The injection of Shamanism, Buddhism, and Psychic Healing into Mainstream Medical Care
By Marcia Montenegro, April 2010
A circular advertising several yoga classes (including Vinyasa Yoga, in which one asana flows into another), two Tai Chi classes, and one Qi Gong class arrived in my mail. This pamphlet was sent out by a company that owns and runs a large hospital in my area. Eleven of the 17 classes offered in the category of “Fitness” fall into the Eastern/New Age category.
The description under Qi Gong invites the reader to “Learn simple movements to cultivate chi (life force energy) to help you relax your body and mind, heighten your sense of well being, reduce stress, support your immune system and attain your greatest potential for health and happiness.” (The explanation of “life force energy” is part of their description and was not inserted by this writer). Qi Gong is not medically based, but rather has a spiritual foundation.
Kissing the Qi: Qi Gong and Tai Chi
Qi (also spelled “ch’i” or “ki”) is from the ancient Chinese religion of Taoism. Taoism had its origins in early Chinese Shamanism. These early Shamans believed there was a force in the universe, in nature, and within them. By cultivating the force within (qi or ch’i) through various exercises, movements, special diets and herbs, breathing exercises, and meditation (altered states), they believed they could enhance their life force and be healthier and live longer. Some even taught that you could attain immortality. The exercises were also used for divination (http://www.chikung-unlimited.com/Shamanic.html)This is the origin of Qi Gong (also spelled Chi Kung).
“Chinese shamans used these exercises and meditations to commune with nature and natural forces and to increase their powers of healing and divination” (Kenneth S. Cohen, “What is Qigong?” http://www.qigonghealing.com/qigong/qigong.html). Qi Gong was absorbed into Taoism: “Qigong was the ideal way for Taoists to realize their goal of wuji, an empty, alert, boundless state of consciousness, and xing ming shuang xiu, ‘spirit and body cultivated in balance'” (Cohen). There was no centralized authority or doctrine, so the teachings of Qi Gong and Taoism spread over the centuries via many teachers and an abundance of textual writings, spawning numerous sects.
No matter where you look, Qi Gong consistently has a spiritual element: “Some of the ways Qigong can be used is; to move the qi internally to remove stagnation, to connect with and draw upon universal qi, to balance the qi both internally and externally, to release negative or harmful qi and cultivate positive qi” and “the basic common philosophy is that qi is inherent in everything in the universe, including humans (we are not as special as we like to think). When this qi or energy stagnates or becomes out of balance we become sick. When it is in balance and flows freely we live healthy and happy lives,”(http://www.greenmountaintaichi.com/Qigong.cfm).
The belief in yin and yang (or yinyang), which had been part of the early Chinese animism, became associated with and absorbed by Taoism. The Tao is ultimate reality in Taoism (there is no personal God) and it is from the Tao that everything comes via yin and yang. Yin and yang are the two essential forces that manifest the material realm and are part of everything that exists. Ch’i is a result of the interplay of Yin and Yang. Tai Chi, often called a “moving meditation,” is based on the belief in qi (ch’i). The National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine states that “Tai chi incorporates the Chinese concepts of yin and yang (opposing forces within the body) and qi (a vital energy or life force). Practicing tai chi is said to support a healthy balance of yin and yang, thereby aiding the flow of qi” (“Tai Chi: An Introduction,” http://nccam.nih.gov/health/taichi/).
Traditional Chinese medicine was based on the belief that the ch’i flows through invisible channels in the body called meridians. If the ch’i is disturbed, the yin and yang are imbalanced and illness results. Remedies for this included various herbs and practices such as acupuncture.
Qi Gong (or Chi Kung) is based on these beliefs, and is possibly one of the earliest byproducts of Chinese Shamanism. Some believe that Tai Chi is a form of Qi Gong. Qi Gong and Tai Chi, like Yoga, originally were esoteric teachings passed on from master to student/disciple. Qi Gong and Tai Chi are occult spiritual practices with no medical basis.
This is only a brief summary, as the teachings are very complex and beyond the scope of this essay.
Take a Dose of Mindfulness and Call Me in the Morning
In addition to Yoga and Qi Gong classes, hospitals around the country have taken on the teachings of Jon Kabat-Zinn (b. 1944), a Zen Buddhist (although he attended Quaker college Haverford). Kabat-Zinn started a mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. The headquarters for this training, now called the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, promotes and markets the MBSR program. This program, based on Buddhist beliefs and meditation, has inculcated its philosophy in over 200 medical centers, hospitals, and clinics around the world (http://www.mindfullivingprograms.com/whatMBSR.php). The influence of Kabat-Zinn cannot be underestimated; any search for his name on the Internet will bring forth thousands of links. He is perhaps the person most responsible for the spread of the ubiquitous term “mindfulness” in the United States.
“Mindfulness,” one of the teachings of the Buddhist eight-fold path, is cultivated via Buddhist mediation, a technique that induces altered states (the same as a light hypnotic trance). Mindfulness is based on the Buddhist belief that desire causes suffering; therefore, in order to escape the suffering in the cycle of rebirths, one must cultivate non-attachment in order to disengage from desire, which is a grasping at the illusion of self and life in this world (this is a weak attempt at summarizing a complex philosophy, but it gives the basic idea).
Mindfulness did not originate as a stress reduction technique, but was designed to foster and enhance Buddhist practice and a Buddhist worldview. To separate it from its religious context misleads those who are unaware of its Buddhist roots and purposes.
Psychic Nursing: Therapeutic Touch and Reiki
Therapeutic Touch is an energy healing practiced by a person holding hands over and scanning the body of another without touching. The roots of Therapeutic Touch (TT) are no mystery; they are straight out of the occult. Dora Kunz, one time president of the Theosophical Society, an occult organization founded by Madame Blavatsky in 1875, taught this then-esoteric healing technique to nurse Dolores Krieger, who subsequently took it to the nursing community at conferences and seminars. From there it spread via nurses into hospitals. Therapeutic Touch and psychic healing are identical; they are one and the same.
The next occult healing technique to invade the medical world was Reiki. Reiki, allegedly founded by Mikao Usui, a Tendai Buddhist in Japan, is another form of energy healing, although there is physical contact, unlike in TT. In order to be a healer of this esoteric practice, one must have the energy within one’s self “awakened” by a Reiki master. This inner awakening is ubiquitous in occult initiations.
There are three levels in traditional Reiki, and all are learned in secret fashion. Reiki has been somewhat deconstructed as it has flowed along the alternative healing paths, and many Reiki practitioners have wed it with New Age and occult practices such as having angelic or other spirit guides. Nurses can receive Continuing Education degrees for taking a Reiki course. Can you imagine a Continuing Education degree being offered to nurses for psychic or Tarot card readings on patients? Yet Reiki differs little from these; they all share an occult origin, nature, and worldview.
Some have observed that people’s blood pressure and heart rate goes down after a Reiki session, but this does not validate Reiki. The mere presence of someone who is expressing care and concern for the patient, coupled with the patient’s belief that this method may be helpful, is enough for such results to occur. This possibility has been noted as well. Therefore, there is still no evidence that Reiki has any actual effect in and of itself on making someone feel better. It has also been reported that some have felt nothing or even worse after a Reiki session.
Hospitals: Incubators of Shamanism?
Alternative/Complementary/Blended/Integrated healing has been rapidly infiltrating the medical world. These practices downgrade reason and science; instead, they offer a spiritual worldview whose basis is subjective and anecdotal rather than factual and objective. A huge impetus for this came when the alternative health-friendly National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine was established by the National Institutes of Health in 1993. This opened the door to a surge of spiritually-based practices, most of which cannot be scientifically tested because they are not based on objective data.
The situation might be less alarming if physicians and hospitals informed patients and prospective patients about the spiritual nature of these systems, and that there is very little or no evidence for their claims or value. However, this is not the case. Instead, these spiritually based methods are promoted in hospital literature, brochures, and by some medical staff, as though they are valid and harmless treatments.
One might think, “Well, the hospitals view Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong as merely physical, so it’s okay.” Even if hospitals have this opinion, it is an opinion only, and people should be informed that these traditions are of spiritual origin. Furthermore, people should be told that evidence for any effectiveness of these “exercises,” is, for the most part, ongoing and sketchy. Then let people make their own choices.
In the case of Reiki, there is no excuse for offering Reiki without disclosing that this is nothing more than a psychic “healing” method. Healing is big in the world of the occult, but the healing is based on magical and spiritual outlooks. Furthermore, if there are negative spiritual, mental, or physical repercussions, as has been reported by some, these effects will not necessarily be immediately observed, yet they will ultimately be experienced by the recipient. If hospitals and medical staff are truly concerned about patients, or even about being sued, they should err on the side of caution.
Are we welcoming a new Dark Age that values esoteric spirituality over objective data, when shamans will be our healers? These practices, once unknown to mainstream culture and the medical profession, are worming their way into the very heart of the medical world, which has rendered itself a willing and complicit victim.