By Daniel J. Benor, M.D.
I started out as a complete skeptic about healing. In medical school, I had learned of the vast natural curative capacities of the body, and of spontaneous waxings and wanings of diseases of the body which could account for many healings attributed to healers. In my undergraduate training in psychology and my graduate training in psychiatry, as well as in my experience in clinical medicine, I learned many ways in which people could heal themselves of pains, anxieties, hysterical muscular and sensory problems, and emotional difficulties. All of my training and experience left me certain that spiritual healing was merely a variant on the placebo – the sugar pill effect. I was convinced that people resorted to healing out of a wish to avoid unpleasant treatments, a reluctance to face serious illness, or a fear of death.
When a new acquaintance asked in 1980 what I thought about healing I told him in no uncertain terms what I thought. He challenged me, asking, ”Have you ever observed a healer?” Humbled, I had to admit I’d never even spoken with one, and sheepishly accepted his invitation to observe a healer at work.
Ethel Lombardi, a peppery, Scottish-Irish woman and a trained Reiki Master, did a laying-on of hands on a young man I’ll call “Joe” who had a lump under his nipple. She invited me to examine him. The lesion was 1 by 2 centimeters, rubbery firm (like an eraser), not as mobile as I’d like to see (suggesting the possibility of an invasive growth), and quite tender. Joe was a skeptic who had come only because he hoped he might avoid surgery on the lesion that was scheduled for two weeks later.
Ethel proceeded with a laying-on of hands treatment lasting half an hour, at the end of which she invited me to examine Joe again. I was astounded to find that the lesion had shrunk by a centimeter, was very soft, completely mobile, and no longer tender.
This was a healing of my skepticism as much as it was a healing of Joe’s lump. I knew instantly that this was something I would have to study further. I have been studying healing in every way I can ever since – interviewing healers, gathering anecdotal reports and research literature, and consulting on setting up studies of healing.
Healers practice in every country in the world. They report they can help to improve nearly every malady known to humanity. In some instances, they facilitate miraculous cures for illnesses for which conventional medicine offers only a diagnosis and disheartening prognosis. Far more often, they provide a modest reduction of suffering and a healthier perspective.
Spiritual healing in the form of prayer, healing meditation, or the laying on of hands has been practiced in virtually every known culture. Prayers and rituals for healing are a part of most religions. Reports of folk healers are familiar from legend, the Bible, anthropological studies of traditional cultures, the popular press, and more recently from scientific research.
There are two broad categories of healing. In the first, prayers or meditation for the ill person’s return to health are conducted either by an individual or a group. The healer(s) may be at the side of the healee or may be many miles away. The second form of healing involves some variation of a laying-on of hands. Healers place their hands on or near the bodyand may move them slowly or in sweeping fashion around the body.
I tapped a wide variety of sources for my books on Healing Research and in the revised version I included new research reports and quoted many personal observations made by healers. I feel it is essential to present the words of other explorers in the realm of healing in addition to my own.
We are often discussing inner experiences which are difficult to put into words. The more points of view we have, the greater will be the accuracy in sorting out the common denominators among the reports.
The language that is used for healing can be problematic for practioners. A physician who is also a healer told me, ”When I finish my conventional treatments I ask whether patients might let me try a little magic on them that might help. I rarely have anyone refuse. I am surprised myself how pains, even chronic ones, sometimes clear up rapidly with my healing touch. Sometimes a patient catches me out and says, “Oh! You’ve given me a healing.” I confess at that point that they are right. But if I were to mention the word ‘healing’ at the beginning, I would have fifteen minutes of talking with them about their notions on what healing isn’t or shouldn’t be.”
Daniel J. Benor, M.D. is the author of many books, available on his website http://www.danielbenor.com.
The ones mentioned here are:
Healing Research, Volume 1 – Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution
Popular Edition, Bellmawr, NJ: Wholistic Healing Publications, 2nd Edition (2008)
This post is an edited excerpt from this volume, which includes a broad survey of healers from around the world and a summary of 119 studies of healing.
Healing Research, V. 1 – Professional Supplement, Orig. Southfield, MI, 2001, Vision Publications. Now owned by Wholistic Healing Publications, Bellmawr, NJ
This volume focuses only on the research studies, in great detail, including statistical analyses.
Dan Benor is the Editor and Publisher of the open access, International Journal of Healing and Caring