Spiritual Healing by Benor (4 vols.)

Daniel J. Benor. Spiritual Healing: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution. Foreword by Larry Dossey. Healing Research Volume I. Southfield, Mich.: Vision Publications, 2001. Paperback, 597 pp.

Daniel J. Benor. Spiritual Healing: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution. Foreword by Larry Dossey. Healing Research Volume I (Professional Supplement). Southfield, Mich.: Vision Publications, 2002. Paperback, 582 pp.

Daniel J. Benor. Consciousness, Bioenergy and Healing: Self-Healing and Energy Medicine for the 21st Century. Foreword by C. Norman Shealy. Healing Research, Volume II. Medford, N.J.: Wholistic Healing Publications, 2004. Paperback, 201 pp.

Daniel J. Benor. How Can I Heal What Hurts? Wholistic Healing and Bioenergies. Foreword by C. Norman Shealy. Healing Research, Volume II (Popular Edition). Medford, N.J.: Wholistic Healing Publications, 2005. Paperback, 647 pp.

<The above volumes can be obtained through Wholistic Healing Publications, P.O. Box 502, Medford, NJ 08055, U.S.A.>

The author, a physician who started out as a “complete skeptic about spiritual healing,” changed his views when witnessing first-hand a successful healing of a lesion. He went on to use spiritual healing for therapeutic purposes himself.

“Spiritual healing,” explains Benor, M.D., “is practiced through an apparent exchange of bioenergies between healer and healee” (Vol. II, p. 571). He continues: “These exchanges may promote healing by: 1. adding energies to a healee’s depleted bioenergy system; 2. removing excesses of energies; 3. removing blocks to energy flows within the healee’s bioenergy system; 5. converting bioenergy patterns of illness into patterns of health; 5. influencing the body directly, through interactions with the nervous, hormonal, and/or immune systems; or 6. through combinations of the above.”

In the four volumes of this series, Daniel Benor has gathered together research reports, anecdotal evidence, and personal experiences showing the efficacy of what he calls “spiritual healing.” He is fully aware that many physicians will question his findings and interpretations. Collectively, however, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of his “mind over matter” theory. Volumes III and IV are scheduled for publication within the next few years.

Benor admits that “our understanding of spiritual healing is embryonic” (p. 11) and calls for further research into this medical modality. He advocates not only randomized controlled trials, qualitative studies and longer-term outcome studies but also qualitative research that take the subjective experiences of groups of people into account. Needless to say, he also thinks that personal experience and anecdotal reports have their place.

The first volume (popular edition) covers spiritual healing from diverse angles and furnishes short descriptions of 124 studies done on this healing art, as well as brief statements about their approach by a number of well-known healers. This volume includes a glossary and a detailed bibliography. These 124 studies were selected out of a total of 191 controlled studies, because they show significant effects. The main purpose of this volume is to demonstrate that spiritual healing actually works.

The professional supplement to the first volume is designed specifically for the medical and nursing professionals and goes more in depth about the studies discussed in the popular version. Only extended versions of Chapters 4 and 5 are to be found in this supplement.

The second volume, which is available again in a popular and a professional version, continues the examination of spiritual healing launched in the first volume. More specificially, Benor looks at the various therapies involving “bioenergy.” In the opening chapter, he goes into detail about self-healing and its relation to health, personality, stress, immune system, hypnosis, suggestion, biofeedback, the brain, and transpersonal psychology. The second chapter deals more directly with complementary/alternative medicine ( CAM), which has slowly been gaining ground on conventional (allopathic) medicine. While he does not dismiss conventional medicine, which has proven itself in a number of ways, he acknowledges that it offers only limited treatment options for many sick people. Adverse drug reaction has been identified as a major problem within conventional medicine, comprising in 1994 over 2 million cases, with more than 100,000 resulting in death, in the United States alone.

Of course, CAM has its own problems, as the author freely admits; these include often imprecise diagnosis and lack of follow-up care. Yet, when we know that we are 9000 times more likely to die under conventional medical care than from gunshot wounds (as argued by Len Horowitz), we would do well to consider the less invasive methods of CAM for many of our ailments.

The third chapter is dedicated to the human energy field (aura), while the fourth chapter examines geobiological phenomena, such as the effects utilized in radiesthesia (dowsing) and astrology.

The fifth chapter is devoted to showing how we can overcome the ill effects of stress through self-healing practice. The professional version of Volume II is more extensively referenced than the popular edition but lacks this fifth chapter.

The sweep of Benor’s projected four-volume work is admirable. It does for spiritual healing what Michael Murphy has done for parapsychology with his compilation The Future of the Body (1992), except that Benor’s volumes are even more encyclopedic. Anyone interested in healing, self-healing, and CAM should invest in this four-volume collection, if only for reference.

It is to be expected that a work covering such a wide range of phenomena and therapies should have its share of errors and weaknesses. The main weakness is that Benor’s coverage is not always critical enough when it comes to discussing fringe healing modalities and therapies.

For instance, when discussing Yoga—my chosen specialty—we find that Benor relies not on foundational studies, never mind primary texts, but on popular writings on the subject. He quotes Huston Smith’s inadequate and long outdated discussion of major yogic pathways. In this connection, he also refers to Stan Grof’s “holotropic breathwork” (misprinted as “holotroopic”) without any critical comments regarding the negative side effects of this approach. It is also not correct to say that “there are no Western standards for training, certification or licensing” in Yoga. In Germany, for instance, such standards do exist, while the United States is still only gesturing toward common standards.

In discussing meditation as a self-healing modality, Benor fails to mention that a number of the claims made by Transcendental Meditation researchers who were ideologically committed to TM have been seriously questioned. He rightly warns, however, of possible negative side effects in cases where emotional instability is present.

In treating Shamanism, Benor makes the unwarranted claim that “it is practiced in every known culture. The difficulty here is one of defining Shamanism.

He mentions Ayurveda and Tibetan Medicine but not the third medical tradition spawned on the Indian subcontinent, which is Siddha Medicine, as practiced mainly in Tamilnadu. It makes extensive use of alchemical concoctions.

When seen in its entirety, Benor’s work is a most valuable contribution to our understanding of the role of mind and bioenergy (prana) in the healing process. Those wishing an orientation to the expanding field of alternative/complementary medical approaches to healing and self-healing will not be disappointed. Benor is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide.

Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.

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