MIRACLES: Faith and Salvation (Part Two)
In the second MIRACLES documentary, filmmaker Antony Thomas continues his investigation into the phenomenon of faithhealing and examines what lies behind the claims of miracle healing invoked by Charismatic Christain healers like Reinhard Bonnke and Benny Hinn. Night after night, before crowds of millions, they proclaim hundreds of miracle cures. But, after careful investigation, the filmmaker finds no evidence of permanent cures. Still, important questions remain unanswered. Powerful magic is being unleashed by these preachers. In Faith and Salvation, the filmmaker turns to leading scientists and theologians for answers and discovers that answers lie deep within the mysteries of the human mind.
The film follows the work of scientists like Dr. Michael Persinger, a neuropsychologist from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. By stimulating the limbic area of the brain with magnetic impulses, Professor Persinger is able to reproduce"God-like" sensations, including feelings of ecstasy, of being at one with the universe, and a sense of the presence of God.
One of the world's leading neurologists, Dr. Marcel Kinsbourne, believes that the key to understanding the miracles being proclaimed in massed evangelical events may lie within the crowd itself. This power has been used and abused by leaders throughout history. Hitler is cited.
The entrainment of the drums, of the marching steps, of the chant, of the song, of the gesture, the salute...All these elements have the effect of submerging the individual into the group. Large numbers of people all together, with a single purpose, performing single acts in lock-step. They are like one organism. That is the pitch to which the organisers bring the people. They bring them to persuade them, to do something that individually they might not do. Like charge into battle, risk death, to bayonet the enemy. (Dr. Marcel Kinsbourne).
The film looks at the work of Dr. Irving Kirsh, a psychologist with the University of Connecticut, who believes that preachers like Benny Hinn and Reinhard Bonnke are using forms of hypnotic induction to mezmerize their audiences. He demonstrates how hypnosis works and shows how individuals can remain susceptible to suggestions even when shown how they have been deceived.
You start with the kind of person that's in pain and difficulty all the time. They're usually mildly depressed. They usually feel as if there's something missing in their lives. Bring them into a group, usually tens of hundreds of thousands of people where they feel diminutive... Proximity of thousands of others that are like us produces a special kind of physiological arousal. (Dr. Michael Persinger)
What powers are these faithhealers commanding? Aided by the swelling music, the gestural movements and the power of the crowd, Charistmatic healers become catalysts for unleashing painkilling and euphoric effects - In reality, effects which reside in an individual's own brain.
Until recently, the idea that healing might come from a person's own brain was alien to western medicine. But more and more doctors are recognising that the mind impacts the body through the nervous and hormonal system. The mind is the brain, and the brain is a part of the body. A patient's belief system can affect the way the body responds to medical treatment. This is called the placebo effect.
While the placebo effect cannot restore missing limbs, or cure damaged brains, as promised by preachers like Hinn and Bonnke, it can have a dramatic effect in the area of pain management. It explains why on and off stage, people broke through pain barriers and performed feats they'd previously thought impossible.
Faith and Salvation goes on to explore different kinds of spiritual healing. Dr. Veruschka De Mariel is a psychiatrist who treats cases of extreme trauma.
Miracles are not always physical, not always the healing of cancer, or for a person in a wheelchair to get up and walk. I think there is something far more important, and that is the healing of the human spirit. (Dr. Veruschka De Mariel)
Dr. De Mariel treated seven year old Josh, a boy who was locked alone in his apartment with his mother after she committed suicide three years ago. Dr. De Mariel was able to build upon Josh's Catholic beliefs to convince him that his mother was in heaven looking over him. Over time, his broken mind was healed.
The film concludes with the story of Lourdes, France. Here, nearly 150 years ago, the Virgin Mary appeared to a young french girl by the name of Bernadette Soubirous. Today more than 5 million visitors a year flock to Lourdes. People come, not solely looking for physical healing; many are searching for meaning, hope and purpose in the face of suffering and death. And many find it.