When soccer player Fabrice Muamba recently 'came back to life' after more than an hour apparently dead, it was hard to dismiss the role the tens of thousands of fans in the stadium and millions more around the world played in his miraculous return. Did their prayers help bring him back to life? Do you believe that believing could have such profound powers as to actually heal and even bring back the dead?
Beyond condensed, complicated matter, we are little more than our beliefs. And certainly, there are many things in this human experience that do take leaps of faith, not necessarily in a religious sense (although that's a popular option), but in the let-the-gut-feeling-guide-you sense. But just how far are you willing to let your faith direct your decision-making? Would you opt for prayer instead of pills? Spirituality instead of surgery?
Faith healing may conjure images of Sunday morning televangelicals appearing to make blind people see and the handicapped rise up out of their wheelchairs. Miracles, or at least unexplained phenomena, do occur, but evidence as to whether these actually are acts of faith is slim, at least according to ScienceBasedMedicine.org. " When faith healings have been diligently investigated by qualified doctors, they have found no evidence that the patients were actually helped in any objective sense. Even at Lourdes, the Catholic Church has only recognized 4 cures since 1978, out of 5 million people who seek healing there every year."
Yet despite the lack of concrete evidence, thousands of books, websites and practitioners thrive, claiming to be able to assist individuals with faith-based healing. Charles R. Collins, author of The ABCs of Life, claims that just by thinking positive or negative thoughts with conviction, one can alter the course of a disease or debilitating illness. "You can control the power in and around your mind. And once you learn to do that, you'll be free of disease forever!" Whether or not that's true, there is increasing evidence to support the theory, like the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto, author of Messages From Water. He found that thoughts changed the molecular structure of water: love brought order and beauty, while hate or fear created chaos. Despite a legion of fans, his work has been highly criticized by the scientific community as lacking experimental controls and major details. But it does pose an interesting question: If we can change the structure of water with our thoughts, and humans are mostly water, can we heal ourselves?
Just as it's difficult to truly describe what one's faith really is, whether or not our spiritual practice can actually heal anything seems to be an almost confounding query. Certainly how the body, mind and spirit work goes far beyond what science can explain. And within any great mystery we often find many more questions worth asking. But if Muamba's case teaches us anything, it never hurts to try, regardless of how we define faith.
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Image: Connor Tarter