Saturday, January 17, 2009

Healing...for a Price

Near the end of last year over at the Diary of a Daoist Hermit, Bill Hulet wrote a very thorough post on Miracles Explained. I quote a snippet below and then expand on one aspect of "miracles" that has always troubled me.
First of all, it is really important to understand the role that trickery has played in traditional spirituality. Any society that values holy men is bound to create a reason why people would want to mascarade as them. People want to believe, and if they do, they are quite willing to give wealth, power, and other forms of gratification to anyone that they believe has some sort of pipeline to God. And the quickest way to get people to believe that you are the "real deal" is to manifest some sort of super power. And the easiest way to do this is through some form of trickery. For example, take a look at this Christian evangelist who has already been exposed. I suspect that a great many of the miracles that have been presented in religious literature really boil down to this sort of thing---even if was not much more than a shaman figuring out how to confuse his followers with false teeth that he whittled out of basswood (complete with fangs and designed to show that he had transformed into a half-man/half-animal) and a bullroarer that he swung around his head to make an unearthly sound.
I want to start out by stating that I don't necessarily believe in miracles or faith healing. I'm not saying they don't exist or they aren't possible; only that I have, thus far, not seen enough evidence to support my belief in them.

However, if such things indeed are possible, then I would look at each conceivable example to see what the miracle worker or faith healer sought to get out of the experience.

For one thing, anyone who conducts miracles in a casual manner would, in my book, be a charlatan. We've each seen these quacks on TV or the internet. They easily move from person to person casting out devils or relieving the afflicted of their negative energy.

If a person was to have the ability to channel the healing force of a God or Tao, it's really hard for me to believe it wouldn't knock them flat on their backs for awhile. It's hard for me to fathom that it would not overwhelm their own biological systems and that they would not need a respite to recharge their battery.

Anyone who has ever received a worldly electrical shock knows what I'm referring to. It happened to me once in my teens when I -- inadvertently, of course -- tried to unplug a vacuum cleaner while coming in contact with a slight amount of water I did not see in our front hallway.

Even though this shock was very short-lived, it literally knocked me off my feet! My entire right arm felt fuzzy for several minutes and even my brain felt like, well, I can't really describe it in words. Yet here I am, over 35 years later, and I can still remember the unpleasant sensation.

So, if having a few volts run through my body for a few brief seconds felt so powerful, what would it feel like to have the power of the universe run through one's body in order to heal someone? Me thinks it would be a very powerful force indeed and not something a person could dispense lightly!!

Beyond how it is done, another consideration for me is where. Do you go to serve the afflicted where they are or do you make them come to you?

It's always amazed me that these supposed healers feel compelled to hold their "miracle" events in huge auditoriums or stadiums under the glare of TV lights. It's not like they don't know where the poor and disheveled reside.

I don't think I've ever heard of a case in which one of one these "healers" just showed up on the streets of Watts, the mountain towns of Appalachia or the slums of India. They aren't found in leper colonies, AIDS hospices or hospitals. No, it's all about making a public show and that's a good reason alone to assume it's a sham.

Finally, along with the how and where, I want to know what sort of economic considerations are expected for this "service". It's interesting to note that most evangelical faith healers are doing quite well, thank you. They seem to see nothing wrong at all with pocketing a few hundred thousand or million dollars.

For me, this is the easiest of the dead giveaways. If a person genuinely possessed the ability to heal the sick and raise the dead, then its more than obvious that they would be nothing more than a conduit for the supreme entity. In other words, the miracle would not originate from their hands; their hands would simply be the vessel.

As the conduit, it would be vulgar and immoral to accept monetary compensation for the work of someone/thing else -- a God or Tao. Not only would such a person refuse any type of compensation, but they would most likely tell the thankful to donate it to the Red Cross or the next homeless person met on the street.

So, in the Tao of The Rambling Taoist, if someone a) performs miracles in a casual manner, b) they do it as a public spectacle and/or c) they're more than willing to accept any money you wish to give them, then such person is an outright fraud and you should get far away from them.

Since that 3-part definition sums up every miracle worker or faith healer I've ever heard of, I remain unconvinced that such people truly exist.


  1. Such people exist. They go quietly about their business seeking to find ways to harness the energy of the Tao for anyone who needs it. They are not always successful but many times they are and they never seek thanks, recognition or other compensation for what they do. Most of the time it is not anything big like feeding the multitudes but something simpler like holding the hand of a lonely child and letting them know that there is love in the world. Sometimes it is as simple as a smile for a stranger that is troubled and feeling alone in the world. Real miracles don't fit into something you can measure with a ruler or a scale.

  2. I agree with the general tenor of your comment. I do believe that simple "miracles" happen daily.

    I suppose in my post I meant the more dramatic, awe-inspiring kind. You know, the kinds that seem to defy the laws of physics and biology. Those are the kinds that I've seen no evidence of.


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