The mistake of Western “scientific” thinking is that there is a singular truth – a singular answer that can be broken down into composite parts. The building blocks of Western civilisation have been ‘reductionist’ thought-forms in their observance and attitude.
‘Reductionism’ is a practice of describing complex phenomena by reduction to their fundamental parts. As a thought practice, it tends to lend itself to ‘black or white’ thinking. It’s not to say that reductionism is good or bad, only to say that it has its place, yet it is not the whole picture – the big picture (that which incorporates all perspectives and understandings).
Eastern wisdom has a more developed contemplative tradition and openness for mystical exploration. Some Eastern traditions have admittedly been somewhat ambiguous and amorphous – arguably, it’s the quirky and obscure parts that make for a relevant philosophy for life.
In “mainstream” Western Medicine and Science, a grain of arrogance and tendency to dismiss that which is not “scientifically proven” has developed. So-called science can even turn nasty and morph into bullying.
When that which is not understood is ruled out as hogwash, snake-oil or worse (even when frequently these ridiculed practices are completely harmless), one must pause and take notice.
There are many modalities that use mind-body interactions (well-proven by science) and relaxation therapies (most diseases and dysfunctions are empirically linked to stress). The ‘placebo effect’ is well-documented and has been part of our understanding of medicine for a long time. In the West, it is frequently the subject of mockery. The effect of the mind-body complex is not to be scoffed at. Placebo or mind-body interactions come when one thinks one is healing or getting better, which in turn creates that healing. It is simply ‘positive thinking’ as applied to health outcomes.
The combination of relaxation and optimism are potent forms of healing, and deserve complete respect and admiration. To sneer at “reflexology” as “unscientific” is simply to misunderstand the holistic nature of health, and importance of relaxation to one’s wellbeing.
I have heard radical disregard for completely harmless practices from yoga to juicing to qigong. These diatribes often completely defy common-sense. How is following a good diet crackpot or charlatan? Or taking kelp supplements harmful? How can green smoothies cause such derision! How many people have died doing a liver detox?
The harsh judgment of that which is less-understood, is actually absurd. It’s a completely disproportionate response to wellbeing practices, some of which have been used for thousands of years.
I am not promoting irresponsible behaviour. Just basic respect for all viewpoints, and the creation of a level playing field. Spending millions on drug trials that profit major pharmaceutical corporations is not evidence that a simple Qi Gong practice, used in China for thousands of years for health and longevity, is to be rubbished. Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack. Quite the contrary in regards to practices that have been perfected over millennia.
Belittling natural practitioners is a sign of fear and weakness, not strength. Whilst not everyone may understand long-practiced systems and philosophies like Aryuveda, TCM, Homeopathy and Naturopathy, they have their place, and these systems have helped many people historically.
Natural practitioners focus on supporting health – their focus is not the study of disease. Western-centric disease-focus has its place. It can be vitally important to have an accurate diagnosis, and lives can be saved by urgent mainstream medical treatment.
For the majority, it is lifestyle diseases that are the product of long-term poor habits. All of these habits are well-documented and scientifically proven, from stress as being the greatest cause of disease in the West, to the importance of sanitary hygiene, clean food and water, dietary factors, and exercise.
As thinking people, we should be open to any pathway that can improve health and happiness and reduce suffering of humankind. It does not serve the common good to label things we don’t understand as ‘quackery’ and people we don’t understand as ‘charlatans.’ A common ground is required.
In language and in all things, relativity is alive and well – each person has their own perception, their own unique truth, their own story to tell. That is the magic and mystery, the knowable and the unknowable.
Whilst one person suffering from stress or illness may resonate with yoga, another may resonate with meditation, and another with counselling by a friend of the family, and another, still. may find comfort from a family doctor. Truth is unique to each person and the search for truth is endless.
The belief in something is often its most powerful harbinger. That is neither a grand evil promoted by charlatans nor something to be feared. The primacy of the “placebo effect” has been shown repeatedly in the gold standard in science, double-blinded studies. So much so, that often the so-called medicine has little or no benefit beyond the placebo, with far fewer “side effects.”
Mainstream medicine does not claim that doctors who prescribe these “placebos” are snake-oil salesmen. That’s rather unkind. The placebo effect has been alive and well in healing and medicine since the dawn of time.
In any case, lack of evidence is not relevant to whether something actually works or not.
Because the money and power is behind Western pharmaceutical companies worth billions of dollars does not mean that a humble reflexologist is ineffective.
I am not promoting a blind non-thinking acceptance of all approaches, just an appeal for open-minded fairness, discernment and holism. Or in one word – ‘wisdom.’ In fact, I am deeply concerned by the media culture of health fads, celebrity diets, super foods with super powers, and the business of selling each new fad, appealing to people’s desperation, fantasy and wishful thinking.
Dismissing other thought-forms out of hand without careful observation and respect is denying a basic spiritual paradigm that all is valid. Each vibration has its own truth.
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Map Source: Arctic Council.
Graphic: Stephens, S.(2000) Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum, Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative, p. 7
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David G. Arenson (Starlight) – World Teacher, Transformational Healer and Speaker.