Recently, a group of self-styled skeptics (that is, they’re actually debunkers) in New Zealand needed to do something to get some attention so they made a very public display of devouring “overdoses” of homeopathic remedies. According to this report, the result of this action “forced the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit openly that their products do not contain any ‘material substances.’ Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that ‘there’s not one molecule of the original substance remaining’ in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.”
For their decisive action and valuable revelation, I give the ¬†NZ Skeptics and others who participated in this silliness my first “Duh!” award.
Homeopathic remedies, as I understand it, are based on two concepts. First, that “like cures like.” If you have a problem, say a cough, a substance that causes a cough can end up ending the cough that you have. And second, you don’t need to overwhelm a problem. The tiniest amount of a remedy can be effective.
Both of these things seem contradictory to what we “know.” But what we “know” isn’t the only possibility, it is simply something we have been brought up to believe. It’s a paradigm, the way we view the world which forms the basis for the theories of science we all know. The thing is, it is just a paradigm and not the only paradigm.
I gave those New Zealanders the “Duh!” award because if you ask any homeopath how much of a “material substance” is in one of their remedies they’d easily say, “So little as to be unmeasurable.” Those debunkers didn’t need a meaningless show to discover that information. But if there is no physical substance in the remedy, how could it work?
And that’s the point. Homeopaths work under a different paradigm than those pseudo-skeptics.* They believe that putting a substance in water effects the water, even after careful multiple dilutions to a point where there may only be one molecule of the supposedly healing substance in a gallon or more of water. It is literally unmeasurable.
So the question is, how could such influenced water work?
One possible answer might be found in the works of Masaru Emoto. Emoto published a book called The Hidden Messages in Water where he shows photos of water crystals and how they’re different when different thoughts are projected at the water just before it is crystallized. A peer reviewed, double-blind study seems to have confirmed these results, although I think the test was too small.
If we can adopt a paradigm, a way of looking at the world where thoughts can influence the structure of water, it’s not a stretch to say that substances‚ÄĒincluding those of homeopathy‚ÄĒcan do the same.
This brings us to what may be the oldest, continuously practiced form of astrology in the world, the astrology of ancient India. Known as Jyotish (or inaccurately as Vedic Astrology), it has a complex system of remedies for problems indicated in an astrological chart. One of the types of remedies uses certain precious, semi-precious and similar gems.
Traditionally (and I think this “tradition” may have been started by a gem-selling relative of an astrologer!) you are supposed to use the largest and highest quality gems you can afford. However, common people often use tiny bits of very impure gems. Some people go a step further. They put the gems in a glass of water, and after a time, drink the water. Many people swear by these remedies, even though I doubt if any “material substance” from a chip of diamond can be found in any of the consumed water. Although homeopathy per se is only a bit over 200 years old, it is in harmony with a paradigm that goes back thousands of years.
A Little Goes a Long Way
It is believed by many people that certain herbs can help with keeping men’s prostates healthy and even return them to health. Recently, I heard a commercial claiming that their product has 3,000 times the potency of the typical herb. The assumption here is that if a little is good, a lot is better. This thinking is part of the typical Western paradigm.
But consider this: we need zinc in our diets. If you don’t get enough you can suffer from skin diseases, stomach ailments, hyperactivity, hair loss, loss of sex drive, loss of sensitivity of the senses, and many other symptoms. Everyone needs zinc. But if you get too much you can suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure,¬†urine retention, jaundice,¬†seizures, fever and worse. A little is good. A lot is bad. Perhaps, then, a tiny amount of influenced water (homeopathic remedies) can have a positive result while an “overdose” will have no effect at all.
Keeping an open mind to the possibility of other paradigms is part of magickal reality. I believe it is the way a magickian should approach all aspects of life. This does not mean, however, that a magickian should accept everything as true. Rather, I believe that a magickian should be a true skeptic‚ÄĒhave an open mind until the evidence is in. As it says in Crowley’s Book of the Law, “Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not over much!”
And success has nothing to do with some showboating debunkers drinking water. It will come from double-blind studies. And that brings me to my next subject.
Farces on the Forums
Internet forums, where people should be able to discuss things, are a great idea. Or at least they should be. Unfortunately, many forums end up having a few bullies take over (often friends of the moderators) and woe be to anyone who dares challenge them!
The topic above was brought to my attention by a friend of mine, Charles, who frequents various forums under different names (in fact, Charles isn’t his name and he wants to keep his anonymity). Recently, he drew my attention to a forum that is supposedly about Paganism and magick where members were gloating over the “fraud” of homeopathy revealed by the debunkers. In my opinion (and my friend who posts there agrees with me), these were decidedly not Pagan or magickal attitudes. He pointed out that they proved nothing and that one of the prime supporters on the forum holding that position had a financial interest in being against homeopathy. One person posted a list of studies that supposedly showed homeopathy didn’t work. Charles told me he read the studies and they either said there wasn’t enough information, stated that homeopathy appears to work in some situations, or were not done well. He pointed this out on the forum. The result was that he was insulted and called names, a moderator sent him an obscene (and illegal) email, and when he continued to stand up to and disagree with the bullies, he was banned and told he should “learn civility.”
We had a good laugh over that.
It would seem that on that particular forum Paganism has been overrun by closed-minded materialists who were unwilling to admit that their paradigm was not the only paradigm. I want to go on the record in saying that although there are closed-minded people out there, such attitudes are not the majority of magickal people and not what Paganism is all about. Unfortunately, you may find such people on internet forums. Look closely; there really aren’t many of them although they are often prolific in their posting.
My paradigms and beliefs are not the only ones. Neither are those of the New Zealand Skeptics, Charles, or the bullies who haunt internet forums and think theirs is the only way.
In a recent talk, I described how Paganism had evolved into many paths and that we can find strength and unity in our diversity. But we can only do so if we agree to acknowledge the paradigms of others as valid and “agree to disagree” rather than insisting, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
As Rodney King, whose beating became the focus of riots that took place in Los Angeles in 1992 said, “Can’t we all just get along?”
UPDATE: No sooner had I posted this than I found a wonderful article on the case for homeopathy, including concepts debunkers won’t touch (such as homeopathy’s successes with certain epidemics and with animals) and links to studies supporting its effectiveness. I also support the article’s statement that “advocating for or using homeopathic medicines does not preclude appreciation for or use of selective conventional medical treatment.”¬†You can read the entire article here.