Last part on New Age Remedies continued from Part II
Bridging the Gap
Modern treatments are continually producing results and extending people’s life spans, even if it sometimes seems otherwise. There is a continual advance, and that includes acknowledging the spiritual side as playing an important role. Science will accept any approach, so long as it can be tested and correlated but emotional work and spiritual development is notoriously difficult to quantify, and thus hard to test empirically.
Slowly, the long march pulls in results from both the physical and spiritual ends of the spectrum, for instance a recent article on research transfusing white blood cells from healthy mice to those with advanced cancer has produced encouraging results.
On the spiritual side another recent story showed that meditation and/or prayer and deep relaxation methods can have a demonstrable effect in gene expression, most particularly in the handling of ‘free radicals’, which are closely related to cell death and cancer.
Can the methods of the second example be used as a prevention or a cure? It is too soon and the study too small to tell, but it is encouraging that ‘science’ is willing to take up and examine all avenues of research. The team in the article notes:
Benson said that people across different cultures have been using mind body techniques for thousands of years. They found that it didn’t particularly matter which techniques was used, whether it was meditation, yoga, breathing, or repetitive praying, they acted via the same underlying mechanism.
Contrast these kind of cases of research with the fantasy approach that the media, especially the new age or alternative medicine media, likes to report. The Buddhist Channel published one such a few weeks ago that does not even qualify as pseudo-science. They report that this year ‘a group of scientists’ took a trek to the Himalayan Mountains to track down an ancient form of meditation that controls body heat. They failed to find the teacher of this method, and failed even to reach the peak where he had lived. Still they “gathered enough material” on it, and suggested its application in cases of “heart disease, cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia and influenza”.
In the Crimean War, where the vast majority of the British/French expeditionary force in Russia was wiped out by disease, it was found that the officers who were treated by doctors using blood letting methods, had a higher mortality rate than the common soldiers who were looked after by a rather acidic nurse called Florence Nightingale. She turned the medical world on its head, showing that proper nursing, in a clean environment was far more productive of cures than intervention by Doctors. To listen to many alternative medicine camps in the modern day, we are similarly doing everything wrong. But if we learned anything at all from Nightingale, it is to trust in the statistics and science, and not place our hope in so called ‘experts’ whose opinions and hunches, and anecdotal evidence, are so often wrong.
Despite its shortcomings modern medicine, the established kind, seems to be the best bet for treatments of health disorders. A good lifestyle is always encouraged: of diet, balance, stress reduction, of exercise. Most western countries tend to try and reduce dependence on medicine (unlike Asia where you get buckets of pills for slight ailments). The anecdotal stories we hear, of people controlling or curing disease with spiritual practises, are really just that, anecdotal. They may have elements of truth in them, and we can only hope that proper research, via the scientific method, will pick them up and learn the lessons. The internet can provide as much good research as bad, if you take the time to google about. A Malaysian remedy for instance, recently handed to a certain Bhikkhu with convincing curative stories, called Air Ikan Haruan, is shown by google to contain powerful steroids, listed as Scheduled Poison. One can only hope that amongst all the ridiculous claims and cures, those that are genuine, and offer real contributions to ones health, will surface and be properly investigated and documented by the mainstream medical establishment.