Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
How We Resisted Pseudohealing in St. Petersburg

Three Conversations on “Petersburg” Radio from the Series “Science and Pseudoscience”

From the conversation of 13.10.2000

Program host A. Fyodorov. The times are such right now that you open any newspaper and your eyes scan over sentences: I’ll curse, I’ll predict, I’ll eliminate illness, I’ll save [you] from the evil eye, I’ll heal…Anyone who has maintained a healthy sense of humor just snickers and laughs, but another person whom life is weighing down and has nowhere to turn, thinks, “Maybe it will truly help?” So let’s try and investigate. We have in the studio the Director of the Institute of Medical and Psychological Problems, Candidate of Sciences and Docent Gertruda Nikolayevna Vasil’yeva. This Institute is one which makes findings about the suitability of the methods which sorcerers, healers, and wizards use and then these people obtain permission for their activity. Also in the studio is Petr Aleksandrovich Trevogin, the moderator of our topic “Science and Pseudoscience”, whom everyone knows well. Gertruda Nikolayevna, what is your Institute doing? What kind of institution is it?

Vasil’yeva. Our Institute is both scientific and applied. It deals with the development and adoption of new technologies of non-medical therapy. Specialists develop new methods but we approve, evaluate, and adopt them. The result is the therapeutic and curative activity which doctors provide.

F. Well, this is the internal focus of your work. But right now we are talking about your activities in evaluating the activity of a particular sorcerer or healer. By what criteria is permission give for their activity?

V. For many years I and my colleagues have been conducting research dedicated to the study of the processes of healing and the influence of one person on another. This was associated with a search for criteria permitting the study of who could exert a healing influence on a person and who cannot be allowed to do this. On the basis of our vast, comprehensive, and extensive research a certain method of testing and evaluating the capabilities and results of healing took shape. But do not always give approval. There are three groups of findings in our classification program. The first thing is that the healer can work independently, the second is that he can work, but only together with a doctor, and third that he cannot work at all.

Trevogin. I would like to know: what sort of healers come to you? Let’s assume that a person comes in whom you’re seeing for the first time and says: “I can heal either one specific disease or a group of certain diseases, for example, heart or kidney, or anything on Earth at all – from a head cold to cancer”. How do you judge the accuracy of these claims?

V. As a rule, a so-called practicing healer comes to us. He already has clients who come to him and he will help them. But when we say “healer”, we mean healing a person entirely. We don’t say “healed this” or “healed that”, but “the patient recovered or recuperated, he helped him” both from the standpoint of pathology and emotions, so to speak. This is what healing is.

T. This seems like word games to me. How do you determine that, let’s say, a kidney patient, like me, has recovered thanks to healing?

V. A healer makes a diagnosis and performs treatment independently and we check the results with equipment.

T. Can a healer without any device, without ultrasound equipment say, for example, that the patient has polycystic renal disease?

V. Sometimes it’s possible to give such a diagnosis.

T. But how do you decide whether he gave it correctly? A person comes to you without a medical degree and declares: “I am able to heal kidney disease”, and you accept kidney patients.

V. He doesn’t talk this way.

T. But how does he talk?

V. He says that he is able to normalize this person.

First radio listener: Having read and heard about these healers I once risked visiting one of them, a very remarkable woman who had been touring for many years. A very fashionably dressed woman came out, all in gold; her operation was theatrically furnished…Suddenly they came through the rows to distribute her very bad, amateurish photographs – for 25 rubles each, but she explained: “Take this photograph to the sickbed for a night and you will be healed”. Regardless of where someone hurts.

V. I know of such cases; one such lady also “reached” me who had toured throughout all of Russia. She is really beautiful, travelled with a security guard in a white Volga, and was holding these sittings. She said: “You know, Gertruda Nikolayevna, I don’t know why, but I have started to play the piano”. I said, “Play”. She started to play in such a way that I was horrified, and then she said: “This all helps. Take my photograph again, look on the instruments how it works”. I took this photograph and stayed away from her and her security guard and we never met again. But she is successful and she makes a pile of money.

T. Here’s a good place to quote a classic. “I am one of the Sole Sanhedrims and Ostensible Hooplas of the Inner Pulpit. The lame talk and the blind rubber as soon as I make passes at them. I am a medium, a coloratura hypnotist and spirituous control of human souls”. Did you recognize the author? This is a quote from an O. Henry novel, “Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet”. But at that time swindlers were actually noble. The collection is called “The Gentle Grafter” – no match for those of the present day.

Second radio listener: I would like to ask, how do you give patients and permission to practice and treat?

V. I repeat: we ourselves don’t give it. The license holder for valeology of the Baltic Pedagogical Academy issues it. Valeology is an old quite-forgotten science about human knowledge and human health as a whole. All the recuperative methods which the best healers who are beneficial use come from here.

T. I remember one more story. About 30 years ago in “Literaturnaya Gazeta” there was mention in some article of a conversation between two friends, a doctor and an engineer. The engineer said, “Listen, I have a good friend, a healer, but he can’t make a living. The bureaucrats are interfering. He doesn’t understand anything in medicine, he doesn’t have any diplomas, he treats with all kinds of folk means, but the bureaucrats won’t give him permission. Help him”. “I agreed to help”, replied the doctor, “but on one condition: a favor for a favor. I have a friend who is a skilled craftsman, an inventor. He designed a rocket for a flight to Mars from old Mason jars and samovar tubing. Promote him, too, with your authority”.

F. Gertruda Nikolayevna, how do you yourself, as a specialist and a scientist, regard those who turn to you for expert review and their methods of healing? I don’t want to lump them all in the same basket, of course, but just the same…

V. In the process of working with an individual who aspires to the role of healer we identify all of his personal qualities and mental health. We identify not only his ability to change a patient’s condition but how his own condition changes in the process, what efforts he makes to do this in order to change a patient’s condition. And in the process of our mutual work he sees all this himself, finds out for himself, and understands himself what he is doing in the final account and why a particular effect results.

Third radio listener. I was at a sitting, I don’t know what their names were, it seems Galina Petrovna and Nadezhda. They say that their treatment costs 400 rubles and they cure practically all diseases. On what basis are they granted a license?

F. Well, we repeat again that the Institute which Gertruda Nikolayevna heads does not issue a license itself but makes a finding which is then taken into account by the institution issuing the license.

T. Including a finding about the mental state of the person who aspires to healing?

V. Yes.

T. This is very important. But all the same, how do you make a finding that he is able to heal, for example, an abscess or sick tooth or there, a stomach ulcer or a kidney cyst or anything else? A specific disease? Do you take him at his word?

V. There is a specific understanding about what has caused a given disease: this or that, various breakdowns which occur in a person’s organism. If these breakdowns, so to speak, are stopped, then the organism itself goes to work and deals with all the individual weak spots itself.

F. I’ll give my opinion. Is one to believe wizards, sorcerers, and healers or not? The answer for everyone lies in their own common sense. If a healer is dressed up as a circus performer and in the process is still a fair psychologist then, of course, he can deceive you and do with you as he pleases. So, think for yourself. Pay attention to common sense!

From the conversation of 08.12.2000

Program host A. Fyodorov. We continue the conversation about folk healing and healers. There are a great many of them in our city if one is to judge from various printed advertisements. Sorcerers, healers, wizards, practitioners of black and white magic try to outdo one another in offering their services: miracle cures and even deliverance from illnesses which doctors do not always resort to. Is this in fact so? What is behind such things? How do you tell a person who is actually able to help from a charlatan? Are there laws regulating the practice of healers? We’ll talk about all this with a representative of the Association of Folk Healers of our city. Its organizers and leaders are Natal’ya L’vovna Shareyko and Oleg Genrikhovich Shapiro. What goal does your association pursue and who participates in it?

N.Sh. The Association has existed since April 2000 and has been officially registered and is a branch of the All-Russian Association of Healers, which has existed for over 10 years. The word “healer” has now acquired a bad sound in connection with the fact that there are people who are not healers but unscrupulously include themselves among them.

F. But what about real healers? Who are they?

N.Sh. A person who heals and who has a completely clearly expressed abilities of a certain kind. He does not have to be a medical worker at all, although our association is an association of professional medical workers.

F. On ORT they showed a person who sees not only with his eyes but also with all parts of his body.

N.Sh. This talent is called clairvoyance. In 1991 I went to Vladimir Tonkiy. I was a doctor and worked in official medicine and didn’t suspect my own abilities. But in literally the first or second lesson I suddenly became clairvoyant.

F. Is this an acquired or inherent talent?

N.Sh. It is a talent which can be discovered. In some people it is discovered in a completely natural way, but some can come to it. We have a unique educational institution in Russia, the Institute of Eniology and Social Research. This is where one can receive an education about these matters.

O.Sh. Considerably more people began to come to us requesting acceptance after a report about our Association in the press and on the radio. We already number more than 70 right now. Selection and acceptance take place at a meeting of our presidium. From now on, in order that those accepted can get a healer’s diploma the Association’s structure has an qualifications commission of experts which includes Natal’ya L’vovna and myself.

F. But does official medicine also take part in this? Who gives permission?

O.Sh. After a finding by the experts of our commission a healer is submitted for a healer’s diploma. We have already issued the first four such submissions. In the near future the health administration organizations of St. Petersburg will issue a healer’s diploma on the basis of such a submission. A decision in principle has already been made that this will finally take place. Well, after some coordination. One can say that right now all this has shifted to practical work: an order is being drawn up and a decision has been made to create a Council in which I would be the representative of folk medicine. I think that such healer’s diplomas will be issued before New Year’s.

N.Sh. Though we all are practicing healers we have to deal with organizational work in connection with the fact that an enormous amount of misunderstandings have accumulated about us in St. Petersburg. Healer’s diplomas are already being issued in other oblasts and cities. It is an official document which is issued by a health agency and is a license. There was also a radio program here with Gertruda Vasil’yevna who also issues certain licensees. There also exist a number of one-day courses which issue their own diplomas and people who get them, with good practice and real ability, might be completely defenseless against the tax service and State inspectorates which inspect them. Why? Because in fact neither licensees nor the diplomas of one-day courses are documents which are actually approved by the government. Therefore we do such work right now and it is the healer’s diploma itself that is also a license. This will be the only document issued by a government agency granting the right to work as a healer.

F. That is, those who turn to healers should ask them to show them such a diploma?

N.Sh. Absolutely right. At this moment no one in St. Petersburg has such documents yet but we hope that they will begin to be issued this year.

O.Sh. The issue of a diploma is the issue of a unique document granting the right to work as a healer. This is confirmation of the skill and effectiveness of healing. But all those who have not yet received it will be able get such a diploma in the near future.

F. But how do official health organizations regard you?

O.Sh. In literally the last week we have had several contacts with representatives and the management of the Health Committee of the St. Petersburg Administration, including its chairman, Anatoliy Vladimirovich Kagan, and received an agreement in principle that such diplomas will be issued. Right now we are working together to draw up a draft order about the Committee in which it will say that a regulation has been approved about permission and the diploma which is being issued has been approved. And all these are technical aspects at the level of the Health Committee up to the creation of the Council which will make the decision about the issue of a diploma.

N.Sh. We professionals are bewildered that in St. Petersburg now there exist more than 300 various schools of healing which can be called centers, institutes, and even academies. In reality these are various partnerships and associations with limited liability and this says everything. For example, the so-called “Institute of Healing and Mercy”. We have one active institute and it is called the Institute of Eniology and Social Research. One can get an additional higher education on questions of psychic phenomena. There they issue two categories of diplomas: consultant in the field of social support [soprovozhdenie] and consultant in energy information. The newspapers “Tselitel’ [Healer]”, “Tselitel’-Plyus [Healer-Plus]”, “Znakhar’ [Sorcerer]“, and especially “Novyy Tselitel’ [The New Healer]” are active in our field of activity and we will give them professional advice if they come to us.

From the conversation of 02.02.2001

Program host A. Fyodorov. In our studio is Vadim Vladimirovich Stozharov, Chief of the Medical Activity Licensing Directorate of the city’s Licensing Chamber; Valentin Anatol’yevich Ababkov, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, and Chief Scientist of the Neuroses and Psychotherapy Branch of the V. M. Bekhterev Institute; Gennadiy Grigor’yevich Shevelev, Chairman of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society; and Andrey Stanislavovich Zakharevich, Deputy Chairman of the Qualifications Commission of the St. Petersburg Professional Association of Folk Healers…Vadim Vladimirovich, how is the licensing activity which regulates the activity of our folk healers in Petersburg done?

Stozharov. In 1993 the RF law “The Principles of Legislation to Protect the Health of Citizens” was adopted; in Article 57 it explains the procedure for permitting the practice of folk healing…Some healers who want to avoid the procedure for obtaining a license dispute that their activity is medical. There was a clear RF Supreme Court decision on this account on 24 September 1998 which confirmed that their activity is unquestionably medical and subject to licensing.

F. And how many healer’s diplomas have already been issued in our city?

S. The Health Committee has developed a regulation concerning the issue of diplomas which still needs to be approved. Therefore no diploma has been issued as of today.

F. This means that those people who are advertising many promises in the city’s mass media about what kind of healers they are do not have any legal rights since this information is not confirmed by documents.

Radio listener. My question is to the representative of the Association of Folk Healers: what education do people have who engage in this activity?

Zakharevich. If I were to answer the question directly, then our professional medical association of folk healers has very great potential in both scientific and educational terms. All the representatives of our Qualifications Commission are either doctors or psychologists. The doctors have a medical education and the psychologists have a psychological education. In addition, I am also a candidate of technical sciences and therefore complement the Qualifications Commission with various methods associated with scientific and technical studies. We think that our Commission has the complete right to issue a finding about classifying the training level of healers in accordance with legal documents.

F. The question arises: if your Qualifications Commission is operating within your Association then does it means that you are certifying your activity yourselves? It’s turning out like the auditing work in a bank being conducted by workers of this bank themselves. Is this correct?

Z. We think that this is correct. In the first place, this is according to the law. In the second place, there are a number of methods of folk medicine which, in our view, only specialists in this field should rate. And it would be illegal for other people, who have little idea about folk medicine and the many processes which occur in the human organism, including through scientific methods, to make any sort of findings inasmuch as they reflect only a certain, very small part of the multifaceted processes which accompany the phenomenon of folk healing.

F. Do medical organizations conduct expert evaluations of the people whom your Commission considers healers?

Z. We have such a procedure. Our Qualifications Commission issues submissions which are approved by the Ministry of Health (Health Committee is correct – G. Sh.), and it is obliged to issue healer’s diplomas on the basis of our submission.

F. Valentin Anatol’yevich, here a representative of healers has said that only they themselves can evaluate their professional abilities. Is this so? Can’t the specialists of the respected Bekhterev Institute do this?

Ababkov. First of all, I would like to clarify that I can assess a condition in the field of psychiatry and psychotherapy to a large degree. But at the same time I would like to note that many methods of nontraditional medicine and healing, despite the statements of their practitioners, are built on psychological perceptions. Therefore, the fact that I represent this field permits me to speak about a serious assessment of particular methods. In psychology there are several criteria for a scientific assessment of these methods. First of all, the method must be based on contemporary scientific achievements and be borne out by them. Without this, a method cannot be recognized as scientifically based in any civilized country and, of course, is not recommended for use. There exist ideas which all knowledge can divide into three large groups – everyday, mythological, and scientific. In the majority of cases healing is based on everyday and mythological knowledge with an insufficient regard for scientific knowledge, although at the present time one can often encounter cases where particular methods and equipment from scientifically based methods of psychotherapy are used.

Z. The problem is that I myself an a member of a professional Russian psychotherapeutic league (without a medical education? – G. Sh.). At one time I was in a scientific laboratory which studied the phenomena of scientific psychotherapy and the scientific influence of various psychotherapeutic practices and energy influences on the human organism. This was in the “Biosvyaz’” firm in 1990-92. Therefore I am sufficiently well-informed about what is going on in the field of scientific knowledge regarding the phenomena which take place in the mind and in the bioenergetic influence of a person on his surroundings. Our results were quite profound and part of them were acquired jointly with the Brain Institute. They led us to very interesting conclusions. We recorded changes which were individual for each person. So individual that it was very difficult to systematize them. Therefore we declined to use these scientific methods directly. The problem is that part of the phenomena which take place in the mind cannot, in our view, be recorded with the level of knowledge of traditional science because these phenomena are of very great regularity and multifaceted. With the aid of technical devices which are regular to the 2nd or 3rd order of magnitude one can reflect only the part of the phenomena which occur in the sphere of the mind, we’ll say, in the sphere of spiritual qualities.

F. But how can they be observed? How can they be monitored?

Z. There is a natural apparatus for this – the supersensitive perception of each person. At one time we spent quite a lot of time preparing our modern apparatus to analyze all phenomena associated with a sort of energy information exchange of a person, including during healing situations, and to develop methods of supersensitive perception, including clairvoyance.

F. How can one distinguish a healer from an unscrupulous person who thinks only about money? There are remarkable phytotherapists and very bad psychotherapists. And as regards clairvoyants, wizards, magicians, and sorcerers, that evokes a smile. Valentin Anatol’yevich, how do you regard clairvoyants, psychics, and wizards of black, white, and other magic?

A. I regard this as a social phenomenon which arose over many centuries and has manifested itself to a greater degree right now, in our difficult times. It is simple for me to also explain the influence of all these methods as psychological influence but this is completely from a scientific position, which for some reason the practitioners of these methods are either ashamed of or don’t want to talk about. The problem is that the influence of one person on another is a quite complex process, but by the present time psychology in general, and social and clinical psychology [in particular] have achieved a sufficient level of development to explain many phenomena without any mysticism, not to say that something might not be understood in principle. And in particular I could talk about the so-called non-specific factors of psychotherapy which are sometimes also not taken into consideration by professional psychotherapists. But it works all the same. Likewise I could talk about the many social effects of relationships, but unfortunately we don’t have time for this. But the fact that some nontraditional methods can help – this is unquestioned. This can only be a question of them helping to some degree if in the process not only the positive, but also the negative effects about which much has been written and said are taken into consideration.

Z. In our Association the level of training of healers is incomparably high. What the representatives of medicine are talking about, in our view, is becoming quite amusing because they say they are not specialists in the field of those very phenomena about which we’re talking. Why? Our scientific research in the field of the subjective reality of the interactions of the mind and the surroundings is very high and there are quite a large number of scientific papers in this field. It comes to several dozen papers. In addition, from the results of this research which we have conducted and from practical use on hundreds and thousands of people both in healing as well as in training the development of these abilities which Nature has given to everyone, we have developed a methodology of the sudden activation of the process of developing a person’s hidden abilities.

F. Gennady Grigor’yevich, why has the Russian Humanist Society taken up this topic?

Shevelev. I will explain our position. Although I personally do not trust healers and therefore do not resort to their services, once the law in principle permits such a form of medical activity then as a law-abiding citizen I cannot object to this and I don’t. But healers, too, should know and read the law and act in full accordance with its letter and spirit. The law, as has already been stated, dictates that before healers open their practice they are to acquire a healer’s diploma issued by the Health Committee and a license issued by the Licensing Chamber. It is very important that this procedure provide for the required participation of medical experts whom the applicant for a diploma must convince that his manipulations actually beneficial and, especially, cause no harm to the patient’s health.
I am not a medical professional and if someone tries to convince me of his healing abilities then he is wasting his time. Only professional medical experts need be convinced of this. If they manage to do this and the applicant receives the aforementioned documents, then neither I personally nor our public organization will have any complaint against him since these documents serve as a guarantee of the patient’s safety.
I and my colleagues in the public organization “The Russian Humanist Society” object only to illegal healing and do this in accordance with our charter which dictates that we regard skeptically and criticize “various forms of fanaticism, mysticism, traditional and nontraditional forms of religious philosophy, superstition, and other unscientific and antiscientific ideas and practices”. Until a particular healer gets the documents stipulated by the law we have every right to regard his activity skeptically, classifying it an unscientific and antiscientific practice and criticizing it. Which we also do. In the process we defend the interests of citizens who are being harmed by healers operating in violation of the law.
In conclusion, I would like to call upon those Petersburgers who already use or just plan to use the services of healers to demand that they show licenses issued by the Licensing Chamber of our city and look at them carefully to see for which specific kind of healing they were issued. This will protect you from possible mistakes.

F. Well then, a clear and concise point of view of a representative of the Russian Humanist Society.

Translated by Gary Goldberg