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Alternative Healthcare. Part 3

by Daniel on January 20th, 2012

Recourses to supernatural, paranormal (not scientifically explainable), or limitless beings or “forces” are recourses to fantasyland and, therefore, have quite unpredictable and fuzzy results. Supernaturalistic theories — premises involving immeasurable or indefinable “agents” — hold sway in the realm of alternative healthcare. The theories stated below are among the most important basic beliefs in alternative medicine.
Mind/body dualism: Mind and body are disparate and separable.

Mind/body interactionism: Mind and body are disparate entities that affect each other.

Monotheism: There is a perfect, eternal, almighty, omniscient, benevolent being who created and rules the universe, i.e., God.

Mysticism: All conclusions, beliefs, and opinions based on analysis, deduction, and/or common experience are illusory. True knowledge is attainable only through contemplative or intuitive union (or near-union) with God, a “higher reality,” or the universe, but such knowledge is indescribable.
Pantheism: “God” and “nature” are synonymous. [Pantheism, which has an affinity with Eastern mysticism, is both naturalistic and trivial unless the believer ascribes supernatural phenomena or a morality to “nature.” Unnecessary capitalization of the word “nature” usually indicates supernaturalistic pantheism.]

Vitalism: An invisible, intangible, unique form of energy is responsible for all the activities of a living organism and [according to some vitalists] can exist independently of the organism. [There are more than forty synonyms for “life force,” ranging from the generic (e.g., elan vital) to the sectarian (e.g., chi, orgone, prana, and soul) and the obscure (e.g., entelechy and essence).]

The lure of mysticism lies in the desire to validate subjective experience. The appeal of pantheism lies in the yearning for connectedness and in the desire to legitimize traditional beliefs, which many people misconstrue as “natural laws.” The appeal of vitalism — the supreme sticking point between scientific medicine and alternative healthcare — lies in its compatibility with humankind’s longing for immortality. Self-confidence belongingness, and supernormality are potent, highly salable wishes.

Ayurvedists, occultists, other paranormalists, and dimestore metaphysicians make much of consciousness and fields of “energy.” For example, Sri Swami Rama, founder and “spiritual head” of the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, promotes the theory of the koshas (literally, “sheaths”) as “a complete model of a human being.” According to an ancient Hindu treatise, the koshas surround the atman (soul, or “true self” of living humans. Supposedly, the atman is identical with Brahman, an ineffable, eternal, omnipresent, absolute being. Union with Brahman–i.e., personal extinction–is the supreme goal of Hinduism. The koshas include: (1) the physical or material sheath (human body; also called the food sheath), which is the outermost covering; (2) the vital or “pranic” sheath, which animates the body; (3) the mental sheath, which receives sensory impressions; (4) the intelligence sheath, the seat of discrimination and volition; and (5) the sheath of bliss, the innermost and subtlest covering–a “pool of boundless joy,” according to the Himalayan Institute. Besides the koshas, the “subtle anatomy” of Ayurveda includes: (1) nadis, “canals” (srotas) that carry prana (“cosmic energy”) throughout the body; (2) chakras, “centers of consciousness” that connect body and soul; and (3) 107 marmas, which are somewhat like acupuncture points.

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