Alternative Alternatives

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More and more people are turning to alternative forms of healing and the array of methods seems to be increasing day by day. Many of them do not seem to be contrary to Torah values. Others seem more "spooky" and need to be checked out with a Torah authority before submitting to them. But we always need to keep a sense of values and to understand that each system is no more than a form of "hishtadlus" - the effort we need to invest to play our part in taking care of our own health and the health of others.


Diets like macrobiotics and Pritikan are aimed to make the person so healthy that the body's own natural healing and defense systems become strong enough to heal and ward off sickness. Dietary additives, such as vitamins, green-blue algae, spirolina, essential elements and various proprietory mixtures, are likewise intended to enable the body to heal itself, keep itself healthy and impart a feeling of well-being and alertness by supplementing the person's regular diet.


Exercise regimes also aim to produces a healthy, illness-resistant body by toneing the muscles, burning-off excess fat and excreting poisons, exercising the heart and improving blood circulation.


Herbs and homeopathic systems are essentially natural medicines. When used wisely, they can be more gentle and more effective than conventional medicines.


Chiropractic, certain types of massage and manipulation and the use of specialized oils, reflexology and iridology are other alternatives to conventional medical practice and diagnosis.


Acupuncture, shiatsu and other systems stemming from the Far East are based on concepts formulated by the ancient Chinese. They claim to have found that energy and electricity flows through definite paths through the body. Ill health is considered to be caused by blockages in these paths, which can be dispersed using copper pins (acupuncture) or massage (shiatsu).


Energy healing is based on the belief that the body is surrounded by an energy field of a life-giving force, or "chi", which is fed from a source above. They consider that ill health is caused by blockages in the flow of "chi" or in the distribution of the field. Some people claim they can see the field as a colored "aura" around each person, different levels of energy showing as different colors. They assert this "aura" can be photographed using special techniques.


Therapy comprises manipulating the field or clearing blockages using the hands. Some practitioners believe that they can project their own energy to others.


Kinesiology depends on the fact that a person's muscular system becomes weak or strong depending on whether or not he agrees with a statement which is made to him. So, effectively, his muscles provide "yes" or "no" responses. This response is not under a person's conscious control. So kinesiology claims to provide a powerful means for entering a person's belief system to a very deep level, avoiding the "censorship" of conscious response.


Using kinesiology, a skilled facilitator claims that he can rapidly home-in to deep-seated problems and remediate them using therapies which carry the full endorsment of the patient himself. Of course, kinesiology is entirely subjective and cannot provide objective information. However, it can be used to access a person's intuitive power. Accordingly, some facilitators employ remote muscle-testing, using themselves or a sympathetic third-party.


Neural bio-feedback and psycho-neural-immunology also accesses the person's inherent ability to fight disease by rallying the body's own defence system. It is now recognised that the "placebo" effect can be the result of a real abilty to control the functioning of the body. This ability can work both ways. Negative attitude can cause malfunctioning of the body. So change of attitude will "cure" the "illness". And a positive attitude can stimulate the body's ability heal and to fight disease to cure even a real illness.


Dowsing employs the non-random movement of something which should move randomly to enable the dowser to claim he is accessing a higher source of knowledge to thereby guide the dowser in making decisions. The non-random movement might be the sudden twitching of a stick, the to-and-fro or circular swings of a pendulum which might be weighted with a special crystal or jewel, or the yes-no response of a kinesiological muscle-test.


A respected authority who is often quoted as approving of dowsing explained that he felt that dowsing is permitted only when all conventional means have been exhausted, when it is necessary to make a choice between equally-likely possibilities, and then, only when the dowser has no personal interest in one side of the choice and only when the dowser directs his thoughts entirely to Hakodesh Boruch Hu to guide him in his dowsing. Presumably, this limits the system to someone who is on such a high level that he can be confidant that he is indeed directing all his thoughts entirely to HaKodesh Boruch Hu.


This means that if dowsing is used to help someone who is unwell, the patient would first need to consult a reliable doctor, take all necessary tests, etc. and only use dowsing if there would be a question of which course of treatment to follow because the doctor himself could not decide which one would be preferable.


A whole host of devices, medicines, therapies and techniques have been developed to counter-effect the supposedly-destructive effect of so much that is potentially dangerous in our environment. Pollution of air, water, foods; magnetic, electrical, radio-active radiations. Countless surveys and research projects have "proven" the damage which "can be done/is being done" and which "prove" how their particular device/medicine/technique is effective.


However, research has also shown that the body has tremendous ability to absorb, compensate and counteract potentially-harmful invasions.


Two important points need to be made here. Firstly, because of the placebo/psychoneural effect, something can be effective simply because the person believes in it. The "cure" might be totally real - not imagined. But it would have been equally effective if he would have directed his faith elsewhere.


Secondly, just because something works does not necessarily mean that it is "kosher". Witchcraft, voodoo, and many other forbidden sources all claim and prove real cures. Their cures might also be due to the placebo/psychoneural effect, but it might also be because they are using "impure forces" that we are not allowed to use.


Here is a common scenaria: Reuven does not feel well. He hears from Shimon that there is a fantastic practitioner, Dr.Levi, who has an accredited list of cures for just this sort of problem. In fact, Shimon confides that he himself had the same problem, he went to Dr. Levi and now he feels fantastic.


Reuven goes to Dr. Levi who, through his own special system of diagnosis, finds that Reuven has a whole bunch of maladies in various organs. Dr. Levi then prescribes a course of therapy which might involve special diet, medications, devices and/or to return to him for special therapy.


Conventional testings might or might not confirm Dr. Levi's findings. It might not really matter if they do not because Dr.Levi might be following a system which is as equally valid as conventional medicine and he is treating it according to that system. Or, perhaps Dr. Levi is accessing Reuven's belief system. This means that really Dr. Levi's diagnosis does not conform with reality, but, for some reason, Reuven feels the need to blame his feeling of ill-health on those maladies. By following Dr. Levi's course of treatment, Reuven is fact working out his own need for that type of attention.


If Reuven gets better, everyone will be happy. But if the therapy drags on with little signs of real improvement, Dr. Levi might be the wrong address. Perhaps his diagnosis was not correct; perhaps his system is not suitable for Reuven; or perhaps the continual returning to Dr.Levi is an indulgement of Reuven's need for - a sophisticated and expensive "pacifier".


famous remark of the Gemora, "A doctor who charges nothing is worth nothing" underlines how Chazal understood the psychoneurology of the doctor/patient relationship. A patient does need to have faith in his doctor - so much so that he is willing to pay good money to the doctor.


But we still need to remember who the real Doctor is and that what we do is only "hishtadlos" - the effort we need to invest to play our part in taking care of our own health and the health of others. So, if we take our child to the doctor, we treat the doctor with respect, listen carefully, but also remind our child who is the real "Healer of all flesh".

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