Natural Healing in New Zealand
Random House, $24.95
Whether it be the result of successive governments tinkering with the National Health system or the much heralded coming of the Age of Aquarius, the fact is that in Aotearoa, just as in the rest of the Western world, more and more people are turning to alternative medicine to seek relief. Just how far, in a conceptual sense, we have fallen into the hands of the giant drug companies is manifest in my last sentence: for systems as ancient as Herbalism, spiritual healing, aroma therapy and massage (to name but a few) are now classified as ‘alternative’ while varieties of chemical treatment (for which thalidomide might serve as a convenient example) are somehow seen as normal to the point of being ‘natural’. There is of course a balance to be struck (there always is) and we would perhaps be in a bad way without the many benefits of modern medicine. But the fact remains that concepts of treatment which view the body as merely a refined machine, or which treat one ailment without due regard to the total being or which smile in embarrassment when it is suggested that an illness might have a spiritual dimension or even a karmic cause, are now under attack.
Enter this book.
For those of you who are discontented with the treatment you are receiving and who wish to explore a different dimension of what living and health means, this is the book to read. It begins with Acupuncture and ranges through Homoepathy, Naturopathy, Bach Flower Remedies, Iridology, Reiki, Shiatsu and Spiritual Healing (to name but a few).
The book is divided into two parts. The first part deals with those ‘modalities’ (by which it means systems of treatment), which have practitioner associations based in New Zealand. As is stated in the introduction, ‘The existence of these associations implies a certain level of quality control and standardisation.’ The second half deals with systems of healing which may be widespread but which (presumably) do not have practitioner associations. I found this distinction confusing for Herbalism which has a New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists is included in the second part of the book. However, you can enjoy the book without worrying too much about its somewhat clumsy structural composition.
Each method of healing is given a general introduction explaining what it is and what it seeks to do. Thus we discover that Reflexology (to make an example almost at random) was practised in Egypt some 2,300 years ago and also in ancient China where it formed a fitting companion to acupuncture. This section is followed by a detailed explanation of how the healing works or at least its theoretical basis. Almost without exception the systems adopt a holistic attitude towards health and treat the total being. The descriptions are down-to-earth and oppose mystification while leaving mystery intact. Repeatedly the author advises the reader whom to contact for more information and where training centres are located. The book is user-friendly and it freely acknowledges that it can do little more than touch the surface of any system of healing.
Certain chapters are accompanied by brief biographies of main practitioners and this, I think, is at the heart of what alternative medicine is all about. It is medicine with a human face. The healer is important in the healing and the energies which flow between us as human beings are considered as highly significant. The caring presence of the healer has its place beside the chamomile or colour or regimen which s/he prescribes.
One comes away from this book with the rather comforting feeling that if this is the New Age (which has been ridiculed so much of late for its faith in crystals, colours etc) then it might not be a bad Age to inhabit. This book deals with medicine for Life, and I am convinced that wider acceptance of its principles would lead to far fewer cases of cardiac arrest, cancers, stress disorders and impatient unhappiness. It would also lead to less profit for the multinational drug companies. Cui bono?