Friday, April 26, 2013

Augmentation, Not Replacement

Magical healing has a long tradition throughout human history. Before the rise of modern medicine illnesses were treated holistically, incorporating herbal remedies along with various spiritual and energetic practices. Today many of these alternative healing methods are still practiced, and some such as acupuncture have been found effective by scientific studies. In addition, many modern pharmaceuticals were originally developed from herbs that date far back into antiquity.

This is all fine and good, but unfortunately a sort of exclusive dichotomy has arisen between "alternative" and "conventional" medicine that far too many people accept. The natural foods movement puts forth the idea that somehow there's a difference between a chemical that comes from an herb versus one that is manufactured in a lab, even if their composition is identical. And on the other end of the spectrum, faith-healing churches teach that prayer should be employed in place of any sort of medical treatment, with the predictable result that many people who receive such treatments get worse, not better.

Recent a couple in Pennsylvania who belong to one of these faith-healing denominations lost a child after attempting treatment with prayer rather than medicine. What makes the situation even more tragic is the fact that this same couple had already been convicted for involuntary manslaughter in the death of another child back in 2010.

A Philadelphia couple – serving 10 years’ probation for the 2009 death of their toddler after they turned to prayer instead of a doctor – has violated their probation now that another of their children has died. Herbert and Catherine Schaible belong to a fundamentalist Christian church that believes in faith-healing.

Philadelphia Judge Benjamin Lerner said at a hearing they violated the most important condition of their probation: to seek medical care for their remaining children.

Where this goes wrong is not with the idea that spiritual techniques can help people heal. They most certainly can. But the idea that somehow these techniques stand at odds with modern medical technology is not only completely bizarre but also downright dangerous. Here's a though experiment - let's say that you cast a spell to win a lottery jackpot. The spell can shift the odds your way, but can you win without buying a ticket? Of course not, even if your spell is the most powerful conjuration of its kind ever. Nothing can overcome a probability of zero.

Prayers used by faith healers work the same way as spells, and in fact an argument can be made that intercessionary prayer constitutes its own school of magick. So, in fact, such prayers will work best if every possible mundane action is taken to support them and bring the probability of success within a reasonable range. That means when working with magical healing, including prayer, the only reasonable course of action is to apply it in addition to all relevant conventional medical treatments. I have enough experience with this that I know magick can help, in some cases quite dramatically. But when you start treating it as a replacement for proven medical care, that's when patient deaths skyrocket.

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