A new government policy on paranormal and alternative healing therapies is expected to be unveiled in the near future. In a similar way to other countries which have recognized certain nonscience-based health care therapies like acupuncture, the Ministry of Health is now taking a close look at its own indigenous alternative medicine, including paranormal therapies.
“The Ministry of Health recognizes that it has some limitations in providing health treatment to the community. That’s why we are making partnerships now with alternative medicine associations,” said Dr. Agnes Maureen Loupatty, head of the traditional health standardization section under the ministry’s Directorate General of Community Health.
“Our policy has three approaches: We will introduce stricter regulations, develop partnerships with alternative medicine associations and start to categorize and analyze the different methods used.”
According to Dr. Agnes, the ministry will work with the associations to develop criteria for assessing therapies, such as whether there is a body of printed research on the therapy, proof that it is safe and a credible reason to believe that it is effective in about 50 percent of cases.
The ministry is looking at four categories of traditional healing: physical methods such as massage and reflexology; traditional medicines such as herbs and jamu (herbal medicine); supernatural and paranormal techniques; and techniques based on religious beliefs.
While it may never be possible to prove without a shadow of a doubt that an alternative therapy works, metaphysical practitioners say that the same argument applies to modern medicine.
“You have to recognize that modern medicine cannot cure every disease and that some paranormals are successful, so it’s not all about superstition,” said Sita Sudjono, one of the founders of the Indonesian Communication Forum for Paranormal and Alternative Healers, which has already begun working with the Ministry of Health on classifying and codifying therapies.
Sita, a teacher of “Orhiba”, the Indonesian abbreviation for “New Life Exercise”, a discipline which is said to charge the body with cosmic energy with a few minutes of daily practice, helps to organize monthly metaphysical discussions in Jakarta which bring together a range of paranormal practitioners.
“We try to explain metaphysical things in a scientific way, although we known we cannot explain everything,” she said, adding that it’s important to see metaphysical practice as communicating with God, rather than what she sees as the current obsession in the tabloid press with the occult and superstitious beliefs.
The forum attracts more than 200 participants each month to its metaphysical study group and boasts over 1,000 members. Its chairman Sabdono Surohadikusomo has been a lifelong advocate of what he calls “rational approach” to the paranormal and has lobbied government to help impose some order in the field of paranormal and alternative healing.
“Our forum encompasses a wide variety of methods such as reiki, prana, acupuncture and also faith healing,” said Sabdono.
He is determined to change the image of healers as being mystical or magical and to protect the welfare of consumers. According to his colleague Sita Sudjono, his efforts in the past were often marred by the egos of traditional healers.
“He tried before to raise the level of practice of dukuns (traditional healers or shamans). But it was very difficult to get them to follow any rules as each of them felt that they were better than the others!”
This time around, Sabdono is upbeat about the chances of success.
“We are preparing a decree with the ministry which will say that all paranormal healers should get a permit and a reference from an accredited association. There’s no law at the moment, so it’s difficult to protect consumers — that’s why we are working on this.”