Miracles: a matter of perspective (Pt.3)

Perspective has always played a primary role on the topic of miraculous healing as well. It is rather easy for someone who has never witnessed or personally experienced a physical healing to condemn all claims of miraculous healing as bogus. They remain convinced that it is the work of charlatans, or if there was an actual change, than the change was merely psychosomatic. Both options are easy to accept because, truthfully, there have been a multitude of hoaxes perpetrated by all manner and skill levels of con-artists throughout the ages. Whether it is the various forms of occult practitioners mentioned in the Bible, the famous Uri Geller (Randi), or the more recent Peter Popoff (Jackson), the deceptive scam artists can usually find willing targets to believe their claims and illusions without question. Perhaps the adage “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” has something to do with it. People want to replicate a positive. After all, just because there are 10,000 Bruce Lee imitators, and 100,000 Elvis impersonators, does not mean the original Bruce Lee and Elvis were also fakes. The problem arises when those without the same level of talent, commitment, and integrity create the illusion of a positive, but built on a negative foundation.

Wayne Jackson, a theist who approaches the issue from “the age of miracles is over” stand-point, claims that those who performed wonders in the first century “did not do so for the purpose of enhancing themselves financially — unlike the wealthy ‘faith-healers’ of today.” James Randi, magician and escape artist who investigates claims of the paranormal and pseudo-science, points out the fact that many in possession of alleged healing artifacts, including the Vatican, will not allow any hands-on investigation of the pieces involved in their claims. After all, a negative report would cut into their profits. And Jackson further contends that “miracles were not slow progressive processes,” but had “instantaneous effects.” And he points out how there are many claims of slow progressive healing “among the devotees of modern charlatans” (Jackson). Although an atheist, Randi agrees with Jackson on the issue of slow progressive healing. And where Jackson contends miracles must be “independent of secondary causes,” in other words, cannot be explained by natural means, Randi’s career and reputation has been built on that premise. So when the Jackson’s of the world remind us that there “are many illusions that modern magicians perform” which baffle the normal person, yet still have a natural explanation; the Randi’s of the world put forth the effort and use their knowledge to investigate and demystify the claims. And when Jackson brings up specific fraudulent events to back up his claims, such as the Popoff affair, the con-artist preacher who had his wife, and others, feeding him information about audience members secretly by radio transmitter from backstage, it is no surprise that Randi was the investigator who exposed Popoff on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (Randi). Ironically, the investigators have become equally wealthy in their pursuit to debunk the psychic scams and other fake healers: especially after the proverbial spotlight has exposed the dishonest schemes and cut deep into the schemers pockets.

Oddly enough, exposing frauds for who they truly are does not guarantee society will be rid of their chicanery for good. There are simply too many people, whether gullible, ignorant, or just plain desperate, that overlook the obvious in order to clutch at any available straw to give them a sense of hope. A perfect example is Popoff, who had to file bankruptcy within a year after Randi unmasked his multi-million dollar scam over twenty-years ago. And yet, he came back in the news with a so-called miracle cure in a bottle, and making millions again. And this global scam by Popoff, along with other scams, show how millions of people fail to heed the adage, “burn me once, shame on you, burn me twice, shame on me.” Another popular miracle scam works like The Emperor’s New Clothes: you give them nothing but the sales pitch. For instance, in Scotland, a former tire salesman, Steve Henvey, passes himself off as “an angelic therapist practitioner” (Murray). He insists no less than 34 archangels have communicated with him, though the sole archangel healing through him is called “Shuriel.” Though I would suspect Shuriel is a bit pissed off, since he allegedly does all the work, but Henvey named his so-called healing center after the more famous archangel Michael. And, coincidentally, Henvey makes sure to pussy-foot around any solid positive claims. In fact, he carefully walks a thin legal line by insisting, “I don’t make any promises of miracle cures or give false hope” (Murray). However, it seems to me, that if you are passing yourself off as someone an archangel heals through than you are attempting to give false hope.  And, like all charlatans, he has no problem charging nearly 50 pounds (GBP) per session. Unfortunately, scientists must admit some minor benefits do arise in some faith healing situations. They insist the benefits are “in the mind” (Murray). Dr. Jennifer Cleland, clinical lecturer in Medical Education and Primary Care at the University of Aberdeen, admits to observing the same minor improvements in controlled groups where actors pretended to be healers (Murray). In actuality, such psychosomatic and/or mind over matter results appear to fit most claims of healings by faith healers, along with alleged healings at pilgrimage sights like Lourdes and Medjugorje.

 

[*No discussion on miracles, especially regarding perspective on healing, would be complete without touching on near-death experiences: coming in Part 4.]

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