Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Placebo Effect Witnessed in Religion

The Placebo Effect, once categorized as merely fooling some people into believing they feel better by some power of suggestion, continues to amaze researchers by demonstrating real power to cure an increasing variety of medical conditions. This would appear to be a coaxing of resources otherwise held unused within the human body and/or mind.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo

Nothing is better than a good arguement about religion, so what’s the (even remote) possibility that something akin to the placebo effect is the underlying source of religious ferver also inherent in humans to various degrees? Discussions might include the term "God gene", another facter in this matter which has recently been recognized by scientific research.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_gene

Finally, even if "god" is a placebo, (checks for clouds before leaving building) does that really matter so long as otherwise unexplainable positive effects manifest nevertheless? Should I initiate "Placeboism" as the next wave of religiosity to benefit (or plague) mankind? Could such possibly worsen the current level of confusion in things spiritual?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity

Our focus for at least a short while, I believe, should be on the workings of the mind itself as apart from its mechanical constituents. Consider a hallway existing between sentience and sapience into which a primal “nodus curate” has moved, having been dragged along during the evolution of, yet not incorporated with actual sapience. This concept is proposed to explain the physical as well as mental successes of Placeboism.

As some major religions center on the workings of the mind and the suppression of the ego in particular as being the desirable state of being, these would seem to promote a concept of “oneself as god” providing that the various distractions of actual physical existence can be shelved long enough to reach Nirvana or such other entropical paradise. Having reached such a state, one would have to suppose that physical problems associated with the “leftover meat” would no longer concern the successful adherent and thus the need for any “cure” is rendered moot, but alternatively one could also say that the cure or at least a relief from all suffering has been effected – at least for a while.

But let us consider, could it be that by first quieting and then isolating the mind itself from the “sufferings” of the meat, our own “nodus curate”, pictured as generally being lazy in modern, sapient man, actually directs comfort and medications to and between both body and mind, acting as a “kindly spirit” while perhaps actually being a genetic memory which remembers which valves to turn and switches to flick, “rebooting” the system when all else fails? Adrenaline, dopamine and the various human steroids are but a few of the great many natural, seemingly magical substances which are actually created by the human body which receives its dosages automatically.

Another offshoot of this train of thought is that any positive system of "faith" can work to good effect, however, in practice it helps to believe in an infinite source of power in order to draw strength from an "outside source", i.e. "God", "The Cosmos" or even (dare I say it) "The Force". This is because the id, ego and super-ego of most people remain in too much conflict to assume for themselves any presumably god-like power.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego,_super-ego,_and_id

Does faith bring a sense of purpose?
Is faith a function of belief only, or is faith a catalyst for action?
Let us compare;

faith/purpose
yielding/action
Yin/yang

- two equal, balanced parts of a whole, each leading and yet following the other.

I am reminded of

"The Tide"

As does a surging tide
righteousness seeks inward
but that which comes in must at length receed
to once again expose the lone naked beach
of the soul

I might also offer that it is a rare person who will venture any step in the full faith that it will fail. For any action or expectation whether concious or subconcious, there must be faith of some degree for germination. That is of course unless God just walks up and slaps you in the face.

"Faith" in this context does not always refer to anything religious. Some people have nothing more than faith in themselves or lack of it.

Humans are strange animals. They can know that placebos have been proven to work in many cases, yet if they "know" the medicine that was given to them is "only" a placebo, the effect is gone. The strength is in the not knowing, it is the power of expectation that is at work.

The same could be said for the religious side of the equation. If someone takes the statement, "God is just a placebo" literally, even suspecting that such might be true gives some damage to the very real effects both mental and physical which are attributable to actually having faith in God. Thus said, it always pays to be a firm believer in whatever it is that you expect to receive miracles from. Besides, God expects and appreciates that.

If God or nature has already given our mind and body the ability to heal itself in many cases, does it matter through which door you enter such wellness? That depends whether you would rather hold your faith in the medicine of man (even if it’s sugar pills) or in an incomprehensively all powerful being who loves you. But some people will find yet other explanations, perhaps because "God" is just too primitive a concept or because the idea was already taken.

If knowledge means having learned something, that much is good:
Rom 10:17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Gal 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Gal 3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, [doeth he it] by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

(It is faith that works miracles!)

As I mentioned earlier "faith" in this case is not restricted to being specifically "in God" in order to find a positive force which actually works. It is important to acknowledge the source of what you believe your strength to be, but I think it’s even broader than that. Perhaps we exist as a time bomb of miracles, just needing the trigger pulled.

But if you’re asking about the religious side of "power", when in doubt check out what Jesus had to say about the kind of faith you need:

"Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein." - which is probably better relayed as,
"I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God."

If I defer to this understanding (and I do) it would seem that "expert" knowledge in the ways of God (such being a curious concept, at least to me) would be more likely to serve as a detriment to one’s experience of the actual power of God, while a simple faith would serve best.

Parts of an earlier work "Sky Blue" touches on this subject:

... The guarded gate would beckon thee
whose knowledge thought beyond his kin,
yet guarded to such kind it be
with force beyond tranquility...

... Many have strayed for the sake of confusion,
innocence lost from child, youth to adult,
faith in the Father, Spirit and Son
fall way to selfishness, lies and illusion...

... Pieces of truth are no better than tales,
puzzles and darkness many traps bear,
Only faith in the True Light guides the beliver
past madness when knowledge and false wisdom fails.

From the foot of the cross a saint leads the way,
your Lord and King walks the water to bear you,
all else is sealed, no such water is parted,
as a child on the ground to such glory you’ll pray.

Obviously some religious overtones are going on here, but the point is to not become so enamored with "Sophia" and self empowerment that you forget to honor and defer to the actual source of same (if that’s what you profess to believe).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophia_%28wisdom%29

It is the humble servant who serves his master well.

Does this mean there is such a thing as excessive analysis, something that will detract from the experience of believing in the existence of superior being, a God?

Mar 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
Luk 18:17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

To see how some other translations read, see:

http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/versions.pl?book=Mar&chapter=10&verse=15&version=KJV#15

and so on.

In any case, these words are attributed to Jesus, and whether recognized as the Son of God, a prophet or just an extraordinary philosopher, depending upon the particular faith of the reader, I think it pretty well self explanatory, although it may not jive too well with some members of the religious elite.

This does not mean that one should not study the scriptures, but doing so without already a having "childlike" faith often leads to confusion in the absence of (supernatural) understanding which does become a stumbling block. Scripture is not written for the unfaithful, and understanding does not come to fools who enter seeking errors.

Faith in anything can be good, but a lack of faith yields nada.

So what is the most powerful thing you can actually put your faith into? - otherwise stated as "how many coins will you leave on this particular table?"

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