Tue, Dec 23, 2008 - Page 6 News List

FEATURE : Moscow tests folk healers and licenses them

AP , MOSCOW

Mikhail Fadkin claims he can cure a long list of disorders — pancreatitis, bronchitis, digestive problems, even infertility — by using his hands to manipulate what he describes as a person’s “bio-energy field.”

Many laugh at such ideas and might call him a quack. But the 63-year-old healer, who practices out of an office in a Moscow suburb, holds a license from the Russian government.

For the past two years, the Federal Health Service has been issuing licenses to practitioners of what it calls “traditional medicine,” meaning anything from the use of herbal treatments to the manipulation of “auras.”

His claims buttressed by officialdom, Fadkin charges patients 3,500 rubles (US$150) per session. And he says business is very good.

“Every day I learn something new,” the smiling Muscovite says, gesturing to what he says is an invisible aura surrounding him — “because all the information I need is out there, in the vast energy field surrounding us.”

So far, 130 healers, including Fadkin, have passed the service’s voluntary testing program, which promoters in the government say can determine whether someone has the inherent ability to cure.

The program is limited to Moscow, but a Russian lawmaker is pushing to extend it nationwide and make it mandatory.

Skeptics scoff at the notion that such testing is meaningful and criticize the government for lending credibility to people who claim paranormal powers.

“I think that this entire system is a result of ignorance and corruption,” says Eduard Kruglyakov, a laser physicist, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“Science has certain rules that must be followed, and this system of certification hasn’t passed any serious scientific tests,” he said.

Kruglyakov deplores the whole notion of legitimizing folk healing through licensing.

“This kind of healing has nothing to do with science or medicine,” he said.

The program includes a background check, a scan of electrical activity in the brain and a committee review of the results. The agency charges applicants 10,000 rubles for the tests.

Andrei Karpeev, director of the Federal Scientific Clinical Center for Traditional Methods of Diagnostics and Healing, which administers the tests, insists that folk medicine, including psychic healing, is backed by scientific studies. While he acknowledges some of the criteria for determining who has healing powers are subjective, he claims the tests are able to wean out “charlatans.”

Karpeev said there are perhaps 100,000 people in Russia offering to use magic, psychic or other extra-sensory methods to cure illnesses, read minds or cast spells.

Faith in magic and the occult lingered for centuries in Russia, long after the Renaissance, with its emphasis on rationalism and empiricism, weakened similar beliefs in Western Europe.

Russia is among a small number of nations where traditional healers are licensed at any level. In Indonesia, local governments certify those claiming to use magical charms or psychic powers for healing. The Indian government licenses healers who use yoga and homeopathy, although not people who claim extra-sensory powers.

Albina Domolazova, 70, paid 3,600 rubles to an unlicensed clairvoyant to cure her son of drug addiction. When the woman recommended Domolazova toss chunks of beef to black dogs and then light a candle in seven churches, she obeyed. But after completing the ritual, which included burying the last chunk of meat in a graveyard, Domolazova’s son was still addicted.

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