You are on page 1of 5


VS the

Divided They Fall
By Avinoam Lerner

The Scientist versus the Healer: Divided They Fall
In my ideal world the two words, Healer and Scientist, describe the same person. Currently, though, they describe two worlds apart. It is rare that their methods cross over and that one honor and recognize the contribution of the other. Can you imagine going into surgery and your surgeon asks you to breathe deeply, set intention for healing of your body and using hypnosis to prepare you for the surgery? What if this helped your recovery and boosted your ability to heal? This vision may be realized sooner then we think as news of more and more medical practitioners developing greater appreciation to ancient healing modalities. But when the healer and the scientist meet, their conversation will come to a halt because of their point of focus and beliefs-systems. Their differences and divergences stem from the way in which they see disease and how to handle it.

Capacity to Heal
The scientific community agrees that the body has the innate ability to heal cuts and bruises. But many still believe that it is unfounded and far reaching to assume we have the ability to activate this innate healing capacity at will. Most scientists dismiss the notion of miraculous healing or spontaneous remission as anecdotal stories. However, it’s getting a bit hard to ignore the overwhelming amount of data describing spontaneous remission (O'Regan et al. 1993). The healer gladly embraces the notion that the body has an innate mechanism designed to defend against all illnesses, cancer included. This mechanism is the immune system. The key to healing, then, is to find the means by which to activate this mechanism, and stimulate it to defend the body against disease. There is much more in this universe then what we perceive with our five senses. For example, many animals can hear a wider spectrum of sounds than we do, others see in more sophisticated ways than we do. Yet we are focused for the most part only on what is tangible and proven, which to me doesn’t makes sense at all.

Avinoam Lerner  1157 Walnut Street, Newton MA  Phone (617) 564-0707 Email: 


The Whole versus the Parts
The healer focuses on restoring a state of well-being where physical, emotional and social aspects are in balance. The healer considers the whole person – mind, body and soul - and how their interconnectedness affects the body’s natural healing ability. Before western medicine, the healer utilized spiritual rituals intended to activate or enhance that innate capacity. But before western medicine, there was a great void in the understanding of the body’s mechanical system. This is the scientist’s focus. The goal of the scientist is to identify and treat specific organs. Science approach is to investigate a faulty part of the body by dissecting and breaking it into its building blocks with the purpose to gain insight into its defective performance. What traditional medicine is lacking is seeing the person as a whole, emotional and spiritual being, rather than a mechanical system and a physical body which needs to be fixed. Science is focused on the parts.

Patient versus Student
The approach of minimizing a person to “a body to be fixed” objectifies us and contributes to the experience of helplessness and hopelessness. These two states of mind have shown in research to suppress the immune system and lower the body’s ability to defend itself against illness (Kiecolt-Glaser & Glaser 1988). The healer, on the other hand, capitalizes on the intimate nature of the therapeutic relationship. The healer believes this supporting relationship both empowers the client to participate in their healing journey as well as motivates them to care for themselves. In his book Healing Psyche, Rob Van Overbruggen mentioned that in certain treatment places in China, patients are not called “patients” (which is the medical term) and they are not called “clients” (which is the mental health term). They use the term “student,” no matter how sick a person is.

Avinoam Lerner  1157 Walnut Street, Newton MA  Phone (617) 564-0707 Email: 


The argument for use of this term is based on the fact that their “students learn how to influence their personal healing resources. They will learn how to heal instead of being treated.” Inherited in the term “student” is the notion that one becomes more involved and active in his/her healing process, and assumes more responsibility. Van Overbruggen says, “A person remains a person and therefore takes responsibility for their state of mind, attitude and behavior even between visits and continue to rely on their own judgment.”

Dismissing Scientific Proof
In 1975 scientists and healers had a common meeting ground. Dr. Robert Ader, of the University of Rochester, New York investigated how long conditioned responses (in the sense of Pavlov's conditioning of dogs to drool when they heard a bell ring) might last in laboratory rats. The result was Psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI for short. PNI is the study of the interaction between psychological processes, primarily stress, and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. This study was the first to prove the relationship between the mind and the immune system. This discovery forced scientist to shift their focus from an isolated faulty organ to the interaction between different systems of the body. It also forced a shift in discussion where no longer the question was whether or not the mind plays a role in illness, but rather whether the mind can influence our biology enough to either create illness or heal it. While Dr. Ader was the first to scientifically discover the relationship between the mind and immune system, it was his successor Dr. David Felten, then working at the Indiana University of Medicine who was able to map its wiring. Dr. Felten found the hard-wire connection between the body's immune system and the central nervous system under control of the brain. In a 1997 interview by The Rochester Review, Dr. Felten said discussed the findings and the reactions from both the scientific and alternative-medicine communities.

Avinoam Lerner  1157 Walnut Street, Newton MA  Phone (617) 564-0707 Email: 

Neither would embrace PNI as proof of the mind-body connection. The scientific community didn’t accept it as medicine and the alternative-medicine group was uninterested. He says, "When we first started presenting our findings, people laughed at us. Mainstream scientists, who have a tendency to look at anything new as kooky alternative medicine, wondered why we couldn't just stick with traditional research...The alternative medicine folks don't want to be bothered with all the scientific rigmarole of testing; they just want to promulgate their beliefs… But what we had finally given both factions was absolute, one hundred percent quantifiable results, showing that the immune system and the central nervous system are indeed connected." Copyright 1997, University of Rochester, Maintained by University Public relations Last updated 3-26-1997 Now that the mind-body relationship is established, the debate is whether or not the mind can influence the immune system enough to overcome disease. This can only be learned through trying over and over again, and acknowledging all those who have successfully done so. This requires both traditional and alternative medicine to converge. Meeting the world of the healer and the world of the scientist can have great positive outcomes for the development of methods in recovery and healing for cancer and chronic illness. Both are necessary for complete medicine. The scientists offer methodology and expertise in the physical realm, and a way to study and research results. The healer understands the emotional and spiritual influence on our bodies and how to activate our natural innate healing powers. The day both shall converge will be a great day for people suffering from chronic illness and cancer. This day is getting closer.

Avinoam Lerner  1157 Walnut Street, Newton MA  Phone (617) 564-0707 Email: 