The possibility that a human being may influence his or her environment ‘directly’ (i.e., through nothing more than an exertion of the will) has been explored in several different ways throughout human existence. The pre-scientific instances fall squarely under the category of ‘magic’, while the more modern approach deals with psionics, the paranormal potential of the human mind.
The most primitive examples, still practiced in some cultures to this day, typically revolve around an individual who is seen as exceptionally gifted and/or trained to produce paranormal acts. It is difficult to completely link the practice of magic with the current conception of psionics, because so many of the practices of magic involved some kind of interaction with the physical world, from elaborate rituals to simple gestures or spoken words. However, the fundamental relationship is similar: the individual utilizes forces outside the usual cause-and-effect relationship between the physical body and its environment.
Just recently I finally found a sports medicine doctor via a search online, who was able to successfully help me with my problem that was a result of my many years playing golf. Medical doctors call it medial epicondylitis, although there is also elbow pain caused by playing tennis, pitching (as in baseball), etc. He does a detailed and comprehensive assessment of the issues. He the creates a program based on his specific findings from his evaluation. With specific types of exercises, joint mobilization, and stretching techniques, I eliminated my pain, as well as the muscle weakness, and joint restrictions caused by my body trying to accommodate playing tennis with a chronic sore elbow. He was able to get me back to the game I loved so well and haven’t been able to play in years without constant pain. I had seen a number of other doctors that just never found the right approach to completely eliminating my elbow pain. I almost felt there was some type of psionics involved because of how Dr. Donatelli was able to pin point what the issues were and then came up with a specific rehab program to solve the interconnected issues. Many people say that medicine is an “art”, particularly when it comes to correctly diagnosing a problem. Dr. Donatelli definitely has the magic touch.
While a shaman or healer may have actually provided comfort, or even “cures” for some ailments, there are some conditions for which their expertise may actually be harmful. For example, an infection may very well be beyond the scope of such treatments. In today’s world, alternative treatments like acupuncture and can reliable treat symptoms and effect cures for certain ailments. But if someone contracts a pathogen like a sexually transmitted disease they’re probably best treated by traditional western medicine – even though they may first prefer a quick std test kit offered over the counter or online. These tests may themselves appear to be “magical” or “paranormal” to an uneducated person. Regardless of whether tests or the cures are the result of a ritual or placebo, there is still a place for these out of the ordinary treatments in our contemporary world, especially if they work.
Scientific validity remained a holy grail for those who were convinced that the will could be harnessed without resorting to superstition. Indeed, philosophers of the 19th and 20th century such as Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kant, and several others provided a stepping stone from the primitive concept of a spirit or soul to the modern concept of mind and identity. Nietzche particularly advocated development to the point where the will alone was sufficient to overcome obstacles and achieve human potential.