Thai Massage is not the only healing modality in Thailand. There are quite a few unusual healers here. Some spit red betel juice on afflicted areas, some use magical eggs, others prepare herbal mixtures, and some prescribe amulets and other objects that are supposed to be infused with healing power.
Healing magic or scam?
Many or most of these healing methods seem strange or unbelievable to the western mind. The question is: do they really work? Is there some real magic involved or is it quackery?
The answer is not what you expect: It does not matter so much if it is ‘real’ or not.
Healing and the placebo effect
May I remind you that it has been scientifically proven that placebos work almost as well or in some cases equally well as the real thing.
There have been plenty of studies where some patients were given the actual pill, and another group were given sugar pills. They all believed that they took the real pills, and both groups showed very similar improvement.
You might be surprised to learn that this even works with operations. Placebo knee operations resulted in very similar improvements than the patients who had the real operation. Does this mean that the placebo patients were cheated and that their improvement was not real?
Healing and the power of the mind
No, it just means that the power of our mind plays a major role in our healing. We all know that we can think ourselves sick and end up with an ulcer.
It also works the other way round. We can think ourselves healthy and reverse the ulcer. I know that for a fact because I have done it when I had an ulcer once.
So in the case of the Thai healers we will never know for sure what is ‘real’ and what is ‘not real’.
But we know for sure that some people get better through highly unorthodox methods. Some people even get healed where the ‘real’ doctors could not help them and had given up on them.
Of course those methods do not always work, but neither do surgery and chemical pills.
Which healing method is “right”?
So does it really matter what method is used as long as the result is real and beneficial?
If you take a sugar pill, or if someone rubs an egg all over you or if you think that a drop of holy water will cure your ills – if you believe it strongly enough, chances are good that it will actually work. And that has been scientifically proven in many placebo experiments.
Recently I visited a temple called Wat Tanak in Thailand where I witnessed a highly unusual demonstration by a Thai herbalist/healer. He meditated for 40 minutes in a vat filled with herbs and boiling oil while there was a blazing fire under the container. I caught it all on video which you can watch below.
Real magic? Shame on you!
The interesting thing is that as soon as I published this video in various places, I received a lot of outraged comments. People told me it was all a scam, I would damage my good reputation by publishing it, the oil was not really hot, etc.
This was quite interesting for me since I just filmed exactly what happened and everything was in plain view.
I can’t help but notice that people will watch all kinds of magic shows where they are being totally “cheated”, and they all know it and enjoy the show anyway.
But as soon as you publish something that seems to be magical and may even be real, people get very upset. The debunkers come out and fight you tooth and nail over it.
The debunker’s dilemma
Debunking is like a fanatical religion. The debunker’s mind is already made up, and they would not recognize real magic if it hit them in the face.
I happen to live in Thailand where most people believe in ghosts, spirits and magic to some degree. It’s part of their religion, actually, which is a mixture of Buddhism and animism (spirit worship).
Debunkers allow only one way to look at the world – their way. There is no tolerance for the possibility of anything else. That’s why anything mystical or magical will always remain hidden from them, even if they look right at it.
For example in my massage practice, if I say that my clients “claim” to feel better after a session, that will be acceptable.
However if I say that I have seen some miraculous improvements which cannot be explained medically or scientifically, the debunkers will go all out to prove me or make me wrong.
However my wife’s life has been saved by one of those magic healers. If you want to read the story, you can find it here.
What’s so bad about a little mystery in life?
There is another way to look at life. I prefer to take it as a reminder that there are some things in life that are mysterious, magical and unexplainable, and they make life interesting.
What is so great about insisting that everything has to be proven scientifically in a test tube or under a microscope?
What is the benefit of explaining away and rationalizing every bit of mystery in the world?
You could also look at it as a unique cultural experience. You just don’t see something like that in many places. It was a fascinating show and a great time so spend a Sunday morning. And if somebody got better by buying some of the amulets that were sold there – good for them.
Now it is up to you what you get out of it. Watching a Thai yogi meditate surrounded by boiling oil should at least be good entertainment, or you might conclude that there really are some things in life that cannot be rationally explained.
The author, Shama Kern, has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 18 years. He is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.
17 thoughts on “Magical Healers in Thailand”
Thai TV program called AT10 had these guys on last year. You can search on youtube. The cameraman put his hand in that boiling oil and he said it was just warm. This dues to a lot of herbs they put in that giant pan absorb heat. They also put water before oil. the oil separates from water and floats on the water surface. the heat conducted from water to oil isn’t that hot to boil the oil so when you put your hand in the pan your hand actually submerges in warm oil not the boiling water. what appears to be supernatural suggests that the healer has power to heal. it’s a power of suggestion.
It was quite evident from the preparations that the heat was somewhat reduced where he was sitting. But the oil was not “warm”, it was boiling. One of his helpers came around and poured a little oil on my hand, and it burned my hand. I was 3 meters away and I could barely stand the heat of the fire, what to speak of sitting right on top of it for 40 minutes.
I would be very careful to quote the media as a reliable source. I am pretty sure that if Jesus or Buddha would show up nowadays, the media would “debunk” them instantly and viciously. I don’t think the media has established a track record as a reliable source of truthful information!
I cannot help but notice that I have received several comments on this video from people who have not been there and have only third party information, but still seem to know more about the event than I do, and I was actually there. I touched the oil, I felt the heat of the fire.
I don’t know how ‘supernatural’ it was, but I have a hard time believing that the abbots of all the temples where he did his performance are so naive as to keep falling for some trickster.
Thailand does have a history of unusual events. Think of all the hundreds of people who pierce themselves in the most bizarre ways during the annual Chinese vegetarian festival in the South of Thailand, and who do not bleed and do not feel any pain. This is happening every year and has been amply documented and viewed by tens of thousands.
I think we have to be careful with the debunking, otherwise every village healer or shaman is a cheater unless they have been approved by some TV station or scientist, which is unlikely to ever happen.
I agree that there are charlatans and tricksters in the world, but I also know from personal experience that there are things in the world that cannot be explained by rational or scientific means.
I think we have to look at the track record of a person and his life before we condemn them as cheaters. Luesii Sombet has been a monk and then a kind of Thai “sadhu” his entire life since he was a young boy. He has done a lot of good for many people and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that his demonstration is more than a cheap trick.
That’s just my opinion, and you are free to disagree with me 🙂
The main thing about it for me is that even if there is a “scientific”explanation for this, as there probably is – the fact that the luesii understands how to utilize elements such as oil, water, herbs, fire, etc. in a way that enables him to pull this off, is impressive.
And since the intent is to remind people of the existence of deeper, somewhat mysterious realms that can be accessed for healing purposes … it’s all good.
Thanks Shama. Fascinating stuff!
I agree with your take on this Deon. I don’t think the Luesii tried to prove that he can boil himself into oblivion, but as you say, to remind people that there is more to life than what we perceive with our limited senses. And that is a good reason for such a demonstration. Actually that is exactly the effect it had on me. I felt inspired to expand the range of my thinking about what is possible.
Shama , Thank you very much for this movie !
Really I had experience to drinking this hot oil in Thai ministry of public health ! the fist I afraid to drink and didn’t let monk put oil in my mouth !! and he drinking but himself and told me don’t worry !!! but still I was worry to make problem in my mouth !! … but finally I drink hot oil ! I have photos than can send for you to put in your website , really was not magic ! … just need brave heart 🙂 ..lol
I am glad you liked the movie, and you had some experience with this unusual event! And thanks for your photos.
This is quite an fasinating video. Do you know what was printed on the sheets of paper that he layered into the herbs? How awesome it the power of our thoughts?
I was standing right next to him and I could see the sheets when he placed them, but what was printed on them was nothing I could decipher.
That was awesome…..I’d like to meet this man one day, and probe his mind! The power of the mind is an amazing thing! Keep up the good work and the interesting insights into the Thai healing culture. I’m a believer in utilizing many different resources into the healing process.
I think along the same lines, Kim. Whatever works and gives results is welcome in the healing process. I am not married to one particular concept.
I was lucky that I happened to hear about this event and could catch it on camera.
I am so glad your not married to this idea. I was afraid you might start teaching this course. I would have to decline on this course. I have a pretty good pain tolerance but I would have to draw the line.
All joking aside Shama, thank you for sharing this. Its very inspiring in any case. You always have the best articles.
Hey Don, first I thought that I would add this as a requirement for your Thai Massage certification, sitting in boiling oil for half an hour. But then I thought maybe I will get sued by the yogi for patent infringement, so I decided to not use this method:)
Shama, Thank you for filming and sharing this event. I too have seen things like this in Thailand. I agree that it is an impressive feat to even stand near the heat from the pot, let alone to sit in the middle. The use of elements, the concentration and the subsequent calm, meditative state are all worthy of respect. I remember one Thai healer whom I studied with, told me that when people doubt him he just tells them that they are probably right. I learned many lessons from this brilliant yet humble teacher. This is a beautiful video. Thanks again.
Thanks for your comment Rebecca. I am glad that you have experienced similar things in Thailand. The truth is that I had to delete several comments where people accused me of cheating or falling for hypnotic tricks or being tricked. Actually being there helps to expand the mind and see that there is a world outside of our everyday perception.
Thank you for sharing this video. I kept waiting for the oil to spill over and catch fire..I could see it was coming out of the pot but didn’t catch fire…Wow..I figured the grass was lemon grass but was was the brown muck? Fermented herbs?
Nobody there spoke any English, and my Thai isn’t good enough. So I could not ask specific questions like what that brown stuff was.
Thank you Shama for sharing this video. Fascinating! Powers of the brain, amazing!