Esoterism and medicine


As this is a controversial issue, under the current health crisis, many opinions have taken off about the measures taken, and many others about alternative measures. Both in the cases of religious and magical belief, it is not a simply useless act, as one might think in modern society: for the faithful religious or the practitioner of magic, their belief is something real and important, and it has an effect, sometimes despite its retardation or invisibility, its unprovability, in the individual - and this cannot be freely criticized - especially at a psychological, mental and spiritual level. There is no point in stripping someone of a symbol that has great emotional or spiritual value, if it will make them feel uplifted or keep them motivated. However, from an objective point of view, belief cannot take precedence over safety or health, since, even from the point of view of magical thinking, magic always has a psychological rather than a physical effect.

In many religious and mystical contexts, illness is seen as divine tests, paths, and even punishments. Others allude to spiritual imbalances, or to know the deepest and most universal causes of the existence of diseases, in an almost mysterious sense. Often faith or this type of belief prevents proper healing, especially when any treatment is denied; Other times, believers say, religious/esoteric therapies have a greater effect than scientific medicine, although the most common is that the efficiency of scientific medicine is admitted, supported by divine force and/or the spirit of the believer, as well as his mental strength.

However, the problem seems to be the impossibility of uniting science and belief in a balance that is demonstrably much more inclined towards the former, especially in critical situations. Why, then, the return to the traditional, including the beliefs?

In the mouth of Peregrín Gutierrez (2003):

<<The main reasons for the important boom in the West of these medicines are, apparently, discontent with conventional socialized medicine that has become mass and technified, while it arouses more and more misgivings due to its errors and limitations -above all, therapeutic, Well, it could be colloquially said that almost everything is diagnosed and only what can be cured is cured-, and its breach of expectations generated>>

This situation of religious and esoteric preposition or combination -on which we are going to focus- is not something new, but rather has been repeated numerous times whenever episodes of illness or danger have taken place. It must be said that there are various ways of dealing with them, so to speak, which will be analyzed here simply and respectfully, but also logically. Since this blog is a communication and learning project that intends to have a certain academic cut, it will try to show, without major criticism so as not to harm sensitivities, a preferably objective point of view in this regard; It goes without saying, therefore, that no conspiracy or seer issues will be discussed. The fact that astrologically the planets Mars (war), Neptune (fear) and Pluto (death) have certain positions, and that this is considered linked to the current situation, does not imply in any way that it is its direct cause, nor does it offers any solution. Even taking astrology for science, planetary conjunctions have taken place on many occasions without the predicted devastating effects: once again, it is worth remembering that in the esoteric environment the psychological predominates over the physical. On the other hand, conspiracy theories and the arrival of a cosmic New Era, although astronomically they can comply with certain laws, do not enter in any case into the possibilities of analysis, since they are neither the objective of this text, nor do they share, hardly, a relationship each other.

Probably, if we were to analyze the places or situations where it can be used, a key to this would be social differences: those with less training or knowledge will try to cling to what is closest to them or their own, while those with more information are more willing to follow scientific guidelines. This case is not, to a certain extent, reprehensible. The ideal would be to bring truthful information to the entire population, but in dramatic moments there are always opportunists and radicals willing to make a profit, from those who preach their religion as superior and condemn death by disease to the faithful of another, who are charged for esoteric services for this purpose in an indiscriminate and scavenger way. On the use of esotericism for illegal economic purposes there will be a complete article, because unfortunately it deserves it. However, the use of amulets or superstitious acts cannot be denied if they do not represent a real impediment to the medicinal function or praxis. And the use of such symbols is not exclusive to any class or social setting, rather, like beliefs, they can be found in all of them. In this way it is demonstrated that the belief is not exclusive to social sectors considered less educated, rather, it permeates all of them at different levels.

Also coming from different social strata we find the use of traditional medicine. By traditional medicine should be understood the set of knowledge and practices, based on experience or belief, with positive ends for health. Sometimes framed within esotericism, these two fields of action must be distinguished, then, that of palpable experience, and that of belief.

Within the palpable experience we would find medicinal herbs, massage techniques or specific therapies whose efficacy can be demonstrated, as they are also generally common components, related and compatible with modern medicine. For example, certain herbs that are used in traditional medicine in infusions or plasters are components of current medicines; likewise, in some cases, doctors accept the use of clays for certain dermatological or muscular injuries, due to its ability to drain or keep the area cold. Well-performed massages help joint and muscle recovery. Aromatherapy also exists regarding the psychic recovery. Therapies with glass suction cups, to cite another case, continue to be used in certain sectors for muscle distension or blood circulation, although they are made of approved and modern materials. Sweat lodges and saunas have also been shown to have positive effects on fevers, sweating, respirations... However, all this should not limit the acceptance of scientific medicine, since there are things that cannot be achieved alone. with these techniques. In the specific case of COVID-19, Suanghuanglian, an herbal remedy based on a herbal compound that was said to counteract the effects of the virus, ran out of stock in China. Despite the misgivings shown by doctors, many of the supporters in hospitals are phytotherapy specialists. In Iran these remedies have been well received. In Zimbabwe, the government itself has agreed that citizens can resort to traditional medicine and that these remedies are prescribed almost officially. In many places in Latin America, the population also adopted traditional measures for the prevention of the disease. And this is not bad, as long as it is an acceptable complement. We will cite the introduction by Umar Faruk Adamu (2013) regarding the non-existence of this dichotomy between traditional and modern medicine, which we find synthetic:

<<Medical practice today is a culminations of man's quest for health through the ages, which has been built up in various societies and at various times. In essence, the dicothomy between modern and traditional medicine is almost artificial. What is called modern medicine was originally traditional. The history of medicine is therefore a review of acomplishments and errors, the evolution of man and human knowledge down the edges, and of the ever-changing concepts, goals and objectives of medicine in the course of time. This has proceeded by stages, with advances and halts. It has taken the wisdom of many peoples and gleaned from their traditional cultures, and later, from biological and natural sciences, and more recently, from social, behavioural and genetic sciences. >>

However, this does not allow free use of these techniques. Medicinal plants, in uncontrolled doses, can cause toxicity and adverse effects, allergies... Massages must be known and controlled, otherwise they could lead to something worse, such as worsening an injury or even spreading a disease through healthy areas.

On the other hand, there would be the belief. Here the traditional philosophies that share a thought about health come into play, which is why they are sometimes within traditional medicine, but they are not always accepted, and their main reason is not mistrust or the impossibility of demonstration, but rather they are that, philosophies, beliefs, ways of thinking. The ideas about the chakras, or the elements, although linked to notions regarding the vital organs, sometimes coincide in their massage or phytotherapy treatments, and others, the majority, are related to astrological, gemological, elemental or energetic ideas that , except when they are combined with physical exercise and food, they would not have physical effects beyond direct psychosomatic consequences that depend on the degree of acceptance and belief of the person affected. Reiki or Ayurveda would enter here. Acupuncture would be in an intermediate state, since sometimes it shares correct medicinal elements for the treatment of certain ongoing pains. However, traditional philosophies can have remarkable psychological effects when it comes to breathing techniques and thinking changes.

The much discussed homeopathy is among these remedies sometimes considered esoteric, despite the fact that its definition does not fit that either, and sometimes links its methods to traditional herbal medicine, although its techniques are completely different: generally distillation and dissolution, or even the sun exposure of the plants, as in the case of Bach Flowers. In addition to underdosing, overdosing, and the use of "active" ingredients that are not usually active, "magical" examples of how similar affects similar, based, for example, on the shape of certain foods with shapes of vital organs, -often without taking into account the specific properties of said foods that can affect the individual's dietary and hormonal level-, have often been shown to be more dangerous than barely innocuous. The cures attributed to homeopathy, apart from those that share something with traditional medicine, partly effective, are usually due to the natural healing, without any drug, of the immune system itself, as well as the placebo effect and the therapeutic-psychological effect that it can cause in a person the fact of finding alternatives to a medication; however, more often than not, this "abandonment" of medication in serious illnesses tends to have a positive effect in that the side effects of the medication cease, while the disease continues latent and without really being treated. Claims of cure are all the more worthless if the patient in question has not abandoned the treatment recommended by his non-homeopathic physicians. How to attribute healing only to homeopathy? Faced with all this, the scientific community gives the patient freedom to believe and proceed as they prefer, however, it urges homeopaths, as well as any other person responsible for alternative medicine therapies, to be honest and consistently inform their patients of what they are (or are not) taking and doing.

With esotericism we enter rocky ground, but inevitable, especially with the boom that they have suffered in a very short period of time. However, these methods have nothing to do with homeopathy, although they are often linked or confused. Actually the esoteric and religious remedies are precisely the most recognizable of their action by belief and faith. Citing examples, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, in Mexico and other places in South America, esoteric candles for health and work purposes have become a precious and scarce commodity. To what extent does a candle have an effect on illness, outside of belief or spiritual support? It would be a critical point of struggle with faith and science, where faith, in the tangible, has no solution but to wait. However, as in the previous case, attributing someone's health or healing exclusively to one of these objects or rituals can be dangerous. The use of crystals, usually cut, has also become popular throughout the West. It takes into account its color, its hardness, its origin... each mineral has a meaning associated with its use in antiquity. Its carving and shape are linked to different functions, in general, the absorption or dispersion of energies, and to perceptions of self-knowledge. Once again, they can be accepted as amulets that do no harm, but not as elements that by themselves eliminate physical affectations. In the same way, spells or prayers can have an effect seen exclusively for the person, also in psychological cases; Mantras have also enjoyed a rise in popularity, as mental and physical strengtheners, in cases where they appear linked to energy beliefs and those of the chakras, but abandon yourself to it exclusively, especially when the information about it reaches For the majority of people it is a social, cultural and advertising transformation that can destroy the bases that contained true traditional medicine - or rather, philosophy -, it is, for the physical aspect, very little useful.

Except in cases of fanaticism, esotericism and religion are not usually closed to scientific help, rather, they consider that, in part, they have a lot to do with it; some believers postulate science as a path opened by God; Others consider the occult sciences as unprovable sciences, but not for that reason confronted with demonstrable science - but when talking about occult sciences, let's not forget that we are touching points other than esotericism, always focused on spiritual practice. This does not mean that it continues to pose a health risk to turn beforehand in the search for an elementary sanatorium ritual, or in prayers or prayers to saints, gods or spirits, -which, we insist, can have proven effects (good and bad) on psychological and psychosomatic level - rather than the search for medicine or proven body protection. Safety and health, after all, depends on the measures that the person takes, which cannot be defined by any external entity.

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada - pietrocarracedo@gmail.com


-Kayne, Stephen B. Traditional medicine: a global perspective. Pharmaceutical Press, 2010

-MacKenzie, Deborah. A. Physical Therapy and Esoteric Healing, Can These Paradigms Overlap? Michigan State University. Department of Health and Humanities, 2000

-Peregrín Gutiérrez, F. ; Tradición, magia, esoterismo y moda de las medicinas alternativas. Revista de libros Nº73, 2003

-Umar Faruk Adamu; Modern and traditional medicine: conflicts and reconciliation. Safari books Ltd. 2013 Ibadan (Nigeria)

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