The eminent British biologist Gregory Bateson once said that “A miracle is a materialist’s idea of how to escape from his materialism.” That is to say, miracles are the back-door explanations for events occurring outside the commonly accepted laws of natural processes. In two words, miracles are commonly viewed as “divine interventions,” the hand of the Creator dramatically interceding in the normal operations of his (or her) creation. When an occurrence defies the logical analysis of presently known facts, we label it a “miracle,” a unique, inexplicable–and capricious–act of God.
For me there are two major problems with this view of things. The first is philosophical, and it thoroughly permeates our notions of the relationships between self, world and our concept of the divine. Underlying this view is a fundamental separation nature and her Creator, between the unfolding of nature as originally set in motion and the arbitrary and temporary fiat of a Supreme Being. This separation manifests itself in many variations of our primary assumptions about the relationships between humanity and the cosmos–separations between matter and spirit, between body and soul, between objective and subjective knowledge, between the physical and the divine. These separations lie at the heart of the dark night of the modern Western psyche–the alienation from nature and from one another, the spiritual confusions and the hubristic assumption that matter can be manipulated to serve all human needs. These separations have driven a firm wedge between ourselves and the world we inhabit, between what is known and important aspects of all that remains to be discovered, between our collective actions and the health of our environment, between mind and soul, between “post-enlightenment” dawn of the modern scientific era and earlier “primitive” cultures. And so we wait for miracles to set things right.
The second major problem with the natural/miraculous dichotomy is not philosophical but scientific. To deem an event a “miracle” outside the bounds of natural law presumes that we have in fact a comprehensive grasp of what those laws are. Again Gregory Bateson: “Science has never proven anything,” and “All knowledge is provisional.” The next new discovery can set all prior assumptions on their head, which has occurred repeatedly in the history of science. Science can never be more than a general consensus about the nature of things based upon what mutually agreed-upon data is currently available. What the scientific community collectively agrees upon would fill all of the technical libraries of the world. What is not yet known would fill all of the rest of the buildings in the world.
A tamer, more scientifically manageable name for a miracle is “anomaly.” All too typically anomalies are simply brushed aside because they do not fit accepted wisdom and expected outcomes. Well, there is nothing more unscientific than the out-of-hand dismissal of an anomaly. All scientific breakthroughs have come to pass through the careful examination of currently inexplicable anomalies. And the daily observation of healing anomalies is the effective bodyworker’s milieu.
These reflections lead me to the book that you have in your hands, Ronan Kisch’s The Miraculous Dimensions of Bodywork: The Unusual and Extraordinary Achievements of Miracle-Conscious Bodyworkers, an anecdotal collection–and yes, all knowledge begins anecdotally–of remarkable resolutions of conditions that have failed to respond to conventional medical treatment. Anomalies. The effective bodyworker’s studio is a laboratory like no other, where the mysteries of the intersection between consciousness and physiology are the prevailing assumptions. Much of the subtext of these anecdotes, in my view, has to do with the heightened awareness of and conscious movement of energies in our bodies.
Now with “energy” we have landed on a loaded word in a long-standing debate. Many mainstream medical authorities want to insist that there is no such thing as “energy medicine,” that healing is all about repairing, eliminating or replacing faulty mechanisms and the pharmaceutical tweaking of biochemistry. On the other hand, the physicists–those probers into the ultimate nature of matter–have been telling us since the 1920’s that there is nothing in the universe but energy, swirling, vibrating, congealing, transmuting, compounding, interpenetrating, endlessly restless energy, energy whose complex interactions continually reinforce coherent relationships and which also provide constant opportunities for–analogies. It is within this ambiguity of stable coherence and novel occurrences that the practitioners’ experiences described in this book arise.
For me there are three basic principles from which all anomalous, miraculous healings unfold:
- Self-awareness. Until we more fully and consciously inhabit our own flesh we cannot have an accurate picture of who and what we actually are. As a matter of fact, unless we more fully and consciously inhabit our flesh we do not have a clear picture of the world at large. There is no unambiguous distinction between proprioception (our physical sense of ourselves) and exteroception (the objective apprehension of the world around us). This hard and fast distinction between my perceptions of self and my perception of the rest of the world is at the core of our increasing alienation from that world. I would go so far as to posit that there is only proprioception, our sensory connections to self. The only things my nervous system is in direct contact with are my tissues; my world view is built upon inferences from my tissues’ responses to my surroundings. My body is my antenna, and any distortions or elisions in my perceptions of it lead inexorably to a distorted world, because my bodily responses are my source of my sense of that world.
- Self-regulation. I have at my disposal thousands of parameters of self-regulating control mechanisms, from beliefs to feeling states to behaviors on every conceivable level. These cannot be effectively accessed and appropriately used without expanding self-awareness.
- Successful adaptation. If I can become more sensitized to my tissues’ responses to the world, and if I can discover and utilize my own capacities for self-regulation, I can open up a wider and wider repertoire of constructive choices –choices in diet, activities, beliefs, relationships–that better serve my adaptations to constantly shifting situations within myself and around me.
Once again, Bateson: “All knowledge is deeply subjective.” I have no way of knowing anything apart from my conscious relations to my organism that is doing the knowing. Heightened sensory awareness, and a heightened sense of how to interpret the information it feeds me, is absolutely critical to the management of my own being and the impact I am having on my surroundings. The fundamental mystery and miracle, for which there is no meaningful scientific theory, is the emergence of self-reflective consciousness and its active interface with the stuff of which I am made–it basic nature, its history and its possibilities. This interface is the domain of bodywork, and the unifying principle of all modalities is the expanding of personal awareness of the dimensions of the self and its relations to the world around it.
This is the miracle which Ronan Kisch addresses–the expansion of sensory consciousness and its fusion with the physical realities that are the fabric of our lives. This cannot be learned from a book; it must be directly experienced in the body. Touch and movement are the most direct avenues for approaching this expansion and this fusion. When they occur, they open dimensions of developmental possibilities that are otherwise unimaginable and inaccessible. This is why the people in this book underwent such dramatic positive changes in their symptoms and their lives. Effective bodyworkers introduced them to the miracle that is themselves.
August 14, 2009