The 'bare hand' or 'psychic' surgeons of the Philippines have been one of the most enduring enigmas of modern times. There has been much controversy about the so-called miracle healers of the Philippines. Their ability to open peoples bodies and defies not only conventional scientific and medical knowledge but also challenges what we consensually call reality. How can a human body open and close by touch? How can solid objects become permeable to allow a hand to move through it?
To the Western person, brought up in a paradigm structured and shaped by rational thought, it really does require a huge leap of the imagination to be fully open-minded to the possibility that this phenomenon exists. It is not only a challenge to our individual sensibilities, but also to our thinking which has been shaped by the Descartes and Newton scientific heritage.
This is an immense challenge to the consensual reality in which only the material, solid, touchable, and ultimately measurable is real. The ineffable or that which can not be measured is dismissed, labelled as 'weird', dismissed and excluded from mainstream Western culture. Our society has always been dismissive of indigenous healing practices. This is maybe because we do not have an understanding or an explanation of the underlying principles of how this type of healing works. It is a more convenient solution to regard the activities of shamans, folk healers, and of course the 'bare hand' surgeons as 'primitive superstition'.
The current scientific paradigm is quantum theory, a model that opens up a very curious universe indeed, in which nothing can actually be measured since the very action of measuring it changes its material nature and the observer is not separate to the observed.
However we look at it, this 'thing' does not exist in its own right. It is the choices we make and our behaviour as observers that gives it reality at all and, even then, how we look at it changes it. We need to recognise that objective reality becomes in essence a flawed concept, and that consciousness as such is an instrument in the creation of reality. So in the words Albert Einstein; "Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one."
Keeping this notion in mind, if we look at the basic purpose of a ritual, ceremony, or prayer it is really to effect a change, or influence the unfolding of reality. This change is usually to improve the circumstances for a person or group of people, typically healing, drawing in benign influences and so on. To extend this, the 'procedures' and 'rules' for a ritual, in many respects are identical to the 'rules' of Quantum Mechanics, and that the ineffable spiritual dimension is actually a rational undertaking of our consciousness to effect the transient probability waves that generate reality in time and space.
From this perspective, what healers and shamans are doing becomes totally rational, and a ceremony or act of healing is an 'act of intention operating at a quantum level' , whereby this intention is an expression of our conscious desire to alter reality using the principles of Quantum Mechanics.
However the implications of this mean that shamanism and psychic surgery can be explained in terms of modern physics. Psychic Surgeons and Shamans can effect change in local reality (i.e. their clients) through what is called 'spiritual' power operating at the quantum level.
The process of psychic surgery is rationalized by the Former Professor of Physics and Chemistry at the University of Dortmund, Dr. Alfred Stelter He defines the process of painless, barehanded operation as thus:
"The healers form strong etheric force or energy in their hands through intense concentration. This energy penetrates matter at the cellular or even sub-atomic levels where matter and energy are interchangeable. After the accumulation of etheric forces, the magnetic cohesive energy (force that holds he cells of the bodies together) is separated through unpolarization. And then after the operation, the cells go back to their former appearance."
Now from a personal view, I always feel, that everything which is manifested in the physical world, has a cause or source. The fact that we maybe are unable to rationally understand, define, or explain is not relevant, as the sages and wise ones say "the proof is in the eating of the pudding", and in the ten years that I have been working and researching in the Philippines I have come to do just that. So although the Quantum Mechanics principles may satisfy our rational and logical minds, it is not that relevant. The psychic surgeons and shamans certainly do not see their work in those terms. It is always an expression of the great mystery. If we can embrace this as a mystery, it can mean that we may enter this magical world, where reality is not as solid as we think it is. Striving for rational explanations in some way keeps us outside, and prevents us from entering this mysterious world.
The ancestral traditions and the strong folk culture of the Philippines have long provided the background that has fostered a climate of general tolerance and acceptance towards traditional healers, shamans, and psychic surgeons. This tolerance also extends to Government Ministers, Presidents, and interestingly; also to the powerful Catholic Church in the Philippines. There was a very sympathetic feature article titled 'Priest heals through power of touch' in a recent national newspaper (the Philippine Daily Inquirer July 30th 2007 Vol 22/ No.232) about Father Fernando Saurez. One of he reasons why he has come to national prominence is that the husband of President Arroyo, was one of those healed by the priest in his celebrated "miraculous recovery" last year. Father Saurez's healing work is all approved and praised by the church hierarchy.
Filipinos have acquired this tolerance from their old traditions that maintained an awareness and faith in the existence of nature spirits called anitos. These magical beings reside within an extended definition of the boundaries of the natural world. Although the Filipino people broadly regard themselves as rationalists (just as we do), they also as a culture are more readily to embrace the more intangible, enigmatic, and what we know as the metaphysical and shamanic dimension of reality.
This view is endorsed by research from the Asian Studies Center Organisation; "While Christianity has been the major religion in the Philippines since the beginning of the Spanish colonial period in 1565, it has always been mixed with traditional animistic beliefs and practices, giving Philippine Catholicism a particular national character. Another characteristic of religion in the Philippines, whether it is Roman Catholic, Protestant, or Islam, is that its practices openly incorporate animistic experiences and practices".
Although there is a powerful urban desire propelled by the commercial financial interests to move into a modern 'shopping mall' consumer society, marketed as the 'Philippines Dream' (part of the global consumer dream). This 'Dream' is really focussed on the major urban areas. The vast majority of people live in a more rural environment. There is also a vast gap in wealth between the urban middle class and those in the provincial rural areas. The people who live in the remote rural settlements and outer provinces have a closer and more intimate relationship with the natural world. In addition there is often a considerable distance from modern medical facilities, and finally there is not the money to pay for modern medical treatment and medication. This means that there is still a lot of work for the traditional healers such as the Albularyos (shamans), Herbolarios (herb doctors), and Manghihilot (traditional bonesetters).
Howard G. Charing, is an accomplished international workshop leader on shamanism. He has worked some of the most respected and extraordinary shamans & healers in the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Philippines. He organises specialist retreats to the Amazon Rainforest He is the author of Plant Spirit Shamanism (Destiny Books USA).