Faith Healing, Psychic Surgery, and Mediumship .
The System of Healng Used by the Filipino Espiritistas
The practice of faith healing, and psychic surgery in the Philippines has fascinated many Westerners since the first accounts by observers reached the outside world in the late 1950s prior to the onset of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) frameworks. The practice of psychic surgery by Filipino espiritistas (faith healers, who claim to communicate with discarnate entities), a technique of purportedly entering the human body with bare hands and without the use of anesthetics, defies the laws of medical science as they are currently understood. Serious study of psychic surgery has been neglected by mainstream academic and scientific communities, simply because the phenomenon lies far outside the generally accepted concepts and applications of allopathic medicine, the dominant form of medicine practiced in the West and in other industrialized cultures. Psychic surgeons are under constant scrutiny because people often cannot believe their own eyes when observing the phenomena and assume the practitioners are merely master magicians utilizing sleight-of-hand. In the West, this practice would commonly constitute fraud since the medical establishment does not recognize the use of therapeutic sleight-of-hand, which, at best, is considered to evoke a placebo or expectation effect resulting in positive outcomes. In spite of significant results of placebo surgeries performed in the early 1950s by Henry Beecher and Leonard Cobb and associates (cited in Harrington, 1977, p. 22), prior to increased ethical restraints in the United States, this practice has largely been scoffed at or ignored. However, the data will show that over the past half century, many patients continue to report remarkable recoveries at the hands of the psychic surgeons in the Philippines (Krippner, 1976; Krippner & Villoldo, 1976; Licauco,1977,1992,1999; Martin, 1998, 1999; McDowall, 1998; Sherman, 1966; Sladek, 1976; Stelter, 1976; Valentine, 1973). The earliest accounts of psychic surgery were published by curiosity -seeking laypersons in search of “fantastic and unusual” phenomena in Asia (Ormond & McGill, 1959). These early writings were followed in subsequent decades by publications that included speculations and theories by parapsychologists on this phenomenon and how it should be explained within academic and scientific communities. The data presented here have been compiled from popular books and scholarly articles written by parapsychologists, psychical researchers, anthropologists, and physicians, as well as practitioners of so-called New Age healing techniques and other professionals using complementary and alternative healing systems. The research on psychic surgery is troublesome for several reasons that involve conceptual problems of the application of either parapsychological concepts or mainstream scientific methods to a spiritually based practice. Theories of the psychokinetic displays of alleged healers include materialization, dematerialization, and teleportation, as well as esoteric speculations about energy transference. It is debatable whether the technology exists to test these theories put forth by psychical researchers such as Meek (1987), Stelter (1976), parapsychologist Krippner (1976), and others, regarding how the psychic surgeons are affecting people’s health and illness. "We must remind ourselves that to this day we do not possess any scientific tool—any detector—that can furnish us with direct proof of psychic energies or thought. The measure of electrical brain waves (EEG) in no way directly establishes thoughts and feelings, as laymen believe; it may indicate nothing more than secondary action." (Stelter, 1976, p. 215) The explanations that have been applied to the practice of psychic surgery range from the use of therapeutic sleight-of-hand producing a placebo effect (Krippner, 1976; Martin, 1998), or, on the other hand, to actual physical manipulations taking place through the spiritual body (Lampis, 1999), the hypothetical bioplasmic body (Sherman, 1966; Valentine, 1973), or in the so-called fourth dimension (Ormond & McGill, 1959). “Proponents point to controlled studies showing that humans are capable of both extrasensory perception (ESP) and of exerting psychokinetic (mind over matter) effects on objects and organisms” (Walsh, 1990, pp. 194-95). However, research outcomes based on scientific methods have generally been limited. An inclusive study will recognize that the practice of psychic surgery requires further research in the emerging field of complementary and alternative medicine, beginning with an accurate description of the Filipino espiritistas’ system of healing.