In the course of writing this article I interviewed eight practitioners of alternative therapies and complimentary therapies. In addition to this I interviewed three Christian Ministers picked at random from the local area. Those interviewed were questioned on their personal (spiritual/religious) views and also on the therapy/medicine/healing that they practise.
I could see they were committed to their work, not only doing it for a living or to supplement their income, but convinced of the benefits of the therapies/medicines they used. They genuinely sought to improve the well being of the individual holistically, that is physically, emotionally and spiritually. Most, if not all, saw their practise as being complementary to help gained through medical science, the Church and counsellors etc. as opposed to alternatives to medical science. Homeopathy, however, seems to have high claims regarding physical cures in both humans and animals although they admit there is no known reason why the medicines work.
Several practitioners referred to impurities within Western medicines and there being too much emphasis placed upon the physical only. Most acknowledged their greatest effect being upon the emotional and spiritual healing, thereby often helping or healing a physical condition.
The medicines/therapies practised by the eight were, Curative Hypnosis, Herbalism, Rebirthing, Shiatsu, Aromatherapy, Spiritual Healing, Counselling, Homoeopathy, Yoga, Acupuncture, and Remedial Massage.
As far as the spiritual aspect of the healing is concerned, there were a variety of personal views, all of which affected their mode of treatment in one way or another. There was one exception. One practitioner of Remedial Massage had no particular deep spiritual beliefs and since Remedial Massage itself, as far as training and accepted practice is concerned, is purely a physical therapy – there was no spiritual input. For the remaining seven the common thread was the life force or a similar concept.
When some were questioned specifically on the definition of life force, I discovered it was quite a grey area. Most admitted they did not really know what it was or even whether it was a physical or spiritual energy in its composition. Most associated it with God Himself in one way or another but this God was not always seen as the personal God that evangelical Christians know. The emphasis is upon it being a natural rather than a neutral (neither good or evil) force. Belief in the existence of this force seems to the seven to be obvious and common sense. There seemed to be no doubt as to its existence. t was also assumed to be a healing energy.
Out of the seven, five confidently considered themselves to be Christians. Out of this five I could only consider one to be evangelical (i.e. believing the Gospel as written, and acknowledging that we are saved only by faith in Christ’s death on the cross).
Out of the five, three objected to the umbrella term ‘New Age’ and considered New Age beliefs to be mumbo jumbo. Between them the same feelings were expressed towards Tarot cards, palmistry, crystal therapy, Reiki and the pendulum (dowsing).
From the eight, five believed in the biblical concept of sin, as far as its definition is concerned at least, and these had some concept of punishment after death. The remaining three believed in some form of reincarnation.
Out of the seven with definite spiritual beliefs, at least five practise or have practised other AT/CM’s.
This research is very localised and small but I feel it is fairly representative of the situation in England. It has raised many issues to my mind, such as:
To show care for the whole person – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – is good and is often neglected with Western medicines and practises. The Church often lacks it too; sometimes when spiritual healing is practised there is a lack of sensitivity. This needs to be improved in many churches.
Good listeners – essential in every case
Usually admit limitations of the therapy/medicines rather than making too high a claim.
Mostly, there is acknowledgement of being a complement to other types of medicines/practises (including Western medicines and help through the churches).
Mostly Christian values are adhered to.
Encouraging people to have acceptance of themselves, confidence in their worth and abilities.
Dependence upon the practitioner is not encouraged, but rather the importance of helping yourself.
There is an emphasis upon helping all people whatever religion or culture, showing no prejudice or favouritism.
The emphasis is primarily love.
The practitioners work hard, study hard and take great care in each individual case, often going through a detailed case history.
Relaxation provides opportunity to talk, take stock and release stress etc., and therefore can help physical and mental conditions
Many of the exercises, massages, oils and aromas can help physical and emotional conditions.
As with evangelical Christian healing, the physical symptom is not always the most important healing that needs to take place – it could be peace, confidence, love etc.
Many of the remedies used, whether aromatic oils or herbs etc., are proven by medical science to be beneficial.
Bearing in mind the origins of the practices I feel there is insufficient concern from most practitioners as to what God may be believed in making the healing more effective, whereas the Bible forbids worship or partaking of any other God.
The emphasis is usually upon going within rather than the biblical emphasis of looking out/up to Jesus.
There is a tendency by some to infer that healing equals spirituality equals evangelical Christianity. All three Ministers referred to the existence of counterfeit healing in the sense of evil forces at work giving a relief of a symptom but not dealing with the true spiritual healing of salvation. None of the eight questioned mentioned such a concept of counterfeit healing.
Forgiveness, conviction of sin, and repentance do not seem to feature in the therapies/medicines whereas for evangelical Christians this is part and parcel of spiritual healing and counselling (those of the eight who counsel do not give advice on these issues).
Personal responsibility for personal well being is emphasised in the therapies/medicines, but evangelical Christian healing also has a strong emphasis upon personal responsibility for morality as an essential part of holistic health.
Prayer features only with those practitioners with a religious belief. Within evangelical Christianity, prayer is the whole foundation of holistic health.
In evangelical Christian healing the spiritual power is always the Person who is the Holy Spirit who is God (as part of the Trinity), whereas the emphasis of AT/CM’s is the life force which is basically considered to be impersonal and natural although ultimately from or part of God.
For AT/CM’s the name of Jesus is not needed, but in evangelical Christian healing, the name of Jesus is vital as only he can bring wholeness.
Some meditation and relaxation techniques tend to open the mind and spirit to suggestions whereas evangelical Christian meditation is filling the mind with God and his word (the Bible) in prayer receiving his Spirit rather than the risk of influence from another spirit.
A lot depends upon the spiritual presence and beliefs of the practitioner where it is believed a spiritual energy is involved. If an evangelical Christian considers the practitioner to be operating with a force other than the Holy Spirit then there is cause for concern.
Both the New Age movement and the seven practitioners with strong spiritual beliefs are emphasising love in their practises, which I feel is a noble aim, but the emphasis in evangelical Christian healing is always Jesus the Son of God.
The resulting physical and mental sense of well being should not be seen as the whole picture. All these techniques (except Remedial Massage on its own) are holistic, and this is where they primarily differ from Western medicine. This additional spiritual aspect always involves the life force. The Christian needs to be sure that the spiritual forces at work alongside the healing are pointing to Jesus, otherwise how will he know what else the spiritual force is doing?
Relaxation and a sense of well being can make you more positive and content in life thereby helping you in your relationship with God. Only in this sense can the AT/CM’s help spiritually. The idea of a ‘natural healing energy’ at work in the ways described is I believe not biblical and therefore not safe to depend upon.
Only evangelical Christians have God within in any life changing sense. Even so, the Christian is encouraged to look upwards and outwards to receive spiritual health, rather than look inwards.
By definition, I feel that practitioners of these therapies/ medicines are attempting to express God by showing love, whereas evangelical Christian healing is to express love by showing Jesus. This latter one is the only way to true spiritual healing.
The New Age movement is often defined as the Self-Help movement, which incorporates many philosophies, religious beliefs and spiritual experiences. There are bound to be many definitions including or excluding certain aspects depending upon the individual. I should be safe in saying that there is an emphasis upon self-awareness brought about by expressions of love. This self-help from the power within brings about a transformation or spiritual awareness. The evangelical Christian emphasis is on power from above sanctifying us and restoring us into a right relationship with God through Jesus. Even when God fills you with the power of the Holy Spirit, you are still told by him to look up/outward to God.
We do need to believe in ourselves in the sense of self worth, thinking positively about our abilities, stretching ourselves and being assertive, but where this changes to a belief in personal spiritual power then it needs to be carefully looked into.
This belief in the power within is a common thread through all the therapies and remedies looked into with the exception of Remedial Massage, and possibly Aromatherapy, depending on who is practising it. I would therefore conclude that there are certain New Age beliefs held by all those practitioners I interviewed who had spiritual beliefs, even by those who objected to the title. This does not by itself mean they are not Christians.
The whole of mankind are capable of good and loving acts, but no matter how good we are we can never walk with God without placing our lives in Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus was sent, so we can be freely forgiven and walk with him by his grace (undeserved mercy and blessing) alone. We then obey God first out of love for Jesus and then out of love for humankind (Luke 10:27). The word sin (hamartia) does mean missing the mark, but missing is ‘not doing the good we know we should do’ (James 4:17). Sin is wilful rebellion against God’s plan for your life. The mark being missed is God’s perfection and sinlessness, and we are all guilty of that (Romans 3:23), hence the need for Jesus our perfect sacrifice on our behalf (Hebrews 9:26-27).