Healing at a Distance?

"The Song and the Space," Arthur Polonsky
“The Song and the Space,” Arthur Polonsky

Healing at a Distance?

The other day I had a distance healing.  Of what? you might ask. 

Was it a psychological problem?  That’s why we have therapists.  Was it a physical problem?  We have medically-approved treatments for those, backed by statistical studies.

Actually, I do have a physical problem, which interferes with one of my favorite, low-cost things to do: namely, walk.  In search of medically-approved treatments, I have trekked from one well-accredited New York neuropathist to the next, leaving his or her office with a diagnosis – hey, it’s neuropathy! – and a bill. 

In recent years, an improbable “accident” – a tip volunteered by a stranger at an airport — led us to an experimental treatment, from which I’ve noticed incremental improvements over time.   However, it is available at just one clinic in California.  That’s a long and expensive trip, which we take periodically.  This past year, the California trips were delayed by the pandemic.

That’s not my only reason to try a distance healing.  In addition to my impatience at the prolonged wait, I’m always curious to know the why of physical problems – the mental side – if there is one.

Though there’s often no getting around the physical approach to a physical problem, in my own case, I get around it whenever I can.  It’s my belief that I owe my relatively good long-term health to my policy of declining at least 60% of the medical tests and treatments urged on me through the years.  I’ll omit to list the side-effects of some of the treatments I’ve refused, damage discovered too late by those who surrendered to the importunings of the Oracles in white. 

My self-trust isn’t blind.  I eat rationally, exercise, do yoga, meditate and try my best to resolve my contradictions.  [Huh?  Contradiction?  What’s that?  It’s where I affirm and deny the same thing in the same respect or where I persist in a claim even when the evidence shows its falsity.  Contradictions have legs outside the classroom.  If, for example, a witness under cross-examination is led to say something and then to deny what she previously said, the jury will tend to discredit her testimony.  In personal life, if I endorse and also oppose the same action, my body will feel it and be unhappy.  So it’s prudent to overcome one’s contradictions.] 

Also, wherever feasible, I try to avoid toxic relationships. And, where holistic alternatives seem promising and harmless, I try them.

In the course of one such quest, I myself acquired a “second degree” in Reiki healing.  I gave four such healings, three of which were reported successful by the recipients.  The fourth was reported a flop, but it was in a domain (bankruptcy) of which I know little.  I stopped doing Reiki healings when my teacher insisted that I charge for them.  Since the recipients were all personal friends, that wasn’t possible for me.

Anyway, I know from experience that distance healing can work as advertised.  That doesn’t prevent charlatans from preying on the unwary. But it’s not all phoney.  Three out of four ain’t bad.

This time, I selected a healer whose video I found on a blog featuring reports of near-death-experiences, other paranormal phenomena, and scientists in panel discussions of theoretical anomalies.  The young woman stood out to me as honest and good-hearted.

The distance healing took place on Thursday the 25th of February and lasted about an hour. I was not on the phone with the healer during that time. My only instruction was to relax and be in a private space. It’s too soon to tell whether there will be any long-term physical improvement. 

That said, lying alone in my half-darkened, silent room, I certainly had an interesting train of experiences.  They were unexpected.  Not one was a recognizable “projection” coming from me.  I’ll try to describe them.

The experiences formed part of what is called a “life review” – but not the kind standardly reported by people revived after an NDE.  The episodes I saw were presented in reverse chronological order and all belonged to one category or type of event.  They were taken from the course of my romantic life. 

First, I perceived words in my mind, quite clear though soundless:

“Take off your shoes.

This is holy ground.”

A mental picture formed — of desert ground with red glowing embers underfoot – as I took off my sandals.  Because of my neuropathy, I no longer wear sandals and don’t ordinarily take my shoes off after I’ve put them on.  As to “holy ground,” the vision would allow me to revisit places of romantic failure.  What’s holy about that ground?  To my astonishment, each would be shown as a key juncture in a long but connected spiritual journey!

In bare feet, I was soon transported to Australia’s Blue Mountains, where, with my first husband and colleagues from Sydney University’s Department of General Philosophy, we used to go on bush walks.  Like the fauna DownUnder, the terrain looks prehistoric.  Back then, I used to clamber up those cliffs in sandals, though others wore their hiking shoes.

Because my first marriage had ended in divorce, I’ve remembered it as one of my life’s missteps.  Now, in the vision, I saw it quite differently.  A love can be real though the relationship fails.  The gift of John’s love had been — the vision showed — Australia!  A completely different culture and a reason-of-the-heart (which would have moved me as career advancement did not) to learn how the Brits-in-exile did philosophy and saw the world!  Before that, I’d worked with Merleau-Ponty and Hegel.  I didn’t even like England.  There’s no foreseeable way I would have come to this expansion of thought and sensibility.  Yet, since philosophy is the longest and most inclusive of conversations, for me it was of great importance to absorb this understanding.

Before now, I had never seen this as the gift of John’s love.  When we courted in New York, he had not yet been offered the job.  So he himself would not have seen it that way either.  The vision dealt in its own medium, not the language of cause-and-effect in any ordinary sense.

The vision now took me to an earlier candidate for my heart’s affections.  He’d been someone with whom I felt very much at home and comfortable – till a certain turn of events showed that he lacked backbone.  His gift to me (as the vision peculiarly presented it) was the knowledge that enduring love must include backbone.

The path finally stopped at my first love.  He’d been a communist, a devout Parisian atheist (that’s a religion too!) and a son of the violence that racked Europe in his Greek boyhood.  The vision did not pause to worry over his “unsuitability” for me but went directly to the “gift” that his improbable love delivered, the problematic of my work and life:

how to live in history.

Jerry, to whom I’m now married, puts legs under my romantic belief in happy endings.  From our union has come the courage to fill in the corners of my life, see the shards come together into a living whole and have a life that makes sense to me.

What did the vision tell me about the origins of my neuropathy?  Well, first it said that the path I’d traveled in my romantic life hadn’t been a series of missteps.  Where I had seen failure, the vision showed a succession of sure-footed forward phases.

Could it be that my walking difficulty originated in the belief that these had been mere stumbles?  Since the healing, my steps appear slightly more balanced.  But it’s too soon to tell if these improvements will continue, or stop, or even slide backward.

I haven’t solved the mind/body problem,

but I may have taken a step in that direction.

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, now available in an expanded, revised second edition and as an audiobook. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming and illustrated, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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