What, you doubt me? Oh. Well, I thought it was worth a shot since it sure seems like a lot of other people are putting out shingles declaring themselves healers and hearers of instructional Voices (if it's spelled with a capital "V" it doesn't mean you're crazy). In fact, New Age healing has become so widespread, it's in danger of turning into the next crowded profession, like the law, which has so many practitioners nobody's impressed anymore.
"I heal," the self-declared Californian I was waiting in line behind at a natural food store announced to me.
"Ahhh," I replied, trying to sound as in awe of this as I sensed he wanted me to be, although I felt like asking, "But do you heel?" He did have a couple bands of crystal beads around his neck that sort of resembled a dog collar.
I also thought of saying, "Yeah, and I walk on water." To be able to heal seems like an awfully big claim to make, one you maybe shouldn't be putting out there to strangers waiting to buy their vitamins, any more than you'd broadcast, "I'm a genius." Hey, and where's the proof, Big Dawg? Maybe I should have asked him to wrap his crystals around my sore toe.
Actually I'm not a total non-believer because I had kind of a sideways experience of a healer when I lived in Richmond. Mrs. Brody, who officially billed herself as a foot reflexologist, would rub your feet for a solid hour in a dim back bedroom filled with incense and sitar music for only 20 dollars. I knew Mrs. Brody had strong hands, but I didn't realize the extent of her power until the day she came into the store where I worked and covered my hand resting on a counter with hers. First I noticed this incredible warmth. When she pressed into a spot near my thumb I felt an electrifying yet relaxing jolt pass through my body. Shortly after this strange encounter, Mrs. Brody confided to me that she'd been doing some psychic healing and I don't doubt that she had a real gift for channeling energy.
The thing is, as with other exceptional abilities, this one probably doesn't come along too often, yet you'd think from all the people now claiming to have it that it's as common as brown eyes. Besides, the way it should be is the more talent you have in any area the less likely you are to be gushing about it in the health food store, or trying to work it into a New Age pick-up line.
The kind of psychic healing being peddled everywhere from the Internet to bulletin boards comes under the New Age umbrella but it looks as if it has a lot in common with Old Age faith healing. Both are based on belief in speedy, miraculous transformations and certain people having the superhuman power to bring them about for either a credit-card charge or a donation dropped in a passed-around coffee can.
The recipients of healing are let off the responsibility hook because all they have to do, besides pony up, is feel the "energy" or "God's love," depending upon which Age lingo is in effect, and maybe sip some flower extract like humanoid hummingbirds. It's a lot sexier to sink beneath mystical mumbo-jumbo regarding, say, your high cholesterol than to eat better and take conventional medication.
The healers themselves, meanwhile, long ago discovered a pretty sweat-free way to make a buck. There's no real physical work to do except maybe wave your hands over somebody and there must be good money in it because my friend's healer has homes in Miami Beach and Asheville.
Both kinds of healing are huckstering wishful thinking, and yet the crowds they're aimed at take up opposite ends of the social spectrum. The New Age gang tends to be educated, culturally sophisticated, and positively allergic to the word "God." You may hear some vague references to an All-Knowing Being, but the use of "God" is considered highly suspect and borderline rude, like farting out loud. They want God-free miracles along with carb-free cookies.
The Old Age audience, on the other hand, is so all about God they think He's going to shout out at any moment. They're uneducated, culturally primitive, and view New Age babblings as something close to devil-worship.
In Asheville, a place that psychic healers have burrowed into like weevils into cotton, there's tension between these two groups. Why can't they all just get together and sing "When you believe in magic..."?