Faith Healing and Modern Medicine

by Fernando Perfas

“Nanay Conching , a bolo-bolo (faith healer)” | Photo by Renzelle Mae Abasolo via Flickr/Creative Commons

My first experience with a doctor was at twelve years old. After I came down with a serious medical condition, my family had already moved from the province to Manila. Back in our village, doctors were almost unheard of. Whenever a family member got sick in my household, we summoned the village herbolario or faith healer. For a pittance, they concocted all sorts of cures. They attributed most illnesses either to wayward spirits or malevolent witches who cast bad spells on their victims. Bacteria or viruses as primary causes of symptoms were not part of their vocabulary.

“What seems clear is that the subject’s faith in the process or state of mind is a significant factor in the outcome. This is probably a rudimentary manifestation of our mind’s potentials to heal our body.”

My younger sister used to get sick, and whenever the herbolario came to treat her, we ended up having a little feast after. Besides doing his regular ritual of communicating with the spirits that caused my sister’s illness, the herbolario would invite them to a meal prepared by my parents for the occasion. Actually, this was my favorite part of the ritual. After the spirits had their fill, it was our turn to finish the “leftovers.” Once, I asked my mother why the food remained untouched after the spirits had eaten. “They don’t really eat our food but would like to see that we made the offering,” was my mother’s response. My sister’s health, for some reason, always improved after the “treatment.”

I had a few episodes of illness myself, and I remember feeling better once the herbolario had performed the ritual. Sometimes when the symptoms were a little bit more serious, he would burn camphor and try to determine what type of spirit had caused my illness. It might have been psychological or a matter of faith that caused the healing. Research has found that the “placebo effect” has extraordinary outcomes in some patients. The phenomenon has not been fully understood. What seems clear is that the subject’s faith in the process or state of mind is a significant factor in the outcome. This is probably a rudimentary manifestation of our mind’s potentials to heal our body.

“When we begin to view the human mind as having untapped or under-developed potentials, we can narrow the gap between faith and science as means toward a common aim.”

I suspect that faith in its purest form can focus our will much like a magnifying glass gathering sunlight into a single concentrated point of light. Our will causes our mind to control physiological processes. In healing, the mind acts on the immune system, activating helper cells (antibodies) to eliminate viruses or bacteria. Research studies have investigated how visualization or imagery can influence the production of T-cells or lymphocytes in our body to fight infections. The problem is that ordinary mortals have not yet fully developed this ability to harness it on a massive scale to cure serious illnesses.

When we begin to view the human mind as having untapped or under-developed potentials, we can narrow the gap between faith and science as means toward a common aim.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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