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The following review of the Dictionary of Metaphysical Healthcare appeared in the December 1996 issue of Skeptical Briefs, the newsletter of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. It is reprinted with permission.


Lexicon of Unnaturalistic Alternatives
by Gary Posner, M.D.

Everything you could ever want to know about alternative healthcare can be found in this one handy little book. Well, not exactly. But, after all, this is a dictionary, not an encyclopedia.

The Dictionary of Metaphysical Healthcare, by Jack Raso, a registered dietitian with a master's degree in health sciences, contains entries for more alternative/paranormal health "remedies" than you can shake a stick at, although the author has inadvertently omitted "stick-shaking" from his listings. Reading the definitions of the myriad included entries, I would think that "stick shaking" would be at least as effective as most, and probably more effective than many.

Seven years in the making, this dictionary contains more than one thousand straightforward, non-judgmental definitions of therapies dubbed to be "closer to vaudeville than to science" in a previous review by Marvin J. Schissel, D.D.S. During my initial flip through the dictionary, I was surprised to find that chelation therapy, colonic irrigation, and other such commonly employed "cures" are not included among the listings for "Starlink," "Spirit surgery," "past-life therapy," and the like. I then found, in the introduction, the author's explanation: This book, unlike most on the subject. concentrates on "unnaturalistic" therapies — those that are "out of joint with the worldview that nature as science maps it is all there is and covers only peripherally medical alternativism's naturalistic minority, which encompasses such methods as chelation therapy and colonic irrigation. The dictionary's main section, in fact, is titled "Unnaturalistic Methods".

Should you ever develop an inexplicable desire to undergo a round of "marma therapy" (or perhaps "Marma Chikitsa" for the more adventurous), this is an excellent reference to turn to, not simply for its concise yet authoritative definitions, but also for its topic-by topic bibliography. And the bibliography's selections are not what one might expect from a book written by a board member of the National Council Against Health Fraud. No, indeed. From what I can see (and I acknowledge that my eyesight is not what it once was, since I discontinued my prophylactic "image magick" treatments), these consist purely of pro-alternative sources of what the author refers to as "information, misinformation, and disinformation."

But don't despair. A recommended reading list can be found on the book's last page. The introduction also makes quite clear the author's relative views of "science-oriented" versus "alternative" healthcare.

One of the dictionary's entries offers hope of settling once and for all the debate between evolution and creationism. The Chi Nei Tsang II method (from Tahiland) posits "at least ten kinds of bodily 'wind' (flatus), including the "sick or evil wind,'" which its practitioners can presumably differentiate between with olfactory alacrity. If this doesn't prove that humans and canines evolved from a common ancestor, I don't know what could.

And perhaps many of our readers might benefit from the "grape cure" for "sex problems": "By the magical purification of the blood the nerves are stabilized, self-control is established and our God-given heritage of sense and desire is transmitted into divine creative power." I have had some modest experience with the power of the grape, and at first glance was considering giving this juicy therapy a shot, despite my already legendary powers of self-control and ample supply of divine creative power. But, alas, the dictionary's disillusioning definition makes clear that fermentation is not part of this therapy's equation.

Return to A Dictionary of Alternative-Medicine Methods Index

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