“Everyone had to drink their urine”: shamanism, alternative medicines… the worrying sectarian drift
12 mins read

“Everyone had to drink their urine”: shamanism, alternative medicines… the worrying sectarian drift

Shamanism, naturopathy, kinesiology, reflexology, homeopathy, balancing with crystals, quest for the sacred feminine… So-called “New Age” alternative medicines have once again taken center stage since the Covid crisis. If these alternative therapies are Praised by their followers, they nevertheless carry excesses, particularly sectarian ones.

The medical profession is particularly concerned about a resurgence of “guru scammers”. Bruce* thinks his girlfriend of seven years was a victim.

Alexia was raised by a single mother, Marie, contextualizes the thirty-year-old. Marie was looking for a bubble of oxygen, which she found when entering an esoteric bookstore.” Her readings make her feel better, so she wants to “convert” her friends, and of course her daughter. “In Mary’s eyes, those who disagreed were not ready.” Bruce remembers.

Covid, trigger

Marie introduces a shaman to Alexia, during the Covid period. The man is around fifty years old, the young woman is 30. Bruce will only attend one of their group sessions, he remains very marked.

Only women participatedhe remembers, from 20 to 60 years old. Each had to drink her urine, before practicing what this man called ‘a spiritual pilgrimage’. The whole group had to be topless, specifies the young Aixois. We stayed for three hours with our fingers dipped in water to connect with the forest and the soul of our ancestors. When I said that I was not receptive, the shaman replied that I was carrying black light. In my opinion, these women wanted to get better and this man was taking advantage of it. “

What makes him make such comments are the sums spent on the sidelines of these spiritual meetings. “It was really insidious, we didn’t realize the growing influence, as it was so progressive, insists the thirty-year-old. Alexia wanted to follow training around well-being, for 400 euros per hour. I told him I was stopping contributing financially. From there, she became withdrawn. Then one evening, she didn’t come home. The next day, she took all our things, including the furniture, and completely emptied the apartment while I was at work; I never saw her again or heard from her.”

*First names have been changed.

“Cancer cannot be cured with stones”

“The trend of alternative medicine is growing, indeed notes Aurore Baudoin-Haloche, doctor in Marseille. Even if patients don’t always admit it.” Faced with the phenomenon, the health professional positions herself “neither for nor against, as long as it is not harmful to the sick person, and the use of an unconventional practice complements medical monitoring. I see it as a ‘placebo effect’.”

And to explain: “From a psychological point of view, it can be good to take, morale plays a big part in the fight against an illness. On the other hand, we have seen fire helmsmen enter the hospital. On the other hand, if we end up saying ‘no to vaccines’ which are essential, or turn our back on conventional medicine, this can quickly become dangerous, alert the doctor. You can’t cure cancer with stones. We must use these experiences with a lot of perspective and above all be careful of charlatans who charge exorbitant prices.”

“A more holistic approach”

Céline has followed a long journey to become today “shamanic healing practitioner, therapist and naturopathy advisor“. She defends her new vision of care.

“The alternatives are interesting because in traditional medicine, doctors often do not look for the cause of a chronic problem, such as pain, headaches, or intestinal discomfort. They will prescribe a medication, therefore harmful products, with side effects. Alternative medicine offers a more holistic approach, it takes into account the emotional, the body of the person, their lifestyle.”

Céline knows “naturopaths who cure everything, from infections to ear infections, with plants, only there are precautions to take. We have to find our limits, I don’t tell my patients to stop their cancer treatment, but to resort to things that accompany them before, during, after.”

The shaman believes that“there are no two medicines, they should be in harmony, complementary.” And to conclude “alternative medicine treats at the root rather than an ointment or a pill which will heal the surface and not the inside.

Sectarian excesses in increasing numbers

Bruce, distraught, did not denounce his ex-partner for theft, nor the shaman and his practices. But victims, in increasing numbers, are warning of these new dangers: the health sector today represents a third of reports of sectarian abuses.

“The number of reports of sectarian abuses received by Miviludes has increased by 86% in five years”, warned Christian Gravel, the president of the interministerial mission responsible for monitoring and combating sectarian abuses, at the beginning of 2023. The speaker warned “of an unprecedented increase in these actions.

Faced with the phenomenon, the government reacted, but timidly. The Senate adopted last Tuesday, December 19, the bill “aimed at strengthening the fight against sectarian abuses”. However, the text had been emptied of its substance during its passage before the Senate Law Committee. The text will be transmitted to the National Assembly.

In the shadow of the government, associations have been working with victims for several years. This is the case of GEMPPI, based in Marseille, founded in 1988 and chaired by Didier Pachoud. GEMPPI works to inform and help individuals, families, public and private organizations confronted with sects.

“This bill has been truncatedconcedes Didier Pachoud, there is a rather weak will on the part of the senators. Sectarian lobbies mobilized to have Articles 1 and 4 removed. And that’s what happened, there’s not much left. We are far from the good initial intention.

“Unconventional care practices have not proven their effectiveness”

“Yet the ‘New Age’, we are right in it, continues the Marseillais, who nevertheless specifies that Therapeutic alternatives are not sectarian deviations except when they are combined with a form of spirituality.“Recalling that “Unconventional care practices have not been proven to be effective, and that is why they are not recognized. Much of holistic care is part of ‘New Age’ spirituality.”

According to Didier Pachoud, the enthusiasm for these new care alternatives lies in the fragility of human beings, which is not a subject of reason. “Man seeks to be happy, he will by nature prefer to be reassured, to hear good news. Moreover, in these groups we will be pampered, valued, at first.”

And to develop: “The worse we are, the more we will turn to beliefs. Also, although we have a head on our shoulders, a good level of education, the day we have a problem that destabilizes us, that We find ourselves in a situation where things are beyond our control, we must be vigilant.”he emphasizes.

According to its followers, alternative medicine offers a more holistic approach, it takes into account emotions, the person's body, their lifestyle.
According to its followers, alternative medicine offers a more holistic approach, it takes into account emotions, the person’s body, their lifestyle. Photo illustration Cyril Sollier

A distrust of medicine

Alternative medicines work on energiesexplains Didier Pachoud. Around the universal soul, called Brahma in Hinduism. It is not forbidden to believe it, but since Covid things have changed. Over time, the ‘New Age’ has shed its religious aspirations, leaving more to believe that it is a philosophical movement. The vocabulary has evolved, becoming more scientific.”

“Only, warns the president of GEMPPI, behind this new lexical field lies a real distrust of conventional medicine, which we want to disqualify. People are turning to these ‘magical’ rituals, especially at a time when the health care system is becoming impoverished.”

The therapist becomes guru

Didier Pachoud warns: “In many cases, ‘New Age’ practitioners will declare that they are complementary to conventional medicine, but this is only an announcement. In the secrecy of the office, we will denigrate medicine and encourage the person not to seek treatment. than with Perlimpinpin powder.”

Then comes the level above, indoctrination. “These medicines are based on concepts which relate to beliefs, notes the Marseillais. This can become the instrument of power of a therapist who will become the guru of his patients or of the people they meet during training. Because the therapist often becomes a trainer. This is where we enter into sectarian excesses.”

Some remember Thierry Casasnovas, a famous naturopath on YouTube who promoted fasting and raw eating to treat illness. The man was indicted for illegal practice of pharmacy and breach of trust.

Videoconferencing allows you to reach a large audience

The Covid period will also have allowed the advent of videoconferencing. “It has become commonplace, people have been able to become self-employed, analyzes Didier Pachoud. The audience is easy to find on the internet. And even worse over the past year, with artificial intelligence, even mediocre people who know how to use this tool can create content that holds up, because AI makes up for their ignorance or incapacity. On the other hand, we are now even seeing young people being indoctrinated, via the Tik Tok application.”

It seems that these same beliefs now considerably permeate green circles. “They let themselves be taken in, on the basis of shamanism and the return to primary school because they are closer to nature”warns the founder of GEMPPI.

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