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A Healing Tale

How to Order by Jay Kinney

About two years ago I had just made it through an unusually grueling magazine production deadline. As sometimes happens, things had gone amiss, and I found myself gritting my teeth at the keyboard while grimly taking care of business for several days in a row. Soon I found my forearms aching as if the muscles between my wrists and elbows were knotted tightly.

My doctor diagnosed it as "tennis elbow" (although I don't play tennis) and suggested soaking my arms in warm water periodically and taking a mild muscle relaxer. This did not seem to help. I was beginning to suspect that I had a budding case of repetitive stress disorder or carpal tunnel syndrome, and was filled with dread over the prospect of months of forced inactivity or even costly operations. Thus I was open to alternative healing methods beyond the scope of conventional Western medicine.

A friend suggested I visit an elderly acupuncturist in San Francisco's Chinatown who had effected miraculous cures in similar cases. I traipsed downtown to his hole-in-the-wall second floor office which featured a large refrigerator in the waiting room. The Chinese doctor didn't speak English, so I had to explain my symptoms to a daughter over the phone who then translated for me. That done, he walked over, deftly jabbed a few needles in my arms, twisted them a bit, and had me sit like so for fifteen minutes. Then he removed the needles, wrote out a long mysterious prescription for herbs in Chinese, and sent me off to a nearby Chinatown herbalist. At the herbalist I stared at bowls of dried seahorses and obscene-looking roots while a clerk prepared a bag full of goodies for me to boil. I drank the strong mixture at set intervals and hoped for the best. Results seemed minimal.

It wasn't until a fellow GNOSIS staff member, Jeff Chitouras, used his training in sound and color healing to treat me that my condition improved. Periodically Jeff would measure my pulses at different spots and at different depths and apply tuning forks to certain acupuncture nodes on my arms and elsewhere. At first glance this seemed like a classic crackpot cure, and I wondered what I would do if the Amazing Randi walked through the door with a team of steel-eyed skeptics. Yet within 24 hours I could already feel some improvement, and over the course of several weeks' treatment my condition slowly departed. Finally it was gone and hasn't returned since.

This happy result does not mean that Jeff's training (previously discussed at some length in his article "Esoteric Sound & Color" in GNOSIS #27) is the new miracle cure-all. As Richard Grossinger notes in his article in this issue, different healing modalities seem to work better for different people, and some not at all. But my healing by unconventional means has made me far more interested in the field than I was before. In this I am not alone.

Healing is well on its way to becoming the New Age preoccupation of the '90s. This is not surprising considering the concern over the AIDS epidemic, the growth in environmental allergies, and the generally increased awareness of health and nutrition issues. In fact, it may well be that support for healing is the one issue that transcends all our spiritual and religious boundaries. Few of us are likely to argue against the urgency of the injunction to "Feed the hungry, heal the sick." Presumably this is not a command to open a fast-food franchise or to become a plastic surgeon. Rather it refers to the starkly simple goal of lessening the suffering in the world.

Sometimes the simplest tasks turn out to be the hardest, however. Despite the plethora of healing methodologies now available, there seems to be just as much suffering as ever. Ironically, our ever-expanding capacity to discover the roots of disease and ill health in nearly everything we eat or do assures that new modes of distress and dis-ease are ever on the increase! Thus we come to the sage advice, "Healer, heal thyself," which recognizes that most efforts to set others' lives straight are doomed to failure if our own lives are chaotic and ill-conceived.

Healing, which is essentially an embrace of wholeness, must begin with oneself. Unfortunately, the concern with well-being can easily fall prey to its own distortions. It is not hard to see the fixation with physical well-being (encompassing everything from 24-hour Nautilus clubs to anti-smoking ordinances) as a poorly masked fear of death. Similarly, the fixation with psychological well-being (ranging from the New Age doctrine of "you create your own reality" to incessant therapy-shopping among the well-heeled) often stems from a hidden fear of the uncontrollable. Longevity, self-esteem, and abundance are worthy goals, but common sense tells us that sooner or later we're all going to die and we can't take these things with us.

As it turns out, many of today's alternative healing practices derive from teachings that were formerly the province of esoteric traditions. When practiced as part of a wider spiritual world view, such practices help in the balancing of inner and outer well being. Their concern with the whole human in dynamic relation to the whole universe tends to pull practitioners back towards their center of being and away from the precipice of neurotic onesidedness.

Nearly all traditions of esoteric spirituality have long taught that there is more to a human than merely a physical body and a brain. According to these teachings, we have subtle "bodies" of a higher energy or rate of vibration coexisting with and interpenetrating our physical body. All of these bodies are the conduits for the flow of a life force (variously referred to as prana, qi (or chi), odic force, Orgone energy, or the Mumia of Paracelsus) whose free passage and circulation assure's one's health. Conversely, the blocking or diversion of the life force can result in disease, ill health, or premature aging.

There are different models of these systems, but whether they involve the meridians of Chinese acupuncture, the chakras and kundalini of Indian yoga, the latifas of Sufism, or the kabbalistic mapping of the Tree of Life onto the human body, it seems likely that these models do not so much contradict each other as provide slightly different entríes into the same subtle realms. In light of this, we present articles in this issue on reflexology, Chi Nei Tsang, psychic healing, animal totems, and an Italian hermetic healing order which all address these realms.

Insofar as these healing methods engage with an expanded definition of the body and self, the healer as an individual should also be viewed in this expanded manner. As a localized network of energy flow, the healer engages with the patient as another site of energy flow. Obviously, though, the source of the energy and the framework within which this occurs lies beyond the mere individuals involved. Furthermore, much healing can be done at the subtle levels of energy and flow without having to construct too complex a metaphysics to explain it. In the fullest sense, however, healing doesn't proceed from the healer as such but from a higher (and broader) spiritual source. As Barbara Brennan says in her interview in this issue, the recognition of this higher source and of the healer as a channel for it is the earmark of spiritual healing.

The practice of prayer (either for healing or for other reasons, including contemplation) has traditionally taken this idea for granted, although prayer has often been reduced by rote observance into a rigid formula devoid of any depth, as if the magical chanting of certain words were sufficient in itself. Father Thomas Keating's work with Centering Prayer, also spotlighted in this issue, is a notable example of an effort to deepen the practice of prayer, which can then reemerge as a means for the individual to rediscover his or her wholeness and interconnectedness with life.

In contrast to nearly all of the foregoing articles, which implicitly endorse traditional knowledge, John Wren-Lewis's piece in this issue rounds things out by questioning the relevance of traditional conceptions of the spiritual path. Wren-Lewis's spontaneous experience of wholeness, or gnosis, as the result of a nearly fatal illness challenges us to consider whether most efforts towards personal growth or evolution aren't self-defeating since they often build upon the illusion of a separate individual to begin with.

Such considerations bring us to the ultimate question raised by this issue. Namely: "who is being healed and who is doing the healing?" If we are not really who our constricted egos like to think we are and if the healer is not the ultimate source of healing, then what is going on? I'm still puzzling this one out and I invite you to do the same. All I know is that my arms no longer ache!

(c) copyright 1994 by Jay Kinney

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