle.
    The books on Remote Viewing were utterly fascinating and it was critically studied and funded by the U.S. Military
    from 1975-1995 at least. Why would it be funded for 20yrs. if it did not work?
    Essentially, any person, with a little practise can access information about the past or the future.
    I have done it and tested it over the last 2-3 years and it certainly does work very well !!
    The more I practise, the more it works.
    It is a very natural skill of the human mind .. try it yoursel and you will see.

  • Hi Woo Fighter,

    Thank you for your comment.
    The difference is that Spiritual Healing is faith based whereas Energy Healing is not faith based.
    I do not accept faith based Energy Healing at all .. energy healing either works or it does not.
    I have never heard Bengston make such a claim, and in his book, he specifically states that his type of energy healing is not faith-based and is belief-free and he also says on some of his lectures that energy healing seems to have absolutely no effect on warts or Parkinsons Disease.
    He is also very grounded in research. Whenever he lectures on energy healing, he always refers to experiments conducted in labs and hospitals.
    You shoulf read his book and listen to his CD. I think he comes across as quite down to earth and honest.
    To be fair, I have no idea if energy healing is effective for cancer. I have no experience of that.
    And one final point Woo Fighter, read this book by Chris Carter: ” Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptice.” It was a real eye opener to me. It’s an excellent book.
    Thank you for reading.

  • Correction .. I don’t believe and I’m certainly not a ‘True Believer.’
    I look at the evidence .. I am not a believer. I think they are dangerous people.
    She does sound like a charlatan .. but not all energy healers are charlatans.
    Of course it should be critically assessed and studied like all therapies.
    Remember, at one time, the great scientific minds of the day categorically stated
    that rocks do not fall out of the sky [Asteroids] and they also said that flying machines are fantasy
    and they also said that travelling to the moon is impossible.
    I leave you with one final study Woo Fighter and I hope you remain a true skeptic..
    This is an outstanding Clinical Trial [assessed by Medical Doctors in a Hospital].
    I sent this clinical trial to several hospitals in my city and none of them gave me the basic courtesy of a reply??
    What a shame.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277599699_Feasibility_of_Energy_Medicine_in_a_Community_Teaching_Hospital_An_Exploratory_Case_Series

    Regards,
    Liam

    • perhaps because its not a clinical trial; it’s a case series.

    • @Liam on Monday 03 April 2017 at 19:52

      You are proof of Einstein’s view that human stupidity is infinite. I was going to respond in detail but you are only interested in information that does not cause cognitive dissonance.

      • Mr. Ernst..
        If it was conducted in a hospital and assessed by Medical Doctors and the patients for the trial were chosen by their Medical Doctors, then surely, it is a valuable and worthwhile study ??

        Mr. Collins..
        I am respectful of all opinions in this debate whether pro Energy Healing or anti Energy Healing.
        I myself am very suspicious of Homeopathy, Chiropractic and belief-based Energy Healing.
        I have shown you no disrespect whatsoever in our debate here.
        You have been disrespectful to me by calling me stupid .. I am anything but, I can assure you.
        You also reveal your unprofessional approach by resorting to insults.

        You should read the book ‘Arigo: Surgeon of the Rusty Knife’ before you assume.
        We shall end the debate here before any more insults are thrown.

        Thank you to everyone who has read my post.

          • No??

            So, let me get this straight Mr. Edzard .. as a Medical Doctor you are saying that the medical opinions
            of Medical Doctors in this Feasability Study – which was conducted in a U.S. Hospital – where the patients
            were chosen by Medical doctors .. is irrelevant?

            Did you read the study?
            Perhaps, you should put the study on your website and see what your readers think?

            I find your opinion a little concerning.
            Why is it not important?

          • @ Liam

            Do you know what a ‘feasibility study’ is? In the title, abstract and paper, it is repeatedly stated that this is a ‘feasibility study’.
            As can be found out with a little simple googling, (or just ask Wikipedia)a ‘feasibility study’ is not research. It is a way to find out if intended or planned research is acceptable, feasible and practical. Often you see such a venture called a ‘Pilot study’

            A ‘feasibility study’ is not a trial that tests a hypothesis or compares a method with something else, like a placebo. The study you refer to proves nothing about anything other than the authors, clinic staff and patients were gullible enough to accept the theatrical performance of the “energy healer”.
            It is wrong to draw any conclusions as to efficacy of the tested methods, from a small, uncontrolled, unblinded effort like this. It only shows that a proper study is ‘feasible’.

            Now do you understand why the professor said “no”?

        • RE: “Arigo: Surgeon of the Rusty Knife”

          Sounds like John of God (John of Fraud) stole this guy’s entire act.

          • Arigo was doing Energy Healing in the 1950s in Brazil.
            A group of American Doctors carefully studied and filmed his purported abilities in 1968.
            They filmed him removing eye cataracts from patients with no anaesthetic!
            Can you imagine a penknife in you eye with no anaesthetic!
            On the videos, his patients showed no pain at all!
            I know this sounds incredible .. if you don’t believe me, look at the videos on youtube.
            Read the book as well.

          • Here’s a good book for you to read Liam. It deals with many fake phenomena such as psychic surgeons like Ze Arigo and the philipine “surgeons”. All of these have been shown to use sleight-of-hand to fool the audience (and cameras).

          • Hello Bjorn,

            Thank you for your reply.
            I know a Feasability Study is not a proper Clincal Trial.
            However, the effects on these patients after Energy Healing sessions is surely worth testing further?
            Also, Wikipedia is notoriously unreliable as it can be edited. I would not believe half the information on that website.
            Well .. we shall agree to disagree.
            However, I thank you for your comments, which are far more respectful than a one word anwser.

            Regarding Psychic Surgery, I fully agree with you .. most of them are sleight of hand or pure charlatans.
            However, when the american medical docotors studied Arigo’s alleged healing abilities; they took video footage of him.
            You can see it here .. this does not look like sleight of hand to me and it was in 1968 .. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbgJbY4MSek

            The book you mentioned is written by James Randi. He is a magician .. not a Scientist or a Medical Doctor.
            Here is another book for you, in which the authour tells us some interesting stories about Randi & the dark side of PSICOP .. https://www.amazon.com/Science-Psychic-Phenomena-House-Skeptics/dp/159477451X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491389286&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fall+of+the+house+of+skeptics

            Forgive me for going off target slightly, but these three book are excellent scientific studies
            of subjects very closely alighned with energy healing..

            Written by a Professor of Engineering at Princeton University:
            https://www.amazon.com/Consciousness-Source-Reality-Robert-Jahn/dp/1936033038/ref=la_B001HD3H86_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491389441&sr=1-3

            Written by a Scientist with an MSc in Engineering:
            https://www.amazon.com/Supernormal-Science-Evidence-Extraordinary-Abilities/dp/030798690X/ref=la_B000APW7CE_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491390076&sr=1-2

            Written by a Physicist from his 20years of Research:
            https://www.amazon.com/Reality-ESP-Physicists-Psychic-Abilities/dp/0835608840/ref=la_B001JS2QZO_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491390229&sr=1-1

            Wherever it leads us, we must always look at the data and the actual results.
            Thank you for reading.

            Regards,
            Liam

          • I know a Feasability Study is not a proper Clincal Trial.

            You did not flaunt your knowledge before. Let’s hope you do now.

            He is a magician .. not a Scientist or a Medical Doctor.

            Did you read the book? Obviously not.
            You are wrong and Mr. Randi would make a strong objection to being called a “Magician”. Shows how little you know about this matter. He is a conjurer, and it takes a conjurer to know another conjurer. A conjurer is one who knows and can demonstrate how to pretend magic. Psi, parapsychology and remote vision and all that stuff would be magic, if it existed. Magic is something that defies laws of nature. James Randi is a master of exposing fraud and trickery. He has shown convincingly how other conjurers, like your fake surgeon and Dean Radin, who boastfully claims to be able to know how they can or others can defy laws of nature by for example reading another’s mind or perform telepathy, but declines clamoring a lame example of ‘special pleading’. He has promised a million dollars to anyone who can prove that magic exists. No one, certainly not these persons, have been able to demonstrate magic.
            You cite persons with educational titles who are well known believers in magic and have written books. So what? Do you know how many physicists, chemists, engineers etc. there are in the English speaking part of humanity? Or the rest of the world for that matter. How many of those are likely to have lost their minds? A handful to say the least. The authors of these three books are not in their right minds. If there was any substance to the beliefs of these engineers and physicists who believe in phenomena that fly in the face of the very laws of nature they should know best themselves, it would have been easy for them to take on Randi’s million dollar challenge and take the check home.
            Next time you will have read Randi’s book won’t you? It is only a few dollars on amazon and can be downloaded in Kindle format in a matter of seconds. (That is not magic)

          • You are correct Bjorn .. Randi has exposed many dangerous frauds over the years and that is to be commended.
            However, he is also a believer who would not look at the research of at least 70yrs. that has been conducted by Scientists.

            Juist to anwser your comments Bjorn:

            ” You are wrong and Mr. Randi would make a strong objection to being called a “Magician”. ”

            Fact 1: If you look on his website, it says he has a reputation as a Magician and Escape Artist.

            ” .. like your fake surgeon and Dean Radin.. ”

            Fact 2: Dean Radin is not a Surgeon .. he is a Scientist. I never said he was a Surgeon??

            ” You cite persons with educational titles who are well known believers in magic and have written books. So what?”

            Fact 3: I mentioned three books written by a Professor of Engineering, an Electrical Engineer and a Physicist and all of these people have been studying PSI and associated subjects for 20 years in the lab. I think they deserve respect for that. I have no idea whether they believe in magic? I have never met them? Have you?

            ” Do you know how many physicists, chemists, engineers etc. there are in the English speaking part of humanity? Or the rest of the world for that matter. How many of those are likely to have lost their minds? A handful to say the least. The authors of these three books are not in their right minds… ”

            What are you talking about?? They have lost their minds? says who? Is that an expert clinical opinion?
            I have read most of their books and their experiments and they seem completely logical and sane to me.

            Read some of the books on Remote Viewing .. forget the words PSI, telepathy, precognition and all those terms…
            Imagine that Remote Viewing is a strong ability of the mind to access information from, for example, the future.
            Get one of the books and try out the Remote Viewing process [essentially Meditation and clearing the Mind].
            It actually works fairly well. I discoverd that a few years ago.

            And just to assure you Bjorn, I am actually extremely suspicious and critical of any alleged PSI abilities like precognition, telepathy and psychokinesis .. unless there is solid, irrefutable proof. You cannot flippantly say that all paranormal abilities are fantasy .. unless you have solid, irrefutable proof.

            I am also extremely suspicious and critical of Faith Healers, Homeopathy, Dowsing, Spirtual Healing [Belief based Energy Healing], Candle Magick and Witchcraft .. unless there is solid proof that it works.

            I hope that settles everything and I hope you read one of the Remote Viewing books. It will open your mind.
            My apologies for the long letter.

            Regards,
            Liam

          • “Fact 2: Dean Radin is not a Surgeon .. he is a Scientist. I never said he was a Surgeon??”

            Was a scientist, perhaps.
            http://americanloons.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/1046-dean-radin.html

            See also this essay by Robert T. Carroll, Ph.D:

            Why do people believe in the palpably untrue?

            More than half of all Americans believe we can heal each other by psychic or spiritual means. About one-third believe in telepathy and about one-fourth believe in clairvoyance. More than one-fourth believe that the dead can communicate with us. More than one-third believe houses can be haunted. More than 40% accept demonic possession as real. Oddly, despite the popularity of mediums claiming to get messages from the dead, only about 20% of American adults believe this is possible (Gallup survey, 2005). On the other hand, a survey done more than twenty years ago found that paranormal beliefs are not popular with the elite in the scientific community. Parapsychologists like Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake continue to bemoan this fact and whine about being persecuted by a scientific community that is ignorant of the great strides parapsychologists think they have made. …
            http://skepdic.com/essays/palpablyuntrue.html

          • Hi Pete,

            Thanks for your post.

            I read both pieces .. the blogspot and Robert Carroll’s piece in Skepdic.com
            Very interesting to see that when I looked for the professional background of the blogger, guess what I found?
            Absolutely no information? So, we do not know who the authour is? Is a Scientist or a Medical Researcher?
            We do not know?

            Robert T Carroll – according to Skepdic.com – is a Philosopher?? Not a Scientist, not a Medical Doctor not a Medical Researcher but a Philosopher studying belief systems??

            That does not say much for them.
            By the way, according to his biog., Dean Radin has an MSc. in Electrical Engineering
            so surely that makes him – officially – a Scientist?

            And Joe McMoneagle has a long history of very high successes .. read some books on him.
            Well, this is a debate that all of us will never agree on .. but, I assure you, I look at evidence.
            I do not believe, or imagine or hope or pray .. I look at evidence from my own direct experience
            and from books written by Scientists .. not philosophers or bloggers or psychologists .. Scientists who research the subject.

            However, I will leave you with – ironically – a marvellous quote by the German Philosopher, Arthur Schopehhauer,
            which sums up this entire debate very well, I feel..

            ” All Truth passes through three stages..
            First, it is ridiculed.
            Second, it is violently opposed
            and third it is accepted as being self-evident.”

            Good evening all and have a nice weekend.

  • One final point. Here are some other quotes from Einstein:

    ” The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination. ”

    ” Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. ”

    ” The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. ”

    All the best All.

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