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The Body ElectricElectromagnetism And The Foundation Of Life
By Robert Becker
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Robert Becker
All right reserved.
Hydra's Heads and
There is only one health, but diseases are many. Likewise, there appears to be one fundamental force that heals, although the myriad schools of medicine all have their favorite ways of cajoling it into action.
Our prevailing mythology denies the existence of any such generalized force in favor of thousands of little ones sitting on pharmacists' shelves, each one potent against only a few ailments or even a part of one. This system often works fairly well, especially for treatment of bacterial diseases, but it's no different in kind from earlier systems in which a specific saint or deity, presiding over a specific healing herb, had charge of each malady and each part of the body. Modern medicine didn't spring full-blown from the heads of Pasteur and Lister a hundred years ago.
If we go back further, we find that most medical systems have combined such specifics with a direct, unitary appeal to the same vital principle in all illnesses. The inner force can be tapped in many ways, but all are variations of four main, overlapping patterns: faith healing, magic healing, psychic healing, and spontaneous healing. Althoughscience derides all four, they sometimes seem to work as well for degenerative diseases and long-term healing as most of what Western medicine can offer.
Faith healing creates a trance of belief in both patient and practitioner, as the latter acts as an intercessor or conduit between the sick mortal and a presumed higher power. Since failures are usually ascribed to a lack of faith by the patient, this brand of medicine has always been a gold mine for charlatans. When bona fide, it seems to be an escalation of the placebo effect, which produces improvement in roughly one third of subjects who think they're being treated but are actually being given dummy pills in tests of new drugs. Faith healing requires even more confidence from the patient, so the disbeliever probably can prevent a cure and settle for the poor satisfaction of "I told you so." If even a few of these oft-attested cases are genuine, however, the healed one suddenly finds faith turned into certainty as the withered arm aches with unaccustomed sensation, like a starved animal waking from hibernation.
Magical healing shifts the emphasis from the patient's faith to the doctor's trained will and occult learning. The legend of Teta, an Egyptian magician from the time of Khufu (Cheops), builder of the Great Pyramid, can serve as an example. At the age of 110, Teta was summoned into the royal presence to demonstrate his ability to rejoin a severed head to its body, restoring life. Khufu ordered a prisoner beheaded, but Teta discreetly suggested that he would like to confine himself to laboratory animals for the moment. So a goose was decapitated. Its body was laid at one end of the hall, its head at the other. Teta repeatedly pronounced his words of power, and each time, the head and body twitched a little closer to each other, until finally the two sides of the cut met. They quickly fused, and the bird stood up and began cackling. Some consider the legendary miracles of Jesus part of the same ancient tradition, learned during Christ's precocious childhood in Egypt.
Whether or not we believe in the literal truth of these particular accounts, over the years so many otherwise reliable witnesses have testified to healing "miracles" that it seems presumptuous to dismiss them all as fabrications. Based on the material presented in this book, I suggest Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief" until we understand healing better. Shamans apparently once served at least some of their patients well, and still do where they survive on the fringes of the industrial world. Magical medicine suggests that our search for the healing power isn't so much an exploration as an act of remembering something that was once intuitively ours, a form of recall in which the knowledge is passed on or awakened by initiation and apprenticeship to the man or woman of power.
Sometimes, however, the secret needn't be revealed to be used. Many psychic healers have been studied, especially in the Soviet Union, whose gift is unconscious, unsought, and usually discovered by accident. One who demonstrated his talents in the West was Oskar Estebany. A Hungarian Army colonel in the mid-1930s, Estebany noticed that horses he groomed got their wind back and recovered from illnesses faster than those cared for by others. He observed and used his powers informally for years, until, forced to emigrate after the 1956 Hungarian revolution, he settled in Canada and came to the attention of Dr. Bernard Grad, a biologist at McGill University. Grad found that Estebany could accelerate the healing of measured skin wounds made on the backs of mice, as compared with controls. He didn't let Estebany touch the animals, but only place his hands near their cages, because handling itself would have fostered healing. Estebany also speeded up the growth of barley plants and reactivated ultraviolet-damaged samples of the stomach enzyme trypsin in much the same way as a magnetic field, even though no magnetic field could be detected near his body with the instruments of that era.
The types of healing we've considered so far have trance and touch as common factors, but some modes don't even require a healer. The spontaneous miracles at Lourdes and other religious shrines require only a vision, fervent prayer, perhaps a momentary connection with a holy relic, and intense concentration on the diseased organ or limb. Other reports suggest that only the intense concentration is needed, the rest being aids to that end. When Diomedes, in the fifth book of the Iliad, dislocates Aeneas' hip with a rock, Apollo takes the Trojan hero to a temple of healing and restores full use of his leg within minutes. Hector later receives the same treatment after a rock in the chest fells him. We could dismiss these accounts . . .
Excerpted from The Body Electric by Robert Becker Copyright © 2006 by Robert Becker. Excerpted by permission.
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