their credulity stretched to the limits by Tong Ren Therapy, an energy
healing system that doesn't use needles and doesn't even touch the patient.
Instead, the practitioner uses a doll to represent the patient, and taps on
specific points of the doll with a small hammer.
Not surprisingly, the 'quackbusters' and sceptics have been frothing at the
mouth, describing Tong Ren ('bronze man') as a cross between
acupuncture-itself a derogatory term in their books-and voodoo.
To make matters worse, as with many similar therapies, there's a paucity of
research to support the claims of its founder, Master Tom Tam, a Chinese
refugee now living in Massachusetts, and his many practitioners. One study,
by Amy Sullivan, from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of
Medicine in Richmond, VA, Susan Bauer-Wu from Emory University in Atlanta,
GA, and Michael Miovic, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard
Medical School in Boston, MA, found that 265 Tong Ren patients who completed
a survey reported "amazing" improvements to their health problems. Even
patients with major illnesses such as cancer said they were helped by the
therapy; in the survey, 60 per cent of cancer patients reported dramatic
improvements after several sessions of Tong Ren. It also appears to help
those who are suffering from anxiety, depression and autoimmune disorders
(Complement Health Pract Rev, 2009; 14: 19-35;
In a separate study of 500 individuals who received Tong Ren while on a
conference phone call with a practitioner, 98 per cent said they could feel
sensations of warmth, pain relief and relaxation (unpublished data).
Given such findings, Tong Ren might be dismissed as having merely a placebo
effect were it not for the numerous case studies of patients whose
life-threatening illnesses have been completely reversed. In 2004, Florri
Kuethe was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph glands,
and given a year to live without chemo- and radiotherapy. She took the
'practical' decision to have the treatment. However, its effects on her were
catastrophic, triggering life-threatening lung damage, loss of mobility-she
was unable to walk-and neuropathy. Florri was forced to abandon the therapy,
while her oncologist warned her that the cancer would return. All this time,
however, she had also been receiving Tong Ren treatment. Her husband went on
to become a Tong Ren practitioner and, today, Florri is fully recovered. Her
cancer has not returned, her mobility is restored and her lungs have
recovered beyond her pulmonologist's "wildest dreams" (Kuethe R. Tong Ren
Therapy. Boston, MA: Fire Husker Publishing, 2009).
The chi connection
The theory behind Tong Ren is similar to acupuncture's: illness is the
result of a 'blockage' of energy, or chi, so the therapy is designed to
clear blockages and allow the body's self-healing activities to work. But
unlike acupuncture, which uses needles at meridian points to restore the
flow of chi, Tong Ren uses a small hammer to hit specific points on a doll
representing the patient. Master Tam calls on Jung's collective unconscious
and quantum physics to explain how, without touching the patient, his
modality works. As he puts it, our internal, or body, chi is connected to
the external, or universal, chi, and this connection allows others to
influence your internal chi. Indeed, the patient doesn't even need to be in
the same room as the practitioner, and it's just as effective over the
The practitioner focuses on an area of the patient's body via the plastic
doll, as it is "only a focused mind [that] can create and transform energy",
says Tam. Over the years, Tam has developed a system that specifies points
where blockages can cause different diseases. Each point is marked on the
practitioner's doll, with labels such as 'GV22' and 'BL6', and the
practitioner taps on these points while focusing on unblocking the area.
Distance is no object
Master Tam still runs weekly "guinea-pig classes", as he calls them, where
people turn up and receive several minutes of treatment from practitioners.
Sometimes, a hundred or more people are treated every week in these
sessions, which are free of charge. A standard distance healing, usually by
telephone, takes around 30 minutes or more, during which the patient is
constantly asked to report any changes, sensations or feelings of warmth as
these are signs of unblocking. If the patient reports feeling nothing, then
the practitioner tries another point on the doll.
Rick Kuethe has undertaken more than 5000 distance healings, the very first
one on his friend, Kim. During a phone conversation, Kim complained of
suffering from an allergic reaction, so Rick asked if he could try Tong Ren
on him. Within minutes, Kim's symptoms had completely cleared. "I don't know
which of us was more amazed," Rick recalled.
Cynics recoil, and say that Tong Ren is absurd and impossible. Nevertheless,
while some may agree that it does indeed seem absurd, there are enough
people walking around who can testify that it is far from impossible.
Vol 20 07 October 2009