The respected Belfast-based physiotherapist Shea McAleer tweeted last week: "Does anyone know where I can enroll on a cure/faith healer course? This is quite popular currently among GAA club managers. A client with a G2 ankle syndesmosis went for 'a cure of the sprain' with a healer which didn't end well. 'Cure of the hamstring' seems popular too."
When the implacable Henry Downey was captain of Derry, he was struggling with an ankle injury and Eamonn Coleman, a devout christian, sent him to Brother Aloysius at Portglenone Monastery. The monk was a renowned 'healer' with supposed mystical powers. The fact that these healing powers had never been independently verified under laboratory conditions was neither here nor there.
The good brother laid hands on Henry, prayed with him, reassured him that God could see his goodness and that his faith would help to drive away the pain. He finished by sprinkling a liberal dose of holy water over the injured foot. After a few sessions, Henry arrived at the training one night and I asked him how did it go. He said: "He might as well have pissed on it."
We are being successfully conquered by ignoramuses and spoofers. It is, sad to say, impossible to underestimate the gullibility and stupidity of human beings. What the author Francis Wheen describes as the 'demolition merchants of reality' are all around us, earning eye-watering fees for being nice, reassuring, flattering and absolutely unscientific.
From life gurus (unlocking your mind's hidden potential) to shaman (unlocking your body's hidden potential), the market in gullibility is booming as never before. All of this guff, from bio-energy healing to TV evangelism, from shamanism to homeopathy, from faith healing to life coaching depends on the same unprovable, superficially attractive theory that with faith in a mysterious parallel universe (and a substantial injection of money) we can, with the help of the guru, defeat sickness, become wealthy and live the perfect life.
"Your mindset is your secret weapon," screams Michael O'Doherty's website. Michael, who modestly describes himself as "a pioneer in the field of healthcare", is Ireland's "foremost" bio-energy healer. He explains that we fall ill "because the unseen world of energy and information around us is not in balance." He views science with some scepticism. Like all of the gurus of every ilk, facts are dubious and it is best to avoid them. Logic is over-rated.
Michael tells us: "People no longer need to be observers or passengers in their lives, guided by those whose vision of healthcare is limited by the obvious reality." Instead, with his pioneering enegy balancing therapies, "people can be in control and have a life without sickness."
This mantra that seems to say never mind those bastard doctors (ie consultant surgeons, doctors, oncologists, professors of genetics and the likes) who tell you you are terminally ill with lung cancer, or that job interviewer who said you weren't qualified enough for the job. Come to us. We will be nice to you, teach you how to overcome everything by unlocking your hidden potential (including teaching your antibodies how to defeat the cancerous cells) and when it doesn't work, it's your fault because you didn't truly believe.
There is another fundamental pillar of the bullshit artists: That you and you alone are responsible for your health, wealth and happiness. It is a cruel and merciless con, and the ultimate absolution for the charlatans. Barbara Ehrenreich, in Smile or Die, recounts how when she was suffering from cancer, she became appalled at the efforts of 'alternative medicine' to cash in on the illness, the basic idea being that survival hinges on attitude and that only these quacks can show you how to unlock that attitude.
In her book, Ehrenreich sets out the heartbreaking letter from a cancer patient to her guru Deepak Chopra (the undisputed king of absurdity who became a billionaire after he told Oprah Winfrey that "people grow old and die because they have seen other people grow old and die. Ageing is simply learned behaviour." Which prompted one of his devotees, Demi Moore, to announce that she had decided she was going to live to 130). The woman, whose breast cancer had spread to her bones and lungs and who was now terminal, wrote to Chopra:
"Even though I follow the treatments, have come a long way in unburdening myself of toxic feelings, have forgiven everyone, changed my lifestyle to include meditation, prayer, proper diet, exercise, and supplements, the cancer has come back. Am I missing a lesson here that it keeps reoccurring? I am positive I am going to beat it, yet it gets harder with each diagnosis to keep a positive attitude."
Chopra wrote back to her: "As far as I can tell, you are doing all the right things to recover. You just have to continue doing them until the cancer is gone for good. I know it is discouraging to make great progress only to have it come back again, but sometimes cancer is simply very pernicious and requires the utmost diligence and persistence to overcome it."
If the reader is feeling queasy having read that, you should be.
Several years ago, a close friend's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a mastectomy and was very ill. A friend of the family suggested a bio-energy healer who had a huge reputation in the area. She duly went to see him. He shimmered his hands over her body without touching her, then hovered them over her breast area. He told her her energy was very strong and would be easily unlocked. After a half-hour treatment, he gave her some amazing news. "The cancer is gone now. We will work together on making sure it does not return." She left ecstatic. At her next three-monthly scan in hospital, she was distraught and confused when she was told that the cancer had progressed and was very aggressive. A year later she was dead.
Jo Bowlby, a financier turned shaman, is now the UK's shaman to the stars, operating out of a swish practice in Battersea. She trained to be a shaman in Peru with the Q'ero tribe, who are illiterate, use symbols to communicate and regularly get shitfaced on ayahusca (aka DMT), one of the most powerful hallucinogenic drugs known to man and one of the most dangerous Class A prescribed drugs.
She describes them as 'master herbalists' (so was Pablo Escobar) and brings her wealthy clientelle to the Peruvian jungle to heal themselves. Gavanndra Hodge, a writer with Tatler magazine, describes a session with Bowlby. "I am lying on a daybed with a crystal on my sternum and the smell of burning amazonian wood in my nostrils. My shaman is shaking a gourd rattle about my head while I am imagining riding a white horse, with wings and a horn up to a distant star." The guru tells the writer that happiness, completeness and health can only be achieved by "moving between the four states of snake, jaguar, eagle and hummingbird", that at this level there is no 'I' (sound familiar?) and when balance is achieved, the nervous system is awakened and the ideal human is achieved.
Jules Evans, a feature writer with New Statesman, went to see another famous shaman called Kestrel in October 2019 having been tipped off by two writing friends that he had predicted they would write nine books. She went along, told him she was a writer and records that he told her to close her eyes and began humming loudly as he "entered the spirit world." After a few minutes he stopped and made the usual series of banal predictions "the next few months of your life will be crucial, you will meet your soulmate sooner than you think, success is coming your way" etc etc. She asked, "Should I continue writing?" He said, "you should, you are going to write nine books."
Homeopathy is another temple of absurdity. The foundation stone of this charter for spoofers is that the homeopathic product is diluted in 99 parts water or alcohol, then shaken vigorously, before one drop of the resulting solution is added to more water and diluted ad infinitum.
Oscillococcinum, for the relief of flu and colds, is one of the most popular homeopathic remedies. Its active ingredient is duck's liver and in 1996 alone it garnered sales of more than $20 million. All of this from a single duck's liver. Jacques Benveniste, a world famous French 'homeopathic scientist' has pioneered the theory that "water remembers highly diluted substances" and that this memory can be taken electromagnetically from the water, stored digitally, and emailed via a sound card into new water, which hears the healing property of the original source (say duck's liver or rosehip or ginger) and then acquires those healing properties. Sounds like a promising partnership for the GPA.
The truth (unpleasantly realistic as it may seem) is that there is no such thing as 'complementary' or 'alternative' medicine. There is only medicine that has been tested and proven or medicine that hasn't. There is only a cure that has been proved in double blind testing trials or something that doesn't work. Put another way, 'alternative' means that it is bollocks.
Positive thinking can no more cure cancer than it can cure coronavirus. Better to follow Henry Downey's advice and piss on it. At least that way you will relieve your bladder.
Sunday Indo Sport