Understanding the Placebo Effect in Complementary Medicine: Theory, Practice, and Research

By David Peters | Go to book overview

13
Psychoneuroimmunology: the
mind—brain connection
Peter Fenwick
Upward and downward causation
The immune system
Effects of everyday stressful events
The protective value of optimism
Psychosocial interventions
Guided imagery
Downward causation, prayer and interconnectedness
Conclusion

Editor's note

Professor Fenwick is a neuropsychiatrist. Nevertheless (or perhaps because of this), I gave him the last word on the death of the mind—body split. I asked him to to go beyond the evidence for mind—body interaction and to speculate about a more mysterious entanglement of one consciousness with another. Peter touches on studies of prayer and instant healing, a now fashionable research area where the evidence though so far inconclusive in nevertheless tantalising. Do para-psychological or prayer studies support the idea that we affect one another not only when face to face, not just through touch and relationship but through non-located consciousness? This would pitch us into the vertiginous perspectives of a profoundly participatory cosmos, where consciousness no longer obeys the laws of time and space. This sounds like familiar territory; not one associated with science, but rather with the trans-personal, the spiritual and the super-natural. Yet the emerging science of consciousness may yet reveal a common basis for phenomena like intuition, synchronicity, unexplained remission and healing at a distance. If emerging ideas about non-located consciousness eventually provide a radical (and radically dis-embodied) theory about how we affect one another, it will be the ultimate step in rehabilitating the so-called placebo response.

It takes only a moment's self-observation to recognize that what goes on in the mind must affect the body. If you look out at a gentle seascape you will begin to feel relaxed and tranquil, whereas coping with the hassle on the tube in London is likely to generate stress and anxiety. The mind and body are closely coupled together. Many Eastern therapeutic traditions go beyond this as they argue that humans are embedded in the matrix of the universe and that the universe influences body and mind together.

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