Living the therapeutic touch



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LIVING THE THERAPEUTIC TOUCH: Healing as a Lifestyle, by Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., R.N.; Dodd, Mead, and Corn puny, New York, 1987; hardcover, 201 pages.
THERAPEUTIC TOUCH: A Practical Guide, by Janet Macrae, Ph.D., R.N.; Aped A. Knopf: Publisher. New York, 1987; paper, 90 pages.
These two books are the latest contributions by two of the leading practitioners of Therapeutic Touch as a healing method. One of Krieger's earlier books was called simply The Therapeutic Touch. The Therapeutic Touch is described by Dolores Krieger as an ancient healing modality cast into the contemporary mode, as a method of centering and focusing one's own life energy toward healing others. Krieger is a professor of nursing at New York University who, with Dora Kunz, derived Therapeutic Touch techniques from the ancient practice of laying on of hands. However, she emphasizes that TT does not have a religious context. Nor does it actually involve “laying on of hands,” for in many of its techniques the healer's hands do not actually come in contact with the healer’s body. TT is regarded as a natural human potential, and is a “yoga of healing” requiring self- discipline and conscious commitment. As this suggests, it draws on Eastern understandings of energy and healing. Krieger relates TT to yoga, including a discussion of its relationship to the seven primary chakra or energy fields in the human body. She also offers an interesting discussion of healing as an experience in creativity, and describes therapeutic uses of the paranormal, such as healing at a distance. Therapeutic Touch has been pioneered by Krieger in 18 years of research, teaching, and writing. Though it perhaps cannot yet be said to be in the medical mainstream, the method is taught today in more than 80 universities in 39 countries and is practiced by thousands of people around the world. In her book, Krieger discusses her own experiences and those of her colleagues, and documents her own observations with research data, including her study of changes in patient blood hemoglobin and hematocrit ratio as a result of TT treatment. She also includes 19 appendices, including several exercises the reader can undertake to enhance personal awareness of the healing potential. The book is a blend of personal experience and scientific study, attempting to speak both to the rational and the intuitive sides of the reader. Janet Macrae has also taught Therapeutic Touch for many years in hospitals, nursing schools, and healing centers throughout the country. From 1982 to 1987 she was an adjunct assistant professor of nursing at New York University, and since then has had a private practice in TT. Both Krieger and Macrae have studied with Dora Kunz, and both are part of a {net- work of nurse-healers who continue to study, practice, and share their discoveries about Therapeutic Touch with each other and with a growing number of persons concerned with healing. Her little book is a more modest introduction to Therapeutic Touch, offering guiding principles and a step-by-step method for applying TT. It is illustrated with line drawings by Michael Sellon. Krieger's book is the more thorough introduction to the subject, putting the method in historical perspective. Macrae's book, however, is exactly what it calls itself: a practical guide. The two together can serve as do a textbook and a workbook in a course of study.

-WILLIAM METZGER



Autumn 1988
DIET FOR A NEW AMERICA, by John Robbins: Stillpoint Publishing, Walpole. N.H., 1987; 423 pages plus black and white plates; paper.
I've read a lot of books on vegetarianism during the past twenty years. I even wrote one of them. But I have never been so moved or so enlightened by literature in this field as I was with reading Diet for a New America. There's a certain fascination to the book before one even opens it if he knows that the author, John Robbins, was to have taken over one of the largest empires in the food industry, Baskin-Robbins. He decided as a college student in the late sixties that he wanted to do something more substantial with his life than make people momentarily happy with ice cream. Thus, he gave up a fortune and a hefty chunk of the American dream to pursue a dream of his own. It involved entering the profession of psychotherapy and following a spiritual path that led him to India and eventually to learning some startling facts right here in America, namely that the "Great American Food Machine"-of which all those ice cream cones were a part-is harmful to animals, human health and to the earth itself. The book, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize last year, is divided into three sections reflecting each of those concerns as they relate to modern agriculture, which is primarily production of animal foods: meat, fowl, eggs, and dairy products. Part One which deals with the ethical issues involved in animal husbandry is unique in that it sneaks up on the horrors of intensive “factory” farming methods after first endearing the reader to nonhuman animals in general. His intriguing vignettes on the heroism of dolphins, whales, and sea turtles as well as land animals bring even the most indifferent human into an appreciation of our fellow creatures. It's then that the crowded conditions of chickens in battery cages, the imprisonment of pregnant sows in farrowing stalls, the separation of mother cow and baby calf, and the chaining of the latter by the neck in a narrow crate for his short, dismal life in a white yeal unit become particularly distressing. The second section of the book which deals with the consequences to personal health of consuming animal products is extremely well documented and written, as is the entire volume, in a way that is easy to understand and take to heart. This section also deals with vegetarian-or actually “vegan”-nutrition, since the “diet for a new America” would ideally be one devoid of all animal foods including eggs, milk, cheese and ice cream. Doubts of would-be vegetarians are put thoroughly to rest here with a barrage of facts and figures backed up by respected journals of medicine and nutrition. It is the third section, however, which makes Diet for a New America a uniquely important contribution to the health and future of our planet. This is where Robbins painstakingly carries us through a saga of potential destruction due to the poisoning of our food and water supplies, the waste of that precious water, the erosion of topsoil and the decimation of forest, as well as inefficient and wasteful use of croplands, all as these relate to animal agriculture. The facts he presents speak so clearly for themselves that John Robbins never writes in a condescending or judgmental way. At one point, in fact, he states that he has too much respect for the human journey to tell anyone how he ought to eat. Instead, he allows us to read his book-with its anecdotes, its quotations, its charts and statistics-and decide for ourselves if we want to be part of the solution to a problem that is personal, ethical and global. I know of no one who has read these pages who has not chosen, at least in some small way, to alter his or her lifestyle in such a way as to play a role in making things better. Robbins, founder of Concerned Citizens of Planet Earth, injects so much of his own concern, his own love for nature and life in its many forms, into the book that the people I know who made those menu alterations did not do so because they read a book that said they should. They made them because they read a book that elevated their consciousness. They became just a little more caring, a little bit gentler, a little more courageous than they had been before. Now, I don't know how that comes across to you, but to me it makes for quite a book.

-VICTORIA MORAN


Autumn 1988

THE SEARCH FOR THE BELOVED: Journeys in Sacred Psychology, by Jean Houston; Jeremy B. Tarcher, Inc., Los Angeles, Calg, 1987; hardcover, 252 pages.
GODSEED: The Journey of Christ, by Jean Houston; Amity House, Amity, N. Y., 1988; paper. 146 pages.
Even a pair of books by Jean Houston can't compare to the experience of a Jean Houston workshop. The workshop taps into many levels, through the rich blend of brainfood and body experience, not to mention the powerful presence of Jean Houston herself. Nevertheless, the books do as well as, could be expected at placing on paper the content if not the experience of the workshop. And it falls on the reader to recover the experience by actually doing the exercises which are included. For the reader who has never seen or heard Jean Houston, the best that can perhaps be hoped is that the books will stimulate one to sign up for the first available workshop. “The search for the Beloved is the lure of human becoming,” Jean Houston says. We are at a turning point in human history, she declares, "when we are taking on staggering new responsibilities and leaping off to the stars, both inward and outward, the goddedness in us is yearning . . .”Houston, who has taught at Columbia University, Hunter College, the New School for Social Research, and the University of California, was named Distinguished Educator of the Year in 1985 by the National Teacher- Educator Association. She conducts worldwide seminars on sacred psychology, and lectures extensively. She is director of the Foundation , of Mind Research in New York, and is a past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology. She describes sacred psychology thus: “By evoking new connections in mind, body, and spirit, sacred psychology seeks to bring the entire self into higher order. It has become obvious to me in my work that all our capacities evolve and change in response to larger cultural and mythic patterns of which we are a part.” Houston uses myth in her effort to extend human capacities in her workshops. The noted mythologist Joseph Campbell said she had “broken through to a new understanding of the sense and uses of the disciplines of inward-turned contemplation and understanding that leaves the Freudian schools of technique and theory far behind. The accent is not on the curing of disease but on the enlargement, rather, of our health.” Both of these books are drawn from her workshops, and are in large part made up of “processes” rather than philosophy. Both seek to stimulate an inner journey that taps into the larger mythological journey that is at a deep level part of each of us.

-WILLIAM METZGER


Autumn 1988

OLD AGE, by Helen M. Luke; Parabola Books, New York, 1987; hardcover, 112 pages.


This is a beautiful little book with a title which does somewhat less than attract one to pick it up and read it. The subject of aging is one which is largely ignored by our present culture in the hope, apparently, that if no attention is given to it, it will not happen. This youth worship, which so permeates society, stops us from considering the wonderful opportunities we all have for reaping the benefits of our lives and preparing for an easy and even exciting transition beyond the physical. Helen Luke, herself in her eighties, presents us with two alternatives: to grow old or to slip into disintegration. Her presentation of the growing process which should continue in all of us is very thought-provoking. While we obviously must give up some of the activities of youth and respect the aging processes of our physical vehicles, emotionally and mentally we have much to experience and evaluate no matter what our chronological years may be. Interpretations given by the author to four passages from literary classics really demonstrate the endless possibilities for growth when an individual's prime seems to have passed. Odysseus' final inland journey after completing the Odyssey as foretold by Teiresias, Lear's speech to his daughter Cordelia near the end of King Lear, Prospero's freeing of Ariel and his farewell in the Tempest, and a selection by T. S. Eliot from “Little Gidding” are all used to demonstrate the insight which their authors saw as coming to characters who had not always acted admirably during their earlier lives. The book and its stories provide the realization that in the end it is the release from our attachments, whether to people, things or power, which will provide the ultimate feeling of having learned something from this lifetime on earth. One final point from this little collection of essays is the author's suggestion that it is not necessary to reach old age before considering this method of viewing life. The earlier we learn the value of detachment, the more meaningful the remainder of our lives can be and the simpler and more beautiful our transitions when the time arrives to put aside our physical bodies.

-WILLAMAY PYM


Winter 1988

THE AQUARIAN CONSPIRACY: Personal and Social Transformation in Our Time, by Marilyn Ferguson; Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1987 edition; paperback, 460 pages.


THE NEW AGE: Notes of a Fringe Watcher, by Martin Gardner; Prometheus Books, Buffalo, N.Y.; hardcover, 273 pages.
OTHERWORLD JOURNEYS: Accounts of Near-Death Experience in Medieval and Modern Times, by Carol Zaleski; Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford; hardcover, 275 pages.
CHANNELING: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources, by Jon Klimo; Jeremy P. Tarcher, Los Angeles; paper back, 384 pages.
One of the "new age classics”-Marilyn Ferguson's The Aquarian Conspiracy- has recently been reissued in a new edition with a new foreword by John Naisbitt and a new afterword by the author. It remains probably the most comprehensive introduction to the ideas, images, and metaphors of the new age. Ferguson believes there are signs all about us of a cultural renaissance, which in her after- word she presents in the form of “breaking stories of the 1980s and 1990s.” One of these stories has to do with cultural self-awareness and the discovery that simply knowing that something is wrong is the start toward making things right. Another is the growing awareness of “the reality of the whole,” that everything is interrelated. Other aspects of Ferguson's description are the discovery that chaos is an inevitable part of change; the rise of a Pacific culture, perhaps pointing a way toward a global culture; the increasing interest in metaphysical/spiritual news; the rediscovery of body/mind connections; the rediscovery of myth and metaphor as reshapers of social purpose; and the discovery that there are a wealth of solutions to social problems. Ferguson offers a decidedly optimistic approach to our experience of crisis in our times, and this is a characteristic of much of what gets included in the “new age.” It also is probably the weak point of the whole movement (if movement this is). New age critics cite this unbridled optimism and naiveté as a central problem with new age ideas. Ferguson became the focus of the anti-“new age” crowd when her book first came out in 1980, in large part because of that scarifying title, unsettling to the conspiracy-fearing. In his The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher, science writer Martin Gardner has collected together a generous selection of his columns from Skeptical Inquirer and other magazines. Gardner is a leading debunker of a wide range of purveyors of what he calls pseudo-science, including Rupert Sheldrake, Shirley Machine, L. Ron Hubbard, the psychic surgeons of the Philippines, and of course the “trance-channelers,” Ramtha, nee J. Z. Knight, in particular. “Prime-time preachers” also take it on the chin from Gardner. Gardner is a lot of fun to read, and one often finds oneself agreeing with him. But like political cartoonists he is unfair, even vicious. One should not expect anything like a dispassionate scientist when reading Gardner. But devastating critique one can expect. Of course we love it when Gardner's sarcasm is directed at someone we do not respect, and hate it when it is directed against someone we do respect. Gardner is much taken by the idea that magicians make the best debunkers of pseudo-science. I find this a bit puzzling, because it is difficult to imagine how a magician's ability to create an illusion constitutes proof that another person has created an illusion. That doesn't sound scientific to me. Psychism of course has in no way been proved scientifically, though one might well question why scientific proof ought to be the measure. Extraordinary abilities of human beings don’t lend themselves to laboratory method, first because they are human and therefore anomalous, second because laboratory method inevitably changes the activity or event to be measured because it is created by anomalous humans. Nevertheless, those of us who are intrigued by “the new science” of folks like David Bohm and Rupert Sheldrake ought to welcome the presence of tough skeptics like Gardner, to help us keep a balance between what we might hope would be the case but should also consider might not be so. Carol Zaleski’s Otherworld Journeys is not strictly speaking about the new age, though it does deal with accounts of near-death experiences which certainly are related to “new age” interests. Indeed Zaleski mentions Gardner and the other skeptics of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claim of the Paranormal (CSICOP) for their debunking of observations that shed light on the conditions of near-death experience.
The most extreme example of this reductionism can be found in the writings of astronomer and champion skeptic Carl Sagan. . . Sagan makes short shrift of the entire history of religious conceptions of death and rebirth, paradise and the fall, penance and baptism, deities and demigods. This vast range of experience and lore might derive, Sagan suggests, from shadowy memories of the four perinatal estates of man: our Edenic intrauterine bliss, its disruption by seismic contractions, our delivery from darkness into light, and our postnatal swaddling.
Sagan, Gardner, Isaac Asimov and others of CSICOP, in their attack on “the vast Castle of Pseudoscience,” have the effect, Zaleski says, of polarizing the opposition: “...fringe causes tend to cluster together, and their champions begin to speak a common language, even when they have little in common beyond the fact of being labeled fringe.” Zaleski’s excellent book presents a thorough survey of accounts of near-death experience, from medieval times to the present day accounts such as Raymond Moody's Life After Life. In her evaluation of near-death testimony, she suggests “a middle path between reductionism and naiveté.” Religious experiences, she says, are invariably social and invariably individual. “Religious traditions reflect and promote social order and, in many cultures, tend to value the group over the individual.” Yet “Religious experience is invariably individual” and “human beings are essentially alone in the experience of death and in the encounter with transcendent values.”
The narrative integrity of near-death visions derives not merely from the fact that a story is told but, mote importantly, from the fact that the story bas an aim. What seems at first glance to be a visionary travelogue describing for the curious the sights of an exotic supernatural realm turns out to be the story of a conversion experience; and, as we have seen, its main purpose is to communicate to others the new insights gained by the convert.
Finally, Zaleski notes,
Whatever the study of near-death visions might reveal about the experience of death, it reaches us just as much about ourselves as image-making and image-bound beings. To admit this is no concession to the debunkers; on the contrary, by recognizing the imaginative character of otherworld visions, we move beyond the merely defensive posture of arguing against reductionism.
A fourth book relevant to “the new age” is Jon Klimo's Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources. Klimo attempts to provide a thorough study of the channeling phenomenon. He de- scribes the various channelers, such as Jane Roberts (Seth), J. Z. Knight (Ramtha), Jach Pursel (Lazaris) and a number of others, and analyzes channeling both as a modem phenomenon and a historical phenomenon. He discusses the content of "channeled" information, the purported sources, the channels themselves, and then offers a variety of possible explanations, including psychological and biological. Finally Klimo leaves it up to the reader to make the judgments, but he is fundamentally a sympathetic analyst, saying everything lies just ahead of us. Such a theory would have to include not only an integration of the various forces of Nature known to physicists but an integration of those forces with the dimensions of mind, heart, and spirit as well. He also challenges “the double standard which holds that the beliefs and practices of organized religion are acceptable, while belief systems and practices outside organized religion-such as channeling with its claim to communication from nonphysical and spiritual realms-are not.” It is striking that the mainline religious traditions all have their examples of “channeling,” even though they haven't called it that. Indeed he notes that channeling phenomena are found in the roots of all the world's great religions. Klimo examines a variety of “possible explanations” for the channeling phenomenon -psychological, biological, and physical. Brain/mind research is in truth at a rather primitive stage, and we really know very little about how the brain/mind works. Indeed, science (not unlike poetry) deals in metaphors, and Klimo offers what he calls “a concluding metaphor” at the end of his chapters on psychology and biology/physics as his own way of understanding channeling. It is, he says, a metaphor that “can be entertained by the atheistic materialist and the devoutly spiritual person alike.”
In the first stage of the metaphor, each of us is an individuation out of the one universal physical energy ground of Being (physicalizing the mental), or out of the one Universal Mind or spirit (mentalizing the physical) depending on your perspective. Or, in a third, dualist, view, the entire physical energy universe is like one universal Brain/Body, and the consciousness that exists dependent on and in interaction with it is the one Universal Mind. Yet in any of these three accounts, each of us is an episode of individuation temporarily welled up into local, seemingly separate being. And we each appear to be surrounded by a semi permeable membrane that marks us off from the stuff that seems to be not us (including one another). These membranes may be molecule of skin, electromagnetic force fields, ego boundaries, or any other material or immaterial stuff derived from the same basal substance that one sees as being subdivided by such membranes in the first place.
This seeming separateness is not ultimately true, Klimo says, because the larger unity is what is true. That unity of every “thing” is Ralph Waldo Emerson's “Oversoul.” It is the Gaia hypothesis (see Walter Schaer's article in this issue). It is the holographic model of the universe (see Renee Weber in this issue). It is what has often been referred to as “the interdependent web of all existence.” As a “possible metaphor,” Klimo's proposition points in the direction of the “Grand Unified Theory” that scientists seek. It seems likely that claims of channelers are often (but not always) fraudulent, or at least self-deluded. And certainly much of so-called channeled information is pretty mediocre stuff. Still there are so many things we do not begin to understand about the human potential that foolishness can be found in abundance both among the “true believers” of “the new age” and among the proof-demanding scientists. What is one to do? Observe life. Observe oneself. Observe oneself in interaction with others. Read widely. Think. And be willing to change one's mind.

-WILLIAM METZGER


Winter 1988

ADAM, EVE, AND THE SERPENT, by Elaine Pagels; Random House, New York, 1988; hardcover, 189 pages.


At a conference on “Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism” held a few years ago in Claremont, California, Professor Elaine Pagels told an informative tale out of personal experience. While traveling in the Sudan, she had a conversation with the foreign minister of that country, who was a member of the local tribe of the Dinka. He impressed on Pagels' mind that the culture of the Dinka in all its contemporary manifestations was still profoundly influenced by the creation myth of their ancient lore. Upon returning to her hotel, the professor found there two recent issues of Time magazine, the first of which featured the topic of bisexuality in the United States, and the second contained letters to the editor on the same subject. Four of the six letters mentioned the story of Adam and Eve and supported their views by referring to the story of Genesis. The Dinka, a tribe in a third-world country, evaluate their modern concerns in the light of their ancient creation myth, and modern, secularized, sophisticated Americans do exactly the same. In either case, the creation myth appears to have enormous influence. This moment of truth in Khartoum led Pagels to the research that resulted in her book, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. As a church historian, she discovered that the first three chapters of Genesis have exerted a great influence on the attitudes of Christians in our culture and that the nature and tone of this influence was determined primarily by the kind of interpretation attached to these scriptural passages by the leaders of early Christian thought. It is necessary to remember that the first three or four centuries of Christian history were characterized by a pluralism which was a far cry from the orthodoxies of later times. Christian communities and individual teachers taught widely differing doctrines and interpreted scripture in different ways. Thus the literalist party (which after the third century was elevated to the status of normative orthodoxy), represented by Tertullian, Justin Martyr, and others, saw in Genesis a historical event which justified their low opinion of the female gender and of sexuality. Tertullian called women the “Devil's gateway” and asserted that because of Eve's sin the sentence of God rests on the feminine sex forever, and women should properly feel guilty in consequence. In spite of the absence of explicit scriptural evidence to support the notion, these church fathers also held that the original sin of Adam and Eve was in some way of a sexual nature, and thus human sexuality was as tainted as the character of women, if indeed not more. The Gnostic Christians, on the other hand, did not look upon the story of Genesis as history with a moral, as did the literalists, but rather they treated it as a myth with a meaning. Gnostic exegetes generally regarded the first three chapters of Genesis as containing a myth that revealed in symbol the interaction of soul and spirit within the human person, an interpretation which would have delighted such modern scholars of myths as C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell. Needless to say, such a mode of interpretation totally negates the gross and unjust reductionism whereby women and human sexuality are made to bear the guilt and shame of Adam and Eve. One may also reflect with some profit on the course Western culture may have followed had the Gnostic mythical mode of interpretation become the dominant one in lieu of the literal historical one which still continues to cast an oppressive shadow on attitudes and mores in our times. Another conclusion drawn by the orthodox from the first three chapters of Genesis has been the belief in the corruption of human nature. Human beings, this belief holds, are so corrupt that they cannot be trusted to arrive at valid choices in their private and public conduct. Morally corrupt sinners that we are, we cannot be considered fit to govern ourselves, and thus it becomes necessary that individuals submit to the power of governments, no matter how tyrannical. Humanity forfeited its freedom when it yielded to the advice of the Serpent of Paradise. One person who propounded such teachings concerning the corrupt human condition was Saint Augustine of Hippo, whom Pagels makes out to be the chief villain in the drama under consideration. “Augustine's pessimistic views of sexuality, politics, and human nature would become the dominant influence on Western Christianity” she writes, “and color all Western culture, Christian or not, ever since.” It is here that her thesis begins to show a certain ambiguity, which one might consider the weakness of the entire work. Before Augustine, Pagels claims, Genesis was read much more as a promise of freedom, and had it not been for the guilt-ridden sainted genius, Christendom might have become some sort of libertarian happy hunting ground of the spirit. Yet in chapters two, three and four of her book, she show abundant evidence indicating that anti-feminine, anti-sexual and ant-libertarian views were widely held by the orthodox and that the only people who were truly free of such attitudes without any reservations were the Gnostics. The trouble, it would seem, goes farther back than Augustine, and has much to do with the suppression of the Gnostics and their intra-psychic, mythological mode of interpreting scripture. Moreover, the Eastern Orthodox churches never accepted the teachings of Augustine, but followed instead their own authority, St. John Chrysostom, yet there is little if any evidence indicating that they were or are any less subservient to tyrannical worldly governments than their Western counterparts. (Nor does one observe a higher reared for women or for sexuality in Eastern Orthodox theology.) In 1979 Elaine Pagels gave the world one of the most lucid and fair pioneering works on the Gnostics, The Gnostic Gospels. Those who expect to find in her present work a companion volume to the first may be disappointed. Readers possessing Gnostic and esoteric sympathies will be gratified however, by the third chapter of this work, “Gnostic Improvisations on Genesis” (pp. 57-77). Here we read statements such as the following:
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