The occult is full of healing practices. New Age believers emphasize all sorts of approaches to medical care, including everything from crystal healing to creative visualization. So why does there seem to be a link between natural health and the occult. This link is particularly disturbing for people who reject New Age and occult beliefs but find benefit in some of their healing techniques. First, health and spirituality have always been closely connected. Consider how many people pray for healing. Religions around the world often offer explanations for disease and injury and possible ways for the believer to be restored. Acupuncture is a great example. An ancient Chinese therapeutic practice, acupuncture is predicated on a Chinese spiritual belief that there is a universal energy called qi (sometimes spelled chi) running through all living beings.

Qi travels along certain well-defined highways in the body, and acupuncture helps unblock traffic jams. Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in the existence of a soul rather than qi. That is, the soul is a unique supernatural entity that each of us possesses; there is no universal energy. In other words, my soul does not equal your soul. Clinical studies have been equivocal about the results of acupuncture, but there is no doubt that it has found many adherents in the West who are convinced that it works. There are even acupuncturists in this country who offer the therapy but reject its underlying foundation of qi energy.

For some ardent believers in both Christianity and acupuncture, acupuncture offers good results that are not contingent on accepting its ancient Chinese spiritual roots. Yoga may be harder for Christians to justify, in that yoga originated as a spiritual discipline for Hindus and not physical exercise. In the West, we have repurposed it into exercise class. True yoga was never intended to be anything but a method to advance Hindu spirituality.

To the ardent Hindu practitioners, the fact that yoga offers some physical benefits is incidental to its greater spiritual benefits. In fact, some Hindu yogis object to the distortion of their practice by the West. Then consider some of the more extreme practices, like Reiki energy healing, aura reading, crystal healing, and past-life regression therapy. These techniques are based on nonscientific premises. There is no doubt that many people have practiced or experienced these techniques and reported benefits. But for a person whose religion does not allow for reincarnation or whose holy books do not advocate manipulation of energy fields, these become spiritual challenges. In truth, Americans are often spiritual contortionists with a buffet-table approach to religious practices, such that we can take a few from one religion and a few from another and merge them more or less harmoniously in our own mind. However, a genuine and sincere commitment to a certain belief system involves not just adhering to that belief but rejecting the beliefs that go against it.

When considering natural health remedies and techniques, evaluate their underlying premises and what they ask you to believe. If a natural health practitioner tells you that she can use Tarot cards to diagnose your illness, she is asking you to believe that Tarot cards can predict the future. This may (or may not) compromise your beliefs. On the other hand, if another natural health advocate tells you that chewing a piece of candied ginger can calm your upset stomach, he is asking that you belief that a plant extract can relieve dyspepsia. That is not likely to compromise anyone’s beliefs.

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