Monday, August 16, 2004

Last post, so general, WCW wouldn't approve. Here's a more specific approach, by example, of the thing:

Da Mo: “If you want to look for help, to be healed, look inside yourself, not to medicine.” 1000, 1200 years ago? He said this because medicines have side effects, even those of the variety which work. Treating illness thusly is, by definition, unbalanced. Better to go to the source of the problem.

We feel what we do for a reason. A headache is a signal of something. So is an infection. So is almost all non-acute-injury-related illness and pain. Taking aspirin for a headache is like muffling a smoke alarm when it goes off. Better you should first find out why it is going off. Take care of that and it will stop. Too much time in front of the computer? Better you go rest your eyes on something else. Taking the aspirin to relieve the pain means later on, some greater discomfort—serious eye strain, I don’t know what, only that something—will become the alarm. Obviously this chain of events doesn’t lead to anything mortal, but you can see where such a pattern leads when you start taking antibiotics and compromising your body’s immune system. Attend to your health like you do to a poem, is my thought. And with the difficult developments, as long as you are alive you can walk it back to health with concentration and love and an underestanding of qi.

This is not faith-based healing. It is not religious, it is philospohical. Faith is not necessary, and many people of various faiths do use it. It is consciousness-based, and when I say philisophical I mean nothing much more complicated than the natural law signified by the taiji (yin-yang) symbol.

What do you think are the things that distinguish philosophical healing FROM faith-based healing? I understand, with all the perjorative dialogue that springs up around faith-healing practices, that one would want to separate the two...but what are the underlying distinctions?

For people who practice faith healing (although “practice” may be the wrong word) there is also a similar recognition of something being off-kilter, some “root” cause of which pain/disease are mostly effects. It’s just that, for them, the cause is a spiritual disconnection between the will of god and their own lifestyle. The body’s pain is a symbol of imbalance or “wrongness” in the relationship with god and, compared to what you’ve said above, someone who espouses faith-healing might bring themselves to a state where healing is possible by attempting to cultivate understanding of what god wants from them (compared to understanding what the body/natural world wants from them), by improving their concentration/ability to listen or perceive, by praying, etc.

In some ways, it seems similar to me. I suppose I am just curious, sometimes, as to why it's so easy to dismiss faith-healing as something disjunctive from understanding/philosophy.
It’s a good question. I’ll do my best to parse out why.

Basically, the difference is this: let’s say you want to run the Boston Marathon and win. Faith may play a part in your eventual victory, from what I understand many athletes feel they would not be able to do what they do without God and a relationship with him. But none of them would be able to win, no matter how strong their faith, if they spend all their time praying to win, and not practicing.

So I make the distinction as a matter of mechanism, not judgement, first of all.

Secondly, I wanted to be sure it was understood this system does not involve forfeiture of any belief system a person may already have, nor does it request/require the attendant social strife, isolation, and re-forming of self which I understand accompany such ruptures.

The way you describe faith healing is not what I understand to be faith healing (which I would argue is a specific term, separate from the general activity of healing through faith), which is (again, as I understand it never having experienced it) a matter of instantaneous rapture and the laying on of hands. To be frank, there are lots of fakers, many who use the word ‘qigong’ as well as many who use the word ‘God.’ I wanted to be clear that this system works if you can relax and visualize and be calm, even if you don’t believe, per se, that it will. If you believe this apple won’t nourish you, and eat it, well, it still will. Your belief may have an impact on digestion or satisfaction or some other part of the process but it will interact with the reality, not create it. And I thought that was an important distinction.

To be honest, the manner in which you describe faith healing is not very different from what I’m talking about except for the details, which are as important as the difference between e=mc^2 and actually achieving nuclear fusion—again, not a value judgement, but a statement of mechanism.

So I guess I’d say yes, in a sense what we each have in mind have great similarities, but that similar is not the same, and that when discussing similar things it’s important to draw distinctions to be sure those you are in conversation with know you are talking about one thing and not the other.

caveat: It’s a difficult question to answer not in conversation but I’m trying. Please ask more if this is unsatisfactory. I’d like to get a better answer than this, but I figure timeliness is better than perfection.

And I just saw the thrust of your last paragraph, I'll try an idea real quick: because faith can be extremely powerful and good, but when it is it is probably a quiet personal thing. When faith is in the service of the delusional (too many examples to point to, use your imagination, or the newspaper, or the history of cults etc) it is a public drama, and seriously ugly. Also, there really are lots of people who think they can heal on faith simply with belief and can't, and make it rough for those who can, I imagine, to get the good word out. A qigong saying I've heard says something like "there are as many fake qigong masters as blades of grass, but a true one is as rare as_____" (I forget what they are as rare as, but it's pretty rare.)

Again, to emphasize, I do not mean to impugn anyone's faith or to belittle or insult the concept of faith--I was just drawing a distinction I considered important.
That was pretty longwinded. The short answer is: qi.
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