JA writes: “I have recently heard of a health and massage practice from the Philippines called “Hilot”. Is this practice occult or New Age (and therefore to be avoided like the plague by faithful Catholics)?”
Hilot is an indigenous Filipino massage and healing practice that is making a comeback thanks to the work of Bibiano “Boy” Fajardo, president of the Association of Traditional Health Aid Givers (ATHAG).
Fajardo, who has a degree in chemical engineering and spent years studying indigenous healing methods in the Philippines, admits that hilot is as much a philosophy and a culture as it is a healing method.
“Hilot is grounded in a deep faith in Espirito (Spirit/God), the source of life and healing,” Fajardo says on his website. “Espirito is everywhere and pervades all living things, and is manifested in the essential values of unconditional love and service. Hilot, as a holistic healing modality, takes the whole person–spirit, mind/emotions, and body–into consideration, and sees health as the natural consequence of the harmony among these three faculties.”
While there’s nothing wrong with the holistic approach to healing (the Church has taken this approach to healing in its hospitals for centuries), the idea that “Espirito is everywhere and pervades all living things” is pantheism – a non-Christian belief system. We believe God is omnipresent, meaning that He is present everywhere – but because He is present in something does not make that thing God.
He also states that the hilot “healer is a channel of Espirito” – which is where the element of the occult comes in. Christians don’t channel God, or the Holy Spirit.
In this article appearing in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Fajardo explains that a good Hilot practitioner will know what a client is suffering just by looking at him and “sensing his energy.” This is done by learning how to tell if the elements in the body – fire, water, earth and air – are in harmony.
As the article states, “Fire refers to the body’s electric impulses; water, the blood; the earth, bone and flesh; while air corresponds to the air that one breathes.”
Here’s the second hint of the non-Christian philosophy imbedded in hilot – the idea that the body’s organs correspond to elements such as water, earth, fire, etc. is based in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Fajardo goes on to say that “If these are not in proportion, the sickness will come back. To correct the imbalance in the patient’s energy that leads to a distorted metabolism, a healer would have to give the patient a massage.”
He claims the massage is able to manipulate the body’s “electrical charges to create the desired biochemical reactions” that help the body to heal itself.
Judging from the explanation on his website, he attributes much of this healing to the working of electromagnetic forces rather than the “espirito” or spirit which ancient healers believed they were channeling during their practice.
The only problem with this explanation is that electromagnetic forces used to heal in western medicine, such as for bones fractures, are administered via low-intensity ultrasound – not massage.
While alternative practitioners have launched a variety of devices they claim can do the same thing Fajaro claims hilot can do via massage, none of them have any scientific validity and some are even illegal.
As he states on his website: “Dr. Bibiano Fajardo hopes to bring the healing benefits of Hilot closer to present and future generations, and demonstrate Hilot’s continuing relevance to modern life. He also aims to dispel popular misconceptions that Hilot is nothing more than a Filipino brand of massage, or worse, that it is a form of quackery. Such labels are a clear disservice to Hilot, the Philippines’ ancient healing system whose wisdom encompasses many other traditional and modern healing modalities.”
Hilot may be a great massage, but to imply that it can heal someone is something that needs to be proven. Dr. Fajardo will never succeed in dispelling the notion that hilot is a form of quackery unless he subjects his theories and methods to independent scientific scrutiny. He does not appear to have done so.
Because this practice contains elements of the occult (channeling espirito) and New Age (“energy”) I would avoid it.