Do Healers Really Heal?

We asked some of America’s leading authors and healers ‘Do healers
really heal?’ and ‘How does healing occur?’ We received every
possible response: yes, no, yes and no, maybe… Here, edited for
brevity, is a sampling of their replies.

Jeanne Achterberg, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at
Saybrook Institute in San Francisco, senior editor of
Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, and the
author of Imagery in Healing and Rituals of Healing.

I can’t answer the question ‘Do healers really heal’ directly
because it depends, first of all, on how the word healer is being
defined, and what it is healers are healing people of or from. My
personal definition is that healers are those who have chosen a
vocation of helping others recover from ‘disease’ in some capacity.
And I believe disease is a rupture in life’s harmony — whether it
be in matters typically identified as physical, mental, or
spiritual. Other than that, healers, healing, and what is
classified as disease have so much cultural variation that there
simply cannot be an easy, unqualified answer to your questions. We
must remember that there is no universal manifestation, diagnosis,
or treatment of any disease — particularly those that involve the
deepest, most difficult matters of the soul.

However, I do not believe, under any circumstances, that healers
(however they are defined) can induce cliff-hanging, long-lasting,
important cures. People heal themselves. Healers can only gently
facilitate the process with their wisdom, therapy, and presence.
Now, with that said, individuals who are sanctioned within their
cultures as healers are able to help others (with a higher degree
of regularity than nonhealers) with the diseases that are peculiar
(or at least idiosyncratically labeled) within the cultural milieu.
Otherwise, they are not trusted by the community, their ways of
healing die out, and the paradigm shifts. Human beings are
empiricists who may be occasionally misguided in their choices of
healers and healing practices, but not for long. With rare
exceptions, it seems that healers of a particular ilk may only be
able to help others who share a common belief system and

I have no ‘hard’ data to support my opinion — only
anthropological lore and my years of research and clinical
observation. But true, remarkable healing seems to be a function of
restoring or reweaving the torn fabric of life in some way. The
healee is brought back into a resonant harmony with the community,
the planet, and his or her relationships in the broadest fashion
imaginable. Rituals appropriate to the situation — pills, potions,
chants, surgery, or whatever — seem to be only the visible,
technical, and highly variant aspects of healing. The vital factors
in the healing process, however, transcend all of these and include
intention, motivation, trust, and something as ineffable as passion
for living. When suffering and tragedy are transformed and colored
with meaning and purpose, healing has surely occurred, by whatever
means and under whatever circumstances.

Michael Baldwin is president of Baldwin Brothers, an investment
firm in Marion, Massachusetts, and founder of the Marion
Foundation, which researches the potentials of body/mind/spirit,
and the Buddhaya Foundation, which supports the work of Tibetan
Buddhist scholars in America.

Healers catalyze healing. There is no enduring healing without
some kind of internal change in the diseased person. The body heals
itself, activated by its own ‘internal doctor’ — a combination of
belief, peace of mind, and biochemical reactions aligned with a
conscious projection of health.

Marc Barasch is the author of The Healing Path (Penguin,
1995) and co-author of Remarkable Recovery (Putnam, 1995).
He is a contributing editor of Psychology Today, former
editor-in-chief of New Age Journal, and a former cancer

Healing is a resonance; a gestalt; a collaborative art. Healers,
whether they are doctors or shamans, are able to heal (as opposed
to merely cure) through a deep mutuality with their patients —
through the potent magic of fellow feeling. Their hallmark is an
ability to reawaken within the sufferer the life force that
sustains us all, that ‘through the green fuse drives the flower.’
Through gesture and word, ritual and (where applicable)
pharmaceutical, they make direct appeal to the innate healing
system — that still unexplored metasystem that mobilizes immune,
endocrine, circulatory, nervous, and other systems (and perhaps
even subtle ‘energies’) to restore the blueprint of wholeness.

Barbara Brennan is the author of Hands of Light, A Guide to
Healing Through the Human Energy Field
and Light Emerging:
The Journey of Personal Healing
. She is the founder and
director of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing in East Hampton,
New York.

Healers assist us to heal ourselves by enhancing our natural
healing processes, as do all other health care professionals. Since
our life energy fields are the foundation, or blueprint, for our
physical bodies and are a deeper expression of who we are, bringing
them back into a balanced health pattern will return us to health.
Healers do this by charging, clearing, restructuring, and
rebalancing our energy fields. A major key here is that our life
energy and our consciousness are not separable — so healing work
includes healing all aspects of our consciousness.Arthur Caplan,
Ph.D., is director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of
Pennsylvania and the author, editor, and co-author of countless
books and articles on biomedical ethics.

Sadly, there is too little attention paid to healing in
medicine. The healers of medicine are its physicians. And they
almost always seek to cure. While healing is something that is, at
its core, a biological process, it involves much more than biology.
Good healers try to create environments — molecular, chemical,
psychological, emotional, cognitive — that do more than facilitate
success in the battle against disease. Healing requires the
accommodation of a person to disease and disability.

Larry Dossey, M.D., is a physician whose specialty is internal
medicine and executive editor of a new journal, Alternative
. His most recent book is Healing Words: The Power
of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine

Yep, healers heal, but not the way we commonly think. To really
understand healing is to enter another universe. Do something

Robert Gass, Ed.D., psychologist and organizational change
agent, founded the Opening the Heart workshops and is a musical
recording artist with the group On Wings of Song. He is currently
president of ARC International, a consulting/training company doing
transformational change with major corporations.

Well, healers do something, and healing is probably as good a
word as any to describe it. Healing occurs in at least three ways:
(1) The healer directly alters the energy field of another by a
direct infusion of his or her own energy. (2) Through skillful
physical or energetic intervention, the healer triggers a natural
energetic and physiological self-healing response in the other. (3)
The interaction with the healer evokes an individual’s belief in
the possibility of healing, triggering emotional healing or
physical healing through the mind-body connection.

Burton Goldberg is the publisher of Alternative Medicine: The
Definitive Guide

Healers are expert guides to help the body’s native intelligence
— call it ‘Nature’ or ‘God,’ as you like — heal itself. The
master healer is one who skillfully works with the body’s natural
inclination to be healthy, supporting it with medicines and
techniques all the way. The miracle of healing happens when once
the doctor removes everything in your body that’s keeping you
unwell — be it toxins, chemical pollutants, stress, parasites,
heavy metals, constipation — your natural flow of energy and
vitality is free to give you your birthright of feeling 100 percent
your best.

Joyce Goodrich, Ph.D., is director of the Consciousness Research
and Training Project, a training program and controlled research
study based on Lawrence LeShan’s research and theories.

Our experience convinces us that there are healing phenomena
facilitated by one person or persons for another. Self-healing is
also possible. The phenomena can be facilitated either in the
presence of a healer or, equally well, from a distance of unlimited
miles. The processes can be taught and have been researched by
LeShan, Krippner, and others.

We believe that as yet no one fully understands the interface
between what a healer may do and the improvement of the healee or
patient. Words like energy do not explain the processes that occur,
nor do they pass scientific muster at this time. Clearly, something
can happen to enhance the self-healing abilities of a healee when a
healer is involved. We suspect that research in the field of
psychoneuroimmunology and other disciplines addressing the
mind/body/spirit interfaces in depth may provide some answers to
this question in the future.

Jean Houston, Ph.D., is the director of the Foundation for Mind
Research and author or co-author of 15 books in the field of human
capacities. She has worked in more than 40 countries in human
resource training and runs several psychological and spiritual
development schools. Her autobiography, A Mythic Life
(HarperSanFrancisco). She is a human and cultural development
adviser to UNICEF.

I believe that healers do have the capacity to heal. Part of
this is because they are able to identify with archetypes, and
archetypes have the capacity to bring larger patterns of
possibility, evolutionary cadences, and a wider spectrum of reality
into conscious knowledge and experience, felt often as an influx of
creative potency and sometimes even as paranormal experience. Rapid
healing, for example, can be the result of the healer dissolving
his or her local self and being filled with an archetypal or sacred
image (not I but Christ through me doeth the work). By bridging
oneself between here and the Greater There, one enters into
archetypal dimensions that may contain the blueprints of greater
possibility, the primal stuff for social and creative change.
Archetypal space-time may also contain the optimal template of a
person’s health and well-being. The job of the healer is to call
that template back into consciousness so that it can work upon a
malfunctioning body or mind, tuning here, correcting there.

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