Why do complementary and alternative modalities attract adherents, and why are these modalities so arcane?

Many people have asked me why the alternative and complementary medicine modalities require such arcane language, and why do they always seem to originate on older cultures and in remote countries. These are very good and necessary questions. The simple answer is that cultures without a technological base have always been forced to turn inward to find solutions and remedies. Those ways of approaching stress and illness find the experienced cultural practitioners [called variously - shamans, medicine men and women, witches, priests, magicians, and energyworkers] have been those caring people who turned to the power of the mind and to subtle energy modalities when their friends and neighbors fell ill or become troubled. The terms to describe these people have not always been complementarily, but all have noticed the dependence on them when times were difficult. Their training was by apprenticeship to a more experienced person, and the only test of ability was the fact that good things happened when in contact with one of these people.

In the West, we do not have the specific vocabulary to designated various energies, energy states, and methods of interacting with these energies. We are force to use terms from other cultures which have used them to refer to human energy and awareness. Such words as subtle energy, prana, kundalini, chakra, aura, and ch'i/ki are only a few of such terms. Only a few years ago, acupuncture terms were quite foreign to us - meridian, ch'i, moxa, and blockage. Now that acupuncture has become more mainstream, we are more familiar with these words.

Why does a modern well-educated person become interested?

Many curious, well-educated people become interested in complementary healing. Typically, the same people are also interested in paranormal phenomena. The fact the science has not yet chosen to study these phenomena does not dissuade them from the possibility that they may exist, or even that they have already been experienced to some degree. Interest in systems of use follows experience. This flies in the face of science which teaches us to try and remove ourselves from any experimentation. In the case of complementary healing, one must study how it works by experience, and the internal awareness must be a guide to new study. This maxim "if there is nothing there, you can't find it", has often given scientifically trained people to courage to study what personal experience can offer in terms of understanding and direction. It is not that one learns to ignore the laws of physics and psychology; one simply adds new dimensions beyond them which offer possibilities for healing.

There will always be those who will want something foreign just to seem to be exotic. This will color the work of those who try to help people in everyday settings, and it will leave an aura of the bizarre. There will also be those who wish to make the alternative modality an additional to their personal adaptation of their religion. While this is certainly their right, it will tend to confuse those who are simply trying and alternative modality for the first time. To sum up, our culture is not the first to have found ways of dealing with stress, pain, and dysfunction. Other traditional cultures have discovered without technology that there are ways to help others which utilize the abilities which "modern" societies ignore. Hopefully, a good attribute of a growing society is the ability to benefit both from technology and also from traditional methods.