[From: Eddie, L. 2008, A Skeptical Look At Alternative Therapies And Beliefs, Digital Reproductions]

(Investigator Magazine 191, 2020 March)

From the Chinese xue, literally meaning a hole or a cave, these are 361 points on the body that are claimed to lie on meridians, and are used for the insertion of acupuncture needles or as acupressure points.

One of a number of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Treatments. It involves inserting small metal needles into specific locations on the body, known as acupoints, which are claimed to be located on special internal body channels, (meridians), through which, it is claimed, flows a special form of energy, known as Qi or Chi'. See—BLOODLETTING.

Astrological theory claims that as the Earth moves through the cosmos it enters various periods or "star ages" where the inhabitants of Earth are profoundly influenced by that particular zodiacal sign. Although Astrologers claim each star age lasts approximately 2,200 years, this is a fallacy as the length of these ages vary quite considerably. It is widely claimed that the Earth is about to enter a new star age, the Age of Aquarius, which, according to believers will be an age of love, peace and enlightenment, and will commence when the sun moved into the zodiacal sign of Aquarius. There is considerable disagreement as to when this age will commence, Astrologers place the commencing date at between 1904 and 2160.

A term introduced by Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, (1755-1843), to refer to those medical practitioners who used medicines that produced symptoms that were the opposite of those of the disease, a concept previously mentioned by Galen.

Essentially any person who treats people using methods that are not generally recognized by orthodox medicine; the principal examples are practitioners of Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Chiropractic, Therapeutic Touch, TCM.

The term used by Mesmer to describe the vitalistic energy that pervaded the entire cosmos. The term is derived from anima – an ancient name for the soul.
The name given by Paracelsus to the vitalistic life-energy. He perceived it as a form of universal energy, a life-principle that could enter inanimate material and give it both life and innate intelligence. Yet despite animating this substance, the Archeus always remained a separate entity and would, in time, discard the former body which would decay and return to dust, and return to its place of origin in the heavens.
According to alternative therapists the Aura is an energy field radiating from all living organisms, both plants and animals. The human aura is claimed to be a three-dimensional ovoid extending about 60 cm on every side, it is said to contain layers of moving clear, pure colours. Alternative therapists claim it serves as a "visual" indicator of health, with the colours fading and becoming dull whenever an individual is not in good health and that these colour changes enable alternative healers to diagnose an individual's health. See - ENERGY FIELD; ETHERIC.

A form of luminescence, or Aura that surrounded the entire body.

An ancient Indian form of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, whose origins are rather obscure. From two Sanskrit words, Ayus = life; and Veda = knowledge, it appears to be simply a collection of traditional oral medical experience, passed down through numerous generations until at some point in time it began to be recorded around the 1st century BCE.  Its teachings are based upon many erroneous pre-scientific ideas, in particular the religious and philosophical teachings of the Vedas, in particular that diseases are caused by demons, and cures were essentially magical spells and charms to ward of these demons. Although it was for its time, an enlightened form of medicine, it stagnated, never evolving the solid scientific base of Western medicine.

A form of Vitalism developed by Dr. Edward Bach, (1886 - 1936) a British physician and pathologist. It was based upon the belief that plants contain a spiritual healing energy that can be utilized in the treatment of the sick; this was done by using essences drawn from the dew that formed on various plants. Since the amount of essence that could be obtained in this way was rather limited, Bach developed other processes, such as picking the flowers, sprinkling them with water and placing them in a glass container, or by boiling plant material in water. Bach's theories were based upon his own subjective observations, and, as such, are not only unreliable but completely unscientific. Various independent studies have failed to substantiate the claims made for the process.


Generally referred to as "bioenergetic" or bio-electromagnetic therapies, in alternative terminology this refers to the concept of the biological energy of the body. Most alternative beliefs are based upon the idea that the life-force that animates humans and animals comes from a heavenly source and flows into the body and in the process of maintaining life it generates and radiates a bioelectric energy field around the body, (the Aura). According to some this energy field consists of two separate layers, the Etheric Double and the Etheric or Health Aura. These combined layers of energy are generally referred to as the Human Energy Field or HEF. Psychics claim it is composed of some of the universal animating energy that "radiates" from the body, combined with specific patterns of mental and physical energy that reflect the function and operation of every body organ. They claim that certain individuals are able to dynamically interact with these energy fields to locate health defects, caused by "blockages" in the internal energy flow, and are detectable in the energy field, and then, by transferring some of their own biological energy to the sick person, they can "balance" and "readjust" the patient's internal energy flow. Bioenergetic techniques include Therapeutic Touch, Rei-ki, Auric Massage, Pranic Healing, Qi Gong.

The Application of hot irons to the skin, creating large blisters. It was believed that the pain helped to expel evil energies from the body, while malignant energies were also drained from the body as the liquid from the blisters was expelled. The process had its origins in ancient times when severe physical suffering was thought necessary to drive out evil spirits that were believed to cause sickness.

Known as Phlebotomy, a very primitive form of "medical" treatment in which the skin was cut open to allow blood to flow out. There are various thoughts as to the purpose, it is thought to have been either a blood-sacrifice to the deities or else given the ancient belief that sickness and disease was caused by evil spirits entering the body, a means to allow the evil spirits to escape. It appears such practices were probably the origins of Acupuncture, that while other cultures continued to bleed out large amounts of blood the Chinese replaced the practice with small cuts and then later, with small punctures to the skin, first using bian stones, then later needles made of bamboo, or fish and animal bones. During the Shang Dynasty, (1600 – 1046 BCE), bronze casting developments enabled the first metal needles to be produced. Phlebotomy remained a part of European medicine well into the 19th century.

A person who not only studies Crop Circles but considers themselves experts in the field. They are absolutely convinced these circles are the work of aliens and totally reject any claims from hoaxers who claim to have created these formations.

From the Sanskrit word for "a wheel" are claimed to be locations on the body which receive and transmit a form of energy called Prana, the 'life-force'. They are like palm-sized whirlpools, although the Crown Chakra is said to be much larger. They are said to have an important role in all aspects of physical, mental and emotional health, as well as in the spiritual development of the individual. Although invisible they are claimed to be visible to clairvoyants. Various authorities give varying numbers, but the most common claim is that there are seven principal chakras. They are as follows: -

1.    The Base Chakra (located at the base of the spine, between the anus and the genitals);
2.    The Spleen Chakra (located just below the navel);
3.    The Solar Plexus Chakra, located 8-9 centimeters above the navel, controls the digestive process;
4.    The Heart Chakra, located near the centre of the chest, controls the operation of the heart and the circulation of blood;
5.    The Throat Chakra, located where the throat and chest meet, controls the lungs and respiration, as well as the vocal chords, the ears, nose, and the throat;
6.    The Brow Chakra, located in the centre of the forehead);
7.    Crown Chakra (located on the top of the head).

Each chakra is said to have a specific role in controlling various physical, spiritual and metaphysical abilities. So for instance, the Crown Chakra, which controls our consciousness, providing us with our awareness of things around us, is said to have an important role in spiritual development, and, when fully developed, it grants the individual access to transcendental levels of wisdom and understanding, enabling them to access spiritual dimensions, even it is claimed, to the realm of the fount of universal wisdom and knowledge, the godhead itself. The physiological roles of the other chakras are as follows:
The root and belly chakras are related to generative and sexual functions.
•    The heart chakra
•    The throat chakra
•    The Brow, or 'third eye chakra' is related to vision, the eyes, and the pituitary gland.
•    The Crown Chakra is related to the brain, and especially the pituitary and pineal glands.

In certain alternative therapies crystals are placed at the sites of the various chakras to encourage healing.

A Chinese form of life-force, or energy that was drawn into the body with each breath. Also known as Qi, or, "vital or heavenly air" it was believed to originate in the sun and was perceived as a form of radiant energy.  See – PRANA.

The use of coffee as the liquid for enemas or colonic irrigation, it is widely promoted by certain alternative therapists as a cure for cancer. Various claims are made about the treatment, such as that the coffee enemas can reduce the pain of the cancer and also can activate a liver enzyme to destroy free radicals in the body. The technique was widely promoted by Max Gerson. See – GERSON THERAPY.

Also known as, Colonic Hydrotherapy, High Colonic, Colonic Lavage, Entero-lavage, or simply, a colonic, this is a process in which a large amount of liquid, generally 50 litres or more is injected deep into the colon. The liquid completely fills the colon and is then flushed out, the process normally being repeated several more times. It is a popular practice with many alternative therapists. Because of the complexity of the process it is done by a therapist and usually involves a special machine that injects the water via a long tube directly into the colon, and then drains it out in a continual operation.

The principal chakra located at the top of the head, or, according to other "authorities" about 10-15 cm. above the head, through which it is claimed an energy or life-force enters the body. See – CHAKRAS.

The use of crystals or gemstones for purposes of divining the future or to access "hidden knowledge" — also known as scrying. It is so named because the most common stones used were quartz crystals. Because these were often found in large pieces they were suitable for carving into a ball-shape, hence crystal-balls.

A TCM techniques, and also in pre-scientific European medical practice. It involved the use of small glass globes that were heated by inserting a lighted taper into them; this caused the air in the globe to expand and then, when placed on the skin the reduced air pressure causes them to adhere, producing faster, more voluminous bleeding.

The claim made by certain alternative therapies that they are able to "project" their healing energies to someone located at another, often distant location.

A "vital force" possessed by every human; a concept developed by Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, (1755-1843), as part of Homeopathy. For thousands of years Western medicine relied on the concepts that since bleeding, swelling, abscesses, etc. were normal symptoms of disease, producing them artificially would speed up the normal healing process, so the sick were deliberately cut open to let them bleed, burned with hot irons and purged with powerful laxatives. Hahnemann rejected such ideas; he believed that these natural symptoms were produced by a vital force, the "dynamis" as a natural means of dealing with the disease. Hahnemann was extremely critical of practitioners who continued to use these primitive treatments, believing they would accelerate healing.

From "endogenous" and "morphine", a natural substance created within the body during times of stress which produces similar heightened feelings of exhilaration much like those produced by morphine and heroin, interfering with the perception of pain. It has been suggested that techniques such as acupuncture might trigger the release of this substance reducing the perception of pain during surgery. They appear to have a role in the Placebo Response. Their release can also be triggered by hypnosis, meditation, yoga, bio-feedback and other relaxation techniques.

A process by which a liquid is introduced into the rectum. Because they are only intended to flush out the lower part of the colon, the rectum and the sigmoid colon and use only a small amount of liquid, they can be, and are often self-administered with a syringe. They are often confused with a similar process known as Colonic Irrigation.

Sometimes referred to as the Human Energy Field, (HEF), it is claimed by many alternative therapists, especially those involved in Bioenergetic therapies, that the body is surrounded by a field of energy which is composed some of the universal animating energy that "radiates" from the body. This energy field combines specific patterns of mental and physical energy that reflect the function and operation of every body organ, as well as reflecting our every thought and emotion. It is claimed, that these distinctive energy patterns within this HEF enable alternative therapists to quickly and easily diagnose any illness or bodily disorder. See – ETHERIC.

From the ancient concept of "aether" a substance that was believed to fill space it generally referred to a special non-physical spirit like body of light that surrounded the human body and enabled it to communicate with the spiritual world. See – AURA; ETHERIC BODY.

Essentially this refers to the field of radiant light said to surround the body; also known as the Aura.

According to Theosophical teaching the etheric double is an invisible area surrounding the human body, composed of at least two "etheric envelopes" or, energy fields, the Etheric Double which projects about one centimeter from the body, while the other part, the Etheric or Health Aura, is some three to five centimeters deep.

This is an attempt by alternative therapists to provide a simplistic explanation for emotional cause and effect. They claim that all interactions between individuals are based upon the projection of an etheric energy which radiates out from one individual to interact with and influence others in the vicinity, even amplifying any similar feelings which they may have. See - ENERGY FIELD.

According to Ayurvedic teaching the universe is composed of five elemental forces; known as Pancha Mahabhutas, these are air (Vayu), fire (Agni), water (Apa) earth (Prithvi), and Space (Akasha). See – FOUR ELEMENTS.

According to traditional Hellenic teaching the Earth, and all things within the mundane world were composed of four types of matter, Air, Earth, Fire and Water and that since humans too were composed of these four elements their behaviour and character reflected the dominant element of which they were composed. In contrast Ayurveda identified five elemental forces, (Pancha Mahabhutas), these are air (Vayu), fire (Agni), water (Apa) earth (Prithvi), and space (Akasha).

An ancient but erroneous Hellenic theory concerned the belief in four basic human "temperaments". Originally known as the "four fluids", humor being Latin for "moisture" or "fluid", it later became the "Four Humours". Although attributed to Hippocrates, it appears more likely that he simply adopted an already existing concept, since the Chinese already had a similar idea. It related to the concept of the Four Elements, a traditional Hellenic philosophy that there were only four universal elements which occurred in the mundane world, (the sphere of the earth), as the Air; Earth; Fire; and Water, and that all earthly matter, including humans, was composed of varying amounts of these four ingredients, which occurred in humans in the form of four physiological fluids or humours, blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Blood corresponded to air, heat and wetness; phlegm to water, and was cold and wet; yellow bile or choler corresponded to the dry heat of fire, while black bile equated to the cold dryness of earth.

The character, and behaviour, of each person was determined by which fluid was most prevalent, along with the amounts of the other substances and the manner in which they interacted to produce "balance" or "imbalance." These factors produced the individual's "temperament" or "temper" (from the Latin temperare meaning "to mix together"). Individuals with a preponderance of hot, dry blood were thought to be wise and thoughtful; those controlled by Phlegm were lethargic, and lazy; Yellow Bile produced people who were highly unstable while black bile which was hot and wet produced a person with a sad, melancholy nature. Good health depended upon the correct balance of each of these substances, and when an imbalance occurred, illness resulted.

As a result Greek physicians stressed the importance of correct diet, believing proper nutrition could keep these fluids in their proper balance. Hippocrates believed that the four elements which composed humans originated from certain invisible substances which occurred naturally in food and drink. One by-product of the consumption of food and drink was the creation of a life-force, or energy, which much later was called by Galen a "natural spirit."

A claustrophobic process in which the victim was either placed in closed room filled with thick smoke or over a bowl with a blanket over their head and inhaled smoke or vapours from a bowl. The process had its origins in ancient times when obnoxious smelling smoke was used to drive out the evil spirits believed to cause sickness.

An alternative therapy claimed to be effective against cancer. Developed by Max Gerson (1881 – 1959) in the later 1920's it comprised a regime of coffee enemas, and a diet low in sodium and high in potassium. His ideas were based on ideas which although popular in Germany over one-hundred years ago, have no valid scientific basis and no relevance to modern nutrition or cancer treatment.

Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, (1755-1843), the creator of Homeopathy. Evidence suggests that he was a gifted, independent thinker, who, at a time when medicine was still primarily based upon superstitious nonsense, was driven by genuine concern to develop a new form of medical treatment that was not only more humane, but was also more scientific, to replace the harsh treatments that were a normal part of medicine in his time. Unfortunately, like many of his age, lacking the scientific basis of the origins of disease, he was led astray by the archaic pre-scientific theories of their time and so evolved a pseudo-scientific concept based upon a religious-philosophical model of illness rather than a medical model. As part of his theory he introduced the concepts of Miasms and Psora, concepts now rarely mentioned by Homeopaths.

According to Theosophical teaching the human body is surrounded by an invisible field of energy composed of at least two "etheric envelopes"; these are the Etheric Double which projects about one centimeter from the body, while the other part, the Etheric or Health Aura, is some three to five centimeters deep. Although invisible, according to those able to perceive it, this field it was a pale violet-grey or blue-grey and faintly luminous.

Abbreviation for the Human Energy Field.  See – ENERGY FIELD.

The term Homeopathy is derived from the Greek words, homoion (like or similar) and, pathos (suffering), to describe a system of 'medical' treatment using various substances that produced a physical reaction in patients that was similar to the symptoms produced by the actual disease. A Vitalistic concept developed by Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, (1755-1843), it is essentially a collection of pseudo-scientific ideas with no relevance to proper medicine. It is based upon the ancient concept of homogeneity, that things of a like or similar nature have a degree of cosmic connection, thus red coloured plants were believed to be particularly efficacious in the treatment of condition that involved bleeding. Hahnemann defined the concept as, "Like cures like" (similia similibus curantur).

Possibly the most contentious aspect of Homeopathy is the process of "dynamization", or "potentizing" where a small amount of a herb that produced symptoms similar to those of the patient's disorder being experienced is constantly diluted. Commencing with a Mother Tincture the plant, or mineral agent, is dissolved in a mixture of 90% alcohol and 10% water, stored for two to four weeks, being shaken, (succussed), at regular intervals. A small amount is removed and is then added to either nine or ninety parts of alcohol or water; as before this is shaken briskly, at least forty times. This process is repeated so that each time the previous mixture continues to be diluted until the  mixtures reach an ultra-molecular level, in Homeopathic terms 12C or 24X (1 part in 1024); despite the fact that this is beyond Avogadro's number (6.023 x 1023) which actually corresponds to homeopathic potencies of 12C. Homoeopathists claim that at this level of dilution the more effective it becomes, for while any toxic qualities have been so diluted as to be non-existent the substance retains the curative properties of the drug remains undiminished able to activate the dynamis, the powerful internal healing force. The explanation for this is to be found in Vitalistic concepts, which states that the strength of the original life-energy within any substance can never be diminished, so, no matter how endlessly diluted, however minute might be the final amount of that substance, the life-energy within that substance remains as powerful as when the process began.
Sometimes called Sympathetic Magic, the primitive magical belief that "like produces like", the erroneous belief that items or processes that had a similar nature or appearance had a sympathetic connection and acted together. Based upon the belief that there existed an unbreakable connection between the "macro" and "micro" levels of nature, so that all things in the natural world possess the "power" to act upon each other through some mystical form of universal sympathy, particularly if they have common similarities such as shape or colour. Thus red flowers and plants were thought to be most suitable herbs for treating wounds or disorders that produced bleeding, while plants with red stems, such as Mugwort, and rhubarb, were considered especially effective in the treatment of menstrual discharges, and to prevent hemorrhaging after child-birth. Any plants that grew in or near water were used for colds and rheumatism, which was thought to be caused by a flow of watery substances through the affected area. Fevers were treated with spicy herbs that produced heat, or by wrapping the patient in heavy blankets, sealing the room and building up a fire. This principle was an important aspect of magical beliefs as well as in early medicine and herbalism.

Despite the erroneous nature of this concept it forms the basis of most forms of alternative therapies, e.g. Homeopathy uses base substances that produce symptoms similar to the illness, while in TCM someone suffering from a bad back would be advised to eat fried centipedes, or prescribed a medicine containing dried centipedes, since the appearance of their segmented body is similar to that of the human spine. See - LAW OF SIMILARITIES; MACROCOSM-MICROCOSM.

Also referred to as HEF. See – ENERGY FIELD

Essentially a psychophysiologic process, originating in the Ascending Reticular Activating System, (ARAS), and the Limbic System, two sub-systems within the brain stem. However, because the hypnotic process takes place outside our level of consciousness, even though it occurs dozens of times every day, individuals are normally totally unaware they are taking place! By reducing the degree of external input activity within the reticular activating system, (RA), is greatly reduced, leading to a general feeling of relaxation and calmness. Further reductions in sensory input can produce even more pronounced feelings of restfulness, as well as feelings of serenity and a sense of general well being. By concentrating one can often turn the individual's attention "inwards" so that the "attention" becomes increasingly concentrated within the RA and Limbic Systems, producing a sense of reverie. This can produce additional experiences such as a feeling of dissociation, as if one is "drifting off" into another level of reality, or even that one has left their body. It is at this level where many are deceived into believing they are having some form of spiritual or transcendental experience.

While often referred to as a "trance state'' the altered condition is actually a an altered state of consciousness, a shift in the level of consciousness, from a normal conscious level, to another "deeper level" where the individual becomes more centred, more focused, and where it appears they are in touch with a much deeper level of their "inner consciousness".

A metaphysical concept of an invisible life-force it was developed by Daniel David Palmer, a tradesman and magnetic healer, the "discoverer" of Chiropractic. He proposed it was the "Soul, the Spirit or Spark of Life" a natural instinctive spirit, part of the subconscious mind, and it was the internal principle that was responsible for controlling the natural healing process of the body via the autonomic nervous system.

The use enemas to provide sexual gratification. It can occur in several forms, either alone, in conjunction with normal sexual intercourse, or in conjunction with fetishes or masturbation, and is generally classified as a paraphilia.

This refers to the erroneous belief that items or processes of a similar nature operate together in a "similar" or sympathetic manner. It was once widely accepted that if some object or substance had properties similar to something else, that there was a subtle connection between the two items, thus because red-coloured flowers had the same colour as blood, they were believed suitable as a means of treating wounds or disorders that produced bleeding. This principle was an important aspect of early medicine, for, in the preparation and use of primitive medicines, remedies were used that produced symptoms similar in nature to the illness, a practice that continued until relatively recent times, (in some parts of the world until the 19th century). 

Many alternative beliefs accept the claim found in Genesis 2:7 that humans are composed of inanimate material and that this is animated by an external energy, (the life-force). For some it is a divine substance, from the deities, for others a celestial force that flows down from heaven to enter the human, generally though the Crown Chakra, then flowing through the body it maintains life. However, if the flow of life-energy should become restricted or blocked, it causes illness, disease or a general lack of energy. The objective of most alternative therapies is to restore the flow to its normal level using their particular form of "therapy".

The Macrocosm, (the "great cosmos") was the heavens, while the Microcosm, (the "small cosmos") was the Earth and its inhabitants. In ancient times it was believed there existed an inexorable connection between the two, and that what happened in the heavens influenced events on earth. Such a belief formed the basis for most forms of divination which were effectively processes to divine the will of the gods or the cosmos and led to the development of such arts as Astrology.

Everything upon the earth was perceived as reflections of similar larger-scale models in the heavens, so that for instance, the Zodiac where the constellations were attributed with the shapes of beings or animals, were considered to be the macrocosmic representations of the microcosmic creatures upon the earth. From the observations that the stars continually repeated their tracks through the heavens, year-by-year, there developed such ideas as reincarnation and predestination, based upon the belief that just as the stars in the macrocosm were destined to "endlessly repeat" their pathways through the sky, so too humans were likewise destined to repeat their life upon earth, or were predestined to follow courses which had been mapped out for them long before their birth.

A belief that the natural events of the universe can be directed by human design, through the use of magical incantations or words of power. The website, Natural Majick: A Beginners Guide to Energy Divination and Majickal Applications, defines magic as, "…simply using an endless supply of natural energy that surrounds everything in the universe. By attuning and accessing this energy we have the natural ability to heal, attract money, attract love, get glimpses of what the future may hold and to grow spiritually and psychically."

Literally "small magnet" a concept of a biological magnet. In the Middle Ages it was believed by some that sickness was caused by an overabundance of vitality; Paracelsus claimed that mumia, made from dried bodily residue, would act as a magnes microscopi, to attract and draw excess vitality out of a human body in the same way that a magnet could attract iron. Paracelsus also believed that when this special "magnet" drew out the disease, at the same time, the inflammation in that area would be relieved by blood rushing to this area, a claim still used by proponents of alternative magnetic healing techniques. The "magnet" was then discarded, and as it slowly rotted away, so too it was believed, the patient's sickness gradually disappeared.

From the Italian, mal'aria, from mala aria 'bad air' thought to be noxious vapours that arose from swamps and marshland and was believed to be the cause of diseases such as Cholera and the Black Death. See – MIASMA.

Chinese term used in Acupuncture for invisible and undetectable channels which enable the life-giving energy Chi to be distributed throughout the body. In Ayurvedic they are known as srotas, and to the Buddhists nadis.

Franz Anton Mesmer, (1734-1815). He believed the planets influenced human behaviour and health, and that the cosmos was filled by an invisible fluid or gas, which he called gravitas universalis, (universal gravity). Some eight years later he learned that his friend, the astronomer Father Maximilian Hell, had successfully cured the sick wife of a distinguished visitor to Vienna using a magnet, and he concluded he had been wrong earlier and that the universal force was magnetic in origin not gravitational. He began to research and experiment with magnets and, as a doctor, he soon began to use them to treat his patients. He was the first person to attempt a scientific study of what he called "animal magnetism"; unfortunately scientific research per se was still based upon pseudo-scientific concepts so that his therapy was a combination of astrology, mysticism, vitalism, traditional faith healing methods with the laying on of hands. He was so successful he turned his Vienna home into a clinic.
His theories upset other physicians and he moved to Paris where his salon became famous. He treated up to thirty patients at a time seating them around a large tub filled with bottles of "magnetized water" and iron rods. His outlandish theories continued to upset the medical profession who claimed there were other simpler explanations for the so called animal-magnetism and he was increasingly ostracized. After his death his disciples continued to spread his theories and gradually as others began to examine "mesmerism" it was realized that the phenomena was actually a normal cognitive and psychophysiological process, which came to be better known as Hypnosis. See – MESMERIC PASSES; MESMERISM.

An ancient hypnotic technique which although common in Asia, was first used in the West by MESMER. It involved passing the hands around a person's body from the top of the head down to the feet, with the hands always a few centimeters away from so that they never actually touched the body. This technique is the basis of a number of alternative therapies in particular, Rei'ki and Therapeutic Touch.

An early form of hypnosis; it was named after the discoverer Franz Anton Mesmer who stumbled on the process accidentally. He mistakenly believed that it was a form of universal fluid, a life-force, which he called animal magnetism. He believed it was to be found in all humans. Later he mistakenly came to believe it could be transmitted from individual to individual and could be used for healing. Some of his followers sought other explanations for what was obviously a powerful tool, and gradually it was realized that it was a psychological process that relied heavily upon suggestion. The concept of a universal life-energy fluid is a form of Vitalism and is still found in many alternative forms of therapy. The belief that it can be "transmitted" from one person to another for healing is a fundamental principal of many Bioenergetic therapies such as Rei'ki and Therapeutic Touch.   See – MESMER; MESMERIC PASSES.

Before it was understood that germs caused disease physicians sought to find an explanation for the mysterious manner in which people became infected. One of these pre-scientific explanations was the idea of a miasma, from the Greek for "pollution." It was also known as malaria, from the  Italian, mal'aria, from mala aria 'bad air' thought to be noxious vapours produced by mephitic decaying animal or vegetable matter; these dank, fetid and miasmas were believed to carry on the air, in some ethereal manner, various infectious diseases such as Cholera and the Black Death. The term was also applied to any form of physical discharge from diseased people.  See – MALARIA; SPONTANEOUS GENERATION.

A concept evolved by Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, (1755-1843), the creator of Homeopathy. He considered Miasms to be the cause of disease; the idea was based upon the belief that noxious vapours produced by mephitic decaying animal or vegetable matter; these dank, fetid and miasmas were believed to carry on the air, in some ethereal manner, various infectious diseases; the term was also used to describe any physical discharge from a diseased person. There is some suggestion that Hahnemann perceived miasms as a form of infectious disease, however, until the development of germ theory there was no solid scientific basis for the spread of "infectious diseases" and so his ideas were rather imprecise. Hahnemann defined the following types of miasms: - 
•    Psoric Miasm:   Caused by environmental factors that produced itching, burning, inflammation and functional disturbances like headache, nausea, and discomfort.
•    Sycotic Miasm: A hypersensitive response to specific agencies that caused tumors, allergies, and the production of growth like warts, condylomata, and fibrous tissue, especially in the pelvic and sexual organ areas.
•    Syphilitic Miasm: Causing gangrene, ulceration, fissures and deformities.
•    Tubercular Miasm: Causing respiratory imbalance, weak lungs, head-sweats, re-occurring bleeding from the nose, bleeding gums, enuresis, and bloody stools.
While the inheritance of the miasms was not genetic per se, they are said to be caused by the fact that the "vital force" of parents has been tainted by such miasmic conditions at the time of conception.   See – MIASMAS.

A techniques used in TCM, and also in pre-scientific European medical practice in which small sticks or cones composed of various herbs were placed on the skin and ignited. It was believed that the heat would assist healing. In TCM they were placed on the acupoints, to stimulate that point and were sometimes allowed to burn right down so as to create a blister on the skin.

A number of alternative products that promote colonic cleansing offer customers various products that are designed to clean out the colon. These products generally contain one or more herbal products aimed at stimulating and quickly pushing waste matter through the colon. The faecal discharge is often in the form of a long, continuous tubular mass, which it is claimed is the build-up of faecal mass inside the colon; however the material is actually formed by the high-level of fibrous material that is part of the cleansing product.
Paracelsus referred to the physical substance that had been given temporary life by the Archeus, as the mumia. He inferred that while the Archeus was present in this physical body, the mumia, "absorbed" some of the life-energy of the Archeus, and even retained some of this life-energy for a short time after death. Since sickness was believed to be an overabundance of vitality, it was thought that mumia which when dried, became eager to attract life-energy, and so, could be used to draw out this excess of energy, healing the sick. In Homogeneous Magic, it was believed that any bodily residue such as blood, hair, nail cuttings, excremental material, and urine could be used to attack an individual. This was the reason why rulers went to so much trouble to hide or destroy such material, to ensure it did not fall into the hands of their enemies who could use it against them.

From the Latin mundánus meaning, "of this world" referred to the ancient conception of the space from the Earth as far as the Moon, was thought to be part of, and influenced by the earthly influences, thus, the mundane world. In this domain all things were composed of Four Elements.

Essentially the term refers to any form of treatment that can generally be referred to as "natural", or to the use of substances that are derived from nature. Naturopathic therapies include herbal medicines, either the actual plant or extracts derived from them, various dietary and nutrition programmes, Homeopathy, Hydrotherapy, various manipulative techniques such as Osteopathy and Chiropractic, as well as Acupuncture, and various other traditional forms of oriental medicine such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine.

The opposite to a placebo, this is something that is done or used to create or cause harm to a person. It is most commonly seen in primitive magic where someone is "cursed" and they become ill. It is a common factor in such areas as hypochondria and in the origins of psychosomatic  disorders, particularly where a person is convinced a certain action will negatively affect their health.

The study of the alleged magical properties of numbers. Each number is attributed a specific meaning and nature. It often used special formulas to establish "base" numbers. Thus each of the letters forming the name of any individual had a numerical number. These were added together, and then the number "reduced" to a single number. If the number totaled 49, the number was split and the two digits added together, thus 4 + 9 = 13. The 13 were treated in the same way, 1 + 3 = 4. In this way the numerical characteristics of the person was established. There was an extensive list of characteristics corresponding to each number, similar to the claimed character traits attributed to people born under a particular sign of the Zodiac, and once the "number" of the individual had been determined it was said that their personality and character corresponded to these specific guidelines. It has been claimed that Numerology evolved from certain theories of Pythagoras, in which he believed the cosmos could be explained in the ratios between the first ten numbers, however there is little evidence to support this claim.

The publication by Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, (1755-1843), which set out in detail the concepts of his new form of medical treatment known as Homeopathy.


Any treatment or medicine which although it has no actual curative powers, nevertheless can produce an improvement, or cure, in a person who is ill. For a placebo to be effective the individual must believe in the effectiveness of the therapist, the therapy and the medicine. The placebo effect is a major feature of alternative therapies where although most treatments have no real value, nevertheless the person recovers.

A psychophysiological response to a form of treatment or medicine that has no actual curative ability. See – PLACEBO.

Prana was perceived as a special form of energy that originated in the cosmos and was radiated down to Earth. The Hindu religious texts, the Upanishads, dating from around the 7th-8th century BCE, first mentioned the existence of Prana, which was received by all living creatures upon the Earth. While the Hindus saw it as a form of cosmic energy, the Buddhists viewed it more as a life-current contained in the air around us, and that, as we breathed, we drew this force into our body. This latter idea is expressed more fully in Yoga where it is believed that, because of the way we breathe, most of the pranic energy is wasted when we exhale. To preserve the energy they use a breathing technique, (pranayama), where the breath is held, allowing the vital energy to be fully absorbed.

A concept evolved by Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, (1755-1843), the creator of Homeopathy. Hahnemann noted that patients treated with homeopathic remedies were not permanently cured, they would often experience the same disease time-after-time; he concluded that there must be something within the body that continued to produce these diseases, this was Psora, a fundamental disease creating agent.

Administration of laxatives, cathartics, or enemas to cleanse the bowels. Originally the process was an attempt to force out evil spirits that were thought to be the cause of illness; yet even when Western medicine became more secular, the practice continued in the belief it could drive out malignant energies believed to cause sickness.

QI:  See – CHI.   

Literally "the fifth essence"; in ancient times all mundane matter was believed to be composed of four elements, Fire, Water, Earth and Air, but that beyond the realm of the Moon was a fifth element or "essence".

Rei-ki, (pronounced ray-key is a bioenergetic healing technique, the term is from two Japanese words; rei = "spirit" plus ki = a mysterious form of energy. Essentially Rei-ki means a mysterious spiritual life force, or energy, although it can also mean a spirit that is directed by the life force. It is said to utilize this energy, which practitioners claim exists within every individual, and that they have the ability to transfer some of their own special "energy" into the bodies of others, especially those who are ill due to a depletion or blockage of their own internal energy, a process that revitalizes and restores the sick individual back to normal health.

Another name for divination using crystals, gemstones or special stones such as a seer-stone. See — CRYSTALLOMANCY.

The name given to any stone of an unusual shape or colour that was said to give its owner the ability to see the future or to find bodies of minerals or hidden treasure.  Also  known as, "shew-stones"; "seer-stones"; "peep-stones"; or "peek-stones", since it was claimed that they allowed certain individuals, (seers) to "see", or to "peep", within the stones to obtain information that was hidden from ordinary individuals.

An ancient attempt to explain the origins of life. In addition to the Vitalistic theory this proposed that most of the lower forms of life, insects, etc. formed through a natural process, without any effort, or intervention of external forces, and did not require developmental processes, such as eggs, or babies. It was believed that rotting vegetation, and the like, produced certain miasmas, gases, imbued with the potential to form life, such as insects, frogs, fish etc. This is the basis of the claim in Exodus 7:17 that "... all the dust of the earth became gnats throughout the land of Egypt."

Aristotle was possibly the first person to document the various aspects of spontaneous generation, claiming that shellfish, limpets, oysters, and fleas, were born spontaneously out of the mud on ocean and sea beds; in turn, crabs developed from certain shellfish, especially those like mussels which had a curved form; while Jellyfish were formed spontaneously from sea-water. He reasoned that spiders are born from other insects, which had an appearance similar to spiders. Other life was thought to form from the dew, when it formed on grass and leaves, while some creatures were believed to develop from leaf mould, mud, or decomposing manure. Mosquitoes came from earthworms; ticks from couch grass. Aristotle believed that some insects were engendered from snow, claiming that under certain conditions, snow takes on a red colour, out of which emerged red, hairy worms. A number of insects, especially moths, developed from wool, or from spider silk; while wax-worms and bookworms emerged from wax. His ideas were accepted without question until the end of the 16th century, and Jan Baptiste van Helmont, the foremost 16th century physiologist, chemist and physician, claimed that mice developed from a combination of wheat, cheese or bread and a stained female undergarment. He experimented by wrapping wheat, bread or cheese in old rags and left them in a dark corner. After several weeks mice were found in the rags. Later experimenters were more careful in the methodology, although there were still misleading findings. In the 17-18th century a more scientific approach was introduced.

John Needham (1713-1781) suggested heating a sealed vessel to kill off all life within, and then observing whether or not life regenerated spontaneously. He performed this experiment, but probably due to a faulty seal, life reappeared within the container. Abbé Lazzaro Spallanzani, who conducted the same experiment and found that life failed to emerge within the sealed container, disputed his findings. Similar experiments by others found, for instance, that maggots would not form on meat in a properly sealed container, so that by the end of the 17th century spontaneous generation was being seriously questioned. By the end of the 19th century, after Pasteur proved the existence of microorganisms, which were capable of reproducing, it was finally established that all life forms were biologically propagated.

The common practice in certain cultures, of sticking pins into the image of a person was based upon the belief that there was a coherent strain of commonality or "sympathy" between objects, especially those which contained some part of the other. Because anything that came in contact with an individual was believed to be able to absorb some of their latent energy, even a piece of clothing, or something they had handled was considered sufficient to use since, imbued as it was with their energy, it became a microcosmic representation of that other person, and so could be used against that other person, either to hurt or kill them, or, in a love potion, to attract that person to another. Because body parts were believed to contain a portion of the spirit, or energy of an individual, hair, or nail clippings were considered the most potent substances to include in the image, making it a powerful tool.  In many civilizations any hair, nails, and even faeces, were carefully buried in a hidden location to ensure that no enemy could gain possession of this material, and thus gain a definite advantage in using magic to attack the individual. See — HOMOGENEOUS MAGIC; LAW OF SIMILARITIES.


A form of bioenergetic alternative therapy which despite the name does not involve actual touch. It involves the practitioner sweeping their hands around the body of a "client" to detect areas of negative health. Once "detected" the practitioner then rebalances the subject's internal energy flow, even radiating some of their own energy into the subject to "boost" the healing potential of their internal energy.
The ancient and traditional medical lore of China it appears that the earliest form combined herbal medicine and a form of Acupuncture. It was essentially based on celestial (astrological) principles, the belief that the health of every individual depended upon the constant interaction, and in particular, the balance produced by the harmonious combination of the Yin, Yang, Qi and the Five Elements.

An ancient belief that since sickness was an actual physical substance, it could be transferred out of a victim; however, since it was perceived as being "alive" it could not simply be released into the air, for it would find another victim to enter so it was thought best to transfer it into an object or an animal. In ancient Mesopotamia the sick would place a loaf of bread on their head and recited a sacred incantation three times, the loaf was then wiped over their body from head to feet, and the loaf then thrown to an animal; if the animal ate the loaf the evil would be transferred to that creature; this was the reasoning behind the Biblical reference in which an evil spirit is expelled from a possessed man and transferred into a herd of pigs. (Mark 5:11-13). The concept survives in many alternative therapies, such as Rei-ki and TT where the "healer" is claimed to have the ability to transfer some of their life-energy into the sick or in Bach Flower treatments where it is claimed that by soaking plants in water and leaving them in the sunshine the vital plant essence would be transferred into the water.


Jan van Helmont, (1580-1644), An early scientist who studied the principles of magnetism. He believed in a universal magnetic force and that certain individuals had the power to forcibly discharge this "magnetic fluid" into other humans, completely overwhelming their will, the persons with this power were usually males who could overwhelm the wills of women who were considered weak and inferior in strength. Many of his ideas were adopted by Franz Anton Mesmer.

In ancient Greek medicine this was an invisible energy or force that was claimed to be the agent responsible for enabling the sick and injured to recover to normal health. In modern terminology the Auto-Immune System

Various forms of alternative therapies that claim to use "healing vibrations" emitted by crystals and gemstones for therapeutic purposes. It is claimed these vibrations interact with the HEF to increase personal energy levels that can facilitate healing in the sick.

The ancient concept that sought to explain the mystery of life by attributing it to a heavenly or divine source. Many alternative forms of therapy attribute life to the inflowing of this energy into the body. It is claimed that in order to maintain life and good health this substance needs to be able to flow uninterrupted through the body in special channels that are invisible and undetectable to ordinary science. Poor health is said to be the result of blockages or restrictions to the flow of this energy, and the various alternative therapies each claim to have their special way of restoring the proper flow of this life-giving substance.

Those who believed that humans were animated by a cosmic life-force, and that sickness resulted from this energy being "disturbed" or interfered with. They sought and devised many ways to restore the vital balance. Today the term can be applied to most alternative therapists.

Words or incantations used in magic that were believed able to harness the power of a deity, demon, or spirit to have them "do your will" in changing events, seeing the future, or gaining wealth or power. The words of power were often the secret or hidden name of a deity or demon.

One of two celestial forces which, along with Yin formed the basis of all existence. A concept derived from Taoist philosophy, Yang and Yin were two mutually opposed forces that together produce a sense of cosmic balance, Yin was perceived as a visible, physical substance while Yang was without form or substance. A Chinese dualistic concept, Yin represented darkness, disorder, evil, the intuitive and the female aspect of nature, while Yang represented light, order, goodness, rationale and the male aspect. It was the "dynamic interplay" between these two opposing forces that produced continuing balance throughout the cosmos, so that if, in their endless cycles of interaction, one would gain in strength to reach a climax, and would then retreat, at which point the other aspect would begin to gain ascendancy until, once again, cosmic equilibrium was achieved. Over time, these concepts came to be applied to the fundamental principles of human life, so that, it was reasoned, if one lived in harmonious balance with the natural order of the cosmos, then they would also experience good health. See – TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE.

The female aspect of nature Yin represented darkness, disorder, evil, and the intuitive aspect of nature. See – YANG.