Search For Alternative
The Monterey Institute for the Study of Alternative Healing Arts continues to search for proof.
Thursday, January 22, 1998
It doesn''t take a brain surgeon to deduce that most patients would prefer a simple, calming session with a hands-on healer to an encounter involving glaring lights, anesthesia and scalpel. There are few people who would opt for the knife as long as both treatments guaranteed the same successful results. And there''s the catch.
Although healers of one sort or another-from shamans to religious leaders of all faiths-appear to help people in many cultures around the world, Western scientists have never been able to duplicate the efficacy of such treatments. For a long time, that failure to duplicate results caused Western scientists to dismiss faith healers as simple-minded failures or money-grubbing frauds. Then came the mystic ''60s, the trendy ''70s and the gullible ''80s.
As the so-called New Age consciousness began to expand, more and more people began uncritically to embrace and experiment with alternative forms of healing. In a couple hundred pages, self-help books describe mechanistic healing techniques without scratching the surface of the philosophy or art on which they''re founded. And where some techniques traditionally may have taken a lifetime to learn, schools sprang up that turned out so-called experts within a couple years-or even a few months.
Clearly some balance is needed between knee-jerk rejection and uncritical reception of new ideas.
Locally, the Monterey Institute for the Study of Alternative Healing Arts (MISAHA) is attempting to fill that role. Founded in 1990 by Russian emigre Savely Savva, the institute describes itself as "a scientific research center for the study of unconventional medical practices, with emphasis on psi-healing." Under the rubric of "psi-healing" MISAHA includes "prana healers, QiGong masters, Reiki masters, energy healers, polarity healers and the like."
MISAHA has a five-member board of directors that includes Savva as executive director; Lena Jin, PhD (identified as a QiGong Master); Eugene Ostrovsky, MD, PhD; Phyllis Kahn, economist; and Gloria Coasta, public relations specialist. A recent newsletter also lists an impressive number of scientists, doctors and researchers from around the world.
Savva came to the United States from Russia, where he was an engineer and physical biologist, in 1979. He still speaks with a strong Russian accent, and his eyes smolder with the fire of a true believer as he talks about MISAHA''s mission and the trials he''s faced trying to substantiate claims that healing can be effected by psychic means.
"I started this institute," says Savva between puffs on his pipe. "The push was from my trip to India and the Phillipines. I was there in the north of India meeting the Tibetan healers and I saw the crowds of Americans and the local people. And the local people would not come if there was no reason."
Having a background in science, Savva decided to put his personal observations to the test. He formed MISAHA for the express purpose of testing and documenting healers'' claims at same time they helped people who suffered from various ailments.
"We found that studying this kind of healing would not contradict local laws which cover four basic areas of medicine: surgery, diagnostic, prescription drugs and healing by prayer-and this is precisely what psi-healing can be defined as. From the judicial viewpoint, it is protected. So the question is how to do this. At first I thought it was easy, you bring together some doctors and healers."
Add some patients who were willing to make a modest deposit up front and full payment when the treatment was successful. Then, once word got out about MISAHA''s success, individuals would come forward with money for further research. Unfortunately for MISAHA that isn''t the way it worked.
"Out of 200 people," says Savva, "only six people went this way. And only one was helped. Some of the cases were very old cases of diabetes, very terrible arthritis and glaucoma. Only one lady was helped, she had kidney stones and they disappeared. The effort showed there was no way to prove, scientifically, this worked."
Undeterred, Savva went back to the drawing board. MISAHA determined that perhaps the process was they had chosen was too bulky and that they hadn''t been selective enough in choosing their healer or specific enough in defining the ailment. The group mounted an extensive worldwide search and thought they had come up with an ideal candidate in Yang Gui-sheng, a Chinese QiGong healer who claimed to be able to help patients who suffered from some forms of paralysis. Yang appeared to offer documentation that he "had a success rate of around 80 percent in treating patients with cerebral paralysis of different etiology in ''usually'' seven to 30 sessions."
With a healer in place, MISAHA approached the Veterans'' Administration Rehabilitation and Development Center (VARR&DC) in Palo Alto which works with a substantial number of paralysis sufferers. Under the guidance of Dr. David Brown, the VARR&DC agreed to work with MISAHA and Yang. In fact, the center agreed to pick up the tab for Yang''s work with 15-20 patients who were in stable condition one to five years after suffering a stroke or spinal cord injury. But first, Brown requested that Yang spend seven sessions with five of Brown''s regular patients who volunteered for treatments. MISAHA agreed, and in early 1996 Yang was put to the test.
In the July-December 1996 MISAHA Newsletter, Savva writes, "Whether due to cultural or geographic differences or something worse, we did not see anything close to the promised results."
Still convinced that there is a benefit to be derived from "psi healing," Savva and MISAHA are now gearing up for another test. After another worldwide search, the chosen healers are a couple from Russia who claim to have had success treating children with cerebral palsy. At least some of their claims seem to have been documented by reliable hospitals. Savva says MISAHA is now close to finishing the details of a working relationship with a pediatrician and neurologists in the Bay area and hopes testing can start in the next couple of months.
Although past results have been discouraging, Savva remains optimistic-and determined. MISAHA originally run from a room in Savva''s home but he recently moved into a retirement community in Carmel. "It is less expensive, and allows me to keep this office," he says. The office on Via Nona Marie in Carmel is about 300 square feet and costs Savva $400 a month. In addition to testing, MISAHA also publishes a twice-annual newsletter, which operates at a loss. Savva says the only funding he receives comes from "some friends, my ex wife."
Asked if he ever has doubts about "psi healing" and what sustains his spirit, Savva answers, "I have no doubts. This is what fills up my life and I enjoy it and I cannot see myself otherwise. And the hope. The hope."