(Also known as the "dodgy dossier", and admitted to be a "complete Horlicks".)
Most practitioners agree that voodoo medicine works through information and regulation to/of the somatic processes, thus stimulating the self-healing mechanisms of the body. While most "conventional" medicine works independently of the body's own homoeostatic processes, for example penicillin works by its own antibacterial actions which can inhibit or kill bacteria in vitro as well as in vivo, to be of therapeutic value voodoo methods must modulate the body's homeostatic processes, i.e. by targeting the the self-healing mechanisms.
How voodoo works (how it stimulates the body's self-healing processes) has been debated in depth through the years. Many mechanisms have been suggested. Some of these have been identified, especially in research on puppet healing. Regardless of what mechanisms have been suggested, the end result is always that the body's self-healing mechanisms must be activated.
Some paradoxical observations have been noted in voodoo medicine. Recently, several independent uncontrolled retrospective clinical studies on the effectiveness of ceramic doll healing reported a clinical success rate of nearly 90%. However, the clinical response to the same procedure was also evaluated in two double-blind studies. In one, where subjective evaluation of response was performed by the owners of the animals, both groups of patients showed positive results but there was no difference between the two groups. In the other the evaluation was objective. Neither group of patients improved, and there was no difference between the two groups - if anything, the patients in the treatment group tended to get worse. A very successful therapy in the clinic may therefore be almost without effect in a double-blind trial.
Similar observations have been made in the related field of homoeopathy. Beneviste's investigations (Davenas et al., 1988) showed that the results differed when he made the trials alone compared to experiments performed in the presence of sceptics. He suggested that the presence of critical observers "zeroed" the results of the investigations. (Note in this context that the video footage which has been shown of Benveniste's experiments apparently working while James Randi is leaning over the shoulder of the technician performing the unblinded cell counting is of course a clever forgery.) Many investigations have shown that homeopathy sometimes works, and sometimes doesn't (Coulter, 1980; Linde, 1997; Vaarst, 1996). In addition, many homeopathic studies show very good results in the clinic but perform badly in double-blind trials. Very similar observations have also been reported in other fields such as crystallography, biodynamic agriculture and quantum mechanics.
It is probable that Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle will explain these differences practically and theoretically. As Fritjof Capra states in his book The Tao of Physics: "In modern physics, the question of consciousness has arisen in connection with the observation of atomic phenomena which can only be understood as links in a chain of processes, the end of which lies in the consciousness of the human observer." Similarly, Eugene Wigner states that: "It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum theory in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness." Wigner and others have argued that the explicit inclusion of human consciousness may be an essential aspect of future theories of matter.
These concepts all indicate that the qualities of the therapist may influence the outcome of a treatment or experiment, as modern quantum mechanics has suggested. Many serious acupuncture texts from China express this opinion, for example:
It appears therefore that the qualities of the therapist, especially Yì (intention), may influence the outcome of a treatment. This explains why homeopaths and doctors disagree, and never will agree. If the therapist's intent, formed by years of study and clinical conviction, really is the most important aspect of clinical medicine, it is no surprise that scientists and doctors (who rely on dispassionate randomised controlled trials for evidence of clinical efficacy) disagree with homeopaths and voodooists about the reality of their clinical results. Double-blind studies cannot allow for the influence of Yì (intention), and will show little difference between the treated and control groups compared to the clinical situation where focussed positive intent is present.
As veterinary surgeons, when we treat animals, we must pay much more attention to our own Yž, and to the psyche of our patients. We must abandon double-blind trials in all investigations on therapies that involve the self-healing properties of the body. We must realise that the results of "great spirits", like the people mentioned above, cannot be duplicated, and may have been the results of their intention and belief.
The influence of the intent of the practitioner has been expounded in more detail from a quantum mechanics standpoint by Milgrom (2002; 2003a; 2003b), introducing the concept of patient-practitioner-remedy entanglement. Milgrom also notes that within the field of homoeopathy reports exist of patients describing improvement in their symptoms before receiving the potentised remedy, (Boulderstone, 2000; Wichmann, 2001), and that this appears to coincide with the moment the practitioner has understood the case and decided on the appropriate remedy. This basic phenomenon is not however new; it was originally reported over fifty years ago by Asimov (1948). These findings, and the reports of homoeopaths prescribing by writing the name of the selected remedy on a piece of paper and placing it over a glass of water, with the patient then drinking the water and reporting an improvement (Milgrom, 2002), are of obvious relevance to voodoo medicine. It is hoped that further research in the area of "healing across time" will lead to effective treatments becoming available for patients which have already died.
Voodoo is unique in that the techniques of almost any therapeutic method may be adapted and utilised within the modality.
Physical techniques are the most basic. Images may be warmed or cooled as necessary. They may be bandaged or splinted, and placed in conditions of comfort or safety, just as is required by the patient. Some practitioners have introduced voodoo chiropractic, but this is still in the experimental stage.
"Conventional" medicine such as antibiotics and steroids may be usefully employed in voodoo fashion. By this method not only is the dose of medication reduced (on a "per kg bodyweight" basis a doll will always require a smaller amount than the patient), but absolute safety is assured. In voodoo medicine only the desired therapeutic effect is transferred to the patient by the yì of the practitioner, therefore it is impossible for adverse drug reactions or overdosages to be manifested. This approach has particular benifits in dealing with a certain type of client. Because licensed medicinal products are employed, the mystique of conventional medicine is maintained and added to that of voodoo medicine. Animal owners who are instinctively wary of "alternative" medicine may be very much reassured by this technique, in particular by the use of medications which are legally forbidden to non-veterinary-qualified therapists.
Homoeopathy is especially suited to adaptation to voodoo methodology, primarily because the two modalities are extremely similar in their theoretical basis. While voodoo utilises the Law of Similarity in the resemblance of the doll to the patient and the Law of Contagion in the employment of ousia, homoeopathy utilises the former in the remedy choice of "like cures like" and the latter in the use of infinite dilutions. There is therefore an additive effect, with consequent amplification of the sympathetic magical properties. In addition, as the infinite dilution principle makes the remedies particularly inexpensive to manufacture, the combination of homoeopathy with the physically small doses of voodoo medicine becomes an extremely economical endeavour.
Herbal medicine of Eastern or Western traditions is extremely popular with many voodooists, and with clients who are particularly committed to the "natural" therapeutic approach.
Radiotherapy is particularly suited to a voodoo approach. Once again, only the desired therapeutic property of the therapy is transferred to the patient, thus adverse effects such as leucopenia, gastrointestinal upsets and hair loss are eliminated. In addition, as it is of course possible to give the image a much greater pro rata dose of radiation than could be tolerated by the patient directly, the success rate may be assumed to be significantly higher.
Acupuncture must be used with extreme caution in voodoo medicine. While there is no suggestion that it should be avoided completely, it must be appreciated that it carries risks not present in the methods detailed above. The reason for this lies in the alternative "curse" application of voodooism, where piercing the image with pins or needles is used to harm the object of the procedure rather than to cure. Inexperienced use of voodoo acupuncture therefore carries the significant risk of killing the patient if a "curse" manipulation is mistakenly employed rather than the intended acupuncture procedure. Acupuncturists beware.
ASIMOV, I. (1948) The endochronic properties of resublimated thiotimoline. Astounding Science Fiction March 1948, 120-125.
BOULDERSTONE, J. (2000) The next step? Homeopath 77, 16-17.
DAVENAS, E., BEAUVAIS, F, ARNARA, J. et al. (1988) Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE. Nature 333, 816-818.COULTER, H. (1980) Homeopathic Science and Modern Medicine. North Atlantic Books.
LINDE, K., CLAUSIUS, N., RAMIREZ, G. et al. (1997) Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo controlled trials. Lancet 350, 834 - 843.
MILGROM, L. R. (2002) Patient-practitioner-remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 1: a qualitative, non-local metaphor for homeopathy based on quantum theory. Homeopathy 91, 239-248.
MILGROM, L. R. (2003a) Patient-practitioner-remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 2: extending the metaphor for homeopathy using molecular quantum theory. Homeopathy 92, 35-43.
MILGROM, L. R. (2003b) Patient-practitioner-remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 3: refining the quantum metaphor for homeopathy. Homeopathy 92, 152-160.
VAARST, M. (1996) Veterinaer homeopati: Baggrund, principper og anvendelse med speciell fokus pa okologiske melkekvegbesetninger - et litteraturreview. Statens husdyrbrugsforsok, Denmark, Beteraktning nr. 731, p. 51.
WICHMANN, J. (2001) Defining a different tradition for homeopathy. Homeopathic Links 14, 202-203.
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