The Power Of Belief


Doña Jesus Rocché de González is holding a smooth, rust-colored stone in her left hand. Using this, and others she has collected over the years, she can mend a broken bone in three days.

This is what I was told during our interview, when she brought out the stone and did a quick demonstration of her technique on the backs of my hands. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am a skeptic of the first order.  If something isn’t borne out by science or my own empirical knowledge, I doubt.

The people of San Pedro swear by this woman’s abilities.  Absolutely everyone I spoke with confirmed her claim, either from personal experience, or second hand from a relative or friend.  Thousands of people from around the lake have visited her, both to cure bone injuries and for her services as comadrona (midwife).

I, of course, want proof.  Has anyone had an x-ray before her treatment?  Of course not, I am told.  If you get an x-ray, they won’t let you leave the doctor without the bone set and a cast.  Still, the consensus that she can do this is overwhelming, and we are not talking about uneducated, superstitious people here,  these are intelligent, educated, worldly people who Believe.  And because they Believe, it Works.

Belief is a powerful force.  It is perhaps the most influential force in humanity’s path to its present state. It can be belief in God or Gods, which has motivated and been used to manipulate for millennia, or it can be the belief that there is an answer to a mystery which can be divined without the Divine, simply by methodical exploration and calculation.

When a Monarch butterfly lays its eggs, it dies soon after.  The eggs grow into caterpillars.  The caterpillars feast on milkweed and then morph into hard shells filled with undifferentiated mush.  Over time, that mush coalesces into a new Monarch.  After several generations of this, the resulting butterfly knows how to reach the exact same breeding ground as the original one.  How?

I posed this question on Facebook.  I was given links to several scientific articles on advances in understanding Monarch migration.  None successfully addresses how the memory is transferred from monarch to egg to caterpillar to mush and then back to monarch.  Then a friend said God is in everything, and that explains it.

I can’t go there.  The response is too easy, too pat for me.  If you don’t understand something, attribute it to the supernatural.  That is why, before we understood the rain and the movement of the planets, they each had their own God.  It makes things so much simpler if you don’t have to work to understand the mechanism behind the miracle.

I’m sure Doña Jesus would attribute her healing abilities to God.  She is, after all, a devout Catholic in a culture steeped in both mysticism and Christianity.  Again, I can’t go there.  I can’t discount her abilities in the face of so much corroboration, but I also can’t bring myself to attribute them to an invisible supernatural entity.  That’s just too easy.

The downside to my skepticism is that if I break a bone, I will have to spent weeks in a cast instead of just three treatments from Doña Jesus.  One thing I am certain of is that without the undifferentiated mush of Belief, her method will not work for me.