Cult-linked researcher hits back at Australian Doctor

Christoph Schnelle believes the truth of Universal Medicine will be accepted as self-evident

The University of Queensland researcher whose work purported to show that joining the Universal Medicine cult was linked to improvements in women’s health has hit back at his detractors.

cosmic concept

Last month Christoph Schnelle was cleared of misconduct by the university after a 10-month investigation into claims that he had failed to declare he was a follower of Universal Medicine.

In a series of journal articles published in 2017 and 2018, the PhD student at the university’s school of public health claimed to have unearthed evidence that female followers of Universal Medicine had lower levels of physical and mental illness when compared with other women, including rates of diabetes, hypertension and thrombosis (see box).

The conclusions were based on a survey of 449 Universal Medicine followers with results measured against the 57,000 women enrolled in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health.

In a letter to Australian Doctor, Mr Schnelle wrote: “It is quite astonishing that what would be the biggest breakthrough in medicine since the wide adoption of evidence-based medicine in the 1990s — not just a brilliantly managed decline of health but an actual substantial and low-cost improvement of the physical and mental health of hundreds of people — is only vilified and not investigated.

“Even the slightest possibility of such an innovation should lead to a thorough scientific investigation. Why is this not happening?”


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Critics have dubbed as quackery the various Universal Medicine therapies that have been offered at workshops and retreats to thousands of people.

The therapies include esoteric chakra-puncture, esoteric connective tissue yoga and sacred esoteric healing, as well as esoteric breast massage.

While a NSW Supreme Court jury declared last year that the founder of Universal Medicine, Serge Benhayon, was a charlatan who vilified the disabled and preyed on vulnerable cancer patients, Mr Schnell insisted the group would be vindicated by history.

Quoting 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, Mr Schnell wrote: 

“We currently seem to be in stage one of Schopenhauer’s observation: ‘…fate which happened to every insight, especially the most important one, the truth, which was only a short victory celebration between the two long time spans in which she is being condemned as impossible and then belittled as trivial. Also the first of these fates tends to hit its originator. But life is short and truth’s effect reaches far and lives long: let us express the truth.'"

Mr Schnelle said this was commonly shortened to: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

He concluded: “[In my view] Universal Medicine has graduated to stage two.”

 

What were the main findings of the UM studies?

Two of Mr Schnelle's papers, published in JMIR Research Protocols and JMIR Public Health & Surveillance, were based on a survey of 449 female followers of Universal Medicine.

One of the papers claimed that 99.7% of the women at Universal Medicine had undergone Universal Medicine “treatment modalities” - such as esoteric connective tissue therapy - in the 12 months prior to the survey.

It concludes the "UM participants", with an average age of 48 and who had been associated with the organisation for an average of 8 years, had a lower BMI than the general population; experienced substantially less frequent back pain, lower stress, and depression scores; and scored higher on general mental and physical health, vitality, and perceived level of control.

“UM participants also had noticeably lower lifetime diagnoses of hypertension, used less hormone replacement therapy, had fewer sleep issues, and had notably fewer instances of allergies, sinusitis, anxiety, breathing difficulties, panic attacks, headaches, migraines, hot flashes, and night sweats, " it adds.

 

Read Mr Schnelle's letter to Australian Doctor

Dear Editor,

On March 19 you wrote an article “UQ clears Universal Medicine academic of misconduct”. As the focus of your article and the lead author of the three published papers with Universal Medicine as their subject, may I have the opportunity to reply.

You state on your website that quality primary care is a major determinant of the health of a society and I am in complete agreement with you about that. I was wondering if you and your readers were aware of the following:

  • This research in question survived an 8-months preliminary misconduct investigation by The University of Queensland.
  • This extensive investigation included scrutiny of the data by one of their statisticians.
  • Additionally an independent expert report reviewed the reported data and concluded that it was consistent with the survey responses.

Furthermore, the authors did declare that they were insiders for all three papers. The publisher for two papers deleted the conflict of interest statements from the final version as being an insider without financial ties is not normally declared. The statistical error did not change the conclusions and was discovered by the authors and amended well before any investigation.

I appreciate that it is incongruent to have findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals that run completely counter to the ‘harmful cult’ narrative in the general media — have you ever heard of a so-called cult whose participants have well above average physical and mental health? Clearly only a very brave independent researcher would investigate such an organisation but as an interim there are plenty of videos and photos on the web of Universal Medicine participants which you as experts on health can view and thereby evaluate the health of the individuals. For example the research states that the mean BMI of the women is 21. That is easily verified visually.

It is quite astonishing that what would be the biggest breakthrough in medicine since the wide adoption of evidence-based medicine in the 1990s — not just a brilliantly managed decline of health but an actual substantial and low-cost improvement of the physical and mental health of hundreds of people — is only vilified and not investigated. Even the slightest possibility of such an innovation should lead to a thorough scientific investigation.

Why is this not happening?

We currently seem to be in stage 1 of Schopenhauer’s observation: “… the fate which happened to every insight, especially the most important one, the truth, which was only a short victory celebration between the two long time spans in which she is being condemned as impossible and then belittled as trivial. Also the first of these fates tends to hit its originator. – But life is short and truth’s effect reaches far and lives long: let us express the truth.”

Which is commonly shortened to:

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

where Universal Medicine has graduated to stage 2.
 
Warm Regards,
 
Christoph Schnelle MBiostats